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by Tera Noel Bottorff
Sunday, Apr. 13, 2003 at 12:21 PM
Thomas Jefferson, in framing the Constitution, felt that in order for our Republic
to function effectively and protect our freedoms, it was essential that we educate
every citizen so that they could question those in power.
The greatest threat to our country today is not Saddam's weapons of mass destruction but a United States citizenry that does not question or think. I have
recently been criticized, ostracized and terrorized because I have voiced my views on recent political events. I have been called unpatriotic and told that I should not question those in political power. I wonder do these people understand what truly makes our country free.
Thomas Jefferson, in framing the Constitution, felt that in order for our Republic to function effectively and protect our freedoms, it was essential that we educate
every citizen so that they could question those in power. Our constitution arose as a reaction to those regimes that kept resources for their own use and kept their public illiterate. Even Adolph Hitler mentioned what a benefit to those in power if
their people do not think.
Our crisis is not in the Middle East but here at home. We may have the greatest military power in the world but our citizens score near the bottom of international
tests of critical thinking, science and math, those skills Thomas Jefferson felt essential to protect our freedoms.
President Eisenhower also warned us to be aware of a growing military-industrial complex. As a general of WWII, what better voice of experience for us to listen
to! It has been calculated that if only 2% of the funds used to establish a "democracy" in Iraq was used towards education, every child might receive decent
schooling and the opportunity for higher education. However, maybe this is not the intent of those in power.
Does the public realize that greatly needed funds have been diverted from education? Teachers are being laid off all over the country and children are still
coming to school. This only means that classes will become even larger. For the last few years, we have been teaching children to read in classes of fifteen to 20 children. Soon our classes will be filled with 35 to 45 children. How can we teach each one to read and think in such over crowded environments? Truly, we need to buy books and not bombs with the limited resources of our nation. However, maybe our military-industrial machine is more important. Maybe a literate constituency is a threat to those in power. We need to develop citizens who can learn to think and ask questions. We need to ask for evidence rather than blindly accept information fed to us from embedded reporters filtered by the military and news agencies
owned by multi-national corporations. We need to question those who decide what is important for us to know.
Another critical factor is President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. In the guise of supporting education, federal money has been tied to performance on tests that teach children there is only one correct answer and this answer is provided by the "higher authority." Where do we encourage our future citizens to learn to question and think for themselves? Our country has made incredible progress because, up until lately, we have encouraged creative thinking and problem solving rather than is it A, B, C, or b? Where is the emphasis on learning to think and question? Why don't we encourage this activity?
I am sure Thomas Jefferson is weeping in his grave over the lack of responsibilities we have exercised as citizens of this great republic; we have not heeded his
concerns. It is our responsibility to question; it is an essential means of protecting our freedoms.
"I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness... The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of which will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance."
Thomas Jefferson to George Wyeth, 1786
Tera Noel Bottorff
Twentynine Palms, California
April 12, 2003
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