Here's is the second of two articles (the first is here) that I wrote for the Huffington Post 11 years ago in 2011 -- and the third in my series of articles about the Republican Party's 70 year war on education. This one is appropriately titled, "The War on Education." It overlaps with yesterday's article, but has different information taken in a slightly different direction. (Honestly, at this point, a decade later, I don't recall why I wrote two similar articles seven months apart, but my guess is that there was something in the news that prompted the second one -- plus it's an observation that I think deserves to be repeated regularly.)
This all began with my article on Monday about how Trump and the GOP are now pushing their base to follow QAnonymous, something that is based on literally NOT KNOWING. Because -- as has been the case for the past 70 years -- the Republican Party has clearly determined that it's in their party's best interest to have a base that sees education as a bad thing and therefore must rely on whatever GOP party leaders tell them. And so, when you get a Trump who says "I alone can fix it" and lies 30,753 documented times during his four years in office and pushes what is literally a totally anonymous voice to trust with its made-up conspiracies, the GOP base -- which has been disciplined to distrust education and learning and knowledge -- will believe and follow whatever fascist, utter foolishness is fed them.
The other day, the Washington Post released a poll that showed, among other things, how the vast majority of Republicans believe, despite reality, that President Biden hasn't done anything. What that means is that GOP base has either blocked from its consciousness or is totally unaware that President Biden had passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (from which all Americans, including Republicans individually actually got desperately-needed money during the pandemic), the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill, the $740 million Inflation Reduction Act (which capped yearly drug costs at $2,000, capped insulin costs at $30 for those on Medicare, brought about major environmental protections, created a minimum 15% corporate tax on businesses that have long-evaded paying taxes, and much more), the first significant gun safety bill in 28 years, the PACT Act to provide health care for veterans -- and (again) much more.
And most of these bill were passed with zero Republican support.
And a vast majority of Republicans actually believe (I was going to say "think," but that seems inappropriate) that President Biden has done nothing.
Which brings us back to the point here, and this article from 11 years ago, on how the Republican Party has been working for 70 years to ensure its base sees education as the enemy.
The War on Education
December 1, 2011
Several years ago, a conservative fellow I was talking with got into a lather about a criticism he often heard. “Why is it,” he asked, “that liberals always say that Republican politicians aren’t smart?”
I politely avoided the quick answer. Besides, it wouldn’t have explained things properly. The truth is that “Republican politicians” aren’t remotely stupid. And there are plenty of Democratic politicians who are head-banging idiots.
That doesn’t mean the ball field is equal. It’s not. And conservatives only have themselves to blame for the rules they wrote and have been playing by for over half-a-century:
You Can’t Trust Really Smart People, Education Gets in the Way of Common Sense, Science is the Enemy of Religious Faith, College is for Over-privileged Elitists, Facts Matter Less Than What You Believe.
Those are the familiar rules that Republicans created. But it’s only the starting point. Because after making the rules, they played the game.
When Adlai Stevenson ran again Dwight Eisenhower for president in 1952, the big criticism that Republicans launched against Stevenson was that he was “an egghead.” Meaning, he was much too smart to be trusted.
When John Kennedy was elected president in 1960, Republicans disparaged him for filling the White House with his “Harvard Mafia.” Meaning, there were all these people so smart they were scary dangerous.
After Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he put college students high on his Enemies List. Meaning…well, that one’s pretty obvious. Especially considering that troops were later sent onto the campus of Kent State, and four students were shot dead.
In 1988, the first George Bush campaigned for president as “the education president” – yet in a speech to service workers in Los Angeles explained it wasn’t necessary to go to college. This was an absolutely valid position, but spoke volumes from a leader supposedly promoting education.
When the second George Bush was president, he trumpeted his “No Child Left Behind” program – and then under-funded it, leaving those very schoolchildren far behind.
In 1996, the Republican Party platform stood for abolishing the Department of Education.
Last year, 111 Republican senators, congressman or national candidates were on record to abolish the Department of Education.
This only touches the surface of the ground-and-air war against education that conservatives have been playing. A relentless pounding against the importance of education, to reject facts, ignore history, dismiss science. To mistrust the news media. When information is diminished, it requires needing to rely on others. It demands having faith that others will lead you safely.
Indeed, it is no accident that conservative politicians court the religious right as their party’s base. Religion is centered on belief, on unquestioning faith. And that is the path to unquestioning faith in everything.
It is no wonder that New Yorker author Ron Suskind reported a Bush White House official ridiculing those who live in “the reality-based community.”
