In the recent Fox News showcase of candidates vying to be Donald Trump’s running mate or at the very least increase speaking engagement fees, a subject caught my ear: “A crisis in education in America.” After laughing at this irony (since for decades Republicans have waged rhetorical war on intellectualism and over the past 15 years unleashed a legislative assault on the public school system), I thought I’d check the statistics and see if there is indeed a “crisis.” Turns out there is… and Republicans are causing it.
The most egregious of course is in Florida, conducted as a political ploy by Governor Ron DeSantis, one of Fox’s also-rans, with its banning of books, although other states have indiscriminately implemented “selected reading” for students and have levied sanctions and threatened arrests for teachers daring to cross these arbitrary lines. There has also been a steady movement on the Right to sanitize American history to protect the feelings of white people. A repeated lie perpetuated on the teaching of Critical Race Theory being offered in grade school, or even middle to high school classes, has succeeded in ginning up the great unwashed. CRT, as they like to frame it – one, they can’t deign to say it, and two because it sounds more sinister that way – is a college-level course and even that is rare. Come on, who thinks these people even know what CRT is?
This country has seen this kind of middling crap before. I direct you to the Scopes Monkey Trial, probably our most embarrassing chapter of this pogrom against education – I am leaving out the South’s rejection of African Americans to attend schools and universities because I don’t want to further upset white people… and let’s face it that had way less to do with education than systemic racism.
Nearly a century ago in 1925, a high school teacher, John T. Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which had made it illegal for teachers to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The argument: the Bible takes priority over all human knowledge. Crazy, right?
Wait, read that last sentence again and think of the current state of 51% of our American citizenry in bondage to the government thanks to more idiotic Republican/Fundamentalist claptrap. Crazier still, Scopes was found guilty! However, later the goofy verdict was overturned – not because it was abjectly stupid and unconstitutional but on some technicality. For more on this sad footnote in our complicated history that Republicans try to hide from our kids, check out H.L. Mencken’s work on the matter – some of the finest journalistic writing ever. Seriously, Mencken kicked ass.
Things have certainly reached a saturation point lately. Republicans want to run the federal government to strip women’s reproductive rights nationally and wipe out the Department of Education, so parents can decide curriculum. Now, as a person who feels we do need to restructure our education system, it is not to teach less or massage the public-school syllabus to match our national pride or placate superstitious zombies, it is to expand the scope of knowledge. To this end, we absolutely cannot leave education up to a mob of people who can’t agree on proper diet for their kids, or sleep time, or what content their offspring can consume. We had to put stickers on everything in the 1980s because parents were unable to decipher if “Fuck Like an Animal” was an appropriate listening experience for their eight-year-old daughters.
Also, please stop teaching that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. This was a difficult feat for a man who never stepped foot on the continent, never mind that there were already people here and lots of other Europeans.
But, I digress.
I did some research on the Most Educated States in America based on 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. [A/N: Since this paper was founded and is published in New Jersey and I am writing this from my barn office on Jersey soil, I will not bury the lede: NJ is in the Top Ten.] As a starting mean, let’s note that the national average is 43.8% – the share of a state population with a high school and/or bachelor’s degree. That number already makes me cringe, but judging from some of the stuff that pops up as popular on Netflix and the cable ratings for Sean Hannity, it makes sense.
I think you know where I’m going.
The Ten Worst Educated States are as follows:
West Virginia: 22.40
New Mexico: 36.99
Firstly, can someone explain to me how in 2023 only two out of 10 West Virginians have graduated from any level of schooling? Second, you got it: Nine out of the 10 worst educated states are run by Republicans. (For the record, there is a Democratic governor of New Mexico, but it’s a purple state, so there could be some fucked up stuff in there already. To be fair, the party does also run the legislature.) Still, that’s one out of 10.
I repeat: Nine of 10 of the worst educated states are run by Republicans.
Is there a crisis in education?
To finish our research let’s peek at what the statistical ratings are for Most Education States. (Unless you’re from West Virginia, I think you know what’s coming.)
The Most Educated States in America:
New Jersey: 68.85
New Hampshire: 67.20
Come, New Jersey – let’s get this to at least seven out of 10! Eight of the 10 states are distinctly not run by Republicans, and Virginia has just recently flipped its governorship (and is likely to flip back).
Massachusetts… wow. Completely, shamelessly indoctrinated in liberalism. There is no more “woke” section of this nation. Shit, there’s a reason DeSantis sent those migrants up there. Turns out this was a boon to the migrants, at least if they wanted to learn stuff, instead of being sold that education is a progressive, elitist, radical plot to turn our kids into snowflake robots.
Look, if there is one thing I’ve learned from six decades of being a free thinker (despite Catholic school and mediocre public schools and years of reading and research and never being complacent on what new information emerges from the apparently dwindling great minds of this world): Knowledge is Good. (If I may borrow from the good people at National Lampoon.)
Republicans think it’s bad and then they stand on a stage and pander to the Fox News agenda of denying truth and pass this disease onto our kids, and those kids grow up to storm the Capitol and go to jail and then apologize for being duped by a lunatic. Judging from the overwhelming number of Gen Z voters – many of them having endured locked downs from school shootings and are far more respectful of gender identity, race, and sexual preference, and sure as hell don’t want the government to control their bodies or choose the Bible over all human knowledge – I think we’re going to be fine.
Republicans on the other hand will be forced to keep running monosporic fascist narcissist domestic terrorists like Trump for high office or start educating their children better.