A recent article in The Atlantic by Norman Ornstein makes the case that the U.S. should require all of its citizens to vote. His full article can be read here.
On the surface, this seems like a good idea. How can having more people, even the maximum number of people, participate in a democracy be a bad thing? The larger the number of people voting, the more likely it is that the government will represent the people’s wishes in full.
Maybe so. However, while the U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to vote, the question in this case becomes: does the right to vote imply a right not to vote? Does exercising the right to participate in the democratic process include the right not to participate if you so choose?
Maybe this is simply a question of whether the government can mandate the entire population to do something. At first, most conservatives (and many liberals) would say no, but the government already mandates that we do things like purchase car insurance (and soon health insurance too) or register for selective service (for males only). The government also tells us what we can’t do in the form of criminal laws at both the state and federal level. So the precedent has already been set that we can be made to do things by the government if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the nation at large.
So, is requiring all citizens to vote in the best interest of the nation at large? I think the obvious answer to that question is yes. But there are other considerations that call this seemingly easy answer into question.
The first consideration is that requiring people to vote might make some who are against the policy sabotage the system by wasting their vote on meaningless write-ins or creating anti-government voting blocs. They may also just outright refuse to vote regardless of what the law says, which brings in the question of what kind of punishment can be imposed on those who do not obey. Can the government really fine people or impose jail sentences for people who won’t vote?
Another consideration is whether or not people will educate themselves enough on the issues and/or candidates to vote with their best interests in line. Maybe people will just show up to press a button, any button, as fast as possible because they didn’t bother to read the voter’s pamphlet and view the whole process as a waste of their time. Having this type of person affecting elections and laws could be a dangerous thing.
A well-educated and enthusiastic voting population should, in theory, result in a functional government that closely represents the people. Getting the maximum number of people to vote of their own free will is the goal, but the solution of mandating people in order to increase voting participation seems poorly thought out. It will likely create more problems than it will solve.
I view the right not to participate in the democratic process as a form of protest, and therefore protected free speech. The problem is that a lazy voter and a protesting voter look exactly the same when the voter turnout numbers are compiled. Still, I think that the right of people not to participate in a system that too often does not have their best interests at heard should be protected, even if it allows some lazy people to ignore their civic duty.
Maybe a better solution would be to set a minimum percentage of the population that must vote for an election to be valid? If a law or election affects millions of people, the voting period could be open and the results postponed until a minimum of 50% of the voting-eligible population cast their ballots. This would prompt those who vote to encourage their friends and family to make the effort, as to do otherwise would bring the country to a grinding halt.
Maybe that’s a terrible idea and some of my readers will no doubt tell me why. However, I think forcing all citizens to vote is a bad solution to a very real problem. Engaging people in political discourse and democratic participation must be done without coercing them to vote against their will. The right to abstain from casting a vote is a long standing tradition in democratic and parliamentary procedure, and while some voters may be abstaining for dumb reasons, the right must nevertheless be protected. It is our job as a country to engage the voters and make them want to participate of their own free will. The fact that many choose not to is not their fault. It is our fault as a country and as a system for disenfranchising the population with hateful and ignorant and disrespectful discourse, deep partisan divides, and corporate corruption of what should be a free and beautiful process.
A recent article in The Atlantic by Norman Ornstein makes the case that the U.S. should require all of its citizens to vote. His full article can be read here.
Recently, some willfully ignorant members of congress accused Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood sent to infiltrate the U.S. Government. Senator John McCain defended her with an impassioned speech. Here is an excerpt:
Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully.
Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal, and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it.
Well said, Mr. McCain. It’s too bad you didn’t (or couldn’t) say things like this during your presidential run in 2008. An American patriot such as yourself deserves better than the ignorant and hateful base of your party.
In a recent NPR article by Marilyn Geewax (full article here), the following passage is offered as a solution to state and federal budget problems:
“Some pro-democracy groups say that the solution to budget problems is to have even more democracy. They support a citizen-engagement movement known as “participatory budgeting.” The practice began in Brazil in 1989 and has spread to many communities around the world.