It is no wonder that the far right dismisses the science of global warming. And when science offers the breadth of cures from stem-cell research, we saw the far right fight the science.
And it is no wonder that conservatives cry to see Barack Obama’s report card, hoping the mere suggestion will demean his impressive education that includes being elected president of the Harvard Law Review and graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
If one doubts this, consider that you never heard Republicans demand to see George Bush’s college report card. Or called for the report cards of John McCain – who graduated 894 out of 899 students at the Naval Academy. Or insisted that Ronald Reagan release his report cards from Eureka College, where he did theatricals.
Yet Republicans made Ronald Reagan a conservative god. And it had zero to do with his education. And y’know, it didn’t even have as much to do with his conservative credentials, given how often he raised taxes, massively increased the national debt, signed a bill for amnesty to illegal immigrants and, as governor, signed an abortion rights bill. He might not be able to get past the primaries if he ran today.
Many conservatives don’t realize all these things about Mr. Reagan’s politics, but then…well, that’s the whole point of education, which teaches you how to learn such quaint things.
But when you are told for half-a-century that you can’t trust smart people and science, you end up with a party that lays itself open to a leadership vacuum.
And so, at one time or another, we get Donald Trump, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, a pizza guy and even Sarah Palin leading the pack for the Republican nomination. And now Newt Gingrich, who, as Paul Krugman put it, is a “stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.”
No doubt, some will be up in arms by how supposedly-elitist this all is. Of course, wanting everyone to be as educated as possible is the exact opposite of elitism.
But then, calling others “education elitists” is one of those standard, conservative rules to demean education. Which proves the point.
Which brings us back, finally, to my conservative acquaintance wondering why liberals always say that Republican politicians aren’t smart. The problem is that he was looking at the wrong thing. This isn’t a matter of who is smart. There will always be people much smarter than you, me and even the smart people. Reading about a Francis Bacon, Voltaire, Galileo, Denis Diderot or Benjamin Franklin can only make one feel breathtaking awe. Republicans and Democrats are both bright and foolish. What this is about is the intentional, driven campaign for 60 years of Republican Party leadership to intentionally downgrade the importance of education. And what results from that when a party does such a thing to itself.
In short, it’s simple: if you don’t want to be angered when your candidates are perceived as less than brilliant, then promote brilliance. Don’t make it your platform to abolish the Department of Education. Don’t claim that opinion supplants fact.
Ultimately, though, there is something far more important at issue than mere politics.
Will Durant, with his wife Ariel, wrote the legendary Story of Civilization. Eleven volumes, over 8,000 pages of discovery that remains today insightful, even-handed and remarkable. And after they finished, they put together The Lessons of History. Written over 40 years ago, in 1968, its perception is as fresh as any news headline you will read.
“Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Education has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple. A cynic remarked that ‘you mustn’t enthrone ignorance just because there is so much of it.’ However, ignorance is not long enthroned, for it lends itself to manipulation by the forces that mold public opinion. It may be true, as Lincoln supposed, that ‘you can’t fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”
The Early Bird Catches the Word
My dad enjoyed my writings on the Huffington Post and we held similar feelings about politics, so our conversations about it were generally good, interesting and fun. He had excellent insights, which tended to tilt far more to the cynical side than me when it came to politics, although he was pretty liberal, even at 94.
However, whenever I wrote a column with an early observation that he hadn’t seen written about anywhere else, it wasn’t so much that he discounted it, but he held it in abeyance. “If that was true, why hasn’t the New York Times written about it?” he would always ask. My answer was always that I had thought of it first, but that wasn’t good enough. He would believe my insight, but not until there was a second source. And that source pretty much had to be the New York Times, to which he had a subscription.
It wasn’t his news Bible, though close. He didn't always subscribe to it -- it didn't even have a national paper until semi-recently, and even then he didn't subscribe. That was only much latter when he and my mom moved to to their independent living residence. For a long while decades before, he probably most relied on the excellent Chicago Daily News, but when that evening publication went out of business in 1978, he lost it as his Talmud. Much of the staff went to its sister morning, the morning Chicago Sun-Times, which we also subscribed to – but though the paper was good, and then improved, it was a “tabloid’ format, so that kept it from being a religious source for him. Eventually, the Sun-Times got bought out by Rupert Murdoch in 1984, a lot of their reporters left – notably Mike Royko – for the long-hated Chicago Tribune, and my dad left, too. He dropped his subscription and instead started getting the long-hated Tribune. (As it happened, Murdoch at to sell the Sun-Times only two years later when he bought the UHF station WFLD, but by then so many people had bailed.) But though the Trib had improved greatly over the years, and in the ‘80s had actually become pretty good, in fact, the reason it was long-hated by so many was its long history of being owned by the virulent ultra-conservative Colonel Robert McCormick. And given that my dad grew up in that era, even as much as the paper improved to the point where he was willing to actually subscribe, it was a hurdle much too high to get over for it to become his news Bible. It was a source, and so were a few other well-regarded publications, but the New York Times was as close to the ultimate Scripture for him.
