Education


I read a news story today that the US budget deficit had “dipped” to 1.1 trillion dollars. Exceuse me if I don’t break out into my version of the “Happy Dance” but I can’t seem to get to thrilled with such ominous news. A deficit of that magnitude threatens our stability as a nation and our viability as a people. But the most frightening bit of analysis came later in the story when the author wrote:

The Congressional Budget Office report also says that annual deficits will remain in the $1 trillion range for the next several years if Bush-era tax cuts slated to expire in December are extended, as commonly assumed.

That statement represents the stilted thinking of a government-favoring progressive who sees tax cuts as harmful expenses that must be eliminated rather than as desirable and beneficial to citizens. The reason this thinking exists is because liberals/Progressives/Democrats think that government is immune to the vagaries of reality. In fallow times, when the rest of us tighten our belts and cut our budgets, government cannot be expected to do the same. It is impossible for us to imagine or, more boldly, demand that government downsize for any reason.

We now have government for government’s sake. Government has become a powerful god…a false idol that must be worshiped and accorded all power and glory. After all, if one treats government good, good things come from government. This is a particularly beneficial truism for those who have traded their vote for generous goodies…and their life’s sustenance. It is the ultimate symbiotic quid pro quo, and an unfortunate individual-government co-dependence. And it is the nourishing substrate upon which many political parasites feast. Self-serving pols who seek power, riches and glory insinuate themselves into this co-dependency, promising and then delivering more, and then reaping the rewards. Chief among these rewards is political longevity. After all, who is going to be foolish enough to bite the hands that feed them?

So, accordingly, politicians have rigged our system. They have configured social programs and “entitlements” as mandatory, untouchable spending. This is important because even considering changing these taboo expenditures is akin to sticking ones wet finger into a power outlet. It is tantamount to political suicide!! Just look at what has historically happened to courageous politicians who have suggested tweaks or, ohmigod, the complete elimination of these socio-political sacred cows. They are fist ridiculed by the Progressives…and then run out of town on a rail by “angry” (read: greedy) voters. Those lucky enough to survive the maelstrom never, ever broach that subject again.

What happens? We all suffer because government is treated as sacrosanct. It must never be changed or reduced, else all manner of evil will befall us. The implication is that there is a fair percentage of us who simply can’t take care of themselves without the doting of a nanny government. If we were to prohibit government’s role in social programs like Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid then the sky would literally fall. Because we all know that government is the fairest arbiter of services and has the purest of intentions. Right?

So rather than eschew the yoke of control placed on us by government or reject the liberty-stealing government dictates and regulations, we have become inured to being killed with kindness. But the only fatality is our free, independent spirit. Unfortunately, we’ve traded traded this spirit for a 1.1 trillion dollar deficit. It is the ultimate self-serving dirty deal that we’ve done. Why? Because we can never hope to pay off this intergalactic-sized burden, so by default that responsibility is deferred to our children and grandchildren (and perhaps great-grandchildren.)

Until we can change our thinking to cherish liberty in all its forms and reject statism in all its forms, then we are, I’m afraid, doomed. How unfortunate and perverse that there are a fairly large portion of our society that believes that a lowering of taxes is a bad thing, and a “cost” to our government. This is truly a form of mental illness…or the ultimate manifestation of greed, envy and covetousness. Because many of the folks who feel this way pay little or no taxes, and yet receive their livelihood from the government. They’re willing to do anything to keep this situation the same — so long as anything is defined as voting for vote-whoring pols who promise the recipients of government-confiscated largess that the gravy train will go on forever.

There are two ways that this sinful thinking will change: We can “educate” the freeloaders and over time hope that they see the error in their ways and in their thinking, or we can just wait until the defective system implodes and fails. If I were a betting man, I’d bet my money on the latter. But since I’m a realist…I’m putting my money into precious metals, supplies and water. Because old, ingrained habits die hard and an all-powerful government operates under the delusion that it can control everything, including the laws of nature and the realities of fate.

Unfortunately, the lesser angels of man’s existence tend to rule the day. Sin is always easier than virtue. And government is like a storage battery for the zeitgeist energy of the contemporary society. Right now our government is being charged by sin. It’s not a good situation of the upright and virtuous. Or for those who value the Constitution.

For your own sakes, keep your eyes open and your morals strong. It is going to be a bumpy, tumultuous ride to where we’re going.

