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by Rita Kramer


Looking through this week's crop of print and online offerings, from the New York Times to its counterparts on the European scene, it struck me that in the world of ideas and attitudes that affect political action, there have been two great propaganda victories since the middle of the last century.

They are The Two Big Lies: one domestic and the other international.

Here in the United States we have witnessed the dismantling of an entire education system, from kindergarten through university, as its purpose has been redefined. The function of schooling is no longer seen to be the transmission of the culture of Western civilization, the history of its achievements and struggles, its literature and arts, of the evolution of the institutional framework of democracy and the cultivation of the skills required to understand and extend it. The function of the schools is now generally agreed to be achieving social change.

The schools have become an agency for the pursuit of radical egalitarianism. One influence has been the movement known as Multiculturalism, which maintains that all cultures are equal, those characterized by obedience to religious fanaticism and those where individual freedom has led to technological, medical and other life-enhancing advances. Another has been bilingualism, according to which immigrants need not adopt the language and culture of the country they so eagerly sought to enter but should be encouraged to retain the language and customs of the countries from which they came, making it less and less likely that they participate in the mainstream to a degree that would enable them to succeed in this country. Where language and customs used to be retained as a private matter, in the home, it is now considered the role of the school curriculum to encourage separatism and a sense of belonging to a specific subgroup rather than to the nation.

It is not even questioned today that the purpose of higher education is to achieve "diversity" in its student body even if, despite the Constitution's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, it means awarding extra "points" to members of one race to make sure they are admitted despite having lower grades. To reread Cardinal Newman or Robert Maynard Hutchins on the function of the university is to be reminded of what liberal education once meant. It was about becoming familiar with what Matthew Arnold referred to as the best that has been thought and written. To reread the Constitution is to be reminded that men and women are supposed to be treated as individuals and not as members of a race.

Today the argument is mainly about how best to enforce diversity and few seem to remember that a half century ago the aim of legislation was to deal with people as individuals and not as members of any group. It was about equality of opportunity, not equality of results.

Redefined as agencies of social change, our schools, colleges, and universities have lost their original mission. It was academic, not political.

The other Big Lie of the age is the imaginative construction of a people called the Palestinians. They started out as Arabs, akin to the Jordanians of the Hashemite Kingdom, before a mythology began to accrue to them. Displaced by the war waged by the Arabs against the new state of Israel, they could have been accommodated in Arab lands, just as the Jewish refugees from Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries were absorbed by Israel. But it was far more useful for their Arab brethren to keep them in camps (by now cities with infrastructures and institutions supported at huge expense by the UN, which of course draws the lion's share of its funds from the U.S.) where their smoldering frustration could be supported, encouraged, and publicized so that, turned against Israel, it could be deflected from their true oppressors, their fellow Arabs. And they could excite the sympathy of the world as victims of an "occupation."

Few of their parents or, by now, grandparents had lived in the barren area that is now Israel until Jews began to settle there in the early years of the 20th century, bringing modern agricultural methods, irrigating the land, providing medical advances and raising the standard of living. And many of them left only because the leaders of the Arab invasion assured them they would be returning within days of an assured victory. Then as now, the Arab agenda is to destroy Israel, to "push it into the sea." This rhetoric is ubiquitous in the press and public pronouncements of every Arab country — even those that, like Egypt, have formally made peace with Israel. But that is news that is not considered fit to print, not only by the New York Times, but almost any publication in Europe, with their long-established traditions of anti-Semitism.

So by now the world accepts the myth of the martyred victims of an unjustifiable occupation (undertaken, as it happens, in self-defense, not a campaign of conquest), "freedom fighters" justified in blowing up children, women and civilian men to rid themselves of the Israeli presence and be rewarded with a state of their own from which they can pursue that end more efficiently.

The press is a marvelous thing. It can inform and educate. It can also repeat a lie until everyone comes to believe it. Schools are for achieving racial balance. There is a people called the Palestinians who are victims of the Jews. Contributing Editor Rita Kramer is an author and freelance writer. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Partisan Review, Commentary, City Journal and numerous other publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her books include Maria Montessori: A Biography, In Defense of the Family: Raising Children in America Today, At A Tender Age: Violent Youth and Juvenile Justice, and Ed School Follies:The Miseducation of America's Teachers.Wall Streeday, At ATender Age: Violent Youth and Juvenile Justice, and Ed School Follies:The Miseducation of America's Teachers.

This article appeared August 5, 2009 in Family Security Matters (FSM)


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