(A slight digression. I had two columns that were his favorite. One was about Camp Nebagamon, and because so many people who belonged to his country club had kids who went there, he just dearly loved when they'd come up to him and tell him they'd read the article. The other was a weird story: when Barack Obama was running for president and suddenly fell behind John McCain who'd just named Sarah Palin his running mate. I wrote a HuffPo article, "12 Reasons why Obama Will Beat McCain." And soon after, some total stranger in Ohio forwarded the article to a friend of his in Chicago -- not knowing that this Chicago friend happened to be friend of my dad. So, when my dad's friend told him about getting the article forwarded, my dad thought that was just about the greatest thing.)
But back to the point here.
A week ago to the day, last Thursday I wrote an article of “Today’s Pondering” where I wrote that “Trump’s insurrection lawyer John Eastman had been a Supreme Court clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.” And to this I added –
“It would seem to me that a clerk for Justice Thomas would know the Justice’s wife. Probably quite well. Which would mean that John Eastman knew Ginni Thomas. And it strikes me as not remotely unreasonably that, the two would cross paths and talk on occasion.” And from there I noted it was hard to imagine that she didn't mention to her husband about having talked to his old Supreme Court clerk.
For the record, “Remotely unreasonable” is what’s known as polite understatement.
Which brings us to the breaking news story in the Washington Post last night, written by Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Emma Brown. It begins –
“The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has obtained email correspondence between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to three people involved in the committee’s investigation.
“The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, two of the people said. The three declined to provide details and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.”
The full article can be found here.
I’m not sure if my dad would have completely accepted my theory from a week ago. He probably would have thought it wasn’t crazy, but said if there was proof to it, why hadn’t anyone else written about it.
This morning I think he'd have believed it. No, it wasn’t from the New York Times -- but he liked the Washington Post, too, and understood the concept of papers getting a scoop on their competitors. Also, he liked "Rachel" and Lawrence O'Donnell, and because the latter reported the story, that would have been added confirmation.
By the way, I would suggest, too, that as blockbuster as this report from the Post is, I feel confident that communication between Trump lawyer Eastman and Supreme Court Justice’s wife Thomas wasn’t limited to emails. I’m sure they spoke, as well, and perhaps even met. And my general certainty aside, even the Post article says, “The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were MORE EXTENSIVE [emphasis added] than previously known.”
To be clear, I don't think my observation was anything special. I'm sure it crossed the minds of many. But I just hadn't seen any articles or commentary bringing it up.
And one other related thing. Let's bend over backwards and beyond all rational reason believe that Justice Clarence had absolutely no idea in the world about his wife's actions trying to overthrow the government and no idea at all who she was writing to and talking to. And so, he's had no reason to recuse himself from any court cases that concern the election. Let's totally unreasonably believe that. Well, fine -- but he knows now. So, he has absolutely no reason to not recuse himself from such cases anymore. Other than, "I don't have to, and I don't want to."
Anyway, for those who may have missed that original article a week ago, you can read the full thing here.
And man, after reading all this and it now being on the record, is is really hard not to snark out, "...but her emails!!!"
Saying Mass Again
So, there were three more mass shootings – yesterday. And seven over the weekend One in Philadelphia had 14 people shot. Another in Chattanooga also had 14 people shot. In all, at last count, 12 people were killed by gunshot.
To help deal with this, maybe Ted Cruz (R-TX) can explain that there were too many doors.
Perhaps Ken Buck (R-CO) can talk once again about needing an AR-15 to protect his chickens.
Possibly Greg Steube (R-FL) can show off his guns again during a House committee Zoom meeting and swagger how he can do whatever he wants with them because he’s at home.
Maybe even Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party might actually mention the word "gun."
I don’t know if “too many doors” is the problem, especially since both mass shootings were outside. However, I think it’s becoming clear that part of the problem is too many Republicans in Congress.
One question for the GOP and NRA and the religious right -- when there are two mass shootings of 28 people and multiple deaths that overlap on the same day, can Republicans use their "Thoughts and prayers" (tm) for both?
