Willful Ignorance Is Not Bliss, But Rather Mean – McCrory’s Orwellian Contradiction

News that Gov. McCrory’s office asked public school leaders this past summer to find ways to cut their budget by as much as 2 percent should come as a surprise in an election year where he has touted his commitment to public education and a creation of a surplus in our current budget.

But it is not really a surprise. It’s actually consistent with the McCrory doctrine.

Billy Ball from NC Policy Watch released a report on Oct. 11th entitled “McCrory administration asks schools to submit plans for $173 million budget cut” that outlines the governor’s request. It is a very illuminating piece of journalism – http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/10/11/mccrory-administration-asks-schools-submit-plans-173-million-budget-cut/.

Ball also includes a copy of the memo that makes the original request. It is complete with annotating highlights that show the rather “benign” fashion McCrory’s office makes the entreaty. Here is a link – http://ncdp.org/wp-content/uploads/mccrory-budget-cuts.pdf.

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In a year where Opportunity Grants have been further financed to the tune of almost $900 million dollars over the next ten years, an educational endowment fund set up by the lieutenant governor for an amorphous plan, an expansion of unregulated charter schools, and the creation of an ASD district that pays an out-of-state company to run schools, news of this “budget request” is like a kick in the groin of a person already compromised.

This request for cuts is tantamount to asking a starving person to share his food with someone who just ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Some of the more disturbing parts of Ball’s report comes here:

“Among the choices, school board members could confine the cuts to a single spending category or spread it across the department’s spending plan. Either would have major ramifications for the state’s educators, forcing the state to possibly shed thousands of teaching positions, career and technical educators or teacher assistants.

Both proposals would also drain millions from funds designated to benefit at-risk students, special needs children and low-wealth counties in the state, according to Price.”

When the terms “at-risk students”, “special needs children”, and “low-wealth counties” are used in a proposal that involves budget cuts, then serious ramifications are certainly about to take place.

Does the governor not choose to understand if he is to be a champion for public education he does not continue to siphon money away from the very students who need the funds for resources? Ironically the very charter schools that he allows to grow and the very private schools that receive vouchers do not have to take these “at-risk” of “special needs” students.

Does the governor not choose to look at the school performance grades that his administration has rubber-stamped and see how schools in low-wealth counties suffer from poverty? If McCrory is touting a “Carolina Comeback” this election year, does that allow him to selectively forget that nearly 1 in 4 children in NC live in poverty?

Apparently the answer to these questions is a “Yes!”

I am reminded of a poem by Thomas Gray entitled “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” written in 1642. The last stanza reads,

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

The next to last line contains that very famous saying “Ignorance is bliss.” While people may quibble over the true meaning of the poem, I have taken it to mean that there is a time in our lives (youth) where we are not cognizant of many deleterious forces in the world. We are ignorant to them; therefore, they do not bother us or cast a cloud in our reality.

But what McCrory is practicing here seems to be feigned and willful ignorance. That is a completely different matter. That denotes a willful disassociation with the consequences of his actions.

In a year where he is touting a budget surplus, Gov. McCrory is being willfully ignorant of how he seems to be financing that surplus – by taking away from the very people he should be serving.

In a year where he suggests that we take money from the disaster fund to finance fighting for an unconstitutional law like HB2, he is practicing willful ignorance – http://fusion.net/story/332612/mccrory-transfers-disaster-funds-to-defend-hb2/.

McCrory has stated that one of his favorite books is George Orwell’s 1984, the dystopian novel that eerily depicts the power of an authoritarian government. One of the most iconic quotes from the book says,

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”

Antithetical? Contradictory? Paradoxical? Propaganda? You can have great discussions in an English, civics, or social studies class about the meaning of this quote.

But those types of discussions will be harder to have when $173 million dollars is cut from the public school system that already has been stripped bare.

Maybe ignorance really is not bliss, but a reason to teach more awareness. But willful ignorance is pure neglect.

And Orwell surely was not saying that ignorance really is strength. What he was saying is that feigned ignorance is a sign of weakness.

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