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Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation). ~~~ The Who, My Generation (1965)

Today’s Washington Post editorial hits close to home –

I was born in 1957 and greatly benefitted from the “major overhaul” of education WaPo editors applaud – but the renewed emphasis on science and math did NOT come at the cost of neglect of music, art, literature, civics, history, or especially critical thinking – precisely the neglect we suffer from today (all that came at least a generation later, precipitated by know-nothing Republicans and reaching its nadir in President Reagan).

The WaPo editors wrote:

WHEN THE Soviet Union in 1957 launched the Sputnik satellite, beating the United States into space, it galvanized reforms in U.S. education. Knowing that the best and brightest scientists, engineers and mathematicians were needed to win the race for space and compete economically with the world, the country undertook a major overhaul of education with massive investments in teaching science and math. Today, the United States faces a new challenge, but this time the threat is from within: growing cynicism in government, civic dysfunction and challenges to democratic institutions. Recent troubling events — notably the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol — should be a Sputnik-like spur to strengthen American democracy with improvements in civics and history education.

I agree that:

There has been a steady erosion in the teaching of civics and history over the past 50 years. While the country spends about $50 federal dollars per student per year on science and math education, only five cents per year per student is allocated for civic education. Ten states have no requirement to teach civics. Such inattention shows in the numbers of Americans who can’t name the three branches of government and don’t understand the importance of checks and balances. Misunderstanding of government leads to distrust and disengagement and provides fertile soil for paralyzing polarization.

But, it’s not just money and curriculum. I come from a family of educational leaders and I served as a local school board member. So, I know first hand that it’s the US culture, Neoliberal ideology, and corporate power.

Tragically, I think it’s way, way, way too late for the way, way, way too little remedy the WaPo advocates:

Well-timed, then, is an initiative announced this week offering a strategy to build excellence in civics and history instruction for K-12 students. Educating for American Democracy, a two-year effort funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Education Department, provides national guidance that states, local school districts and educators can use to strengthen and help transform the teaching of civics and history, designed with a diverse 21st-century student body in mind.

The climate emergency is upon us. We must act now – and as Chris Hedges argues, rebel. We don’t have time for generational educational reforms.

Of course, we don’t hear any of that from a paper owned by Trillionaire Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, who profits from this ignorance and cultural decay.

Any educational reforms targeting civics will need to be preceded and accompanied by total rejection of the “Neoliberal Washington consensus”; a restoration of notions of the public interest, from the commons to collective action; rebellion and direct action to destroy the corporate power structure and military – industrial complex; and the “revolution in values” that the Hippies and Dr. King called for in the 1960’s.

My generation.

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