The danger of a well-educated mind is present and clear. Let's burn all the books, shall we?
In today's America it seems to be far more important to have an arsenal of loaded guns vs. an arsenal of wisdom-loaded books. Let's discuss what I am seeing. Maybe you, too, but only if you're reading, attending and not buried in your iPhone.
During the long, dark, wet days of winter up here in Oregon, one of the best pleasures is to exercise while a movie is on. I'm not one of those folks who can competently read a book while running on a treadmill, and my elliptical isn't steady enough to keep me from throwing up, so I pop in a movie.
For some reason I've been on a Kevin Costner kick lately. One movie, Field of Dreams, coincided with the growing book banning ( burning, thank you) trends in states like Texas. And of course, the increasing number of laws banning ANY kind of discussion about sexuality, gender, race or that terrifying trend, Critical Race Theory, which, by any other name, is revisionist history being challenged by actual lived history by Black folks, who might know a thing or two about race.
In case you forgot that scene in the wake of all the baseball nostalgia the movie brings up, let me replay that scene here, because we are in the middle of this right now:
While this scene is supposed to be funny, right now it sure isn't. Because it's real, front and center. There is a reason people burn books. They are fearful of smart people who ask hard, learned questions. They are fearful of change and challenge and growth. Suddenly the Dark Ages are looking pretty good to a whole lotta folks, including a lot of our neighbors. Please see this article:
When people read, they learn. When they learn, they think, God help us all. When they think, they question. When they question, lots of things happen, including the breaking down of systems that never worked in the first place, except for those invested in keeping people uneducated.
As in women kept dumb, pregnant, barefoot, which sounds like heaven to the MAGA boys.
There is a damned good reason slave owners forbade education. It's the same reason Malala was shot. She dared to get educated:
They turned her into a super power. Now they really, REALLY fear her for good reason. The same the Evangelicals, wild-eyed Far Right fear the same kind of smart, savvy, educated female, especially of color, in today's backsliding America.
The printing press transformed the world, and the entire future of humanity. And if you doubt, here's a homework assignment:
Making science, poetry, stories, all of this accessible made nearly everything we take for granted today possible. Taking away books, discussion, literature and the fundamental right of all of us to use our brains is an act of terror. No other way around it.
I read. There are likely six books in play at any time at my house. I grew up reading all kinds of things; my parents were voracious readers. I consumed Catch-22 before I was ten. I just grabbed a book, any book, and read it. During the summers I inhaled seven books a week, the maximum my small town library allowed. I went through books the way other kids went through cartoons.
I still do. Because I like to think for myself. That's scary to the fearful, uber-religious religious right, dictators, men with small members and the women who enable them, and every single person on earth who understands that to be educated is to be able to shut down foolish arguments, rise up and demand better.
How dare we.
However if you are on your phone all day and all night, you're not reading unless you're on your Kindle. You're just distracted, which is precisely where the Patriarchy wants you: distracted, stupified, dumbed-down and easily manipulated into believing any damned thing. Distracted people don't think, and they sure as hell don't think critically.
The word lemmings comes to mind.
This caught my eye yesterday:
First, this article speaks to the unspeakable cost of what happens when kids and adults can't or don't read: we slide backwards. That is very much to the advantage of dictators, which is precisely the point. The less we read, the more unsophisticated, the more malleable, the more easily manipulated we are by fear.
The well-educated Black woman has got to be the single greatest threat to the White Male Patriarchy. Imagine one on the Supreme Court. Holy Crap. One that outlives, out-maneuvers, out-argues some of the cretins who have recently been installed, who value religious Rights (the capital R is intentional) over basic public safety, in a move towards extraordinary collective stupidity and selfishness. But that is of course my (educated) opinion.
Lest you missed that story:
I read. And I also represent that Great Danger to Society, the well-educated, well-read, extensively-traveled independent Single Woman, who thinks, writes, challenges.
There is a damned good reason the extreme Right is terrified of the educated female mind.
There is an even greater reason the extreme Right is terrified of the educated Black female mind.
Does the name Leticia James resonate, by any chance? Does with me.
The incredible raft of recent legislation ranging from book banning to punishing educators for DARING to discuss America's racist history is summed up neatly in a story I heard yesterday on National Public Radio. Terry Gross, who in my mind is one of radio's finest interviewers, along with Jeffrey Sachs peels back the fast-changing landscape of America's schools as racist, woman-hating legislators race to ensure that nobody learns the truth about race, or about women's right to manage their own bodies. The penalties are considerable, and there is an "or else."
That "or else" in North Dakota already cost one brilliant (educated woman) her job, for she dared to do research with Planned Parenthood.
From the NPR piece:
Critical race theory, an academic approach that examines how race and racism function in American institutions, has inspired a backlash in conservative circles across the United States. In one of his first acts in office, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican governor of Virginia, established a hotline to allow parents or members of the community to report critical race theory in the classroom. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, a conservative mom's group is offering a $500 bounty to catch teachers who break a state law prohibiting certain teachings about racism and sexism.
