America Worst

On this Fourth of July, I find myself thinking about the future of our country and this year’s Presidential election. I won’t be worried if Hillary Clinton is elected; I believe she is uniquely qualified to lead our nation and will hit the ground running. As for the GOP presumptive nominee, Trump’s “America First” plan is better described as “America Worst.” He brags he will “make America great again, but his xenophobic, racist, isolationistic plan to do that will accomplish nothing of the sort and instead, exposes the worst about America. The dog-whistle phrases he repeats incessantly harken a return to a sort of white supremacy; a return to the “Father Knows Best” “good old days” as viewed by his supporters. What Trump and his supporters either don’t get, or don’t care to get, is that today’s global economy will never allow America to be both isolationistic and “great.”

One person who does “get it” is Secretary of Education John King. In a recent speech to the National PTA Convention in Orlando, Florida, he explained that in today’s working world, your boss may not look like you, your office-mate may not worship like you, your project teammates may not speak the same language as you, and your customer may not live on the same continent as you. “Today” he said, “cross-cultural literacy is another way of saying competitive advantage.” In other words, “diversity is no longer a luxury”, it is what will enable us to compete.

At the National School Boards Association Advocacy Institute last month, I was privileged to hear Secretary King in person. An orphan at age 12 and a product of New York City public schools, Secretary King knows first-hand what a difference opportunity can make. He was an impressive speaker and is obviously a passionate egalitarian, particularly when it comes to opportunities for our students. As articulated in a The Atlantic interview, “[diversity is] not just about trying to expand opportunities for low-income students, but really about our values as a country and to improve education outcomes for all students.”

Unlike Trump, Secretary King acknowledges the truth, that we can’t cut off America’s interaction with the rest of the world. In fact, I’m fairly certain Trump doesn’t intend to pull all his overseas business ventures back — not his golf course and resort in Scotland, nor his seven hotels and as many Trump Towers all over the world; nor his clothing line manufacturing in China, Bangladesh, and Mexico. When questioned about why his shirts and ties were made in China, Trump said he’d love to make them here, but it costs too much. That’s right Donald, to maximize profits, you’ve gotta go where the labor is dirt cheap, the hell with unemployed American workers!

But I digress. The point I really wanted to make is that isolationism and segregation are two sides of the same coin. Just as pulling back and hiding within our own borders would hamper our business opportunities, our influence and our standing in the world, so does segregating our students by socio-economic and ethnicity hamper their abilities to function and succeed in the world. King calls it “being prepared for the diverse context in which we live and work.” After all, no matter how badly some wish our nation would return to a more homogenous (read “white”) population, it’s just not going to happen. Already, a full half of all K-12 students in the United States are “of color” and in Arizona, the Latin@ students in our schools are no longer a minority, but a majority. Not only does each of these children deserve the equal opportunity to succeed, but their white and/or more affluent peers need to learn how to relate to and co-exist with this majority.

The bottom line is that sticking our heads in the sand, sequestering our children with others just like them, constructing walls and closing borders is not a long-term strategy, it is kicking the can down the road. I suspect Trump actually understands this, but despite his claims that he is not a politician, he sure knows how to pander to his supporters. No matter how many times, or how loudly he touts it though, sticking our collective heads in the sand is not the way to make “America Great Again.”

We must remember what got us here in the first place: our democratic system of governance; our sense of fair play; and free, quality public education mandated for all.” These things don’t come cheap, but I believe they are the reason the United States has been a beacon of opportunity for much of our existence. That’s why I believe America still is great with the caveat that we have much to fix if we want to stay that way. I also believe as citizens of this great country, we all have a duty to participate in the fixes. That participation can take many forms, but it cannot fall to just a few. Without the vast majority of us showing real concern and dedicated commitment to the common good, our UNITED States will not stay great. Without recognizing the potential in every child and promoting equal opportunity for them all, our nation will never be all that it can. A beacon of opportunity and an example of what’s possible when a people have control of their collective destiny.

9 responses to “America Worst

  1. Ms. Lyons, pls delete my comment awaiting moderation. Made a mistake, you’ll see what it is. Thx, L

  2. Frances Perkins

    My son’s (half Asian) friend group included one mixed race (African American) boy, a South Asian girl, an Hispanic boy, a red headed girl, a full Asian boy, and 1/4 Japanese mixed race guy. One goofball mother called this group “your ethnic friends”. They all got along great and even after college, they get together on holidays and for dinners in Phoenix. This is the America of the future, and these kids are all great kids making important contributions to the “real” Arizona. The real Arizona is not a xenophobic, build more walls State. The voting has not caught up with the reality–yet. It will.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      When my daughter was in first grade, she would carry on non-stop about her two best friends in school and how great the were. Endlessly, like only a little kid can do.

      One sunny day at some school function I got to meet them.

      There were three sweet smiling faces looking up at me, a vietnamese girl, a black girl, and my white daughter.

      I had sunglasses on which was good, I actually got a little misty-eyed, because while I immediately noticed their differences, I realized none of them did.

      It never occurred to my daughter to include that minor detail in any of her stories about their adventures.

      Now when I tell that story my now grown up daughter rolls her eyes, because while it was an intense moment of hope for the future for me, it was just first grade for her.

      No big deal.

      I agree with you, Francis Perkins, voting has not yet caught up with reality yet.

  3. captain*arizona

    the constitution can deal with a fool like trump through impeachment. knaves like the clintons are much harder for our constitution to deal with. I challenge anyone to argue that hillary’s iraq war vote for personel gain does not disqualify her for the presidency. clinton voted for the war not because she believed in it ;but so republicans couldn’t use it against her when she ran for president. this is why I voted for howard dean over kerry. it is called to clever by half as the british say. to wage aggressive war is a war crime and clintons and kerrys iraq war vote did just that.

  4. Concerned Citizen

    Education or incarceration? When a state values the mass incarceration of its people over educating them, then society is doomed. Educators why AREN’T you discussing this and taking back those tax dollars swiped by the prison profiteers?

    • Thanks for the read and your comments CC! Couldn’t agree more with you! We need educators to stand up and say ENOUGH!

    • And which US president contributed the most to mass incarceration and which First Lady supported him?

      Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote

      From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted—and Hillary Clinton supported—decimated black America.

      By Michelle AlexanderFEBRUARY 10, 2016
      ***
      “Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

      Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”

      When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.””