I recall as a late teenager, in a conversation with a relative, stating there were certain foundations of knowledge that all Americans needed to attain so to be solid citizens. I also recall the odd reply.
“We can’t all sit around reading.”
That memory came back to me this week as the debt ceiling mess grew larger and we heard still more outrage from some parents regarding safety measures at public schools so as to ward off the virus causing a pandemic. If we took the view at 30,000 feet over our nation there is only one thing that would be uttered.
‘What has happened to the people?’
Throughout life many of us have had political opinions, some of them strongly held. As history proves repeatedly such varying views and perspectives are what democracy requires to grow and strengthen. But what has been added in a larger dose to the mix is out-and-out liers and demagogues both in our elected offices and others adding such voices in our national dialogue through social media.
In the past on this blog, I weighed in on results, such as from the Annenberg Public Policy Center where it was found that only 26% of Americans could name all three branches of the federal government. Stunningly, 33% could not think of one! To add to the sad data 37% could not name a single right protected by the Bill of Rights.
That type of polling is telling regarding our educational failures as a nation. What has resulted from such a disregard for holding students accountable with a foundation of information before they graduate is now playing out. A wanton disregard for facts has been unleashed, as evidenced by the election-outcome deniers in 2020 and the anti-vaccinator crowd, underscoring the toxic nature of what is eating away at the very fabric of democracy.
Especially since 2008, we have witnessed the use of our poorly informed citizenry by partisan interests, who have the skills of messaging through social media, to place a dagger at the heart of our democracy. From Sarah Palin and the Tea Party to Donald Trump’s overt messaging of continued lies and twisted meanings, a direct line can be traced across the body politic. From disregarding the need for any wisdom to be elected, to the undermining of national institutions a theme emerged from conservatives.
That threat was presented in real-time to a nation on January 6th where it was clear the rule of law, our political institutions, and the election processes of our nation were no longer understood, or cared for.
I have never had a personal conversation with anyone who thought dinosaurs and people lived at the same time. But I have had online discussions with people who feel that the pandemic is a hoax with inflated case numbers and that five ultra-rich families control the world’s finances. I wish I was joking.
So how do we reverse course and head towards sanity and a stronger foundation as a nation? Well, let’s begin where this post started.
It is clear every person has a very busy life. We start out with different abilities and sets of interests. No one should be expected to master the Federalist Papers. But in allowing for that we can not, must not, accept the almost complete lack of knowledge that runs shamelessly through a wide swath of the electorate. The impact from that under-educated class is having a dreadful impact on both the political health of the nation and physical health of our populace.
Because of too few strict standards in our education system and the broad acceptance of ‘any view is valid’ even from the most outlandish right-winger, we now must ponder the survivability of our democracy.
It is simply imperative that the rest of us stand up and speak out for the needs of the nation.
And so it goes.