Unrelated to these two mass shootings yesterday, but with such impeccable timing, Rudy Giuliani was on TV Friday and at one point was talking about all the mass shootings and mass murders over the past years and oddly asked, "Do you remember a mass murder when I was mayor? I don't. If it happened, I don't remember. It couldn't have been too mass. I don't remember a mass murder." Even putting aside the massive mass murders on 9/11 to only consider gun-related mass murders (which I assume was really his poorly and thoughtlessly phrased point) -- and putting aside, too, that just because he doesn't remember any doesn't mean they don't exist: the assault weapons ban was passed in 1994. Rudy Giuliani was mayor from 1994-2001. So...thanks, Rudy, for confirming the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban!!
Almost 10 years ago, I wrote an article on the Huffington Post about a theory I had for dealing with the gun reform issue. It was largely facetious, though only “largely” because I used over-exaggeration to help make the point. But the point holds, without the exaggeration for effect.
It was also “largely” facetious because I didn’t think any states would pursue it. As it happens, the city of Chicago passed a law that – while not nearly the same – did sort of overlap with it. And when a series of Red states passed their draconian laws to get around federal abortion laws, there was concern on the far-right that liberal states might use the same principle to pass gun reform laws. And as it happens, that was exactly the point behind my theory, which you can see from the title.
So, here is that article from March 13, 2013.
The Good Thing We Can Learn from Anti-Abortion States
I was watching the news the other day, seeing several more stories about how states are continuing to get around the legality of abortion. Though abortion is legal, the states are writing laws to make the availability of abortion near impossible. These could be from zoning laws, or code requirements and medical licensing. As a result, if the ability to have an abortion isn’t available to a woman, it doesn’t matter how legal it is. You can’t get an abortion.
I can only imagine how wrenching this is to women who want to exercise their legal right to have an abortion. Especially if it’s for health reasons. But any reason.
After I finished ungnashing my teeth, however, I realized that there’s a lesson that can be learned here – not about abortions, but another issue that’s just as divisive. And using those lessons, it would be possible to start making a dent in a problem that the vast majority of Americans are now saying they want addressed.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the most rabid gun advocates and the radical fringe group, the NRA, are right, that the Second Amendment is inviolate and that every American has the right to buy whatever gun they want, no matter how many rounds of ammunition the weapon can fire in 10 seconds.
Using the logic and tactics of the anti-abortion activists, however, there is nothing to say that states – or even local communities – can’t take that legal right and make it as unavailable as possible.
Some suggestions to start with.
Anyone who wants to sell a gun can only do so in a standalone store that has a business license permitting operation.
Any gun store must also have a separate license to sell guns.
Any license to sell guns is good for only one, specific type of gun.
Any license to sell a specific type of gun is good for only one manufacturer.
A gun store must meet certain zoning and code requirements:
No gun store can be within 1,000 feet of a liquor store, tavern or any establishment that sells tobacco.
No gun store can be within a mile of any school or place of worship.
A gun store shall be licensed to sell guns only. No other merchandise may be sold, including tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, chewing gum or beef jerky.
A gun store must have at least one bathroom for every employee.
No gun store may operate any electronic food devices, including but not limited to a refrigerator, coffee pot, hot plate and microwave.
A gun store is required to have air conditioning, sound-proofed ceilings, locked cases in which all guns are kept, and be wheelchair accessible.
Only one gun may be removed from a locked case at a time.
Ammunition cannot be sold in a gun store, but must be sold in an ammunition shop only.
An ammunition shop shall be licensed to sell ammunition only, and no other products.
Every box of bullets must be individually licensed.
An ammunition shop cannot be within 1,000 feet of a gun store.
An ammunition shop cannot be within 2,000 feet of a liquor store, tavern or any establishment that sells tobacco.
No gun store can be without five miles of any school or house of worship.
The owner of a gun store or ammunition shop must pass an official test to be personally licensed.
A gun or ammunition store owner license is good for one year only.
The owner of a gun store or ammunition shop is required yearly to take a two-week gun safety course.
The gun safety course must be retaken every year.
A two-day refresher course for gun safety must be taken quarterly for gun store owners.
Any employee of a gun store or ammunition shop must be licensed yearly and take a four-day gun safety course every year.
Any owner or employee of a gun store must have a high school diploma from the state in which he or she works.
No owner or employee of a gun store or ammunition shop may have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or more than two traffic violations in any calendar year.