Supporters say state and federal government should provide grants to allow direct voting on what local communities might want. For example, in Chicago’s 49th Ward, residents recently were allowed to vote directly on how to spend $1.3 million, rather than wait for city or state officials to make all decisions. Voters chose sidewalk repairs and streetlights.”
To me, this is an attempt to take national politics out of local funding. With so much distrust of public officials and representatives, many people would rather make financial decisions locally and democratically, rather than leave their local tax dollars at the mercy of a distorted and corrupt political system where ideologies, special interests and lobbyists hold more sway than do the power of the voter.
It’s difficult if not impossible to argue against this method of doling out public funds. The only thing it requires is that the people actually participate in the process and not exclude members of their community for any reason. The 14th amendment should guarantee that this doesn’t happen.
Of course, the requirement for people to participate in these kinds of budget decisions comes with it the hope that they are educated on the issues facing their communities. It is very possible that they will choose not to educate themselves, instead deferring decisions to those members of the community who are actively engaged in local issues. If this is the case, then it will be no different than the system of electing representatives that we have now, though perhaps on a smaller scale.
In order for this to work, the average citizen must be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about civic discourse and local politics. Many of us are not. This is not necessarily because we do not care, but rather because national politics have more money for advertising and are more often discussed in every form of media. Local elections and politics run under the radar, followed closely only by those few who are willing to put in the time and effort to educate themselves and hold well-thought-out opinions on local issues.
This seems backward, and it is. Shouldn’t people be more aware of and concerned about issues surrounding the communities where they live than they are about issues facing other states or the nation at large? Of course they should not be totally ignorant of national politics, but neither should they be ignorant of issues within a few blocks of their homes.
For participatory budgeting to catch on and work effectively nationwide, people must become more involved in local politics. The divisive, recklessly partisan rhetoric that occupies the minds and conversations of the nation must be toned down in order for people to discuss their respective local issues. If implemented properly, taking the funding power and influence out of the hands of national and even state level members of congress might help in moving local issues to the foreground, thereby increasing both interest in these issues and participation in community meetings and voting processes.
Participatory budgeting can work, but it will require the efforts of everyone at all levels of politics. I am not optimistic that those already in power will want that power delegated to their respective constituents, and therefore will not support participatory budgeting, but their constituents must demand it. If the power of the voter and taxpayer still exists, it should be feasible.
Recently, a user on reddit posed the question, “Is freedom a right? If so, why?” Later, he or she (username: arc_angle) further asks, “Are we, as human beings, entitled to freedom? Why should humans be given their right to choose?”
To consider this question, we must first define the term “freedom.” Is freedom unhindered personal will? Is it a liberty from oppression or higher authority? Is it a lack of oversight from some kind of regulation? Freedom can be any or all of these things, but I believe the person who posed this question considers freedom to be an enlightened idea, one that opposes any kind of bondage or absolute authority and seeks the unconditional execution of the free will of humans, if such a thing exists.
If that loose definition is in any way satisfactory, the next step is to assess the idea of a “right” or “entitlement” to any concept, including the idea of freedom. Any right or entitlement is asserted against some power that might otherwise deprive someone of it. Are inalienable rights asserted against a superior individual? A government? A deity? In the broadest sense, the answer is yes to all three. Also, I believe it is implied that this right is original to any free-thinking individual, either bequeathed to humanity by some supreme being, by nature, or by some other benevolent governing force, including the human mind.
So, if we have defined freedom to the best of our ability and also described what constitutes a right or entitlement to any given concept, the pressing issue now is whether or not the concept of freedom is in fact a right or entitlement.
First, it might be useful to consider other rights. Are human beings entitled to anything, much less freedom? If no such entitlements are explicitly bestowed upon us by someone or something, the easy answer is no. Nowhere does is it indicated that mankind has some kind of natural right to anything, including life. From a strictly scientific and atheistic perspective, humans can claim no natural privilege to anything save physical existence. If we are indeed a type of mammal (albeit with high-order thinking skills) then we can claim no superior rights than can the chimpanzee or golden retriever.
