Lies My Teacher Told Me

In 1974 I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  I loved school, learning, I even loved the smell of school supplies.  Autumn was my favorite season.  The classroom seemed like a place of endless possibilities, limitless potential, THE place to be.  A place to discover The Truth.  My favorite subjects were English and History and my future was obvious.  I was either going to be a History teacher or an English teacher.  Or maybe a social worker… I hadn’t quite made up my mind.

3.Watergate800x600My father’s first career was in the Air Force.  Eventually he retired as a Colonel, but in 1974 he must have been a Captain.  He had already traveled the world.  He had a Job of Importance.  He Knew Things.  When the Watergate scandal first broke my father famously told my mother “Don’t be silly.  You don’t get to be President of the United States by lying!  They’re simply trying to tear him down.”  It’s possible my father will never forgive Tricky Dick.  Not necessarily for Watergate itself, but for betraying his trust and fouling the office of the President.  In other words, I was raised to have faith in authority.  Nixon was an aberration.

Littleton Remembers Columbine Tragedy On 5th AnniversarySurprise!  My first job was at the library at Columbine High School.  Back then we didn’t have a local library.  The school library doubled as the public library.  For a while I considered majoring in library science until I discovered that quite possibly the only person in the world treated with less respect than a high school teacher is a librarian.  I jumped into pop culture at the local cinema for my second job – the third job was at a book store.  Yes – it was a life long trend.  But a strange thing happened on the way to the book store.  Even as I started college, intent on earning a degree that would lead me straight back into the classroom, I started to notice something distressing.  Something… didn’t add up.

41xtLuzhOQLIt started as a nagging worry.  In high school I was a liberal arts rock star (at least until a nasty wave of Bipolar Depression hit, but that’s another story).  I got into both AP English and History with no problem.  I studied “advanced” texts about our part in WWII, for example (spoiler alert – we were the good guys.  The Germans sucked.)  And yet when I took a class on WWII in college I read a German textbook on the same topic.  While the conclusion was more or less the same, the path through the war from the German perspective was a real eye-opener.  Maybe… all Germans… don’t suck?  Hum.  A piece of the puzzle was missing.

713Ey6jaRZLThat was just about the time I discovered the world’s most dangerous phrase.  “Well, wait a moment… that doesn’t make sense because…”  In other words, despite the best efforts of the public education system I had somehow developed critical thinking skills.*  Even so, I was deeply suspicious of anyone who sported a “Question Authority” sticker.  In 1995 one of the new bestsellers went by the obnoxious title of “Lies My Teacher Told Me“.  I resented the hell out of that book even as that little nagging worry grew larger, (especially when I learned about incidents like the Gulf of Tonkin).  I wanted to be a teacher my whole life.  Teachers do NOT lie to their students.  Just the opposite.  Public school teachers are engaged in the business of truth.  Right?  Right.  … right?   

Um… sort of right?  I mean, they don’t deliberately lie.  Right?  They just teach from the books that are approved, so they can’t… help it?  If the books are wrong?  Um… wait a moment…

How could I reconcile my desire to teach history with my growing obsession with the truth?  Actually, I couldn’t.  At least, not in public school – especially after we started teaching to the test.  The more I learned, the more I came to realize that the modern classroom and truth have very little to do with each other.  I eventually got out of the classroom for good.

MSDMOON EC011Which leads me to the point I’m trying to make.  I was listening to the news this morning, which offered yet another glowing report about the latest jobs report.  As I listened I was suddenly reminded of one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite films,  Moscow on the Hudson .  Robin Williams takes a surprising turn for the dramatic as Russian musician Vladimir Ivanoff.  While the majority of the film takes place in New York City, the scene I keep going back to is an almost throw-away moment in Moscow.  Vladimir is watching television with his grandfather.  The story on the news is a glowing report of the increase in boot production.  His grandfather accurately predicts the increase then blows a raspberry at the screen, dismissing it for the propaganda it is.  Had this man been in the room listening to the jobs report this morning, he would have had the same reaction.

The lies we live under don’t start or stop with what our teachers told us.  They’re everywhere.  They’re everything.  The older I get the more clearly I see the tissue of lies we’re wrapped in.   And yet I have no idea what to do with this information.  Those who are open to this idea already know.  Those who are not open to it will fight tooth and nail to keep from finding out.  Just like my initial distrust in the idea of questioning authority, the majority of the modern population will double-down on the lies they’ve been taught.  The alternative is to admit they’ve been lied to.  Worse yet, confess that they bought the lie.  This is so far beyond most people’s comfort zone they’ll never consider the idea.   But the dissonance between the truth and their dedication to the lie grows more and more… the anger caused by the dissonance builds.  Double-down becomes digging in.  And where do we end up?

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This has got to stop.

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*  When I first encountered the phrase “critical thinking”, especially if someone said it in relation to questions I was asking, I’d always deny it.  My mother was raised in the South.  She took great pains to teach me how to be a “lady” (even if I didn’t follow it overmuch).  As a result, if someone said I was engaging in critical thinking it sounded like a criticism itself.  I didn’t want to sound “critical” ( = grumpy / wrong / bad).  I just wanted things to add up – I wanted to know the truth.  Sort of the same thing happened  when I went to the doctor.  They always wanted me to list my “complaint”.  I kept trying to explain that  I wasn’t complaining!  I was just sick… Um, I’m sorry to bother you?  Ha!  Strange what goes through the mind of a kid.

