Limbaugh suggests the decline of America’s education system corresponds to when the government made it more religiously neutral, quoting Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas: ‘‘My mother says that when they took God out of the schools, the schools went to hell.’’ Our schools are obviously in weak shape, but can they really be seen as a decline compared to when Christianity still loomed large in the classrooms? How good could the actual education have been back then that it’s such a shambles compared to what it is today?

In our nation’s infancy an education, even literacy, were considered luxuries of the privileged and upper-class. I mean, what kind of strong emphasis has our country ever put on the importance of an education?

A teacher is one of the highest paid and respected professions there is in many Asian nations. This must be because they value knowledge and wisdom as some of the greatest things in life——unlike other countries I can think of. Teachers here are held up as not much more than underpaid civil servants. Our government reveres the teachers it hires about as much as its bureaucratic paper-pushers. Being a public school teacher is one of the least paid, undervalued professions there is in our country. We seriously do seem to care more about smart bombs than smart kids; the logic seemingly being who needs an educated offspring when we have the power to just kill everything?

To put this in a broader perspective, one must also take into account how the last hundred years has seen an increase in our knowledge that is utterly unprecedented. Not to deny that many important discoveries have been made all throughout human history, but still, on a graph our thousands of years of previous history would be a fairly stagnant line compared to the sharp spike of growth that’s occurred recently. Ours has been a slowly evolving awareness, till suddenly with the boom of industry and technology (for better or for worse) we’ve skyrocketed as a people, literally to the moon and beyond.

So really the education today is better simply by virtue of the fact that we know so much more now. I imagine then the major difference Limbaugh’s referring to when he speaks of the ‘‘decline’’ of our education system is the behavior of the students. And while kids of eras past might indeed have been better behaved, that’s hardly reflective of the quality of the education they we’re receiving, simply that they were easier to keep in line (which shouldn’t be surprising——the less educated people are, naturally the easier they are to control).

But today’s youngsters are not so afraid to express what they think; to ask questions to which those in authority currently have no answers. And for the last half century, each new generation has reached a level of mental maturity far greater than the previous, with a longing for a more open and honest education than their teachers can deal with, having come from a painfully different time themselves.

This gap is not only generational, but also institutional. For though religion may have been removed from the classrooms, its authoritarian attitude lingered. And as far as the school system has progressed since those days, it still adheres to fairly simplistic ‘‘deference to authority’’ teaching practices. (So it shouldn’t be in the least surprising that modern kids are rebellious——nor should this necessarily be seen as something bad. It just means they’re eager to progress past the tired norms of a stalemate culture.)

Not only has the school system failed to make any great strides, but there are many who believe it’s gone way too far already, such as with its approach to sex education.


There’s nothing wrong with telling kids straight-up that the only surefire way to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and from becoming pregnant is through abstinence. But there is something extremely wrong if this is the centerpiece of a sex education curriculum. Encouraging kids to abstain of their own free will is one thing, but to teach them nothing but abstinence is downright dangerous. If taught that the only safe sex is no sex, how can they possibly be expected to protect themselves if they do decide to, uh, bump uglies?

Teachers can encourage abstinence and teach about birth control in the same class. Not according to Limbaugh, though——to him (like most things) it’s a simplistic black and white, one or the other situation. Either you’re teaching kids right from wrong——abstinence——or you’re ‘‘teaching that sex does not have any consequences,’’ which he believes ‘‘is the selfish agenda these people hold dear.’’

Limbaugh also contends that condoms promote free love, àla Austin Powers (yeah baby). He says, ‘‘Condom distribution sanctions, even encourages, sexual activity, which in teen years tends to be promiscuous [he only wishes he spoke from experience] and relegates to secondary status the most important lesson to be taught: abstinence.’’

But just because schools make condoms available, or even distribute condoms to students, how is this going to encourage them to do something that they otherwise wouldn’t? Cripes, most guys have a hard enough time getting laid as is, but Limbaugh’s gonna have us believe just because they’ve got a condom all these girls are gonna go, ‘‘Oh, okay,’’ and throw their legs open? Puh-leeze!