America has an education crisis. Scores in math and the sciences are at almost all-time lows. When you converse with the random person on the street…or exchange an e-mail with a stranger, you find that English and grammar skills are dreadful in most cases. But the worst crisis in education is in regards to the average citizen’s understanding of the Constitution and how the document relates to them. And obviously this constitutional ignorance extends from top-to-bottom and left-to-right in our society and in our political universe.

There are two premiere examples of this ignorance, willful or otherwise, that appear in today’s top news stories. The first involves an absolutely ignorant statement by an absolutely ignorant liberal bloviator, Sen. Richard (Dick) Durbin (D-IL). From Real Clear Politics — Durbin: Illegal Alien Could Be Our Future President. According to Sen. Durbin:

“When I look around this room, I see America’s future. Our doctors, our teachers, our nurses, our engineers, our scientists, our soldiers, our Congressman, our Senators and maybe our President.” [emphasis added]

Uh, no Sen. Durbin…you pinhead! What is truly frightening is this ridiculous statement comes from an experienced legislator who we would expect to be well-versed in constitutional law…since I think we should expect our legislators to enact laws that are in strict conformance with the Constitution. But maybe that’s just me and my foolish expectations!?!

Well, Sen. Durbin…just for you…today’s edition of Constitution 101, or as we like to put it here at The Sky’s The Limit, The Constitution for Complete Imbeciles:

Article II, Section 1: The President
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

I suppose that a person who was a strong supporter of Obamacare and it’s patently unconstitutional individual mandate requirement might have some trouble understanding the words contained in AII, S1. The good people of Illinois have the remedy to this problem, and I hope that they choose to remove this useless man from office at their first opportunity. But I fear that they see usefulness in his Liberal/Progressive ideology and his goody-getting for the state of Illinois — and this outweighs the man’s utter inanity.

Consider, please, if this statement were made by Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, the MSM would be all over them like fleas on a bloodhound. But because Durbin is an outspoken “critic” of the GOP, he get’s yet another Mulligan…a hall pass.

All the previous constitutional ignorance leads me to my second example of utter constitutional ignorance — the recent decision by a three judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to declare Obamacare is constitutional. A two judge majority declared that Congress indeed has the authority to require American citizens to purchase health insurance under the Commerce Clause in the Constitution.

Okay, let’s go once again to The Constitution for Complete Imbeciles for the august judges who cogitated this decision:

Article I, Section 8: Powers of Congress
…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes…

Now, Congress has the actual constitutional authority to regulate Commerce among the several States — as in interstate Comerce, but I fail to see where they have the authority to regulate Commerce among individuals and private businesses (of which health insurance companies are a subset.) The good judges, and apparently most of our misguided Congress — at least those on the Progressive/Liberal side of the political aisle — mistake the Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce with absolute power over dictating the behaviors of the citizens of the US.

Fellow citizens, we are on the precipice of a dark abyss. For the past century or so we citizens have ceded our Constitution and it’s care and feeding to the political elites. We have collectively forgotten that the Constitution belongs to each and every one of us. The Congress, supported by complicit courts or the SCOTUS, cannot push the proverbial “Easy Button” and conjure up work-arounds and abridgements for their actual, codified constitutional powers and authorities.

The actions of Durbin and the majority of that three justice panel on the 6th US Circuit Court makes me think that to them, the political elites, giving Congress new constitutional powers is no big deal. It indicates to me that they are in the end stages of wresting the control of the Constitution from us to them.

With all their unconstitutional claptrap and actions, apparently in the minds of the elites and the single-minded Progressives, the US would be a GREAT place if it weren’t for those pesky, empowered, freeborn citizens. Their plans for complete control of the country would certainly be a lot smoother without us.

An odd title for this essay, but I think an apt one nonetheless. Today in 2010 America, the manner in which we’re being governed is not the way it is supposed to be. We have our leaders at the federal level constantly preaching the benefits of this or that legislation is for the “middle class” or “hardworking Americans”, and that to pay for this or that social scheme that “the rich” will have to bear more of the burden.

Now, maybe I’m just proving myself to be the dolt that a few of my detractors have labeled me, but my reading of the Constitution doesn’t give the president or the Congress any authority to hurt, help or otherwise claim dominion over “the people.” Rather, the Constitution is quite clear and specific as to who and what our elected federal representatives may or may not help. And in all cases, it is the STATES…or the collected assemblage of these states, our Republic. Not people, not individuals or not social classes. But what do I know, I rely on that quaint, outmoded technique called reading comprehension to determine my opinion on the facts placed before me.

