Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pigeonholes are so difficult

Nick the Conservative Cajun has written an expansive outline of his beliefs. Because I always enjoy rebuttals (and because I don't have much else to say today), I want to outline my own views on some of the topics Nick addresses.

--George W. Bush is, in my opinion, the worst president this country has ever had.
--I was never, even for a minute, in favor of the war on Iraq. The damage it has done to the war on terror (in terms of resources, deaths and tactical errors) is incalculable.
--I do not trust this administration to rewrite the law under the guise that it will not hurt people with nothing to hide. How do we know what they're looking for?
--The National Guard's role in Iraq is overblown and, as we have seen with Hurricane Katrina, its absence at home can lead to disaster. That said, I think it would be ridiculous to bring them home just to put them all on the Mexican border.
--I believe in fair trade. There's a certain degree of hypocrisy among those who extol "the magic of the free market" when it comes to outsourcing workers, yet want to ban imports of foreign products because they would compete with American goods.
--I believe in complete separation of church and state, and am alarmed by the increasing merging of the two.
--Capital punishment should be outlawed, if for no other reason than its severely flawed legal precedents. But I'm personally against it because I don't think a government should determine who has a right to live or die (which is why I'm also pro-choice).
--Some of the most gun-obsessed people are the very ones who should not have guns.
--I favor decriminalization of marijuana and prostitution. This would be a huge step toward ending drug-related violence and rape (or, at the very least, disease and hyperextended police forces).
--I don't particularly care for nonsectarian prayers; they serve no purpose and alienate those who prefer to keep their faith private. A moment of silence would certainly suffice.
--The Ten Commandments do not belong in a courthouse, unless they are part of a historical display (which would be out-of-place in most courthouses anyway). Saying that three of them form the basis of American law is ignoring the other seven that are steeped in a specifically dogmatic context.
--I resent anyone saying they speak for the majority of people. I certainly don't claim to.
--I find it richly ironic that the most privileged group of people in the history of the world, rich white conservative Christian politicians, are constantly crying persecution.
--Anybody can do wrong. Anybody.
--No one is above the law. Cops, politicians and presidents are not exempt.
--There is no lawful basis to ban gay marriage. It is strictly a religious issue.
--Tax cuts are going exactly to the wrong people.
--Abolishing the inheritance/death tax was a victory of misinformation; it affected only the top two percent of estates, and yet people were led to believe that it affected everyone.
--I am not against a large government if it functions well; at the same time, I fully support smart streamlining thereof.
--The future of fuel lies in alternative technologies rather than tearing up pristine lands just for our last few hits of petroleum.
--I fully support increasing the minimum wage to an acceptable standard of living.
--School vouchers are a bad idea. The last thing public schools need is to lose what little funding they have under the false pretenses of "competition." Also, I don't like public money subsidizing religion.
--Finally, loving America and agreeing with our leaders are two different things. The first is possible without the second. Same goes with troops and leaders.


Nick said...

School vouchers has nothing to do with trying to subsidising religion. It has to do with try to help get as many kids as possible out of rundown, horrible inner city schools. If people are worried about the money going to private schools, then public school boards should actually make the school and its teachers perform.

Ian McGibboney said...

Treating schools like commodities is wrong. I don't think motivation is the problem; crumbling schools are. The solution is not to take away funding and the best students from those schools; the solution is to improve all schools. Because, like it or not, when you take money away from poor schools, you leave many children behind. And you give teachers even less motivation to teach them. Everyone loses, unless you intend to put all inner-city students in posh schools. And somehow, I don't see anyone opening their arms to that idea.

Flamingo Jones said...

I'm with you on almost everything, Ian. Except the argument that legalized prostitution would lead to a decrease in rape. I'm familiar with the argument, but I disagree. Rape is about dominance, control and fear, not about lack of access to easy legal sex.

Ian McGibboney said...

Actually, yeah, I hadn't thought about that. I still think that there are much worse crimes than prostitution, though, and it ranks about on the pot scale with me in terms of wasted law-enforcement power.

Anyway, prostitution is a symptom of poverty, and I wish we could do something to prevent women from ever having to do it.

Nick said...

I'm actually with Icon on the prostitution thing, not that it would cut back on rapes, but arresting them, just like weed smokers, is a waste of resources. However, I would make it mandatory for every prositute to be registered in some kind of medical database. We can't have HIV positive prositutes infecting other people.

Icon, school vouchers is not necessarily taking the best students from a school. They are to help ANY student to go to a better school. Sure, some kids may get left behind, but is that a reason to not try and help as many as possible? The whole point of being a teacher, at least the ones that are good and competent, is that you probably won't be able to change all kids for the better, but if you can help even just 1 or 2, then you've made a difference for the better.

And in regards to teachers being unmotivated, that is another problem that needs to be fixed. The damn unions these days make it impossible to fire teachers for incompetence. Well, if teachers want significant raises, which I do believe they deserve, they damn well better perform of they need to be fired.

Flamingo Jones said...