Limbaugh defines his own term Young Skulls Full of Mush as: ‘‘Young American people after their brains have been pasteurized and filled with multiculturalism, sex advocacy programs, and other twaddle by our failing public school system.’’ But Limbaugh reveals his own supercilious condescension by portraying kids as deciding to have sex with the rationale of simpletons: ‘‘Heck, the school gave me this condom, they know what they’re doing.’’ Apparently Limbaugh doesn’t believe teenagers are at risk of having their minds turned to mush quite so much as he believes that they’re inherently at risk because their minds are already mush.

Schools probably shouldn’t distribute condoms to all students whether they asked for them or not, I think that’s a bit personal. Rather, they should simply make condoms easily available to those who want them. But by no means do I buy into this myth that by handing a student a condom we’ve encouraged them to have sex; kids aren’t as dumb as Rush would have us believe. Kids can recognize birth control as something they might use if they choose to have sex, but this knowledge certainly isn’t going to influence that most personal and emotional decision.

And if they don’t have any protection, does Limbaugh believe this is going to stop a couple from having sex if that’s their intention? It might delay it for a couple hours, days or weeks, but sooner or later they’ll find a contraceptive. Either that or they’ll go ahead and have sex without any protection at all, and that’s just a simple unstoppable fact, whether people want to accept it or not.

Limbaugh takes the ‘‘kids are going to do it anyway, you can’t stop them’’ notion to its logical conclusion by arguing that, hey, if we’re gonna give kids condoms, why stop there? Why not convert study hall into Safe Sex Centers where students can have sex in school, why not put disease-free hookers in these Safe Sex Centers? As Limbaugh puts it: ‘‘. . . if safe sex is the objective, why compromise our standards?’’ Hey, if abstinance is his objective, why not carry that to its logical conclusion and castrate the boys and sew up the girls? Why compromise your standards, right Rush?

Today’s sex ed is so highly improved compared to that of half a century ago, a time of prudery and repression to which Limbaugh implies we should return. You watch those old b&w health education films of the 40’s and 50’s and on the surface they’re just laugh-ably hokey, but listen to their exact content and you’ll notice they were extremely conforming. They had nothing to do with the actual changes that take place during puberty. Instead they were almost solely a particular group or person’s personal beliefs being objectified into this presentation of what was ‘‘normal, acceptable behavior,’’ as if there were such a clearly discernible thing.

Kids are obviously having sex these days at younger and younger ages, but their behavior is influenced more by society than their school, having to do with these radical advancements in technology and how this has shaped our pop-culture. (And you want to know something? People have always had sex at ages or under circumstances others considered inappropriate, so at least in that respect things remain unchanged.)

Besides, if people can’t deal with their kids growing up and becoming sexually intimate, then the real problem is their poor parenting and desire to have the schools and society raise their children for them.


There are, to be sure, a lot of lousy, half-ass parents out there resulting in some pretty screwy kids. But all the schools can do is give students the most thorough and honest education possible, and simply hope they’ll use that knowledge to make their own best decisions. It’s not, nor should it be, the school’s responsibility to preach the puritanical values of this country’s religious majority.

Limbaugh says: ‘‘The way to improve our schools is not more money, but the reintroduction of moral and spiritual values, as well as the four “R’s”: reading, ’riting, ’rithmatic, and Rush.’’

Other than increasing teachers salaries (which is the only way they’ll attract better quality teachers to public schools), I agree that schools don’t need more money——what’s needed is better management of its funds. They need to really show where the priorities are; that is, in the classrooms, not the operation of the bureaucratic school administrations. What I disagree with Rush about is the need for the preaching and prayer of the Christian religion (see Appendix III), or as he put it, ‘‘. . . the reintroduction of moral and spiritual values. . . .’’ What schools really need is more creative classroom environments where students feel like a real part of the process of their own education; where they’re talked with and not at; where they are able to freely express and develop their own voices. The entire curriculum of the school should reflect such nurturing tendencies.


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