Photo: Copyright © Gary Scott, Getty Images
Look at history and analyze it. We might conclude that we are culturally standing on the precipice of collapse. By peering over the edge, we look into an abyss that usually results in the reframing and re-calibration of society. We’ve seen this throughout history with the decline and fall of multiple empires. Like tossing a ball up into the air, it goes up and comes back down.
The first indication of decline is usually evident in the breakdown of the education system. Where education was meant to be the elixir of life, instead it has become more like what Karl Marx said about religion – the opium of the masses. With one singular brushstroke our school system has been reduced by an oligarchy more interested in control rather than enlightenment.
Strangely, it has become commonplace for Americans to thumb their noses at intellect. I never thought I’d see the day where being educated is equated with elitism. This charge was leveled against Barack Obama during the presidential election of 2008, where his intellect was frowned upon and used as a weapon against him. It didn’t help that we were on the heels of the Bush presidency where being mediocre and subpar became acceptable and the norm. The country was plunged into an educational deficit.
When an education system is predicated on test scores, just like trained seals students respond to stimuli but lack comprehensive knowledge and/or critical thought. This harms children as well as negatively affects the fabric of our culture. Some of the greatest innovations in society originate in exploration and free thought. When we thwart it and hinder the natural instincts of children, we can’t be surprised that America is no longer a first world power in the realm of education. And if children are our future, we’re in for a shocking revelation – they’re not prepared.
As I write, the state of Texas is about to plunge social studies into an historical void, a cultural dark age by denying students the right and opportunity to learn an accurate history. They’re omitting from textbooks the occurrences that shaped the nation, and continues to influence us. How to speak of the ‘birthing of a nation’ without mentioning Jim Crow, the KKK and the fact that the Civil War is a by-product of slavery, is misguided and detrimental. It dashes any attempt at addressing important facts that contribute to healing the racial divide as well as the inequities in the quality of education available to children of color. What makes it patently egregious is Texas, a large state, has influence over schools’ choice of textbooks throughout the country. While its influence is waning, it’s neither fast enough nor absolute.
Never one to introduce a conundrum without, at least, attempting some kind of remedy, education has to be a priority of all parents as well as the country. We must remember educated people make educated decisions. If we continue on the path of ignorance we’re headed on, we have no one to blame for the perceived manipulation and control of our communities. As a community we have a choice. Exercise your voting right. It all starts on the local level. If we don’t put the people in place that have the interest of our community and its educational needs, we get what we pay for.
When we allow this to happen, we’re neither proponents of change or part of the solution. We’re the problem.
Earl Davis is the Executive Director of Project Brownstone. He lives in New York City.