Letter to the editor: No one can afford to be apolitical when education is under threat

Republicans caucus at Alexander Elementary. Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

By Jason Agne, Iowa City

There are those who acknowledge that if enough people come together, they can create just about anything. But there are also those who acknowledge that if enough people come together, they can destroy just about anything. Sadly, the latter requires substantially fewer people. And, because no one actually likes it when narcissists crowd the source of money and validation, conservative leaders seem to have instead fashioned their messaging strategy around the philosophy that most people find destruction more fun. So, they push as many people as they can reach into assuming creators are naïve for thinking anything they might create will last, which attracts other destroyers or even grooms new ones. This makes it easier for Republicans to reach the threshold they need to accomplish their goals.

The problem is, they are absolutely right. Even if they only took up this philosophy as a distraction because “give all the money to the wealthy” wasn’t something anyone would go for, directly, it doesn’t matter — it’s still accurate. And they keep proving it by winning — by continuing to successfully destroy things and being perpetually rewarded with voter loyalty despite doing so. Public schools are next — imminently in Iowa, surely not long thereafter nationwide.

There is only one wild card that could throw the whole conflict decisively in one direction or another, and that is the apolitical/moderates. I understand much of the available common ground has been ripped out from under us so moderates may feel like they have no quarter, but if the moderates decide they want things to stay as they are or even have a slight preference for what the creators want to bring, then they should do the bare minimum (i.e. vote) to help. However, they have to make that decision soon or the destroyers will make it for them, and they remember they require far fewer numbers. If nothing else, the moderates should strive to solidify their own power by strictly voting for the party with the best chance to end gerrymandering, a practice that pushes representatives to either extreme.

It is not a coincidence that the party pushing for gerrymandering is the party that wants to end public education. I’ve tried to lay out the case for valuing public schools, and not just the things we all already know they are good for, but also some of the things public schools may have done for us without us really knowing it was being done. Whatever else one has going on in their life, no attention set aside to support public schools is wasted. To summarize, public schools are the best territory for establishing common ground, the best cocoon for sheltering young minds from the adult world while they build a resistance to misinformation, and of course a provision of intellectual potential for any who are interested in pursuing a more civilized society — something not exclusive to public schools but is exclusively better if not done for profit.

If nothing else in politics is of any interest to the apolitical, fine, but we just can’t balk on public schools or it’s all over. This needs to be the default assumption of everyone who doesn’t want to go back to the caves. Because again, the destroyers are winning.

Jason continues these thoughts on his Substack here.