|Educating yourself may be a subversive
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.