Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Psychology of Liberalism?

NOTE:  This is from several years back.  Reprinted here with permission.  Originally published in the Rosemont Daily Currant*
BERKEFORD – Politically liberal agendas may range from opposing the Vietnam War to attacking traditional moral and religious values to supporting non needs-tested welfare.  But are there consistent underlying motivations?  Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of liberalism report that at the core of political liberalism is the resistance to individual liberty, especially individual financial freedom, in favor of shared resources and security, and a tolerance, and sometimes a preference, for immorality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political liberalism include:
  • Irrational guilt
  • Fear of certainty and suspicion of moral clarity
  • Resentment, and fear, of success
  • Need for significance and a fear of being seen as ‘irrelevant’
  • Unmet maternal needs & a search for substitute maternalism
  • Persistent, unfocused anger, and a tendency to be very easily offended

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of Liberal ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Liberalism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Board’s Bulletin of Psychology.

Assistant Professor Melvin Franklin of the University of California, Bertram Preston School of Public Policy and Visiting Professor Fred Sullivan of UW joined lead author, Associate Professor Jeffrey Jenkins of Arizona State’s Graduate School of Business, and Professor Ariel Trident of  the University of Montana at Plentywood, to analyze the literature on liberalism.

The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Franklin said.

The avoidance of certainty, for example, as well as the striving for uncertainty, are particularly tied to one key dimension of liberal thought - the resistance to moral certitude or hanging onto the status quo of potentially destructive behavioral patterns, they said.

The irrational guilt feature of liberalism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where some people appear to seek out and even embrace the very outsiders most likely to threaten the status quo of cherished freedoms and prosperity, they wrote.   Resentment of success can be linked to a second key dimension of liberalism – a fierce opposition to individual financial liberty and personal property rights, a view reflected in the excesses of the now defunct Soviet Union, Maoist collectivism and the liberal, socialistic politics of former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Disparate liberals share a resistance to true diversity, especially of ideology, and insistence on near homogeneity of thought as a substitute for equality of value and opportunity, the authors said.   Stalin, Hitler, and former President Lyndon B. Johnson were individuals, but all were left-wing liberals because they preached a utopian vision of an idealized future and condoned repressive contemporary Government policies for the “greater good”.  Numerous entertainment figures such as Ed Asner and Susan Sarandon can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article.

This research marks the first synthesis of information about liberalism, and the result is an "elegant and unifying explanation" for political liberalism under the rubric of motivated social cognition, said the authors. That entails the tendency of people's attitudinal preferences on policy matters to be explained by individual needs based on personality, social interests or existential needs.

The researchers' analytical methods allowed them to determine the effects for each class of factors and revealed "more pluralistic and nuanced understanding of the source of liberalism," Sullivan said.   While most people resist moral uncertainty, Jenkins said, liberals appear to have a higher tolerance for destructive lifestyle choices, traditionally labeled as immoral, than conservatives do.   As for liberals’ penchant for accepting oppressive measures to enforce ‘sameness’ (the liberal version of ‘equality’), he said, one contemporary example is liberals' general endorsement of extending specifically targeted privileges to radical elements of behavioral minorities such as gays and lesbians, often at the expense of the so-called majority, compared to conservatives' opposing position.

The researchers said that liberal ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that liberalism is pathological or that liberal beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled."

 They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental.

 "In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being committed to ambiguity, high on the need for process with no closure, or low in cogency of ideas might be associated with often expressed characteristics such as lack of personal discipline and a striving for the perception of significance in the absence of actually achieving it," the researchers wrote.

 This insistence on ambiguity can lead people to cling to the fallacious notion that personal problems are so complex as to be unmanageable without societal (i.e. Government) assistance, and to impose needlessly complex ‘solutions’ on simply stated or nonexistent challenges, the researchers advised.

