Since The Subject Is Education

Ken Burns has a new documentary series, about Prohibition.

Lori Sturdevant shows her ability to tease the wrong lesson out of history – or, more accurately, the lesson she wants her less-informed readers to find:

[The series] doesn’t pound on the lessons for today that spring from the nation’s disastrous ban on the sale and purchase of alcohol between 1920 and 1933. It did not need to.

The roots of Prohibition the series identified are still visible. Moralists still try to tell other people how to conduct private lives.

And other “moralists” respond to conflict by trying to get big government to impose utopia on the “enemy”.

“There’s a chance the children of immigrants – or gun-clinging Jeebus freaks – might believe things that are inconvenient to those who control society; let’s centralize and standardize education under the government!”

“Guns scare us aren’t how civilized people settle their problems; let’s ban them from the highest level possible!”

“We don’t like too much (of our opponents’) money in politics; let’s create federal laws to make sure elections are unpolluted by (our opponents’) money!”

In small towns — the “real America,” in Sarah Palin’s parlance — many people still look askance at urban habits. Americans of longer standing still wish immigrants would change their ways.

And the fact that all people are “we-ists” mean that it will ever be thus; that people, including urban people, will intrinsically trust people who are more like them, and be less sympathetic to people less like them.

Prohibition’s message for 2011 in Minnesota and the rest of the nation seems to be a warning: Allow these roots to sprout and grow, and the consequences could well be unpredictable and undesirable.

And the other, bigger, real-er lesson?  The “we-ist” with the printing press gets to decide which ‘we-ists” get called ‘good” and “noble” and “upstanding”, and which don’t.

Well, they did, anyway.


4 thoughts on “Since The Subject Is Education

  1. Prohibition and its repeal: proof that the American public hasn’t learned about the harm that Progressive policy causes America.

    (And yes, it was the Progressives who gave us Prohibition, not the conservatives.)

  2. I started watching the Prohibition documentary but I found it overly long and filled with too strong a dose of Burns’ avuncular liberalism to continue watching. No historian/documentarian is ever objective. I give him credit for mentioning that Susan B Anthony was an ardent proponent of Temperance. He overcompensated for that by hammering, over an over, the theme that Prohibition was anti-immigrant, anti-urban, anti-Catholic. Taking a broader view, there have been anti-alcohol crusades and bans in many countries, new Zealand, for example. And lest we forget, one of the world’s major religions completely bans consumption of alcohol. (Hint: also known as the religion of peace and the religion practiced by the 9/11 hijackers) Maybe Burns got to that, but then again, as PC as he is, I doubt it.

  3. Popular literature was much more racist in the 1920’s and 1930’s than it was in the 1820’s and 1830’s. There are overtones of rivalry between the races and a marked tendency to view individuals as representatives of their race. Check out the lesser known stories of Jack London & Robt. Howard sometime — or any of Sax Rohmer’s bibliography. It really started towards the end of the 19th century — see Conrad’s The Nigger of the Narcicissus for a representative sample.
    Progressives are proud to call themselves humanists but their history is the story of man’s inhumanity to man.

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