"What did you learn in school today, sweet little boy of mine?"
Tom Paxton wrote this song about the failure of the education system to be honest with young students.
"I learned that Washington never told a lie. I learned that soldiers seldom die. I learned that everybody's free; and that's what the teacher said to me."
Vietnam taught us that our government can lie. We saw soldiers die on television, and witnessed blacks beaten by policemen. We learned the truths about the men our history books told us were heroes and the deeper truth about the how American values could be readily devalued when those with money and power could benefit.
Simon and Garfunkel sang about "all the crap we learned in high school."
That was decidedly different than what’s happening today. Back then parents wanted us to have the education many of them didn’t. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school. My parents wanted that for me and they would have never dreamed of demanding that teachers use the valuable opportunity to educate young minds in order to impose narrow political, religious, or social beliefs.
My parents figured it was their responsibility to teach me to pray, not some teacher’s. The thought never occurred to them that they knew better than a teacher what I needed to know about science, history, or social studies.
My father had only a third grade education but that was enough for him to know what he didn't know. Back then the John Birch Society had just begun to teach its right-wing followers the ideological benefits of taking over the local PTA and school board. The Birchers didn't accomplish that goal but did set in motion what we are dealing with today.
In their wildest dreams, the Birchers could never have imagined their ideological heirs would have entire radio and television networks espousing their views, when the concentration of economic power would become a tool for controlling the levers of education. More important, the early Birchers, who were ironically centered in Cody, would have never thought it possible so many people would be willing to ignore the educational needs of their children in order to promote someone else’s agenda.
That’s what we are seeing today in the Cody school board war over textbooks and elsewhere across the state. It’s a critical battle to determine whether we produce minds that can move our nation and world forward - or backward.
There are too many parents on the sideline while the right-wingers exert influence on how our children will be educated. Former Senator Al Simpson called the fringe "goofy." They are goofy. How goofy are they and what kind of a goofy education do they seek for your children?
A recent Cal Thomas column claimed preschool education was a liberal attempt to get at the minds of young folks a year or two earlier. They want textbooks that teach that evolution is "only a theory" while Biblical myths are science; that depict America as a Christian nation whose treatment of Native Americans and African slaves was simply a part of divinely ordained manifest destiny. Many want your children to question whether the Holocaust ever happened. They want children to deny climate change, ignoring 97 percent of legitimate scientists in favor of those they choose to believe in order to support their odd views.
Science, critical thinking, and social diversity are threats to a way of life that God didn't intend would endure. They can drink their tea but should not be allowed to force their Kool-Aid on our children. The Bible says, "The secret things belong to The Lord; but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever (Deuteronomy 29:29)”. Perhaps we should put more trust in God's revelations and teach them to our children.
"What did you learn in school today, sweet little child of mine?"
Who'd have thought Tom Paxton's lyrical question would become a political and religious battleground?