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Fear and Ignorance In Today's Society

Updated on August 12, 2014
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Tranquility
All men are created equal
All men are created equal

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these right, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving……..”

I keep thinking I’m getting too old for those words to have such an effect on me, but truth is I still get goosebumps when I read them. The words that have the greatest impact on me are….”that all men are created equal.” Let me tell you why.

I have always believed that the greatest thing we can teach our children is the ability to reason. Standardized testing serves no practical purpose in schools today other than to teach children how to parrot information that has been drilled into them. Often in my classroom I would ask my students if they were Democrat or Republican, and each year the students would raise their hands according to their political leanings and beliefs. Stop and read that sentence again. A twelve year old does not by nature have political leanings. What they are professing to are the political leanings of their parents, with no idea what those leanings are or mean. To prove it I would ask them what it means to be Democratic or Republican and to a student they couldn’t answer me.

Each year I would ask my students (this was a Catholic school) what it meant to be Catholic. Now understand that these were kids who had been baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church, had attended religion classes for seven years prior to being asked that question, and not one of them could tell me the definition of Catholicism or how it differed from other Christian religions. They would proudly raise their hands and tell me that it meant they believed in Jesus Christ, only to become confused when I mentioned that so do the Baptists, Episcopals, and a healthy handful of other religions. Then they would raise their hands and tell me that Catholics received communion and felt pretty damn proud until I listed the other religions that handed out communion. It would continue like that until I finally ran out of class time and had to tell them.

Again, they were parroting what their parents had told them and that was good enough for them. I have always tried to teach my students to investigate, learn all viewpoints and only then to make an informed decision based on that investigation. Amazingly, or maybe not so, each year I would have some parents complain that I was brainwashing their children and trying to get them to believe in another religion or in the case of politics to believe in another Party other than the one they believed in. It is pure and simple ignorance and lack of reason and it needs to disappear from schools.

What we do not understand in many cases we will fear, and fear all too often generates hatred and violence. Let us take a look at racism. Racism in the United States is a time-honored tradition to many. It goes something like this: “My grandpappy hated blacks and my daddy hated blacks and I hate blacks.” There is no logic in that statement nor is there any reason; it is just a gut reaction and belief system handed down from one generation to the next. The average citizen of the United States has no understanding of Islamic beliefs; no concept of the fundamentals of that culture. The average white in the United States has no clear understanding of what it is like to grow up black in the slums of Mississippi or Detroit. The average white in the United States has no clue of the daily struggles of the itinerant farm worker from Mexico. What the average white in the United States does have is a hazy notion based on the beliefs they were indoctrinated with as children, or some knee-jerk reaction based on a singular moment in their lives, like the events of 9/11 or Pearl Harbor or the Watts Riots. Let me repeat: what we do not understand in many cases we will fear, and fear all too often generates hatred and violence.

The solution to this, of course, is education. We have a much better chance of understanding other people who are different from us if we take the time to educate ourselves and our children about different cultures. The hateful traditions of the past can be halted but they will never be halted as long as our children are lacking in the fundamental ability to reason.

College was the best thing that could have happened to me. Growing up during the Fifties and Sixties I was surrounded by racism and bigotry and ignorance but I really wasn’t aware of it; it was so subtle at times that it was like a draft of cold air that flows suddenly through a warm room and then is gone. Derogatory names and terms were quite common in everyday language but it was so pervasive that it seemed normal and acceptable, just like smoking in public was a normal occurrence at that time. It wasn’t until I arrived at college and was introduced to other beliefs and opinions that I actually began to realize that I didn’t know much at all. Sharing meals with others from different cultures was advanced education for me; working in the ghetto teaching black children to read was graduate work in the School of Life. I came out of college not brainwashed but cleansed, scrubbed clean of the indoctrination I had received growing up.

Education eradicated ignorance for me and by extension prevented fear. Today I do not fear other cultures nor does my son; he is well-read and well-schooled on the differences in each of us….but more importantly, I think, he is well-schooled on the similarities in each of us. I have never told him what to believe; I only asked that he do his research before expressing an opinion.

All men (and women of course) were created equal. I am not fool enough to think that all cultures believe that because they do not, but I do not fear them and by extension I do not hate them. In the final analysis we are all human: we laugh, we cry, we celebrate and we mourn. We all go about our daily lives, tackling the problems, rejoicing in the victories and try to forge a better life for ourselves. I can accept that and in fact rejoice in it.

I don’t know what difference I make these days; I no longer teach so I can’t reach out to students like I once did. I think, and maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, that each of us can make a difference to change bigotry and racism and overturn this atmosphere of fear and hatred simply by working on one person at a time. It may seem like a small and meaningless step, the actions of the forever-gullible, but I do think that one person can make a difference. In fact, I have to believe that is true because to not believe it is to resign ourselves to a life where nobody trusts, nobody reaches out, nobody takes the chance to be…….human!

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    • kingmaxler profile image

      kingmaxler 5 years ago from Olympia, Washington USA

      This is fantastic. Brilliant starting out with words from our country's Declaration of Independence. Well written with a subject matter that all would do well to adhere to. Love this.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      thank you so much kingmaxler; I have seen your hubs and know that you believe in the same things. As a nation we have to turn this around, one person at a time.

    • cleaner3 profile image

      cleaner3 5 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      This should be required reading for all students. Great hub.

      God Bless America, where you are free to express your own views.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you cleaner3...I agree with you completely and appreciate you taking the time to stop by and comment.

