"It is very nearly impossible . . . to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind."
James Baldwin (1924--87), U.S. author. "They Can't Turn Back," in Mademoiselle (New York, August 1960; reprinted in The Price of the Ticket, 1985).
"It is an axiom in political science that unless a people are educated and enlightened it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty or the capacity for self-government."
Texas Declaration of Independence, 2 March 1836.
"Education costs money, but then so does ignorance."
Sir Claus Moser (b. 1922), German-born British academic, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford. Daily Telegraph (London, 21 Aug. 1990).
"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
H. G. Wells (1866--1946), British author. The Outline of History (1920; 1951 ed., ch. 40).
Sometimes the articles I write require almost no groundwork or accompanying research. "Incompetent at Every Level" (OpEdNews.com, 14 August, 2009), is a perfect example of such an article, written quickly and straight from the gut. This was material I was quite familiar with: either from years of re-reading (the Isaac Asimov quote), or because I had made recent acquaintance with it (the quotes of Nietzsche and Kant), or it was my own fulminations against the arrogance of the haves with regards to national healthcare.
On the other hand, some articles remind me of the term papers I used to write in college: Lots of research, time spent at the library or on line double checking facts and quotes. Providing the background information that I feel is required in an era where--thanks to Ronald Reagan and the Republican stupidity machine--social studies (history, political science, civics, economics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, etc.), have had their importance reduced in our education system to somewhere between recess and lunch. My recent piece, "How Much is Enough" (OpEdNews.com, 2 September 2009) is an example of this type of article.
It is simply that in an age of sound bites, no in depth or true investigative journalism, infomercials posing as news, corporations buying time on the evening news just so they can quash unfavorable stories, and a diminishing interest in the written word, I feel that it is sometimes required to give my readers a short, but solid, background on the subject that I am writing the article on. This covers the relationship of war profiteering and the rise of the three eras of laissez faire or antisocial capitalism in the United States:,the American Civil War and the Gilded Age, the First World War and the Roaring Twenties, and our current era, beginning with the Cold War and the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex. Concluding with the current rise to complete domination of the Neo-liberal brand of economics over the last thirty years as represented by the policies of President Reagan, President Clinton, and the two Presidents Bush.
It is unfortunate, but no one reads anymore! Or perhaps I should say no one does any serious reading anymore. Did any of you who read Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, read any of the nonfiction books related to it? How about Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Gospels, Picknett and Prince's The Templar Revelation, or the actual Gospels of Mary, Thomas, or Judas? Did you go to the bookstore or the library, and pick up a book about healthcare in this country and around the world after you saw Michael Moore's movie Sicko, or when we began to be bombarded with all of the contradictory "facts" concerning the recent controversy in Congress over healthcare. T.R. Reid's new book (which I have only had a chance to glance at; come on payday) The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, looks like it might be a good one.
The United States has long suffered a split personality on the matter of education.
On the one hand we have the spiritual descendants of Thomas Jefferson, who not only believe in the necessity of education for every citizen of the United States, but who realize that true education is a life-long journey, and not a destination. We--yes, I'm one of them--want every child and every adult throughout their lives, to have easy access to the tools and teachers they need to keep their minds healthy, active and less susceptible to propaganda and indoctrination by the enemies of liberty.
On the other hand you have the spiritual descendants of John Calvin, who want you to only have enough learning to keep your preordained role in society. They want you to accept, without question, their authority and their reality as they give it to you, without complaint, question, or opposition. They want Slaves to the Elect, who--if they serve their masters well enough--might get a good word put in for them to God. The most current example of these "masters" are Senator Ensign, Governor Sanford, and the rest of the neo-Calvinists in The Family's C Street House in Washington D.C. These men, because they believe they are "saved," and "chosen by God to rule this land," have the gall to believe that they are above such petty considerations as the laws and rules by which the rest of us poor slobs must abide.
The worst part about this willful ignorance is that these people, in their positions of authority, can tell their ill-informed followers any ill-conceived lie or half-truth and be believed. Then these followers are manipulated by these "masters" into doing things which none of them would ever have dreamed of doing under normal circumstances. One of my favorite examples of this is found in the concept of "personal sovereignty."