Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ho hum - and an essay on Democracy and Education

Will someone please wake me up when the House, Senate, or anyone else actually does something about the disaster that is Bush/Cheney, something, that is, other than just talk about it. The situation is quite clear. There is no question about what they have done. They clearly should be held accountable. Personally, I think impeachment would be too good for them. They should be arrested for war crimes and put on trial. Al Gore, who actually won the election of 2000, should be installed as interim President and everyone, without exception, should stand behind him while he tries to clean up this horrendous mess. Of course I know this will never happen. But I can dream, can't I? Or is dreaming now prohibited too?

In order to have and maintain a viable, healthy democracy you must have an informed and well-educated citizenry. At the present time in the United States we have neither. The media have abandoned any pretense of providing news of importance in favor of endless hours of trivial sensationalism about Michael Jackson, runaway brides, Janet Jackson’s breast, Paris Hilton, Britney’s pregnancy, and other such vital matters. If you wish to learn anything substantial about important things like the obscene “war” in Iraq, the Gannon/Guckert scandal, the torture and other scandals that are being covered up, the obscene national debt, the failure of 9/11, warrantless wiretapping, etc., you have to go to the internet or to foreign news sources. The state of our major media in the United States is shameful. In answer to a viewer’s question, “Why aren’t Iraq truths printed?” an editor on our only major newspaper summed up his rather evasive answer by commenting, “No paper is showing circulation gains covering the war in Iraq.” He meant to imply that newspapers actually were covering the war in Iraq at great expense even though Americans, he claims, don’t want to hear about it. In fact, our newspapers are not printing the truth about Iraq. Their sole goal nowadays is to provide “infotainment” to increase circulation, not to provide a public service, even though they are supposedly obliged to do so, not to act as watchdogs over our increasingly dishonest politicians, not to act as a “fourth estate,” to perform the functions in society that up until a short time ago they have always provided. They want to make money. And yes, the media are in fact controlled by a very small number of huge corporations that toady to the Bush/Cheney Administration and manage the news. It is not hard to understand why the Bush Administration does not want us to know the truth. Most Americans I know would like to know the truth.

When it comes to education the situation is just as bad and perhaps worse. The only way you can have a healthy democracy is to have a well-educated citizenry. The only way you can have that is to have first-rate public schools. Our current public schools are far from first-rate. Indeed, they are arguably not even second-rate. Nowhere is this more true than in the State of Idaho. Schools are one of the most basic, important, and necessary institutions in any civilized country, fundamentally as or more important than police and fire protection. As such they should be prized, well-funded, and secure. Under the Idaho system they must in effect beg for funding year after year. If local people refuse to pass levies the schools suffer. Hypothetically, you could have schools one year but not the next. Of course this rarely happens. But what does happen is that the very best you can hope for are mediocre schools one year and poorer schools in other years. This is an absolutely absurd situation. I don’t know who originated this scheme in the first place but it is clearly our Republican controlled legislature in recent years that has caused this situation to persist. Perhaps back in the days of one-room schoolhouses, horse-powered farming, cannonball warfare, hand cranked telephones, and outdoor privies, this might have been acceptable. But this is the 21st century! Children have to be prepared to cope in a modern world of enormous complexity, technological sophistication, and rapid culture change. It is becoming increasing obvious that our schools are nowhere near up to this challenge. The U.S. is demonstrably falling further and further behind other nations such as Japan, China, India and others. The so-called American Century is about to come to a close. But our (Republican) powers that be refuse year after year to adequately fund our schools. One Republican legislator a few years ago even suggested changing the State Constitution so the state would have no responsibility at all for funding schools. More recently they have engaged in endless legal maneuvers to escape responsibility. In the meanwhile the schools continue to deteriorate and the children suffer the sins of thoughtless and short-sighted adults.

The idea of the fundamental and crucial value of Public Schools and universal education to a large and healthy democracy in the abstract I think cannot be denied. In practice, of course, it is difficult to achieve such a perfect situation. Obviously there are good and bad schools, depending upon the value local people place upon their particular schools and their willingness to reliably fund and support them. If there are bad administrators and teachers, or both, which regrettably there sometimes are, they should be held accountable by the citizenry. But never forget you pay for what you get. If you refuse to provide decent salaries or proper facilities you obviously won’t get much. Public Schools are an absolutely fundamental institution in American society and as such they should have assured continuity and reliable funding year after year and not have to resort to annual begging. It is not only the children and the schools that suffer. If a community has mediocre or worse schools, intelligent, ambitious, and creative people are going to avoid them, thus insuring a spiral of further and further decline and decay.
There is absolutely no way you can argue that poor schools are “good enough” or an asset to a community. If you can’t afford schools, especially in these modern and trying times, you don’t deserve children.

I strongly suspect that beginning with Ronald Reagan it became official Republican policy to starve and downgrade education in the United States. Republicans and Corporate America do not want citizens who are both aware and think for themselves. They prefer peasants.

1 comment:

Watch 'n Wait said...

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Talk about ammo to use against the Repubs! Hah!