Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sham neo-Nazi finds himself between a Reich and a hard place

Jacques Pluss has accomplished the impossible. He has managed to get himself hated by everyone. Nazis, socialists, lefties, righties, academics, nonacademics -- if they have any feeling about Pluss, those feelings are negative. I may be the only person in America who appreciates what he has done. And what he has done is to single-handedly expose the myth of academic freedom in America.

Pluss did this with an unprecedented -- some would say nutty -- piece of guerrilla theater that just came to light the other day. At this time last year, Pluss was a quiet and otherwise unremarkable part- time history teacher at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus in Teaneck. Then in March, the student newspaper received a mysterious letter postmarked from a small village in Ireland. The letter alleged that Pluss was a member of a neo-Nazi group in America and was also, among other things, an Irish Republican Army member who was being investigated concerning a recent drive-by killing in Belfast.

The neo-Nazis and the IRA generally don't move in the same circles, so that should have tipped off the college kids that something about the letter was a bit fishy. But then a bit of investigation turned up the curious fact that Pluss had been holding forth on an Internet radio station hosted by the National Socialist Movement.

Before long, Pluss was summarily booted from his teaching post and told not to show up on campus again. Fairleigh Dickinson officials said the firing had nothing to do with his politics. The dismissal was, they said, the result of some absences that had, coincidentally enough, come to their attention at the same time they learned of his tendency to march around in a brown shirt wearing black boots.

Having gotten that bit of legalese out of the way, they then went on to denounce Pluss for his political views. "It's not politics; it's hate mongering," a dean by the name of John Snyder told the Bergen Record. "It's just hatred directed at the very students he taught."

When I phoned Pluss at the time, he protested the hypocrisy of the FDU faculty. Murderous leftist movements of all types are welcome on campuses all over America, he told me, but their right-wing equivalents are repressed. Back when he was a professor at William Paterson University some years ago, Pluss told me, a fellow professor had a huge hammer-and-sickle banner on her office wall. Che Guevara's a big hit among college kids these days, and Chairman Mao's not far behind, he noted.

I agreed with Pluss on that point. But when he launched into a spiel about the subtle but overlooked charms of that Austrian politician formerly known as Adolf Schickelgruber, I began to think he was a few Stukas short of a squadron, if you know what I mean.

It now turns out Pluss is not a Nazi; he's just a post-modernist. The other day, Pluss posted an article on the History News Network Web site ( titled "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi." The episode, he writes, was inspired by the great French deconstructionists Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault, who had insisted on "the need for the historian to 'become' her or his subject."

When I phoned him yesterday, the 52-year-old Pluss said his experience, which he expects to turn into a book, has brought him even more hatred from the academics who had hated him already. "I had thought there would at least have been some more academically and intellectually oriented responses," said Pluss, whose Ph.D. in medieval history is from the highly respected University of Chicago.

Meanwhile, the storm-trooper wannabes he had befriended want to do to him what Hitler did to the Danzig Corridor. They've been phoning him with death threats, he said. "They're a real bunch of misfits," Pluss said. But they're good material for a historian. And Pluss said he couldn't have gotten that material without immersing himself in the movement. "The theory behind my actions came from legitimate scholarship," Pluss said. "I thought to myself, 'Let's do a method-acting approach to the study of history and see how it works.' I chose the Nazis because they were absolutely the most obnoxious, whacky group I could find."

The academics were a close second, however. Pluss wanted to test their reactions as well, which is why he mailed off that nutty letter when he was vacationing in Ireland. The FDU officials took the bait. So much for academic freedom. Pluss was not only booted from the campus but shunned by all of his former colleagues. "I knew them to be a bunch of jerks," he told me. "If they wanted to dump me for my political views, why can't they just come out and say it?"

Pluss plans to write up the whole experience in the form of a historical novel. That gave me an idea. I had just read "A Million Little Pieces," that bogus memoir of drug rehab by James Frey that became a million seller. If hanging out with a bunch of bored druggies makes for a best seller, how about hanging out with a wacky bunch of nutty neo-Nazis? "I've got just one more question," I said to Pluss before he had to go. "Have you had your people contact Oprah?"


Unscientific science teaching is now normal in Australian High Schools

Last year, a group representing Australia's leading scientific bodies signed an open letter arguing intelligent design is unscientific and should not be taught alongside the theory of evolution. The scientists argued that whereas evolution can be tested, teaching science students that a supernatural being was responsible for creation "would be a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon-bending, the flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions".

Unfortunately, for those who oppose ID by arguing that science should only deal with what can be proved or disproved in a rational way, by being tested and open to the rigours of scientific explanation, the horse has already bolted. The reality, as a result of Australia's adoption of outcomes-based education, which includes such fads as whole language, where children are taught to look and guess, and fuzzy maths, where memorising tables and mental arithmetic go out the window, is that Australia's science curriculum is already unscientific.

One of the defining characteristics of outcomes-based education is that learning is no longer based on the traditional disciplines associated with an academic curriculum and the belief that knowledge is impartial and objective. Now, for example, the time available to teach geology may be reduced to accommodate teaching about the environmental damage that mining can cause, a different concern unrelated to basic science knowledge. Applications of science can be given priority over that basic knowledge. Tertiary academics in subjects such as physics and chemistry lament the way first-year courses have been watered down over time and that school science is more about sociology than teaching the structure of the discipline.

Even Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and a strong supporter of experiments such as outcomes-based education, accepts that Australia's approach to curriculum is far from perfect. "During the 1990s, considerable effort went into reform of the curricula for the primary and middle years of schooling, resulting in new state curriculum and standards frameworks," he says. "It is not clear that these efforts have improved levels of mathematics and science performance in Australian primary schools."

As noted by the South Australian academic Tony Gibbons in his book On Reflection, much of Australia's school curriculum adopts a relativistic view where science, instead of being based on an objective view of reality, is considered subjective and culturally determined. The South Australian curriculum states: "Viewing experiences, ideas and phenomena through the lenses of diverse cultural sciences provide a breadth and depth of understanding that is not possible from any one cultural perspective. Every culture has its own ways of thinking and its own world views to inform its science. Western science is the most dominant form of science but it is only one form among the sciences of the world." The Northern Territory science curriculum adopts a similar approach; described as a "social-constructivist perspective" and one where "science as a way of knowing is constructed in a socio-cultural context".

While the more traditional view of science is based on the belief that there are some absolutes that can be empirically tested - water boils at a certain temperature, the air we breathe is constituted a particular way - the West Australian curriculum also argues that our understanding of the world is subjective and culturally determined: "People from different backgrounds and cultures have different ways of experiencing and interpreting their environment, so there is a diversity of world views associated with science and scientific knowledge which should be welcomed, valued and respected. "They [students] appreciate that when they make observations, they do so from their own point of view and way of thinking. They recognise that aspects of scientific knowledge are constructed from a particular gender or cultural perspective."

Those familiar with the culture wars in the US, where new-age, politically correct academics argue that Galileo, Newton and Einstein are simply dead white European males and there is nothing superior or privileged about Western civilisation, will be familiar with the argument. As noted by Gibbons: "The implication is that Western science is a limited social construction and that other cultural sciences can make up for the limitations of Western science."

In addition to arguing that science is culturally determined, Australia's curriculum embodies a postmodern, constructivist view of knowledge. Constructivism places the student centre stage by arguing that learners construct their own learning and that more formal, explicit methods of teaching are unwarranted. Constructivists also suggest that learning is subjective as there is no external reality and each one of us constructs our own intensely personal and idiosyncratic view of the world. The result? Learning is defined as engaging and entertaining students and process takes precedence over content. On reading state and territory science curriculum, it is also obvious that Australia's approach is based more on teaching politically correct ideas and values than giving students a rigorous and objective grounding in science as a subject. Whether Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Queensland or South Australia, science as a subject disappears in favour of so-called essential learnings such as: personal futures, social responsibility, world futures and the inner, the creative and the collaborative learner.

Beginning with the national science statements and profiles, developed during the mid '90s, and continuing with current curriculum documents, teachers are urged to make science more girl-friendly, environmentally sensitive, contemporary and activity-based. The combination of ignoring the central importance of Western science, by arguing that it is culturally relative and simply one view of science among many, and defining science by what is politically correct has led to a dumbed down curriculum. As a result not only are boys disadvantaged, as science activities and tests are now more a measure of literacy skills, in which girls do better, but many teachers and academics argue that standards have fallen and that students are scientifically illiterate.

John Ridd, a retired Queensland secondary schoolteacher, whose PhD thesis examined maths teaching at the secondary level, argues: "Syllabi for both maths and science up to year 10 are long on fashionable educational theory, short on content and are pitched at a low academic level." Further evidence of low standards is the performance of Australian students in the 1994 and 2002 Trends in International Maths and Science Study. While Australian students always perform above the international average, they are consistently outperformed by countries such as The Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Of greater concern is that at the year four level, based on a comparison of the 1994 and the 2002 results, Australia's performance remained static and many countries we once outperformed are now above us. Unlike Singapore, where 25 per cent of year four students achieved at the advanced level, there is a related concern that only 9 per cent of Australian students achieved at the same level. Debates about intelligent design and its place in the curriculum are important. Of greater significance is the broader question of how science is taught, or not taught, in our schools and the question of standards.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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