Any alcohol-related conviction prohibits someone from selling guns or ammunition for a probationary period of three years.
An owner or employee of a gun store must pass a target score at a licensed gun range each quarter with every gun model the store sells. Failure to pass a minimum score for any gun invalidates all other scores and that employee may not sell guns.
Neither guns nor ammunition may be sold on the Sabbath.
Before selling a gun, the salesperson must get an MRI brain scan and consult with a psychologist to ensure that they understand the full ramifications of their actions.
All owners of a gun store or ammunition shop must offer Affordable Health Care to all its employees.
The GOP War on Education
Yesterday, I saw a commentary from the Arizona Republic by EJ Montini about two leading Republican politicians in the state who brought out their inner-Trump and made monumental tirades against...teachers. (Yes, on teachers. Perhaps they thought that attacking puppies and goldfish would be going too far) One came from Republican State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita who called teachers "educational terrorists." (Again, yes, you read that right.) The other, by Matt Salmon who is running for governor, called the teachers union "a scourge on our society." (As far as I can tell, Mr. Salmon believes that, as apparently "educational terrorists," woefully underpaid teachers dedicating their lives to the growth of children shouldn't have anyone defending their working conditions or rights.)
Mr. Montini begins his article pointedly" "Why do Arizona Republicans hate teachers? It's like they're having spitting contests with venom."
He notes that what the Republican-led Arizona Legislature has done to the state's public school system over the past several years is "wreck it." And he makes clear that that's not hyperbole -- pointing out that a recent national survey showed that "Arizona had the worst public education system in the nation." The worst - 50th.
If it's any consolation to Mr. Montini, the issue isn't why Arizona Republicans hate teachers. It's that the Republican Party in general, the party overall, seems to hate education.
And no, that's not hyperbole either. Let me explain.
When I read the commentary, I flashed back to a couple of articles I wrote on the Huffington Post over a decade ago, about the Republican Party's long-running "War on Education." I was a bit taken aback by how fresh the two articles each read, since they both touch on issues that we're exactly dealing with today, or some that are cousins. (In fact, to my great surprise because I didn't remember writing it, the second of the articles even references -- 11 years ago -- Trump. Not to mention it also has an incredibly prescient, fresh quote from historian Will Durant...written 50 years ago.)
The GOP War on Education has only gotten worse since then, as we've seen most recently in the attacks on doctors and science over things like Climate Change, vaccines, pandemics, and far-right violence and outrage at school board meetings over curriculums teaching that there was actually racism in America, and to ban books and GOP-backed state laws to ban book and sue schools for teaching things that make children uncomfortable. and more. (Fun fact: Math, history, English, and science tend to make most students uncomfortable. Recess is one of the few things at school that does not. Even lunch makes some kids uncomfortable at school when cliques form.)
I thought it would be good to revisit those articles to make bluntly clear that this is not a new phenomenon in the Republican Party that will pass - because it's been going on for at least 70 years. (When the article notes "60 years," remember that this was written more than a decade ago.) I wasn't sure which of the two I should re-post, since they overlap one another. But I realized that they address slightly different points, so they serve as companion pieces, written eight months apart. And so, I figured it best to post them both the next couple of days.
Here's the first, from March 29, 2011.
Every Child Left Behind
Several years ago, I had a realization: conservatives don't care about education.
It's a generalization, I admit. And sounds outlandish. Yet for the past 60 years, conservatives have made crystal clear their utter disdain for education. Hoping to convince others.
It began in 1952. When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president against Adlai Stevenson, the contemptuous attack Republicans made was that Stevenson was "an egghead." Someone who was really - smart. And you just can't trust those smart people.
In 1960, when Richard Nixon ran against John Kennedy, the Republican blast was that JFK was advised by his "Harvard Mafia." Smart people. So smart that they were dangerous. And you can't trust those smart people who go to good colleges.
When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he hated those smart people who go to colleges so much that students made his Enemies List. And later his "get tough" policies on student dissent (including wanting the Secret Service to beat up protestors) resulted in Republican governor Jim Rhodes sending armed troops sent the campus of Kent State University -- and four "enemy" undergraduates were killed.
In 1988, George Bush claimed to be "the Education President" - yet on an campaign stop in Los Angeles told a rally of service employees that not everyone had to go to college. A valid sentiment, certainly, but for a candidate supposedly promoting education, it leaked his true feelings.
And in 2000, George W. Bush failed to fund his "No Child Left Behind" education program.
It's continued for 60 years, as conservatives have demeaned public education, pounding away at the national consciousness that learning for the masses is a bad thing to be scorned and mistrusted.
