On August 21, 1831, enslaved American Nat Turner led about 70 of his enslaved and free Black neighbors in a rebellion to awaken his white neighbors to the inherent brutality of slaveholding and the dangers it presented to their own safety. Turner and his friends traveled from house to house in their neighborhood in Southampton County, Virginia, freeing enslaved people and murdering about 60 of the white men, women, and children they encountered. Their goal, Turner later told an interviewer, was “to carry terror and devastation wherever we went.”
What the Republicans are doing to public education is disastrous, untenable and unforgivable. We must protect, support and improve public schools. And we must vote Democratic to preserve the promise of this country and our democracy.
Republicans don't want people to understand the world, especially the country and states where they live and their histories. This includes discouraging young people from questioning the status quo. Why? To make people easier to manipulate and control. And make it more difficult for minority communities to advance economically. Hurting public education and banning books are the easiest tactics.
Let me put this plainly:
If we don't out-organize, out-smart, and out-vote these people, we will have an American Taliban ruling this country one day soon.
Our beautiful future--our children's children--will be mindless compliant deplorables without access to a quality education that is based on reality, not madness.
It must not be so!
All I can say is that as I read this summary of the attack on public schools, the First Amendment and the separation of church and state, my main response is that this can’t be happening. Yet it is happening and it shows how far we have slipped in a relatively short period of time. Thanks Dr. Richardson for keeping us aware.
I did not know how painful it is to be ignorant, how hopeless and futile an illiterate life can be.
Before I moved to Portugal 30 years ago, I had never lived with illiterate people. Most of the people my age here only had access to a fourth grade education. The village school had 40 seats and it was obligatory to wear shoes, so the child would carry his shoes to school and put them on to enter the classroom. Birth control was finally made available ten years ago, and many families had 8 or 9 children. It was common to beat children who tried to learn to read. Many only went for two or three years. They learned that dinosaurs were not real, the Earth was flat, etc. One teacher told me she was hired to teach because she had a law degree (she is from an old wealthy family) to work in a village in the mountains far from any city.
Her students were of all ages, together in one classroom, whose breakfast consisted of coffee with aguardente, the local hootch, a relative of brandy made from pressed grape stems.
Television arrived in 1990 but was limited. Poverty of the mind is shocking. Women were only allowed off the farm if they had produce by to sell, which they carried on their heads, walking to market.
My neighbor had never seen the Atlantic Ocean, so we took her, with her husband's permission, for a picnic there. She watched the waves come crashing in on the beach and absorbed the movement into her body, stretching her whole body up and then contracting down, like a small child. She stared at the flat ocean horizon and said, "That's the end of the Earth. Ships go to the edge and drop off and go to Hell."
I said, "No, my parents live over there.".
She countered, "I don't see them."
She was a fine judge of character and knew who was trustworthy.
When Soares came to power, years after the dictator Salazar went crazy and died, government began. A health system was put into place, water to each home, education to 9th grade, and in 2008 was increased to 12th grade. Everyone, regardless of their lower schooling could start university with a government grant. The country literacy rate soured overnight. The change was miraculous. Young people became professionals, the whole country worked to reach the European Union standards, and greatly succeeded, although it can not compete without natural resources.
Life in Portugal has changed so much for the better. But inequality can never be erased. Thirty years ago one student told me her lesson the first day of 10th grade was about who was inferior and who was superior. No gradients. She has raised three children. And they vote.
When I was a small child, around the time of the Pleistocene Age, it was apparent to me then that children had to go to school to learn history
in order to make intelligent choices on Election Day. (Both my parents were very involved Stevenson/Kennedy Democrats.) I saw even then that universal, mandatory, education was a pillar of a functioning democracy.
Today’s Republicans understand this principle very well. They also understand that if we have free, open, honest elections with wide participation by an educated electorate, they are doomed.
Therefore, like the slaveholders of the 1830’s, and the autocrats of 20th century dictatorships, fascist and communist, education must be withheld, suppressed, and tightly controlled.
Today’s Republican Party would begin the teaching of American history with, “Once upon a time…”
I find it outrageous how Republicans and many Southern states rationalise creating a second class of human beings in society either through education discrimination, voting "reform", labor laws etc. Always it's the darker skinned people who are meant to be repressed, but many poor whites are too. Then they justify it as "states rights" or "financial reform" or "patriotism" or whatever. With this whole push many people who could be productive, contributing, taxpaying members of society are repressed to the benefit of the self appointed elite. It's like the rest of the worlds' democracies are moving on towards racial equality and fairness, and Americans are still pre civil war in mentality. It is just incredible how stupid the whole attitude is, and NOT a good reflection on the USA.
In 2007, I visited Mississippi with a group of high school students and another teacher to do volunteer work.. We met a 54-year-old Black man there who told us that until he was a senior in high school, he and his fellow Black students were dismissed at noon to go work in the fields. He would have been a senior @1971.
He said, “They want to keep us uneducated, keep us poor, keep us laboring in their fields.”
On August 17, the president of the American Historical Association, James H. Sweet, published his letter, “ IS HISTORY HISTORY? Identity Politics and Teleologies of the Present” and handed the enemies of public education a stick to beat us with. On August 19 he published an apology, which may console his membership, but will not stop white supremacists from using his words at every future school board meeting.
I do find some hope in this SCOTUS ruling from 1982, but it will likely meet the same fate as Roe if it comes before the current court:
“ In the Supreme Court case Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982), the Court held that the First Amendment limits the power of junior high and high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content.” https://billofrightsinstitute.org/e-lessons/island-trees-school-district-v-pico-1982
At the entrance of a university in South Africa, the following message was posted for contemplation.
"Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the the use of long range missiles...It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by students..."
"Patients die at the hands of such doctors...
Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers...
Money is lost at the hands of such economists and accountants...
Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars...
Justice is lost at the hands of such judges...
The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation."
This is where the Republicans are leading. Generations lost for the sake of a few years of power.
This piece brings new urgency to efforts to stem this tide of propagandists & power obsessed cultists!
I posted this comment the other day about education. It bears repeating in light of Heather's Letter today.
Lynell(VA by way of MD&DC)
I watched one of Beto O'Rourke's rallies in a very "red" town in Texas. He converted many voters who were interviewed for the video. One converted voter who was a teacher was inspired by Beto's remarks about education. In the video he said these words about teachers: "We want to be seen as the profession that creates all others..." He also spoke of his wish that teachers be trusted and get respect. I suspect he meant trust that teachers will educate, not indoctrinate. Respect? Oh, my. Yes, indeed!
Many factors are contributing to the dumbing-down of Americans. In addition to poor education there is a poor diet of highly processed foods, lack of exercise and serious pollution including air, water and lead, and a steady diet of strategic misinformation. It's easy to see in people's bad choices and behaviors. Unfortunately, the Civil War of the mid 1800s was not successful in rooting this out of our system and "the South has risen again" indeed. What will it take to change the USA (and so many other places on Earth) to truly civil and just societies for all, finally?
The American democratic experiment- never thought in this lifetime that one would be seeing its decline. The children of today and those who shall follow will need every ounce of courage to change this downward spiral. It is difficult to accept that today’s adults are spineless.
This “Letter” from Heather is essential reading. The dissolution of the public school setting has been going on for quite a long time. I am a retired public school teacher and in about 1997, we noticed changes in our district’s curriculum and pedagogy. Our district supervisors asked us not to use traditional grammar books. (I kept mine on the lowest shelves of the bookcases). I proceeded to close my classroom door and use those books when possible. During the George W. Bush years along came “No Child Left Behind” although teachers referred to that as “No Teacher Left Standing.” As those years progressed, in September other 8th grade teachers and I noticed the same thing. By 2002, students came to us with a deficient base of knowledge. No Child Left Behind meant that months were devoted to teaching them how to perform on state mandated tests. If you add the influx of more screen time, and “smart phone” use, here we are. I have to wonder if the Marjorie Taylor Green/Lauren Boehberts of today were products of this slow circling of the drain of public education. They certainly do plumb the depths of ignorance. Republicans continue to target public school education in the worst possible way. Public schools are vital to the health of the democracy yet here we are. The current state of public schools is demoralizing and requires that we give it emergency care.
And in 1959, Jim Johnson, an Arkansas Supreme Court Justice, told thousands at a pro- segregation rally to "do what needs to be done" to stop integration of public schools. The history is long is this continuing attempt to limit what our children can learn, and in what way, and with what sources. These letters become ever more valuable.