So now we have states and racist women's organizations enabling people to tattle on their neighbors if someone needs, abets or aids an abortion, or dares to teach any kind of truth about America's deeply racist past. I guess nobody read the book Animal Farm.
Oh, wait. You have to be able to read first. My bad.
This is America, the New Land of Backward-Sliding, Bible-Thumping, Fearmongering Illiterates?
Sure looks like that to me.
This is just one of the many, many MANY anti-human actions from voting restrictions aimed at Black communities to controlling smart women to controlling women's bodies.
America has officially entered the Dark Ages, to my mind. The people who don't want us to know have read a lot. Trump read Mein Kampf, do I really need to add to that sentence?
We are becoming illiterate in more ways than one. Please see:
From that article:
- Nationwide, on average, 79% of U.S. adults are literate in 2022.
- 21% of adults in the US are illiterate in 2022.
- 54% of adults have a literacy below 6th grade level.
- Low levels of literacy costs the US up to 2.2 trillion per year.
- 34% of adults who lack proficiency in literacy were born outside the US.
- Massachusetts was the state with the highest rate of child literacy.
- New Mexico was the state with the lowest child literacy rate.
- The state with the highest percentage of adults who were considered literate was New Hampshire.
- The state with the lowest adult literacy rate was California.
- On average, nationwide, 66% of 4th grade children in the U.S. could not read proficiently in 2013.
We wonder why folks are so gullible. They can't read, they can't think, therefore they are intellectually crippled.
But wait, that's not all. This is hardly just us. For example:
The Polish government has begun to change how Poles understand Auschwitz. That's terrifying to the Jewish people who are watching their own lived history being rewritten as those who actually lived it are dying out. As those lights to truth dim, so do peoples' memories, which is precisely how we end up repeating history. Dictators are very, very, VERY good at this. That is why Trump studied Hitler's works.
People who read voraciously keep the lights on.
Other people who read voraciously are determined to keep those lights OFF because if others also read, then their agendas can't move forward. The world's great readers know the value of books. One camp wants everyone to read.
The other, Mein Kamp, pardon the play on words, is determined to keep knowledge limited, manipulated and controlled.
My closest Black female friends all have PhDs. Many of my other female friends also have PhDs, and I have published two books which damned near qualifies. I'm not a researcher but I am a voracious reader. My PhD is in life lived, which is the gathering of vastly different ideas, ways of life, cultures, experiences. That is a whole other kind of education.
I would posit that millions of the world's best minds, female, both Black and female, Brown and female, Black and Brown of any gender, have been prevented from making a contribution to society by systematic limitation of access to education, to say nothing of opportunity. Better Black writers than I am have pointed this out, but this is just an article pointing out where we are heading as a nation.
The rich push their kids through Ivy League colleges by money, not merit, which means we have future oligarchy leaders without any kind of an education. We are already electing shockingly stupid people, people so embarrassingly ignorant they would have failed potty training.
Forgive me. They DID fail potty training. They now hold office and are influencing legislation to make the rest of America as ignorant, racist and illiterate as they are. Does that make me a liberal or a progressive?
Nope. It means I believe in a well-educated, well-versed population, the America that was once that shining light, that is getting poop painted all over that beacon while the rest of the world looks on in horror.
Education is getting so expensive that too many families can't afford it, and now education from K-12 is under blitzkreig attack to ensure that even if you ARE in school, you sure as hell aren't going to get an education. You might get a baby sitter but increasingly it's hard to get any kind of learning.
Education has already gone underground. In a lot of homes, that wasn't a good idea. In others, it was damned near the only way that Black and Brown kids could safely learn about their own history without fear of reprisal, constant bullying and hate-mongering. That, for many Black families, was a gift from Covid.
So, two Americas. One, slipping into increasingly iffy ideas and beliefs, determined to roll back any kind of advances made by women, minorities and people who still envision America as a place of light and life and possibility. Don't believe me? Tune into today's Twittersphere.
The rest of us are reading. Thinking. Talking. Like adult human beings. And we're also writing. And questioning. Some of us are backing away from social media's mind suck because we want to read. Really read great thick tomes, stuff that makes us think and consider and weep and laugh and question.
I can't speak for you. But I scrape these trends and share them because I listen, I read, I talk to people. If you're not seeing this, I might suggest putting some time in to reading history and find out what happens to a nation that stops thinking. Reading. And begins to distrust those who do.
It ain't pretty.
But like every creeping evil, this trend doesn't respond well to light. As in, enlightenment, driven by education, informed discussion, respect for the written word, diverse people and ideas, and the truth that life isn't found in the dark, protected recesses of our fears. Inclusion vs. exclusion, exploration vs. hiding in the shadow.
It is found in challenging those fears. Otherwise we will become a nation of Gollums.
Let's put down our phones and read.