This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.
And lest you think that was a fluke, Donald Trump, a xenophobic reality TV star with zero political experience, is the presumptive Republican candidate for the same office RIGHT NOW!
Yet whenever so-called intelligent people bring up these and countless other examples of American idiocy, they invariably simplify the blame.
We’re a country of more than 320 million people made up of various cultures, nationalities, ideologies, economic brackets and living in a wide range of geographic areas and circumstances. Yet we think the cause of our national ignorance somehow isn’t complex and multifaceted.
No. That would be too much for us to understand. Instead, we take the easy way out and put the blame squarely in one solitary place – public schools.
And Dr. Tyson was understandably upset. “I don’t mind that people don’t know things,” he said in a Huffington Post interview. “But if you don’t know and you have the power of influence over others, that’s dangerous.”
Agreed, but then he became guilty of his own criticism by pointing his finger solely at the schools. “I blame the education system that can graduate someone into adulthood who cannot tell the difference between what is and is not true about this world,” he said.
Maybe this would be a more effective criticism if B. o. B. were an actual high school graduate and hadn’t, in fact, dropped out in 9th grade. Tyson has a masters in astronomy and a doctorate in astrophysics, but he couldn’t tell what is true about this world in relation to one rather famous rapper’s education. Therefore his alma maters of Princeton and Columbia must be pretty shitty schools?
Perhaps the problem isn’t that B. o. B. is ignorant, but that too many people arewilling to accept him as an expert on the shape of the Earth instead of someone like Dr. Tyson. But that’s not a fault of the public school system. It’s because of our attitude toward schooling, knowledge and expertise. An attitude that Dr. Tyson perhaps unconsciously helped foster.
I don’t mean to pile on Dr. Tyson. He’s one of my heroes. I’m just disappointed that in this case he’s being so intellectually lazy.
“Stopping Trump is a short term solution,” he said. “The long term solution, and it will be more difficult, is fixing the education system that has created so many people ignorant enough to vote for Trump.”
To be fair, almost everything Borowitz says publicly is satirical, uttered with tongue buried deeply in cheek. But it still feeds into this scapegoating of public schools. The public schools didn’t create ignorance. They fight it and in some cases fail. I wonder why?
Whatever the reason, Trump, himself, isn’t decrying it. He’s celebrating it.
First of all, much of our modern ignorance is fueled by toxic mass media. Most of us aren’t in school anymore. Unless you’re younger than 21 or 18, you probably get most of your facts from the news, TV, movies, video games and/or the Internet – not textbooks or school teachers.
The rise of Fox News has a lot to do with it, but that is not the only culprit. Even traditionally revered sources such as the Associated Press are guilty of corporate collusion and bad, bad reporting.
These are some of the real problems with public schools. When people throw shade at our education system, they are never so specific. It’s the schools that are “failing.” It’s never that they’re under-resourced. It’s the teachers who aren’t doing their jobs. It’s never that they’re being forced to teach to the tests. In fact, the people responsible for eroding our public schools often do so with the same rallying cry – our public schools are failing so let us enact these terrible policies that will actually make them worse!
It’s time we stop the lazy practice of criticizing public schools without also educating ourselves about what’s actually wrong with them.
Dr. Tyson, I love you, but don’t just blame schools. Blame Common Core and toxic testing. Andy, it’s not our schools that produce ignorant citizens. It’s the unfair funding formulas that don’t provide poor children with new books and a broad curriculum.
Public schools in general – and public school teachers specifically – have become oureasy scapegoats, our whipping boys.
It’s about time we realized that such criticisms aren’t helping. In fact, they’re being used by the same people who are destroying our schools as an excuse to destroy them further.
The so-called failure of public schools has been used to justify massive school closures especially in neighborhoods of color. It’s been used to create more privately run charter schools. It’s been used to excuse cutting school funding, and making it even less palatable to be a teacher.
Too many of us believe these are good ideas.
Americans believe a lot of stupid things, but perhaps THESE are the dumbest of them all!