Tm Munkeby is a member of The Reporters Inc’s Advisory Committee. To learn more about him, click here.

The ‘U’ in USA

The Election Finds America Divided; Only Education Can Unite This Union


December 2016

BY TIM MUNKEBY

We may have to consider another word for the “U” in U.S.A.

The word “United” – well, we don’t seem so much anymore.

A few suggestions:

How about “Unwelcoming States of America”? Each wave of immigrants washing ashore has had their issues welcoming the next group of foreigners as they made their way to our borders. The Limeys, Swedes, Pollocks, and Fins didn’t like the Wops, Micks, Frogs, Spics, or Hebes. And those folks, in turn, didn’t welcome the Krauts, Russkies (Commies!), Chinks, Wetbacks, Japs and Ragheads. And although the crackers kidnapped them and brought them here, they now want the blacks to go home. Sweet…let’s try to justify that one! Now, of course, we have the “fugees” (short for refugees) literally washing up, uninvited, on the world’s shores, which I’m sure will (or probably has) spawned a flood of new slurs.

Or, we could call them the “Underpaid States of America”. It appears a lot of honky men are angry, feeling they’re worth more…without any consideration for bitches, wetbacks, or spades, of course.

Or then there’s the “Unscrupulous States of America” idea. Head of the class in this America (actually asshole of the class) being Wall Street greed-hounds, who most unscrupulously used their knowledge of our, apparently, most precious commodity—money–to slyly pick our pockets and pad theirs. Do they rationalize: “Tough shit, losers. Lose your job; lose your home; lose your retirement. We’re just smarter than you are.” Or maybe the most unscrupulous assholes are the pharmaceutical companies: “You know, if we’re smart we can charge sick people anything we like. They’ll pay anything to stay alive.” Unscrupulous, Unconscionable, Unbelievable…but WE allow it. WE shouldn’t! Makes you wonder if there’s a hell or someplace similar where these people who think they’re so smart can go to celebrate.

It could be “Unhinged States of America,” or “Unstable.” Actually, “Unnerved” works pretty good right now.

But, I think the better, more constructive, more appropriate choice is “Uneducated States of America.” It means there is possibly hope for a better future, that we can turn things around, if we see the light and provide education the way it ought to be. Education should not be about gaining knowledge in order to take advantage of people for selfish gain. Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” (Of course he wasn’t too smart.)

Somehow a blight has grown inside capitalism. When greed, when personal gain, when MONEY are the bottom lines…then ethics, compassion, kindness, empathy, tolerance, understanding, trust – things that make us human — become secondary at best.

All right, I fear this is sounding like a rant. America, in spite of each wave of immigrants resisting, has managed a pretty good job so far of assimilating the diversity of its peoples…E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one), melting pot, etc. etc.

Unless the Danes, who are considered the happiest people on the earth, have hacked our social media, lying to us about how content they are, it would appear the most content people on the planet are those in smaller, socially democratic countries…with free education, childcare, and healthcare for all. Is this possible in the U.S.A.? Apparently the Danes don’t consider the avoidance of taxes a “smart” move, since taxes are necessary to provide what makes them so darn happy.  At the same time, it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with the current explosion of diversity within their country, an influx of refugees that is changing the largely homogenous makeup of their population.

And it’s true that here in the U.S., with a much larger and much more diverse populace, the task of dealing with fairness and equality for all is much more difficult. But when dictionary.com’s word of the year is xenophobia [fear or hatred of foreigners], things might be headed in the wrong direction.

Education has to be the answer to turn things around. But, we need to evaluate if our notion of how to educate is antiquated, outmoded…if it hasn’t kept up with the evolution of our society. As an ex-educator, if I were given the task of creating the most ineffective way to educate people, I’d suggest:

First, ignore them until they’re four or five. That way, if they have no positive parental role model or caring adult in their life, they can arrive at school already angry and feeling they don’t belong…thereby limiting as much as possible the number of students who have a chance to succeed.

Then, cram them indoors in a building, with 20, 30, or 40 to a room where they have to sit still and shut up. Show little regard if some are bored and some are made to feel stupid. Aim for the muddling middle…where nobody really exists. Then tell them they won’t get to the Promised Land unless they get a four, five, or six year college degree…when only one in three of all students even meet the College Board’s benchmark on the SATs for success in college. [“The War on Stupid People,” The Atlantic, July/Aug. 2016.]

The blight grows, somewhere along the way, for too many. They become “certain” about their beliefs and ideas when education should actually be helping them realize that only the narrow-minded are ever truly “certain.“

We are all born open-minded, not certain but curious. Boy baby, girl baby; black baby, white baby; side by side there is no hate, no prejudice, no bias, no fear… only curiosity about the differences. But then something happens.

Education must start here to prevent the blight that starts to feast on so many later. Education must include values such as kindness, empathy, tolerance, trust…and it must start as early as possible, even at birth, and include parent(s).

Of course, academic subjects must also be taught, but with regard to students’ interests, aptitudes, and abilities…with the perspective that the knowledge they gain is to be utilized to improve the world, maintain our planet, and help other people; with the perspective that using knowledge for personal gain at the expense of others will not bring them real happiness. If this were to happen, we would not only have a “United” States, but a united world.

Too much to imagine? Couldn’t afford this comprehensive an education? (The money is there. Just look at how much was wasted frivolously on just this last election.) I put to you that we can’t afford not to fund the evolution of education forward, to what is needed in this new millennium. Not to is expensive. Not to is suicide…maybe global genocide if you look at the violence in our cities, in the world. This election demonstrated the anger, hatred, intolerance that exists in our country. If education doesn’t turn this around, will it not get worse? The more children that grow up in toxic environments, the more toxic adults we have; the more toxic adults we have then, again, the more toxic children we have, and on and on.

(Maybe the “U” should be “Unprioritized”. It seems an overwhelming task to prioritize where to start fixing all that needs fixing…and then to agree on the priorities…something we’ve never been very good at.)

If we want to truly be united, to get along with each other, we need to change something. If we pare out all the complexities, all the bullshit, you arrive at the simplest answer, which is usually the correct one: education. Education, done right (more suggestions in a future article), starting at birth, is the answer…what else? It’s the bottom-est of all the lines.

We must be united on this issue if we’re to remain the United States of America.

 

Tim Munkeby can be reached at tmunkeby@aol.com

 

Discussion

One person commented on "The ‘U’ in USA"
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  • Ken Ring says:

    This may have been lifted right out of my thoughts. If so, don’t worry about it—take full credit, I’ll happily give you credit and I’m going to have to share this with my friends.

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