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Friday, January 24, 2014

The triumph of the defecators: dummying down education

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is doing his best to make the ship of state a ship of fools. One of his latest verbal ventures is the kind of thing tenured professors get fired for.  David Montgomery of the Argus  Leader noticed it.  The Talking Points Memo picked up his notice.  

The occasion was the recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed South Dakota's right to use the death penalty.  Jackley's office sent out a press release expressing pleasure at the decision in which Jackley is quoted as saying:

“The United States Supreme Court’s order today affirms that South Dakota has taken proper precautions in drafting and implementing its death penalty statutes to assure that they meet constitutional requirements. Donnivan Schaeffer’s family has waited 22 years in their search for justice. In the wake of yesterday’s day of remembrance, it is well to recall what Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: ‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”
First of all, Martin  Luther King attributes the statement to someone else.  The paragraph from his letter containing the quotation reads:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

  King was writing from memory in a jail cell, not in an office equipped with a library. so that he could check his sources.  Nevertheless, he acknowledges that someone else was the source of the quotation, a basic act of honesty and clarity.  Martin Luther KIng's letter from Birmingham Jail was quickly recognized by the literary world as a masterpiece of rhetoric, and by the mid-1960s (it was written April 16, 1963), it had found a place in major college anthologies of writing used in the study of critical reading and writing.  In 1968, the standard textbook for freshman composition where I taught was the voluminous Norton Reader, which contained the letter and still does. The purpose of studying essays and other forms of literature is to make students aware of what legitimate rhetoric is and how to recognize and practice it in a culture where most of the language coming at them from the media is for the purpose of destruction, deception, and domination.  

Scholars have spent much effort in trying to determine who the "distinguished jurist" was that King quoted.  That precise quotation cannot be identified, but some have contended that it is a paraphrase of what a number of prominent jurists have said.  However, to people informed of the history of black culture,  it is a very familiar concept that circulated in  black literature.  It forms the main image of the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes:

      What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
Lorraine Hansbury borrowed a line from that poem for the title of her award-winning play, "A Raisin in the Sun."  The idea that deferment is denial was a driving force of the civil rights movement, and is an essential fact of life that propels the quest for equality forward.  

Jackley's citation of Martin Luther KIng's letter is a gross falsification of what his letter from Birmingham Jail is about and what King advocated in regard to the death penalty.  A main concern of King in the letter concerned what constitutes just laws:
 ...there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all.
In his commentary on Jackley's citation,  David Montgomery cites an essay by David A. Love who quotes King on the death penalty:
"I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included," King said. "Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature  God."
In a 1959 letter, King explains his argument against the death penalty more precisely:
I sincerely believe that capital punishment is wrong.. Let me assure you that I say this in all humility because I am still humbly groping for truth. It is certainly possible that I am wrong in my position. But I have always felt that the purpose of punishment is to improve the character and life of the person punished, rather than pay him back for something that he has done to society. Now if the ultimate aim is to improve the character of the person, can their character be improved when the person is inflicted with death?  So on the basis of this I don’t believe in capital punishment for white people or Negro people.
  When we teach students writing, we stress that plagiarism is a crime against the essential honesty and integrity on which useful and constructive discourse must be based.  The misrepresentation and falsification of information is a worse crime, because it deceives readers and defames the author being quoted.  As alluded to in the opening of this post, Ward Churchill, a high-ranking professor at the University of Colorado was fired for misrepresenting data in his scholarship.  Marty Jackley commits the same act for which Churchill was fired in his misrepresentation of Martin Luther King.  

If Jackley takes such egregious license in representing what Martin Luther KIng has said and stood for, what must he be doing in his reading and writing about the law?

Often in South Dakota we are reminded that its system of justice is run by sheep-shearing shysters.  These are people who use language not to define and refine the concept of justice they allege to adhere to, but to use language as as the tool for fleecing their clients and the citizens who depend upon the law for that liberty, equality, and justice that we like to think are the purposes of our country.  We call those fleecers shysters, which is explained in the Urban Dictionary:
Shyster is derived from the German term scheisser, meaning literally “one who defecates,” from the verb scheissen, “to defecate,” with the English suffix -ster, “one who does,” substituted for the German suffix -er, meaning the same thing.

Generally used to describe someone who is untrustworthy, money grabbing and full of crap, particularly in the field of legal work for some reason.

In falsifying Martin Luther King,  Marty Jackley has chosen to serve the role of shyster by taking a humongous dump on the people of South Dakota.   The question is if the legal profession and justice system cares enough about honesty and integrity
in this state, as the higher education system did in the State of Colorado. 

The underlying issue in Jackley's performance, especially as it involves the state in the fleecing of Chinese and Korean investors in the EB-5 scandal and in keeping the public uninformed about the crucial aspects of that case goes back to the purposes of education. In a literate society which values honesty and integrity as necessary elements in a workable democracy,  Jackley would not be allowed to get away with such falsifications as he made in reference to Martin Luther King.  But for many decades,  there has been a political agenda in South Dakota to diminish the study of language and its constructive uses to the point that many students come out of its education institutions ignorant of how language is used with integrity to arrive at truth.  Supplanting the dialogue and interaction with standardized tests as a means of assessing student knowledge has accelerated the dummying down of school curricula so that students are too ignorant to know when they are getting verbally dumped on. The agenda, as illustrated by Jackley's falsfication is to make democracy safe for lying and fleecing the public.

What Marty Jackley did in a press release is symptomatic of a state being systemically geared to producing generations of fools conditioned to defecation as a standard of public service. Shystering the public has become the hallmark of governance in South Dakota. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States