By Farron Cousins
November 15th, 2012 11:00am
Republicans have always had a problem with knowledge. Their lack of knowledge and intelligence has persuaded them that others need to be as intellectually deficient as their Party, and as a result, they have been fighting for decades to get schools across the country to dumb-down the curriculum for students. Below is a transcript of an interview between Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and investigative reporter for Truth-Out.org Danny Weil, where they discuss the Republican assault on education (you can view the video here.)
Mike: If you saw an article on the internet telling you that schools in Texas were trying to ban the teaching of critical thinking, you probably thought it was an article from The Onion or some weird off-the-cuff magazine. The sad and scary truth is that the Republicans in Texas are actually writing laws that would ban schoolteachers from teaching their students critical thinking, that is how to analyze facts and data, how to form conclusions based on personal observations. They want to prevent children from developing critical thinking skills for very good reasons because they don’t want them to question authority.
Danny Weil is an investigative journalist for truth-out.org, always there with a great story. Danny, I couldn’t have made that up could I? When I saw your story of course all of researches did, you were right on this story.
Danny: Well, it does sound like something out of The Onion doesn’t it, but so do so many things these days in America, Mike, that I’m just really not surprised. What has been interesting though is the backpedaling. Have you seen some of the backpedaling by the Republican Party?
Mike: I have. It started after you came out with this article.
Danny: Yes, it did.
Mike: You exposed the Texas GOP where they declared that they don’t want critical thinking in schools. Now they haven’t abandoned it. You understand that, but they they’ve taking it down off of their site. Haven’t they?
Danny: Yes. I had a link there that if you clicked you’d go right to the page so that you’d have the evidence there in front of you which all critical thinkers want is evidence for claims that are made. I wanted to give the readers evidence. The day after the article came out, they disabled the link and then they came out with a number of very contradictory statements as to what really went on. One of them, of course, is that it was just a simple mistake and an oversight in the platform.
Mike: Well, you know better than that. Explain why that’s a ridiculous response.
Danny: Well, it’s a ridiculous response because what the Republican Party wants as really any ruling class does is people as low-hanging fruit. People cannot be low-hanging fruit if they’re critically thinking, if they’re challenging the assumptions that are being made behind the claims that are being offered to them. For example, the Republican platform mentioned that they didn’t want outcome-based education, which is a code word.
Mike: Right. That is critical thinking. That’s exactly what it is.
Danny: It’s a code word. Critical thinkers know that. They want to be able to then say, “When you say outcome-based education, what do you mean by that?” Of course that’s critical thinking. They don’t want that. People in power don’t want to be questioned.
Mike: Here’s the point. This theory about the fact that if we teach our children how to think critically that they’ll become more rebellious. They’ll become disobedient. They’ll foster revolution. That is really at the heart of it. The discussion on this, if you follow these discussions, it is if you allow a teacher to have the child question authority and question ideas in class then they come home and they do the same thing. From a standpoint of corporate America, they certainly don’t want you questioning what the hell they’re doing up on Wall Street. You don’t want politicians who are corrupt, you don’t want people questioning what they do.
The church, when it does the damndest things that it’s been doing in the last 20 years, you don’t want people questioning, “What is the church doing?” In a perfect world, what you have is people who …they are good at numbers. They can add. They can subtract. They can read. They don’t even understand the significance of what they’re reading. When they read John Steinbeck, for example, if they read The Grapes of Wrath, a Steinbeck novel, they don’t have the ability to take what that means and say, “What does that mean today? How do I implant that idea today?”
Danny: Very well said. Yes, to make relevant what they are thinking or reading about in the case that you just mentioned. No, you’re absolutely right. What has been, of course, sold …basically what the Republican Party is interested in in a constituency, of course, and to some extent the corporate Democrats as well is a Richard Hierarchy and they hierarchy is not to be challenged. Therefore, no questioning is to take place. Unfortunately, in the hierarchy, the one percent are at the top and the 99 percent of us are at the bottom. We’re supposed to go not to educational centers, but to obedience centers where we learn how to become low-hanging fruit for the corporate predators who then make us subsidize and pay for their privatization schemes, their JP Morgan gambling rackets, or the Goldman-Sachs opening up just recently, for example, educational services within New York City jails when they should be the ones that are in jail. This all requires critical thinking and systematic thinking. If you can’t think systematically you can’t see the systematic corruption, the systematic rot that’s been institutionalized. Those in power, just like anybody in power that wants to keep power, doesn’t want people to be thinking.
