The Root Cause?

It’s an Election Year, and as much as one can try to stay away from the constant “Us vs. Them” headlines, it’s impossible not to consider the options, their potential impact on the future of our country, and the root cause of our issues. So how do I feel about the options before me? Well, they’re not great, to say the least. It’s a shame that the choice of the next leader of our country comes down to selecting the lesser of two evils. In a country with more than 318 million people, you’d think we could find at least one individual with the experience, morals, and intestinal fortitude for the job, and more importantly, someone that an overwhelming majority can agree is best for it.

Alas, the system continues to succeed in fracturing our population. Leaders on both sides have us believe that our nation’s problems can be attributed to those “lunatics” on the other side of the aisle, and that it is their responsibility to fix them. Or scarier yet, that it is our responsibility to eliminate the source of the problems. As far as I can tell, we have a major attribution problem in this country. I hate to break it to anyone who is yet to realize it, but the problems are ALL OF OURS. And they will require cooperation from EVERYONE if we truly wish to fix them.

Maybe Mark Twain was right when he said, “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” Perhaps this sentiment hits home in light of recent events, when it seems as though the system is rigged against us. But while the purest form of democracy may not be intact here in the U.S., we still retain the right to express our opinions through multiple outlets. I can’t help but agree with another quote often attributed to Twain: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.” For the benefit of the reader, I’ll clarify that reason, it’s because they’re FULL OF SHIT!! But we must act to change them when the smell becomes unbearable. If we don’t, we have no room for complaint.

Anyhow, I have digressed. The main issue at hand, as far as I can see, is the divisiveness of politics. There can be no reasonable consensus as long as we continue to argue over the minutia. Petty issues distract us while large, systemic problems go unnoticed and unsolved. At the root of many of our country’s current dilemmas lies the inadequacy of our education system. And still, I have yet to hear any candidate utter (aside from Bernie in relation to the student loan debt crisis) a peep of acknowledgement that a problem even exists, not to mention exploring potential solutions to that problem.

The lack of compassion for fellow men and women. Limited understanding of global systems and the interconnected nature of human existence. The propensity to attribute issues to external sources before considering internal solutions. A set of priorities that values money over health, happiness, and diversity. The tendency to jump to conclusions and act to extremes before working towards a fuller understanding of the situation.

These are just a few symptoms of our education system’s failures. I, for one, feel as if I spent more time in grade school memorizing twisted truths than exploring our creativity and seeking useful knowledge. Some of us are lucky to get out with any shred of creativity and ability for critical thinking still intact. I am not the first to suggest this, and I will not be the last, not by a long shot.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” –Albert Einstein

“Our rapidly moving, information-based society badly needs people who know how to find facts rather than memorize them, and who know how to cope with change in creative ways. You don’t learn those things in school.” –Wendy Priesnitz

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.” –Noam Chomsky

“Do not train children in learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” –Plato

“There is no neutral education. Education is either for domestication or for freedom.” –Joao Coutinho

“We destroy the disinterested (I do not mean uninterested) love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards — gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards…in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else…We kill, not only their curiosity, but their feeling that it is a good and admirable thing to be curious, so that by the age of ten most of them will not ask questions, and will show a good deal of scorn for the few who do.” –John Holt

The list goes on and on. But we all have places to be and people to see. The likelihood that you’ve made it this far, in today’s age of the TL;DR epidemic, already seems quite low. But if you have, thank you! You’ve beaten the odds, and I’m sorry that I don’t have a more elegant solution to present in this moment. In truth, I have ideas for solution, but I believe the first step to be a more widespread acknowledgement that the issue exists. Once we admit to the problem, then we can come together to explore healthy solutions, not only for the present, but also for our common future.