All posts by Richard K. Munro (Auld Munro)

Like Russell Kirk, I am a great admirer of the late Gilbert Highet. I am the president and founder of the Gilbert Highet Society (on Facebook) which includes many scholars and authors. I was intensely homeschooled as a boy learning English phonics, drama, and oratory as well as the history of the Raj and British Empire where my people prominently served as Empire builders in the Merchant Marine, Indian Civil Service or Highland Regiments. I learned to read and write at home before I went to school singing and listening to many languages. My people specialized in building ships, trains, bridges and were soldiers, interpreters or scouts for the British Army or Navy for generations. For many generations, it was the desire of each son of Munro, Keith, Fraser, MacFarlane or MacKenzie to go a-soldiering far "frae the hame" and to return to marry a woman of his faith "and race and line" and by that was meant to marry a woman of the Highlands and Islands (Gaidhealteachd). Two things changed this pattern forever. 1) the depopulation of the Highlands from 1790-1890 meaning there was no place to go home to and 2) the Catastrophe of what we called An Cogadh Mòr (the Big War)1914-1918 and An Cogadh Hitler (the Hitler War) 1914-1945 (WWII: An Dara Cogadh an t-Saoghail ) This led to the biggest catastrophe of all -the British Empire went smash and so we became "Orphans of Empire." Victory did not bring economic or political security and many Scots (particularly Highlanders) ; we scattered to the four winds most never to return to their native land. And the old Highland prophecy sang "Is gearr gach reachd ach riaghailt Dhe" (Each realm is short but the Kingdom of God.") We have seen many Empires rise and fall. We have as Auld Pop used to say, "served the Yoke." I am a teacher of English, Spanish.& history. I am principally a teacher of English and history to English learners though I taught AP Spanish for twelve years and was very successful. I Have taught Spanish for Native Speakers, AP US HISTORY, AP Spanish as well as English for Learners in the USA and Spain. I am the author of some short non-fiction articles and one-act plays. Author of Spying for the Other Side, KIM PHILBY &The Historic El CID. I have authored one-act plays such as "Euripides' Trojan Women (Calliope),"Romans on the Rhine", "Clad in Gold Our Young Mary" "Beneath Alexandria's Sapphire Sky" among others. I am a California Certified teacher in history, Spanish and English. MA Spanish Literature. BA with Honors (NYU '78) winner of Helen M. Jones Prize for History. ISI Fellow UVA 2004-2005. I am on the Board of PRO-ENGLISH. I have edited galleys of several books but especially CHURCHILL WALKING WITH DESTINY for my friend Andrew Roberts with whom it was my honor to serve. I consider this biography to be the greatest biography of our time both for history and as literature. To have been associated with it only in a minor capacity was a great honor. Recently I have helped research and edit his forthcoming book THE LAST KING OF AMERICA: GEORGE III coming out in October 2021 My specialty is English literacy for newcomers (emphasizing phonics, diction, and grammar) and sheltered English immersion Social Studies (history) for English learners. I believe in sheltered English immersion for newcomers (English language books, notes, tests and quizzes with some translation and bilingual glossaries available.) I believe in high-quality Dual Immersion instruction but I do not believe (generally speaking) that NENLI is a good idea, in most instances. NENLI is Non-English Native Langauge Instruction. Schools should be very honest about what they are doing. If they are NOT teaching the core curriculum in English they should say so. The temptation to retain students (i have seen it) and create alternative pathways without requiring students to study their core subjects in English is ultimately, in my opinion, harmful to students. Bilingual programs must have rigor. History, science, and math classes must have rigor. If students only accumulate hollow credits then ultimately they are cut off from the satisfaction of higher academic endeavors. But I do believe local communities should have some choice as to what kind of educational programs they want to provide and what languages they teach. However, I believe English should be the official language of the United States. I do not believe we can or ought to be an officially bilingual nation. I have a New Wine Credential. I am married with three children. Two of our children are teachers (Spanish and Dual Immersion k-6) and one is an engineer. I am proud to have served as a peacetime "Ice Cream" Marine (reserves) and to hold an honorable discharge from USMCR. My parents emigrated to the USA when young in 1923 and 1927. The war destroyed the fragile economic communities from which they came and essentially no one ever returned. They became US citizens and were Americans by choice. Both graduated from public high school in New York and were the first and only members of their families to graduate from high school and go on to college. My mother was an RN and came from a strict Free Church Calvinist family. My father had a BA in English and French Comparative Literature and was a Roman Catholic. They were married in two separate Catholic and Anglican ceremonies. In the 20th Century, my family emigrated to the Americas (Chile, Canada, and the USA) My uncle worked in Chile and Argentina circa 1914-1936 and my father was an American officer in Texas, Louisiana, and the Pacific Theater during WWII. My father was a notable amateur linguist ( reading ancient Greek, Latin, speaking Tagalog, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian). I grew up in a multilingual cosmopolitan household and cannot remember a time when I spoke, sang or heard only English. My mother played the piano and sang in five languages. I lived and studied in Spain and got my MA in Spanish Literature there via the University of Northern Iowa under the legendary Adolfo Franco Pino. I first visited Spain and Italy in 1964. My primary interest is in classical literature (chiefly English. Spanish, Latin and Gaelic), as well history, music, and poetry particularly the music and literature of the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. In my old age, I have begun to study Ancient Greek. Cuimhnich air na daoine bhon tainig mise (I remember the people I came from...the Gaels of Cioch Mhor in Ferindonald- My people lived there for over one thousand years). Most of my family today is Spanish-speaking (Spain, Mexico, Chile, and the USA). Most of us follow the faith traditions of St. Maelrubha, St. Columba, St. Patrick, and St. Mungo. I was married in Spain on St. Columba's Day and my son was married in Mexico. It is a cognate fact that every marriage in our family for centuries has a direct or indirect connection to Spain either through marriage in Spain or marriage by priests educated in the Scots College in Spain or Rome. La fuerza del sino? (The Force of Destiny?) I believe in the policy of the Buen Vecino (the Good Neighbor) and in la conviviencia (peaceful coexistence) of different cultures, languages, and religions. I realize I am the very last of my race but I am glad to be the father of a new race of Americans whose blood comes from the peoples and races of four continents. Hyphenations can be good descriptors but they are usually a temporary condition like bilingualism. Monolingualism, cultural diffusion, and assimilation are the natural tendencies of the human race. From where I stand the melting pot bubbles on.

Booker T. Washington , Dubois and Wotan’s Farewell.

Wagner-Die Walkure-“Leb wohl,du kunhes, herrliches Kind!”

Thomas Munro jr (1915-2003) in 1937 upon graduation from Brooklyn College

I have studied Booker T. Washington and Dubois. Both had a case but it all depends on where you are in your life and who you are. I think Dubois is a rather tragic figure. Let us not forget he left the USA to live in Africa and became a Communist by the end of life. By many measures, Booker T. Washington was a happier and more successul figure in America as an American. Washington adapted to the world in which he lived; I think he accepted the fact that progress in racial relations would take generations. But in the mean time, Washington thought, African Americans have to take personal responsiblity for their education and training and their habits and be economically stable and successful. With economic success other opportunties would come.