There's an understandable - and historic - reason for this, of course, because the less educated the public is, the more it relies on authority figures, rather than question anything. And the more that education is disdained, the less that inconvenient facts will be believed.
And so, instead, we get an attitude that challenges any assertion of education with a contemptuous, "So, you think you're better than the rest of us??" - conditioning people to wear with pride that they know less. In all other areas of life, we want the best. We want more riches, more success, to be faster, stronger, cooler - better at everything. Except, after 60 years of conservative pounding against education, not to be as smart as we and our children can be.
And while this conservative effort has been surreptitious over the past 60 years, it's finally released itself: open, unrelenting Republican attacks in Wisconsin against teachers - teachers, for goodness sake! - and a widespread Republican war against education.
In Florida, $3.3 billion has been cut from education over the next two years, almost 15% from the education budget to our children. While $1.6 billion has been given in corporate tax breaks.
Texas has proposed $9.8 billion in cuts in education assistance to school districts. (Bringing a loss of 100,000 jobs.)
Wisconsin cut $834 million from state aid to K-12 education over the next two years. That's 20% of the proposed cuts in the budget. And cuts to teacher pay and pensions.
We have always heard the praise that teaching is the most important job. That teachers are preparing our most precious resource, our children, for the future. How teachers are underpaid heroes. But from the other side of their hypocritical mouths, conservatives will slam teachers as lazy slackers with three months of vacation, overpaid plunderers of public pensions - and for 60 years desensitize the public for stripping away public education.
And now, they couldn't be any more clear:
Last Wednesday in Iowa, three prospective Republican presidential candidates bluntly stated their condemnation of public education at a home schooling rally.
"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," said Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). "And they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American." Like, apparently, the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It is not up to a bureaucrat to decide what is best for your children," insisted Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who home-schooled five children. "We know best." Except about U.S. history. Home teacher Bachman recently placed the cornerstone of the American Revolution - Lexington and Concord - in the wrong state.
"That's all we want," said Herman Cain, a prominent businessman testing a GOP presidential run. "For government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way." Note: "the old-fashioned way" included one teacher for six grades in one room, few women and minorities, and teaching math with an abacus.
But it was left to the event's host, Justin LaVan, to explain plainly how so many conservatives truly see education. "Talking about our Creator. Our rights that came from our Creator, acknowledging that and giving Him the glory." Of course, that's why God invented church. For educating children to succeed in a global community where others are learning science, history and geography, it's a disaster. If prayer worked in school, every kid would get straight-A's.
And in the end, that disaster is what conservatives have long wanted from education. No need to learn anything. No public education. Just private schools and home schooling. Which is the end of an educated nation.
Private schools limit education to those who can afford it. Home schooling limits education to families where one parent can afford to stay home. While hoping that the parent completed high school.
This is known as every child left behind.
But for conservatives, that's okay. The wealthy and privileged will get their children a great education. And the rest of America? You're on your own.
Public education is what helped make America the envy of the world. A nation of well-informed citizens. Leading the way in the space race, technology, finance, and medical advances.
But conservatives? They want to go back to "the old fashioned way." Like the Dark Ages. Where kings and the aristocracy ruled. And you peasants, obey thy overlord.
Make no mistake, this is nothing new. The attack against education is the drug that conservatives have been pushing through history.
When looking to find the article yesterday that I had written for the Huffington Post, I came across yet another piece that struck a chord with our times today. It doesn’t go back as far as yesterday’s, but was nonetheless written long enough ago while Barack Obama was still president and the Republican Party had only gone partially insane before it began to reject reality.
The subject at hand at that time was Climate Change, and how Republicans were rejecting the science. And not only rejecting science, but doing so because it was incompatible with religion. Now, why in the world that should be a concern to a political party is the question of note – and fits in perfectly with yesterday’s article on how the GOP path to become a religious cult today was set in motion years ago and not something created by Trump.
But what leaped out even more in the old article – most especially today with the GOP near-total rejection of science even in the face of a worldwide pandemic, when you’d think rational people would embrace it all the more with gratitude -- was a larger point that has been totally lost by today’s Republican Party.
So, here then is that article written on September 29, 2015.
Science and Religion – Together Again!
Not long ago, I was reading a book, What Hath God Wrought, an epic, 850-page history about the transformation of the United States from 1815-1848. It won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2007, and is part of the acclaimed Oxford History of the United States series.
