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'Minority Education'

October 21, 1987

Rodriguez presents precisely the anti-cultural attitudes which Allan Bloom so riddles in his influential book, "The Closing of the American Mind."

Rodriguez decries the recent public elevation of Asian-American students as cultural models for other American minorities not enjoying such success in the classroom.

"Education is not about culture," Rodriguez writes, "nor is it about class but about the individual reach for experience, about Eliza Doolittle, Holden Caulfield."

Both Eliza and Holden were fictional characters who had quite unique cultural experiences and as such they can hardly be held up as the foundations for any sort of philosophy of education.

But back to Prof. Bloom. What his mind-shaking book points out is that education is about culture, it is precisely about culture, and the reason that the United States has an inferior educational system is precisely because it has no worthwhile cultural heritage that anybody takes seriously anymore.

We love the buck and we love media stars. These tendencies say it all about current mainstream culture in this country, including the way we choose the leaders of the "free world."

The problem with these darned Asian-Americans is that they persist in their anachronistic admiration for books, learning, and teachers. The Jews have similar subversive cultural tendencies, but they long ago learned to keep quiet about it.

Rodriguez would just as soon not hear about Asian culture's "Confucian penchant for hard work" either.

He writes, "I can as easily observe the splinters of the crucifix stuck in the Mexican soul, can read the legend there as Catholic, skeptical. There are differences. There are reasons. The American classroom is more conducive to Confucian optimism than to a tragic Catholic sensibility."

Is Rodriguez indeed implying, against his main thesis, that for the Mexican soul a tragic Catholic sensibility may well spring from a condition which is self-created by the Catholic culture?

Rodriguez and I both know it has become un-American to make cultural judgments like this, but, as Bloom points out in his book, "History and the study of cultures do not teach or prove that values or cultures are relative. All to the contrary, that is a philosophical premise that we now bring to our study of them. This premise is unproven and dogmatically asserted for what are largely political reasons."

The political reasons are obvious. We need to get along here in this melting pot. But maybe it's time for some more open discussion of our differences and whether we want an optimistic or tragic society.

But back to the overachieving Asian-American students.

Bloom: "In us the contempt for the heroic is only an extension of the perversion of the democratic principle that denies greatness and wants everyone to feel comfortable in his skin without having to suffer unpleasant comparisons."

C.C. WILSON

Canoga Park

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