a trend that needs to stop

A friend of mine noted on Facebook that the ability to think and write seem to have become rare birds, if the ‘comments’ section of most news websites is any indication.  At the same time, another friend posted a link to Michael O’Hare’s fabulous letter to my students, in which he discusses the ways in which the failure to fund education, at all levels, leads to a fundamental decline in our society.  If we would just have been willing to give up that extra thousand square feet of McMansion, and if everyone in California with a certain income level paid $1000 more in taxes a year, we wouldn’t be in this boat.

Being in Arizona, I see it a little bit differently.  Here, it is less a matter of misguided propositions and an ‘I got mine’ attitude and more of what made the West the West long ago….it is a mindset that says that education is not important, and that hard work, and the work ethic to go with it, are all you need.  But when a position that lists supervising other people has a starting wage of $7.75 an hour, there’s something wrong with this picture.  Even here, with it’s relatively low cost of living, that wage doesn’t pay the rent for a family.  But Jan Brewer doesn’t seem to care.  She’s too busy pandering to the far right, creating posters that evoke Rosie the Riveter for her re-election campaign.

Brewer's ad Whatever you think of SB 1070 — personally, I understand the impetus behind it, if not the vitriol associated with it — Brewer makes it very clear whom she blames for what she calls the ‘flood of illegals’ with that ‘Obama O’.  But really, isn’t this is an issue she should have taken up with Bush, since he slashed the INS budget?

But perhaps this is just part and parcel of what the problem is.  Of course, Brewer and her ilk would blame those in this country illegally (and their attendant ‘anchor babies’) for sucking resources from ‘real’ Americans.  But that’s not the case.  No, this is about focusing on the wrong things.  In the 90’s and the early part of this century, we focused on getting ‘more’…bigger houses, better cars, fancy dinners and designer clothes.  But is that ‘more’ really more?

I would argue it is not.  Our ‘more’ has stolen vital resources from our children.  I will leave the issue of natural resources to others, as I am not an environmentalist.  But the ability to think is also a resource.  It is a resource that businesses lament the loss of…their employees cannot think for themselves.  It is a resource those of us in education lament on a daily basis.  When I ask a student what she thinks, I despair when she tells me that no one has ever asked her that before.  Thinking, for her, is secondary to filling in bubbles on a standardized test.  The latter is what constitutes ‘knowledge’ for her — and it is the least kind of knowledge, because it doesn’t allow her to think.

Critical thinking is what allows us to move forward.  To solve the problems of immigration and global warming, of crumbling budgets, of how to fund universities, community colleges, high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools.  It is what allows us to think not only outside the box, but to reconfigure the box into a ladder.  It is a lack of critical thinking that allows an unthinkable number of Americans to think our president is a Muslim, and that education and the support of the poor are somehow less important than combating moral issues.

Of course, it is easier not to think.  It is easier to let Glenn Beck or Jan Brewer or even the Democratic National Committee to do our thinking for us.  I always disliked it when the union UCI TAs belonged to sent out a ‘voting’ guide…didn’t they trust us graduate students can read and decide for themselves whom and what to vote for?  And as history proves time and again, in times of financial crisis, people turn to others to make decisions for them, because they are too busy keeping roofs over their heads to worry about the larger world.

But education is something we should worry about, regardless of our personal finances, religious beliefs, or any other attendant issues.  When education — the ability to think — is in danger, nothing else matters.  Without education, does anyone really think the economy will get better?  When did we stop believing that education mattered?  How did we go from a nation that valued people who think to a nation of people who don’t question the Orly Tavitz/Glenn Beck/Fox News view of the world (and yes, the other side is just as much to blame…do I really have to agree with everything Dennis Kucinich or Rachel Maddow says to keep my liberal cred?)  This is why I worry, and this is why I believe that without an investment in education, we are doomed.

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Published in: on August 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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