The Dumbing Down of America

So whose responsibility is it to fix the gigantic mess America is in? We have seen that instead of rising to OUR numerous challenges, our government has been going in reverse for at least fifteen years. Sure, we have had some important successes, but don’t the sheer quantity and importance of the challenges WE face demand more coordinated action, not less?

Who are we to look to for leadership, OUR youth? In some countries young people are a driving force for change. In Chile, for example, over the past several years, young people have staged impressive rallies and protests that have forced their Friedmanesque neo-liberal government to take serious steps towards fixing the inequities in their education system.

Most impressively, one of the early protests that took place in Santiago on October 16, 2006, included a few thousand  high school students and eventually swelled to around 700,000 people! When I lived in Santiago, Chile, between 1996 and 2002, I personally went to a “Parent and Child Night” at a lower-middle-class public secondary school with my ex-wife’s little sister. Her parents, who had adopted her, were having so many problems with the girl that they would not take her themselves.

When I arrived in jenny’s classroom, I immediately noticed that anything within reach of a student had been written on right up to about the six and a half-foot-level of the walls. Before the school representatives came to the room, I witnessed a couple of families having a nearly physical argument about a boy who had apparently stabbed a classmate with a pencil. Finally, three middle-aged Chilean gentlemen came in and broke up the heated battle. These were the school administrators who then all stood in front of the class together to discuss the school’s official version of what was going on at their school. When I left the school that evening and got on the bus to take Jenny home, I knew that what I had witnessed was a very toxic environment in which to educate school children in.

Are most American public schools better than the aforementioned scenario?

Unfortunately, and unbelievably to me, several years later, Jenny was convicted of robbery and sent to prison. I can honestly say that I know very well that Jenny’s schools were not the only important factor that reduced her to such a desperate act. Nevertheless, would her outcome have been the same if she had been given a reasonably decent education by teachers and administrators who were adequately trained, decently-paid and cared?

Now back to OUR crises: Have WE ever had a serious wide-spread protest by high school students that had a national impact? In the current sociocultural environment we live in, will students ever demand equality in education? So just who is the task of repairing OUR system that leads so many youth directly to jail, instead of to college or a job that could actually sustain them above the poverty level, fall to?

It’s all too obvious. Middle-class baby-boomers like me, who were the beneficiaries of such idyllic youths, are the only group that really owes America a debt of not only gratitude, but of responsibility as well. WE got OUR cakes, and WE ate them too!

At 56-years-of age, I am on the back-side of life. Should I spend most of my remaining time on this Earth criticizing every ridiculous, self-defeating public policy there is, or should I pick up my cell phone (sorry, I forgot that it was already in my hand) and call my congressman and demand change? Or maybe I could join a “Baby-Boomer” march to better educate our young?


Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks passed away today-

and a part of my youth was swept away…

He didn’t play for my team,

but he sure did make it feel like a dream.

I feel older today as I ponder old Ernie…

he was REALLY an-important-part of my uniquely American journey…