Follow by Email

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dr. Laura: Racist or Just Tacky?

I have to admit that my gut instinct was to assume Dr. Laura was innocent. She's no racist. I've listened to her show for years. Therefore, when I'd heard there was a flap over her use of the N-word, I thought, "Geez, so much ado about nothing."

I listened to the segment, and discovered two things:

1. Dr. Laura wasn't trying to be racist; she was trying to tell a woman to stop assuming curious white people are demeaning her somehow by asking about what it's like being black in America. It's true, too, we really want to know what black people think and feel. Sure, maybe it's a bit of an over-generalization to assume that blacks, as a group, think any certain way about anything. But we've always been told that we just can't understand what it's like to be African American, so we want to find out why.

2. Boy, I was really uncomfortable just listening to that word being said over and over. I grew up in the Oakland, California area, and that was a word white people just didn't say. It made me uncomfortable hearing my old Southern relatives use that word, even though they were trying to compliment someone. My grandfather was once watching The Dating Game when he commented: "That gal sure is pretty for a (sic) N-word woman." It made me really upset. Yet, my grandfather also had good friends in South Africa who were black and would travel all the way to Modesto, California to visit him. He had a large collection of African art objects on display in his home, beautiful Benin heads made of polished wood. The whole thing really confused me, but, aside from referring to black people that way, he was very liberal on racial issues. When my brothers and I tried to explain that one shouldn't speak that way, he went into a long explanation that the N-word was just how he'd learned to refer to black people and it didn't mean he had anything against them. Weird, I know, but he was fairly typical of people in that generation.

I don't believe that Dr. Laura has any hatred of African Americans in her heart. Still, it's only been forty-five years since the Civil Rights Act. The memory of racism is very fresh in people's minds, and the word stings. It stings me, and I'm white-- ghostly, almost phosphorescently white. She was wrong to use the word, especially to repeat it the way she did, but she's no racist. She was just very, very tacky.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Halfway Through Obama

I must admit, that's a fairly optimistic title. Still, things seem to be swaying that way, with even many former Obamaphiles jumping ship. When Europe's leaders have to scold a U.S. president for overspending, we're in it neck high, my friends.

Obama's problem is, and likely always will be, that he talks like the mainstream and governs like a socialist. He knows the majority will never swallow government health care, the socialization of GM and the banking industry, and the waste of untold billions on stimuli that don't stimulate. Americans know that government exists not to run our lives but to allow us the freedom to do so ourselves. Obama has taken exactly the opposite course. He admits to the unpopularity of his ideas by couching them in conservative-esque language.

The mid-term elections will most likely restore a conservative majority to at least one of the two bodies in the legislative branch. If this doesn't happen, I would advise the Republicans to pull an Al-Gore and check carefully for fraud. Why is it that the Democrats always accuse others of voter fraud, but whenever it actually happens (a la ACORN), it's them doing it? (That was a rhetorical question. I'm sure you can answer it yourself.)

I, unlike many of my right-wing fellows, do not believe Obama is evil or part of some vast conspiracy. He's just wrong. He lies because that's what politicians do to achieve their goals, at least in too many cases. I'm sure his copy of Rules for Radicals is well worn and quite dog-eared. Still, as hard as he tries to convince us to the contrary, we can see right through him. He is, and always has been, a looney liberal. He belongs back in the halls of academia, not in the White House. It will take an act of stupidity on the part of the Right to keep him in office. That scares me; there's nothing Republicans do better than fumbling the ball one yard from the goal line.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why Indiana Didn't Race to the Top

Indiana tried very hard to win the lottery-of-sorts proposed by President Obama. It fired half of the teachers from every school failing to meet standardized test quotas. It added new and copious layers of bureaucratic interference designed to enforce its draconian standards. It punished the hell out of the teachers, all to no avail.

You see, our beloved and admired Secretary of Education Tony Bennett forgot something rather important. President Obama meant for the money to be a surplus. Governor Daniels, who also hoped for a slice of the pie, forgot that key aspect as well. Thus, he gouged the education budget by three hundred million dollars. The maximum award for this year's Race to the Top winners was two hundred and fifty million. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that all either Bennett or Daniels hoped for was to fill in a state budget gap.

