BY SHARON MARTIN
In Washington, DC, and in newspapers across the country, a handful of people, in the name of freedom, are protesting one of the foundations of democracy, free and universal education. Why? And who is pulling their strings?
Are ringleaders afraid an educated citizenry can see through their dangerous illogic or are they just stingy, unwilling to have their tax dollars spent on someone else’s children?
Education has been under attack before. During the Dark Ages, people with specialized education, including midwives and healers, were often burned as witches. Scientists were forced to recant their discoveries. Galileo spent most of his last years under a sort of house arrest because he dared to speak scientific truth. It’s happening again.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, professors, writers, and artists were sent to farms and factories to be “reeducated.” Now, someone is trying to convince the citizens of this country that we are all better off without public education by spreading fake facts. They are rewriting history for their own ends.
Public education protects children. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, impoverished families sent their children to work in factories. Children, some as young as five or six, worked 12-hour days in the textile mills. Some of them were maimed by machinery, and all of them were robbed of their childhood. These children, rarely taught to read and write, are links in a chain of poverty and illiteracy that stretches into the present.
From 1870 to 1930 Census takers asked, “Can you read or write?” In 1870, 20% of all adult respondents said, “No.” By 1930 only 4.3% professed illiteracy.
It isn’t enough to be able to read and write words, though. We must be able to understand what we read. There is a direct link between basic prose literacy skills [comprehension] and poverty. It is hard to think when you’re hungry and it’s hard to get rich when you can’t think.
Comprehension is teachable. It takes real reading and writing, not standards or standardized testing. Reading and conversations about reading need to take place both in the home and at school. We must cultivate critical thinking skills if we want citizens to recognize the truth. And we must take steps to end poverty. Both require investment, not spending cuts.
The truth will set you free, but the truth requires access to education. So, to you education protesters out there, I have your number. Don’t tread on the truth to save a few dollars. Don’t tread on the freedom that a public education offers our citizens. In your stampede to wipe out this government of the people, don’t trample our children’s futures.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer