Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump actually said the words "I love the poorly educated...they are...the most loyal people." And for the type of person he is and the ideology he espouses, he needs the poorly educated, the loyal, the un-critical, the easily duped, the sheep, the lemmings who will jump off the cliff. But his ascent is not just about those who may appear to be poorly educated - whatever he actually means by that phrase - but it is also a damning reflection of how public education in the US 'poorly' educates many many people, and on purpose.
Trump and his loyal followers with their hate-filled divisive rhetoric demonstrate that if people are not taught HOW to think, and rather are only told WHAT to think, then they will blindly follow the loudest mouth in the room; the person who is allegedly "telling the truth".
But as many of us know, truth is subjective and if your education - at all levels pre-K through graduate school - has not provided you with the opportunity to learn - at the very least - how to a) research and examine multiple perspectives, b) analyze and critique sources, and c) generate solutions from a holistic, planetary viewpoint, then you may in fact be incapable of discerning the truth. You may just accept what you are told. You may act from a place of misinformation and personal cognitive bias.
In the United States, a school system made up of over-crowded and under-supported public schools (and overly-rigid, data-fudging charter schools) mired in and founded upon segregation, hierarchy, discipline and punishment, competition, standardized modes of thought, and the deliberate silencing of both teacher and young people's voices will lead to (or has lead to) the rise of all the ills and 'isms' many of us had hoped would be resolved by now.
Our society has devolved and allowed Trump and Trump-like thinkers to rise because schools do the following:
Rather than teaching children how to think for themselves, we teach them to blindly follow the leader, to listen to instructions, and "find the ONE right answer".
Rather than teaching children to have and use their voices as agents for change, we teach them to be quiet, stay in line and just "do as you are told".
Rather than teaching children empathy, compassion and understanding through lessons that promote perspective taking and an accurate view of history, we promote "me-first-ism" and one-sided, often false, perspectives on global and historical issues.
Rather than providing an education that reveals connections between US foreign policy and the rise of extremist movements, we maintain the rhetoric of "US exceptionalism" and our 'might is right' way of thinking.
Rather than fostering cooperation, we use competition via standardized testing, rewards charts and tracking as the core measure of success.
Rather than giving teachers autonomy and the time to know each and every learner as an individual, we pack classrooms with 24-32 children, control, blame and threaten teachers, and enforce standardized testing and curricula.
Rather than teaching science as both content and a process of knowing the world, we religate science to being a "special" (often making its first appearance in fourth grade!) and teach it straight from textbooks (many of which choose not to include evolution or climate change as fact due to religious pressures), thereby removing wonder, inquiry and problem solving from the learning environment and from children's skill sets.
Rather than providing art in all its forms so children can express themselves and experience beauty and creation, we cut programs that foster these important skills and appreciations.
Rather than speaking to children as if they had inherent worth and dignity thus modeling humane modes of communication, we bark at them and silence them.
Of course, there are exceptions. And individual schools and/or school districts find ways to create thoughtful, creative citizens who are prepared to promote an ethic of global consciousness and care. But institutionally speaking, we have completely missed the mark. When we as a country think that spending the majority (~51%) of our national budget on militarism and the war machine, but only a single digit percentage on education, do we really expect our citizenry to be composed of thinkers and "lifelong learners"? Is it any wonder that a reality show host and child of privilege spouting lie after lie, who shamelessly and erroneously blames 'the other' for the problems of the world, and who preys upon the misguided fear and anger of the masses has become a viable candidate for President?