Monday, September 28, 2009

The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Raises Its Ugly Head?????

All right, here we go again. Former President Clinton is once again talking about that "vast right-wing conspiracy" that he maintains is hoping that President Obama fails. To ask the simple question: what has happened to honest dissent in this country? When people on the right disagree with the liberal elites, it is an example of "tea parties," "Nazis" (to quote that paragon of wisdom Nancy Pelosi), and other nut cases. Yet, when the left dissented about President Bush and the war in Iraq, they were viewed as patriots who were exercising their constitutional liberties. For some strange reason, I do not believe that Pelosi would have referred to the anti-Vietnam War protesters as Nazis. Former President Clinton decries the conservative influence on the radio channels and Fox news as a prime example of this horrid conspiracy. Yet, everyone with eyes to see has always known that the overwhelming number of news reporters and broadcast journalists are liberal. Just watch another one of the "love-fests" that poses as the white house news conferences and you will see it. Why can't the right be allowed to question and criticize the policies of Obama without being subjected to cries of racism (thank you President Carter) and conspiracy theories. Do I want the President to fail? Absolutely Not!!! Do I disagree with many of the President's beliefs? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! I am totally convinced that the President's National Health Care plan will lead us down a road to disaster. I guess that makes me either a racist or a member of that "vast right-wing conspiracy." Why can't I, and others like me, just be viewed as members of the loyal opposition. Why is it an example of crass partisanship if the Republicans vote as one in opposition to the President's policies but if the Democrats did so to President Bush it was an example of honest political discourse. Perhaps, the elites should be more concerned with their own hypocrisy than this right-wing conspiracy. Of course, what do I know, I'm just one of those gun-toting, racist, Nazi conspirators. Just call me Brutus!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Should Students Be "Allowed" To Fail

As I write this, I am still reflecting on a workshop held on our campus entitled High Schools That Work. The Mobile County school board has enacted the program in order to curb the drop out rate. Our school was one of four high schools chosed as models for the program. The gist of the workshop is that teachers need to engage in more activities in order to reach their students. The program states as one of their goals the fact that eighty-five percent of all high school students should be in college-prep classes. The presenters kept harping on the fact that we need to challenge our students with more higher level questions. I don't want to rain on the parade, but I seriously wonder if both goals are contradictory. First, I have a serious problem with the eighty-five percent in college-prep classes. Since teachers are evaluated on how well their students perform on the CRTs (or as they are now called EQTs), will some teachers be tempted to water down their curriculum to improve their test scores? In essence, by raising the bar, are we in fact lowering that same bar. Much like we did with the High School Graduation Exam, we raised the level of questions from the eighth grade level to the eleventh grade level, then we lowered the required passing score. In some cases, that score was less than fifty percent correct answers in order to pass. Second, if all teachers immediately started adopting the higher level questions, what would happen to the grades of the students? Once again, teachers would be called into question because of an increase in lower averages. The common idea is that teachers should not "allow" their students to fail. If a child chooses to take a zero for their decision to not complete assignments, should the teacher construct additional opportunities for the student to complete the assignment? If a student fails a test, should they be allowed to retake the test until they receive a passing grade? What does that tell the student who passes the test the first time? Are we encouraging students to study? If they know they have the option of retaking the test, what is the incentive for studying in the first place? I know I've stated this before, but we are democratizing education. Education is supposed to separate students. At the risk of sounding elitist, not all teachers are meant to go to college. Hence, this is the reason that on some college campuses, the freshmen drop out rate exceeds sixty percent. We need a discussion as to the proper role of education. In our modern age, we need to address the money spent on education and assess whether or not it is worth it. What is the value of a high school diploma? If we continue lowering the bar, will we reduce high school graduation to the level of some middle school advancements that are completely due to "social promotion." Are we actually setting up these students for failure in higher education and in the workforce? Before we embark on more educational experiments, we need to focus on our purpose. Education is meant to prepare our students for the next stage in their lives. I'm not sure that our schools are accomplishing this mission. Perhaps our next workshop should be entitled "Are We Doing Our Students a Dis-Service?" Our communities have committed a tremendous amount of money for our schools, let us just make sure we are going it correctly and meeting the needs of our society and our students.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Madison versus Obama: How Much Power Is Necessary?

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions." (James Madison, The Federalist #51)

"People should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people." (V for Vendetta)

Every time I think about the new direction of our government, I am reminded of Madison's wise words. (Why did we have such an abundance of genius in the eighteenth century and have none today??? We have replaced Madison, Jefferson, Jay, and Hamilton with Pelosi, Reid, Frank, and Waxman). President Obama campaigned on a platform of change, he received an overwhelming number of votes. After eight years of President Bush, our country wanted a fresh, new direction. What we have though, is the greatest expansion of the powers of the American government since Franklin Roosevelt. The question that should be at the forefront of the discussions involves a debate on the size and role of the national government. Is it the job of the national government to provide health care for its citizens? Is it the job of the national government to dictate or tax cigarettes, fast food, and alcohol in order to make us a healthier nation? (remember John Marshall's warning: "the power to tax involves the power to destroy") Is it the job of the national government to provide a college education for all of its people? Is it the job of the national government to provide all of its citizens with jobs? These are all fundamental questions that we seem to be ignoring. How much power do we want to give the government? How do we force the government to "control itself?" Now before someone labels me as a nutcase, we must recognize that the Jeffersonian model of an extremely limited national government is gone forever. In a modern world, you must give the government enough power "to control the governed." The old idea of Thoreau's that the "government is best which governs least" is not acceptable in this modern age. However, how much governmental power is enough. I'm not sure that even Alexander Hamilton would be comfortable with the government bailing out corporations, taking over a majority share-ownership of those said corporations, and dictating the firing and hiring of the CEOs. I believe that Hamilton, one of the major proponents of the expansion of the powers of the new central government, would be quite uncomfortable with the notion of nationalized health care. I am simply asking for a discussion of the central issue, how much power is enough power? Who is to be the master, the people or the government? How much control do we give the government over the daily lives of its citizens? This is almost a return to the sixties, when many liberals became convinced that the national government was the only vehicle to secure social justice. Therefore, should it be the responsibility of the national government to make our citizens healthier, more tolerant, and more financially successful. On the other hand, is that the responsibility of the individual? How do we draw the line between giving the government "control over the governed" and forcing that same government to "control itself?"That is the fundamental point. I am sincerely praying that we will get over the name-calling and start discussing that major issue.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Exploring the Holocaust

It has taken a while to decide how to classify my recent trip to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The trip was a paradox. While it was exciting to visiting these sites of such enormous historical importance, it was sobering to realize that you were actually walking in the footsteps of over a million innocents who went to a premature grave in the name of a racial vision. I will still stand by earlier statements, the holocaust is the most understood-least understood topic in history. It was amazing how many of the "professional" local tour guides were so lacking in their knowledge of the event (i.e. the Warsaw guide informing the group that the Zyklon B was administered through the showerheads). Regardless, walking the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau filled me with a sense of awe. It was a trip I will never forget and to be honest, has re-energized me to teach the subject. This was my first return to Germany since 1990 (the summer after the wall came tumbling down). I was amazed at how the Germans are beginning the confront the ghosts of the Nazis as opposed to ignoring it. There are numerous sites dedicated to a confrontation of the past (i.e. the Topography of Terror in Berlin; the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; the Documentation Center at Nurmeberg). On my first trip to Nuremberg (June 1990), when I went to the tourist information center (seeking directions to the stadium-site of the infamous Nazi party rallies of 1934-1935) the lady chewed me out for wanting to see the "Nazi" sites instead of focusing on the German cultural sites. This time there seems to be a feeling of exploring the past for the purpose of never allowing it to happen again. In the end, we as Americans seem to get carried away with this notion of the Holocaust being a "German" event. We must never lose site of the fact that if it could happen in Germany (at the time arguably the most intelligent nation in the world), it could happen anywhere. That sobering truth makes the need for these types of trips essential. I stated earlier that I wasn't sure if I was up to the trip to Birkenau, I'm still not sure that I was. May we never forget the innocents who perished and the evil that made it so.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Parties and the Left

Why is the liberal wing of this country so derisive about the tea parties held across the country. Isn't the essence of liberalism to espouse tolerance??? The left wing media has openly attacked those people who took part in the tea parties. Some of the media outlets ignored the parties all together (i.e. New York Times). Believe me, if the parties has been advocating pro-choice or any criticism of this country, the coverage would have been immense. Why are liberals so intolerant of the opposition? Why are liberals so opposed to any open discussion of ideas? Why are the liberals, the so-called defenders of the little people, showing so much disdain for those little people who don't agree with them? To paraphrase President Hoover, the only problem with liberals are liberals. If you want a prediction, the liberal wing of this country will enable a conservative comeback. They will so poison the moderates that they will eventually move back to the right. The sooner the better.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wal-Mart and Thomas Jefferson

If anyone wanted any indication of why TJ was wrong, simply visit your local Wal-Mart or better yet, the DMV. For a democracy to work, what is required is an informed, intelligent electorate. After all, it is that very electorate which will decide the future issues of the government. After visiting the local Wal-Mart and seeing the people therein, we are in big trouble. It is quite scary that not only are we entrusting these people with a voice in deciding who will be the next president, but we are also entrusting them to raise their children, drive motor vehicles, and pay their bills. These people can not figure out that the express lane is only for customers with fewer than twenty items. Maybe Alex had it right, maybe our common man is not intelligent enough to make these decisions. One wonders what would TJ say if we could resurrect him and see what he thinks about his product. All men are created equal, they are endowed with certain inalienable rights. I imagine that among those rights is the right to be stupid. God Help America!!!!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are We Setting Students Up For Failure??????