Thomas Munro, Jr. as a 1st Lt in Manila during WW2 while serving with the US Army (the Transportation Corps)

My father worked in a slaughter house at night when he was in high school. To do so he had to sacrifice any social life or any sports (even though he had been a soccer star in his native land). This experience had a strong influence on his entire life. He learned to be almost completely self-sufficient and I would say socially isolated.

For example, he chose to have no friendships or social relationships with the workers at the slaughter house with the exception of some older workers who befriended him and looked after him while he slept returning home on the Manhattan to Brooklyn subway at 3AM. He was lucky in that his mother and sister fed him, shopped for any sundries he needed and washed and ironed his clothes. My father turned over HIS ENTIRE paycheck to his mother. She would give him $1.50 so he could see movies and have a small snack.

My father’s chief relaxations were reading, Saturday movies and Sunday baseball games with his father. He usually went alone to the movies. I don’t remember him ever saying he went to baseball games with his friends or alone. He had a few American acquaintences but really he had no intimate friends. This was big change from his early life when he was a popular athlete and had many many close friends. Sadly, he was separated by emigration from most of his close friends and many were killed in WW2. My father’s early life from age 12 was focused almost completely on working to support his family as his father had lost his job in 1932 and did not go back to work until 1937. My father continued his industriousness after high school and studied at Brooklyn College where he graduated in 1937. Soon the war came and but my father continued in his pattern of perseverence. He began miltary service as a E-1 private and worked his way up to corporal and finally an NCO in the MPs. From there he went to OCS and became a 2nd Lt. He went overseas in 1943-46 and rose in rank to 1st Lt. After the war he went to NYU on the GI bill and had a career in business in which he was reasonably successful in achievement a stable career. I think he could have advanced economically much more if he had sacrificed his family life and intellectual life. But he chose to focus on his private family life and his private intellectual life. Others would bar hop or play golf on business trips. My father would read Homer in the original Greek in his hotel rooms in Atlanta. His chief hobbies were opera (listening and collected historial recordings), literature, languages, classic movies, plays and baseball. I think my father was somewhat lonely except for the close friendship with my mother and her friends. In someways he lived the solitary isolated life of a prisoner but he was never bored and I think he was happiest when he escaped into his music and books. We are shaped by our environment and its challenges but we also are shaped by individual choices in how we respond to those challenges. I never once saw my father inebriated. He drank beer and wine but not spirits. He believed in moderation. He smoked cigarettes for about 25 years but quit in his 40s and smoked only cigars. He loved smoking cigars. But on the advice of his doctor he quit cigars also in his 50s. He lived a reasonably long life and a very healthy one until he was 87 when he fell and broke his hip. Thereafter he declined physically but remained mentally sharp until the very end. His very last words were “I think this is the best breakfast I have ever had.” He suffered a stroke and lingered a few days in the hospital. He was listening to Wotan’s farewell (Lieb wohl) in the hospital. I was not present but my sister said he reacted and there were tears falling from his eyes. My father’s last lesson to me is that there is such a thing a a Good Death. If one can say goodbye to one’s loved ones and die without pain and suffering in bed surrounded by loved ones and beautiful music then one can say one has experieced a Good Death.

“Perhaps Washington and DuBois were both right — whether someone chooses education or commerce, the important thing is that there is opportunity in both for anyone willing to put in the hard work to find it.” It all depends on the situation one finds oneself in. As a man who was in his youth a soldier and construction worker paid by the piece and later as a teacher. I found necessity meant I had to get a reasonably paying job immediately. So there are times you have to cast the bucket down where you are. Once I had some savings and had established my credit and had a free and clear car I felt the confidence to make gradual career changes. I took a pay cut to work at a bank. I remember I earned only $7.23 an hour! But the bank meant REGULAR HOURS and FLEX TIME and was across the street from a university. I then spent five years at the bank and had as a goal going back to school for an advanced degree. At first I thought I would get an MBA but then I realized I would prefer something where I could use my love of languages, literature and history. So I got a 5th Year Certification as a k-12 teacher. I was certified in English, Spanish and Social Studies. I thought my multiple certificaiton would make my job transition easier but in fact I had almost no job offers. So I considered job offers ANYWHERE -Alaska, Texas, California and even Australia. And by being open to emigration to a new location I was able to get a steady job. It is all about CHALLENGES and RESPONSE. I could not have made the change WITHOUT having sacrificed and made an investment in my PAPER CREDENTIALS. Of course I could have expanded my paper credentials even more but I had to consider the economic return on investment.

Thomas Munro in retirement later in life circa 1978 aged 63


by Richard K. Munro

I learned a lot about White Privilege from my father an immigrant who worked NIGHTS in the slaughterhouses of NYC where the UN is now.  

 My father worked five nights a week while he was in high school. He wasn’t able to do any activities at school -even date girls- or play sports (he had been a star soccer player in his home country). He did at times fall asleep in Mr. Sullivans 11th grade English class 7th period.  But he never was late to school or missed a single day.  At one time (during the Great Depression) he was the only person working in his household his father having been laid off in 1932.

There were many of his classmates and neighbors who worked in the slaughter houses.  It wore them down and they slept in and missed many classes. Most dropped out.  

Once my father turned in an essay with dark stains on it.  Mr. Sullivan was very angry until to his shock he realized the spots were blood stains from the slaughter house and my father had finished the essay on his break at 100 AM.

My father endured and suffered and worked because

1) he had a loving mother who helped keep him feed and in clean clothes  2) some older men who were co-workers who looked after my father and let him sleep on the subway on the way home at 4AM. 

 My father never asked for any favors. He turned his entire paycheck 1932-1937 to his mother.   He had one advantage -he studied in a Jesuit run k-6 school in Glasgow, Scotland and so learned to read and write in standard English (though English was not his native language) reasonably well.   In Scotland the Headmaster said there were only two choices for him -the Army or the docks.  At that time there was only one Catholic HS in Glasgow. Only the top students and those who studied for the priesthood were admitted.  My grandmother said, “Och no, there’s a third choice. AMERRRICA.”   The reason they came to America was so my father could have a CHANCE at an education.

Class prejudice.   Religious prejudice.   Ethnic prejudice were all things endured by my father -he was from the lowest orders of society Teuchters (Gaelic speaking Highlanders) and Joad-flittin hairstfolk (Migrant Irish farm workers). In addition to that his family was impoverished and forced into emigration to the four winds.   His mother MARY MUNRO lost two brothers, a brother in law, and seven nephews and cousins killed in the Great War.  As a small boy my father visited limbless veterans who were relatives or neighbors.  The died one by one from 1919-1935.

