Culture Crushing Cynicism

I received an email from a friend that contained the following image of a WSJ opinion piece (11/03/2022). It was a thought-jarring article—but only for a moment.

What the results of the Quinnipiac poll, mentioned in Home of the Brave RIP, suggest is what I have suspected from having lived in America for as long as I have: there may not be a critical mass of Americans who love the Republic enough to defend it. Before you read further into this post, you may want to expand the above image enough to read the article. And then I suggest you read a FamilySearch Blog post via this link: The Greatest Generation.

The post documents the qualities of American exceptionalism that marked the Greatest Generation, the qualities that the WSJ op-ed implies have gone a-glimmering in today’s America. These qualities (quoted below whole-cloth from the FamilySearch Blog Post) will be familiar to Boomers because they are the qualities to which our parents expected us to adhere:

  • Personal Responsibility: The harsh reality of the Great Depression forced many to a higher standard of personal responsibility, even as children.
  • Humility: The Great Depression fostered modesty and humility in many of those who lived through scarcity.
  • Work Ethic: Hard work enabled survival during both the depression and the war. Many jobs at the time were physically demanding, with long hours.
  • Frugality: Saving every penny and every scrap helped families survive through times of shortage. “Use it up, fix it up, make it do, or do without” was a motto of their time.
  • Commitment: One job or one marriage often lasted an entire lifetime.
  • Integrity: People valued honesty and trustworthiness, values fostered by the need to rely on one another.
  • Self-Sacrifice: Millions sacrificed to defend their country or support the war effort from home.

We were indoctrinated into the above from birth through the 1950’s, but beginning with JFK’s assassination on 11/22/1963, the list of qualities that once made America exceptional began to be challenged by contradictions magnified by TV.

Those contradictions ultimately created a culture crushing cynicism among many Boomers

Boomers’ cynicism was nurtured by more assassinations, a Viet Nam War sold via lies and jingoism, race riots and the savage inequalities they exposed, parents’ divorces, and Watergate, which made the actions of a President and his men profound evidence that American integrity was a myth. The values of the Greatest Generation, which I still hold onto as ivory tower ideals, were committed to the dust heap of History in the 1970’s as Boomers like me abandoned the valid causes many of us fought for in the 1960’s—peace, love, freedom, equality for all, ZPG, pollution control—and replaced them with conspicuous consumption. By the time the 1980’s arrived, Boomers had become the Me Generation.

I find that since 2016 and what followed a descent on a golden escalator, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time assigning blame for the amoral mess America has become, and I have to lay the blame for the demise of America and of human civilization at the feet of the Boomer Generation, and at the feet of our children and grandchildren who, as eager proselytes, have created generational behaviors that are the Me Generation on steroids. But from one of my earlier blog posts, I laid the blame more specifically …

… in the year following the 2016 election, I wondered how it came to pass that American Democracy had ended up on life support. There have been books written and thousands of hours of media analysis since the election that postulate how a President came to power, but how has it come to pass that at least 40% of our fellow Americans do not support America’s Founding Principles? As a career educator, I did not have far to look: the mirror in my bathroom.

As I have often posted, Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “A government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it … Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education.

Our current plight—and it is a plight with global consequences, not to mention the uncertain futures of our children and grandchildren—can be laid directly at the feet of American educators. We have failed—massively and miserably failed—to inspire decades worth of children to love the founding principles of our Republic, to do what it is our American Democracy demands of each of us, and to realize the fragility of what American Democracy provides: freedom of speech, of peaceful assembly, of religion; freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances; freedom from discrimination based upon race, color, creed, religion, or who you love; the right to due process and more …

And because we, American Educators, have failed to inspire our children to love the founding principles of our Republic and all that they entail, Americans are on the verge of losing the freedoms our Constitution promises. After all, it is only a piece of paper that readily disintegrates in the acid vapors of ignorance. But isn’t the antidote of ignorance, education? Freedom requires Education.

Today, it can be argued that no profession in America is as disrespected as Education. And the foundational causes for that disrespect are nearly four decades of Democrats throwing money and not wisdom at poorly prepared educators and clueless politicians, while the GOP during those decades has been engaging in a stealth attack against public education, hiding their plan behind the PR lie that “choice” will improve our schools by introducing competition into our national education non-system.

