When you go to the polls this November, think about what kind of country you want to live in. Never in American history has the expression “knowledge is power” been more true – but perhaps not in the way you think.

Democracy depends on an informed electorate. Being informed depends not only on the interest and the skill to read widely, but also on the development of critical thinking typically honed by higher education. This is a problem in America. By one estimate, 54 percent of Americans read at or below a sixth-grade level. By another, America’s literacy rate is ranked 125th in the world.

For a country wielding the kind of resources America has, these stats are a failing grade. They also reveal something darker about the America we live in today. Our politicians think nothing of spending $22.4 billion on Zumwalt-class ships, now deemed a failure and discontinued, but they bridle at investing any money on education.

Teachers are critical to democracy. We need to respect and pay teachers wages commensurate with the seriousness of their positions. By not creating conditions where people want to enter the teaching profession, we’re not defending America from the ignorance that fuels extremism. It is foolish from a business perspective, too. According to analysis from Forbes, America could be losing as much as $2.2 trillion a year to low literacy.

So why does the current Republican Party seem to think teachers are a cultural enemy, engaged in subverting our children?

Remember, teachers are the people we entrust our children to every day. As Paul Waldman of The Washington Post recently wrote: “Meanwhile, Fox News has been on a tear, vilifying school teachers as lazy, stupid, anti-white Marxists trying to ‘groom’ children for sexual abuse.”


Having come from a family of several teachers, I can attest they were people who arrived early; stayed late; paid for supplies out their own pockets when necessary; and lay awake at night thinking about how to creatively convey an unbiased, factual rendition of their subjects to their students.

The answer to the question is simple. First, the Donald Trump-dominated Republican Party has no policies that benefit middle- and low-income Americans. Instead of helping working Americans, it is focused on maintaining its wealth and power. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service wrote of Trump’s signature Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: “The cuts have had virtually no effect on wages, haven’t contributed to a surge in investment, and haven’t come close to paying for themselves. Nor have they delivered a cut to the average taxpayer.”

In the absence of a plan to make America a better place to live for the majority, the Republican Party portrays America as in decline and then blames that decline on a nefarious enemy: teachers. Why? Because they teach children how to read and think. And that’s not good for the Republican Party – kids will learn to think critically and see through their bogus claims.

Secondly, the better educated kids are in elementary and high school, the more likely they are to go to college. And that’s where things really fall apart for the Republican Party. In college, middle- and low-income students can meet a more diverse population of people who get along and exchange ideas.

In fact, the only way the Republican Party can win is by polarizing America through extreme policies – implementing anti-abortion laws, banning books, attacking teachers. The majority of Americans do not agree with their policies. According to The Guardian, “The Republican Party has become dramatically more illiberal in the past two decades and now more closely resembles ruling parties in autocratic societies than its former center-right equivalents in Europe … .” Translation: The Republican Party has become semi-fascist.

Fascists cannot stand the sunlight of truth. Their policies fall apart when exposed to science and fact. And we should never accept anything less than policies based on fact and reason. As Aldous Huxley said: “The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.”

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