Friday, June 03, 2011

Green Tea Party educational policy

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill. (Marcus Aurelius)

Public education in the United States has always been fraught with political complexity. Consider the following facts about the history of public education in the United States.

  • There was no system of public education until the late 1820s.
  • The decision to provide public education was motivated by the thought that citizens in a democracy should be sufficiently literate to become informed about political and social issues so that they could make informed choices when voting. Since women did not have the right to vote in many states until the 19th amendment was added (passed by Congress June 4, 1919 and ratified August 18, 1920), public education was offered only to males at first.
  • Because it was widely believed that without a solid moral education, a person would not be capable of making good decisions in voting, moral education was seen as of the greatest importance in public education.
  • Because it was widely believed that there can be no morality in the absence of religion, it was decided that the Bible should be at the center of a boy's public education. But since the first amendment prohibits the establishment of a religion by Congress, it was decided that children would be taught no particular religious doctrines; each child would be allowed to interpret the Bible in his own way and to arrive at his own understanding of its moral teachings.
  • Almost immediately, there were major protests against the newly formed system of public education based on what was called non-sectarianism.
    • Conservative Christians claimed that the educational system showed a strong liberal permissive bias (because it gave freedom to students to interpret the Bible in their own way) and a Unitarian bias (since the doctrine of the Trinity was not allowed to be taught). Many leading evangelical Christians therefore threatened to refuse to pay taxes that would support schools that they could not in good conscience send their own children to.
    • Catholics claimed that the educational system showed a strong Protestant bias, since all students would be taught from an English translation of the Bible that was not approved by the Vatican. Moreover, a document from the Vatican declared that allowing people to read the Bible without the guidance of properly trained priests is deliramentum (folly, nonsense, madness). Many leading Catholics therefore refused to pay taxes that would support schools that they could not in good conscience send their own children to. (This issue became so heated at times that riots broke out. In the worst of the so-called Bible Riots, nineteen Roman Catholics were killed, and several Catholic churches were burned to the ground.)

The issue of public education has become even more complex now than it was in the nineteenth century. The demographics of the country have changed significantly with the result that a religious text associated with Christianity is no longer suitable as a basis for public education. Although 76% of the US population are people who identify themselves as Christian (51% Protestant and 25% Roman Catholic), 15% consider themselves as having no religious beliefs and another 5% say they do not know what their religious beliefs are. 4–5% of the US population identify themselves as following a religion other than Christianity. (See source of these data.) Taking societal and demographic factors into consideration, the Green Tea Party recommends the following policies for public education.

  1. Given the importance of moral education, but taking into consideration the need to maintain a non-sectarian (and preferably non-religious) basis for morality, all students in public school should be exposed to a broad spectrum of the moral thinkers who have influenced human beings throughout recorded history. At the minimum these thinkers should include Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Mengzi (Mencius), Zhuangzi, Zhuxi and Wang Yangming.
  2. Given the importance of historical context for any public policies, all students in public school should have a thorough grounding in the histories of ancient Mesopotamia and of all the continents on the earth.
  3. Given the importance of religion in human history, every public school student should receive an education in the histories, beliefs and practices of all the major religions of the world. Given the breadth and depth of this topic, comparative religions should be taught every year of a student's educational career.
  4. Given the importance of reasoning and critical thinking, every student should receive training every year in informal logic, formal logic and mathematics. This should be supplemented with a grounding in the theory and practice of scientific method.
  5. Given the importance of knowing a human being's place in the natural world, every public school student should have a grounding in astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology and geology, with an emphasis on the canons of reasoning and assessment of evidence practiced in each of these scientific disciplines.
  6. Given the importance of understanding how laws are made and interpreted, every student in a public school should study some aspect of constitutional law, how bills are formulated and approved by the Congress, the functions of the executive branch and a history of Supreme Court decisions. Such education should be a part of every year of his or her educational career. Every student should also receive an education in state and municipal government.
  7. Given the importance of languages as an access to cultures, and given the fundamental importance of multiculturalism in today's world, and given the ease with with young children learn languages, every student in an American public school should be taught, from the Kindergarten level to the completion of secondary education, at least the following languages: English, Spanish, and French, plus one Asian language, one African language and one native American language. (Given that Kindergarten is a German word, and given the importance of both the Germans and the Dutch in early America, every child should also learn German or Dutch, or at least Norwegian.)
  8. Every child who is a resident of the United States should receive the basic education described above, and this education, and all educational materials necessary to carry it out, should be completely funded by federal monies. All students should receive allowances for transportation to and from school and for healthy food consumed during school hours. (Students caught eating Oreo cookies provided by Red Tea Party mavericks during school hours should lose their food allowance privileges for a week.)
  9. The core curriculum should be determined by the federal government; no state or municipality should have the right to determine its own curriculum for any subject other than state and municipal history or civics.
  10. No educational institution funded by public monies should have a sports team that competes with other institutions of learning. Monies now wasted on inter varsity sports should be diverted to exercise and fitness programs and courses in basic nutrition, which should be available to all students but required of all students whose BMI index places them in the overweight or obese range.
  11. No person who has not successfully gone through the curriculum designed by the federal ministry of education should have the right to vote in any elections at any level of government unless he or she has passed an examination equivalent to that required of all naturalized citizens. (This is in keeping with one of the Green Tea Party's principles, namely, that unearned citizenship is a contradiction in terms.

Some Americans, especially those given to extraordinary levels of ignorance, may object to what they see as too large a role played by the federal government under a Green Tea regime. The official Green Tea Party response to such people is “Tough carrots!” Let people who have no interest in responsible democracy move to a plutocracy, where all their thinking is manipulated by greedy capitalists and where hardly anything is available but misinformation carefully doled out by people with vested commercial interests. As for America, may it become a democracy in which political decisions are made by representatives chosen by informed voters who have demonstrated their abilities to think critically and for themselves. That is, after all, what the Founding Fathers and Mothers had in mind.