Current Crises in Education and Government

Current Crises in Education and Government

Ukranian Protester (By Anna Kolesnichenko, University of Vienna. Republished from Voxukraine Photo credit: Alexandra Gnatoush (Nessa), Flickr.)

I want to focus on two current crises, education and government, so I begin with education.

In an excerpt from the March 18th ‘Letters from an American’ (see, renowned historian Heather Cox Richardson writes”

“The third story that has flown under the radar is that the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Florida senator Rick Scott, has provided a blueprint for what the Republicans will do if they get a majority in the next election. In “An 11-point plan to rescue America,” produced by the group responsible for electing Republican senators, Scott promises …. that children … will not learn critical race theory, and discussion of race will be banned from American society” (my emphasis).

Taken to the extreme(?), this banning could include even this blog post if the Republicans take back the House this November!

Another element of education is the public school system and a local journalist, Justin Murphy, has recently published a book titled ‘Your Children Are Very Greatly in Danger: School Segregation in Rochester, New York’.

As quoted in Amazon: “… Murphy makes the compelling argument that the educational disparities in Rochester, New York, are the result of historical and present-day racial segregation. Education reform alone will never be the full solution; to resolve racial inequity, cities such as Rochester must first dismantle segregation.” The last part of this statement can be debated but suffice it to say Murphy strikingly calls the question on a decade’s old educational crisis in Rochester.

Additionally, a James Baldwin quote used by Murphy in his book provides further rationale for what he states in the book’s title that “your children are greatly in danger”.

“I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt. Guilt is a luxury we can no longer afford. I know you didn’t do it, and I didn’t do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason: as long as my children face the future they face, and come to the ruin that they come to, your children are very greatly in danger, too. They are endangered above all by the moral apathy which pretends it isn’t happening. This does something terrible to us.”

It should be noted that it is white people that James Baldwin is addressing in this paragraph.

I link Richardson’s letter and Murphy’s book to demonstrate the ongoing, insidious nature of current threats posed to our society and our children, the future of any informed society.

Then there’s government. I again quote an excerpt from a Richardson letter dated March 17th;


“Today’s other big news came from The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell: the report alleging that Trump lost the 2020 election because of Dominion Voting Systems—a report that Trump used to justify his attempt to overturn the election, including a plan to assume emergency powers—was not written by a volunteer lawyer after the election, as previously understood. In fact, it was written by a senior White House aide, Joanna Miller, who worked for key Trump advisor Peter Navarro. Navarro incorporated the Miller report into one of his own, which he and aides had begun to write two weeks before the election even happened.

That is, it was the White House itself that invented the “report” that the election was stolen, even before the election took place, and then used that report to justify the Big Lie that 19 state legislatures have relied on to restrict voting.

Ukraine’s people are trying to save their democracy from a criminal assault by an autocrat who has perverted his own country’s government, concentrating the nation’s wealth and power in the hands of his cronies, and silencing those who want a say in their government.

That fight is not limited to Ukraine.” (Emphasis added)

An excerpt from yet another Richardson letter dated March 21st:

“This is what is at stake today, both in the Senate hearings on the confirmation of the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson, and more generally. Is our democratic system served so long as state legislatures can do what they wish without federal interference? Or should the federal government protect equality among all its citizens?

Ideally, of course, states would write fair laws without federal interference, and to create those circumstances after the Civil War, Congress passed the Military Reconstruction Act, permitting Black men to vote, and then passed and sent off to the states for ratification the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing the right to vote to Black men. When the Fifteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1870, the system had been fixed, most American men believed: the right to vote should protect all interests in the states.

Quickly, though, southern states took away the vote of the Black voters they insisted were trying to redistribute wealth from hardworking white taxpayers into public works projects to benefit the states’ poorer inhabitants. With Black voters cut out of the system, state legislatures enacted harshly discriminatory laws, and law enforcement looked the other way when white people violated the rights of Black and Brown citizens.

After World War II, the Supreme Court used the due process and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to overrule state laws that favored certain citizens over others, and Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act to give Black and Brown Americans a say in the state governments under which they lived.