Mike: Well, Howard Zinn, I know you’ve read plenty of Howard Zinn and plenty of Chalmers Johnson, Studs Terkel, great, great thinkers in so many ways. Chalmers Johnson, in particular. I remember some of his writing talking about the idea that the way that the Catholic Church was used by the aristocracy, for example, in South America, was to use the thumb, the heavy hand of the church to keep people in line by not allowing them to question the aristocracy when they were paying slave wages, by not allowing them to question the aristocracy when they abused workers and took advantage of the economy of whatever country we were talking about. They used the Catholic Church to do that because people weren’t willing to question the authority of the Catholic Church.
Danny: Very good point.
Mike: That’s the same kind of thing. If you read their intent here, their intent is to say, “We don’t want people who can analyze and then ask those tough questions.” Let me ask you something. There’s actually public schools …actually they’re private schools that are being built around 501c3 nonprofit organization. Something that you’ve written about is called, the IDEA public schools. What is that?
Danny: It’s a bad idea. It’s too bad Molly Ivins can’t be with us right now.
Mike: Oh I know.
Danny: Or Jim Hightower to make hay out of this.
Mike: I know.
Danny: IDEA schools is an idea that sprung up in Texas. It’s basically backed by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan as are many of these for-profit or as you say, nonprofit schools, at least on their boards. The notion is, of course, to demonize public schools for teaching critical thinking, higher order thinking skills which then children come home and challenge or they challenge as you so well said Wall Street. It’s essentially to build a medieval school system basically for a neofeudalistic society.
Mike: I love the term you use in your writing so often is supernaturalism kind of thinking. The IDEA public school is spreading like wildfire throughout places like Texas isn’t it?
Danny: Yes, it is.
Mike: It is backed by people like JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Wall Street banking concerns are the money behind this aren’t they?
Danny: Sure because the educational sector in this country is worth 600 billion dollars. If you can crack that nut open and destroy the public commons by privatizing it, you can make a fortune off it because then the taxpayers will pay the subsidy to these people to run what they call public schools which in all fact and reality are private schools run by boards that have no disclosure requirements, no transparency. They can give contracts through the back door to for-profit schemes, their cronies, and that’s exactly what’s going on. There’s an infrastructure being created to take over schools. Of course, the last thing they want to do is teach.
Mike: They can teach creationism. They can teach that global climate change is not real, that it’s just a crazy conspiracy by lunatic liberals.
Look, it’s not just a Texas problem. In other words, they write these textbooks in Texas, but then these textbooks end up all over the country in some form or fashion don’t they?
Danny: That’s correct because it’s based on the volume of sales and Texas is so large. The actual textbook cartel right now works in concert. Pearson out of England is really huge. They just bought Connections Academy, which is the second largest online earning or learning system in the United States for K through 12 education. We are basically seeing the financialization of education right now as it’s being turned over the Wall Street interests much like the subprime mortgages. It’s the subprime education.
Mike: With that comes obedience training. With that comes anti-intellectualism. With that comes the fact that …I saw this somewhere else also. Louisiana, they’re actually teaching the kids that the Loch Ness monster actually lives and is real. Did I get that right or was that something …?
Danny: It has to be because otherwise it wouldn’t conform to the 6,000-year theory of creation. So yes, the Loch Ness monster is a dinosaur. Since we saddled up the dinosaurs back then, the thing had to exist, so it’s being paid for in a textbook by public money in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana.
Mike: You know, ten years ago if you and I had this discussion, they would think we were making this up, but it’s true. I’ve got less than 30 seconds. I just want to tell you that …
Danny: Can you imagine what other countries are thinking right now as they see us begin to really just hurdle ourselves into neofeudalism in the digital dark ages where people are denied the right to reason and kids are just replaced with bewilderment and supernaturalism?
Mike: Danny, China is gleeful about this.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine, a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com, and producer of Ring of Fire.