There is a thing called CLASS PRIVILEGE (something Mr Obama had in abundance most of his life) and I suppose there is an advantage to be stubborn and  healthy.   I would prefer to have money and connections over any so-called “WHITE PRIVILEGE” anyday.

But my father was the only person in his family to graduate from high school (Manual Training High School in Brooklyn). and then kept on working and graduated from Brooklyn College.  He enlisted in the US Army in Dec 1941 as a e-1 private.  He worked his way up to E-5 Sergeant in the MPs 1941-1943 then was picked to attend OCS where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt.  He rose to the rank of 1st Lt (the only officer in the history of our family by the way) and at the end General Sutherland on the recommendation of Gen MacArthur offered him a regular commission as a Captain in the US Army. He often said that if he had been in India in 1890 he would have accepted but he had not seen my mother for almost five years (they were married June 14, 1941).   She did not want to live in a tent in Manila and after all she was already 30 years old in 1946.   My father came home and went to night school at NYU on the GI Bill.  He remained is the US Army Reserve until July 1953.

My father was never a millionaire or an influential person but he was a good father and husband (that was the biggest advantage I had a solid loving family life).  He played ball with me and taught me how to keep score at baseball games,  He never played golf or activities that would keep him from his family. Almost all of our modest vacations were family vacations though I remember once we stayed at my grandmother’s apartment when they went on a cruise to Bermuda in 1962.  He was a remarkable autodidact. He taught himself ANCIENT GREEK, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN.  In high school in NY he studied FRENCH,  GERMAN and LATIN. He read all the great Italian authors, Greek authors, German authors, Latin authors, French authors in the original.  He had an advantage because his Scots dialect helped him with German and his Gaelic helped him with French.  During WW2 he was stationed in Puerto Rico, Lousiana and Texas.    He taught himself Spanish. He was then sent to the Pacific Theater and 1944 -1946 was in the Phillippines in the Transporation Corps.  He commanded a company of US soldiers and a batallion of Pinoy (Filipino) cargadores who only spoke Tagalog so he learned Tagalog.  They called him  Mbuti Teniente the Good Lieutenant. One of the things his did was make sure the workers got ice cold Coca Cola at least once a week and he would never drink his until each man had got his drink.  Then he would take a break and joke and talk to the cargadores or sometimes the local priests (one who was Irish from Glasgow and the other was Spanish). 

While in the army my father, who was a natural teacher, tutored African-American soldiers with the help of an Irish-American chaplain and a local African-American minister and his wife. My father believed if given a chance those men could improve and learn.  Many of his men later became NCOs some became ministers!  He risked his commission but the Commanding officer , the Chaplain and the local community backed him up and he was given a recommendation at the end.  The men were very grateful. When he was overseas from time to time some of his former soldiers would vist him if they happened to be in the area.  Challenge and response. An individual choice to help others and individual choice to take advantage to improve oneself. Most progressed but my father said some used the free time to goof off. That’s human nature.

My father was the Entertainment officer for his Batallion and so he would pick the movies so one of his things he would do would invite people to see his movies.    One of the persons who saw movies with him was ROBERT MONTGOMERY whom he knew in the war.  My father had a signed picture of Montgomery which said TO MY FRIEND TOM MUNRO FROM BOB MONTGOMERY.  My father also arranged for General MacArthur to see Laurence Oliver’s HENRY V in technicolor.  My father had the only technicolor copy in the Pacific (Eisenhower saw it in Black and White by the way).   

So my father briefly met Generall MacArthur and used to tell some stories about him.   MacArthur, after inspecting his base said to my father, “MUNRO that’s a fine old Scotch name isn’t it?  It isn’t Italian!”  My father saluted and said, “NOT AS OLD AND DISTINGUISHED as the NAME MACARTHUR”.  Old Mac cracked a smile.

 My father taught me that to be happy and successful

#1 thing is working hard consistently while being on time and reliable 

#2 try to get along with people . Be polite and not too sensitive.

#3 treat all people with respect ESPECIALLY the poor, women and children. My father also said “never date a girl who wouldn’t be a good mate.” My father said one of the most important decisions in you life is choosing a good life partner. If you are lucky you can have a nice family and many years of trust and companionship. My father and mother were married for 59 1/2 years and separated only by war and death.

#4 never seek a fight but don’t shun it if it is forced on you.  Some people want to fight or steal and so sometimes you have to fight back. You might not always win but you will make the bad guy think twice about tangling with you. Keep your doors and windows locked at night and have a plan if someone breaks in.

#5 live your life with honor. He often said, “this is the only life you have this side of paradise so don’t be an SOB.” 

 #6 ifyou drink alcohol drink in moderation -booze can destroy your mind, your character and your health. I never saw my father drunk at anytime.   At ball games he NEVER had even one beer if he had to drive.  He liked coffee and cokes.  He bought me my first drink when I was 18 (a whisky sour).  He told me “don’t like it too much and have only one now and again.”    MODERATION.

#7 ECONOMICS: primary rule of economics is SCARCITY. You have only a limited about of time and money. Spend both wisely. SHARE (Charity) SPEND and SAVE.  Be generous but never spend your bottom dollar.  He gave to educational and religious charities.  He often gave people magazines and used books (paperbacks) to read (especially children).  I am very glad I grew up with books. Gilbert Highet was not on any college reading list but I read many books he passed on to me. He never denigrated my love for baseball books. He said you should read serious books and also light books for fun. He had a 1954 Ford (free and clear for over 20 years) .  He never spent money on fancy cars.  I think the fanciest car he ever had was a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker.  It was still running in 1988 and had over 200,000 miles. 

#8 My father was interested in societal problems. In the late 1950s there were some people who did not want to sell homes to non-White families. My father said: “I would not want just anybody to live in my neighborhood either. But anyone who could afford to pay rent or pay for a mortgage in this town is welcome to me.”   My father was convinced the number one reason for increased black poverty and educational gaps was due to an enormous rise of black single-mother families (25% circa 1965 and today over 70%) and  a destructive chaotic vein of ghetto culture. A lack of a strong family structure, a lack of discipline and moderation made the education of many youths problematic and at risk. My father did not have all the answers. He said some things cannot be known and some problems are endemic and can never be completely solved. But he did believe children need to have a safe and orderly home life and school.   Our home was always a remanso de paz -a haven of peace full of music, books and some beautiful objects (mostly reproductions) but some original art or handcrafts. We never had more than one television and my wife and I have followed that. The difference is that today everyone has a laptop and phone. But still we all watch certain things together such as the CBS news TVE news (Spain) and Jeopardy. We share the TV. In my library I listen to the radio (mostly ballgames)or podcasts.

All his life my father was worried about

1) being jobless 2) not having enough to eat 3) being homeless. He knew comrades of my grandfather (from the Great War) who never got their lives together and who would have been homeless without my grandfather’s help and generosity. One was his nephew Jimmy Quiqley. Jimmy (whom my father and first cousin knew well) was 16 when he enlisted in 1914. He served the entire war in the infantry and saw hundreds of days of heavy combat. He saw friends killed. He killed. He was buried alive at one point. During the war he began to drink and smoke. It is sad. He survived the war but never had a steady job and never married. He died in the early 1950s in New York and was buried in Long Island near his aunt my grandmother.

