Home > Uncategorized > Timothy Egan Unfairly Castigates Public Schools for Public Stupidity

Timothy Egan Unfairly Castigates Public Schools for Public Stupidity

November 17, 2017

In his op ed piece today titled “We’re With Stupid“, NYTimes columnist Timothy Egan unfairly blames public schools for the stupidity we are witnessing among voters, stupidity that is causing our democrcy to go off the rails. Here’s his analysis of our status as a nation:

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing. 

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship.

As I commented on his article, the “educational system” is not to blame on this. For at least the past decade our country has been engaged in a debate about what is important to teach in schools. This debate was manifested most recently in the Common Core, a set of objectives for reading and mathematics that it seemed impossible to get a consensus on. As for science, we have several state boards who are rejecting any discussion of climate change and some states where the teaching of evolution is still disputed. How on earth can we hope to get a consensus on what elements of civics are important in this atmosphere?

Timothy Egan does offer a solution:

There’s hope — and there are many ways — to shed light on the cave of American democracy. More than a dozen states now require high school students to pass the immigrant citizenship test. We should also teach kids how to tell fake news from real, as some schools in Europe are doing.

The idea of requiring that high school students pass the citizenship test as a basis for earning a diploma should be a quick and easy fix… but teaching kids how to tell fake news from real will run into the same buzz saw as math, reading and science. And if we can’t adopt the citizenship test as a graduation standard, please don’t blame public education for the demise of democracy.

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