If no higher entity exists to grant us any “freedoms,” then it stands to us to assert them ourselves. In short, we have rights because we say we have rights. Unfortunately, we do not collectively agree on exactly what these rights are. Humans are not a hive mind, but rather a collection of individuals with a wide variety of beliefs and philosophies. Natural rights become problematic when the rights of one interfere with the rights of another. When one claims an entitlement over another, whoever carries the larger stick is crowned the winner. This system is extremely subjective an often confrontational.
If free will and freedom exist, then choosing one thing over another stands not as a right, but an ability of the human mind to consider options and select a proper course of action to ensure the continued survival of their being. However, this is not unique to humans, as nearly all species of living organisms are capable of making this same decision.
The one area that separates humanity from lower level life forms is that of higher-order thinking skills. The freedom that is considered in the question above is not the right to breathe, eat, drink, or any other basic necessities of physical life, but rather the right to be free-thinking and free-doing individuals, pursuing their intellectual goals without fear of the negative effect of some other entity or authority. It is this concept that the Enlightenment philosophers championed and this reddit user questions.
If it is logically sufficient for humans to endow themselves with their own right or entitlement to this concept of “freedom,” then the answer to the question is yes. A free and open discourse being necessary to any attempt at forming a utopian democracy, the right of humans to be free to express their thoughts and develop their intellect cannot be infringed by any entity. The ability to think critically and express those thoughts comes with the responsibility to do so, and with that the necessity of society to allow such thinking to happen in an open environment, for the good of both the individual and the species. It is therefore in the best interest of humanity that this kind of freedom not be threatened in any way. It must be considered a right and an entitlement, as any other consideration sabotages the intellectually and biologically necessary goals we so boldly pursue.
I’m a certified teacher in Washington state, though I just graduated with my B.A. and am currently working on my M.A., so I haven’t had a full-time public school teaching job yet, just subbing in middle schools and high schools for a per-day wage so far.
I’m not in favor of disbanding teacher unions at all. Keeping labor and wages reasonable and preventing baseless or discriminatory employee termination are key functions of any union in any industry. The problem arises when the unions start demanding things that the industry can’t support and stay solvent. I’m in favor of public employees having competitive health and retirement packages, but demanding things like tenure and making it difficult to fire bad teachers does the students and the state a grave disservice. They start spending more and more money to pay bad teachers and negotiate with unions instead of putting that money where it belongs: in the classroom.
So, out with tenure. I also think that teachers should be paid by the hour rather than salaried. Many of them complain about the long hours they spend both after and before school copying worksheets, grading homework and tests and preparing lessons. I saw a lot of this first hand when I was student teaching, even participated in some myself. So, let’s pay them by the hour, including overtime. Bad teachers probably aren’t willing to put in the time, so they will get paid less. Good teachers will be paid more. It seems like this would at least partially weed out bad teachers.
Charter schools seem like a good solution on the surface, but I don’t like the idea of for-profit or unregulated education because it seems way too likely to become corrupted by special interests. When a solid dollar value can be placed on education, then that value becomes more important than the molding of a young mind. A well-educated student should be the ultimate goal, not a wide profit margin. Also, keeping education in the public sector allows for it to be changed via legislation and elections, as well as ensuring some kind of standard across all schools to ensure an equal education for all. This way, we have some political recourse if our education system is lacking. When schools are run by corporations, they only people who can demand change are stockholders.
People have a right to a free, high-quality public education. Maybe it isn’t in the constitution, but it should be. They have the option to refuse this right (just like waiving their rights when arrested), but it should be theirs for the taking. They also have the right to educate their children privately, either at home in a private school. I think the education of its people is one of the key functions of any government, along with keeping them healthy (through affordable, if not free, healthcare) and protecting them from harm (through quality domestic police and an effective military).
Basic knowledge of things like reading, writing, math and science is essential to any pursuit of happiness, and to deny people of that knowledge is to effectively deny them of that inalienable right upon which we all agree.
Driving north on interstate five through Washington carries with it a special treat. North of Tacoma, the winding highway worms itself inexorably towards the Emerald City. After you pass by exit 156 and the traffic jam and retail nightmare that is the Westfield shopping center (known as South Center), you begin to see signs of what is to come. It is an urban planning interpretation of the phrase, “the calm before the storm.”
Upon completing the sharp left turn that signals your freedom from commercial bliss, you will gradually see Boeing field take shape on your left. The museum of flight and whatever monuments of aviation and engineering are currently on the runways provide a well-timed distraction from an even more impressive sight that lies in wait just around the corner.
Approaching exit 163, the landscape surrenders no clues as to the sight you are about to see. 163 is the exit you want if you wish to approach Safeco Field or Century Link Field from the south and find some incredibly pricey street parking. It drops you in the Sodo district far from the bright lights and anorexic streets of downtown. Besides the two stadiums, this area is mostly populated by warehouses and small businesses that are adjacent to the industrial docks and shipping centers to the west.
But the Sodo district is not your destination. It is not the thing that makes exit 163 special. This particular freeway off-ramp happens to be the very place where the northward traveler is blindsided by a stunning view of the city of Seattle. Up until this point, the city cannot be glimpsed in the slightest. Evidence of its existence can be found only on maps or on the faces of prophetic highway signs.
And suddenly, she reveals herself. The exit itself is to your right, but you can’t seem to focus on it because of the grandeur of the city, its regal presence instilling awe in the hearts and minds of all who make that northbound journey. Finally, the city that seems to be the fulfillment of some long-forgotten prophecy displays herself in blockbuster fashion, an ethereal beauty that goes no further than the surface, keeping her secrets safely hidden from view.
This view is only available for a minute or so. After that fateful right turn, I-5 gradually slopes downward and the city shields herself with large overpasses, the first which connects the loose ends of Spokane street and the second which marks the beginning of I-90’s long trek eastward towards Boston. Seattle pulls these roads over your eyes like a beautiful woman protecting her fragile nudity in the presence of strangers. She betrays only what she must, leaving the rest up to your imagination with a mysterious smile that only the Mona Lisa could decipher.
And so you continue your journey. You sink beneath these gargantuan roadways and tunnels, reaching your destination without incident but always remembering that brief moment when you shared an intimate connection with Seattle. It is a view many thousands have seen, yet unique to every person. You will remember it as you return southward, trying to catch a glimpse of that same magic through your rear-view mirror as you return southward, but it is forever elusive to such manipulation. It remains exclusive to the short period of time when you approach exit 163, always unprepared for that marvelous and fleeting sight that, once viewed, causes your subconscious to immediately begin planning another northern odyssey.
I enjoy writing music. I enjoy the process of composition and then hearing that composition played by musicians, all the more so if the players and audience actually enjoy it. This doesn’t often happen, but it is an exhilarating experience when it does. I have never been paid for any of the music I have written.
I also enjoy writing articles like this one. Getting my thoughts down on paper and expressing them to an audience, no matter how small, gives me a degree of satisfaction that is hard to explain. I think I just enjoy the fact that I can communicate a point clearly to a group of people who can understand what I am talking about without having to wade through the improper grammar and misspelled words that so often plague written works by other, sometimes even major, authors or publications. I have never been paid for any of the articles I have written.
I really like playing music on any of the instruments that I can perform reasonably well on (saxophone, clarinet, flute, and piano). I enjoy contributing my musical expertise to an ensemble. It is exciting to play a piece well the first time, sight-reading it perfectly or nearly perfect, giving a tangible justification to the years of practice and study I have given to my art. Recently, my skills have allowed me to begin passing that knowledge to another generation of musicians through private lessons for which I am paid. I have also been paid for regularly performing in many ensembles both at home and abroad, though living well on that income alone would be difficult if not impossible.
Still, I enjoy it, and I think this is true of the practitioners of all hobbies. Everyone, no matter what their chosen profession is, has a hobby of some kind that they do for pure enjoyment. Only the luckiest few of us manage to make a successful career out of our hobby. The rest of us are forced to work hard at something in private for a relatively small, unsustainable amount of money. Some of us make no money at all. Often, hobbyists are as good as professionals but they were never given the opportunity to make their hobby their career. Sometimes other, more financially stable means of employment come along, sometimes life intervenes, and sometimes we just feel like a hobby should stay a hobby, so we find ourselves working in a career that doesn’t really fit us as people.
Hobbyists are sometimes referred to as “amateurs.” I choose the terms “hobby” and “hobbyist” because of the negative associations with the term “amateur.” To me, an amateur is someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. They are not highly skilled, they can’t match professionals, and they never make as much money. Sometimes, this is true, but the overwhelming majority of hobbyists are more or less equal to their professional counterparts.
Of course, it has always been this way. Some people play music as a hobby, others repair cars, some fly airplanes and a huge number play sports. Many, many of these people do what they do extremely well, then hang up their cleats, instrument, wrench or whatever and go back to the job that they only use to support their families and the hobby they love so dear. Indeed, many people choose good paying jobs because they can use that money to further enhance their experience with their hobby.
The more difficult it becomes to make a true and decent living as an artist or skilled worker, the more of us hobbyists there will be. We will continue to do what we love to do, even if we will not be paid for it. The world would be a better place if we could all make good money following our dreams, but alas, this is not to be. We will always spend too much time doing things we don’t want to do and wishing we had more time to devote to our hobbies.
This is the untold story of an economic system that values maximum profit over personal growth. The most important things in peoples’ lives will never be their jobs. It will always be the things they surround themselves with at home. They will work harder for little or no pay doing their hobbies in their basements, backyards, or living rooms at home. Until the world figures out how to include this kind of dedication and enjoyment into a functional economic system, humanity will always spend their best efforts on things that have little or no value beyond the personal. In that system, the true measure of a success will be not how much money a single worker makes, but how much happiness a single worker creates.
LeBron James is an NBA Champion. No more can he be subjected to ridicule and humiliation for not meeting the unfairly and unbelievably high expectations we put on him to win it all. He has persevered through all of this attention, all of the negativity, all of the setbacks, and his one major bad “Decision.”
No longer can we ignore his prodigious playoff numbers, preferring to focus on one missed free throw or one bad pass as evidence of his inability to win. The most over-analyzed and unfairly burdened player in sports history has proved equal, if not greater, to the expectations put on him.
He didn’t ordain himself the Messiah of Basketball That Was Foretold. We did. Just watch the documentary “More Than a Game.” He knew that he was a good player in high school as much as we did, but nobody deserved the kind of pressure we put on him. The King was crowned by his people before he was truly ready for royalty.
An unhealthy relationship with Cleveland led him to Miami, where he struggled and ultimately lost to an older, more experienced and a more deserving Dallas team. It took that fall from grace and the inevitable humiliation to humble the King and give him the experience and maturity necessary to win last night. Champions are not born, they are made. Last year’s Miami Heat played like a group of selfish individuals, this year’s played like a team.
Now the King has a ring. The haters can’t hold that over him any longer. He did it, and he did it on his terms despite much of the Western world rooting against him for incredibly petty reasons. Holding a grudge only hurts them, not LeBron. They can post hurtful things online, blame poor officiating, claim some kind of conspiracy and stew in their hatred all they want. LeBron both wanted and deserved the championship he won last night more than anyone else. He slept with a smile on his face last night. A long-overdue smile.
Shane Ryan of Grantland sums it up best:
“Here’s the story about LeBron James that I believe: He was a fun-loving kid with Cleveland, back when he was just a prodigious bright spot in a grateful town. He goofed around with his teammates, and he tread lightly on the NBA. Nobody wins titles that way, but still it was a blast, a near revolution. When the youth of it all was fading, he made one right decision by leaving a town where he could never thrive, and one wrong decision to announce it on television in a way that hurt his fans. He was still a good person, but he was entering the real world of expectations, and it reflected negatively on him that he couldn’t see the pain he was about to cause. He was punished severely in the court of public opinion, and hatred followed him to Miami. As he admitted Thursday night, he returned that hatred in kind, and karma caught up with him against Dallas. He couldn’t find a way to reconcile the love he had for the game with the high stakes and tension of the real NBA. He paid. And then this year, starting with Indiana, he discovered the path. The steps were clear — the Heat beat the Pacers, he became a legend in Game 6 against Boston, and he exorcised the remaining ghosts against Oklahoma City. He played the game on his terms, with love, and he won beautifully.”
LeBron has grown up and become his own man with his own expectations. Comparisons to Jordan, Magic, and others won’t go away, but I don’t think he will worry about that anymore. He has the championship that eluded so many other great players of whom a ring was expected as inevitable. Patrick Ewing doesn’t have one. Karl Malone doesn’t have one. LeBron does.
So let’s all lay off the guy. We set impossibly high expectations on him and he delivered against all those working against him on and off the court. He has proven himself a deserving superstar, somebody we can look up to as a model of perseverance and self-confidence, a uniquely American story of pain, rejection, ridicule, and redemption that is one of the more inspiring stories ever told. Maybe it will be many years before the majority of fans fully appreciate the gift LeBron is to us both as a player and a person, but that isn’t his problem. For now, he can rest easy knowing that he did it. He proved himself worthy of his dream, a dream he has worked towards from childhood and realized with hard work and determination. His story tells us that no matter what the odds, we too can achieve anything we set our minds to.
Bookstores used to be specialized. Some used bookstores still are, but the promise of profit guaranteed the rise (and later fall) of juggernaut retail bookstore like the now-defunct Borders and the struggling Barnes and Noble. These stores sold only new books as well as movies, music, and board games. Used bookstores remain the only places that exclusively sell books.
When the internet came about, smart folks learned how to make even more money out of it than they could at physical store, especially when it came to bookselling. Amazon made Borders and Barnes and Noble look like small potatoes and eventually branched out into selling just about anything you could think of. However, with this online method of browsing and buying books came the death of one of the more important and enjoyable actions that used to be involved in book-buying: physically holding the book before you purchase it. Feeling its weight, smelling its pages, flipping through and reading a paragraph here or there was essentially eliminated in favor of a picture of the cover, a brief synopsis provided by the publisher and maybe a handful of actually useful and well-written user reviews. To my surprise, people seemed to enjoy this new, cheap and convenient way to buy books.
Now, with e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook, it has become even easier and cheaper to get books. But with that convenience, we have lost the important physical properties of books. They are no longer real, touchable, smellable things. Great works of both fiction and non-fiction have been reduced to text files. The weight and smell of one book is identical to any other when viewed on a Kindle or Nook. John Milton’s Paradise Lost is indistinguishable from the latest Danielle Steele novel. It’s not that one is inherently better than the other, but shouldn’t I be able to tell which is which in a blindfolded test? This I can do with physical copies, but not with an e-reader.
Maybe it’s cool to carry around a whole library on your Kindle. Maybe I’m antiquated in my love for physical books. But for me, libraries and bookstores have always been big, imposing destinations filled with knowledge and entertainment just waiting to be experienced. The idea of carrying hundreds if not thousands of books around in my pocket to be read on a screen, no matter how comfortable that screen may be to look at, just sounds absurd. Maybe the fact that I love my iPod makes me a hypocrite for not wanting to also carry around a record player and a backpack full of vinyl. But books have special, important qualities for me that can’t be replicated on an e-reader.
There are millions (if not billions) of physical books out there in the world, collected in warehouses, private and public libraries, homes, and the relatively few remaining bookstores. Perhaps most of them will end up recycled into paper for more “useful” documents, assuming nearly all written material becomes exclusively electronic. Maybe all of us will get a Nook or a Kindle. I know that I will eventually and I fully anticipate teaching my future children to read on some kind of electronic device because they will be easy to transport and most likely feature programs that help kids learn how to read. Still, I hope I can somehow instill a love for real, physical literary works with character in future generations because a click of a button or swipe of a finger will never be an adequate replacement for the feeling of opening a book for the first time or closing it for the last.
