The education of our young people is probably the single most critical issue, after climate change and the environment, that our nation faces today. In recent decades, we have seen the decline of our public education system. Schools have stopped or cut back on teaching such things as civics, social sciences, philosophy, and even literature, trading them for a more technical education based on computers and their applications. That was bad enough, for we now have a generation of adults who in many cases are unaware of the role history has played in leading up to our lives today, do not understand how our government works, and are not deep thinkers. They are not the problem-solvers of tomorrow that we so desperately need. Oh sure, they can write a computer program to accomplish almost anything, but they are not well-versed in real-world issues, are not the problem solvers we need today. Not every problem can be fixed with a computer application!
But today, rather than trying to address these problems, trying to give our youth a more well-rounded, liberal arts education, politicians and religious groups are attempting to diminish our schools even further. I believe that there is a reason for this, that they do not want the kid from the poor side of town who put himself through college by hard work, to become the nation’s leaders of tomorrow. However, the reason is less important than the effects, so let’s focus on what is happening in our schools today, the attempts to undermine the value of our children’s education.
About a month ago, I wrote about Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey who, rather than raise teacher’s salaries in order to attract more teachers, removed the requirement for teachers to have a college degree. The only educational requirement to be a teacher in Arizona is that you be enrolled in college or university. This week, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is proposing a plan to bypass teacher certification and hire former first responders including former police officers, firefighters and EMTs as well as former members of the military. Like Ducey in Arizona, DeSantis would rather lower the standards for teachers than use some of his budget surplus to raise teacher pay. Obviously, the future of our country is not of any great importance to Ron DeSantis.
Meanwhile in South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem released a revised proposal for social studies standards in public schools that lays out a mostly shining vision of American history, one that omits large blocks of facts and focuses more on religion. Noem claims she is “weeding out certain divisive teachings on race” in public schools. Weeding out facts. The new standards would put forth the idea that from its inception, this nation has provided equal rights and access to all races and genders. The standards also include a significant amount of ‘Christian’ history. Now, if I’m Jewish or Muslim, paying my taxes and sending my child to public school, I’m going to have a problem with her learning that there is some superiority to Christianity, that this nation is a ‘Christian nation’. And if I’m Black or Native American, I’m going to have a real big problem with the whitewashing of the history of my ancestors.
And then in Arizona, there is Kari Lake, running for governor against Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs. Lake claims she would model the educational model in Arizona based on that of Hillsdale College, a private Christian school in Michigan that’s influential in right-wing circles and is run by Larry Arnn who spearheaded Donald Trump’s short-lived 1776 Commission, created to support what Trump called ‘patriotic education.’ Ms. Lake has said she would work to “ban diversity, equity, and inclusion training in schools.” Oh yeah, that’s just what we need! Ban diversity, ban equality, encourage even more racism and bigotry than we already have! Why not just start a KKK school and teach kids how to hate even more than their parents do? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
There are more examples, but you get the picture. Our education system in recent decades has devolved. Especially under the four-year leadership of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, schools have lost much of the emphasis that used to be placed on turning out students who were fully prepared to take on leadership roles, to help shape the future of the nation. If the current trend continues, I don’t even want to try to envision this nation twenty years from now.