Democracy is predicated on an educated and well-informed populace. With this in mind, we see in our domestic and foreign policies the effects of having underfunded education for many decades. Certainly education has not been a priority for government funding. Has this been done on purpose? There has certainly been a shift from teaching critical thinking skills to teaching to test outcomes and along the way many necessary components for educating an engaged and informed populace have been left by the wayside as money is funneled to bank bailouts and to the ever growing military-industrial complex. On a side note, as a result of this we as a society seem ambivalent about the value of education in and of itself and view it as something to do so we can go and earn and consume more goods.
This has grave implications for our political discourse, if you can call media sound-bites as discourse. Many people seem to fear anyone who is to overly educated, terming them “elites”. People vote for folks who have remarkably few actual qualifications besides being photogenic or “relatable”. We sit by as religious zealots shout down scientists over school curriculum and try to enshrine their creation stories as science in text books. It now no longer matters what the truth may be, just what the majority or privileged special interests wish it to be. This is evident in the “News” that is a watered down spin of opinion masquerading as fact, serving more as an advertisement for government policy wrapped in entertaining graphics. Anyone else miss the days of Woodward and Bernstein and real reporting done by a free press not owned by corporate interests?
There is little in the way of engaged political discourse happening in the mainstream media. Every one of our major “news” outlets is owned by large corporations who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Therefore opinions that dissent too much are barred from the conversation. In the political arena we are given very limited choices, or rather, the illusion of choice. In our foreign policy it matters little what facts are in evidence, just what the news sound bites are. The government depends on a dumbed-down nation to fall into line and accept its actions because what matters is not truth but the public perception of reality. We live in Orwellian times.
Religious discourse is also watered down, with no one daring to ask the obvious hard questions about the creeping influence of the Religious Right and what that spells out for America’s future. We look at the nation moving in a direction of political, religious and economic totalitarianism and comfort ourselves with the pablum the media spoon feeds us. We don’t ask the right questions:
*Why does education get cut when we hemorrhage billions of dollars fighting unnecessary wars?
*How is the massive military expenditure impacting domestic funding?
*Why don’t we prioritize providing universally accessible and affordable health care to our citizens when to do so would be covered by a week of the military budget?
*Why are we as an ostensibly free society voting for candidates who openly seek to subvert the Constitution and supplant our choices and diversity with a theocracy?
*Why do we as a nation have so much poverty in the midst of extravagant wealth?
*Why is national sovereignty a concept that applies only to us and who gave us the right to impose our views on the rest of the world without their consent?
*Where did our retirement money go?
*Why is a college education increasingly out of reach for our youth? Where is the funding for education?
*Why is homelessness such a burgeoning problem and who is making money off of foreclosures?
*Why do we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners?
This is just a small sampling of the questions that need to be addressed, there are hundreds more. What we need is an expansion of our national discourse to address issues of intolerance, of poverty, of economic inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, militarization, education, health care and housing. We need to expand the discourse to include all voices, especially dissenting voices. We need to break out of this box of mediocrity and complacency and fight.