Zera's Blog

A Citizen's View from Main Street

Becoming Aware of Civic Unawareness


education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The United States was founded on the premise that the people could rule themselves without theocracy or aristocracy. Government of, by, and for the masses – int the rich and powerful. It is called The Great Experiment, and its success depends on a well-educated electorate. Sufficiently educated to understand not only  the system that we have, but why we have it and how it works. And how it doesn’t.

The preparation of the voter so that he might express his opinion by means of the ballot, thus insuring political liberty, was one of the main goals of Jefferson’s plan for education which asserted four basic principles:

  • that democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment.
  • that it cannot function without wise and honest officials.
  • that talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental condition.
  • that the children of the poor must be thus educated at common expense.

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter96/jefferson.html

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was “safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe” (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:

  • To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  • To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  • To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  • To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  • To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  • And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

The state of Jeffersonian enlightenment in the realm of civic responsibility and the promotion of a healthy democracy is deplorable. The country is full of jingoists and poser patriots, passionate to defend what they do not understand – and are therefore easily mislead.

We have been encouraged to value wealth over community, and the accumulation of wealth over patriotism. Citizenship has ceased to be a code of honor and is now reduced to simply a legal status.

The problem of civic illiteracy is not something new, but it is finally getting periodic bursts of recognition.

Asserting that democracy is not inherited at birth but rather learned in school, O’Connor founded the educational nonprofit group iCivics in 2009 to secure America’s governance and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor seeks to reverse America’s decline in civics

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Plans are being developed to “address the problem”. I say that with a hint of sarcasm because they are still treating it as a mere lesson to be learned. I think the solution will need to stress participation as much as scholarship.

May 29, 2012 Posted by | Education, Elections, Governance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rick Santorum In Iowa Ahead Of 2012: ‘Schools Indoctrinate Our Children’


Indoctrina­te? From our very beginning, schools have been introducin­g students to knowledge that family could not. They taught English to foreign language and illiterate citizens, and their children. Small rural communitie­s would hire a teacher to teach their children “the three R’s” so that they would be able to read contracts and newspapers­, and add bills and not get cheated. Schools taught history so that those who lived in isolated communitie­s would understand that they were part of a far larger country, to give them something to base a sense of patriotism on, to know what it is they might have to fight to defend. Education has been one of our greatest strengths.

Indoctrina­te? Words have meaning. They influence thinking. Using pejorative words to describe the public school system is subversive­, seeking to create distrust and division. Santorum and other conservati­ves are deliberate­ly trying to turn Americans against their public school system. Not for the good of the country or the will of the people, but to advance a biased ideology.

Indoctrina­tion? Methinks he doth protest too much.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

August 5, 2011 Posted by | 2012 Candidates, Candidates, Education | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gainful-Employment Rule – What Do We Think


Barnard College, 1913 (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Gainful-Employment Rule: What Do We Think?.

“Programs must fail for three years out of four before they are completely cut off from student loan or Pell Grant money. No programs will be ruled ineligible until 2015.”

I find it interesting that conservatives who want government to be run like a business reject the idea of evaluating a supplier based on return-on-investment criteria.

I don’t think there is a business in the world that would contract with a third-party supplier with such a parasitic and ineffective business model as some of these for-profit institutions embrace. Nor would I expect any business to be so lenient with failure.

“”We’re focusing on improving (for-profit programs) rather than closing them. Students would be better off if their programs were stronger rather than closed down,” said James Kvaal, a DOE official, during a conference call with reporters.”

Just the opposite of the approach republicans take toward public schools.

When it comes to funneling taxpayer money to private businesses, republicans are clearly selective about running government like a business.

“The controversy over the “gainful employment” rules highlights an important reality — mainly that the federal government is actively creating rules that will prevent many people from obtaining skilled employment or improving their job status.

The whole issue of higher education regulation is a debate worth having. There is widespread opinion that the federal government has once again overstepped its bounds. That’s why I’m looking forward to taking a close look at how we can improve higher education without selectively imposing draconian regulations that hamper innovation and job creation while reducing student choices.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

The catch is that for-profit colleges are the only ones deliberately bilking the taxpayers and impoverishing their victims. You have to concentrate regulations on the bad actors in order to minimize unintended consequences.

And the truth is that we cannot afford the economic consequences of predatory for-profit colleges. The high cost of an honest college education already limits the disposable income of college graduates to a degree that weakens the economy. The problem becomes enormously worse when the education is worthless. The Congresswoman merely seeks to complicate and muddy the waters.

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Education, Regulation | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sen. Jim DeMint: Gays And Unmarried, Pregnant Women Should Not Teach Public School


While I believe that local school boards should be selecting their teachers, I also believe that they should not be selectively discriminating against qualified teachers on the basis of prejudice or religious intolerance. Not in public schools.

For those who disagree, there are private schools and home-schooling networks. Just do not expect the government to subsidize it with vouchers paid for with my tax dollars.

My tax dollars should not be used to fund the teaching of prejudice and intolerance.
My tax dollars should not be used to fund parochial schools.
My tax dollars should not be used to fund cult indoctrination through home school immersion.

My tax dollars should only go to public, secular schools. That is the only obligation I have, as a tax-paying citizen, to support the education of others.

New Rule:

They don’t teach religious doctrine in public schools,
and we don’t teach evolution, women’s suffrage, gay rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, science, English, math, social studies, history, astronomy, archeology, health, biology, physical fitness, art, literature, music, …, political science, constitutional law, or democracy in houses of worship.

“no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Article VI, U. S. Constitution

Oh, look. Public schoolteacher is a position of public Trust.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Education, Religion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Textbook Massacre: State Board Suggests Books ‘Tainted’ With ‘Pro-Islamic, Anti-Christian Distortions’



Liberals and moderates have had a hard time protecting our education system from theocratic indoctrination.

Kansas is infamous for constantly changing the definition of “science” to add or subtract religion from science classes. The value of their diplomas has been discounted by the unreliability of their educational basis.

And of course there was the case of Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al in Pennsylvania.

Then there is the cult-style home schooling by Christian fundamentalists, evangelicals, and born-agains who do not live in theocratic districts.

School vouchers that weaken public education by diverting public funds to private schools.

The failure of abstinence-only…

Do not pretend that liberals and moderates have had a free hand. The country would be better off if they had.

Texas is beginning the conversion of public education into a Christian version of Madrasahs. This reduction in standards and unconstitutional embrace of religion is a major blow to future American competitiveness.

Conservatives believe it’s a victory.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Education, Government, Religion | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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