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Oppositionalism: The Greatest Threat To The People’s Welfare

4:35 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

locking horns

locking horns by useless no more

Yesterday, I went to the kindergarten graduation ceremony at the local public elementary school. One of the teachers, who happens to be a member of my church and a card-carrying Republican, spoke briefly of a new after-school program that she has helped initiate. It is designed for children who are in danger of not having the basic skills necessary to begin first grade – a type of program that is quite common around the nation, but that had been sorely lacking in this rural Virginia county.

I was choking back tears as this teacher called about two dozen children to the stage – most of them from desperately poor African American families – and presented them with hugs and certificates. Knowing that she also invests a considerable amount of her personal time making home visits and tutoring these students, it dawned on me what a significant difference she makes in the lives of young children who have an incredible number of obstacles thrown between themselves and academic success.

This remarkably dedicated kindergarten teacher reminds us of how incomplete and misleading the typical left vs. right dichotomy can be. It would be easy to consider her Republican voting record and her conservative views on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control, and to conclude she has little in common with progressives such as myself. From this, it would be easy to assume that, like some Republicans, she takes a “blame the poor” attitude toward poverty issues and has little compassion for those who are suffering in this economic crisis. Because of such stereotyping, it would be easy to ignore the fact that she is dedicating her life to helping poor children in a woefully underfunded public school system.

Those of us who get pigeonholed into easy categories of left/right and Democrat/Republican often fail to see the common bonds we share with our so-called political enemies. We cannot allow differences on a handful of “hot-button” issues to be exploited by those with political agendas and ambitions. If people of good will and legitimate concern for the common welfare continue to beat up one another based on these outdated categories, more sinister forces that have no concern for the people or no particular stake in partisan politics will further consolidate their power.
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In Defense of Public Education And The Public In General

7:21 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

photo: C. Elle via Flickr

public adj. of, relating to, or affecting the people as an organized community

private adj. belonging to or concerning an individual person, company, or interest

Behind the rhetoric on issues like health care and Social Security lies a critical philosophical debate that will determine what kind of nation we become in the 21st century.  Are we a public nation or a private one? Do we see ourselves as a community of citizens that are responsible for the safety and the welfare of one another, or are we a loose collection of individuals who are interested only in protecting our own rights and personal property?

I was reminded of how I answer these questions when I dropped my children off at school this morning. It was a practical demonstration of the many benefits that a free public education for every child has for all of society.

First, my son’s kindergarten class is racially balanced. In his previous pre-school (which was private), there was one non-white child in the entire body of about 50 students. Before, I could tell that my son was leery of black children when he was out in public (because he had no experience with them). Now, one of his best friends is of a different race than he is – something that never would have happened if we hadn’t decided to put him in public school.

In addition, about half of the kids in my son’s class receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch. In my community, there are many devastatingly poor families. The teachers can tell that some of them get very little if anything to eat at home. Public school feeding programs, therefore, are perhaps the best way to fight child hunger and to ensure that poor children can pay attention in school and have a shot at getting an education.

Finally, most of the kids in my son’s class ride the bus to school. Without the bus, many of their parents – who work all day or have no car – could not get them to school and back home. The school bus is one of the most underrated tools that promotes the social good, because it goes a long way in leveling the playing field and giving all children that equal opportunity just to be in school – and isn’t equal opportunity what conservatives and liberals like to crow about?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Republican Opposition To Education Stimulus Reveals Their True Priorities

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

As many as 300,000 teachers might get laid off this year, as the recession has crippled state budgets around the country. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has crafted a bill, with Obama’s support, to provide $23 billion to save these jobs. Predictably, Republican House leader John Boehner thinks it’s a lousy idea:

"This latest state bailout proposal promotes the same flawed logic as the failed ‘stimulus’ bill that has contributed to a record $1.5 trillion deficit and left one in every 10 Americans from our workforce out of work."

Let’s count the half-truths, distortions, and misleading characterizations in that single sentence of Boehner’s:

1) Calling the bill a bailout. The intention is to play on the public’s lingering outrage over the corporate bailouts of 2008 and 2009, but it’s a false comparison. A bailout is "an act of giving capital to a company in danger of failing in an attempt to save it from bankruptcy, insolvency, or total liquidation." This bill is meant to restore services that have been cut.

2) Calling the stimulus a failure. According to recovery.gov, 682,779 jobs have been created by The Recovery Act. Even more importantly, the nation has not fallen into the second Great Depression as many economists feared we would. We can debate the extent to which the stimulus has helped the economy, but anyone who calls it a failure does so for political reasons.

3) Saying the stimulus bill has contributed to the record deficit. Technically, this is true – but everything that is spent by Congress contributes to the deficit. With or without stimulus, the US would be mired in debt.

4) Claiming the stimulus has caused our high unemployment. This is an outright lie. Our ten percent jobless rate was caused by an economic collapse that was triggered by the mortgage crisis. If anything, the stimulus has kept that number from getting higher.

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