I am struck by the similarities between Erica Goldson’s recent rant against formal education and the schizophrenic demands against The Discovery Channel by James J. Lee. Something is wrong with us. Goldson and Lee are manifestations of the American zeitgeist; we are a society in decline, and Goldson and Lee are roadsigns along the path of that downward spiral. Things are irreparably broken, and people are responding. Irrationally, with zealotry, passion, and suicidal commitment.
For those of you who don’t already know, Erica’s shaky, mispoken, poorly directed, squeamishly delivered validictorian speech, “indicted the educational system” which she has unwillingly been forced into, unwittingly succeeded in, and has now set out to challenge and change – or so she says. As she starts college.
The speech itself is really, when you get right down to it, not terribly remarkable. It is neither brave, nor challenging. Perhaps it is exciting for her, to put words and voice to these thoughts which must seem terribly revolutionary given both her age and her participation in the system which she is revolting against. However, her words are simply versions of opinions I have often heard from students across the spectrum of education, from high school through master’s programs.
What was it about her speech, in this moment, that has made it such a sensation? Picked up by the “unschooling” movement, and lauded as a call to arms for educational reform by home schoolers, it fits nicely in with the creepy creeping Tea Party ethos that seems to be steadily and sadly gaining ground in our society. Read the comments on her blog. They are terrifying.
Free, open, mandatory education is the root of democracy. It is critical to a functioning government. But our government is not functioning. And, not surprisingly, we do not have an educated populace. But it’s not because mandated education has brainwashed our children. It’s because our education system sucks. Because teachers are underpaid. Because people don’t care about learning or what it has to offer. And the result was nicely summarized in the recent NY Times op-ed by Timothy Egan, Building A Nation of Know Nothings.
It’s not just that 46 percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim, or that 27 percent in the party doubt that the president of the United States is a citizen. But fully half of them believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.
How are we supposed to govern if this is the state of the Republic? What outcome can we reasonably expect when so many actively seek ignorance? It scares me. A religious, fanatical, anti-science, anti-reason populace bent on attacking fags and spics. This is the American Taliban. This is what we believe now. This is who we are. It makes me want to buy a shotgun and drop off the grid.
But so where does James J. Lee fit into all this? There are many differences between Lee and Goldson, not the least of which is that instead of giving a speech, Mr. Lee strapped coffee cans to his chest, picked up a gun, took some hostages, and tried to change things directly and through violence. But his demands, registered on his web site, in the form of a fantastic, crazy, impassioned, and far more compelling voice, sound almost like they are direct replies to the anti-science, religious and cultural miscarriage of the Tea Party.
4. Civilization must be exposed for the filth it is. That, and all its disgusting religious-cultural roots and greed. Broadcast this message until the pollution in the planet is reversed and the human population goes down! This is your obligation. If you think it isn’t, then get hell off the planet! Breathe Oil! It is the moral obligation of everyone living otherwise what good are they??
It feels to me almost like Lee is talking to Goldson. They are almost co-revolutionaries, on either side of a battle. The battle. There is a desperation in Lee’s voice that is similar to the unschoolers, an impassioned frenetic fevered panic that echos the right wing disinformation.
Saving the environment and the remaning species diversity of the planet is now your mindset. Nothing is more important than saving them. The Lions, Tigers, Giraffes, Elephants, Froggies, Turtles, Apes, Raccoons, Beetles, Ants, Sharks, Bears, and, of course, the Squirrels.
The humans? The planet does not need humans.
You MUST KNOW the human population is behind all the pollution and problems in the world, and YET you encourage the exact opposite instead of discouraging human growth and procreation. Surely you MUST ALREADY KNOW this!
So where are we going? What does a nation of know nothing religious fanatics and suicidal schizophrenics become? What is the shared legacy of Erica Goldson and James J. Lee?