The First Form of Capital Is Education - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The First Form of Capital Is Education

I am rapidly racing towards eternity. It’s astounding how fast time has flown by. It seems like yesterday that I was in elementary school planting bushes and trees and pledging allegiance and feeling unbelievably blessed that I was in the United States of America and not in Europe. At Parkside Elementary School, we were issued “Freedom Cards” which signified that we were not little Communists and were free to wander the amazingly large and well-tended gardens that surrounded the school.

The school was segregated by race when I was there, 1949-1956. There were no black kids there and the one black person who was there was loyal, devoted Willy, our school janitor. He lived far away in what was then the rural part of Montgomery County near what was then the rural berg of Rockville. Rockville had a statue of a Confederate soldier facing south on the main intersection of the town.

That was a long time ago. My classmates routinely called black people “ni..ers” and I hated it. Many the fist fight and bloody nose I got for telling kids how awful it was to use that phrase. “How would you like it if they called us ‘wiggers’?” I would ask.

Anyway, times have changed. Now, it’s giant plus points to be black in terms of college admissions, scholarships, jobs at prestige firms. I used to think I would rather be dead than wake up in the morning and be black, or “colored,” as we called them then.

Times have changed.

I just watched a great documentary about Reconstruction. It made much of the story of how hard former slaves and their children struggled to learn to read and write and do arithmetic. They worked in miserable shacks and they were threatened and beaten and sometimes killed for trying to learn.

Now, it’s just the reverse. We whites beg and plead for black kids to study and to learn. We pay their teachers more. They get every kind of scholarship. Yet, sadly, their results in terms of reading and math proficiency are bitterly low. They get advantages white or Asian kids would drool over. But they still score extremely poorly on every kind of test.

If they do learn and acquire some proficiency, they are mocked and belittled for “acting white.” So, they sink back into not trying and going with the flow of failure. To think of how many white soldiers in the Union army died to get rights to education for black children and then how today’s black children sneer at education is heart rending.

To think of how many black and white Civil Rights advocates marched and were beaten and thrown in jail and sometimes lynched for trying to get equality of educational opportunity for black children, and then see how little effort today’s young blacks put into learning is to sob.

Obviously, there are exceptions. When I did the TV quiz show, “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” for Comedy Central, I sometimes came up against black contestants who were super smart and well learned in every field we asked about.

But the general rule was very much the opposite. If you look up stats on black proficiency in math and English, you will weep. Basically, the generality of African-American children have opted out of learning.

Learning is the most basic building block of making a decent living, supporting your family, and understanding just how blessed we are to be in America.

If we do not understand that America is a miracle in human history, we will never be able to work enough to build a decent life for a family. America is a genuine miracle in the course of human history. If black Americans think they have been hijacked out of a mythical paradise in Africa and made to be slaves here in North America, they will never appreciate America enough to make an effort to build a decent life.

Some years ago, a black reporter for the Washington Post made a journey to black Africa. He stayed a few months and then returned to Washington, D.C. He kissed the ground where he got off the plane. That’s how happy he was to be back in the ‘racist” USA. He wrote about what a hell-hole black Africa was and how great the USA was (and is). He was immediately fired by the Post (or so I recall). When last I looked, he had not been able to find a job.

You are not allowed to tell the truth about the situation of blacks in America, whose “fault” it is, and what a load of lies black and white Americans have been fed about life in general — and about the wicked myth of “systemic racism.”

I do not for a minute doubt that it’s much easier to go with the flow about “racism.” I know very well that it’s easy for me at my desk in Los Angeles to tell people in scary neighborhoods to buck up, face the truth, take advantage of the huge opportunities they have. But I also know that my father (to be sure, a unique genius) grew up in modest circumstances indeed. His father was a skilled tool and die maker. He was unemployed for almost all of the Great Depression. But my father studied hard, worked at any job he could get, entered Williams College, the best small college in America, at age 15, did brilliantly, and from then on his was a great American life.

I wish I could say it often enough: work, education, work. This is a capitalist country (THANK GOD!) And the first form of capital is education.

Get it and sleep well at night. Go without and weep.

Image: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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