By Robert Schmidt
In my book “Natural Born Leader-A Tribute to the American Political System,” my character The Ronald plans to select the Honorable Reverend Jim Bob Bunker, President of the University of Enlightened Angels and leader of the conservative Christian Coalition of Saved Souls, to serve as his Secretary of Education. The Ronald promises conservative Christians a score of educational reforms, including:
- No more sex education-all teenagers need to know is abstinence. Once they’re married, they can figure it out on their wedding night.
- No more evolution-dinosaur bones are fakes, produced and buried in remote locations by Democrats, Communists and Atheists.
- No more conventional history-they’ll still teach ancient history and modern history, but we might know it better as the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I thought I’d delivered enough fictional nuttiness through The Ronald, but I fell short in predicting The Donald’s actual nuttiness. I failed you and I promise to do better in the sequel (i.e. way more nutty).
The Donald’s real Secretary of Education, Elisabeth DeVos, doesn’t even have the educational credentials of my fictional character Reverend Bunker. She does seem to possess his wide-eyed — is it the Holy Ghost or another manic episode? — religious fervor.
I’ll state for the record that I’m an old, white, male protestant in good standing (I’m Lutheran, and not the fun kind — my Synod has a state’s name in it). I’m also a product of the public school system from 1st grade to my B.S. (B.S. represents my degree, my initials and my personality) and I feel that system served me well.
I firmly believe, like Jefferson, in the separation between church and state. All religions, Christianity included, can be held accountable for some of man-kinds greatest triumphs and greatest tragedies. One of those tragedies was the Christian crusades, an adventure our current government seems hell-bent on repeating.
DeVos’s recent comments on the role of historically black colleges in America underscores her fixation on a single goal — divert federal education money to mostly white, middle to upper middle class, Christian Americans. The African-Americans who initially attended these colleges did make a choice, but it wasn’t “should I attend Tuskegee University or should I attend the University of Alabama?” They chose the only education they were allowed to have over poverty, ignorance and servitude to a white dominated society that wasn’t willing to embrace the concept that “all men are created equal.”
History has offered African-Americans similar choices:
- Should I board this ship and sail to a life of slavery or should I die?
- Should I ride in the back of the bus or should I walk?
- Should I drink from a fountain that defines me as “Colored” or should I go thirsty?
- Should I live on my side of the tracks or should I go homeless?
- Should I take the jobs I’m allowed to take or should I starve?
Her comments remind us that there is more than just the 142 years in time that separates the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln from today’s Republican Party. The far right is quick to fall back on the Constitution when it suits their politics. Somehow, the right of the people to keep and bear arms has morphed into the right of a mentally unstable individual to collect automatic weapons. When the Constitution becomes more of a liability than an excuse, it gets buried. Good luck to freedom of the press.
The Constitution warns that in America, one religion should not be favored above another. If DeVos manages to expand the boundaries of federal fund use for private schools, what is our confidence that they will continue to consider students with economic hardships or racial and religious diversity? If we think private means better run or more accountable, we need to read about the DeVos Detroit Charter boondoggle. I’m thankful I’m old, because my school days are done. I can picture education in America circa 2020:
- High schools will have removed the U.S. Civics exam requirement-there won’t be enough of the Constitution left to test against. In order to graduate, seniors will have to be able to recite The Lord’s Prayer.
- The Donald told the press he thought he’d earned an A+ for effort and a C for communication. He forgot to talk about a grade for results. Let’s hope our school system doesn’t end up like Trump University-we’ll spend the money, everyone will get an A+ for effort, but our kids won’t learn anything.
- Everything we buy will be designed and made in America by law, but as our educational system erodes and our product’s designers and builders get less competent, we’ll have the highest number of consumer safety accidents in the world.
- The Donald has insinuated that the protests against his presidency are the work of President Obama. I voted for Obama twice, but I don’t need his counsel to realize I need to protest the current regime. The protests against the Trump White House can’t be blamed on the 44th President, or for that matter, the 43rd or the 42nd President. They are all about the 45thPresident.
- The Donald is at war with many factions, and Hollywood is among them. If he really wants to exercise the limits of the executive order, he should replace Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs with Governor Chris Christie. It’ll stifle Hollywood’s criticism of The Donald AND reward Christie for being among the first establishment politicians to legitimize The Donald’s candidacy. The Donald can use Christie to ensure Hollywood makes more quality films like Hillary’s America. I think the first thing he’ll do when he hits LA is buy a map. The rotund Republican will want to find the location of Pink’s hot dogs and identify all the bridges connecting major film studios to the rest of LA.
- Speaking of films, U.S. documentary film makers have to be excited about the next 4 years. They’ll be able to make a movie about a right wing dictator and the plight of his oppressed people without dirtying their passport or traveling to a third world country.