My father never cooked in his entire life EXCEPT he knew how to make 1) a pot of fresh coffee or tea (very hot) 2) how to open a can of tomato soup 3) he knew how to make  toasted cheese sandwich with sliced tomato. 4) he knew how to make a toasted English muffin with butter and marmalade.  He used to do those things if his mother, sister or my mother were out shopping.  Otherwise he never went to the refrignerator or kitchen.  He did not like to waste food.  Sometimes he brought home food from business lunches or business parties.  He brought home the high quality plastic forks and knives and washed them for his personal use at home.  He always washed his own dishes and if necessary his own clothes.  He vacuumed the house on the weekend and thought nothing of moping the floor and helping out in the garden and taking out the garbage. But I did learn to cook a little from my mother and this helped me be independent. But my father never had a barbecue and rarely camped out. He did rent cabins for vacations in the 1950s and 1960s. But the only picnics he ever went on with his father were hotdogs at Ebbets field or Yankee stadium with his father.

I used to call my father on the phone 1973-1992 and the first thing he said was “HOW’S YOUR WEE JO-AB (job).” 

He figured if I was still working I would be in good health and things couldn’t be so bad”

I would pay a million dollars if I could talk to him now only for five minutes. But I have no regrets my father and I corresponded for years and talked on the phone or in person thousands of times. I still enjoy reading his comments in some of books and the occasional letter I find in a book. I have been retired now for almost a year. My father would be proud of me because I am reading Latin every day and studying Modern Greek about one hour a day every day via Duolingo. I have learned the Greek alphabet and have the goal of studying ancient Greek so I can read Homer and the New Testament. I have a small Greek library I inherited from my father upon his passing in 2003 (including an interlinear NT) and I preserved them for some future ocassion. My father said “Greek is a door that opens straight to paradise. ”  Sophocles wrote “For these things live not today or yesterday, but for all time.” I do find study of ancient literature a sweet distraction.

The other day my son called me and said how lucky he was to have a good role model in me and the older he got the more he appreciated the sacrifices I made for his education but especially the example of always loving and respecting and cherisihng his mother. I didn’t say anything but I knew my father who lived to see my son graduate from ASU would be very proud of his grandson as I am. It is good to know someone of our splendid ancient heritage has been passed on to a new generation

My father felt prejudices and racism were part of the human condition. He felt, however, they could be palliated if not ended gradually via intermarriage and societial integration and assimilation.   So he was reasonably optimistic about the future of America.

But my father also said said people will ALWAYS be prejudiced in favor of  BEAUTIFUL, YOUNG SLIM and RICH PEOPLE over ugly fat  old and poor  people.   

Some people will always have insider advantage and privileges.  That’s life.  RANK HATHS ITS PRIVILEGES.  Officers will have it better than enlisted.  College professors have it easier over k-12 teachers.

Some people will always hate and resent Jews or some other groups

The best we can hope for my father said is like the ancient Roman Coin CONCORDIA et PAX  Harmony of peoples and peace.

The best we can hope for is  Honoring citizens OB CIVES SERVATOS For Saving the Citizens)

All people could become citizens of Rome even Africans Jews, Greeks or Galatians.  There are many questions that can never be solved.

Some things can be cured but instead must be endured.   But one must guard one’s health and cultivate one’s own garden. With luck one can find some tranquility and happiness.

Yesterday’s Seven Thousand Years

My grandfather THOMAS MUNRO, SR ASH 1914-1919
Near the end of the Long, long road CONSTANTINOPLE January 1919 my grandfather is 5th from the right. He told me stories of the Turks (whom he hated with a passion) and visited Haggia Sophia and the ruins of city. He also had contact with Greek and Armenian refugees and he said the tales they told were heart-breaking and horrific.
Thomas Munro, Sr. in Salonika Greece APRIL 1917. He had written to my grandmother that now that the USA was in the war the Allies would surely win. He aid it was just a matter of time six months? a year? two years. He didn’t know for sure but all of the men felt hope they might now survive the war. He used to say he survived 2nd Ypres but would not have survived 5th or 6th Ypres.
The 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders arrive to come to the rescue of France and Belgium.
This photo has the same sources

When people say “New York” they mean “New York City” when they want to talk about the state they say “New York State.” As an exile from New York, I don’t consider myself a New Yorker and never considered myself a New Yorker. I was never accepted as a New Yorker. My family just passed through New York via Montreal, Canada, and Ellis Island. They never really were New Yorkers or even “Yankees”.

And you know what they say: being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car. I wouldn’t mind visiting it again (I haven’t been there since 2005) but I have no burning desire to return and no family and few friends to greet me.

Cianalas is the Highland word for it -that place you are connected to by heritage where joy and sadness mingle.

But it is quite true. You can’t go home again. The greatest distance between two points is time. New York, Glasgow, Argyll, Inverness, Glenties, Ferindonald represent lost worlds to me. So is Seattle, Washington where we lived for seven years.

There is some warmth of memories in all of those places places where my family lived for over one thousand years but I know them well enough to know they all belong to the past and are not likely to have any place in my future and the future of my children.

They are now part of Yesterday’s Seven Thousand Years.

We may sing of them and memory remembers the ghost of a tune and the ghost of a kiss and the Silent Ones.

But the Silent Ones greet forever as they greet no more.

Gars ye tae greet,aye. “But the broken heart it kens no second spring again thought the waeful heart cease not from its greeting.” (grieving; lamenting -that’s Scots dialect)

But then I am speaking only to myself.

“The world is hard and cruel. We are here none knows why, and we go none knows whither. We must be very humble. We must see the beauty of quietness. We must go through life so inconspicuously that Fate does not notice us. And let us seek the love of simple, ignorant people. Their ignorance is better than all our knowledge. Let us be silent, content in our little corner, meek and gentle like them. That is the wisdom of life.” (The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham)

Of course, the 1890 Highlands is a vanished world and so is pre-1914 Glasgow and so is Brooklyn, USA 1927-1957.

I grew up hearing about Ebbets Field ( I was there in 1955 in utero) and my cousins and sisters went there. I used to be very happy to return to New York but that is because my grandmother and mother and father lived there (plus a few college friends). But since they have passed on -it has been over 20 years so there is no homestead, no property, no address and no welcoming face at any door. The phone numbers still remembered are disconnected.

It is sad when you know your mother’s email and phone number and you know no matter how long you wait there will never be a return message or call.

Phone numbers disconnected and ideas for conversations that would never take place. I used to call my mother long distance at least once a week and she would see “this is costing money” and I told her it was cheaper than a cocaine habit and in any case I know each day is a gift. I told her I would call her now for a modest amount. The time is coming, I said to her, that no matter how much I would spend the door would still be locked and the phone disconnected.

Life and love are just a brief moment in time. My mother used to say that. I half believed it. Now I have learned it.

I thought winter would never come but winter came and the snow is general.

Even on Labor Day. Especially on a holiday. Thank God for my beloved wife! Thank God for our children and the new generation to come!


It is September 2021 and hard to believe that I have no lesson plans to prepare and not classes to go to! (I retired from teaching June 9, 2021.

I wrote (true believe it or not) a 1200 page memoir for my children and grandchildren. I have a few recorded audo clips of my mother, father and grandfather but I wish I had many more! My father used to read poetry aloud to us in English, Scots, in Gaelic, in Latin, in French, In Russian, In Spanish, in Italian and ancient Greek. He was a notable language and literature enthusiast and he would modestly discribe himself as a dilettante or enthusiast though it would be unfair to say he never had any real commitment to scholarship and knowledge. In my entire life I never met a professor who was as well read as my father who could discuss and quote at length Homer, Vergil, Burns, Byron and Shakespeare, Whitman Garcia Lorca, Antonio Machado, Cervantes, Rodrigo Caro. He was well-read in history and biography but his true passions were opera, classical drama and the great authors of fiction.

So I have many of my fathers’s books with annotations and dates but I have few recordings. In my youth cameras and phones and recorders were not ubiquitous. So I met many famous people and artists but I have few photographs (though sometimes I have authorgraps of them such as E. G. Marshall, Bill Tabbbert, Kenneth McKellar, Rita Moreno, Pat Moynihan) . So my chief ambition is to make recordings of my favorite stories and poems to share with my children and grandchildren when I have left the land of the living. I have probably been intensely aware of man’s fate and man’s mortality for many years. I have been close to death at least on two occasions and I have seen the dead. Now as I pass 65 years I become aware of the shortness of my days. No man is master of the line of his life. So I have before me a dozen days (surely) or a hundred or a thousand but can I say ten thousand days of health and mental clarity? Perhaps if I am very lucky but the truth is somewhere between 100 and 10,000. I have term life insurance until I am 77 but I hope we never collect! But then again the insurance is not for me.

And so my YOUTUBE CHANNEL is really for others especially friends and family. I don’t expect many to show much interest in an old man’s poems and memories and stories but PERHAPS my children and grandchildren will find them of some intellectual -and sentimental interest.

GOLDEN HOURS ON ANGEL WINGS. I plan to do one or two 10-15 minute recordings a week. Here is the very first.

Whom shall we blame?

Are the Jews and Capitalists really to blame for all our troubles?

But it must be said. So what’s new? As Tom Leher noted ” everybody hates the Jews.”

Jews are hardworking, well-educated and successful (by and large) SO they must be stealing more than their share of the pie so say the anti-Semites.

I have always believed (unlike Marx) that inventors, innovators, producers of goods and services, financial and business managers WHO MAKE MONEY and WHO CREATE WEALTH deserve, in most cases) they money they make and the wealth they create benefits society.

In my own hum drum life I have achieved modest investments and a modest estate but by George I EARNED IT THROUGH SAVINGS, THROUGH SMART INVESTMENTS and HARD WORK.

I never had it easy. As a first generation American I had no great inherited wealth and most importantly no ins or connections to help me along.

But it never occurred to me to blame others. If I couldn’t get a decent job in NYC or Washington DC I decided to move and try other things which is what I did. I didn’t sleep on my mother’s couch and cry in my beer and hate and resent “all the Jews”.

I thought, instead, ” What decisions are friends and acquaintances making that I could emulate? What am I doing that is insufficient or wrong? ” 

Jonathan Tobin Great article.

AND KEEP SAYING IT. Maybe a few people will wake up and take charge of their OWN COUNTRIES and their OWN LIVES.

In praise of hard working youth and men.

by Richard K. Munro

The kind who do the dirty, dangerous jobs no one wants to do.


“The sacrifices Marines make on behalf of freedom must never go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
Commandant of the Marine Corps David H. Berger
NE OBLIVISCARIS…do not forget
US soldiers stand guard as Afghan people wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

Right now one of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs is security at Kabul Air Port. There are US Marines there, US Airborne, British, Turkish and Australian forces. 97% are probably men though in the support sevices, today on board ships and in rear echelons there are a smattering of young brave women too. Sometimes they too are in harm’s way. I know because a Hispanic woman Marine (MP) was killed in Iraq. I have lived and worked in Bakesfield (mostly rural Kern County) for over 30 years. I have personally known hundreds of young people (95% male) go into the military. Many came to see me after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many were decorated. Some were critically wounded. Some whom I knew by name and had long conversations with made the supreme sacrifice.

One Marine I knew came back to attend his grandfather’s funeral. He had already completed two combat tours in Iraq. I met him as he marched down the rural highway to the 500-acre national cemetery near Bakersfield, California. It is located near Arvin, California about 25 miles east of SR 99. The young Marine returned to duty and was killed only a few weeks later. NE OBLIVISCARIS….do not forget.


Archibald Macleish (1940)

Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.

They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.

They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.

They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.

They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.

They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.

They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.

The young dead soldiers do not speak. [Washington, 194-]. | Library of Congress (

Yes, the Tommies and the Robertos and the Joes and Nato Turkish Askers or Mustaphas (may Allah protect them) are still out on the job stoically doing their duty to their Regiments, the Corps and the Colors of their nations. Some one always stays. Someone gets the job done. I thank God for them all. I pray for them and remember them with gratitude. NE OBLIVISCARIS…do not forget. It’s not just their lives they are risking but their young manhood and limbs and sight and health. Remember that. I remember the stories of the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers (Erskin House). My Scottish grandmother, my father, my aunt and uncle visited many times 1917-1923. They visited friends and comrades of my grandfather. They visited blood relatives (my grandmother’s nephews among them). For many the Great War did not end in 1918 or 1919 but in 1920 (many died of the Spanish Flu) , 1923, 1927, 1931 and some into the 1940s. NE OBLIVISCARIS. These were the orignal “basket cases”. Those who could speak and see considered themselves the lucky ones. They could hear music. People could read to them. Some were from the Royal Navy but the majority were infantryman from the Scottish Regiments of old such as the HLI (Highland Light Infantry). Argylls, Black Watch, Cameron’s, Seaforths, The Gordons etc. Now most of these regiments are part of Yesterday’s Seven Thousand years and are fading in memory.

Erskine House in Glasgow circa 1917

NB The author is right to mention Latinos as a big part of our labor force in construction, agriculture, mining, restaurnts and the hospitality industry. He says ” This is not to slight the Latino contribution to hard and dangerous work, especially in the Southwest, but Latinos are not the ones whose demise is being celebrated.” When I worked in the construction industry (chiefly in Washington State) 99% of the workers were White Males from the ages of 17-45. I will never forget the 40 some workers who migrated from flooring, tile laying and carpeting because their knees were shot. For many the goal was to get Social Security disablity and then work at something less strenuous such as driver for Enterpirse Rent a Car. I thing I learned from those men was 1) make hay while the sun shines 2) quien joven no trabaja , viejo duerme sobre paja (if you don’t work when you are young you willl regret it when you are old i.e you could end up sleeping on straw.)

