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  • Writer's pictureJ. Basil Dannebohm

Subpar is about the best we can expect, and we only have ourselves to blame.

By J. Basil Dannebohm

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken

joy in creative expression and knowledge."

-- Albert Einstein

J. Basil Dannebohm

Recently, an article landed on my desk that pertained to a subject for which I couldn’t care less. However, I also couldn't help but read it. I would equate the decision to read the entirety of the commentary to the same reason I can't help but stare at a train wreck: it was both astonishing and horrible.

Look, I'm not saying my work is any better. The difference, however, is that I'm not being paid to write. If I relied on my talent for composition (or lack thereof) to make a living, I would be very, very broke.

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve read a poorly written piece from a major news outlet. I can sympathize, though. The media takes a lot of heat -- some of it, they bring upon themselves. A lot of it, however, is our fault.

I'm not going to use this particular commentary to discuss how we: the readers, viewers, and subscribers ultimately dictate the tone and bias of the media outlets. They publish what will catch our eyes. If they didn't, they'd go broke. Most reporters make less income than if they were to work at Home Depot. Thus, they're forced to appeal to their audience -- whether they agree with the rhetoric and bias or not.

Kaitlan Collins

Take CNN's Kaitlan Collins for example. In May 2023, her previous words came back to haunt her. As a budding young journalist employed by The Daily Caller she had some less than savory things to say about the political left. However, now that she's a rising star at CNN, her tune has changed drastically. So where does Kaitlan actually stand on political issues? Who the hell knows? I guess it depends on the source of her paycheck. Does that make her a good journalist? You bet it does. Though she dates a Texas Republican politician, her viewers have no idea of her true convictions. In that regard she's personally unbiased. She's paid to report from a bias because of the demographic of the viewers -- that's our fault.

I digress.

What I'm addressing here is poor journalism, not biased journalism.

Sadly, indeed based on the wages, quite often poor journalism is the best we can expect from media outlets. While major media CEOs, who often possess no journalism background whatsoever make six figures, the "little guys" are lucky to make ends meet.

But again, I digress.

Poor journalism is only the fault of a media outlet if that organization chooses to publish it. A poor journalist, which is to say a journalist who is subpar in the profession, is the result of low standards of both education and formation.

Here’s the thing: we can criticize the media for being biased and generally craptastic, but if ‘journalists’ are not taught to read, write, and develop critical thinking skills what more can we expect?

That starts in the classroom.

When we allow our political persuasions to determine whether or not we think teachers should be paid a living wage and receiving adequate funding for their classrooms, subpar is precisely what we should expect.

Speaking of political persuasions, let's examine what we should expect from leadership when appropriate educational formation is not given priority:

We should expect senators who wear gym shorts in the halls of Congress.

We should expect congresswomen who stand up and shout during the State of the Union Address.

We should expect a member of congress to lie on his resume and commit fraud to maintain his seat in the House of Representatives.

We should expect a member of congress to believe that cow farts cause holes in the ozone layer.

We should expect that a spoiled, self-entitled member of Congress can stymie the democratic process simply because it doesn't go his way.

It's called cause and effect. When we make education a divisive political issue rather than an obligation to our youth, subpar future leaders are about the best we can expect. The paramount importance of education should be a matter for which both sides of the aisle unanimously agree.

Look, I've heard the rhetoric about teachers "brainwashing" students. But here are the facts: I had teachers who were yellow dog democrats and die-hard republicans — it didn’t impact my politics. I had teachers who were Jewish, Catholic, and Agnostic — it didn’t impact my morals. I had teachers who were gay and straight — it didn’t impact my values. I had teachers that were nuns, but you don't see me walking around in a veil, do you?

The "brainwashing" excuse is a political cop-out, and plenty of sheeple have bought into the nonsense. To date, not one of them can present me with any solid evidence that their child turned out the way they did because of a teacher. No. That type of formation comes from the home. But it's much easier for a certain type of individual who is fond of putting on airs to pass the blame onto somebody else rather than taking a long hard look in the mirror. Speaking from experience, were it not for the positive example of many of my educators, I would have no role models at all.

Is this to say that some educators don't push their agendas on their students? Not at all. The media (how ironic) has covered the issue many times. I had a feminist college professor who used the dreaded "c-word" (no, not cancer) liberally, saying that women needed "to take the word back as their own." I took sex education in a Catholic high school. Do you think that wasn't biased? However, the same educators also taught me to think for myself. They armed me with tools I needed for critical thinking. As a result of their instruction, I am able to look back and view some of their personal opinions as idiotic. I have a hunch they would be proud that I came to that conclusion on my own, rather than simply going with what the majority thinks.

When it comes to brainwashing, your kids are getting plenty of that online, in front of the television, and at the dining table (assuming you eat meals together). Time in the classroom is often reprieve from the noise young people are subjected to outside school walls; and for some, the safest environment they can hope for.

The folks who push the whole "brain washing" narrative are the same people who would have you believe that "prayer is outlawed in school." No, it's not. In fact, any student is free to pray as they wish -- even in a group. What they cannot do is force their classmates to pray with them. In other words, students and faculty alike are free to pray. They are not, however, at liberty to indoctrinate. Mark my words, if you were a proponent of prayer in school and your child came home and shared a prayer from another religion that you didn't agree with, you would be the first in line to protest at the next school board meeting.

Perhaps you see my point?

We've let our politics, religious convictions, and fears hijack our education system. Meanwhile, we scratch our heads at why new generations of leaders lack worth ethic, we are puzzled at why government leaders make a mockery of decorum, and we are bewildered at how journalism has become click-bait.

As our nation grows into further political divide, I guess we should expect journalists who are incapable of impartiality or even a rudimentary understanding of composition for that matter.

I can see it now: the radical left defunds law enforcement and the far right defunds education. Our future, much like our leaders, doesn't appear to be especially bright.

I often hear talk of "limited government." Yet from my vantage point, it seems that both leaders and the voters alike prefer that the government function as a sort of morality police and free-thinking watchdog. Don't agree? Then perhaps you can explain banned book lists to me.

Learning shouldn't be political; it should be a priority. Dare I say a moral obligation? Our failure to fund and equip our nation's education system is a humanitarian crisis. Until the crisis is resolved, subpar is about the best we can expect, and we only have ourselves to blame.


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