Another brilliant move on Bennett's part was to request twice as much money as the top award allowed. Here in Fort Wayne, we all know where overreaching gets schools: nowhere. Yet Bennett apparently is just learning that lesson himself. I suppose that to a mind as lackluster as that of our Fearless Superintendent, it makes a sort of twisted sense. If we cut the budget by $300 million, and ask for $500 million, we'll have a surplus of $200 million. We won't be simply using the funds to dig ourselves out of a hole of our own making. Unfortunately for Bennett, the Obama administration disagreed.

I've always said that the whole Race to the Top program was a farce to begin with. Innovation in schools is a nice sounding idea with a messy past. Innovation replaced the paddle with Ritalin. Innovation replaced the retaining of underachieving students with social promotion. Innovation led to the onus of responsibility being removed from the student and placed solely on the shoulders of teachers. None of these has exactly been good for public education.

Now, our leaders in Indianapolis are sticking with their guns. "We made some stupid moves to get the prize money [okay, I'm paraphrasing here], but now that we know we've lost, we might as well stick with our guns."

Napoleon had a similar strategy, at least until Waterloo.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Obama Doubles Down

There is a Bible analogy that is quite fitting to Obama's reaction to recent Republican victories. After the death of Solomon, as his son was inheriting the throne, the tribes of Israel sent messengers to him requesting lower taxes. "Your father taxed us heavily," they complained. "Please say you'll be easier on us. We can't take any more!"

The new king first asked his father's advisers what he should do. They said, "Lower their taxes. They have a point, really, and it will endear you to the people."

Then he asked his young buddies what he ought to do. "Raise taxes. Show the people who's boss. How dare they tell you, the king, how to run Israel?"

The fledgling king followed his friends' advice. "If you thought my father was hard, you'll find me twice as hard! I'll double your taxes! I'll demand more labor from you and your sons!"

The new king had a very short reign.

Obama is much like this king of Israel. When times are tough, instead of hearkening to the voice and will of the people, he doubles down on the tribute he demands from us. There are only a scant few of us who pay any taxes, really. We have roughly half of the nation on our backs. We're paying all we can afford, and many of us are finding that our resources, accrued through much frugality and sacrifice, are dwindling. Our new king (or so he fancies himself) is asking for even that. So, we send him representatives from our various states in an attempt to let him know our concerns. He turns a deaf ear, opting instead to go even further down the road to ruin, dragging us along for the ride.

He will find that we, much akin to ancient Israel, aren't as helpless a set of subjects as he thinks. When the dust settles and he sees the changed landscape come November, he ought to count himself lucky. Most revolutions result in the death of the monarch. Obama will only be dead politically.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Punish the Soldiers

The war isn't going well in Afghanistan. We can pretend that it's bad policy by the government, insufficient resources, and a culture that is opposed to freedom which are to blame, but this is simply making excuses. The problem, as we all know deep down, is that our soldiers are just not good enough.

There are a few things that would be effective to remedy this. We could order less-effective battalions to get rid of at least half of their troops, and trade with other battalions. We could demote generals and captains who lost battles. We could require that all new soldiers retrain for a new environment that does not so much "fight" a "war," but build peace. We could fire those soldiers who fought in losing campaigns, and hire new ones...

Okay, enough with the horse manure. You must have guessed by now that I'm being completely facetious. However, the same logic I used to make the above stupid argument is that being used by our state governments and President Obama by embracing the ill-advised Race to the Top program for our public schools.

The war we are fighting is that of ignorance. Just as there are hot spots for terrorism, there are hot spots for ignorance. These are the areas which historically score low on whatever standardized test is placed before them. Just as our soldiers fight a culture that fails to value liberty, we are fighting a culture that fails to value education and personal responsibility.

It is unwise and unfair to punish the troops.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats understand why things are difficult in school. To use a different analogy, let us liken the public school system to a burning building. Democrats would argue that we ought to smother the building with wood. Let's throw more money into a failing system, they argue. That'll fix everything! Republicans would punish the firefighters while simultaneously taking away their hoses.

There is one and only one solution to failing schools, and that is the recognition that they are full of failing students. This fact never makes it into the public discourse, but it is the one unmistakable difference between the high and the low. We will never address the issue if we never admit it exists. The assumption that all students have the right to learn is based upon the false assumption that all of them want to learn.

I say, allow students who do not cooperate to fail school. Make the same tests we use to measure the effectiveness of schools measure the effectiveness of students. Do not let them enter the next grade unless they pass the test. It is ridiculous to hold a school accountable for a test for which students are unaccountable.

Whatever you do, don't punish those who are fighting your battles for you. It's a tough enough mission without that.