Okay, so this post is predictably biased since, well, I’m an educator.
But if there’s a time when we as a nation need to invest time, energy, and cold hard cash (no matter how scarce) into educating our young people and preparing them for responsible citizenship, it’s now.
This great nation of ours is being overrun by a fringe minority of idiots.
This fringe minority is made up of Americans who have somehow reached adulthood without developing the ability to tell fact from fiction. These are fellow citizens who blindly believe and internalize everything they see and hear from extremist media sources, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These are neighbors and friends who haven’t moved past the dualism stage in Perry’s (1970) scheme of intellectual and ethical development to see that the world operates in gray rather than in black-and-white.
Unfortunately, logic isn’t a strong suit for many in this group. As Barney Frank famously told an angry constituent during a town hall meeting last year, “Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table.”
It’s not like they’re misinformed (although there is a steady stream of propaganda coming from certain “news” networks adding to the inveigling, deceit, and obfuscation). More disturbing, many simply refuse to acknowledge facts, clinging to anti-intellectualism as if being smart meant something like having herpes.
And this group has somehow found a voice and champions in various places of influence. Moreover, this group has singlehandedly turned American public discourse into something so ugly and unrecognizable and, frankly, undemocratic. Normal run-of-the-mill politics—which has always been a crazy three-ring circus anyway—has been further reduced to third grade name-calling where rhetoric is king and reason and logic have no place. It’s like we’re trapped in an episode of The Jerry Springer Show, circa 1997.
The chair-throwing and incessant cussing and boob-flashing would be fine if this group’s insistent anti-intellectualism didn’t have real consequences for us.
But it does.
We now have people in power who are willing to take the country to the brink of economic disaster to prove a point. We have people rewriting history books and Wikipedia entries to fit sound bites and ideologies. And we now have people—in the government—who are actually questioning the necessity of government as a social institution (!).
America, I hope you’re as terrified about our future as I am if this continues.
They say those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. And boy, there seem to be more and more of us who don’t know our history.
From a sociological perspective, the rise to prominence of a fringe group riding on the wave of anti-intellectualism is fascinating. But as an educator, it pains me to think where our education system went wrong. Since when did being smart stop being sexy?
This is unacceptable. And we need to do something about it.
We need education to set the record straight once again.
Our progress as a nation depends on our ability to educate our citizens. We need education to quash this fringe movement because our idiocy is holding us back instead of moving us forward. We need education to hone our critical thinking and reasoning skills so we can innovate and think outside the box to solve the real-life crises piling up on our doorstep. We need education to remind us that inquiry and curiosity are good things, and that we should always seek to verify someone’s claims, particularly if those claims are tied to someone’s profit margin.
In short, America, we need education to stop us from being idiots.
A call for an educated populace isn’t about being elitist. In fact, it’s the most populist thing we can do. It’s about fulfilling what John Dewey (1897) envisioned as education’s role as the means to a sustainable democracy. He noted:
“With the advent of democracy and modern industrial conditions, it is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now. Hence it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions. To prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities; that his eye and ear and hand may be tools ready to command, that his judgment may be capable of grasping the conditions under which it has to work, and the executive forces be trained to act economically and efficiently.”
A true democracy can only exist with an educated citizenry.
America, we need smarter citizens.
Let’s ensure that our education system produces smarter students—not just book-smart, but life-smart as well.
Let’s elect smarter people so they can pass smarter laws.
Let’s make smart the norm once again.