Arthur Camins warned last fall about the resurgence of hateful rhetoric in the presidential campaign. What I take from his article is that the civic and moral purposes of schooling are even more important than test scores. A society that has higher scores but ignores the importance of decency, civility, and ethics is not a good place to live, nor is it likely to have a good future, especially when the society is as diverse as ours.

 

Camins writes:

 

“I wish I lived in a country in which the unconstrained expression of racist and xenophobic ideas from candidates for president of the United States engendered enough public condemnation to cause immediate and unredeemable rejection. I wish politicians, whatever their personal beliefs, felt compelled to keep such poisonous thoughts to themselves. That restraint would signify a healthier more humane national culture.

 

“Our country has arrived at (or maybe, returned to) this deeply disturbing state of affairs for many reasons, including the unrestrained influence of money in political campaigns, political gerrymandering, sensationalist media culture, and the long tradition of stoking bigotry for political and economic gains. Addressing the complex causes will not be easy or quick.

 

“Schools cannot solve every societal problem and this is no exception. However, education can contribute to a long-term solution. To do so, parents, educators and education policy makers will need to embrace a broader civic and moral purpose of schools. All educated, morally- grounded Americans should find suggestions of mass deportation, double border fences, or religious qualifications for political asylum morally repugnant.

 

“The facile inclination to blame the “other” for our society’s difficult and complex problems is certainly not new. What is most troubling is that it continues to reemerge in response to the very behavior we deplore. Are these reactions an intractable feature of human nature or learned? Is this all-to-common tendency subject to constraint and malleable? I choose to believe that it is and that public education can play a significant positive role.”

 

And here we are, with xenophobia and nativism openly aired and treated as a serious issue.