Sure, there may be no “dumb questions,” but the truth is some questions just don’t get asked in environments where education is taken seriously.
If American public schools were ever the pride of the developed world, that time is long behind us. America failed to rank even among the top 11 national education systems in the world.
We’ve obviously got a lot of work ahead of us — folks on both ends of the political spectrum seem to agree on that much, at least. But if somebody has told you that the solution to this national embarrassment is to strip away even more federal funding from our public education systems, somebody thinks you’re a sucker.
Need Proof? It’s All Over the Internet
The fact that the White House is occupied by a corrupt simpleton is proof enough that America doesn’t seem to value knowledge, to say nothing of formal public education. But if you can’t stomach current events any longer and need a good laugh, just about any occupied corner of the World Wide Web can prove just as well as modern politics that the U.S. cannot afford to erode education funding any further.
Yahoo Answers is one of the internet’s perennial favorite sources of schadenfreude-fueled bouts of laughter, but now it’s emerging as an unlikely tool for progressives and liberals to make the case for a stronger public education system in this country.
Here are five questions fewer people would ask if America had better schools.
1. I’m Trying to Print Out a .Gif File, but When I do, the Picture Doesn’t Move. Why?
We may as well start with a real heavy-hitter — a question that appears to have arisen from somewhere in the vicinity of Diagon Alley, where folks are accustomed to newspapers and wanted posters that have a mind of their own. For everybody else, that’s not how paper works. Like, at all.
2. Was Abraham Lincoln Really a Vampire Slayer?
Schlocky cult films that take liberties with real-world history are nothing new — and that’s what makes this Yahooligan’s question so heartbreaking. Somebody knew enough about Abraham Lincoln to recognize him as a significant historical figure — but not quite enough about reality to stop themselves from asking this question in public.
3. Do Midgets Have Night Vision?
This one’s good for a hearty but brief laugh. Just under the surface is another disquieting American tradition — assuming that just because somebody looks a bit different from us, they must be a neighboring species or something.
4. If Evolution Is True, Why Don’t Pigs Have Wings?
Ah, evolution. It’s everybody’s favorite pointless wedge issue. I say “pointless” because if this country took science seriously, it wouldn’t be a “debate” at all. As documented by Buzzfeed, this Yahoo question is almost certainly troll bait, but it’s still not remotely out of place in a country where some folks want to believe evolution is a liberal conspiracy designed to discredit Christianity — or that the Earth is flat.
5. Does Looking at a Picture of the Sun Hurt Your Eyes?
Buzzfeed also found this gem. No, sweet dreamer, it does not.
Money Isn’t the Whole Problem
To be sure, shoring up public education funding in the U.S. is just part of the problem — and the lack of tax revenue at the federal level shouldn’t be used as an excuse to stop educating ourselves. Frankly, just navigating the morning headlines requires us to keep our head on a swivel and take nothing at face value. If a school teacher told you science has yet to explain magnetism or the tides, you’d be right to exercise your discernment and call them out on it.
And when a Congressman like Jim Inhofe treats science with equal contempt, we have a similar responsibility to make sure they can’t peddle untruths or “alternative facts.” You owe it to yourself to be a skeptical and inquisitive lifelong learner — and to call out charlatans for playing fast and loose with the truth.
People don’t recognize lies if they haven’t been taught to deal with the world skeptically. Crappy public schools churn out credulous voters — and credulous voters churn out dishonest, corrupt politicians. It’s a perfect feedback loop.
More Public School Woes on the Horizon
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump bragged to stadiums full of his supporters that he was polling exceptionally well among the uneducated. He must already be planning for his reelection bid, because as soon as he was sworn in he chose Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary — somebody who’s never had education or government experience, who has never attended a public school in her life and whose children have never even attended a public school.
She is strongly in favor of charter schools — which deliver poorer results than their public school counterparts — and “school choice,” which is a decades-old Republican fairy tale.
Short version? Public education is being openly assaulted under the Trump administration. If this is something we care about as voters, it’s time to make our voices heard — if it’s not already too late.