Saturday, January 15, 2011

Education and the Demise of the American Empire


I have to wonder what is going on in our country, our beloved but not very United States of America.  I have a lot to say about the troll-making as opposed to education taking place in our schools.  Since when did we as a country lose our respect for learning?

All over this land -- and BRAINPOWER used to be our chief, most prized commodity -- we belittle the funding of education and higher education.  The new word for “intellectual/s” is “elite” or "elites" -- said with a sneer -- an absolute and utter misuse of that word.  The word "elite" is defined as:

"A group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status: "In addition to notions of social equality there was much emphasis on the role of elites and of heroes within them" (Times Literary Supplement)."

We are right to distrust the Plutocracy, and those like Karl Rove behind the scenes actually encouraging lack of real, thoughtful debate among our people. Our contempt of the intellect breeds nothing but the same among the People  when the very Representatives, who speak for our vast nation can barely read, much less put a cogent sentence together.  Some of these people are so poorly educated that it is painful to watch.  I can’t stand it!  We’ve gone from being the nation of George Washington to the nation of War, Walmart and Warcraft.

Maybe there are some in the body politic who think this is a GOOD thing, but I’m not getting it.  As the daughter of an educator I believe in education.  My mother was one of the first women to enroll in the Chemistry Program at UC Berkeley; in those bad old days in the early 1940's she was told that women didn’t belong in Chemistry because they lacked the necessary intelligence!!

After having been blacklisted during the McCarthy period she spent what could have been an academically brilliant career in the backwater schools of California. And you know what happened?  My mother, because of her passionate dedication to education, influenced thousands of lives over the course of her career, people who have attributed their successes directly to her.   

That is what happens when you take your best people and seed them throughout the country -- for a while there our school system was fantastic.  My mother was an excellent teacher and counselor, but not any better than the thousands of adults with their firm commitment to educating America’s youth, scattered all over the country. That was our brief love affair with education, that 20 year period or so.

Mom was so angry when I elected to send my kids to private schools. My former husband, who could afford it, paid for their education.  They did their part by excelling. I did my part by instilling the “reading virus” (the most important thing I could pass on to ANY MOTHER -- get your kids into reading, no matter what it is they read). My mother thought it so important that the systems remained -- democratic, so to speak, and she was honestly enraged and disappointed that I would take my brainy little kids out of the public system.

By the end of her life she was so profoundly disillusioned by the fate of the public schools that she actually admitted I’d been right all along!!   The differences had become so pronounced that she knew it was much harder to get a quality of an education without extra help. So,and ONLY because their dad could do this, we sent them to the best schools, where they thrived. One graduated from Columbia University and is a free-lance journalist living in Pau, France, with her wonderful David from Venezuela -- ahem, who has his Masters in Geophysics and works for Total, a French company.

My youngest daughter has a Masters in classical Shakespearean acting.  In Tea Party/GOP terminology, we sound like the dreaded “elitists” -- don’t we? Boy, do I feel like an elite?  I’m mentally ill, on the brink of foreclosure and homelessness, and people like Sarah Palin are screaming about people like me because I can read.  What in the world is the MATTER with people?  It seems to me that we are all turned upside down.

Today’s politicos consider education to be of so little consequence that it’s constantly being de-funded.  Forgive me my cynicism, but it seems to me that if even one of their rich cronies had to do without a meal of an endangered species at least once a week, damn it, why should the poor learn to read?.  We’ve experienced a long period of “de-volution” (thanks forever, Devo!) and I am suspicious, wary and annoyed at politicians who don't value the enlightenment of the body politic as one of the most important achievements of political Leadership.

One wonders if a great social experiment is occurring here:  It seems as though our country is engaged in an horrific bout of Orc and Troll-breeding.  Think about the patterns in terms of what we as a culture are being exposed to!  First, there is the increasing lack of a superior education available to all. We've bled ourselves dry with profitless wars, after the fashion of all declining empires, no matter what history has demonstrated to us. 

We watch too much pro-wrestling, reality television - and nobody's reading anymore. I personally think home-schooling is an option that should be chosen by the very few -- the elite, if you will -- the capable, highly organized households that can manage it.  The results are in.

These kids, schooled by Creationists, or parents without the training to properly instruct their children, OR lousy teachers, combined with a nearly universal U.S. contempt for the intellect has begun to produce a thick mashup of American Beef Stew for Brains, you betcha.

And then we become what we are beginning to see -- obsolete, second-rate, dull and incapable of rational thought. Remember the statement: we get the government we deserve?

So go ahead, you bloody vicious Masters of War -- let the children you have groomed with your dark, violent video games and sub-standard education,  prepared for nothing but war,  bleed and die while you grow fat with profit.

It makes me wanna holler.