I've already explained to Ian that there are plenty of reasons to legalize prostitution...but I just don't think that the rape argument is a strong one. I do think that it could cut down on disease, and that would be a good thing. But I'd be lying if I said that the thought of legitimizing the degradation of women in that manner didn't rub me the wrong way a little.

As for the teacher's unions....I literally laughed out loud when I read your criticism of them. You grew up in Louisiana right? I've been a member of a teachers "union" in Louisiana, and honestly, it would have done me as much good as paying monthly dues to the Mickey Mouse Club. If they make it impossible to fire teachers for incompetence there, I'd like to see it...seeing as how they couldn't do ONE THING to keep me from being jerked around and harassed by administration on a daily basis for no reason anyone who examined the situation could discern. Other than being an outsider, which is an unforgivable crime.

You come to Wisconsin, and you'll see a real teachers union. WEAC is without a doubt the most powerful political entity in Wisconsin. But you know what? They don't keep people from being fired for incompetence. If a teacher is in the wrong, they advise them and support them, but make it clear that they don't stand in the way of the district in that case.

And what's your definition of "performance" for a teacher? Nothing but test scores, I'd imagine, right?

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick said...

Actually Flamingo, I think standarized tests, such as LEAP, are a joke. Teachers ought to be judge if their students can actually read or do basic math for their age. I am against giving all these government tests b/c it keeps teachers from actually helping students learn. All they're doing is trying to prepare them for a test.

The primary job of a high school should be to equip its students to work in the jobforce. Not every student will be able or choose to go to college, so preparing them for higher education should NEVER be a priority. That's what advanced and AP classes are for.

I don't know exactly how to judge if a teacher is doing his or her job or not. I'm not in education. However, teachers DO need to be held accountable, along with pricipals and school board leaders, and unions do make it very hard to do so. More than half of the women in my family are teachers. Many have taught in public schools and some in different states. None have never joined teachers unions b/c the unions don't give a damn about students.

Teachers don't need union fat cats who make 80-100k/yr., while charging dues, to help them. Teachers can win by their numbers alone (voting). I am of the opinion that the federal government, in preparing what needs to be a seriouly cut budget, should go prioritize money allocation: #1. Defense and national security, military #2 Education, specifically teacher pay and school funding, including vouchers

State gov'ts: #1. Police force #2. State education and teacher pay

However, unions have brainwashed teachers into believing that they NEED them. A few years back, there was a threatened teacher strike in Lafayette Parish. I know many public school teahers though, who refused to strike because they actually put the kids FIRST, which is why you become a teacher anyway. The unions almost NEVER put the students first.

Flamingo Jones said...

I am not brainwashed, but yes, I do believe that teachers need unions.

I think your view of who does and does not have the students' best interest at heart is incomplete. When you have school districts doing whatever they can to cut costs, who would they rather have: a proven veteran teacher with experience for $60,000 or TWO Ed. School grads for $30,000 each. Those teachers deserve to have job security, and unfortunately unions are about the only way to ensure that.

And at least here, the union provides unparalleled professional development for its teachers that is nearly 100% student-focused.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: "They are to help ANY student to go to a better school. Sure, some kids may get left behind, but is that a reason to not try and help as many as possible?"

Yes it is, actually. If a policy supposedly set up to help all students helps some at the permanent expense of others, then it has no justifiable basis. What are we going to do with then Children Left Behind? Complain about them when they grow up to be the very people who blight urban areas? Furthermore, would private schools be compelled to accept these kids? I have a feeling they wouldn't.

As for unions, Nick, you're coming from the Louisiana perspective that unions are Satan who do nothing but get in the gosh-darned way of benevolent employers. Your description of teachers' unions and the "fatcats" that run them sounds more appropriate for the Teamsters than for any Louisiana teachers' union. You know, maybe it would be good for our states' students to see their teachers strike for better wages and conditions; perhaps the kids would learn that you can indeed fight for your rights. You want kids to take away something other than a high test score? Teach them about the power of collective bargaining!

I also disagree that schools should only prepare students for the workforce. Considering that most blue-collar jobs don't require an education or provide the training that they do need, what is our incentive for not equipping every student with intellectual skills as well? Having a gifted education hasn't erased my ability to flip burgers, but a decent regular education shouldn't prevent a future burger-flipper from being able to think critically.

Flamingo, I understand the degradation angle of legalizing prostitution. That's why coerced and child prostitution should certainly remain illegal. Also, I favor doing something about the poverty and hopelessness that drives people of both sexes to do it in the first place. But degradation itself isn't illegal. If it were, we wouldn't have models, go-go dancers, most political candidates or reality TV. On second thought...

Nick said...


I'm not talking about teaching them to flip burgers. I'm talking about further taking classes such as math and extend it further into other classes that teach the basics of job accounting and/or inventory procedures. Teach them the basic understanding of a business plan, or how management procedures work. Teach them computer and word processing skills.

All these arts classes and such should be electives chosen, not mandatory classes.

And teachers striking for weeks, thereby leaving students without teachers when they are supposed to be learning for college and/or job skills helps our kids how?

