Hitler arrives at Nuremberg for rally 1933 – another very popular orator
Normally I don’t write about politics here.
But not today.
I recently posted a note to Hoda Kotb from the Today Show. She had an item on her Facebook page asking what she should cover in her show.
Most of the answers posted related to shoes or clothing or divorces. I told her she should speak out about the growing trend to publicly accepted racism in our culture, with Muslims paying the role of the Jews this time.
So far, she is sticking to shoes. Kotb, by the way, is Arabic for book.
The Failings of Public Education
When I went to school in the 1960s, almost all of my teachers were women.
They were women because in those days, the only jobs women could get were teacher, nurse or secretary. And so the smartest went into teaching.
And they were good. Very good.
When new opportunities opened for women in the 70s, (and I am old enough to remember when a woman going to Harvard Business School was still a big story), the smartest flocked to careers as lawyers or MDs or CEOs. They followed the money.
In the days when women had no choice, schools could get away with paying teachers $23,000 a year, or less for women, and no one said a word – and they were able to attract the best talent in the country.
When other opportunities became available, the schools should have responded by making teaching as competitive as law, and paying as much. But they didn’t. Instead, we debased the public educational system in America. Oh, there are still those who teach out of pure dedication, but that’s like asking people to go to medical school and then head off to work for Medcin sans Frontiers. There are those who do, but not many.
I taught for many years at both Columbia University and NYU, and over the course of time, I watched as the level of basic education that my students came in with dropped and dropped and dropped. They were not stupid. Far from it, they were just uneducated – increasingly so. And interestingly, they didn’t care. Most did not know the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, and if they had to find out, they could always go to the web and Google it.
What we eroded was a basic foundation of fundamental knowledge, which by now, I think, is pretty much gone.
And the price we pay is that we have created a society without the ability to process information through any kind of historical wisdom.
So when Glenn Beck goes to the Lincoln Memorial and proclaims that he is the true heir to the Civil Rights Movement; when he and his Tea Party follower proclaim that the President is the racist here; when he fundamentally rewrites the history of this country to suit his own ends, one would think that an educated nation would laugh him off the stage.
But they don’t.
They don’t because we no longer have an educated nation that can process what he says through a lens of intelligence.
We have a nation of people who get their information superficially, and lacking in any kind of grounding of basic education, can be easily swayed by demagoguery of the worst kind.
For two generations we have ignored the infrastructure of this country.
Our bridges rust out and collapse.
That makes news.
Well our schools are rusted out and collapsing. And when the education of our nation rots and collapses, its is a whole lot more serious than when a bridge collapses, or deciding which shoes to buy.
What is happening today at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Dr. King’s I Have A Dream Speech is nothing short of pornography. Public pornography based on a collection of lies.
But we have a public that has lost the ability to discern the truth for itself.
This is how it starts.
And if you know anything about history, you already know how it finishes.
But alas, most people don’t even know that.
But they will. Sadly.
I quote Michael Rosenblum in full today. For he touches on the peril that confronts America today.
Can America get its Mojo back?
In Jane Jacobs great book Dark Age Ahead - she makes the point that the signifier for a great states's decline is growing xenophobia. Leading to a retreat into a fortress culture. This is what happened to China and what happened to the Muslim world. Both were many steps ahead of Europe but bothy retreated into themselves.
In the "fortress" thinking is not allowed or welcome. As Michael notes - many do not care that they know nothing. There is a pride in ignorance.
Such a society will look to the simple and to demagogues. Such a society will set up the the preconditions of "Collapse" - a structural inability to respond to challenges.
Don't we see signs of this inability today? As I see it we do.
This is why I am passionate in my support for public TV and radio's efforts to expand their role from providing good content to providing a safe place where the community can have a discourse about issues that are important to them.
At KETC in St Louis this effort began with creating such a safe place to help each other cope with the mortgage crisis. Now we are trying to find a way of facilitating the kind of discourse that will enable America to have a better approach to Immigration - an issue that will surely determine America's future as much as any other.
My hope is that such an approach - of having a local in depth discourse on challenging topics such as who is an American? How we get our food? Jobs and the economy? Health? Education? Is our only chance of breaking out of the polarization of our politices and the over influence of the corporate will.
I don't see any other opportunity? Do you?