The education community is currently engaged in a new, democratic vision. We now believe that all students should graduate from high school. In fact, the state of Alabama has mandated that every incoming freshmen should begin in the Advanced track. These are admirable notions but I will put forth an old idea, some students are supposed to fail. We have set a goal of a zero dropout rate. I will maintain that this is a false pretense. Education, by its very nature, is supposed to be elitist. The best and brightest are passed to go on to higher goals while those "left behind" will fill other necessary segments of society. We allow students in Alabama to take the graduation exam up to five or six times. We have lowered the passing scale for math to a grade of 44% while science is at that difficult level of 48%. Additionally, ninth grade students who have passed Algebra I or Biology I can take (and probably pass) the math and science portions of the exam. This should set off warning bells everywhere. Is the logical conclusion that these ninth graders do not need any higher math or science classes (since they have attained the minimum required knowledge for competency in that area)? The result is we have more college students than ever before. This has set off a tremendous wave of back-patting and congratulations. The problem is that more and more incoming college students are having to take mandatory study skills classes which involves the ancient art of outlining and taking notes. I will suggest a strange idea, maybe these students are not meant for college! Maybe it's time to start raising the bar on the middle and high school levels. Maybe we should work to make the high school diploma actually count for something again. I don't hear any "wailing and anguish" of teeth from the educational community about the dropout rate on the collegiate level. Maybe it's time to return college to the elitist notion of the "best and brightest" rather than this democratic ideal of everyone going to college. I would suggest that this would be a better deal for our students as opposed to this "new" idea of encouraging all kids to go to college. Right now, the only people who benefit are the college board (designer of the ACT) and colleges who profit from all of these collegiate failures. Maybe it is time to truly start preparing our students for the future. Of course, the liberal left (from whence these democratically inspired educational ideals originated) will scream bloody murder, but the ones who will benefit will be our students and our society.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forgive the Negative Rant!!!!!

I hate to go negative, but to quote one of my new heroes "V", there is something terribly wrong with this country. We are in a financial mess and our solution is to punish the people who have played by the rules. We are going to allow people who are not able to pay their mortgages, people who are not able to pay their bills, people who have screwed up this economy to "get off the hook" at our expense. What about all of the people who have done everything correctly? What about the people who have struggled to pay their bills? Why not bail us out as well? Yet, we will continue to pay our bills while people who have gotten in over their heads will be bailed out by the new foreclosure laws which mandate a judge can lower your monthly payments to something more affordable. It almost makes you want to stop making your payments on time. In the "old days," we survived based on our own talents and merits. With this new ideology, we now depend on "big brother." Like V said, there is something terribly wrong. I just hope enough people wake up and smell the roses in time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG

I don't want to go crazy here, but is anyone really surprised by the AIG bonus situation. There was a great editorial in the Mobile paper this morning, they made the argument that how could we expect to buy the elephant and not get the manure. If the government is going to take over any business, they have to honor the contractual obligations. I am beginning to wonder if the Obama (like Bush) Administration is the "gang that could not shoot straight." I am starting to hear comparisons to the Carter administration. Well, America, "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." You wanted Change, you've got it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

President Obama

Well, the first forty days are over. Alot has changed. The stimulus package is passed and now we get to wait and see. Personally, I'm not throwing the President under the bus yet. I don't feel that he's dishonest, I think he is convinced that government is the solution to our problems. Being a former Reagan follower, I would offer that government is the cause of our problems. Let's give the man some time, lets see what the economy looks like around Thanksgiving. However, I will offer this rant: I am sick and tired of this "non-paritsan" crap. From the democrats point of view, non-partisan means going along blindly with any of their ideas. Here's hoping that the republicans will continue their non-partisanship tactics. Stick to your principles boys, but of course if the republicans had stuck to their prinicples we would not be in this position.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

President-Elect Obama

Let me start by stating the disclaimer, I did not vote for Mr. Obama. Sorry, but lets state the obvious, no one is hoping that he succeeds more than me. He's got alot on his plate, let's wish him all the luck in the world. My greatest fear is that he will be Robert Redford from the seventies movie "The Candidate." The character, upon winning the huge upset, looks at his campaign manager and says "What do we do now?" Lets hope that doesn't happen. We will be watching. Its interesting that the liberals are already moaning over some of his appointments. I honestly believe that his cabinet appointments up to this point, seem to point to the recognition that he will be the president of ALL the people. We Shall See!

From the Beginning. . .

Okay, I have now entered the world of blogging. From time to time I will enter my random (quite random) thoughts on the world around us. Of course, this might be of no interest to anyone but myself. Anyway, let's start 2009 out with a bang. I am sitting here at 5 am on the morning of January 1st, 2009 writing. Where this year will take us is anyone's guess, it's got to be better than next year. Best of luck world, we're going to need it.

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