And I still don't see the logic in damning a whole neighborhood of kids to bad schools in favor of at least helping as many of them as possible to get a better educations. Using basic math, the bad school would still be getting the same amount of federal and/or state money per student with vouchers as they do now. They would just have less students, which might actually help to run the school a little better anyway. Even if some do suffer, you would be helping more students to get out of what now can be a dead end situation.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, what you're suggesting is that we neglect and ignore entire schools. Education reform will not happen if we concentrate all the good kids at one school and leave another school to crumble and rot. That would further divide communities than the rich-poor gap and racial divisions are already doing. Everyone has a right to a good education, even if they can't afford it, because that's the only hope we have that the future of this country not collapsing within.

And while I agree that schools could stand to teach such practical skills as balancing a checkbook and understanding the realities of credit, I vehemently disagree about your idea of a good curriculum. School is about more than learning and memorizing facts; it's about learning how to think, analyze, cooperate and solve problems. Liberal-arts areas allow for that, as do extracurricular activities such as sports, music, debate and service clubs. The very purpose of education is to expose minds to things they might otherwise never know. For some, it'll be their only chance to ever see it. And because we never really know how someone is going to turn out, we owe it to our students to give them a well-rounded education.

The purpose of schooling students shouldn't be to groom them into wage slaves. If so, then why bother with education in the first place?

Nick said...


Last I checked, working in accounting departments and such isn't exactly slave labor. That's exactly why that kind of ciriculum would work, because arts and music classes aren't going to do much good for those students who choose and/or are not able to attend college or higher education after high school. Giving them practical math and science skills does.

And last time I checked, knowing learning art history and music history was much more about memorizing facts than math and science. I'm not the one proposing courses all about memorization. You have to apply skills to the maths and sciences, which is why I was always better in those fields, b/c I don't have good memory skills. Math and physical and practical sciences do force people to learn to think, analyze and solve problems. Why do you think so many asians and middle easterners are great in the engineering and computer fields? Because they don't bother much with liberal arts and music and are kicking our asses in mathematics fields.

And you are right, everyone should receive a good education if they can't afford it, which is what the whole idea of school vouchers is about.

Ian McGibboney said...

Students should have options to explore their skills, without regard to how much money it'll make them in 15 years.

Here's how I see it: if someone shows an aptitude for accounting, they'll pursue it. But--and this might be news to you--not everyone excels in math or science. I sure as hell don't, but I don't think anyone would accuse me of being unintelligent. If those classes would have been the primary basis of my education, I might have never made it to college. That's why everyone deserves a balanced curriculum.

I don't know what they taught you in those private schools, Nick, but there's a lot more to art classes and history than simple memorization. I'm a terrible memorizer, and I enjoyed those classes most. By actually creating things and having discussions, I learned a lot more than I did by memorizing math formulas.

People learn in different ways. I wouldn't argue that foreign students are better at engineering because it's all they focus on; indeed, I believe they excel in all areas. They come here and kick our asses, because we're too hung up on uniforms and vouchers and test scores that our students suffer from lack of real reform.

Nick said...

But let's face it, the basics of most well off jobs in the work force these day are rooted in understanding and use of either math, science, or computer skills, in which the 3 actually go pretty well hand in hand.

As for the private schools, don't judge me by that. They forced us to sit through arts appreciation classes and it made me sick because I knew that I would never use any of that because most of our industries don't revolve around art and music appreciation.

And I do believe history, world, and American, is important and should be required. Hell, I'm tempted to say that I would promote a law saying you had to have some basic understanding of our country's government before you can vote, sort of like having to pass a driver's test before you can drive. That way we don't have complete MTV and BET deadheads voting in our elections when they can't even name the 3 branches of government.

Nick said...

Now, I'm off to take my math inclinded and oil whore self to the bar for the night. I'm over my flu symptoms, ran an easy 4 miles this afternoon, and now I'm going have a beer or 2...or 3...

If you're lucky, you'll get a drunken rebutal at 2am.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick: "most well off jobs in the work force these day are rooted in understanding and use of either math, science, or computer skills..."

There're three things wrong with that statement: 1) "Computer skills" is such a broad term that, while it makes your statement technically true, it doesn't prove your point about math and science; 2) What you describe is true only in Louisiana and places like it. In other places, a classical education comes in quite handy; and 3) Not everyone wants to be wealthy, and anyway someone has to be the teachers, curators, historians, outdoor instructors, artists and entertainers in society.

We do a disservice when we tell students, "This class isn't important, because art is for sissies and you'll all be working offshore anyway." The fact that you think all education should be aimed at helping students find a job in a depressed Louisiana economy is proof of your cultural myopia. A balanced education is all we can do so that people aren't screwed down the line when they realize that life is about more than punching a clock every day for 40 years.

In essence, my idea for a good education involves all subjects, whereas yours is driven by what YOU excel in. Who's being closed-minded here?

Cajun Tiger said...

Ian and Flamingo...

Did ya'll watch the 20/20 special last week on public education? If not, I'd highly suggest watching it. It was extremely eye opening. I have a link on my site under the title "Must See TV" if you have the time.

After you watch the whole program, I'd love to get your comments.

Ian McGibboney said...

Thanks for that, CajunTiger. My reply is on a separate post, because there's so much of it.