Audio File for “Should We Tell Them?”
WAMC AUGUST 26—2010
Dr. Steven Leibo is a professor of international history & politics at the Sage Colleges
“Should We Tell Them?”
There’s nothing like a new school year to reflect on the education teachers are about to impart to another generation of students. And as always the perennial question always remains.
Can what we teachers learned in our youth prepare students not for our past but their future? Sure, for most of the human experience the accumulated wisdom of the past usually worked for the next generation, especially on issues like when and how to plant the next year’s crop.
Though, in our fast moving times there have been transitions that made that less so. Did the generation that grew up just before 1910, really need to teach their young, folks about to spend their lives driving cars, to ride horses? Can the generation that kept themselves informed with T.V. and hard copy newspapers really teach our students how to use 21st century communication tools like twitter and Facebook?
But this fall, the question seems to go far beyond that challenge more common challenge, forcing reflection on those critical issues that few teachers are likely to ever bring up.
Like whether teachers are really going to tell students that we adults, have failed them. Confess that we refused to focus on the emerging core challenges of their lives even when those challenges were shoved in our faces.
That we irresponsibly focused on the gulf oil hemorrhage as if it were an isolated event rather than a warning beacon of how desperate humanity has become to find the petroleum that fuels our lives.
Are we going to tell them that oil, that extraordinarily efficient fossil fuel that gave us such a great run over the last hundred years, is becoming more and more scarce — forcing us to seek out sources in impossibly difficult locations.
Because the petroleum that is easy to find and cheap to process is fast disappearing, which is the only reason anyone was drilling for oil miles below the surface of the Gulf.
Are we going to tell them they are faced either with a continuing world recession or a planet that once fully recovered will see the price of fuel oil resume the dramatically steep climb it was on just before the big crash?
Are we going to confess that we have failed to make the transition away from the very fossil fuels that are destroying life as we know it on the planet. Are we really going to tell them the truth? Are we really going to tell them that the American government, especially its dysfunctional senate failed to pass a climate and energy bill that would allow the United States to take on man made climate change with the seriousness it requires.
Are we going to tell them that the senate failed to pass a climate bill strong enough to allow the ever creative market to move us toward a safer energy landscape. Failed to do so despite how many Americans desperately need all those green energy jobs creative energy legislation would bring.
Failed to do so even as extremes of climate, massive flooding, burning forests– from the flooding waters of Pakistan to the over heated and water starved wheat fields of Russia shouted across the headlines —clear and obvious call signs of our increasingly forbidding planetary climate emergency.
Are we going to tell them that our democracy has become so dysfunctional because too many — especially on the American right — have lost the ability to compromise, the single biggest tool in the quiver of democracy?
Are we going to tell them we’ve been distracted by phony issues designed to win political advantage rather than American success. Trapping ourselves in an environment that undermines centuries of American religious toleration, the very toleration that allowed us to avoid the sectarian strife that has so often destroyed societies from Europe to Asia and the Middle East by fixating on a non issues like the New York’s proposed Islamic center. A community center that is apparently neither a mosque nor anywhere near ground zero.
No, I think we all know the truth. Next week when school opens almost nothing of the real challenges that face our students will even be brought up. And for that, most teachers should be embarrassed