The United States of Ignorance

Yesterday the headline story of a UK version of Huffingtonpost read

100 THREATS TO BRITAIN
Floods, Drought And Wildfires Highlighted In First National Report On Climate Change

Meanwhile here in the US, at the GOP “debates” Republican politicians continue their battle to prove that they’re each more willfully ignorant of science than the others.  It’s embarrassing, and it’s hurting our country.

The Bush Administration censored NASA‘s information on climate change; today, politicians rarely dare mention it.   Internet trolls have been dispatched to comment on blogs and websites with angry climate-change denial talking points in an effort to shout down any intelligent discussion.

Our wildlife is suffering, our cities and towns are flooded and battered by radical weather, yet the corporate controlled news omits any reference to climate change.  Each shocking storm is reported without mention of weather patterns, as if every event were isolated.

Unlike other countries, our national policy seems to go something like this: ignore it and maybe it’ll go away.

A second tier plan?  The GOP now openly talks of gutting our Department of Education, so such scientific ignorance becomes nationwide.   OMG, have you seen the products of “Christian” religious “education”?  The wild eyed foaming-at-the-mouth ravings of Michelle Bachmann comes to mind.  With her evident belief of re-written history and lack of science education,  she is a poster-child for all that is wrong with allowing crazy people to mis-educate vast numbers of our population.  When we combine such willful ignorance with massive corporate advertising campaigns that deliberately misinform, this is the result.

While the rest of the world moves ahead in clean energy technologies, much of the U.S. clamors for more oil drilling, fracking, and building more pipelines that threaten our lands, water and people.  Such backwards thinking is symptomatic of rampant ignorance in a society, and a cynical corporate  manipulation of that ignorance.

This is why democracy-killers like the Koch brothers are wedded to the republican party.  The democratic party is not blameless either, of course.  It is obvious that the two-party system is so corrupted by money that true democracy is not possible in the U.S. today — yet the crazy rantings are mainly coming from the far right.

I’ll say it again.  It’s embarrassing, and it’s hurting our country.

Here’s another headline: “American Pregnant Teens Shockingly Ignorant of Birth Control”  …How’s that christian based  “abstinence only” stuff working out for you?

Here’s another headline:”Tennessee Tea Party wants any mention of slavery removed from textbooks”.  These guys want to remove mention of slavery, jim crow, lynchings, and the civil rights movement that sprang from these egregious injustices.  They also want to eliminate mention of the genocide of the Native Americans.  News flash: this is NOT EDUCATION.

One more “INDIANAPOLIS Schools to Teach Creationism.   An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.

Sigh.

Here’s an idea: You don’t teach creationism in our public schools, and we won’t teach evolution in your churches.

It is no minor subject that so many GOPers are openly talking of ending education in this country and revile intelligence as somehow “elitism”.  It is no mistake that they celebrate ignorance and revel in superstition.

In fact, what we actually need is eduction on steroids.   We need to learn actual history, and actual science — even more importantly, we need to teach intellectual curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking.  Kids need not only factual data, but the ability to reason, to weigh facts and imagine possibilities.  We need ethics classes that teach basic human morality separate from any deities – true spirituality that comes from striving to be the best human being we can possibly be.

There is no reason why any person in the 21st century should remain ignorant and so easily manipulated that they fall for televangelists and reich wing politicians’ line of crap.  We could be so much further along!

And let’s not even discuss the glorification of ignorance that passes for “reality television” shows.  Instead, let’s imagine something different.

Imagine an educated population, working together to create a beautiful healthy community.   Imagine a mainstream media that celebrated learning, like much of PBS does.  imagine parents educating themselves together with their children, teaching them that learning is an exciting life-long skill.

What can we do to promote intellectual curiosity?  And even more important: What can we do to change the image of being a smart, educated person from that of a “nerd” to a desirable goal?  Take note of how smart people are portrayed in entertainment (as nerds) and how beautiful women still play dumb.  Why? Think about it.  Who benefits from glorification of ignorance?

Ignorant people are easy to control.  They don’t challenge authority, they don’t organize, they don’t occupy.  They obey. They conform.  They are docile herd animals.

A creative, intelligent population is a dynamic population, with new ideas and challenges to the “normal” ways of doing business and governing.

And these are the people – the creative, the motivated, the intelligent – who are creating solutions right NOW.  If the U.S. doesn’t want to be left behind, we need to stimulate our hearts and minds rather than dumb people down to the point that they fall for small minded ideas and bronze-age superstition.

Where to start?  A few suggestions: Support Occupy.  Support PBS.  Turn off commercial television. Read international websites and alternative news.  Subscribe to science news like science daily and enjoy the exciting mass of studies and inventions celebrated there – while questioning who pays for the studies and how that might effect results.

And educate your kids to question what they’re told.  Teach your kids how to research facts and separate them from propaganda.  Teach your kids about history.  Share an exploration of ancient civilizations, the dark ages, the enlightenment era, and remind them of the Deist founders of America.  Teach them the  sad truth about slavery and the genocide of the Native Americans, and the effects of these policies on our people today.

Encourage your kids in the arts: music, painting, ceramics, poetry… these skills not only enrich us as human beings, but they improve our learning ability in other fields as well.

Show them by example – let them see you being excited by creating, reading and learning.  Take them out into nature and have them observe wildlife.  Spark their interest in things like geology and dinosaurs, and teach them about ways that scientists date our world, and our solar system.  Inoculate them against superstition and religion with science, critical thinking and true human spirituality and ethics.

Share ideas.  Ask them for their opinions: how could we better design cities?  What would you use instead of plastic?  How can we eliminate racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia –  and create a more fair and beautiful world?   Share with them the exciting experiments around the world in building a more joyful, sustainable society.  Have them search the web for examples.

Don’t have kids?  Share all this with your loved ones and friends.  What would the world be like if each of us strove to be the smartest, most loving, most creative version of ourselves that we could be?  What if we each considered this to be our highest challenge?

Our better world begins right now, with each of us.

Right now.

 

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