I am a fervent believer in the power of education to change lives and transform societies for the better. The data is irrefutable. The more educated a populace, the better the outcomes on nearly every measure - higher income, lower poverty, greater civic engagement, lower crime, higher voter turnout, healthier children, etc. There is no single cause or panacea for our ailing and sickly nation, but the changing nature of education over the past few decades serves as a frightening correlation for a country on the edge. Our dismantling of "public education" to include charters, vouchers, magnets among others combined with the widening disparities between high income districts and low income districts is disgraceful as millions of students now grow up with doors closed before ever having an opportunity to walk into the future.
Further, our social obsession with math and hard science at the expense of the arts and social sciences have left millions of students adrift when it comes to developing an appreciation for difference, conflict resolutions skills, problem-solving abilities and emotional intelligence. People with love in their hearts and an ability to empathize with others do not go on murderous rampages, regardless of their mathematical abilities, religious affiliation or racial backgrounds.
Additionally, our elected leaders need to do a better job of setting examples of how to behave when values, beliefs and opinions are in conflict with others. Filibusters, sit-ins, and obstructionism only serve to send the message that compromise is a "dirty" word, and that strength is defined as a "my way or the highway" approach. "Settling" is for weaklings. The American Congress have shown themselves to be petulant, petty, vindictive and mean-spirited over the last several years. The jaw-dropping lack of concern for the struggles of average citizens borders on criminal.
When the killing stops, we will only have ourselves left to answer the many questions swirling about our social discourse. How did this happen? What are its causes? What are the solutions? Babies are not born screaming racial epithets, wanting guns, seeking division, or stereotyping based on difference. We have all been taught the damaging ideas threatening to pull our social fabric apart. If we hope to maintain any semblance of dignity and social cohesion, unlearning this false collective consciousness must begin now and replaced with one that prioritizes love, compassion, acceptance, compromise, collectivity and kindness. Otherwise, when the killing stops there won't be anybody or anything left of this wondrous world we call planet Earth.
Be kind to others and to yourself.
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Layer, M.A., LPCC