Father knows best:  that time I told my 12 year old he couldn’t do his paper thing on Karl Marx

Which was yesterday.

The 12 year old is a tres advanced reader.  We live in the Stillwater school district, which has excellent public schools, but the right sense was it wasn’t working for him.  He was bored, and he was in tension a little bit with the affluent jock culture at the school.  Little bit of a cretin vs geek thing there, and he was the geek getting picked on.  Now, he’s a pretty strong kid when he wants rather than geek wispy and I’m proud to say his response at least once was to smack one of these kids in the mouth, very, very convincingly.  But rather than lots of mouth smacking be the long term answer we decided we’d explore other schools, and we (my wife) picked out a charter school in St. Paul for his 7th grade year.

I was hesitant, wasn’t assured of the quality / legitimacy of the charter school system.  The generalization about the charter schools that I understand is it’s this bi-polar thing where you got quite a few sketchy urban charter schools serving the disadvantaged such that they need options outside the urban public school system.  Then you got another system quite proximate within the same city(s) that’s being nurtured by white educational professionals in alignment with a charter movement led by the Gates foundation and other think tanks.  This parallel charter school system has a bit of a different class of kids…  Well, I was mindful of this, and apprehensive for a variety of reasons even though it was obvious we would be sending the 12 year old to the second type there.

We successfully enrolled him in one of those schools, and it’s gone well.  The educational experience seems pretty rich.

This school is a bit urban enclave professional Democrat-y in its ambience.  How could one say that about a primary school?  One gets a feeling…  I picked him up a day in the afternoon, and he was toting around Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men” book that he got from the library.  It’s stereotypical crank white guy for me to say…. I don’t approve of that… but I am educated enough to articulate academically meaningful critiques on a lot of things, and my point to him was it wasn’t a serious book and that it was half crap.  But of course I let him read it.

He takes Spanish and he takes history, and I’ve gotten some sense both are lectured a bit through the prism of the indigenous experience vs colonialism.  Which is fine.  We talk history a lot and I acknowledge all there is to lament about indigenous suffering, but also make the point that it was iron clad that plains America couldn’t be farmed with all those bison on it, and it was going to be farmed no matter what.  The wisdom of guilting ourselves over that because we live here…. its not often productive.

Anyway, last evening he’s doing his homework earnestly and he says he’s going to do this little paper, described as a ‘remembrance’ project, on Karl Marx.  And ya know, it fits to a point.  Like I’ve said before, the boy is a budding Kremlinologist…

I say… I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Marx is a very mixed bag, and it’s an adult poly sci job trying to assert flattering observations about Marx in light of things like ya know, the Holodomor.

Wife says, “it’s his thing, he can do anything he wants”…   And this is a proper impulse that comes from the goal of seeing that the kid thinks up how to fulfill his own homework and execute it, sure.

But we’re talking, and kid says the project is a ‘day of remembrance”.  It has a Spanish holiday tie in.   They are supposed to recall the things someone is remembered for, and kid wants to argue Marx should be remembered for his observations on equality, and its impact.

Rote, I started going into my thing where I say, no, Marx is not “theoretically” desirable cuz equality.  Also, Holodomor citation again.  The intuitive impulse is not the right answer here, blah, blah, blah.

But then I sink my teeth into the crux of the biscuit, this day of remembrance thing is an item in the Spanish language / indigenous history curriculum.  Thus it’s pretty intensely Catholic.  We’re talking about metaphorically lighting an honor candle for a dead person.  That’s what they’d do in church though they wont literally do it in school.

Karl Marx, you write papers on and discuss in class.  You don’t light candles for Karl Marx.

I was persuasive there, to my wife as well.  Kid went back to his room, came out, and said he would do the thing on Linus Pauling, who was not at top of mind for me.  Looked him up, good answer.  Pauling was a peace activist / scientist, which is its own archetype, and understood broadly in favorable terms.  Those guys are lefties, but don’t have blood on their hands.

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