We all remember what took place in Washington D.C., USA, on January 6, 2021. There was a violent insurrection at the nation’s capital. Since then, America’s political crisis has grown in breadth and depth. Today, political analysts of all stripes are sounding the alarm. Many fear that the nation is heading down a dark path. Strong action is needed to keep the country (and the world) from heading further in this dangerous direction.
When historians finally come to grips with what’s taking place right now, many will conclude that one of the primary causes was the long-standing deemphasizing of education in the United States, thus leading to the dumbing down of the country. Teachers have historically been some of the most underpaid professionals in America. Often, due to this fact, the best and brightest don’t want to become educators and there are chronic teacher shortages as a result. And it’s not just about the number of teachers available to enter the workforce. As schools try to find enough educators to meet their needs, they often end up watering down requirements and hiring those who are less qualified, meaning it’s a crisis of quantity and quality.
When a nation no longer has the intellectual wherewithal to make good decisions about how to govern itself, it can (and often will) act in ways that are self-defeating. Democracy is premised on the idea that politics and economics should be conducted “by the people” and “for the people,” but what happens when “the people” lack good judgment? In such cases, action by the people can turn out to be action against the people.
We all know that misinformation played an important role in what took place on that cold day in January nearly a year ago now. Of course, obscurantists operate the world over, and social media provides a megaphone to purveyors of untruths. Here’s the rub, though. Misinformation is only dangerous when people fall for it. A public armed by knowledge and empowered by the ability to think critically doesn’t necessarily swallow everything its fed. Such a citizenry is capable of sorting through and sifting. A nation that can’t tell the difference between a conman and a statesman is a danger to itself and to others. The mind that can be preyed upon by conspiracy theorists is a vulnerable one. America is an incredibly weak nation at the moment because too many of its citizens are gullible and engage in wishful thinking which is another way of saying they’ve turned their backs on reason.
Any nation’s strength is rooted in its ability to embrace rationality and think critically. It’s through reason that we understand our interconnectedness and take action that fosters the common good. Those who reject good thinking (and are hostile to the arts and sciences) often demonstrate a kind of callousness. For it’s the intellect that activates our feelings and even gives us the ability to love. We only feel kinship (and the love that accompanies such feelings) after we understand the nature of this kinship.
Teachers not only provided us with information; they help us learn how to think, live, and be good people. We neglect and disrespect those who carry out these important missions at our own peril.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.
If you’d like to see some of Troy’s art, have a look.