Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Price of Ignorance

I stumbled onto this column by Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday. I had given up reading his work a few years back because I found it too snarky (really! too snarky even for me) and rather repetitive and self-congratulatory. So I was pleasantly surprised to read this and find it serious, reasoned, and missing any gratuitous references to sexual lubricants. Maybe the guys has grown up. Or maybe this is an anomaly...who knows?

Anyway, the point of the article is that the current generation of kids is growing up horribly uneducated. And yes, you can blame TV and bad parenting and too much junk food, but the part he really stresses is that we've basically gutted the educational system.
We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.
Scary stuff, that.

This is arguably the biggest threat to our way of life. Not war, not terrorism, not health care or the economy. Those are all important topics, hard to solve and all that. But if we don't educate the populace, it is hard to see how we can address those issues, much less solve them. A generation that grows up without quality education or even a sense of the value of education is unlikely to recover from that.

The benefits of public education were spelled out by one of its early advocates, Thomas Jefferson:

"The less wealthy people,... by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government; and all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:73

Perhaps the greatest benefit of an education is the appreciation of education and learning. I can't deny that the children of the wealthy and privileged will pretty much always get a decent education. But lest they find themselves isolated in a sea of ignorance, we need to ensure the education of all (or most).

My home state, California, used to rank at or near the top of national rankings of education and per-student expenditures. Now it ranks near the bottom. If the largest state in the nation, the home of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, can't bring itself to educate its children, what hope is there?

I'm bummed.

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