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Q & A: Will Trump lead to the downfall of the USA?

Woah. That’s quite a question! And just a tiny bit slanted. 😉 I’m not sure why you asked me to answer it, but I’ll see what I can do, with the disclaimer that I am a citizen with a high IQ. I am NOT a political expert.

No one person is powerful enough to lead to the downfall of this country. Not even the President. But as a symptom / symbol of a horribly dysfunctional political environment, it’s hard to beat Trump. I could make the same statement about Hillary Clinton. The last campaign cycle was off the charts for boneheaded mistakes on all sides. The few who tried to draw attention to what was going on were shouted down.

The charges of corruption are very disturbing, though not terribly surprising. The Clinton campaign has been charged with rigging their party to favor her nomination over Bernie Sanders. I tend to believe those charges are accurate. The Trump campaign has been charged with conspiring with Russia to rig the entire thing. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true, and I think Russia certainly was involved, I suspect Trump’s personal involvement was minimal. He probably knew they’d try, and assumed all involved are too powerful to be held accountable, even if they got caught. So the only reason he wasn’t more hands-on was because he didn’t really care.

I could go on, but the facts before us are well documented. I think of our political system like a house eaten by termites. The exterior might seem “business as usual” but it’s being eaten away from within until the entire structure is on the verge of collapse. Trump is a big cockroach. He may be what topples the thing into sawdust. But if he does it’s because of failure at EVERY level. The corporate owned media is a farce. The people – where are the people? How could so many buy into so many lies? The train may wear Trump’s face, but all involved are to blame for the wreck.

Q & A: Would President Trump’s personal physician be obliged to disclose a mental illness or drug dependency diagnosis?

Medically and ethically, yes they would be obliged to disclose either a mental illness or drug dependency. However, in the case of the POTUS, the argument of “in the case of national security” overrules medical ethics. If it was deemed to be against the national interest, nothing whatsoever would be disclosed. I’m not defending this, just explaining it. Come to think of it, one of my favorite comedies is based on this idea. If you’d like to spend a happy two hours, check this out:

Dave

Q & A: How come most people talk badly about Donald Trump supporters, when most people I know that support Donald Trump are good people?

Great question. My mother comes from a large southern family. My father was in the Air Force, so we obviously traveled from the moment I was born. I only saw my southern relations on occasion – family reunions etc. But my mother never missed an opportunity to tell me how wonderful they all were, how selfless and kind they were. They were the definition of “salt of the earth” and “shirt off their back” Christians. We settled in Colorado so I never had a chance to really interact with them personally, but we always kept in touch through phone calls and email etc. They weren’t perfect, but I never saw any of them behave in a way that made me question the picture my mother painted. They were good Christians and wonderful people, and we were lucky to be related to them.

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Then came The Election.

In the summer of 2014 my cousins started posting Memes about liberals that brought me up short. Things that were wildly out-of-context, completely skewed or historically inaccurate. At first I pulled them aside privately, explaining the truth of the matter. Initially they’d just thank me for the information, then they’d post something else just as bad…

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I thought there might be a problem with communication, or maybe they just thought I had a bias. So after a while I’d point them toward several sources and invite them to research it for themselves. I told them they didn’t need to believe me – just look it up! Their reply to this suggestion was that the information as I understood it was my opinion, and I was entitled to it. But that’s all it was. Opinion.

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Next they started using words like “Arab” and “Muslim” interchangeably. They also did that with “Fascist”, “Communist” and “Socialist”. It was clear they had very little (if any) idea what these words actually mean. They were just the worst words they knew (along with “Libtard”) so they used them sort of at random when describing someone who favored Obama or, later, who didn’t like Trump. Trying to explain Bernie Sanders and his concept of Socialism, I might as well have been trying to teach a cow how to play the piano. Actually, I might have had better luck with the cow.

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As the election approached the memes posted to their Facebook walls took an ugly tone. A hateful tone. I wanted to believe their accounts had been hacked, but no. These same “Good Christian” salt of the earth people were advocating violence against anyone who had skin darker than theirs, who spoke any language other than theirs or who worshiped any God but theirs (actually, anyone who attended a different church really). They condemned gays to burn in hell in the same breath with Socialists and again I couldn’t actually tell if they understood the difference.

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On the night of the election the scales fell off my eyes. They weren’t happy Trump won. They revealed their true colors. Their victory celebration was difficult for me to comprehend, it was so full of hate and violence. I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t take to the streets to burn crosses or hang someone – it was that extreme. One of my cousins – the “educated” school teacher that I had tried hardest to reach, told me that no one wanted to hear anything I had to say. The people had spoken and I needed to keep my ideas to myself from now on.

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With a heavy heart I unfriended every one of them. We’ve not spoken a word since the election, and I doubt we ever will again.

I thought my family members were good. I thought they were kind. I thought they were true Christians. It turns out everything I ever “knew” about them was 100% wrong. They turned out to be vicious, small minded, mean spirited, hateful creatures. And every one of them supports Trump.