Don’t We Give A Damn About Education Anymore?

Ed Raymond

The Donald has been going on a tweet-firing rampage lately, evidently changing his status from king to emperor. Some kings must have approval from their courts and courtiers, but emperors have absolute rule over everybody. So here we have our Emperor-Great Leader, one of the few leaders in the world who is totally ignorant of government, of our and world history, of all scientific fields, of philosophy, of psychology, art, literature, music, and the humanities. He seems incapable of expressing nuance or truth, already lying to his subjects over 3,000 times since his crowning. Further, he has no decency when his lips are moving. 

On top of all that, as Philip Roth has written, he has “a vocabulary of about 77 words that is better called Jerkish than English.” Check his daily tweets. Perhaps readers will remember the famous question by Joseph Welch, an attorney who was defending charges against the Army made by Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. After McCarthy’s endless questioning about Communists everywhere in the military, Welch responded: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Emperor Donald has proven he has none. I am pleased to report that McCarthy later died of syphilis and alcoholism.

Every Time I See Emperor Donald I See His Naked Butt

I can’t help it. Perhaps readers will remember Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  It’s a fun story about human vanity, stupidity, naivety and incompetence, all strong elements in Emperor Donald’s reign. In the fairy tale the emperor is only interested in fine clothes. In real life Trump is only interested in himself. In the tale conmen use the most beautiful fabric in the world to supposedly weave clothes for the emperor. They didn’t weave anything, but convinced the emperor and his servants he was wearing them (although he was naked). You see, the conmen assured them that the clothes were invisible to those who were stupid or incompetent. So the servants and the court assured the emperor that the clothes were absolutely beautiful. Everyone in the emperor’s court (and in Trump’s cabinet) admired his beautiful clothes—except for one boy who yelled at the emperor: “You have no clothes on!!” He’s the only one in the fairy tale who knew the truth. It’s really way beyond time that the Republican conmen in Emperor Donald’s Cabinet and Congress tell their emperor he has no clothes on. It seems that those who are loyal to Trump are always ready to swear they see only his finely woven clothes. Most Republicans, right-wing religious fundamentalists, and evangelical Christians still do not see naked butts and other parts. They see only the finest raiment ever produced for an emperor. Only time will tell whether they will ever see a butt-naked Emperor Donald.

What Is A Very Important Job For Government?

National security is perhaps the most important job for a government, but no country can have security without a well-educated citizenry. Whether the government is communist, liberal, democratic, moderate, or conservative fascist, it is that government’s responsibility to ensure equal opportunity regardless of age, race, sex, gender, or religious belief. Remember the thousand-year Nazi Reich? It failed to provide equal opportunity for all of its citizens. At this time in our history we have 44 million citizens ages 18 to almost forever who owe over $1.3 trillion in student debt. Grandparents who cosigned loans are still trying to pay them off.

Even after listening to all that “all-men-are-created-equal” propaganda of 1776, 230 years later the quality of the education each U.S. child receives depends almost entirely on parental income. State legislatures, particularly over the last three decades, have failed miserably to provide equal opportunity for all. We have had Republican governors like Minnesota’s Tim “Toolittle” Pawlenty who over two terms tried to turn the state of Minnesota into the state of Mississota by cutting education funding. Republican legislatures around the country have cut funds to both K-12 and higher education to the point we have “a profoundly unequal state of U.S. public schools,” according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

A Significant Link: Poverty And Education
The Commission further reports that “many students in the U.S. living in segregated neighborhoods and concentrations of poverty do not have access to high-quality schools simply because of where they live. U.S. public schools are primarily funded by local property taxes—a system that tends to perpetuate poverty and secure greater privilege for the already privileged.” Higher education is funded by many sources: personal and corporate income taxes, student tuition, and a little federal funding, usually about 8% of costs. Because of the lack of state funding, tuition has reached a point where many middle-class students cannot afford to go to college unless they burden themselves with decades of student debt.

We are no longer competing with our main economic rivals of China, Russia and other developed countries because most of them are required by their constitutions to provide equal opportunity for all their citizens. All of them have federally-funded schools, with some of them providing free college for qualified students. None of them have the degree of educational or income inequality we have in this country. On top of this inequality, there is a growing body of evidence that links poverty and education, thus creating great disadvantages for citizens and contributes to greater inequality throughout a society.

