"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Fishing For Compliments–The Failed Promise Of Inclusivity

The self-esteem movement is the most democratic of any.  All people are exactly equal, its promoters claim, regardless of formerly recognized difference.  Ability to sing, dance, play, or color within the lines is as worthy of recognition as facility with language, numbers, symbols, or ideas. 

Image result for images alternate intelligences

This is nonsense of course, for while one may respect and include the differently-abled,  they definitely do not belong in the same intellectual tent as the fully-abled.  Attempts to open the tent flaps and make room for those who do not make the normative grade may be compassionate and understanding, but such accommodation  does no one any good.  Like it or not, the bell curve makes no affective distinctions.  There are those at one asymptote who are the most brilliant, insightful, and creative members of any society; those at the other end who, for reasons of genetic indisposition, bad luck, or difficult socio-cultural constraints, cannot make it up the hill; and those millions under the bell who are not particularly good at anything, but not bad either.

Self-actualization, Maslow’s term for realizing one’s potential, has limits; but there is nothing discriminatory about it.  Everyone has the right, the obligation, and the responsibility to make as much of themselves as possible.  Maslow was neither concerned with the big tent nor with notion that it must be a democratic catch-all.  The individual and his potential was all that mattered.  ‘Be all you can be’ was his idea before it became a slogan of soft drinks and the mantra of social reformers.

Abraham Maslow Images

Belinda Marks had always been a slow learner – slow to catch on how to roll from back to stomach; slow to figure what hands were for; slow to speak, slow to read, and slow to figure.  Nevertheless she had never been marked as unable or deficient, but included in all classes.  Cooperative learning through which more talented students helped the less fortunate; and the educational theory of ‘multiple intelligences’ assured that Belinda graduated with her class, moved on to Middle School and High School; and thanks to her supportive parents assured that regardless of how much she was learning, she never missed a day of school.

She graduated with as much learning ability and as much retained knowledge as a fourth grader.  She was diligent, hardworking, responsible, and as attentive as anyone in her school; but such normative skills were entirely peripheral if not irrelevant to her academic performance.   The system had done her a gross disservice.  Had they removed the varnish, called a spade a spade, rejected idealistic notions of universal worth and ability, she would have realized early on her limited potential and made something of it Maslow-style.

Worse, she had not only graduated with a high school diploma that was worth nothing, but she was convinced that she was the equal of any of her more apt and able peers.  She had always been included in the games of the athletically fluent, the art classes for the creative, and the academic classes for those with highly-developed logic and reasoning.

The result was twofold.  On the one hand she persisted in seeing no difference between herself and her more talented classmates and assumed what was theirs was hers by right; but on the other she could not help but see through the vanity and sham of inclusivism, and sadly realized that her life had been an adult construction – a glass menagerie, a papier-mâché installation, a fictitious stage set.

Image result for images glass menagerie

The worse was yet to come.  The letdown of her initial realization of her indeterminate intellectual and social position was nothing compared to the Lord of the Flies reality of adolescence. Coloring within the lines, singing well, showing compassion and concern for others, feeling pain and happiness meant nothing when tested against the remorseless ambition of her girlfriends.  They were catty, vicious, and unconcerned about inclusion, mutual respect, harmony, and community.   Belinda, inept, incompletely socialized, unaware and in fact incapable of understanding anything of the dynamics of female adolescent sexuality, was brutalized – innocently maimed because she simply wasn’t prepared or able to deal with the tigers of the jungle.

In an earlier era Belinda would have been prepared, although from the perspective of today, harshly.  She would have been in the lowest math group, the lowest English group, and the lowest social studies group.  She would have learned, learned well, learned accordingly, and never been deluded. 

What has been overlooked about that classifying era was that classification was not a consignment – a reason for prejudice or ridicule.  The students  in the lowest quartile and the lowest academic were not marginalized or rejected.  They were equal on the playground, at recess, and in the park.  No one questioned the innate or conditioned ability of classmates – why they were placed where they were – nor was there any question about their worth.  It was the irrational and unrealistic abolishment of intellectual and academic distinction which caused social unease, discrimination, and resentment.

Unfortunately Belinda’s temporal purgatory continued beyond high school.  Thanks to liberal public subsidies and relaxed admissions procedures, she matriculated at her state university.  Although the principle of intellectual diversity and equality continued at the post-secondary level, the harshness of post-adolescent judgment if anything increased.  Sexual and social competition were even more important in college; and since the ever-present watchdogs of proper social behavior had largely disappeared, there were no holds barred.  Attention to correct behavior was almost exclusively paid to sexual intrusion and abuse; but little concern was ever expressed about the plight of those pushed ahead above their grade.  If you were dumb, a social klutz, uncoordinated, and inept, you were ignored or worse, shoved aside to make room.

Image result for images pell grants

All of which led to Belinda’s fishing for compliments.  She had never been prepared for battle, armed and  armored appropriately for her rank and station.  She was thrown onto a battlefield for which she had been inadequately and deliberately unprepared. Any sense of real self-worth – the substantial, individual, and innate kind – had been ignored in her schooling and upbringing.  She no sooner had an idea of who she was than the man in the moon.  Yet, like any young girl wanted desperately to belong, to be a part of something, to matter.

When she took stock – for the first time in her life doing so – she realized that she could never compete with wit, beauty, or intelligence; but she had sexual allure, an attraction that had nothing to do with ability, technique, or savvy.  It was something she had been borne with and only recently realized – the reason why Marilyn Monroe is still a sexual icon; why the Scarlett Johansson character in Match Point says in response to a male suitor who says that she is beautiful, “What I am is sexy”.  A particular sexual imperative before anyone denominated it.

Marilyn serious decollete

She had finally found something of value, of identity, of self-worth.  She could be irresistible to men.  Her sexual allure had nothing to do with math, science, or history; nothing to do with social acumen, strategically besting one’s competitors. It was innate, immured, and valuable.

At first, tentative and unsure – her schooling and upbringing had, despite its overt inclusivity served to defer her social maturity – she fished for compliments, tried out her sexuality and allure.  She soon found that that such fishing expeditions were unnecessary, for she had as secure and undiluted feminine appeal as any woman. 

Yet here her schooling and artificially engineered upbringing failed her.  She was prey, not predator.  Whereas her more intelligent and far more savvy girlfriends understood how to use their feminine attractiveness and innate sexuality as not only a lure but a weapon of battle, her maturity stopped at lure.  “Now what?”, was her unfortunate question.

Belinda’s education was insufficient, incomplete, and degrading.  She had been coddled, deceived, and ignored.  If she had been paid undue attention as ‘differently abled’, she was dismissed by her cohorts, colleagues, and friends.  She had been dealt a bad hand.  She was obviously taken advantage of, disregarded, and tossed aside.  Few men were satisfied with sexual allure only; and few women were willing to give her a chance in the new feminized world.  Her parents and her schools had been the ones who had been the dealers.

Belinda’s fate was not a happy one.  No felicitous interventions, no white knights, no serendipity.  She ended up marrying badly, managing poorly, and never understanding why or how she had ended up in such disadvantage.  She was fortunate only in that she did not have the insight or the inclination to think philosophically; but those who knew her were sorry and disappointed.  Some were angry, resentful and hostile at those at the reins of the progressive juggernaut which had driven her in the wrong direction.

She deserved far better.

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