By David Warren–
“Coloured people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, into the incinerator,” so said Ray Bradbury in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 in which fireman burned books rather than putting out fires.
Bradbury’s dystopian fiction’s genesis was the rise of 20th century dictatorships, to name a few, Germany’s Hitler, Russia’s Stalin, Italy’s Mussolini and Spain’s Franco, who each sought to control what their respective populace thought, making them susceptible to the lies which they were told. Civil discourse changed to hateful and violent argument. Differences in religion, culture and customs changed from being the thread which strengthened the fabric of society to the justification for hate, bigotry and prejudice.
Too many individuals have failed to learn the lessons of history. Recently, community libraries and school boards have been subjected to vitriol and attempted intimidation concerning curriculum, books, periodicals and displays of subject matter of current interest and discussion. Attempts are being made to sacrifice at the altar of parochial ideas of the few, the most important educational need of our children and young adults, i.e., Socratic questioning to push forward dialogue and uncovering truths.
Truth is not the property of any one individual or group. Some things which were thought to be absolutes are no longer true, due to scientific and technological progress. Innocent women were accused and executed as witches. Asserting that the earth is not the center of the universe was heresy. Washing hands and sterilizing instruments before surgery was believed to be a fraud, yet today is mandatory. Denying the earth was flat could lead to burning at the stake. Medicine was “snake oil” which sickened the patient instead of providing cures.
Because of access to the internet, truth is now distorted. The history of man’s inhumanity to man is disputed. The efficacy of medical treatment is too often asserted to be a lie. The belief that “taking care of me” is more important than “caring for the societal us” is an accepted norm among too many. Baseless fear of individuals different than ourselves prevents civil discussion.
Those who believe that they possess the one and only truth make demands that our educational system respect only their view, and anything which would be contrary to those beliefs must not be discussed in our public schools. Medicine which has been tested and confirmed to prevent or cure illness is falsely described as poison.
In less than 60 days, we will be called upon to make electoral choices. Although the nominees for Congress, California Senate and Assembly are likely to be widely discussed by the media, the individuals we choose for the most important elected offices, i.e., the San Juan School Board members, and their philosophy for education, will also be decided, although not as well publicized.
Important issues such as but not limited to (1) which books will be allowed in schools for children to read; (2) what and how academic and science curriculum will be taught; and (3) how will tolerance be taught will be brought before the Board members. Which Board candidate will ensure that teachers are allowed and encouraged to teach children to question and think for themselves, rather than be accepting of Eric Blair’s Orwellian dystopian world of mindless individuals accepting of demagogue’s willingness to alter history and science in order to present “alternative facts” as infallible and just?
In July 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee a teacher named John T. Scopes was put on trial for violating Tennessee’s law which prohibited teaching scientific theory concerning the origins of the species which contradicted the Bible’s explanation of creation. The trial was later immortalized in movies and a stage play and labelled the “Scope’s monkey trial.” The trial put scientific, technological and social progress under scrutiny.
Voters must not allow anyone to succeed in the name of parochialism preventing our children from opening their minds and challenging norms in a civil manner. Your choice of candidate for the school board must advocate for an education that requires survival skills alongside independent reasoning and thorough examination of the source of facts upon which each individual will rely in making life choices, no matter how uncomfortable questioning the norm may be.
If we allow the baseless fear of challenging the unknown to consume and turn each of us against each other, Proverbs 11:29 will prove to be the truth: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”
David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety, and can be reached at David@forpublicsafety.com.
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