Tuesday, October 8, 2013
After viewing the Crucible
On seeing the Crucible once again.
There is evil in the world. Some of it is the result of warped and demented minds. Some of it the result of greed- not just for money- though that is productive of much evil, but there is also the greed for power. And some of it is the result of amorality : people who follow orders but take no responsibility for the result. But , as Arthur Miller made clear in his Salem witchcraft play- some of it is the result of people so righteous and sure of their own beliefs that they would impose them on others regardless of the suffering it might cause. Fundamentalism is not just confined to religion.
The evil I speak of is what is happening in schools to children in the name of teaching them to read. All of the forces of evil are involved: Greed of publishers and profiteers, greed of politicians who use literacy to attack schools and stir up fear among their constituents, amorality of school board members and administrators. But especially evil are those whose fundamentalist views of literacy, learning, and schooling are being enacted into laws that are designed to root out heresy- anyone who does not share their fundamentalist belief- and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for any who challenge their doctrine.
What has happened in American schools in last 15 years has devastated schools where they are most needed in the urban ghettos: the schools of New Orleans, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Oakland, and our nation’s capital are wounded beyond repair. Schools are closed where they are most needed and any semblance of self-government of local education is gone.
And schools everywhere are being turned into sweat shops in which five year olds can be failing in the first week of kindergarten and the primary day is spent almost entirely on fundamentalist literacy programs. Like the good people of Salem, professional teachers are being rooted out or forced into submission, and blamed for the failure of their programs to work, turned away from the truth by the Satans in the teacher’s colleges.
Education is not the only aspect of American life in which this is happening- see the parallel in the attack on modest attempts to provide health care to millions without it.
But what is more evil, or more dangerous to democracy than what is happening to the education of a generation of our youth?
Pervading all this evil is an anti-intellectualism which serves well those greedy for money and power. If you can’t trust yourself to tell truth from fiction, sense from nonsense, science from myth then you are prey to voting against your own best interests.
It is not the fundamentalists who have brought this situation about. By themselves they could not have the power. But they are being used by those who have power to minimize the tax burden of supporting public schools while limiting the access to knowledge and literacy.
Those with power have the clever minds in the neo-conservative think tank to do their evil for them. They know how to use the institutions of democracy to subvert democracy.
How do we fight this evil? With the only tools we have.
Knowledge and the same political process they are using against us.
Save Our Schools is a national coalition organized to resist this evil.
If you are parents exercise your rights as parents to protest bad tests and curriculum. Defend your children from the sweat shops. You can join with other parents and the professionals in defending your schools or taking them back from the fundamentalists. Get on school boards.
And educate yourself and others.