 The debate in the past decade about the possibility that the Bush administration ignored intelligence information that discounted reports of Iraq buying nuclear material from Africa may be linked to the liberal intolerance for moral clarity and the resistance to decisive action to counter legitimate threat, said Trident.   "For a variety of psychological reasons, then, left-wing populism may have less consistent appeal than right-wing populism, especially in times of potential crisis and instability," she said.

 Franklin acknowledged that the team's exclusive assessment of the psychological motivations of political liberalism might be viewed as a partisan exercise, especially, he said, because of the main-stream media’s penchant for labeling politicians as ‘conservative’ more than four times as often as they apply the ‘liberal’ label.

 Although they concluded that liberals are less "integratively cogent" than others are, Franklin said, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."   To the contrary, liberals are near compulsive in their need to create and jump through complex, intellectual and emotional hoops in order to justify their wildly complex and costly schemes for curing the ‘ills’ of the world, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing traditionally understood ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as morally equivalent and stating so in ways that would make conservatives squirm," Finkelweitz said.   

 He pointed as an example to the 1998 Grand Jury testimony where President Bill Clinton was asked to reconcile his admission of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinski with his earlier denials made under oath.  An obviously irritated Clinton responded with a convoluted and tortured soliloquy regarding the distinct meaning of the word, “is”.


*There is no such publication.  This entire satire :-).

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Apologies for the formatting.  You will have to do some right-left scrolling to see everything.  This is a sampling of materials presented at the Coaching for Educational Equity (CFEE) conference which is paid for with taxpayer dollars as part of teacher and administrator continuing education.  In our district, this is discretionary funds for use by the individual teachers or administrators for training and professional development.
These pages were selected by me as showing some of the more egregious things being taught to those who teach our students.  While we do have students who are struggling, I am convinced that the approach taken by CFEE creates and aggravates the very problem it purports to be solving.



This evening, I would like to express special thanks to Deputy Superintendent, James Hiu and Executive Director of Student Services, Janelle Black. As you may recall, at our last meeting I requested copies of materials being taught to our staff by the Center for Educational Equity (CFEE). Mr. Hiu and Ms. Black graciously spent more than an hour with me going through the materials and provided me with my own copy of the manual used at the week-long Coaching for Educational Equity seminar.

I've now had a bit of time to review those materials and would encourage the rest of the board and members of the community to also examine these materials. What I've learned is disturbing at best and harmful to our students and staff at worst.

We were told months ago that equality is every student receiving a pair of shoes, but equity is every student receiving a pair of shoes that fit. I like that definition and love the focus on the individuality and unique needs of each student. Sadly, what is being taught to those who teach our students by the Center for Educational Equity is all about groups, not individuals and that equity is not about ensuring that every student receives individually tailored, equal opportunity, but that every student group, as defined by skin color, emerges with equal outcomes.

With that in mind, CFEE encourages our teachers to frame issues in terms of race, class and gender...focusing on that which divides us from each other. They are told to focus on systemic privilege and oppression as opposed to the ability and character of individual students. They are being told that it is racist to tell a 'student of color' that if they work hard they can succeed in life. 

CFEE informs them that it is a 'racial microagression' for so many of our buildings to be named after white people or for us to have pictures of white U.S. Presidents on our walls. Who knew that Gordon Russell, Dexter McCarty and Sam Barlow represent systemic racial oppression right here in the Gresham-Barlow School District? Heck, even the name of our district is racist because Walter Q. Gresham and Sam Barlow were white and, worse, men.

Interestingly, page 13 of the CFEE manual warns against stereotyping (generalizing in an oversimplified way about an identifiable group), yet page 31 declares as an oversimplified generalization that all white people...ALL white people... are racist and are part of a white supremacist culture. One participant declared that the seminar, '...brought me to where I can recognize that I am a white male racist...'. Another stated, 'I can now say I am a white woman and therefore racist...I can admit more openly to my colleagues of color that I am a racist...

