Yes, the title comes from the Pete Seeger song of the same name, but it is not necessarily an anti-war piece. War is fought in ignorance and misunderstanding; leaders use the ignorance of the people to justify their actions. Sometimes it is a long held ignorance; other times, it is an ignorance that comes through fear. There are those who would and do stand up and point out the futility but their voices are often drowned by the cries of the populace who do not understand and are willing to let others tell them what to think and do.
In the spring, flowers bloom. With the blooming of the flowers, comes the promise of a new generation. Each generation should see that the next generation can move beyond the present; each generation should see that the next generation is the best and brightest. But with each day I wonder if that is the case. Are we demanding excellence in our schools today? Or have we confused excellence with mediocrity and is success equated with something other than doing the best that you can? I have posted my thoughts on this before (see “To Search for Excellence” and “Defining Excellence”).
But a number of things have transpired over the past few days that cause me to reconsider excellence, success, and where our country, society, and civilization may be headed. Consider if you will, in no particular order, the following:
- Kinoki foot pads
- Nigerian bank scams
- Problems with your colon
- “if it’s on TV, it must be true”
There are others that I could list but good taste and commons sense prevent me from doing so. Do I need to keep going?
My first thought when I see the commercials for some of these products, when I pass through the representative infomercial while late night channel surfing, or when I receive e-mails touting various financial opportunities is “do these people think I am stupid?” I may be flaky but I don’t think that I am so stupid to think that a pad glued to the bottom of my foot is going to detoxify my body of some mysterious substance. I am certainly not going to send someone money in the hopes of receiving a fabulous sum of money (and that includes certain religious types who will send me a small square of cloth or a vial of oil in return for my check). I do know that I will get sick if I listen to someone tell me that my physical problems are related to 20 pounds of junk stuck in my colon.
I supposed I could dismiss all of the above as garbage and let it go at that but then I read a letter to the editor in my local paper. The other day, someone wanted our local government to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. One of the reasons listed in the resolution was that they had lied to the American people concerning the reasons for the Iraq war. There are a number of communities who are doing this and it may be the ground swell that is needed for this country but that is for another time and post.
In this particular letter to the editor, however, the writer pointed out that we went into Iraq because 1) Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and 2) Iraq was a training ground for Al-Qaeda. Here it is, how many years after the fact and there are still people who accept those statements as truth?
As far as I know, while Iraq may have had such weapons in the past (they did use poison gas in the war against Iran and against the Kurds), no one found any such weapons when we got there. Second, even though it appears that Al-Qaeda is present in Iraq today, there is no evidence there were using Iraq as a training ground before we invaded. And if they were in Iraq before the war started, why did we invade Afghanistan?
After I wrote the post entitled “Death and Dignity” I sent copies of it to my Congressman and Senators. To my Congressman’s credit, he sent it to FEMA and asked for comment, especially the part where I suggested that the excavation of the Twin Towers was done for monetary reasons rather than human dignity. The response from FEMA indicated that
The blog is about war, drifting into vague suggestions about wrongdoing in the recovery work at the World Trade Center. The constituent’s article is a series of his and others’ opinions; it is not a factual document. (Letter from William H. Douglass, Congressional Liaison, External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency)
There were no vague suggestions about wrongdoing; maybe I wasn’t clear but I did identify the source of my thoughts and I gave a link (which still works). I think that what I wrote was very factual.
This society has quickly become one in which critical thinking and analyses are fast becoming lost arts. While the economy and a viable solution to the Iraq war are the major topics in the political debate today, I think the number one issue facing the American people today, in fact the major issue of civilization, is education. There are serious problems with our schools and we need to advance some serious solutions to fix the problems. We have deluded ourselves into thinking that laws such as “No Child Left Behind” will do the trick.
But has been said before and will probably be said for several years to come, all this “wonderful” law has done is turn the children of this nation into test-taking wizards. But it has done nothing to help our children think; nor should it we expect that it would. We, as a society, have become accustomed to the quick fix and that is what NCLB is.
We hear that our children are the most computer-literate generation. In one sense, that is true. They are very technologically literate and they have the ability to do many different things. But how many of our children can take a picture using their cell phone and transfer it to a word file as part of a report about something? The ability to text message is a very nice ability to have but how does that transfer to a learning of grammar and writing in general?
In the meantime, our media flourishes in an environment where the only serious discussions are about celebrities and the problems of their life. Television in the fifties and early sixties was often marked by serious discussions of the problems in America but we often do not see them on television today. Any discussion of America’s problems is lead by self-proclaimed experts who will tell you the answer and that your input is worthless and without value.
Our society has become one where intelligence is to be frowned upon and you are labeled a troublemaker or reactionary if you should challenge the status quo.
Education should be liberating, not limiting. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Education should develop skills in people so that they can question and challenge authority, not simply following the statements of its leaders.
We are faced with a challenge in today’s society and civilization. The questions that we will face, both those that are asked today and those that will be asked in the future, are becoming increasingly more and more difficulty. But our ability to answer them and create the solutions to solve the problems that we do not know about is disappearing just as fast.
If each generation’s children are the flowers of that generation, we are going to be asking pretty soon “where have all the flowers gone?”