The time period after the fall of the Roman Empire was called the Dark Ages. During this period of time, millions died of diseases like the Black Plague and science was cast away as heresy. Understanding our world was only permitted to the extent conclusions upheld the worldview of the Church. Common knowledge, in effect, was dictated by propaganda and enforced by fear. Formal education was only driven by data to the extent that such data could be presented in a way that was compliant toward the ruling Theocracy.
Fast forward to the present day United States of America. With the rise of the Internet and cable television, people are no longer exposed only to the homogeneous views of three networks and their local newspaper. Product development has become much more of a meritocracy and disruption has become easier to achieve with a brilliant idea or even an incendiary headline. One may conclude that this can only lead to more openness of communication and greater understanding of the world among all citizens.
Sadly, that isn’t what has occurred and a much darker application of “open communication” has emerged. We are now in the era of truth not being based on fact; for many “truth” is now in the eye of the beholder.
Much has been said of the false news on social networks as a driver of the results of the most recent election. It is hard to understand, from the outside, why such a large number of individuals would embrace information that seems as obviously false as the headlines of the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids. How can we understand this behavior and how did we get here?
In recent interviews, Scottie Nell Hughes, a frequent Trump surrogate, stated that “there’s no such thing [truth], unfortunately, anymore, of facts“. When Donald Trump tweets that “millions of people illegally voted” it isn’t necessary to back that statement up with evidence. It is only necessary to cater to what his audience wants to believe. It is their truth and that is what matters.
The exchange above is terrifying, and perhaps more terrifying is thinking about how much the way people define truth actually defines the way education is approached. At the end of the day, the ability of citizens to obtain an education, to reason and to use logic in decision making is critical to the survival of the Republic. These are the very things under assault today, as Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be Secretary of Education for the incoming Trump administration.
DeVos is a billionaire, who by family is connected to Blackrock and is married to an Amway heir. The DeVos clan have used their vast fortune to fund programs and ballot measures to approve school vouchers and fund charter schools across the country. These programs take money out of the public school system (which DeVos believes is a failure and needs competition to flourish), allowing parents to choose where they want to put their education tax dollars.
On the surface, there are many arguments for and against this kind of structure; but one critical element that has nothing to do with better schools and competition has emerged. Aside from being a wealthy billionaire, DeVos is a devout Christian and the reasons she may advocate for school choice may not be so straightforward.
In 2001, DeVos spoke at a conference organized by a group called “Fishers“. During her recorded speech (I emphasize recorded, as recorded comments are indisputable), DeVos stated “..Church, which ought to be, in our view, far more central to the life of the community, has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity”.
Dick DeVos, Betsy’s husband, then followed this comment by stating “someday, for all parents to be able to educate their children in a school that reflects their worldview and not each day sending their child to a school that may be reflecting a worldview quite antithetical ― which, unfortunately, is the case in some places ― to the worldview that they hold in their family.”
Think about this for a second. In a world where so much advancement due to math and science has taken humanity out of the dark ages, the DeVos family wants to leverage school vouchers and competition as a method of diverting money to faith based academic education. An education where facts that are not inline with the worldviews of individual families can be declared as untrue and an alternate set of facts can be indoctrinated upon the youth of America.
With DeVos in charge of the Department of Education, this approach could potentially be endorsed as an accepted standard for education in America.
Let’s think about the last time Christian biblical rule and facts associated with education had a conflict of interest. Black Plague anyone? I don’t think this is what voters meant when they said they wanted to Make America Great Again.