In the wake of yet another horrific mass killing in America, I say enough is enough. Our first order of business should be a national dialogue, of small gatherings and large, to brainstorm bolder solutions to end this awful cycle of violence and heal our communities. To help me organize my own thinking about this complex and difficult matter, I’ll break it down to a four-point plan of radical transformation needed in the following critical areas.
1. Education: We need to move beyond the soulless, corporate driven, testing based model of teaching—that views education merely as job training—which has infected American education since the early 1980s. In my 15 years as a college English professor, I’ve seen too many students with weak identities, afraid to express themselves, who dislike learning precisely because of their previous exposure to a boring, technocratic education system that turned them off to literature, history, and the arts. This needs to change. We also need to teach people how to have basic conversations again; and I don’t mean text messages!
2. Media: We need a humane and nurturing media, a truly educative media that creates space for critical thinking, dialogue, and the dissemination of ideas with the power to save our democracy and planet. Channel-surfing our current “junk food for the soul” TV landscape, with its slick and generic talking heads, is a recipe for passivity and a depressed submergence in the “already is.” We need a visionary, critical, forward thinking media that gives people hope for a more fair, just, peaceful and happier world that “might be.” My wife and I are trying to do just this with our weekly cable show Public Voice Salon, an open dialogue on education, the arts and social change.
3. Politics: Until we repeal Citizens United and remove the dangerous influence of big money over our political system, billionaires will continue to decide who gets elected to high office. And we’ll remain mired in the “military-industrial complex” Eisenhower warned us about; along with the warlike, violent world it fosters. The secretive TPP treaty, a very bad so-called “trade deal,” is also lethal to our democracy and natural world—and it must be rejected.
4. Economy: If we only made what we need, and had a green, sustainable economy—with a 25-hour workweek and a more equitable distribution of wealth—the outbreak of mass happiness in society would lead to a decline of violence in the future.
I’ve been sharing these ideas on a speaking engagement titled “Democratic Transformations Victory Tour,” to honor the magical transformations my democratic teaching has already achieved. So when Donald Trump said that America’s victories are all in the past, I beg to differ with him. If we all pull together and make these changes, our best, as Frank Sinatra sang, might still be “yet to come.” Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educator and host of Public Voice Salon