THE DUMB BLONDE VS. THE ELITE,By Louise Annarino,October 27,2012

27 Oct

THE DUMB BLONDE VS. THE ELITE, By Louise Annarino, October 27,2012

This morning I watched a political add running in Arizona against an “activist” judge whom the ad also described as “violating the constitution because he made law”. The self-described middle-class housewife in a McMansion kitchen went on to say “the elite think we can’t understand, but we do.” I wanted to  shout out,“NO, YOU DON’T !” Her smug look, smiling that she had proved she was not just a “dumb blonde”, made me sad for her. Somewhere along the way, she had come to accept but resent the sexism directed toward her by those she trusted to love and support her. They used their own sexism to make her vulnerable to their manipulations, and to use her to attack candidates who know the law, are well educated and professionally competent; but, make her feel stupid. The ad makers play on the anger which has built up over time, the resentment toward real oppressors which they re-direct toward their opponents. I felt sorry for the woman in the ad and all those she represents. I felt sorry for all of us.

The first quarter I taught Business Law at Ohio University I learned a disturbing fact while grading my students first mid-term exam. They could not write a sentence. The essays were impossible to grade since sentence fragments could not sufficiently show my students had grasped the concepts I had been discussing with them for over a month. Mine was an upper-level course open to juniors,seniors and graduate students. How could they have gotten so far without being able to write, I wondered.

After returning their tests to moans and gasps of disappointment I wrote a simple sentence on the board and asked someone to come up to the front and diagram it. Blank stares and no volunteers was the response. My pleas for someone, anyone to speak up about why this was such a problem provided the answer: no one knew what I meant by “diagram a sentence”. It took a  moment for that information to sink in. Surely, I had heard incorrectly. But, no, they did not know what nouns,verbs, adverbs did within a sentence. A few students identified the adjective, and understood its function. They explained they had not had to write because all of their exams were multiple choice tests.

I found an empty class on the evenings my law class was not scheduled and invited students to attend my English class. They would need it because my exams would require them to write, and passing the test meant it was in their interest to attend the extra classes. I did not do this out of altruism, but out of desperation. I wanted to make it easier to grade those tests with certainty that the grade reflected a student’s full grasp of the subject matter. I wanted to shorten the time I spent grading! We helped one another in our common cause.

The other disturbing discovery that first quarter was that while in high school my students had not taken an American History course (no longer required), nor a Principles of Democracy course (not offered, or not required). It is extremely difficult to teach law to those with neither of those courses under their belts. What examples can one use to explain court decisions? Why do courts make the decisions they do? What guides the court?

Since every night of the week was now filled with Business Law and English, and since my “day” job was Associate Director of OU Legal Affairs ( I taught on overload contract because I love teaching AND had to pay back my school loans), I could not add more classes. Thus, I expanded my curriculum to include American and World History and P.O.D. Also, since racial and sexual discrimination is another topic they would need to understand but had never been taught, I used one week of class to run them through workshops I had designed. This complex amalgam of coursework became my template for all of my future classes: School Law,Law and Medicine,Social Welfare Law,Vocational Education Law, and my on-going Business Law courses. Each piece helped my students understand law with such depth that I am convinced they would not be easily duped by the ad I saw this morning.

What worries me is that too many Americans are being duped. They have no idea how a bill becomes a law, the role of committees, the power of committee chairs, Roberts Rules of Order and Congressional rules of House and Senate, difference between states powers and federal powers, how courts function, the role of the judge, grand-jury  and jury. I could go on and on. Such ignorance of basic governance by executive,legislative and judicial branches applies to members of both parties. The base of each party expects more than can or should be delivered by a governance system which relies on compromise and consensus to accomplish anything. We can see where this has gotten us.

Term limits have only made incompetence in governance worse. In term-limited positions the newly-elected representatives don’t stay in position long enough to learn the ropes and develop nuanced strategies within the rules, develop trust and create alliances with colleagues across the aisle, and grasp the long-view of what is good for the country they serve. They are focused on short-term celebrity and fund-raising for the next campaign.

Shortening the Congressional work week and schedule, to free up time for such fundraising and celebrity-building appearances has contributed to the problem. During 2012 the House was in session only 122 days (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/ds/h1122.html);the Senate, 123 days (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/ds/s1122.html). This is not to say members are not on the people’s business 24/7 because they are. However, it does mean they are not focusing on building a collegial enterprise for the good of the country. The Teapublicans found it quite easy to block any effort at consensus and cooperation between conservatives and progressive, between Democrats and Republicans. And the newly-elected Teapublicans  arrived with little appreciation or understanding for the historical and social context of cooperation which Congress had learned over time was necessary for good government. They came with the intent of stopping cooperation, blocking the first African-American president’s determination to build a “more perfect union” where Blue and Red states worked together for a common good. They are playing the role of the marginalized  and demeaned “dumb blonde” taking on the marginalized and demeaned “elite”.  And the Republican Party fell right in-step with them. Some decided it was time to retire.

I need another classroom!

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One Response to “THE DUMB BLONDE VS. THE ELITE,By Louise Annarino,October 27,2012”

  1. Anne Weideman October 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Louise, your blog is your virtual classroom. Keep up the great work and pass on the wealth of your knowledge and insight!

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