Incubating the New Dark Age

In the Dark Ages of the year 600, the murky backwaters of Europe were ruled by ignorance and superstition, and nothing changed from generation to generation. The only persons who achieved any significant level of education were the Christian priesthood, and it was more indoctrination than education. The rest were denied all education other than apprentice training for the job their father had. Almost no one in Europe actually knew how to think as educated people do.

Today, outside of the very backward parts of the world, progress is accepted and expected. We don’t deny the explanations of science or the advances of technology. We value education, and we value what we hope are improvements to our world. Not to do so would cripple us on the world market at the very least.

Fundamentalists have different goals. Fundamentalists of any stripe are convinced that we had perfection once, and have lost it through failing to observe the requirements of God, which we know are true because they are in very old books. We must go back, turn back the clock. We must deny the present, the world of science, of understand how things actually work.

Fundamentalists deny the world of science,
of understand how things actually work.

Some Americans are doing their level best to drag us backward into a (New) Dark Age. They try hard to remain uneducated, driven by  superstition, ignorance, and stupidity. Unfortunately, events have conspired to increase the likelihood that they will be at least partially successful. Places like Tennessee and Texas have passed laws that seriously damage their educational systems by offering support to pseudoscience such as creationism and climate change denial. With the ascension of the ultra-rich, and the consequent decrease of the fortunes of practically everyone else, the devaluation of education is already well underway.

I by no means claim that all home schooling is bad. Unfortunately, the sole reason many parents choose home schooling is to prevent their children from being contaminated by learning to think, by denying science that might run counter to their own semi-literate dogma. Science is always open to further improvement; dogma cannot change, ever. When children taught by dogma enter the work force, they will compete against people from all over the world who are not so stunted. They will come out behind, and so will we.

We give lots of lip service to the importance of education, but look at what has happened to education within the past five years. We have enacted a national plan to evaluate the effectiveness of all teachers based solely on the scores their students achieve on simplistic standardized tests, and ignoring all other factors. The Wisconsin governor ignited a firestorm of nasty name-calling focused on public school teachers, in the service of saving money, and hundreds of thousands of our best teachers nationwide took the occasion to retire early or get into a new line of work where their efforts are appreciated. Support for essential education is at the lowest level in decades. America will be the worse for it.

We give lots of lip service
to the importance of education,
but look at what has happened.

In every state, teachers were the “first responders” to the unavoidable slashing of budgets the banksters bequeathed to us, and we lost, and are still losing, many of our best and most experienced. Charter schools promised better schools, but they didn’t deliver, wasting money instead. Meantime, for-profit colleges found new ways to cheat students out of the full value of their learning, leaving them in debt for an average of $25,000 at exactly the moment that no jobs are available.

The situation in California, which once had the finest public education in the nation, is so awful that California State University was unable to accept any new students at any of its campuses this spring semester. Graduate students are discovering that the financial help they counted on is not there; many will be forced to leave school, swelling the unemployment ranks. Everything being done to education, at every level, is helping to bring about a New Dark Age, in which fewer citizens will learn how to think, learn how science works, learn to differentiate between ignorant dogma and reality, and learn what it takes to compete on the commercial world market. America is already the worse for it.

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