We are paying a great price for our ignorance these days. Typified by a dangerous lack of consciousness, ignorance fosters cruelty.
Nowhere is this more notable than in the Trump administration. Everyone from the disabled, the poor, the young, immigrants, women, gays, religious ethnicities, and people of color has been the target of his attacks. Trump's bellicose policies have assailed our notions of American identity and set a course for the dangerous shoals of national intolerance that further imperils our already battered ship of state.
What could be the source of such unapologetic ignorance? Look no further than our once-vaunted American educational system.
In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education ruled that the Jim Crow doctrine of "separate but equal" was unconstitutional. Educator and activist, Jonathan Kozol, points out that attempts to fulfill the promise of Brown through racial integration via bussing programs were largely unsuccessful. Consequently, we have witnessed the resegregation of public schools over the years. He has dubbed our current system "apartheid schooling."
This problem is only aggravated by the trend toward the privatization of education. Betsy DeVos, head of the Department of Education, openly touts for-profit schools and describes public education as a "dead end." Lured by the reputed competitiveness of a business model of education, the affluent have fled en masse from public to private schools. The rise of charter schools, voucher programs, and other "school choice" programs, along with the imposition of harsh standardized testing for public schools, has further defunded public education.
Teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma have drawn attention to the plight of public school teachers forced to live on starvation wages. In the words of Chicago educator Timothy Meegan, "Our schools are being starved into failure in order to justify mass privatization."
All evidence indicates that in 2018, U.S. education is more deeply divided along race and class lines than ever before.
The failure of racial integration and with it the promise of upward mobility has sounded the death knell for equal opportunity in the United States. What remains of our educational system is under systematic attack by Betsy DeVos, who, like every other Trump appointment, is busily dismantling the very institution she is charged with protecting.
Consequently we are confronted everyday with the results of our national ignorance over who and what constitutes an American.
Trump's bigoted attacks on immigrants conveniently ignores the fact that his own wife is an immigrant, as are his parents. He is rapidly militarizing the U.S./Mexican border and he has promised to send the army to stop a caravan of Central American refugees seeking safety in the U.S.
Further undermining our Democratic values is a neo-con Supreme Court that frequently rules against established civil-rights precedents.
In North Dakota, Native Americans have been the targets of restrictive voter identification measures that will ensure their removal from state voting rolls. This comes at a time when their political activism against the environmental destruction caused by oil pipelines in North Dakota has drawn national and international support for Native Americans.
Since his days on the campaign trail, Trump has encouraged white nationalists. The result is that they have been emboldened to act out their fantasies of race purity. The most recent example of a white supremacist run amok is Robert Bower, the Pittsburgh native who killed eleven members of a Jewish synagogue this past weekend.
A couple of days prior to that, it was Gregory Bush in Jeffersontown Kentucky. When he was thwarted from breaking into an African American church service, he went on a shooting spree in a local grocery store that left two black community leaders dead.
Closer to home, the debate over national identity is an enduring topic of conversation in the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). In a shot across the bow at the Ethnic Studies curriculum now in development in the SBUSD, a group of anonymous parents threatened to sue the school district for teaching inclusivity and cultural proficiency in our public classrooms. This comes following the SBUSD's decision to implement Ethnic Studies as a graduation requirement by next year.
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