I still have reasonable strength and health but I don’t have 50% of the strength and stamina I had in my 20’s and 30’s. Heck I remember doing PT and the daily three mile run in twenty some minutes with OLYMPIC runners who did it in ? thirteen or fifteen minutes. Anyway I was always exhausted and had only about 5 minutes to rest before we marched off -they were not even winded. I never missed passing my PT and physical score but it was only by sheer determination I scored in the mid 70s. (69 was failing no ifs ands or buts). I never dropped out of any 20 mile or 30 mile hikes either. I still bear scars on my body from those early years.

I consider myself forunate that I never experienced a serious injury though once while digging a 90 foot trench under a public house project YESLER TERRACE in the semi-darkness of an underfloor with a 17 year old kid I had a somber moment or too. We had no phones of any kind. Only a worklight on an extention cord (over 100 feet) and I always carried matches and candles in my pocket just in case.

I was asked by the kid ( I was all of 26 years old) “What happens if there is an earthquake?” I thought for a monment and said, “Then we die and they will never find our bodies. Maybe hundreds or thousand of years from now they will find our skeletons like at Pompeii and Herculanueum.” “What’s that?” the high school drop-out said. “Ever hear of Mt. Vesuvius the volcano? ” “Yeah”, he said.

“What’s Mt. Ranier?” “A mountain of course!” “Yes, and also a volcano. If it blows and we are here we are goners” “So what do we do?”

I said “GET CRACKIN”, dig this trench, move the earth stock the Certainteed Insulation and install it as quick as possible. If we finish in two-three days the chances Mt. Rainer will blow are minumum.”

Sadly, that kid did not survive the summer. His pride and joy was his car. He used to go on joyrides with friends on Saturday nights. He would do wheelies in the Park N Rides. One night the cops caught him and chased him down in Kirkland. He knew if he were caught he would lose his licence and if he lost his licence he would lose his job and his car. I remember his name was Vic. He didn’t get caught. His car crashed and he, a friend and two young girls were killed. I will never forget it. And he was worried he might get buried by a volcano! When your number is up it is up, as Auld Pop used to say. He always said, “Save your luck for when it counts because sooner or later everyone rolls snake-eyes!”

Of course, I have always worked. I didn’t go to my college graduation. I had a job to do and places to go afterwards. I was in the military and worked five years in construction (insulation installation retro and new construction). I never saw a single female in my work experience outside of an office. Teaching was different; 90% of elementary teachers I met were female and about 60% of secondary teachers. I switched to working in a bank (for 1/2 the pay as I recall I was paid $7.23 an hour) because

1) for once I would have full medical benefits for my family

2) The bank offered flex time.

3) it was across the street (at that time) of Seattle University.

I knew if I were to advance my career I would need advanced degrees and expertise. At first I did not think of leaving the Bank but after five years and many outstanding performance reviews I began to realize there was no future for me at the bank either. I started studying accounting and computers for a possible MBA but realized the 5th Year Teacher Certification was a better fit for me. The first thing I did was take the CBEST (California Basic educational test in English and Math -in Washington State. I passed it the first time.

But I realized it would make it easier for me to get a job in California if I needed to go there. I never planned to leave Kirkland, Washington where we lived for seven years. But the taxes were too high (Bill Gates lived five miles a away). And my job opportunities in teaching were marginal.

Of course, I had been an honors student at NYU in history, political science, Spanish and English literature. So I rapidly passed National Teacher’s Exam in Social Studies, then English then Spanish. I was recruited at the Tacoma Dome by the Kern HS District. They express mailed me a contract April 26, 1989.

The next day I got a $10,000 bank loan (not a student loan) so I could start my MA in Spanish literature in Spain. (I didn’t work from late May and did not get another paycheck until September30 1989 but we saved and planned ahead). I paid my own way for graduate school kepting debt to an absolute minimum and paying cash whenever possible. When I moved to California in 1989 I took the test certification for the Bilingual Certificate of Competence (usually taken after an MA in Bilingual education). I passed the first time. Then I studied three summers in Spain (plus one-course independent study on Don Quixote) for 30 credits and a MA which gave me a big salary bump AND meant I could teach at Bakersfield College (which I did for summers and nights for four years) and also grade AP Spanish exams for ETS ( I did that for 14 summers).

By the way no one ever offered me a job or asked to see my resume ONCE from 1978-2017 until Rosalie Pedalino Porter asked me to submit my resume to be a candidate for the Board of ProEnglish (I was on the board of advisors for about 20 years). I was at that time almost 60 years old.

I never had a free lunch or any special privilege except what I earned (such as the title of US Marine by going through “The Quigley” and other ghastly and olorous adventures.)

Because I had savings and good credit I bought a condo in Kirkland in 1984 (which I sold in 1989 for a handsome profit) and then bought our first Bakersfield home in 1990. We moved to our present home (with central air conditioning, a library for me, shady trees, garden, patio, and pool) in 2003. We are on our way to paying it off and have the protection of Prop 13 As long as Prop 13 is the law we will stay in California. If it is ever rescinded we will put our house on the market immediately if not sooner. If I do not live to see this I have told my wife that is what she should do. I have no regrets.

The 20th century was tough for me but I survived by dint of hard work and working summers and nights(sometimes in dangerous neighborhoods). I sometimes had five or more preps in three subject areas but I never said no because it I filled a need. Others got promotions but I saved my overtime and put it into an annuity which I now have to give us some security.

I never had any preferences or “ins”; the only thing I had was a reputation for diligence and hard work and absolute reliability in over 34 years of education.

My first nine years in education I did not miss a single day. And of course I coached sports, substituted for Special Education, gym, ROTC and so forth. It is worth mentioning I also did numerous Adjunct Duties (evening concerts, basketball or soccer games) for teachers who were young mothers without asking them to take my adjunct duties and without any pay or recompense at all.

I also taught Sunday school for over 20 years (without pay or recompense). I also tutored college students and AP students on countless Saturdays without out any pay or recompense. Hundreds of these students passed AP tests in Spanish, Spanish literature, European History, AP US Government, and AP US history (including my own children I am proud to say who were all AP Scholars). I support testing and high standards. Challenge and response. Students who pass proficiency tests and AP test gain pride and self-confidence.

If you pass out diplomas like toilet paper you get Biden’s Phantom Afghan Army.

Auld Pop told me years ago “A soldier will die for the Colours but not an extra two bob a day.” I also learned that a lot of wisdom is to be found in dirty jobs and wet trenches.

Bill de Blasio and the Decline of New York city

I remember New York City in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I remember the decline in the 1970’s. This is perhaps the nadir though of course I know New York City could go the way of Ostia or Detroit.