    • sharvey profile image

      sharvey 5 years ago

      Awesome post! Why do we dwell on the differences when our similarities are begging for acknowledgement?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      sharvey, I truly don't know but it's been that way my entire lifetime....one person at a time....one act at a time...it's the only way I know of to change it. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      It's just the same here in Britain of course. The butterfly effect is important - one action, one person at a time, as you say. I too have finished in the classroom but I now have grandchildren to talk to, to introduce to all sorts of things in the world, to ask what they think about all these things around them and to guide them into asking about and thinking about all that they see and hear. We have a duty to pass on our experience and any wisdom we've picked up along the way. Great hub, great sentiment, well written. Voted up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      annart...I appreciate your words and applaud your comments and sentiment....maybe it is possible, one person at a time.

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 5 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      What a wonderful world this would be if ignorance no longer existed. I don't think it will happen in my lifetime, but maybe some day. I could not agree more with the spirit of this. Every person should be looked at as an individual.

      One of the great shocks of my college career was learning that the man I was taught was a great man for discovering America was in reality a genocidal maniac, ie. Columbus. I wish our schools would teach the truth! Critical analysis and thinking are not the norm, sadly. Questioning is actively discouraged when it borders on what is not politically correct. What we are really teaching is a blind acceptance to what is deemed appropriate by authority figures.

      God bless and keep on hubbing. You have important things to say and by doing so are still teaching, just to a bit older crowd.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      poetvix, always a pleasure...this is the main reason why I am not teaching any longer...well, that and my inability to get along with authority figures. I must be wired a little differently than many of the other teachers I worked with because my b.s. meter soars off the charts when dealing with the educational system. I'll keep doing what I'm doing and you keep banging the political drum and we will see what shakes loose. Thank you for your support.

    • profile image

      Sooner28 5 years ago

      Great hub. I grew up hearing a plethora of bigoted comments about homosexuals, in my Baptist church and also from my parents. As it turns out, my brother is a homosexual. GO FIGURE! Anyway, he didn't come out until I had already been in college two years.

      I was in a contemporary politics class, and the professor had us go to each side of the room depending on what our position on homosexuality was. Well I was being a good Christian and going to the side against it. But then something happened. A woman I knew, who was also Mormon, pointed out that slavery was actually in the Bible! I was completely mortified, but I went home and sure enough, it was there, even in the New Testament.

      So for me, your point about education eradicating ignorance is something I can personally relate to. If it had not been for the university education I had received, I cannot say with certainty how I would have received my gay brother. But since I was already being exposed to so many different viewpoints, I was able to adapt to him coming out, and I now support gay rights, and argue with anyone who does not. My parents accept him also.

    • profile image

      SanXuary 5 years ago

      One of the biggest mistakes the racist makes or the person who discriminates is that this same acceptance becomes permission to have it done to them. Discrimination has not really gone away in this country in fact its become a game of selective discrimination used against anyone. This of course varies from one place to another and technology has become good enough to discriminate against anyone with out anyone even finding out.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      SanXuary....excellent point and one I agree with completely. Anyone who thinks bigotry and racism and discrimination are dead in the United States is sadly mistaken. It is just clearly hidden, tucked into secret corners to be brought out when needed.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sooner...great story and experience, one I wish more people could experience. This parroting of ideals and beliefs, handed down from one generation to the next, from one Bible Study group to the next, is simply unacceptable and only education can eradicate it. Thank you for your support.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I don't know who still thinks standardized tests are a good idea, or why. I am a graduate student studying education. In every single education class, we talk about how harmful standardized testing has been to the education system. In spite of this, we as a society continue our obsession with metrics and measurable data. It is nonsensical.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Natshalh...there is no doubt that it is nonsensical. The trick is finding someone in Congress willing to tackle the issue head-on. It's like the BCS system of crowing a national champ in college football; everyone knows it is ridiculous but nobody is willing to stick their neck out and make the first move. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      SanXuary 5 years ago

      I am still a believer that some form of proper and measurable grading has to be done. When I was an Instructor before I flushed a persons career down the toilet it was my responsibility to do everything possible to help that person learn. It made me a better teacher and I was proud of the fact that I had some of the brightest students. Comparing this to my education in school and being ripped off for top dollar at college I consider most educators a poor investment of my money. A well made documentary made about the New Jersey school system made a perfect point. Each school with the most drop outs received increase funding. Years later these schools were receiving tens of thousands more per student and nothing changed. The teachers still got paid the same and no money could be found in the class room. If you were a military instructor held to the standards I was forced to follow it took a lot for someone to be left behind. In all my years I have yet to receive any data on my children's education as a parent. Now that they are attending college the teaching only becomes more pathetic.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have no problem,SanXuary, with a grading system; the problem I have with standardized testing like the SAT is limiting education to that test and that test only. The problem is in the funding for schools and how that funding is tied to the testing. We have now reached the point where kids take classes to prepare them for the SAT, and the hire tutors to prepare for the Big Test. I think the point of education is lost when that is happening. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      SanXuary 5 years ago

      I agree college prepares fewer and fewer people for the work force. Much of it has been the lack of any real world application in learning and applying it to the real World. No SAT is going to build a house no matter how high you score. They can take the SAT all they want but they still have to take the classes so the college gets paid. In the end they will be stuck in some mindless corporate job for low pay and told to shut up about any good ideas they have. Share holders and CEO's make all the money and both do not need any education.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      SanXuary, we are in total agreement on that point. Thank you for your viewpoint and for the intelligent discussion of some rather important matters.

    • profile image

      Ginger Ruffles 5 years ago

      Bravo, well said. Thank you for doing so.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ginger! I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    • SotD and Zera profile image

      SotD and Zera 4 years ago

      I have so much agreement with this article. People really need to stop and think about what they believe, why they believe it, and what they actually know about it. Thank you so much for writing this.

      -Zera

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Zera, you are very welcome, and thank you for being the person that you are and having such deep understanding.

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