With Neil Postman in mind. Indeed, decent teaching is a subversive activity!
I recently wrote two notes in which I attempted to get the cause for the reality we are currently suffering, a reality marked by attacks on intelligence, justice, and human decency. I sincerely detest Donald Trump. We have as our president an ignorant and ugly minded being who lacks those qualities that good human beings understand to be admirable ones. In so many ways, he is amongst the worst of our kind, a being born human who is without empathy or compassion, so absorbed with himself that he does not in the slightest care about the hurt he causes.
He is a terrible person. But decent people know this. The problem left to us is to understand how a person as terrible as he became president of the United States of America and my notes have been about my surmises concerning cause. Donald Trump, I have said, is not the cause of the ugliness his administration represents. That real problem is the popularity of that ugliness, evidenced before the era of Trump by the success of radio talk shows hosted by people at least as ugly of mind as Donald Trump and the people’s love of the Fox News Channel. Donald is riding a road that cuts through sanity that Rush and Roger and Sean and Michael and Alex pushed through as engineered by the likes of Lee Atwater, Carl Rove, Grover Norquist, and others like them with a good amount of help from those who knew that the more stupid the people the more easily they could be swindled.
Set up for the swindle, a good portion of the American public—Trump did receive almost half the vote and many a rube has won governorship or a seat in congress—voted for the avowed swindler! Remember? He was all about “the deal” and the ugly charm of the deal was that another had been tricked into buying false claims, signing papers with small print that made bad and terrible look like better and best.
Schools, I have been arguing, should help students deal intelligently with the world and, since the world in which we live is filled with swindle (every advertisement, most every political pitch), a good part of a student’s education should be about knowing of swindlers and knowing how to fend off the swindler. In the worlds of Neil Postman, teachers should be helping students to develop strong—his words—“bullshit detectors.”
But schools do not do a very good job of this, as evidenced by the success of advertising and the numbers of citizens swindled every day in the market place and the political arena. They do not do well at helping students deal with the bullshit because schools are political entities and those in charge are politicians who are or want to be successful in a society where success is too often marked by gaining membership in the swindler class. Schools serve the successful who succeed through swindle and, therefore, are directed to do as little as possible to develop good defenses against the swindle.
That the schools cannot and will not help students grow as independent minded critical thinkers (critical elements of effective bullshit detectors) is the critical problem of our day. Schools cannot because they are not allowed to by those who benefit most from a citizenry incapable of doing the kind of thinking that lets them get through the bullshit to discover the truth so the decisions made are for the good of every one and for the whole that is all.
This is the deep problem and until those who are capable of knowing that this is so begin to do something about it, the only kind of “progress” that will be made is the greater success of those who succeed because of a public susceptible to their bullshit.