CFEE declares that it is oppressive expression of white privilege and white culture to encourage among our students, independence, personal choice, self-expression, thinking for yourself, working hard and achieving much. And God forbid we should ever encourage students to grow up and buy a home, because private property and individual ownership are hallmarks of the white supremacist culture.

After a week of such baseless, non research-based speculations, its little wonder participants emerge feeling like the enlightened ones who now know how to squint just right to see the 3D picture of pernicious racism that eludes the rest of us.

When we see the world as consisting of victims, villains and heroes, those who can't lay legitimate claim to being a victim, with all the moral superiority and societal attention that goes with that status, will seek to be heroes...knights in bright armor riding to the rescue. Victims need villains to maintain their status and heroes need victims and villains to maintain their status. And when real villains can't be found, imaginary ones must be created. CFEE has done a good job of creating a perpetual villain in all white people while also giving them opportunity to become self flagellating heroes coming to the aid of people of color who couldn't possibly succeed on their own.

I have no doubt that everyone in this room desires the very best for our students. Sadly, this is the very worst we can offer them. 

If the CFEE concepts are allowed to take hold, our schools will become places where students of color are taught that their very best efforts will never be good enough because white people are just too oppressive and white students are taught that their best efforts will only yield undeserved privilege and that anything they earn or achieve is illegitimate because of their skin color.

In light of budget news coming out of Salem this week, I once again ask this board and the administration to dissolve the Superintendents equity advisory and to focus our resources on the essentials of our mission, to prepare every student, irrespective of their skin color, for success in life, and to stop funding racist, segregationist groups like the Center for Educational Equity.

Thank you.

Friday, March 27, 2015


- As noted in the previous post, one of my requests made at the last public meeting of the Gresham-Barlow School District Board of Directors was for copies of materials presented by the Oregon Center for Educational Equity to teachers and administrators from our district.  I continue to contend that the public has a compelling interest to know what is being taught to those who are teaching our children.

I would like to thank the administration of the district for responding quickly to this request.  On Monday, March 9, two of our top administrators took time out of their many duties to spend more than an hour with me going over the materials from the Center for Educational Equity.  Both administrators, (James Hui and Janell Black) have attended the week-long seminar put on by the Center (at a cost of $1,550 per individual), and shared with me their thoughts and impressions of the materials, and...they provided me with my own copy of the syllabus given to participants at the seminar.

I should note that our teachers and administrators have funds dedicated for their continuing training and education and the seminar put on the the Center for Educational Equity (CFEE) is an option they may choose for the use of those funds.  I am not aware of any district staff being required to attend.  ALSO...two of our board members (Kris Howatt and State Rep. Carla Piluso) also attended the seminar at the expense of the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) which is funded by taxpayer dollars at the discretion of local school boards.

My conversation with Mr. Hui and Ms. Black was productive, open and frank.  While I find much of what is being taught to our educators by the Center for Educational Equity (CFEE) to be disturbing at best and repugnant at worst, I should note that I firmly believe that Mr. Hiu, Ms. Black and, indeed, all of our staff and administrators genuinely desire the very best for our students and community.  I simply disagree (strongly) that the baseless concepts being taught by CFEE to our educators are of any substantive value to our students and, rather than being the very best we can offer, are in actuality, the very worst we can offer.

I will detail some of the details of CFEE seminar materials in my next post. -

Friday, March 6, 2015

Text of Remarks Regarding Racial Equity in the Gresham Barlow School District from March 5, 2015 Board Meeting

Tonight I want to hearken back to an earlier time when this portion of our meeting was designated on the agenda as 'Board Requests' rather than 'Board Reports' as it is now. Historically, this was the time that board members submitted requests for information or clarification to be addressed at a later meeting.

I have, tonight, 3 requests to make.

Last May, ten months ago, this board voted to establish an advisory project for the Superintendent, at that time called the Equity Lens Advisory called the Superintendent's Equity Advisory.