At a time when a college degree means higher earnings and economic security, some Americans regard college with skepticism, others view it with a kind of contempt. How can we compete in the world if we don’t improve the skills of our workforce and add to our creativity quotient? We can’t depend on assembly lines for good wages. Assembly lines are for China, Africa, and developing countries. We have to depend upon the intellectualism of our people, scientific research, and the genius associated with art, literature, and languages to develop new products. But Pew Research points out that 58% of Republicans who are in power at the moment believe colleges have a negative effect on America! Two years ago it was 37%. The recent Republican attacks on “elitism,” science, and intellectualism has taken its toll quickly.

We Are In Trouble When Red State Teachers Close Schools To Protest Funding

West Virginia teachers started it by refusing to go back to their schools without a 5% salary increase. The protest took nine days. Teachers in the red states of Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma are in the process of turning into copycats. Let’s use Oklahoma as the prime example of what is happening in many states. Oklahoma teachers have not had a raise for ten years. The legislature is funding education at a level 30% less than what they were funding in 2008. Some classes have 50 to 60 students. A school built for 1200 students now has 2200 students. A teacher has 30 textbooks for 150 students to study. Science and history textbooks are 50 years old. Schools are open only four days a week because they can’t afford the fifth day. Most teachers have second and even three jobs. Many qualify for food stamps. To make it some moonlight 40 hours a week. Oklahoma teachers are 48th in pay, just ahead of Mississippi and South Dakota. Oklahoma districts employ 2,000 “teachers” with temporary emergency certifications. That’s nothing. Forty states employ 100,000 unqualified and uncertified teachers. Kentucky and Arizona teachers have similar situations. With conditions like these in K-12 schools we will not be competitive in the future.

Because we are one of the richest countries in the world—according to our propagandists—we have to depend on innovative breakthroughs like penicillin, cancer treatments, the Internet, and the computer chip to keep our economy going. We need citizens to become scientists, inventors, intellectuals, artists, entrepreneurs, and investors. If we don’t maintain education as a top priority, according to Stanford professor Raj Chetty, we will never know how many “lost Einsteins” are out there in the wilderness. We also have to remember that Albert’s nanny told his parents when he was three he would never amount to much.

And then we have citizens such as George Washington Carver, born a slave in 1861 on a Missouri farm, who later became an expert chemist, agronomist, and researcher in many fields of agriculture. He helped revolutionize peanut, soybean, and sweet potato agriculture in the South. He educated himself at first by reading books while working on farms. He later graduated from Iowa State University and joined the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute as director of its agricultural programs. He spent his whole life there.

Is Education To “Improve The Human Condition” Or “To Fill The Work Force?”

The mission statement of the University of Wisconsin calls for the “search for the truth” in order to “serve and stimulate society.” It’s known as the “Wisconsin Idea” about the purpose of education. During the 2015 legislative session Republican Governor Scott Walker, a right-wing tax cutter, tried to change the language of the statement from  “improving the human condition” to “meeting the needs of the state’s work force.” The University of Wisconsin system and its numerous branches are well-known as bastions of liberalism concentrating on the development of the individual rather than the development of  businesses and their work force. Walker tried to convince Wisconsin education leaders to drop 13 majors from the humanities, history, literature, languages, social sciences, and philosophy to cut costs and to offer more “career pathways” to the work force. Yes, it is important to have a well-paying job—but it is much more important to prepare oneself for a life worth living.

Republicans, always interested in business, free markets, limited government and entrepreneurship, have always tried to push away from the liberal arts and toward developing workplace skills--and have constantly complained that colleges graduate too many students with liberal political views. Labor economists Morton Shapiro and Gary Saul Morson in their book “Cents and Sensibility” point out the requirements of a future work force: “Human capital skills really pay off in the labor force. If you’re worried about artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, outsourcing to cheaper providers, you’d better be able to understand people. Narrow technical training is becoming rapidly less valued in the marketplace. Understanding people, being culturally sensitive—those are the things that will keep you employed.” 

You learn to understand people through the humanities, history, literature, languages, social sciences, and philosophy—but I repeat the original “Wisconsin Idea.” While Aldous Huxley was writing his iconic novel “Brave New World,” he expressed the idea he feared that in the future “there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one.”This seemed to be what Walker wanted for Wisconsin. Besides, I have just learned that Judge Judy Sheindlin of the “Judge Judy” show is paid $45 million a year. Are we and our democracy worth saving?