School Bells
Excerpt from an article by Lewis Lapham
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Geography
Revised: June 29, 2004
Educating yourself may be a subversive act.
The excerpt below is from Lewis H. Lapham's essay "School Bells," in which he argues that mainstream politicians pay only lipservice to improving education. The article appears in the August 2000 Harper's.
---------- If either presidential candidate were to make the make the mistake of exposing the educational system to the rigors of "revolutionary change," who would thank him for his trouble? Not the politicians, who depend for their safety in office upon an uniformed electorate, apathetic and disinclined to vote, unable to remember its history or name its civil rights. Not the marketers of the gross domestic prduct, who depend upon the eager and uncritical consumption of junk merchandise in every available color and size. Not the ringmasters of the national media circus, who play to the lowest common denominators of credulous applause. Not the sellers of sexual fantasy, the proprietors of gambling casinos, the composers of financial fraud, the dealers in cosmetics and New Age religion. The consumer society rests on the great economic truth proclaimed by P.T. Barnum (the one about a sucker being born every minute), and the country's reserves of ignorance constitute a natural resource as precious as the Mississippi River or the long-lost herds of buffalo. As a nation we now spend upward of a trillion dollars a year on liquor, pornography, and drugs, and the Cold War against the American intellect yields a higher rate of return than the old arrangement with the Russians. Unless obliged to make a campaign or a commencement speech, who in his right mind would want to kill the geese that lay the golden eggs? ----------
His point is reinforced by this finding elsewhere in the same issue of the magazine: 

The average written vocabulary of an American child decreased from 25,000 to 10,000 between 1945 and 2000.

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James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Bridgewater State College