Fifty years ago Dr. King risked his life to tell us that ‘the world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve,” that a nation focused on military defense more than social uplift “is approaching spiritual death,’ and that we still had a choice: “nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” How much longer will that choice be extended to us? It’s an open question. But the time is always ripe to start making the right choice.
We cannot look the other way as military and economic warfare destroys lives, communities and cultures. We cannot lose ourselves in trivia and fantasy while the foundation of our real lives is the inescapable misery and suffering of others. We must persistently ask how US people will ever find the ingenuity, skill and resources to solve critical problems facing US communities when perennially panicked into working to satisfy the bloated and obscene needs of the US military industrial complex.
The above two paragraphs embed the best of sentiments among radical activists. But they are not radical enough. Note the emphasis at the end of the second paragraph. The military ogre does beg to be called out for its abominations, but there should be a spotlight too on the way in which our skills and resources serve our individual self-centered priorities.
In education, that must translate into transforming radically what’s taught. And that means risking careers in some quarters, most quarters. History in schools is a discipline which is used by the powers to be to reinforce the activity we find so abominable abroad, our complicity in U.S. war crimes. One cannot continue to offer up one’s offspring as cannon fodder without having bought into the propaganda that’s the foundation of virtually all public and private education vis-a-vis History. And that reinforcement predisposes the youth of today to go the same way as their parents*. Especially with mainstream media outlets reinforcing what’s taught in the schools. That the U.S. is a Good Guy, always has been, and that God is in full support of its Exceptional Status in the world.
*Economic pressures make such major mistakes increasingly likely, obviously.
Not many instructors are going to risk their full-time status to teach otherwise. Ditto for part-timers hanging onto jobs which are increasingly rare to secure. This is not to browbeat such souls, who may very well want to behave otherwise. Rather, it’s to encourage the radical reader to do something that will enable well-meaning, aware teachers to communicate truth instead of trivia (to be tested on). At present that’s not at all a concern. It’s considered impractical on the best days of discussions among educators. In lieu of doing the right thing, educators nationwide have caved and committed themselves — if at all — to reforming the institutions they work for from the inside, on bent knee, pleading with the powers that be on the local or state boards at the helm.
Arguably, the phenomenon in U.S. education today is the STEM dynamic.
The nationalistic emphasis is undeniable. But so is the relegating of History to the trash bin.
Been there, done that. Nothing good can come from thinking that specialization to the degree encouraged by STEM is a solution to the world’s problems.
Not too long ago I came across a factoid in Harper’s Magazine, which I’d like to share in conclusion here. That is it was calculated that it would be possible to fit the entire world’s population into the state of Texas… if the population density of Manhattan were embraced. [Pause.] Just because one can do something doesn’t mean one should, yes? [Pause.] Yes. Yet that is precisely the attitude that STEM advocates. Or, if it doesn’t advocate that outright, it leads to that mindset.
Couple that mindset with marginalized exposure to a History which has been tweaked to serve the very corporations which are funding STEM education in privatized and public sectors, and you’ve got no one left to fight the good fight. Not to any significant degree with a degree in hand.
Band together with me, if you will, to interact over HOW to help educators circumvent the clever parameters imposed on them. The interaction must be in confidence, for if the powers that be become privy to such revolutionary talk prematurely dialogue will be cut off at the knees.
Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He would be honored to speak gratis at any educational institution which makes a request at email@example.com. He was in attendance at Riverside Church in New York City, accompanied by two of his students, when Dr. King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech which Kathy Kelly cites in her article (link provided above). Both youngsters died in Southeast Asia shortly after Dr. King was assassinated… having joined the military because of economic pressures.