Now, the Republicans, at this point to a person, are echoing the pre–Civil War Democrats to say that democracy means that states should be able to do what they wish without interference from the federal government. So, for example, Texas—and now other states—should be able to ban abortion regardless of the fact that abortion is a constitutional right. States should be able to stop public school teachers from covering certain “divisive” topics: Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked an apparently nonplussed Judge Jackson, “Is it your personal hidden agenda to incorporate Critical Race Theory into our legal system?” And states should be able to restrict the vote, much as southern states did after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and as 19 Republican-dominated states have done since the 2020 election.

Members of the new Republican Party in the 1850s recognized that, in that era, the doctrine of states’ rights meant not only the continued enslavement of Black Americans in the South, but also the spread of enslavement across the nation as southern enslavers moved west to create new states that would overawe the free states in Congress and the Electoral College. The spread of their system was exactly what Stephens called for 161 years ago today.

Now, in 2022, as Republican-dominated states lock down into one-party systems, their electoral votes threaten to give them the presidency in 2024 regardless of what a majority of Americans want. At that point, the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection before the law will be vitally important, if only the Supreme Court will enforce it.

And that’s a key reason why, 161 years to the day after enslaver Alexander Stephens gave the Cornerstone Speech, the confirmation hearing of a Black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the Supreme Court matters.”

Lastly, here’s another link demonstrating the power of government to disenfranchise Black lives …

I conclude by connecting these current existential threats with some guidance and hope from a Fr. Richard Rohr O.F.M. March 22nd meditation as follows:

“Today Father Richard examines a specific example of (St.) Paul’s nondual, “both-and” thinking. Paul saw Christ’s cross as a third way beyond the cultural-religious conflicts of his time.

One of the dialectics that Paul presents is the perennial conflict that today we call conservative and liberal. In his writings, Paul’s own people, the Jews, became the stand-in for pious, law-abiding conservatives; the Greeks provided his metaphor for intellectuals, cultural critics, and people we would call liberals. Paul sees the Jews trying to create order in the world by obedience to law, tradition, and kinship ties. The Greeks try to create order by reason, understanding, logic, and education.

Paul insists that neither of them can finally succeed because they do not have the ability to “incorporate the negative,” which will always be present. He recognizes that the greatest enemy of ordinary daily goodness and joy is not imperfection, but the demand for some supposed perfection or order. There seems to be a shadow side to almost everything; all things are subject to “the powers and principalities” (Ephesians 6:12). Only the unitive or nondual mind can accept this and not panic, but, in fact, grow because of it and grow beyond it.

Neither the liberal pattern nor the conservative pattern can deal with disorder and misery. Paul believes that Jesus has revealed the only response that works. The revelation of the cross, he says, makes us indestructible, because it says there is a way through all absurdity and tragedy. That way is precisely through accepting and even using absurdity and tragedy as part of God’s unfathomable agenda. If we can internalize the mystery of the cross, we won’t fall into cynicism, failure, bitterness, or skepticism. The cross gives us a precise and profound way through the shadow side of life and through all disappointments.

Paul allows both conservatives and liberals to define wisdom in their own ways, yet he dares to call both inadequate and finally wrong. He believes that such worldviews will eventually fail people. “God has shown up human wisdom as folly” on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:21), and this is “an obstacle that the Jews cannot get over,” and which the Gentiles or pagans think is simple “foolishness” (1:23).

For Paul, the code words for nondual thinking, or true wisdom, are “foolishness” and “folly.” He says, in effect, “My thinking is foolishness to you, isn’t it?” Admittedly, it does not make sense unless we have confronted the mystery of the cross. Suffering, the “folly of the cross,” breaks down the dualistic mind. Why? Because on the cross, God took the worst thing, the killing of the God-human, and made it into the best thing, the very redemption of the world. The compassionate holding of essential meaninglessness or tragedy, as Jesus does on the cross, is the final and triumphant resolution of all the dualisms and dichotomies that we face in our own lives. We are thus “saved by the cross”! Does that now make ultimate sense?”

With Passover and Easter fast approaching, let us hope and pray for resurrection and renewal for all God’s people in light of the ongoing and relentless injustices and tragedies in our midst.

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