I mention this because the other day, I came across a passage that leaped out in the midst of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States and his addressing Climate Change. This was followed by a range of conservative voices outraged that the Pope would delve into matters of science, most notably GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush who said that the Pontiff’s words on Climate Change should be disregarded because “He’s not a scientist, he’s a religious leader.”
(Never mind that the Pope actually is a scientist, with a degree as a chemical technician. And never mind, too, that the Pope is also a head of state, as leader of the Vatican, which is a city/state, and has a council of scientists advising him.)
More to the point at hand is the division we’ve seen in the conservative perspective of distrusting, often even dismissing science as being almost an agent of the devil (I don’t exaggerate, more on that in a moment), instead of trusting the Bible when it comes to matters like Climate Change or evolution or women’s health. Which brings us back to the book at hand, What Hath God Wrought. Discussing Samuel Morse’s invention of the telegraph (whose first message was the words out of the Bible that serve as the book’s title), the author Daniel Walker Howe writes:
“Morse’s synthesis of science and religion represented the predominant American attitude of the time; only a few eccentrics believed there was any conflict between scientific and religious truth.”
So much for the whole concept of how life progresses and that we learn from the past. I guess not for everyone. This is the natural, expected result of what happens when you deny education, deny science, and retrench your foundation of knowledge, scholarship and reality purely on a system of faith. You regress, as the rest of the reality-based world passes you by. Accepted thought becomes what was once the domain of “eccentrics.”
On the other hand, when your education is based solely on what you believe, it makes passing tests in school so much easier. Unless your teacher believes in grading on a curve.
“Revelation and reason alike, Americans were confident,” Howe continues, “led to knowledge of God and His creation.”
Go figure. Back in the 19th century, in the midst of the greatest period of religious revivalism in U.S. history, Americans believed that education actually increased one’s understanding of the Bible. Not just did religious leaders accept science, but “Evangelists welcomed technological advances along with mass education,” he writes, because science helped them “spread the good news of Christ.”
Compare this to the religious Far Right of today who view the work of scientists as evil. Who want to push science out of the classroom, or at the very least obfuscate it with things like Creationism.
Compare this to when Scott Brown tried to pander to the religious Far Right and snarkily demeaned his then-Senate opponent Elizabeth Warren by continually referring to her as “Professor.”
Compare it to the pronouncements of people like Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who actually serves on the Science Committee of the House of Representatives, saying – not that “Religious awakening, expansion of education, interest in science and technological progress all went hand in hand,” as Howe describes national and religious thought in the mid-19th century, but rather – “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
Life changes. Opinions change. Values change. But life is supposed to move forward. Otherwise we’d all be living life in reverse like Benjamin Button or Merlin. Starting with all our knowledge, and then forgetting it day-by-day, getting more stupid by the hour. Which is a theory that does appear to work for some people. But fortunately, not for Mankind.
What’s interesting is that long ago, the very opposite reality reigned. Back in 1615, the scientist Galileo was the eccentric, found guilty of heresy by the church’s Roman Inquisition for daring to suggest that the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the other way around. He was found guilty. Belief ruled the day. Two hundred years later, the reality of science was accepted, and it was only the “few eccentrics” who didn’t understand that science and religion were seeking the same thing – the truth.
Unfortunately, when some people intentionally pander to the worst instincts of others in order to stir up fear in a base to score political points, the result tends to be falling backwards towards ignorance – which is the very opposite of that whole “mass education” concept. But then, that’s what happens when one looks to politicians for religious and spiritual guidance.
You know, here’s one way I look at it – if God had intended Man to ignore the discoveries, teachings and advances of science, He would never have created scientists.
The Season of Miracles
To anyone thinking that the Republican Party's full transmogrification into a religious cult is as a result of Trump, it’s not. The Religious Right has, of course, been critical to the party for half a century, at the very least, when Richard Nixon courted evangelicals in the late-1960s. Actually, it goes back much further with those like the far-right, anti-Semitic and pro-fascist radio demagogue Father Coughlin who railed for the GOP. (No, I’m not being subjectively hyperbolic, that “anti-Semitic and pro-fascist” description is from the website for the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum here.)
But although these earlier ties are a well-established part of the Republican Party’s history, they’re mostly individual cases of the GOP co-opting religious groups and using religion to the party’s advantage, likely trying to identify itself on a shaky pedestal as the Moral Majority. However, what I’m more talking about is how their association with religion developed much deeper and stronger over the years to the point where religion stopped being just a convenient adjunct of the GOP and became instead almost foundational to the party – not merely “the base” of the Republican Party, but the fervent, driving force of policy and goals, as the Party-Religion relationship largely flipped end-for-end. Where the annual religious-based Values Voter Summit is now almost a tent revival for the party, where a religious litmus test is now core for much of the party’s most-faithful, where today much of this base sees Trump as being delivered to them by God Himself. Indeed, this GOP religious path had long been paved, and if Trump has been anointed, he only had to walk through the door and take full advantage of it.