At that time we were told that this was necessary to examine systemic factors related to racial equity to 'eliminate educational barriers in place that prohibit students of color from fully engaging in school...'

We were also told that this effort was necessary to address the gaps for students of color in everything from achievement and graduation to exclusionary discipline and advanced placement participation.

Obviously, to assert that we have sitting in our classrooms students of color, or any students for that matter, who desire to engage in school but are being prohibited from doing so, is to assert that there is an urgent situation demanding immediate action.

At our board planning retreat a couple of weeks ago we were presented with an update on the progress off this important effort. Sadly, in the 10 months since this effort was first authorized, very little appears to have been accomplished to address the fact that we have students being prohibited...PROHIBITED, from engaging in their education.

We were told that in the past 10 months, this effort has yielded a 3 meetings and that the accomplishments of those meetings were the identification of the pariticpants, the selection of a facilitator and that someone had volunteered to take notes at future meetings. Laudable acheivements, no doubt, but not particularly helpful to struggling students.

We were further informed that by May of this year after we were told that we have students being prohibited from engaging in school...this group hopes to be prepared for a more 'courageous conversation' and begin to verify barriers to student engagement. 

Meanwhile, if the original assertions are to be accepted, we have students desiring to engage in school who are being prohibited from doing so.

Which raises the question...what are we so fearful of that requires an entire year to summon the requisite courage to finally talk about? And how many students of color have given up as we get prepared for some magical courageous conversation? And what exactly is a 'student of color'? And what are we to call the students who don't fit that category? If students are not 'students of color', but are lagging academically, are their needs different somehow?

Meanwhile, we are told as fact that students of color are being prohibited from engaging in their education.

I've been informed that as part of this effort, our district has sent more than 30 staff to Cottage Grove for a week long seminar on the issue of equity in education, with a strong emphasis on racial issues, at a cost to the taxpayers of nearly $50,000. In August of last year, I requested from the Oregon Center for Educational Equity, which conducts these seminars, copies of all written materials used in their seminars as the citizens of our district have a compelling interest in knowing what is being taught to those who teach our students.

The center refused that request. About 10 days ago, I again submitted an instruction to the Center for Educational Equity that these materials be provided, along with any support documents to clarify positions and opinions being taught to our staff. They again have declined to honor my request.

The assertion that we have students of color being prohibited from engaging in their education is either true or it is not. If it is true, then having three meetings, waiting a year to get courageous and spending $50,000 on training shrouded in secrecy is a severely negligent insult to the taxpayers and, more importantly, a gross diservice to those students being locked out of their own education. If it is not true, then it seems reasonable to suggest that maybe we're simply trying to make ourselves feel good and important at the expense of a non-existent student with a non-existent a shamful cost to the taxpayers.

Yesterday, many of us received an email from a mom and dad in our district whose child is genuinely being inhibited from engaging in her schooling. Is this child a 'student of color'? Does it matter? What we do know is that she has a name...a family...and a situation in need of immediate attention. Will our response to her be a year of trust-building exercises, courage discovery and exploring communication styles among our selves? requests this evening are as follows:

1. Since the Center for Educational Equity apparently does not respect a legimate request from an elected representative of The People, I'm asking the superintendent or his designee to instruct the Center to provide me with copies of all printed materials used in their training of our staff and any support documentation they deem helpful in clarifying the information being taught.

2. Though I don't have the authority as an individual board member to give direction to the equity advisory group, I would strongly encourage the group to get brave NOW and either address the urgent matter of students of color being prohibited from engaging in education or, better yet, to stop playing around with trust building exercises, occasional meetings and a year-long quest for courage, and actually do something NOW to ensure that Every Student in our district, irrespective of their 'color' status, receive the full benefit of district resources.

3. Because this is a matter of importance to all of us in the community, I would request that meetings of the advisory group be open to the public in the interest of appropriate transparency and accountability.

Thank you.