Here’s today’s cheerful update from the White House:
Does that last bullet point (and the boldface text) chill you, maybe a tiny bit? Does it sound faintly like uniformed government forces invading your office, home, and neighborhood to arrest undesirables? Is it possible that someone in the government will find you undesirable at some point? How did we get here?
Our educational system has let slide any semblance of trying to teach students how to determine the difference between truth and lies. We insist on deadening students, leading them to abandon their native curiosity in favor of regurgitation of arbitrary information, and giving them the dreariest of learning environments.
When schools are like prisons (and we insist on considering how to “harden” them even more, with armed guards and fortifications), how will we know when we’ve left one system and entered the other?
Meanwhile, a foray into the comments section of any Breitbart article reveals the ugly underbelly of American ignorance. Just today, there were threads celebrating the idea of a border wall with machine guns, moats with alligators, snipers, and landmines. Numerous commenters attacked Stephen Hawking for being an atheist and a believer in climate change.
The most insidious and possibly the most virulent thread (today) had to do with the student walkouts to protest gun violence. Breitbart stringers and commenters bent themselves into logical and rhetorical knots to condemn the protests as 1) organized by others (because teenagers can’t possibly think for themselves and use a cell phone); 2) involuntary, coerced by teachers and “liberal cuck” peers (yes, they use this language about children); 3) really about taking guns away from gun-lovers; 4) slanted towards Democrats (as if either party has any guts here), and 5) somehow connected to saying if you oppose the protests you are in favor of violence against children (yes, I’m scratching my head here, too).
I was on a middle school campus in California today, and I witnessed the truth of the walkouts. District-wide, principals issued directives that classrooms were to remain open and instruction was to continue for all students who chose not to participate. Students were to walk to the gymnasium for the 10 a.m. gathering and return to their classrooms at 10:17. There were no posters, no political symbols, no explicit mentions of guns, and no subtle pressures to join or refrain.
From my observation, around half the students chose to participate and half did not. There was no haranguing of either group by the other one. It was quiet, thoughtful, and peaceful — the way teaching and learning ought to be, every day.
The vitriol on Breitbart that was directed at children, teachers, liberals, and generally anyone not in favor of Making America White and Privileged Again While Keeping Colored Folk Down was unbelievable. One thread kept bringing abortion into the discussion, saying things like, “Why didn’t they march or walk out to protect the unborn?” — The old “Look over there!” strategy that doesn’t hold up to the slightest scrutiny.
I felt like I needed a shower after venturing into that territory, even as a provocateur (yes, I confess to leaving some pointed comments). But I must address the truth that our educational system (however intentionally or not) has trained at least a generation or two of non-thinkers, halted at around the emotional development stage of a 3rd grader, and unable to separate fact from fantasy.
The only hope for us to stop this self-perpetuating cycle is to transform public education in the ways we know we can and must. We can do this in spite of Betsy DeVos, who may be Cruella DeVille in intention, but who is more like Lucille Ball in execution. We can do this in spite of the determined assaults on our civil liberties by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, because right is on our side and he is a dinosaur of the Old South.
We can do this in the face of inexhaustible corporate “speech” (in the form of dollars, thank you right wing of the Supreme Court) and the relentless drive for ever-increasing wealth on the part of the wealthy.
But we can only do it if we adopt a warrior mentality — not in the way of violence, but in the fierce determination that we shall not yield in the face of ignorance and corruption. Not only shall we not yield, but we shall teach our children to defend kindness, love, and virtue above money, power, and gratification. That is the school of the future.