A Nation of Dummies
Trial witness offers glimpse at products of public education
I’ve seen the future of America — and it’s going to be dumber.
I saw a glimpse of where America is headed last week when prosecutors in the George Zimmerman case put Trayvon Martin’s “not-girlfriend,” Rachel Jeantel, on the stand.
Jeantel was on the phone with Martin only minutes before he was shot and killed in his fight with neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla.
The 19-year-old daughter of a Haitian immigrant was supposed to be the prosecutor’s star witness.
But after seeing her bumbling, rude, impertinent demeanor and her poor communication skills, one commentator described Jeantel as a “train wreck.”
Jeantel — who admitted in front of the whole country she couldn’t read cursive, and apparently had no idea how a court trial worked — has been ridiculed unmercifully for her awful grammar and lack of polish.
That’s not completely fair. As one of her best defenders explained, she’s a product of her unique cultural background.
“Rachel Jeantel has her own particular, idiosyncratic black girl idiom, a mash-up of her Haitian and Dominican working-class background, her U.S. Southern upbringing, and the three languages -- Haitian Kreyol (or Creole), Spanish and English -- that she speaks.”
It’s true Jeantel has had obstacles to overcome. But neither her race nor her background is to blame for her embarrassing court appearance.
Public education is.
Jeantel’s performance was shocking evidence of the continuing failure of our government education monopoly to properly educate our kids. But she’s not alone.
Public education has also failed millions of other kids like her — in the suburbs as well as the cities. It no longer imparts reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills to the kids like Jeantel who need it most.
She’s a senior in high school. Tens of thousands of tax dollars have been spent, supposedly to educate her. Yet she’s going to graduate from high school without being able to read a letter written in cursive?
What else does she not know?
Like the young, white Southern California businessman I met on the golf course a few weeks ago who couldn’t imagine why there would be an American military cemetery in Normandy, France, Jeantel is an innocent victim of our lousy public schools.
Maybe a miracle will occur. Maybe Jeantel’s career track to government dependency will be changed for the better because of her negative celebrity.
Maybe someone like Bill Cosby or Oprah will swoop in and help her salvage her bad education. Maybe she will learn to exploit her multilingual skills and go on to make her living as a translator at the United Nations, but I doubt it.
More than likely, and sadly for her future and for the future of America, Jeantel is never going to become a productive member of society who can take care of herself.
If I still had young kids to educate, I’d send them anywhere but public school. Catholic school. Private school. Home school. Online schools. I’d hire tutors.
Those alternatives to public education are America’s only hope for a smarter future.
Otherwise, we’re going to become a nation of dummies, where cursive writing is like a second language and hardly anyone will be able to read the original handwritten copies of founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence. Happy Fourth of July.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press).
Copyright ©2013 Michael Reagan