There is nothing more frightening to a fascist regime than education. When the Nazis took over Germany, it was intellectuals and not Jews who were the first to go to the camps. The Hitler Youth was quickly established to kill any spark of intellectual honesty that threatened to spring up in the German school system. Once the intellectuals were all busy learning about the joy that came from hard work and short rations, the road was clear to go after the Jews.
The American government has seen the dangers that come from a truly educated public. An educated public can raise their collective fists and swat a politician like a fly. Richard M. Nixon was an example of that happening. An educated youth is going to hear the war propaganda and tell the powers that be to go piss up a rope. That’s certainly what happened with the Viet Nam war. I would have to say that the American anti-Communist propaganda came around and bit them in the collective butts. Communist Russia was a poor and technologically backwards country that was presented as the enemy. Popular literature, TV and movies portrayed Russia as a technologically advanced super-power that could easily conquer the United States if we did not stay ahead of them. The U.S started a huge push for education. Our public schools improved the quality of education. Scholarships and grants were created to bring more people to college. America became the best educated country in the world.
This brought a plethora of technological wonders for American corporations to exploit. We created the computer, the VCR, and dozens of other toys that the American economy grew fat on. The fact that the public became educated was an unexpected side effect from the economic boost. Not all Americans became scientists working to make more profits for American corporations. Some became clergy, some philosophers, some social scientists, and still others were everyday workers who had been given the tools to use their own intelligence. The results were unexpected. European Americans could see the justice of Martin Luther King’s cause. The American public could judge Malcolm X’s arguments on their own merit. Mohammad Ali (who will always be “The Greatest” in my heart) was a college-educated boxer that appealed to an educated America. He popularized the anti-war movement and gave us our first slogan. Hell no, we won’t go. The American government found themselves with a crop of young people who refused to serve in Viet Nam and actually saw the reality of the war. It all culminated with Nixon, when the American people demanded his impeachment and got it.
The people behind Nixon had their butts kicked, but returned with Ronald Reagan as their front man. This time they came back smarter. They had a brand new philosophy of smaller government to hide behind. The first thing they did to demonstrate their dedication to smaller government was attack education. Not only did they eliminate millions of dollars in college grants and scholarships, but they began underfunding public schools. By the Nineties, public schools were being bought up by multinational corporations like Lockheed. By the Twenty first century, there were high school students who had no idea what the Second World War was all about.
Not content with destroying the American education system, the Neocons have continued to destroy any attempt at education through their support of the Christianoid right. The U.S Park Service hands out creationist propaganda rather than actual science. California was once the best educated state in the Union. Today it has Proposition 8 on the ballot. How far we have fallen from the days when the public rallied around Dr. King? It breaks my heart. Proposition 8 is the culmination of a 28 year attack on education.