A 19th-century German philosopher once asserted that the educators must be educated, the point being what was passing for knowledge and learning in the world seemed, based on the state of the world and its lack of universal well-being, perhaps more than arguably was not serving us well.
I always find it worthwhile to try to understand those with whom I most disagree and to decipher the experiences and psychologies animating their belief systems. It helps me understand why the world is the way it is and why it’s not the way I’d like it to be. And also what I need to address in seeking to transform the world. Transformation tends to begin with understanding others, not just dismissing them.
In his State of the Union Address, Trump took a swipe at what he called “failing government schools.”
Most of us use the term “public school” or talk about “public education,” as we refer to institutions set up by, for, and of the people.
Trump, of course, is talking about public schools, but his choice to re-name them “government schools” is consequential. This phrase is not aimed at making public schools appear as institutions central to supporting the public good, to undergirding any hope for equality and freedom in this country, and to enabling the vast majority of Americans to access education. Rather, he makes these schools sound repressive and imprisoning, not enabling and liberating. (And I’m not suggesting there aren’t issues of gross inequality in our public school system.)
Certainly, the phrase “government take-over” is never used positively, as when opponents of, say, universal healthcare decry a “government take-over” of the healthcare system.
In short, substituting the adjective “government” for “public” can make any institution sound like a top-down, inefficient messy operation. Sadly, these are just the connotations the word has become saddled with over time, deserved or not.
And in many cases, it is not deserved. Remember when Tea Party activists used to wave signs demanding “Keep your goddamn government hands off my medicare”? People loved their government-run healthcare; they just didn’t know it because the right wing has trained so many Americans reflexively to hate government (even when the right wing controls it!) and automatically see it as the enemy and as inefficient.
Indeed, the world had been turned upside down for these Americans, as they protested against their own interests, railing against a government that administered the very program they wanted.
The same is true in the case of Trump referring to “failing government schools.” The phrasing is designed to get folks on board with defunding the public schools on which most Americans depend, promising them more “choice” and better schools.
But what’s really behind Trump’s words?
Let’s listen and then unpack. Here’s what he said Tuesday night:
“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Trump said. “Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”
The solution is to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, legislation proposed by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and endorsed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. This act would provide $5 billion worth of annual tax credits to encourage individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit scholarship funds. Families could apply for these funds to send their children to private and religious schools or potentially other kinds of vocational training or certification.
But what’s really behind this proposal? Why not actually have not just “government run” schools but schools that are actually sufficiently—and why not lavishly?—“government funded”?
We can’t separate Trump’s call for an “inclusive society” and attack on public education from his call for what he calls “religious liberty,” which is intimately linked to Attorney General William Barr’s and DeVos’s agenda of dismantling the division between church and state, imposing a right-wing Christian worldview on public institutions (or eliminating them), and de-funding the public sector.
Compare what Trump said in last Tuesday’s address to what Barr said in a speech last October at Notre Dame’s law school.
“My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools,” he said. “In America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God.”
A recent study conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia may very well provide some very valuable insights to help Americans understand and assess President Trump’s behaviors, beliefs, and policy positions.
This study, published in Intelligence magazine, identifies a correlation between homophobia and lower cognitive abilities, linking hatred and prejudice with lower intelligence.
The study relied on three fundamental and standard tests for measuring cognitive ability and functioning and also asked each participant in the study their opinion on the following statement: “Homosexual couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples.”
Those who disagreed with this statement, openly acknowledging their homophobia, performed poorer on the standardized tests.
Now, Trump has spent a lot of time trying to convince Americans and really anyone who will listen, that he is really smart.
Earlier this year, in a tweet of course, he informed us, “[M]y two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” letting us know that he is “a very stable genius.” And he likes to remind us that attended an Ivy League university.
So, it’s easy for us to believe he’s smart.
Luckily we have this new study, rooted in neuroscience and neuropsychology, which gives us evidence-based research to understand that Trump isn’t smart. We might have just thought he’s a “P*&%y-grabbing genius” hater who likes to defend the white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville who feared being replaced by Jews.
We can now question his self-assessment as “a very stable genius” and confidently conclude that he’s not just a hater, he’s stupid—and he’s peddling stupidity.
If we believe in science, that is.
And this stupidity is dangerously informing his policy and Republican policy overall.
Consider the following:
*Recently, the department of Health and Human Services finalized a regulatory change that would allow health care providers to deny care, even life-saving care, if they feel doing so violates their personal beliefs.
This policy invention of the Trump-Pence administration promises to make it harder for LGBTQ people, who already experience healthcare disparities because of discrimination, to access healthcare. Already 23% of transgender people avoid seeking necessary care because of fear of discrimination. Further 56% of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people and 70% of transgender or non-gender-conforming people report experiencing discrimination when they do seek healthcare, through outright refusal to provide care, harsh language, or physical roughness in the administering of care.
We can see now that this policy is not the fruit of intelligence, but downright thorough stupidity.
*Trump sought to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military. The Supreme Court recently upheld this ban.
Now we can see that Trump and the five Supreme Court Justices who affirmed Trump’s policy are not just homophobic haters; they’re absolutely stupid.
Yes, even those most educated among us can be hateful and stupid, confirming Karl Marx’s precept that “The educators must be educated.”
*The Supreme Court will soon rule in a case that will determine whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex” (thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg) extends protections for transgender and LGBTQ people in the workplace and in employment practices.
The attempt to deny such protections, arguing that the meaning of the word “sex” does not include sexual orientation or transgender identities, is in line with the overall ideology and ethos the Trump administration has supported and pushed quite aggressively.
This aggression and hate, we now know thanks to this study, verifies the suspicion many of us have been harboring that this policy is not the product of intelligence or stable genius, but rather pure and unadulterated stupidity.
Trump is not just a hater; he’s “stoopid” with two O’s.
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