]]]]]]]]]]]]]           CRYING FOR THE MOON        [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[
                        By Richard Mitchell              (3/11/1989)

              POB 203, Glassboro, New Jersey  08028
                 Volume 13, No. 1, February 1989

              [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 29210IVES]

    "We made a commitment to go to the moon. Can't we make a
commitment that no person will drop out of school and that all people
will be able to read?"
    That inanity come forth from the mouth, and probably, alas, from
the mind, of one Lauro Cavazos. Cavazos is just now the federal
government's tame educationist, a replacement part newly stuck into
the socket left empty by the departure of William Bennett, who will
now take care of the drug war.
    Bennett was not popular with the educationists. Cavazos is popular
with the educationists. Unlike Bennett, Cavazos is full of Right
Sentiments. The sentiment pronounced above is so right that it wins
the following approval of Fred Hechinger, who keeps on explaining all
about education for THE NEW YORK TIMES:
   "Perhaps the shift from Mr. Bennett's often shrill rhetoric to Mr.
Cavados' compassionate appeal for the poor is the first sign of a turn
to the kinder, gentler nation."
    Among educationists, "shrill rhetoric" means anything that is not
mush from a wimp. And they love especially any mush that can somehow
or other be construed as a compassionate appeal for the poor. As far
as we know, they have not yet been tested as to where they stand on
some imaginable appeal TO the poor, which might actually have some
effect on such social mysteries as widespread illiteracy and escape
from school, but that day will never come until educationists like
Cavazos start to show some signs of education, and thus develop the
habit of listening to themselves and trying to speak sense instead of
    We have not looked it up, but we are pretty damned sure that the
Cavazos fellow  had no part whatsoever in the complicated enterprise
of sending some men to hit  golf balls around on the moon. Nor to we
believe that Lauro Cavazos ever put his  hand on his heart or his
Bible or whatever and "made the commitment" to go to  the moon. And
the same for his pals.
   Students in school have a name for that kind of talk, but our
stylesheet does not permit us to use it. We are, however, permitted to
point out that it is as arrogant and presumptuous as it is fatuous.
Who the hell is HE to say "we," when  he, just like ourselves, had no
more part in "going to the moon" than he had in getting through the
winter at Valley Forge or crossing the Rubicon? What is it  with these
ridiculous education people, that they claim professional powers of
deep understanding of the Big Issues, to say nothing of compassion,
but they  can't even keep track of the antecedents of their pronouns?
    They are notoriously bad with analogies. Does that Cavazos truly
imagine that universal literacy along with the universal preventive
detention of children are  to be brought about in the same way that
people can make the machinery for a  trip to the moon? That is not a
"mistake." It is a profound misunderstanding. And it may well be THE
profound misunderstanding which brings all sentimental  do-goodism
ultimately to exacerbate the supposed "problems" that it seeks to
    In fact, the trip to the moon is not a wonder or a marvel. Since
no law of nature forbade it, and information and technology are
cumulative, it was inevitable. Inescapable. It is no greater an
accomplishment for "us" than another stunt was for them who bridged
the Hellespont. The truly wondrous achievement would be not the
devising of some elaborate machinery with which to do something never
done before, but the decision not to use it. Of this, since
thoughtfulness and understanding are NOT cumulative, "we" are
   Of the supposed "commitment" of any individual technician who
worked on the moon business, no other of us can speak, or should. It
is, in any case, not relevant. It is perfectly possible, even likely,
that some greedy and self-serving electrical engineer, with no other
motive than personal gain, did excellent and essential work. Nor did
he, or any of his colleagues, need to win the approval and consent of
their materials or systems. Or of the moon. They needed only that
steel be steel; gravity, gravity; and logic, logic.
    Cavazos' fruitcake fantasy in which "no person will drop out of
school" is about exactly that- no person. But the will out of which to
stay in school- or to drop out of it, for that matter- is to be found
only in A person. Does this Cavazos imagine that the wills of
countless children can somehow be sent to some  moon because steel is
steel? Or does he perhaps know that the two enterprises  are utterly
unalike, and imagine only that some Right Sentiment in the
educationists will magically bring about an alteration of the will in
countless  children? No, to both, we suspect. What he does know,
however, is  that if he  says those silly words, people like Fred
Hechinger will pronounce  him virtuous.   Compassion is a marvelously
comfortable virtue. You can have as much of it as  you like without
ever being inconvenienced just so long as you are careful to   have
compassion for so many people that you can't possibly find the time to
deal  with any mere individual among them. Compassion for your
neighbor who has lost  his job, and whose children and dogs play with
your children and dogs,  can put  you in an awkward spot from time to
time. Compassion for an elderly  father who  has gone dotty and cranky
can cost you half your life. But the Big Compassion,  compassion for
the vast multitudes of the poor, or the hungry who  live in some
distant land, will cost you nothing but an occasional five-spot  by
mail to some  compassion jobber, and will furthermore provide you with
a  bumper sticker that  will identify you to the world as virtuous.
Your neighbor  cannot afford to pass  out bumper stickers, and your
compassion for him might  well be wasted.  Hechinger finds further
proof of the Compassion of Cavazos in the fact that   Cavazos has
promised to "be consistent in seeking funding" for Chapter One,
which seems to be some sort of federal program. How splendidly
different this is, says Hechinger, from "the conservative incantation
that you can't solve   problems by throwing money at them." Apparently
there is some equivalent  liberal  incantation that you CAN solve
problems by throwing money at them.  Bad cess to both those packs of
superstitious incanters. In fact, you can  solve  any problem. That's
what "problem" means. A problem is one end of a  tangled string. The
other end exists. You have to figure out how to pull. Going to the
moon is a problem. It requires logical analysis based on certain
facts and permanent principles, all of which can be known, even if
they aren't  when you begin. Every element of it is "dependable," in
the sense that   arithmetic operations are dependable, so that three
from seven is always four.  It calls for ordering and harmonizing, for
scrupulous attention to the tiniest details of every little thing, and
for a vision of the whole of which all the   details are essential
parts. It is a big problem, but is just a problem. It can be solved.
But the "dropout problem" is not a problem. It is something else.
There is not one piece of string; there are millions. No
generalizations can be assumed; no  dependable operations exist. It
has no axioms, no list of attributes and   behaviors of materials. Not
all the time and money in the world will "solve"  it,  because SOLVING
is not the action relevant to it. There is no other end of the  string
to reach. To "believe" in the other end is just that, a belief, a
pious  dream. Religiousness. Right Sentiment. Bunk.  On the other
hand, to go out into the streets and find some kid who won't go to
school and who is royally screwing up his whole life, and, in the
place of  his  miserable parents who have already screwed up beyond
remedy, to do  something for  him, so that he might be willing to go
through all of the silly  rituals of  schooling and still come out
better, and in some hope of happiness-that you can do. Cavazos can't.
He's too busy solving the dropout problem. 

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