Peerless Educator: The Life and Work of Isaac Leon Kandel with a Foreword by Diane Ravitch by J. Wesley Null

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

by Richard K. MUNRO, MA 2004 Renshaw Fellow,UVA

PEERLESS EDUCATOR, the life and works of educator and author, Isaac l. Kandel helps clarify the mystery of our often ineffective, biased and aimless Teacher’s Education programs in America. Kandel is certainly not a household word and his writings are not likely to be in any high school anthologies -but they are so magnificent they should be they are that good. Kandel was in his time an inspired classroom teacher but Null’s PEERLESS EDUCATOR makes clear that Kandel also was an original educational theorist of what Null calls the democratic traditionalist' school. Wesley Null is right when says only by studying authors like Kandel can we understand the need to provide an alternative to the dominance of liberal progressivism in our schools and teacher colleges. I find Kandel's argument convincing that we must have a common American culture (I call in an American Paideia) grounded in our English-speaking democratic heritage of limited government as well as our Judeo-Christian Greco-Roman ethical traditions. Null calls Kandel a "Democratic Traditionalist" because Kandel believed strongly in American ideals such as public schools for all, universal citizenship and equality before the law. America, Kandel recognized, was strong and a land of opportunity and freedom but it was not perfect and certainly was but not invulnerable. I think Kandel recognized America's tendencies towards anti-intellectualism, excess and crass materialism but he loved her all the same and recognized that America was basically a kind, tolerant and forgiving place capable of reform and improvement. He lived through the challenges of Nazism and Communism and he knew so we had to do everything possible to strengthen our free society, nurture it, to preserve it and to protect it. If we undermine the family and deny a quality education for all, Kandel believed, we undermine and weaken education. Therefore we must nurture, protect and preserve the most vital traditions of our civilization -what John F. Kennedy called "our ancient heritage"- through our schools, our houses of God, our families, our military, our jury boxes and all our multitudinous, autonomous private quasi-educational institutions as well as through the freedom of the individual citizen. Kandel understood, I think, like Acton, Kirk and Hayek, the link between our free institutions, our basic rights of life, liberty and property and education. Ultimately, the collapse of the private life, of the family and public schools could prefigure the collapse of our republic and free Constitution. Kandel was controversial in his time and often treated in a petty fashion by the Progressive elites of his time. Nonetheless, he clearly understood one of the great dangers of the modern age: the power of the Bold State (the Totalitarian State) to corrupt education and destroy freedom. This threat, this totalitarian temptation, of course, could come as easily from the Left as from the Right. It can come with crashing speed or gradually like a slow poison. As early as 1934 Kandel wrote the MAKING OF NAZIS, though it is sad to relate it made little impression at the time. But in writing such a book Kandel proved his brilliance and prescient wisdom. Kandel was also right on the mark when he clearly identified the danger of Dewey's educational philosophy which he characterized as a "direct attack on all past educational traditions" and their authentic standards. Isaac Kandel was, in his time ( fl. 1930-1960), a respected international educator and an author of numerous articles, book reviews and books on education, culture and political theory, not merely in English but also in French and Spanish. Kandel was also one of the founders of the field of comparative education. Yet today, almost mysteriously, his books have vanished from curricula and are not likely to be mentioned in current bibliographies. How did this happen? Basically, Kandel like many others (Gilbert Highet, for example) was "purged" after his retirement and replaced by PC progressives. In the 1960's and 1970's Americans were caught completely unaware of the radical changes in the liberal arts and teacher education programs. Classics like A CULTURAL HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION by R. Freeman Butts, LIBERAL EDUCATION by Mark Van Doren, PAIDEIA by Werner Jaeger, THE ART OF TEACHING and the CLASSICAL TRADITION by Gilbert Highet were, essentially discarded as "Western Civilization" and the "Great Books" were downgraded to occasional electives in an age dominated by deconstructivists, multiculturalists and Secular "Progressive" Liberal-Socialists who have a wild and credulous belief in behavioral psychology, Marxism, Radical Feminism and the Bold State and who have a la Dewey -who was a devoted Socialist- rejected traditional values, and traditional thought and wisdom as irrelevant even harmful and oppressive. I daresay most Americans and even most Teacher- Ed students have never heard of these master authors of the 20th century let alone read any of their books not to mention classics such as Cicero's ON MORAL DUTIES, Augustine's CONFESSIONS or Boethius' THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY let alone Hayek's ROAD TO SERFDOM, Barzun's AMERICAN TEACHER or Russell Kirk's masterpiece THE ROOTS OF AMERICAN ORDER. Gradually, in the 70's and 80's Americans of the right and center grew to distrust and challenge the liberal intellectual establishment hence the success Bloom's CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN MIND, the rapid expansion of home schooling, the establishment of competing alternative schools as well as works by E.D. Hirsch, Ravitch and now Wesley Null. Similarly they have never read Kandel's worthy antidote to Dewey THE CULT OF UNCERTAINTY nor his virtually lost gem "Address at St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University" (1940). Only by recurring to fundamental principles, Kandel believed, could we hope to preserve our free society. Kandel wrote "The basic principles of democracy are rooted in the religious traditions of Jew and Christian alike." "Man ....cannot live on negation...he needs values that have stood the test of time." "Education, true education, should liberate it should cultivate the genuinely free man, the man of moral judgment, of intellectual integrity.....intolerance and hatred are the foundations of the new [totalitarian] ideologies...Love thy neighbor as thyself is the injunction of the Hebrew prophets and of the Golden Rule." Kandel was not a fundamentalist Christian, but in fact was an observant Jew, but he understood that the greatness of American society was based on its ethical and moral traditions which were based as much or more on the Bible than the Enlightenment. And, of course, it is a calumny, lie and a falsehood that persons of a sincere Christian faith cannot be democratic and moderate in their political views even though it is true they embrace moral absolutes and reject the moral confusion and nihilism of secular progressives. But embracing a moral absolute does not mean embracing intolerance and rejecting pluralism. Most Americans have, like Kandel, alive and let live attitude’ as far as people’s private lives and private beliefs. Kandel, obviously, was not an intolerant man of the “Far Right”; in fact , ironically, he saw the threat from the TRUE FAR RIGHT (the fascist/totalitarian right , the Nazis) as early as Churchill. How telling that many people of the Left (like Dewey) were completely blind to the crimes of Stalin and the growing menace of Hitler and Japanese Militarism.
Everyone who knows anything knows about Hitler, the Gestapo and the Luftwaffe but who knows about Ernst Krieck and his role in strengthening Nazism via the control of public education? I did not. I knew in general terms what totalitarian education is about and about the subversion of the legal system in Nazi Germany but I did not know the specifics of the Nazi educational program. So once again kudos to Kandel (and Null).
Kandel is right of course that education can become a murder machine “to mold the rising generation to this {Nazi} law and will.” Kandel is also right that the democracies must meet the challenge thrown out by the Revolutionary ideologies' which to Kandel was clearly Communism as well as Nazism (Fascism) . This is very applicable to the Islamo-fascist challenge of today. It is sad to realize that KANDEL's THE MAKING OF NAZIS was essentially ignored (selling only 300 copies!) although I think see the influence of Kandel's work on Disney's classic anti-Nazi cartoon EDUCATION FOR DEATH. But MAKING OF NAZIS was against the zeitgeist of the time. It took the catastrophe of the Nazi Blitzkrieg, its Air War over Britain, its U-Boat campaign AND Pearl Harbor to wake the American people up to the reality of the extreme danger. But things haven't changed in that regard. Most Americans have no real sense of the great danger we are in at present (2007)/ which threatens our freedom, our economy and our whole way of life.But we cannot be a Festung America either; Kandel knew America must operate and communicate in the World Court of Opinion. Kandel's work in the UN I think had great educational, political and moral value. Too many conservatives want to throw out the UN and dismiss EVERYTHING it has done. That is clearly, foolish and a mistake; the UN is flawed -and in my view should never be seen as a precursor to a "World Government" but it can be tool for peace and important forum for educational, diplomatic and medical exchanges. I am glad to relate that Kandel seemed genuinely a nice person and a devoted husband and father though in the home he might be considered very old-fashioned by today's equalitarian standards. There is no question he was a very talented and successful classroom teacher. I should have like to have taken "Historical and Comparative Foundations" with Kandel. Null shows some of the great questions -and still relevant questions- posed by Kandel! Kandel was absolutely right that one of the primaries aims of public education MUST BE TO TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO CONNECT AMERICAN EDUCATION (and the American experiment) to what I call our splendid ancient heritage’. All of the books mentioned in Kandel’s curriculum are indispensable for any broadly educated person. We may not be experts in Aquinas or Hegel BUT everyone should have read at least some of the Federalist Papers and Aristotle’s Ethics and writings of Plato (I would add Cicero as well). Education, Kandel taught, cannot be separated from culture or politics because the political life itself is a very important form of life-long community education. Kandel was a strong supporter as were his contemporaries, Mortimer Adler, Hutchins and Gilbert Highet of a broad but liberal education for all.