In fact, here’s an article that I wrote for the Huffington Post a full 11 years ago, on September 16, 2010. It’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at the Republican Party giving up on politics altogether and becoming instead a full religion, period.
The Republican Miracle: Turning Water into Whine
The Republican Party today declared itself to be an official religion, and will be granted full religious protection under the Constitution of the United States. After years of pushing for a spiritual waiver, all members of the former political institution have been granted eternal forgiveness and are now answerable only to the Holy Father, longtime honorary chairman of the GOP.
This change (a step considered more substantive than mere re-branding) comes after a concerted effort by Republican leaders to get all of America to accept the party's divinity.
Sharron Angle, Republican Tea Party candidate for Senate in Nevada, has previously given full credit for her candidacy to the Lord Almighty. "I believe that God has been in this from the beginning," she told Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, who himself hath been touched by God, except for his failed political run for office, "and because of that, when He has a plan and a purpose for your life and you fit into that, what He calls you to He always always equipped you for."
Indeed the Hockey Mother Superior of the Republican Party, Sarah Palin, has noted that she was picked to be Republican candidate for Vice President, not by John McCain, as was presumed, but because "It was God's plan." In fact, it is a result of His blessing that Ms. Palin (who presumably quit as governor half-way through her sworn term as part of that plan) was able to explain to Glenn Beck that the Founding Fathers were "quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 Commandments." Though she was unable to identify any of her favorite Founding Fathers, that too was part of the Supreme Being's plan, who works in mysterious ways.
It was Mr. Beck himself who is so connected to God himself that he only had to jot bullet points for his sermon to the faithful on "Restoring Honor Day" so that "I don't get in the way of the Spirit in case He wants to talk," perhaps not only so that the Creator could spread the gospel of Republicanism, but also sell gold coins to a captive audience. "You are going to see the spirit of God unleashed," he said. And Mr. Beck should know, as one of the new religion's high priests.
And now, in an email sent out by the head of the Hawaii Republican Party, Jonah Kaauwai has claimed that the GOP candidate for governor "will win because the church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS!"
The Republican Party, of course, has had a direct connection to God for many years, often through its longtime spiritual leader and opponent of the Teletubbies, the late Jerry Falwell, who divined the causes of the 9/11 attacks, "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen."
Former Republican presidential candidate and TV evangelist Pat Robertson replied, "I totally concur."
In its decision to convert itself from political party to a religion, conservative leaders noted that this importantly provides its most far-right members spiritual dispensation for any intolerance towards Muslims. After all, with Christianity being the One True Religion of the Former Republican Party (and by extension, the sole religion of America, since the Democrats are socialists and communists, who are Godless), then it not only is permissible to demonize all other religions, but becomes sacrilegious and therefore unpatriotic not to do so. This includes faux-gutter religions like Judaism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and some sects of Unitarianism that allow dancing.
Even more, becoming a religion brings one very special bonus for its disciples. Perhaps the core issue of the Party Formerly Known as Republican has long been that of cutting taxes. (Indeed, cutting taxes is the sacred creed of the Tea Party monastic order.) But now, as a religion, taxes are not only cut, but totally eliminated since religions are of course tax exempt. While this mainly benefits its richest members, known now as "Elders of the Church" the flock has been admonished to follow the dogma regardless, for what is faith if not blind, unquestioning faith?
Republicanism also removes the great controversial divide in America over abortion, since it is no longer a matter of secular constitutional law, but religious doctrine. So, too, are the sacred tenets of gun ownership ("The Lord giveth, and the Lord...well, giveth.") and the divine right of healthcare insurance companies to make a false profit.
In fact, the heathen Constitution (exorcised by now-Cardinal George Bush to be nothing more than "a damn piece of paper") has been officially replaced in Republicanism by the Bible, as the foundation of all laws, including carbon emission standards, speeding tickets, and condo regulations. The Bill of Rights shall henceforth be known as "The Little 10 Commandments."
And the Far Right shall henceforth be known as the Far Righteous.
"Who died and made you God?" is a question people have been asking the holier-than-thou for ages. At last we have an answer. Sometimes, all it takes is self-annointing.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor