The Will To Sustain Ignorance

melissa_1a copy

melissa_1a copy (Photo credit: Tulane Publications)

Until this week I had never heard anyone from the right attack Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, the Tulane professor and MSNBC news show host who has brought to television a show that combines pathos and good reasoning. I am sure it has happened, but until now none of the big guns on the radical right have put her in their cross hairs. They were obviously just waiting for the best turn of phrase to attack, and when they saw their chance they pounced.

It is Spring now, two months or less from graduation for most high schools, and the same for school board and school budget votes. This no doubt was part of the reason Dr. Harris-Perry, an educator and concerned citizen, recorded the Lean Forward piece she did. In the service announcement, Melissa dared make the suggestion that we need to spend more on education than we do, and that education should be a high priority for us. She attacked the notion that our children were our own and not part of a larger community. It was really just a more nuanced iteration of Hillary Clinton’s “it takes a village” comments of two decades ago. So of course Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh jumped all over it.

They compared the idea to Maoist philosophy. They howled at the notion that their children do not belong to them. They accused her of attacking the oh-so-sacred notion of the nuclear family (that, of course, Mr. “I’ve been married more times than I have said a kind word to another human being” Limbaugh exemplifies.) To them her comments were the weak point they have been praying (preying?) for in Dr. Harris-Perry for so very long. It is too bad they are too willfully ignorant to see how important and true her words are for everyone, regardless of you political stripes.

You see your children do not belong solely to you. They are not property no matter what outdated, convenient for you, bronze age code you decide to adhere to. First and foremost, they are their own people and not some heaven-sent opportunity to live your dreams through. Second, they, like you, are part of a larger community. At the very least they are part of the society of which you have settled or were born into. If you are a truly decent and mindful person you would realize they are part of the larger community of humanity.

Which means we have an obligation to make sure they can fully enjoy the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of belonging to those communities. All of us have that duty. Melissa was not suggesting taking your children from you, and if you have half a brain, you recognize that. She was merely suggesting we all are bound to each other, and these children, and are required by those bonds to make sure those children are prepared for adulthood. It is not just required for their sake, but for our own as well.

I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure that the person serving me my food when I am in a retirement home can read which foods I am allergic to. I want to make sure the people making change for me at the store can do simple math. I want to make sure we have a glut of people who are overeducated so I know there will always be plenty of nurses, pilots, utility repairmen, and any of a hundred other necessary professionals out there.

People like Rush and Sarah don’t care about that though. They are taken care of. They will always, to their incredibly childish minds, always be able to afford special access to any of those people. Their short-sighted, greed mongering, poor people hating minds are completely incapable of realizing that without a community of individuals that are well-educated, the support systems needed to pump out even those few that they think they will buy up will collapse. They will find themselves at each other’s throats, paying more and more for the services of the fewer and fewer capable people. Their desire to keep the population ignorant, and therefore more pliable is self-destructive and foolish. They hurt everyone, including themselves.

Over the course of my (I’d like to think) still young life I have witnessed a continual attack on education and educators by the moneyed elite in our country. They want docile, or at least easily duped, worker bees that are willing to work cheap. They have been winning that fight and we need to push back hard. We need to support our teachers and their unions, and we have to demand the material resources those teachers need in the classroom to do their jobs. We have to remember, as Dr. Harris-Perry tried to remind us, that the cost of not doing so is the eventual collapse of our community. Our society has flaws, but I am not ready to see it come crumbling down our ears, and neither should you be.

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