Poor public schooling creates uneducated voters

Monday, November 24, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

I can empathize with parents who have to choose the kind of school their children will attend, even if it's not the President of the United States and his wife. Sometimes, it becomes a contest between your ideological sentiments and common sense.

We lived in Kansas City when I had to make my decision. My son's best friend lived next door, he was a year older and fortunately he had a stay-at-home mom. One day, when he was a kindergartner, he decided to leave school and walk home during morning recess. This meant he had to cross five busy streets to get there. His mother was horrified when he walked in the door. When she hurriedly escorted him back to school she learned his absence had not been noticed. Like his mother, I never recovered from the experience.

The following year I enrolled my son in parochial school, and he remained there until we moved away. Later, when we moved to a small town, my son did ultimately go to public school. I was never pleased with his experience. I suppose that's because I am a disciplinarian and I always felt his teachers were more interested in his having a good experience than they were in educating him. As it happened, he was more inclined to meet the goals I set for him than those of his teachers.

Because I am always on the side of the underdog, I have always wanted to be the kind of person who could champion public schools. Unfortunately, most of them have not met my expectations. I realize being educated in black schools, where stiff discipline was the rule, has influenced my judgment. Just the mere fact that we had to come to order before we entered the school building, compared to the rowdiness that occurs on the school steps today, is enough to make me cower in defense.

I am constantly amazed at the number of people I encountered during the past election with whom I was unable to hold a conversation. In spite of the constant news reporting, I could easily believe the things I knew about Sen. McCain and President-elect Obama were figments of my imagination. I was sure when I heard the weird stories of my friends in Alabama and Texas about conversations they overheard from people in their communities, they were exaggerating. It was really hard for me to accept that so many Missourians could be uneducated, but I guess they are. Now, I don't expect them to be constitutional lawyers, but I did expect them to understand that we have three branches of government and that they operate independently of one another. I talked to so many people ripe for a dictator that it's unbelievable and scares me to death.

Now I am not one of those who has a method for revamping the school system. In the first place, you would have to revamp the entire culture in order to make people understand the importance of education. I'm afraid if I had any children in school today, I would have no choice but to home school them. My friends who do have had remarkable success with teaching their own children. In fact, a couple of them are outstanding.

For a long time, I thought if people were just exposed to education they would learn something. Until recently, I was never acquainted with individuals who only listened to certain people and believed everything they say. These folks are actually convinced there is a conspiracy in existence for the sole purpose of deceiving them. It never occurs to them to seek independent sources of information to confirm or dispute the information they have been given.

With the recession hitting us hard and the fact that we are in the midst of two wars, I was hoping we could come together as a people. But the fact is, some people are so ambitious that no matter what, they are determined to separate us politically. Still locked into old habits, I suppose they are already bracing for the next election. Some people of the cloth are encouraging their members into behavior that is a far cry from being based on religious principles. They can still not separate church from state. They wish to transform the United States of America into the kingdom of God. No matter how hard you try to explain to them that this is a democratic republic and Americans have freedom of choice, it does no good. With them it is either their way or the highway. There is no in between.

So I guess I have to accept the fact that it is in the best interest of some for the country to have a substantial number of uneducated people. That way, they can have congregations and followings. Their teachings are so false and misleading, they would never have an audience otherwise. Unfortunately, I think these misguided people are too far gone to be resuscitated.

Hopefully, their lives will be spared in spite of themselves. Just because they feel they have to run doesn't mean anybody's after them. If they would just stop and turn around, they could see that for themselves.

Please, don't touch that dial.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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