What Will Unite Our Nation, Eliminating the Social and Political Divide?

The reason our nation is deeply divided, socially, politically, and economically, is our deep education divide and low average level of education. Large numbers of our citizens are poorly educated, due to many mediocre public schools. Only by eliminating our education divide and greatly raising the average level of education will we have a united, prosperous nation, with no serious political strife. Our public schools must be upgraded so that all our youth get, at a minimum, a truly excellent educational base.

Most election deniers, QAnon followers, January 6 insurrectionists, authoritarian sympathizers, and credulous victims of all sorts of Internet misinformation/disinformation are highly correlated with a low level of education. They feel lost, left behind, looked down upon by the “elites” for not being well educated. They are angry and frustrated, having a superficial understanding of the world, and little understanding of their own disturbed emotional state. They fear being “replaced”, precisely because they are undereducated. Most probably they were not loved by their parents, or not properly loved, which explains their rage and feelings of inferiority. They constitute a serious threat to our democracy, not feeling invested in it, and being easily swayed by fascist demagogues. The fault undeniably lies with our public schools.

Poverty and violent crime are also highly correlated with a low level of education, concentrated among high school dropouts and those with only a mediocre public school education. To eliminate poverty and violent crime, every single public school must be as good as the best private schools, so that all our youth have a truly solid educational base.

Evidently few of our political leaders know what makes for a good public school, otherwise we wouldn’t have so many mediocre ones, with high dropout rates and low educational levels. Common sense suggests that public schools should adopt the formula of all successful private schools: strict class discipline; lots of homework/study hall; school uniforms, since “dressing the part” is essential for a positive school environment; individual attention for students having academic or psychological difficulties, in order to prevent them from falling behind and dropping out; and of crucial importance, an enlightened curriculum, adapted for the complex modern world and the global economy.

An enlightened high school curriculum provides a broad “liberal arts” education, beyond the basics of English and the sciences, since many youths do not go on to college and many college graduates have only a narrow education, focused on their profession. It is important to realize that just having a law degree, or business degree, or medical degree does not make one well educated in the broad sense. A narrowly focused education is not sufficient for a well-informed voter or politician, not even for a person to enjoy life fully.

To have a broadly educated and psychologically well-adjusted citizenry, our high school curriculums nationwide should include the following four-year courses: 1) psychology (taught in conjunction with group therapy and good parenting workshops); 2) detailed, analytic 20th Century history; 3) economics/finance/investing; 4) history of art/architecture/design; 5) history of music; 6) the United Nations’ Charter and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights; 7) the world history of human rights violations; 8) comparative religion studied through direct, analytic readings of the holy books along with the history of the major religions; 9) logic and critical thinking; 10) ethics and empathy; 11) foreign languages and cultures; 12) introductory and Constitutional law; 13) Latin; 14) the major mistakes in economic, social, and foreign policy of the past 100 years, and which would have been the correct policies. Since having uniformly excellent public schools is in the national interest, we should have a demanding National High School Graduation Exam and the federal government should finance all public schools, while ensuring that the high school curriculum is enlightened. (Importantly, great public schools reduce the need for divisive affirmative action policies.)

The course on the major mistakes in economic, social, and foreign policy of the past 100 years is of critical importance to have a great majority of well-informed voters and politicians. Too many of our current voters and politicians would fail this course’s senior high school exam. In fact, odds are that not one of our presidents, senators, representatives, governors, and mayors of the past 50 years would pass that exam. No wonder we never solve our major problems! It must be realized that just being a lawyer or businessman does not make one qualified to be president, senator, representative, governor, or mayor.

One example of a politician not sufficiently educated for holding a government position is Representative Katie Porter, a former prosecutor. She held a Congressional hearing recently with graphs showing that 50% of the rise in our oil and natural gas prices was due to increased profit margins at petroleum companies. Her point was that much of our current inflation was due to increased profits, implying that we should have price and profit controls, not a free market economy. The reality is that the causes of our current inflation are not profits. Rather, the causes are the continuing Covid supply-chain disruptions along with sharply higher prices globally for grain, oil and natural gas, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reducing supply. Higher profitability is the necessary condition for stimulating increased production of grains, oil, natural gas, and green energy alternatives, and obtaining lower prices. Representative Porter clearly has not studied economics, yet she would like to determine our economic policy. What would she have to say about the multiple year periods where oil and gas prices declined to very low levels, with profits plummeting?