Education has always been political, and it always will be. On the surface, people may want to divorce politics from education, but what information is put into a young person’s mind is always a source of controversy. After all, what could be more important than the kind of knowledge we pass on to the next generation?
The hotspots within the overall debate that surrounds modern American education are things like public funding, the teaching of evolution versus intelligent design (read: creationism), sex education, and certain kinds of revisionist history. I will touch briefly on each of these subjects.
The first is easy. One of the key functions of any government by and for the people is to properly educate the populace. Few other concerns can even come close to the monumental importance that is a well-educated populace entrusted with the future of democracy. I see no argument that can justify de-funding any portion of the American education system. All subjects: arts, sciences, languages, etc. deserve any amount of funding they require in order to successfully educate students.
Evolution versus intelligent design is a key issue for religious groups whose children are subject to public education. For me, the question is whether we want students to learn to be skeptical of their world or to blindly accept as fact those things they cannot scientifically analyze. A skeptical populace is integral to a successful society. People who accept things at face value without the benefit of scientific study and free discourse are doomed to ignorance with regard to their own world. Religious beliefs should be independent and allowed to exist in any society, but subjecting the entire public to the supernatural beliefs of one segment of the population is both foolish and illogical. Education must remain secular for proper knowledge to flourish. In the event that religion becomes scientifically testable and provable, a secular society must acknowledge facts just as they would upon discovering contrary evidence in the face of any theory or hypothesis. Thus far, this has not been the case with modern religion and science, so I see no need to teach any kind of intelligent design to students lest they learn to believe things they cannot prove to be true.
Sex education seems like another easy one. Why should students NOT be informed about their bodies and reproductive processes? Are we justified in denying them the best information for any reason? Such information could likely save lives if it were more readily available. Any system of education with the best interests of the people at heart cannot withhold such important information, no matter how taboo or contradictory to established religious doctrine.
Revisionist history is a sticky problem. This issue is most often affected by the reigning political discourse of the day, without the benefit of hindsight. I’m not convinced that the revising of history can ever be complete or completely objective by any effort, no matter how unbiased it may claim to be. Prejudice and dissent will always be found by those with an agenda and a willingness to find whatever evidence they go looking for. Healthy debate should always be welcome, with the intended effect to be as well-rounded a history as possible being taught to America’s emerging generations.
I believe the case now is as it has always been: both proponents and critics of the American education system are often more concerned with hidden agendas and political fallout with the win or loss of any battle over education. What goes on in actual classrooms rarely takes center stage in the ongoing ideological debate that surrounds them. The concern tends to be what kinds of things come out of teachers’ mouths or textbooks, not what students learn or what kinds of young adults develop from such a highly politicized education.
Parents on both ends of the spectrum who disapprove of American public education are free, as they always have been, to teach whatever curriculum they wish to their children within their own home. Most often, these students will turn out no better or worse than their public school counterparts, which says more about education in general than it does about any one faction or school of thought. Still, our priority as a free-thinking people has to be giving the most well-rounded, accurate and bias-free education to our youngest generations, leaving it up to them to decide what to do with the information. If we value freedom as a society, we must allow that freedom to permeate our classrooms and the minds of our students or we will find ourselve regressing against the flow of progress and the expansion of human knowledge.
Short Fiction: His Deadly Dissonances
His Deadly Dissonances
By, Duke Sullivan
They told me not be afraid of the dark… That it was a place of...
Flash Fiction: The Greatest Symphony
The Greatest Symphony
By Duke Sullivan
… WOULD BEGIN WITH a chord so brilliant and eerie and hauntingly...
Intensified from Stage Lights
Intensified from Stage Lights
A Philosophy on Classical Performance
You learn the truth about yourself on the...
That moment when you meet someone that almost entirely resonates with you, makes you smile just by meeting their eyes, loves to get to know...
Experimenting with palindrome and prose(ish) poetry
era mourning, and
then perceive the pedals
dying under the frost, a
His Prison in Rain
Frustrated raindrops knock
Unable to break free of their chambers
Imprisoning yet can’t let go, or he wont.