Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This Is Why The Religious Right Targeted Public Education First.

| | |
The Basics: Public education has been assaulted in the United States for the past forty years and the current state of political conflict in the United States is a direct result of the success of that attack.

This morning when I woke up, the sky was green. Perhaps as a result of solar flares or a shift in the Earth's orbit, when I opened the door and looked up, the sky was green.

Those two sentences are not true; the sky was cloudy and gray when I went out in the morning and presumably, it was blue when the clouds cleared. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as Green Sky Syndrome. The purpose of that opening, however, will be made clear in just a few moments.

During the 2016 primary season, I began to write a short story that was set about forty years in the future in the South (of the United States). The story was set in a South, post-Secession, and the entire purpose of the story was to illustrate what the world could look like when the reactionaries won. I stopped work on the story for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the Presidential contest was not coming down to Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump, which was a contest that would have had two very distinctly different political realities associated with them. Now, however, it seems that short story need not be written; we are living in a reality very similar to it.

The reactionaries, led by the Evangelical Christians of the Religious Right, have won.

While there are still fights going on, the battles have been over for longer than most people recognize. The mechanism for the Evangelical victory in the United States was a successful attack on public education over an entire generation. Theists in the United States had been losing ground in political and cultural influence since the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. With public education getting a firm boundary between religious education and science, prohibition being repealed, and the horrors of world wars culminating in the awesome power of the atom bomb being demonstrated, religious organizations saw their influence reduced compared to the stark realities of the world.

As fear of the Communists rose throughout the 1950s, though, the theists saw an opportunity. In addition to advocating for economic equality (in theory, if not in practice) and the abolishing of private property, Communists were atheists who criminalized religion. The religious conservatives in the United States saw a chance to regain some political power through combating Communists when they made a clear differentiation between the United States and the U.S.S.R. by getting "In God We Trust" made into the national motto and putting those words on the paper currency. The religious conservatives saw a way to connect their desire for religious preservation with something undeniably capitalist; putting "god" on money.

The nice aspect of these assertions are that they are historical fact. The Scopes Monkey Trial was well-documented and the passage of the joint resolution in Congress to establish the national motto in 1956 has a very clear paper trail. As well, there are plenty of documents from before the adoption of the motto - paper money that does not bear the words "In God We Trust" on it - and a whole generation of people who were alive when the resolution was passed, the law was signed, and remember it.

The point of this is to illustrate that how the national motto of the United States was passed is undeniable; it is impervious to the familiar right-wing attack on logic: "How do you know, if you weren't there?!" Over the past twenty years, theists have argued anything they cannot prove with an ad hominum attack on the person making the argument by challenging debaters with the question "How do you know, if you weren't there?!" That is their classic argument against evolution and the existence of dinosaurs millions of years before humanity ever came into being.

So, there is Green Sky Syndrome. Green Sky Syndrome is when the sky appears green in color from the ground. It is caused by solar flares and/or a shift in the Earth's orbit. How do I know? I read it a few paragraphs ago. Sure, I had to remove the word "Perhaps" to make the most recent assertion that Green Sky Syndrome exists, but it is a minor change. And how do you know Green Sky Syndrome does not exist? Were you there this morning when I walked out of my house? No? Then how can you prove Green Sky Syndrome does not exist?

While there are undeniably multiple potential groups who would read that paragraph, the two dominant groups would be the group that states that there is no such thing as Green Sky Syndrome and a group that could read the argument that Green Sky Syndrome exists and accept the possibility of it based on their lack of ability to disprove the phenomenon through their lack of direct experience with the phenomenon. The second group is the direct result of a rhetorical style of "debate" that has come from the Religious Right.

The growth of the population that would utilize the debate style of the Evangelical right is the direct result of an assault on public education that began in earnest in the 1980s. Under the efforts of Ralph Reed and Pat Buchanan, the Religious Right began an all-out assault on public education. Their goal was simple; demonize public schools and public school teachers and drive the United States to privatized education that included religious education. The Evangelical Right has been losing ground and to keep their theistic views relevant, one of the fundamental tactics required was changing the way people think.

Ironically, implicit in the demonization of public schools and atheistic education (education without a theistic philosophy included) is the idea that public schools are incredibly effective and scientific education is far more convincing than theistic philosophy. The popular liberal argument - and the entire concept upon which public education in a society that respects religious freedom - is that schools can teach science and religious institutions are free to teach religious philosophies.

The thing is, the only reason to demonize science and public schools is because scientific methodology is more convincing than theistic teaching.

So, the Religious Right found their villain and the only way to effectively turn the population against public education and make the majority more pliable to their arguments was to undermine their basic reasoning skills. There is a reason that in V (reviewed here!) the scientists are vilified to help enslave humanity; scientists think in a measured, reasoned way. Scientific methodology is a way of thinking that looks at the real world and evaluates it based upon what is provable. It is a very satisfying way to exist and educate because it follows a series of steps that are easily demonstrable and do not ask the person being so educated to make leaps that are unsatisfying or unsupportable.