Another example: recently, various Republican and Democratic politicians have naively suggested that we engage in diplomacy with Putin to end his illegal, immoral, brutal invasion Ukraine. They clearly have not carefully studied 20th Century history, and must be ignoring the terrible mistake of appeasing Hitler before World War II. Nor have they studied logic and critical thinking, believing one can negotiate with a liar, a hypocrite (a career KGB agent who defended communism, persecuted people for criticizing communism and dictatorship, then became a corrupt capitalist) and a criminal (murdering political opponents and attacking various nations, violating their sovereignty with genocidal intention). If our foreign policy were run by such unqualified politicians, it would be a disaster not just for our nation, but for the whole world, as brutal dictators would take over the world. Without the United States’ unwavering commitment to democracy and human rights, Hitler would not have been defeated. Without its commitment to free market economics and private property, communism would still rule half the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that the United States is the key to barring fascism and communism in the world. The sad, scandalous irony today is that we have our own homegrown fascists and neo-Nazis, backed by many of our politicians, and that our own democracy is at risk. We probably even have quite a few citizens, including politicians, corrupted by Putin, working against our democracy and international law, spreading wild conspiracy theories, and participating directly or indirectly in insurrections.

The reason why logic and critical thinking are important courses is demonstrated by the fact that many mainstream economic theories taught at our universities are flatly contradicted by the statistics of the past 50 years, and are therefore mistaken. Such as that budget deficits necessarily cause inflation and high interest rates, when we had 10 years of record high budget deficits between 2009 and 2019 (all financed by the Federal Reserve through QE), with inflation and interest rates remaining at record lows. There is clearly no automatic correlation between budget deficits and inflation and interest rates (v. Japan!). Few economists have signaled that, and even fewer have explained how that can be. We have had repeated avoidable recessions and high unemployment precisely because the Federal Reserve follows fallacious economic theories. If all our economists had benefited from a well-devised 4-year course in logic and critical thinking in high school, they would have a much better understanding of economics and would make much more accurate forecasts and much better policy proposals.

The 4-year Introductory and Constitutional Law course would serve to convince the vast majority of Americans to eliminate the Constitution’s provision which allows state legislatures to disregard citizens’ votes for president and impose their own selection of presidential electors. That provision could have made sense 200 years ago when most citizens were illiterate, but today it is anachronistic, violating the essence of democracy, citizens’ votes. The course would also serve to expose the fact that our asylum law, inspired by the Holocaust, only applies to people persecuted by their own governments, not those fleeing poverty or violence. (In any case, asylum requests should only be made at our consulates in the country of residence, not at our border, to avoid large numbers of migrants being admitted into the country pending determination of their asylum applications, effectively an open door policy.)

The importance of having a 4-year high school course in psychology accompanied by group therapy and good parenting workshops along with individual attention given to students with serious psychological problems, should be clear in light of our widespread gun violence and mass shootings, all perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals. Such a course is not only for prevention of violence, it is also for prevention of abuse, bullying, rape, drug addiction, depression, suicide, and even of unwanted pregnancies. It is required for having all our citizens psychologically literate and well-adjusted, and for a serene, empathetic society.

Teaching comparative religion studied through direct, analytic readings of the holy books is essential to make our citizenry aware of the fact that the Bible, for example, incites the violation of human rights repeatedly, justifying torture, religious discrimination, sexual discrimination, slavery, censorship, generational guilt, the negation of women’s equal rights. Many Americans are Christian fundamentalists who want our laws to follow the Bible, ignoring or accepting its systematic violations of human rights, including its commanding the stoning to death of non-virgin brides. Clearly, many of them have not read the Bible, since they believe the Bible is against abortion. The Bible does not address the issue of abortion at all. A citizenry well educated on the world history of human rights violations and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights would not engage in human rights violations. Knowledge and culture are the key to a civilized society. We have too much ignorance in our country, and that explains our many serious problems and the failure to solve them.

Finally, the 4-year high school course in ethics and empathy is of enormous importance, given the rampant dishonesty and cruelty infecting our nation. That course would serve to greatly reduce dishonesty, hypocrisy, abusiveness, and violence.

Ending the deep education divide and widespread educational mediocrity, by ensuring that every single American youth gets at a minimum a truly excellent high school education, is the key to maintaining our democracy and having an economically and socially prosperous society with minimal political strife. It is very disappointing, even scandalous, that as a nation we have allowed all too many of our public schools to be very mediocre, the cause of all our problems. The critical questions are will we react intelligently before it is too late, and will Americans finally seek out truly qualified and moral political candidates with real solutions, and no longer vote for unqualified, incompetent, fascistic, and often corrupt demagogues.

© Edward Sonnino 2022

October 28, 2022


Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.

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Edward Sonnino

Born and raised in New York City. Best course in college: history of art. Profession: economic forecaster and portfolio manager. Fluent in French and Italian.