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Hypocrisy and the Deformers

Should we honor hypocrisy? In a recent post on the Bridging Differences blog, New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education’s senior scholar Deborah Meier wryly says that she used to answer in the affirmative, because “it’s the only hope we have. It’s precisely in the gap between our good intentions and our less worthy actions that we must negotiate the future.”

Meier, who has adopted the increasingly prevalent term “education deformers,” thinks we are doing those deformers a favor by calling their positions “hypocritical.” She thinks “it’s more villainous.”

Meier, a person of charitable thoughts but who will not suffer fools, is appalled by the deformer community’s gross and stark presumptive claim to privilege by birthright unbothered by its coming at the expense of others’ children who are intractably embedded in poverty and are, therefore, less free. Meier is all in favor of “gaining freedom [for oneself…but] without expecting others to pay for it with their ‘non-freedom.’”

She targets the intellectual duplicity and moral shallowness of those who complain about public employee pensions while fiercely insulating from material insecurity their own kids who will be windfall beneficiaries of the “near abolition of the estate tax” which had been in effect for many decades, including during Republican administrations.

She calls them out for dubbing unions “un-American” (as though the deformers have a monopoly on both understanding and exemplifying patriotism) when they themselves take “collective action…to lobby for their self-interests and bargain with their legislators for more favors.”

Meier, whose dialogue with the great education historian Diane Ravitch is the format of the Bridging Differences” blog, proceeds to consider the “I’ve been blessed” phrase. It’s quite a loaded expression. These days it’s sprinkled like salt or pepper during momentary lapses of conversations. “Being born in the United States to middle-class parents and in good health was surely not because of my pre-birth virtues. But the consequences, for me and my offspring are enormous — far greater than justice can account for.” Brilliant!

She makes compelling observations on the foundations of democracy and “what we might, without hypocrisy, fight FOR,” and reflects on the incapacities of our current schools, given their structure.

Meier warns that “Until we greatly eliminate the gross inequities between all of us in real life, we should not presume that schools can compensate for the differential impact of society on such dispositions. [She explains “dispositions” earlier.] But it can do its best — which means that it can offer the ‘capital’ needed to make sense of the world as it is, and recognize when we are being conned and stupefied — something we do not yet have any ‘objective’ test for measuring.”

This “Spark Notes”-type summary of Meier’s Bridging Differences post is no substitute for the original, which is tantalizing and arresting. Read it and be the wiser.