In other words, atheistic education does not demand a person take a leap of faith.

Those who are scientifically educated, those who are educated with a scientific methodology, do not ask people to accept something inherently irrational or unprovable as part of making their argument. As a result, one who is scientifically educated does not simply read about Green Sky Syndrome and accept the premise. They do not only read the first paragraph, they read the second paragraph and they understand that it is being used as an analogy. Sometime after this is posted, though, typing "Green Sky Syndrome" into Google will include this article among the results (there were only two articles that included "green sky syndrome" in them - both art related - before I posted this). And here's the thing, people who are not scientifically literate, those who cannot use reason, logic and who are pliant, could look up "Green Sky Syndrome" and see that it is caused by a shift of the Earth on its axis and/or by solar flares. It's right there in the sentence I just wrote and should this ever catch on, those looking for the cause of Green Sky Syndrome will be able to easily pick out that the phenomenon is caused by the shift in the Earth on its axis or orbit and/or by solar flares. The lack of ability to discern between fact and rhetoric makes those who are not scientifically literate susceptible to the "argument," "How do you know if you weren't there?"

The point in all of this is surprisingly simple and direct. The Presidency of Donald Trump and the domination of the Federal government in the United States is not an accident, it is the logical conclusion to a systematic attack that has reached its zenith.

As I write this, there is no evidence that any foreign government hacked the 2016 Presidential election or any of the other federal posts being voted upon in 2016. While there are allegations that Russia "influenced" the election, so far those allegations amount to little more than "Russian officials wanted Trump as President." Foreign officials, of course, have preferences for other world leaders; a conservative Prime Minister of Israel, for example, would not support the candidacy of an American President who was vocal about not supporting Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. So, if Putin, for example, wanted Trump as President, he could say whatever he wanted and expose whatever he wanted about candidates running against Trump, but unless there is proof that foreign operatives actually influenced voting machines or the way votes were counted, it amounts to nothing more than a foreign leader running off their mouth.

What the Evangelical Right always needed was a populace that was pliant to accept whatever specific agenda they decided to lay out. The Evangelical Right and Donald Trump did not need foreign influence to change the results of the 2016 elections; they had already eroded the majority of the populace to make them pliant to the weak rhetoric that they were presenting. As much as people of reason and liberals might want to accuse the Right of direct malfeasance in the 2016 elections, they did not need overt methods to win in 2016 (whereas sixteen years prior, such methods were needed to win - things like having people in key places to make electoral decisions and having voting machines manufactured by companies that had an expressed loyalty - and contributed financially! - to one of the campaigns).

By defunding early childhood education, demonizing public school teachers and public schools and defunding them, the Evangelical Right helped to foster an entire generation of Americans who would prioritize theism over reason. They are a generation of people who would respond to generic emotionalism, as opposed to a reasoned argument. Decades of eroding public education created this generation and they created the circumstances by which Donald Trump, the Evangelical Right, and the Tea Party could dominate the United States.

Democracy won in 2016, as painful as that might be to admit. What the protesters in the United States fail to understand and are loathe to admit is that there are more people in the United States right now who would be willing to believe in Green Sky Syndrome from a few well-culled phrases in this argument than they would be equipped to refute it.

In the Senate right now, there is a population of Republicans who grew up and were educated before public education was entirely demonized. As the Senate fights over the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary Of Education, there is one Republican vote needed to stop her confirmation. Among the fifty Republicans who have stated they will vote for DeVos, there is one who - if faced with the logic of the situation, who would be able to admit that they are being given an untenable choice in confirming DeVos. DeVos is an advocate for private schools being asked to take a position that would protect the integrity of public schools; she has never had a position in administering education (as an educator or an administrator). There is one Republican who has not yet voted to confirm DeVos who would acknowledge that her lack of qualifications, her anti-public education stances and the tactics used by the Republican Party leadership against those Republicans who have already declared they will not vote to confirm her are unreasonable. Fear tactics ought not to be used to convince people of reason.

Beyond the confirmation of DeVos is the larger argument, though. To make the choices needed to effectively legislate, legislators must eventually utilize logic - even if it is the basic logic of self-preservation (i.e. this will hurt my constituents/I cannot get re-elected without the support of active voters who oppose this measure). The current generation of legislators completely cedes any argument that they have done their duty to the next generation of Americans if they do not invest in education for all Americans. Until public education opportunities for all Americans are prioritized and strengthened, Americans will continue to develop as a pliant, easily-manipulated population who can be turned to whatever cause the most organized and appealing cabal creates.

In other words, we need public education if for no other reason than to prevent an entire generation from being susceptible to ever believing in Green Sky Syndrome.

For other political articles, please check out:
Shouting In The Casino: The Disingenuous Movement To Abolish The Electoral College
Fail Of The Superdelegates
Why Modern Libertarianism Is Disastrous For The United States

For other political articles, please check out my Other Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment