There's been much talk in America over the years about war. Aside from the unjustified, and unforgivable, wars the American right has instigated against so many essentially innocent foreign nations since World War II, we've also had a war on drugs, a war on crime, etc. Even in the use of such terminology we see the inherently aggressive thrust of American policy in our era. It seems we're willing to declare war on anything, real or imaginary, living or dead! But one war that's been going on throughout my lifetime, and even long before, that's never been declared or acknowledged, is the war on education - and on the educated.
This war was spawned, in it's most modern incarnation, by The House Un-American Activities Committee (the creator of which was shortly thereafter imprisoned for corruption) leaving the field open for those men who went so far to destroy America as a nation respected and respectable - Joseph McCarthy, and Richard Nixon. The purging of liberally educated people from government, and from so many prominent areas of public life during the Mccarthy era, in the guise of expelling communists, left a dearth of qualified people in important positions. And this in turn led to the incalculable waste of excess military spending on the cold war, the grievously mistaken foray into Vietnam, and a hundred other horrible decisions made by the the stupid, and the corrupt, who were left in place once so many of the idealistic and intelligent were purged from prominent positions in American life.
It's a little, if ever, acknowledged fact, that though the McCarthy purges were not as murderous as Mao's cultural revolution, the purging of the most educated from positions of leadership and influence produced similar results as it did in Mao's China. America was set back generations; judging from the perspective of Donald Trump's America, one feels it not an exaggeration to say centuries! America's long long slide over the last seventy years from a great nation, to a mediocre nation, and finally to the butt of jokes and international derision, has been a sickening spectacle, and that fall lies squarely at the door of the McCarthy followers, and those who elected so many of his fellow travelers.
One feature of the modern war on education, and on the educated, is that so many of the original perpetrators of that war (such as Henry Ford, and Prescott Bush: George W. Bush's Grandfather) had active ties to Hitler's Nazi Party. This is readily verifiable fact - a simple google search will find innumerable valid sources of documentation - but though amply documented, it somehow remains an open secret. Even today the vast majority of Americans either don't know, or don't want to know, that many of our most prominent industrialists supported Nazi Germany. *1
The driving motive for the ultra-right's war on education should be obvious, but if the point needs elucidation, it is that education, ideally at least, leads to critical thinking, and thus to an understanding of the true nature of the state, and whether the state is run with the interests of the individual at heart. Since the ultra-right is inherently dictatorial in goals and outlook, it is not interested in the welfare of the individual, but only of the few, and therefore inherently opposed a quality education for the majority of citizens.
The latest among these seemingly limitless efforts to undermine people's ability to reason is the much trumpeted (by Donald Trump) notion of "fake news." Yes, fake news exists, in the guise of Fox News, and many other spurious sources. But these false media sources were mostly created by the wealthy vested interests who seek to undermine democracy by undermining people's ability to reason. Now, in order to muddy the waters further, and hopefully render their already deluded followers even more so, they use the existence of the false media they created to discredit what remains of genuine news media, by referring to it as "fake news!" Though the end is to destroy critical thought, the means are often very clever indeed!
Those who believe that public education is failing because it is in itself deficient, need only look back at America in the 1950s, when our public education was the best system of education in the world. It can't be said that human beings themselves have changed so essentially in the intervening years that what was possible in the 1950's is no longer possible today. No... It is precisely because our system of education was so good that the amalgamated forces of plutocracy and of aspiring oligarchy set about undermining it.
The end result is that our democracy has succumbed to oligarchy, and we are scarcely a skeleton of what we were 70 years ago. The great corporate leaders who instigated all this believed (and apparently still believe) that they were acting in their own interests. It is as if they believed they were living in some kind of vacuum, completely insulated from the destruction they've wrought on society, like some kind of mad doctor who believes he can destroy the body to improve the mind, forgetting that the mind and the body are mere aspects of the same organism. That is what Socrates meant when he said that we can't blindly follow the interests of the strong, because they may not be intelligent enough, wise enough, or good enough, even to know what's in their own best interests, much less in the interests of anyone else!
In all of this it's the triumph of private interest over public representation that's the essential mechanism, and so a referendum to end private financing of elections must be the single, overriding, goal of all reformers until it's achieved. For until that is achieved nothing can be achieved of lasting value or significance. Beyond this, we need to again set the goal of achieving the world's highest quality public education and to acquire a strong liberal arts education for ourselves. It's not just students and technocrats who need an education, and education is not just a pre-requisite for a job. It's a matter of survival. It is the only way to prevent the stupid from instituting policies, the far-reaching ramifications of which they themselves are not smart enough to understand, a situation that will, ultimately, result in our destruction.
Democracy has proven itself to be an enduring, even a great system of government, but it can only save us if we are willing to recommit to it. We must disregard the ubiquitous slogan, the false assertion, that government is bad and that all things provided by government (such as education, or healthcare) are bad, when the facts bear out just the opposite. Social security, medicare and medicaid are excellent systems, far better than the for-profit monstrosities some swindler created to get rich insinuating themselves between you and the services you need, while adding nothing of real and tangible value themselves.
Democratic government is not bad. The corruption of democratic government is bad. It is the corruption of our democracy, if left unabated, that will destroy us. So let us look again to the figures of that past who came forward when democracy was threatened with extinction - those figures like Franklin Roosevelt, whom we have to thank for that excellent government program, social security, and like Winston Churchill, who for a brief period stood almost literally alone against the Nazi terror. Let us finally rise in righteous anger against the dark forces ensnaring us.
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
1. I intend shortly to write an essay on this subject, including the most monumentally covered-up story of the 20th century, the attempted military coup against Franklin Roosevelt's administration by American industrialists, one foiled by an unsung and now almost forgotten American hero, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history, Major Gen. Smedly Butler, U.S. Marine Corps.