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The Rockets Glare Red Over a Dumified Democracy

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Our country is a mess. It has been for quite some time but only now has the heap of bad to worse domestic policy peaked enough so that anyone with sight can see. What makes matters worse, is that the United States is exporting this “mess” to the rest of Earth. But that is a much broader topic. Today I would like to focus on education and the dangers of dumbifying of democracy.

An article the other day by Tampa Bay Times writer John Romano caught my eye because of the catchy title “Romano: How would Florida lawmakers fare in the Bible?” As the fates would have it, another story about a big push to register young voters even before they turn 18 amplifies my message here. But first, let me address the situation in Florida and Romano’s apt storyline.

This veteran columnist and baseball addict had the courage to take on the zealots of religion in the state’s private schools over nothing short of “revising history.” If the stories in the sunshine state pan out, private schools are taking biblical (and human) history into their own hands – as Romano says textbooks being used in these Christian schools are offering, “alternative viewpoints of accepted scientific and historical data.” One example Romano gave is a school textbook that teaches that Noah took in baby dinosaurs to save them from the great flood. I’ll let you choke back that gasp but remember that Florida is the most progressive state in the south.

 

The Rockets Glare Red Over a Dumified Democracy

Another example from the Tampa Bay Times piece tells us that some of the textbooks used to teach future generations to educate our young to the “fact” slaves in the old south were treated better if they believed in Christ. Forgetting for a moment, you are reading about the educational horror version of Alice in Wonderland. Romano’s editorial takes aim not at free religious notions, but at the fact that $1 billion dollars in Florida education vouchers are being funneled to private schools that teach kids the world is only 6,000 years old. Take a moment; I know some of you will need it before my conclusion. The rabbit hole goes much deeper, but you get the point.

Turning the page, we find out from U.S. News & World Reports that the states are trying to increase voter engagement by allowing students to pre-register or, in some cases, to vote even before they turn 18. Susan Milligan’s report keys on a bill being supported by Representative Steve Bergquist that would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and that requires the schools to get them put on the rolls. I mention the lawmaker’s efforts not because I disagree with all Americans taking part in democracy, but because the voting age should probably be raised instead of lowered. Most people these days do not realize the biggest reason 18-year-olds were given the right in the first place. The arguments for and against 18-year-old voting rights go back to the Vietnam War, and the supposed impetus that if an 18-year-old were old enough to fight, he or she should be old enough to vote. The real reason for changing the law back then was a liberalization of the voting public. And this is the reason for today’s craziness to dig deeper into far gone and inexperienced populous these days.

There are two practical arguments to be made here. First and foremost, American students being taught that the Earth is flat still is going to cause huge problems for the U.S. and the world. Secondly, young people below the age of 21 generally have no practical experience whatsoever at living life independently. We simply must understand here, that American schools, in general, cannot equip students to know beans about history, economics, or political philosophy. This Pew Research study reveals that the U.S. is currently someplace in between the shithole President Trump mentioned, and that upscale banana republic most kids cannot even place on a map. In 2015 American kids were 38th out of 71 countries in reading, math, and science. The light of the free world has gone from number one in most education categories, to scoring “fair” by all accounts against international competition. And now many of America’s best schools are aiming to teach the electorate that Rambo will beat those Russians, and that we are totally alone in the universe. We are in very big trouble. In D.C. lawmakers are thinking about allowing 16-year-olds there to vote. In California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico there are bills pending that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary or general elections. And in Teen Vogue we learn that the Women’s March has just launched the Youth Empower Coalition, which is aimed at empowering young people to vote in local, state, and national elections.

The Rockets Glare Red Over a Dumified Democracy

And you thought you saw an empowered generation stumble forth to vote Hillary or Trump in the last election. The next presidential election may well see an iPhone or some AI elected chief executive if these neo-liberal/neocons have their way. We live in a society where over 70% of the young people think it's useless to know where other countries are. In America, only about 14% of youths believe learning a foreign language is a good thing. And if these numbers scare you consider the fact that 30% percent of American youths think the population of the U.S. is somewhere in between 1 and 2 billion. On the domestic side of things, a National Geographic study from 2002 showed that 48% of youths tested could not find the state of Mississippi on a map. In the National Geographic-Roper survey conducted back then the United States 18-24 year-olds only beat out Mexico in a competition between Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Sweden.  I could go on forever.

In 2002 Florida private schools were not allowed to use textbooks from before Darwin and Einstein. At least not that I know of. However, the number of U.S. citizens who cannot even find America on a world globe has remained constant. 11% of our youth cannot spot their own country. More than 30% cannot even find the Pacific Ocean, let alone spot Japan or Indonesia. This most recent news and the numbers that coincide makes me wonder where Mr. Trump puts the world’s biggest shithole country? I am hearing the Star Spangled Banner playing as Donald Trump touches his chin quizzically, wondering if he even know he may be standing in it?

Author: Phil Butler