I got an email today from John Stossel.
It wasn't really from him. It was from the makers of "Stossel in the Classroom", which is some sort of initiative to provide free Stossel resources to teachers to use in their various classes. No thanks. In the main, unsolicited emails offering me "free stuff" are generally discarded on receipt. But given the particular nature of what was on offer, I was even more eager than normal to decline (though I am blogging about it now, something very few other offered resources would cause me to do).
I have had a longtime fascination with Stossel, and the school of libertarianism that he would suggest he represents. I think I understand it as well as anyone who isn't drinking that particular flavor of kool-aide can. I'm also intrigued by extremist political positions in general, in the way that any scientist might be fascinated by dogmatic fundamentalism. Frankly, I'm so opposed to the type of thinking advanced by the Libertarians, that I often find places to agree with them, even though we get to our mutual sentiment through totally opposite thought-routes.
All of that said, there is something about Stossel that really illustrates the larger notion that when one becomes so deeply beholden to a particular political ideology, one cannot help but act in ways that are contradictory (if not overtly hypocritical) to stated goals and thinking. "Stossel in the Classroom" is a pretty great example. Here is a gentleman who has been unequivocal in his condemnation of American public schools, offering to send his particular stripe of ideological bias to any teacher who wants it. I imagine Stossel thinks that such offers are demonstrative of a largesse, and a willingness to share material that is interesting (rather than the pabulum he seems to think I spoon to my students), but to me it seems a whole lot more like a giant pile of ego trying to influence my curriculum in ways that are less-than-mainstream. I don't expose my students to liberal or conservative propaganda. Why would I make an exception for libertarian versions?
In my anecdotal experience, this type of aggressive push into the classroom is particular to Libertarians. In my ten years as an educator, I have only ever received unsolicited political offerings from Stossel, and the Ayn Rand Foundation (which does, actually, exist), both of whom would love to send me free ideological totems to sling at my students. The fact that, were I to take him up on the offer, it would only lend support to his position that I'm an unqualified slob, too lazy to create materials for my own students, seems to get lost in the desire to spread the gospel of Stossel. I don't exactly know how my screening videos in my classroom is supposed to remove the "stupidity" (to use Stossel's choice of descriptor) from the school experience.
Such is the way of the dogmatician, I suppose. When reality runs opposite to one's preconceptions of what it should be like in the world, just keep pushing the videos and waxing the mustache.