Choice” is the red herring that conservatives have successfully used to distract the average citizen from discovering conservatives’ true goal: ending traditional public education for all, which Conservative Americans see as a wasteful use of their tax dollars. They want their tax dollars to go to schools that teach students who look and act like their kids, schools that indoctrinate their students in Conservative ideals, ideals that often violate the constitutional separation of church and state, the right of an American to love whomever one loves, and the right of a woman to choose.

The most egregious affect of choice is this reality: implicit within the concept of competition is that there are both winners and losers. In the conservative scenario of choice, it is disadvantaged children who are losing, children who are disproportionately children of color.

Conservatives seldom, if ever, acknowledge the three most significant foundational facts underpinning their assault on traditional public education: first, conservatives know there is no federal, constitutional right of universal and free public education; second, they know any GOP-controlled state government can eliminate universal public education at its whim; and third, when a critical mass of advantaged kids move from traditional public schools to private, religious, and/or charter schools, the public schools those advantaged students have abandoned will inevitably collapse into holding pens for children who—for their personal well-being and the greater well-being or our country—are most in need of quality education.

There are solutions to the problems of American education that have been part of conversations among educators for years, but politically conservative parents have successfully discouraged their implementation, not because they’ve discovered data to refute suggested reforms—such data does not exist—rather; they’ve relied upon their non-scientific samples of one and their local political clout to demand, “I want my kids to be taught like I was taught.”

Attempting to replicate how those parents were taught in an America that has changed dramatically in terms of social norms, technology, and economic segregation, is the reason why most of today’s disadvantaged American children are being left behind. And given the rising power of ill-informed, non-empathetic, outspoken, and politically powerful advantaged parents, there is nothing that can be reformed without governmental intervention; unfortunately, that ship has sailed because of America’s new—but not yet official—national motto:

You Can’t Tell ME What to Do!

I have recommended that the above image should replace the Bald Eagle as the symbol of America. Click on the image above to go to a blog post that advocates changes in America’s motto and symbol.

BLOGGER’S NOTES:

Several months after my retirement from Education at the end of 2014, while idly poking about folders on my hard drive, I came across dozens of documents I had prepared that were related to various aspects of my work as a teacher, district-level curriculum and assessment specialist, high school principal, and state-level bureaucrat. Sifting through the documents, I felt the need to share those that I believed addressed some of the significant reasons why American Education was failing to meet the needs of those students who most needed a high-quality education, and I did share via a blog: Education Follies.

In time, I came to understand that what I needed was not the opportunity to share because I knew it was likely little would come of it; instead, I realized I had an emotional need to reflect upon my career. That insight inspired me to select and assemble blog posts and documents from my personal archives into a memoir of sorts, which shed light on the over forty years I had spent tilting at educational windmills for no apparent reason (Education Follies: Four Decades of Tilting at Windmills for no Apparent Reason). I thought compiling the memoir would bring personal closure–tie a bow around–my career. To the contrary, the memoir provided the opportunity to process what I had experienced and learned over the previous decades so that I could seek, clear-eyed, other windmills lying just beyond the horizon.

Foolishly thinking that unburdening myself of the frustrations and regrets that resulted from a years-long commitment to Education, I put Education Follies to rest. It wasn’t long before the remarkable ignorance of policy makers and “concerned citizens,” which continues to bubble up from the cauldron of my newsfeeds, motivated me to respond with another blog: Education and Freedom.

In order to simplify my writing life, I ultimately abandoned the Education and Freedom blog and began posting all education-related posts in another blog: Growing Up Boomer: One Writer’s Impressions of the Past Seven Decades. Regardless of the vehicle of delivery, my compulsion to continue to tilt at windmills is driven by the positive responses of readers and by my conviction that there are no reasonable excuses for failing to teach millions of our children who are most in need of quality education.

The featured image has been purchased from iStock; no copyright infringement is intended for either image, nor is there an intent or possibility on the part of the blogger to monetize the use of the images in this post.

2 thoughts on “Culture Crushing Cynicism

  1. Incredibly powerful post! I don’t know the answer. If there is one. We need education and we need a commitment to that education. I fear that social media is replacing it. I think you should try to get your book published. I think it needs to be read.

    1. Thx. I’m in the process of compiling new posts and rewritten older posts into a manuscript. What you’ve commented upon would likely be the intro. Education reform is something I cannot walk away from, no matter how hard I try because I keep thinking about the millions of kids who are being left far behind the kids who are economically advantaged.

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