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How Could There Be A Victory, If There Was No War


How Could There Be A Victory, If There Was No War
by John Ohliger
April 22, 1991

As promised in my column in the March 18th issue of ACET here are some of the comments received on adult education, democracy, and the Persian Gulf:

Ed Dobmeyer
Edward Dobmeyer, former ACET Managing Editor:
"A couple thoughts on your thoughts: Our current version of democracy is rule by a few with a few trappings of democracy -- elections, a constitution, etc. Even the majority has no real input into what is going on. I wonder if we would have been involved in Bush's war had there been a national referendum on the decision.

"Education at all levels has failed to help people take part in our 'democracy.' Most people don't even vote. And even fewer let their views be known by communicating with their representatives or by joining political organizations. Adult education could be a catalyst for getting people to 'connect' with the political system in this country and to help it evolve into a truer form of democracy. And the high technology you mentioned could be used in this effort, just as fax machines and computers served recent protests and revolutions."

Linda Newell
Linda Newell, Research Associate, Syracuse University, Kellogg Project: "Your thoughts on the connection (or temporary lack thereof) between adult education and democracy are most intriguing. Somehow, the construct of 'patriotism' appears to be of the affective and not the cognitive domain. In other words, we are socialized to 'feel' patriotic, whatever that means, and are not called upon as citizens to process the information cognitively, that is, to question that which our country claims to do in our behalf. And if we do ask questions or challenge assumptions, then we are not patriotic? This makes no sense, yet why is it not equally or even more 'patriotic' to question decisions and decision makers? Unfortunately, I think that most important decisions (such as whether or not to declare war) are made in military and corporate board rooms -- far removed from the watchful public eye -- and I'm not sure how we can empower ourselves, individually or collectively, to make changes in this power structure. I am struck too in listening to the media coverage of the paradox of war: here is an irrational act, yet embedded within its very context are cries for rational behavior, for example, imperative to follow the standards set by the Geneva Convention."

Ron Gross
Ronald Gross, ACET Editor-at-Large: "How good and important your column is! We have been very active against the war hereabouts, by the way. Bea [Gross, his wife] even more than I, just because she's been available when the protests were. But I've been out too. Bush is already gloating that 'We've kicked the Vietnam syndrome!' Arguh."

Art Ellison
"When the president says we have 'kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all,' compassionate people can only shudder. If that syndrome -- and notice that the reluctance to start a war is made to seem like a disease -- has really been laid to rest, then the only restraint on the government's use of force is us," states Alfie Kohn, author of The Brighter Side of Human Nature. Kohn's views were in a Boston Globe column just sent us by Arthur Ellison, Director, Office of Adult Basic Education, New Hampshire Department of Education.

Another reader writes: "I think it is great that you make a grass roots effort to stem this tide. It seems very difficult to gather the will to 'fight city hall.' I share your distaste for 'impersonal high technology' and your column gave me a better understanding of what you mean by 'adult education.' As the frenetic patriotism melts away, our old problems will re-surface. Unfettered capitalism, survival of the fittest (those who 'got there first'), the imbalance of the 'haves' over the 'have nots' -- all have left America bankrupt in more ways than one."

Military Literacy
John Taylor Gatto, New York City Teacher of the Year: "I enjoyed reading your stuff. There's not much I can say about the 'war' in the Gulf, except that it's no more a war than Grenada, Panama, Libya were. What it is I'm not completely sure, but it has something to do with the 'new world order' symbol on the back of our dollar bill. If I knew more about the names of specific heresies I'd be able to identify it with a name. Where I come from we don't boast about beating up little people, I do remember that much."

Where John Gatto comes from is Harlem. He's been a teacher there for 25 years. If you would like his equally provocative views on the whole education system send him a Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope (235 West 76th Street, New York, NY 10023). Ask for his four page "Ac-ceptance Speech" delivered to the New York Senate when he was named Teacher of the Year. It's the most powerful talk on education I've read in a long time.

While you're writing away for things, mail Basic Choices $12 in advance or $5 for a floppy disc copy, and we'll send you the expanded and updated version of our The Last Word in Learning? (see ACET December 17, 1990). It is now 75 pages long with over 300 items including many added ones exploring how the meanings of the Persian Gulf, adult education, and democracy are connected.

John Ohliger is Director of Basic Choices, Inc., A Midwest Center for Clarifying Political & Social Options.


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