The Elephant in the Room, by Rich Paschall
Let’s talk about it, shall we? I am referring to the elephant. No, not a Ringling Brothers elephant. That matter has been resolved to almost everyone’s satisfaction. I say “almost” because there are some who object to the choice of land where the elephants may roam free, but that is another issue for another time.
The elephant in the room belongs to the Republicans. You know them as the Grand Old Party, but nothing seems too grand these days. They have splintered into pieces and the one left standing, the presumptive nominee for President of the United States of America (POTUS for you social media guys), is not one of the regular Republican politicians at all. The Donald has ridden the anti government wave all the way to the top. It is a wave that was ironically created by the regular Republicans and their supporters. They now find themselves asking, “How did this happen?” It certainly was not the game plan.
While both sides of the aisle sit and contemplate how such a man, regarded by some as a bigot and misogynist, could have stolen the lead of a major political party, the real surprise is not just that this person has a following and is running for office. The wonder is that there are so many supporters. Republican strategists have been trying to craft a plan that would stop their own leading candidate from gaining the presidential nomination. While stopping the New York billionaire seems to be on Republican and Democratic minds, the problems of the major parties are just a symptom of what ails us.
Andy Borowitz, satirist, commentator and best-selling New York Times author puts it like this, “Stopping Trump is a short-term solution. The long-term solution, and it will be more difficult, is fixing the educational system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump.” You may have seen this quote being spread around social media like wildfire under a hot sun. This quote is one of the ones that are true, however. As for your other memes…
If there is one thing this campaign has proven, it is that there are a lot of stupid people. Social media have allowed many folks to demonstrate just how stupid they are. Since they are stupid to begin with, they do not realize how much stupidity they are demonstrating. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (yikes!) even Word Press have given the ability to many to spread stupid all over the internet, and thus, all over the world.
There have been many times that I have tried to stop stupid in its tracks. When I see obviously incorrect statements on facebook I like to post a Snopes rebuttal or article from a reputable news source to refute the incorrect statement, but stupid will have none of it. People go on commenting as if the truth is unavailable and this internet mythology must certainly be true. In this regard, I am like a pebble on the beach being stomped on by flip-flops, Crocs and other ignoble beachwear.
While US News and World Report reported the higher education system as third best in the world, elementary and secondary schools did not fare so well by others. In the 2012 Program For International Student Assessment, among 15 year olds Americans ranked 35th in the world in math and 27th in science. In 2015 the Pew Research Center reported “29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world.” That’s rather low. American scientists gave education a lower mark.
While major American school systems are broke, politicians talk about tax breaks for the rich and “trickle down” style economics. Teachers in Detroit work for a school system that can not afford to educate children and teachers wonder how long they will get paid. If you think Detroit is unique, you better have a look around. Chicago is barely surviving while school districts in richer communities in Illinois get more money per student than those in the places where education is more difficult to administer.
Google (used as a verb) American education problems and look at the long list of articles and reports by reputable sources. You can spend the next month reading how we have slipped into a mediocre education system, or I should say, series of systems. The value of education in some states is rather low and some of the courses dictated by local school boards would better be categorized as propaganda than education.
With such a gap in education quality across the nation, it becomes much easier for spin machines to do their work. While I generally hate the “back in my day” approach, or statements beginning “when I was young,” here we go anyway. There was a time when there were only three major television networks, a few major radio outlets, a relative handful of newspaper conglomerates and news services (eg. Reuters, UPI, AP). They worked hard at getting the story first and getting it right. Reporting was also educating and many of them knew it.
Now the news reporting is barely that. Networks bring on so-called experts to spin the news and in many cases it is nothing more than biased viewpoints thrown at the uneducated masses for the purpose of swaying opinion. When I think of certain right-wing outlets (you know the ones) I think of a lot of angry guys telling us what to think. It may have been what the Republicans wanted from their media supporters at one time, but it seems to have blown up in their faces. Insert the Donald Trump “I love the poorly educated” statement here.
Perhaps it is best to contemplate this statement from a Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. Yes, this widely spread statement is true: “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.”
Note: While some rank the USA as number one in higher education in the world based on the sheer number of quality universities, no one ranks the overall education or systems of schools in the United States as anywhere near the top.
Sources: Pew Research Center
“Watch Trump Brag About Uneducated Voters, “The Hispanics,” Rolling Stone
“U.S. Millennials Come Up Short in Global Skills Study”, Education Week
“US Students Slide In Global Ranking,” NPR