And I might add Kandel knew the obvious: teachers who are not broadly educated lose MORAL AUTHORITY not only to their students but to the educated public as well upon whom the fate of public education ultimately depends. Teachers gain respect and authority by demonstrating competence as well as caring.

If Teacher Ed becomes (and it seems to me it has become already) cut off from its cultural roots and spiritual roots it will just become a self-perpetuating pseudo-scientific cult, a Null writes, with “no purpose beyond itself”. So much of multiculturalism and postmodernism is hypocritical and false, especially when it is taught by persons who pretend to be “Native Americans” (but who are not) and who cannot speak let alone read one word of a foreign language. Many Ivory Tower intellectuals, particularly in the liberal arts are so insular and over-specialized that they are unreadable. Their concepts choke in obscure jargon which they themselves cannot make clear. The Satraps of Teacher-Ed may sneer, as they often do, at rural schoolmasters and the public and men like E.D. Hirsch (who like Hutchins, Highet and Bloom came from OUTSIDE the Teacher’s Ed World) but in large measure they are responsible for their own repudiation.

Kandel knew that it was vital that American teachers and American schools must not lose their faith in America’s deepest ideals' (Null's words) and their Great Aim. This Great Aim in my view is the American Experiment or the American Promise that is to say the preserving, protecting and defending our civilization and culture by providing educational opportunity to all young people and all citizens and potential citizens who are in turn committed to the survival and success of the commonwealth. Every student and citizen must be aware of how American society works economically, politically and socially this Kandel knew. I think too he would agree they must be taught to appreciate WITH UNDYING GRATITUDE the magnitude of the struggles and sacrifices to make our country secure, prosperous and free. That is the meaning of Yorktown, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Guadalcanal, Belleau Wood, Omaha Beach and Bastogne. I think it worth noting that old Kandel -though he was beyond military age- tried to enlist to serve his adopted country and it is noted Kandel's son DID enlist and fulfill his civic duty honorably in a time of war and great national crisis. Kandel, I am sure was proud of him. But I have to ask just who was the peerless educator’ of Columbia University of the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s.? Wesley Null says it is Isaac Kandel; he will forgive me, I know, if I say it might have been in fact Kandel’s contemporary Gilbert Highet, a man whom I am sure Kandel read and respected (see for example […] ) This is like the old baseball argument of the 50’s who was greater Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider? They were all magnificent all-around players but the answer in fact was none of the above! It had to be Babe Ruth -he was also a great pitcher- or Hank Aaron who came by his achievements honestly ! (it will never be that ersatz Frankenstein of our time Barry Bonds). That having been said, Kandel WAS one of the great educators of his time and certainly he was peerless and almost unique as far as Columbia’s Teacher’s College is concerned.

My one criticism of Null’s book is that he does not show the relationship of Kandel vis-à-vis other great educators of his time such as Hutchins, Mortimer Adler or Highet but that is perhaps the theme of another book. I should have liked to know more of what Kandel thought of them and THEIR defense of traditional liberal education and THEIR critiques of Progressive Education. Null does a good job, however, of outlining Kandel’s friendship with his mentor Paul Monroe and William Bagley two distinguished educators of their time who are still worthy of mention and study themselves. That having been said, there is no question that Null’s PEERLESS EDUCATOR is a valuable, useful and highly accessible introduction to the thought and life of a man too little known. PEERLESS EDUCATOR makes for an excellent companion book to Null and Ravitch’s FORGOTTEN HEROES OF AMERICAN EDUCATION (2006) and is an excellent introduction to the life and thought of I.L. Kandel. This book tells Kandel’s life story fairly and in an interesting manner as well as giving the background to his educational and political philosophies. For those who are interested in learning more Null provides a very complete bibliography of Kandel’s principal works.
Every American teacher, concerned citizen and educator should become acquainted with Kandel. Kandel clearly identified the danger of Dewey’s educational philosophy -which now dominates Teacher’s Colleges- as a “direct attack on all past educational traditions” and their authentic standards. Kandel was and is a `man for all seasons.” Diane Ravitch is right when she said whenever Dewey is read, Kandel should be read as well. Wesley Null is right the study of Kandel and other writers and educators who appeal to the traditional -yet clearly democratic- foundations of education is vital. They may provide a balance and an antidote to American teacher’s colleges which all too often are cut off from their historical and intellectual roots as well as alienated from the discipline which they were created to nourish. After reading Null’s PEERLESS EDUCATOR I must admit at times I was almost wistful so great was my desire to have experienced Kandel the man an immigrant who never forgot his heritage nor the past but who made good in America by dint of hard work despite, I think, much discouragement and opposition by (liberal-left) “Progressive” educators. Kandel’s story is not just the story of a erudite teacher but also a very American story of the immigrant (he was of English and Romanian-Jewish extraction) who made good after much travail.
PEERLESS EDUCATOR is a great introduction to a great man, a great American and a citizen of the world: Isaac L. Kandel.

View all my reviews