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The partial redesign of the American
government proposed in the preceding chapters would shoulder the lion’s share of moving
America beyond today’s dominance and plutocracy, but two other pragmatic
alterations to our government and society are proposed in this work to complete
the task: the inclusion at the high school level in the American educational
system of four years of classroom instruction and active participation in a true
democratic process and certain changes in government laws and regulations
relating to work and the compensation for work.
In this chapter I will discuss the inclusion of
the study and practice of democracy within the American high school system. In
the next chapter, Government, Business, and the Definition of Labor, I
will discuss proposed modifications in how work is defined and managed in
One principal goal (or at least one principal
result) of the current American system
of education, particularly that part of it directed at the common person, is
not to create politically capable, questioning citizens but to create obedient, productive employees and soldiers.
Our educational system conveys a childish “civic religion”: worship of the
forefathers, the Constitution, and “the American way.” Our religion includes
a mythology of freedom, democracy, equal opportunity and justice, and
America’s goodness and helpfulness in the world.
So thorough and effective is
this ‘education’ that even though most people can see that a great deal is
wrong with our nation few are left with the mental capacity to break through
their learned religion and mythology and see what is most fundamentally true and
wrong, let alone how to really fix our many ills. The notions of critical debate, evaluation, and fundamental political
change are minimized or entirely ignored. God forbid that any student should
question the foundation of our sacred government, the status quo, or the legitimacy of
current ways. Effective political empowerment, participation, and responsibility
are utterly lacking. The end result is a populace that is politically confused,
apathetic, impotent, incapable, and excluded.
Inspired by William Penn’s words, “Let the people think they govern and they will be
governed,” I once wrote the somewhat clumsy but very true words, “Let the people think they have democracy and they will never seek it.” Most people today have little or no understanding that America and all of the other so-called democracies in the world today are not truly democracies but plutocracies. When
the founders wrote our Constitution they deliberately avoided democracy, creating instead a
republic, a supposedly “representative” form of government that is really only
a plutocracy wrapped in the democratic garb of voting and elections.
Voting and elections in and of themselves do not
constitute democracy. Democracy is and can only be widely distributed real
power within the hands of the entire populace, the power to directly vote on
issues of central importance to a nation and in free, honest elections for
representatives that later honestly represent you. Real power means honest
inclusion in and representation by government.
Having only experienced the meaningless, powerless
‘elections’ of today and never having participated in a true democracy, even of a limited sort, Americans have no idea that they are not participating in a
true democracy or what even constitutes one.
Americans will have to learn democracy from the ground up.
Democracy, true democracy as defined and
described in this work, should be taught as the subject of a four-year course at the
high school level. The differences between and the very different results of
consensus democracy and majority-rule democracy should be made eminently clear. The
study of democracy should be given the time, intensity, and sincerity that English, math, and science are given today. Democracy should be taught both as an academic subject and
by students actually participating within the demos during their four years
in high school.
Democracy and politics should be taught both in their highest ideal and in their lowest, foulest practices.
Students should learn the many ways and forms in which half truths, distortions,
lies of omission, and outright lies are told; how carefully crafted and
laundered language is used; the abuse of ‘science,’ statistics, and polling; the most unscrupulous political
when character assassination is being used; the use of “hot button” issues
to distract from the real, most important issues; and the many ways in which issues are avoided and the solutions to problems
are delayed or evaded. Students should
even learn how physical beauty and polished presentation affects people and are used to rake in votes.
They should be taught to look past the superficial and see the real and the
important and to recognize a pretty speech that contains nothing of substance.
They should learn that the self-interests of famous people like movie and rock
stars and television evangelists will usually be very different than their own
self-interests and, therefore, would be the wrong people to vote for. They must
learn to dig deeper than what is merely said to them, than what is claimed. Students should learn
how to do research on people, issues, and events. They must learn to think
critically, as in the development of skillful judgment as to truth and merit. They should engage in written and oral political expression and
persuasion and learn how to engage others in issues and causes. Each student should learn what is in his or her own true
Students should study the issues included in the demos of the
federal government and participate in active classroom and school-wide debates
about them. They should learn how to use demos voting terminals by actually
using them to vote and participate in the real demos deliberations. (The demos
debate offered by students should be clearly marked as that of students, and, of
course, their votes would not yet count.)
By the time a student graduates from high school, he or she
should be well versed in government and politics. The student should have a
cynical and skeptical streak but healthy idealism as well. He or she should be
well prepared to participate effectively as a member of the demos and as a
citizen within our society.
Courses similar to the high school courses of varying depth and intensity should be available free to all age groups throughout the land. The American people have been deliberately excluded from sharing power in the American political process and have been allowed and even encouraged to sink into a state of ignorance and apathy.
Paul Valery wrote, “Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them.”
That they may begin to participate in the affairs which properly concern them, the American people
would have to learn what a true democratic process is and how to participate in it.
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Beyond Plutocracy - Democracy for America
© Copyright 2001-2017 Roger D Rothenberger