The role of education in America today

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Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer based in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.

It was while reading a blog in New Hampshire a few months ago arguing, “Who needs libraries when we have the Internet?” that I began to realize just how low support for public education and civic engagement had plummeted .

For some time I had entertained the thought, or perhaps just hoped, that such people were just a small fraction of our community, unruly partisans living out the delusions of a mad crowd.

I was wrong.

Today I know better: I have come to realize that these partisans are the product of a deliberate manipulation – a grooming, if you will – by some Americans who believe that their vision of what this nation should be like dominates the public square should.

Groomers who seek to undermine civic engagement and siphon and redirect student, resource, parental and public support to serve the narrow investments of entrenched anti-democratic interests.

Groomers, led by cowardly politicians hungry for power and profit, who threaten our democracy today and include New Hampshire’s Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut, who does not seem to support public education as a desirable and universal American priority.

Edelblut, who homeschools his seven children, has no personal or professional educational credentials. Not only is he a supporter of New Hampshire’s “Divisive Concepts” law, which bans teaching about systemic racism in our public schools and state agencies, but he has recently written that some “activist educators” are intentionally trying to manipulate students, when teaching about American history, racism, LGBTQIA+ peoples, gender diversity, pronouns, and social justice movements.

Teaching that such peoples and interests exist is not manipulation.

Disturbingly, Edelblut wrote that teachers should not teach anything that contradicts the family values ​​of the students in the classroom.

“Fortunately, parents can turn off Disney. However, they cannot easily escape the efforts of activist educators who may knowingly dismantle the foundations of a value system they are trying to build.”

He continues: “This means that when families send their children to school, they trust the educators to respect the value systems that the family builds. This is the sacred trust that educators have.”

Nobleblood is wrong.

Understanding, as Horace Mann wrote, that “public education is the cornerstone of our community and our democracy,” contrary to Edelblut’s claims, the true “sacred trust that educators have” is in helping children be literate, curious, to become engaged, empathetic and productive citizens, willing to participate in the civic life of a nation, however diverse and pluralistic it may be or become.

Nobleblood is wrong.

It’s not the role of education to accommodate some parents’ fanciful delusions, for example, that systemic racism doesn’t exist, that some religions are superior to others, that climate change isn’t real, that evolution hasn’t happened, that whiteness exists America’s normative value that LGBTQIA+ peoples should be segregated and that black and minority communities should be disenfranchised.

It is not the role of education to address such ignorance or prejudice, any more than it is America’s role to stand by and watch the intellectual looting of our libraries and the banning of books by Toni Morrison, Yaa Gyasi, Ibram X. Kendi, Maia Admit Kobabe, Angie Thomas and others.

It is the role of education to face the challenge America faces today: what narrative will it live by?

Will it live on primitive caste-based tribal conflicts based on privilege, a kind of 21st-century survival mentality, or will America finally learn to live caste-free within a paradigm that includes all peoples, including the refugees, the aliens, the orphans, and the other, completely without prejudice, completely without regard to gender and sexuality, completely without fear or resentment?

“I can’t help but fear that men might get a point,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America“where they can regard every new theory as a danger, every innovation as an arduous task, every social advance as the first step towards revolution, and absolutely refuse to move at all.”

We cannot afford to refuse the move.

While we cannot know when or how America’s final reckoning with its history of racism and white supremacy will be resolved, America today cannot afford to forsake desirable values, even in the face of those trying to alienate Americans from its democratic Keeping away from institutions that created the nation, and that those values ​​include equal access to education.

Equal! Not separate, but equal. Equal!

“Whoever takes a path to gain knowledge,” Prophet Muhammad is said to have said. “God makes the way to paradise easy for him.”

To paraphrase Isaiah, I wonder if in such ways will the eyes of the blind be opened, will the tongues of the speechless sing for joy?

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