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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/14/19

Education Reform in the Age of Trump

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As a former educator I have long defended public education. I have argued that teachers are among the most dedicated professionals in the nation. They are underpaid and too often underappreciated in that they are made scapegoats by far too many politicians who have little to no understanding of the difficulty teachers face.

I stand by that position but the election of a president who is by every measure unqualified for the responsibilities of high office compels me to realize that our educational system has failed. Until the election of Donald Trump, I would not have considered it possible that the American people as a whole even with systemic flaws in campaign financing, foreign interference and the Electoral College would elect an obvious con man who rejects the basic tenets of democracy and acquired knowledge. I would not have considered it possible that an educated society would elect a man who holds science in contempt, who discards facts as the products of elitist propaganda, who regards media as the enemies of the people and who demonstrates disdain for the balance of power inherent in a democratic system of government.

That we could have allowed this to occur once is understandable but alarming. That we might well allow it to happen again suggests that the foundation of our democracy is crumbling before our eyes.

Clearly, we need to better educate our children so that they will grow to become informed citizens with respect for the principles of democracy, an understanding of institutions of government and a firm grasp of reasoning and respect for the scientific method.

Even now, as I write these words, I realize that a significant number of our people cringe at the term "scientific method." They are composed of people whose social upbringing and education has taught them that science is the enemy of religion. They have grown up in a world where every individual must choose between faith and science, between the word of God and the words of Einstein, between the elitists who control our universities and social institutions and the ordinary people who work for wages and struggle to get by.

We live in a society that divides us by geography and demands that we choose sides and burrow in or risk being ostracized by our family and peers.

I understand the disdain that many people have for institutions and elitists but the election of Donald Trump demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work in a functional democracy. Because ordinary people have not learned to process information and derive logical conclusions for themselves, they have allowed others to think for them. Because they have learned to divide the world between good and evil in the most simplistic terms, they have allowed a con artist to use them for his own enrichment.

Donald Trump is not a man of the people. Donald Trump does not value the principles of democracy. Donald Trump is an opportunist who has exploited the prejudice and ignorance of the people for his own aggrandizement.

A great deal has gone toward the immediate task of removing this man from office as soon as humanly possible. Relatively little time and resources have been devoted to ensuring that such a tragic mistake of electoral politics never happens again.

At this point it is important to expand the topic of systemic failure to include a Democratic Party that has also exploited the people in so many ways. It was the Democrats who signaled "full speed ahead" to NAFTA and the Free Trade Mandate that spelled the demise of American industry. It was Democratic lip service that allowed unions to collapse as a counterweight to corporate influence. We should not forget Democratic betrayal simply because Trump is so much worse than anything the Democrats could have delivered.

Nor should we ignore the fact that Donald Trump's candidacy was enabled by a Republican Party so removed from the people that a pretender had no difficulty plowing his way through a large field of contenders to the nomination. The problem is bipartisan and the solution must be nonpartisan.

It begins with education. The government guarantees a free public education to all from age five to eighteen. It is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government. What our government has not guaranteed is a quality education for all. We have in fact yielded the content of public education to state and local authorities and that is where the problem begins.

It is often said that all politics are local and local politicians have long recognized the propaganda potential of education. Not long ago there were places in this nation where a science teacher could only teach Charles Darwin's theory of evolution if the Christian church's creation story was presented for contrast. Please note that between evolution and creation only one is a theory. The other is faith-based mythology aka religion.

In 1985 the Supreme Court ruled that public schools could not teach creation myth in a science curriculum. In 2005 the court ruled that the so-called theory of "Intelligent Design" was only an attempt to repackage creationism in a more acceptable form and it too was banned. As a result, the rightwing anti-science community has pushed the Charter School movement as yet another way to circumvent the law of the land. School Boards in Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona and the District of Columbia have approved the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. [1]

A theory is more than speculation. A scientific idea begins as a purely speculative postulate before becoming a hypothesis to be tested. A hypothesis becomes a theory only after rigorous and repeated testing confirms its validity. The creation myth an essential story in all known religions has not survived peer review or rigorous testing and cannot be considered a valid theory. It does not therefore belong in the same scientific discussion as evolution.

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Jack Random is the author of The Jazzman Chronicles and the founder of Crow Dog Press. His novels include Wasichu: The Killing Spirit, Number Nine: The Adventures of Jake Jones and Ruby Daulton, Ghost Dance Insurrection and A Patriot Dirge in (more...)

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