How can I prove this? Well, Article I, Section 8 “Powers of Congress” does not mention once the word individual, person, citizen, human, etc. It refers to the powers of Congress in regards to the United States. Certainly the United States is comprised of individuals, but first and foremost it is comprised of 50 independent sovereign STATES. And what’s even more clear is that no such authority or powers over individuals exist for the president as well.

The simple fact is that the only entities with any authority over the people who inhabit them are the STATES. It is only when we get to Article VI “The States” that any authority is granted in regards to ‘Citizens’ and ‘Persons’ by the Constitution. And this authority is furthermore bolstered by the Tenth Amendment. Not the federal government, the STATES!

In my opinion what has happened since the dawn of the 20th century is that individual American STATES and citizens have been snookered and tricked, and in some cases bought off with federal “entitlements”, into allowing an extra-Constitutional intrusion into our individual lives on the part of the federal government. By the rights proscribed to it by the Constitution, the Congress has no power to enact laws regarding health care, education, social programs, jobs, entitlements, etc. as they pertain to an individual citizen. They may only do these things as they pertain to the 50 states in our Union. We have allowed OUR laws to be Shanghaied by the ‘lawyerly’ class and even worse, we have allowed an almost religious sect be formed regarding the Constitution and the laws of our land. We have fostered a situation where there are law-givers and law interpreters, but the PEOPLE bear no place in the process except to obey these laws once they are thrust upon us.

But this is a gross perversion of the intent of the Founders. They wanted the United States to be a user friendly social compact. They didn’t intend to replace an all-powerful monarch, selected by heredity, with another similarly powerful monarchy, selected by our votes. But that’s precisely what has happened. Somehow, we individual citizens have let our collective guard down and have allowed our betters to interpret OUR laws using the vaguest of vague penumbral interpretations and readings. We have allowed two words in the Article I, Section 8 — “Welfare” and “Commerce” to be the ticket to legislative tyranny not seen in this country since the reign of King George.

The saddest part of all is that WE have allowed this to happen, for whatever reason. Millions of people don’t vote, millions vote for personal gain or benefit (or shall I say entitlement?), and millions more vote because they are told to do so and for whom (and perhaps million more vote who are prohibited, like felons and the dead!) And even worse, we are discouraged from discussing the Constitution in an informed manner because our educational system refuses to place much value in us being Constitutionally aware. No, our Constitutional awareness and discourse has been transmogrified into political party bickering and trying to obtain primacy over the goody giving that has become the raison d’etre of the federal government.

So for me, it’s not just enough to throw the bums out. Our problems run deeper than the group of 540 or so individuals who make up our elected federal representatives. No, our problems are systemic and run much deeper and thus need stronger medicine than a mere change of faces. Unfortunately, the change needs to occur in each of us, or in a majority of the voters who turn out each election. We need to place more emphasis and value in those individuals who promise us less, but similarly promise to hold dear and faithfully observe each provision as written in the Constitution. Until we get this tacit fealty, we are doomed. There is just no other way to express it.

But I’m also a realist, as I fear we’ve reached the tipping point in our society where more people obtain benefit from their vote — so why not vote for an utterly anti-Constitutional candidate regardless of the overall impact to our nation? We may have already entered into that democratic suicide pact with our government that cannot be stopped no more than a runaway train may be.

Unfortunately once we’ve reached that tipping point, there is exactly ZERO remaining chance that we can regain a solid Constitutional footing in the operation of our federal government. Let’s face it, only a fool would vote to slaughter and barbecue their cash cow! So, the only thing left that we can do is hold on tight and try not to be too negatively affected by the wild ride to wherever our situation as a country eventually takes us. Perhaps at some point it becomes every man and woman for themselves. Who knows?

Happy landings…

In the mid 1950′s, during perhaps the zenith of cold war tensions, the US government sought a means for demonstrating to the world our nation’s supremacy in technological achievement. At that time there was an urgency to get a man into space, which was considered the next frontier of human scientific exploration. Making this mission to space all the more urgent was our Cold War political and technological rivalry with the Soviet Union. So out of this urgency, and created as a means for the exploration of space and the advancement of aeronautics, was created NASA – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The history of NASA is quite clear, and I won’t spend any time rehashing the long, storied and successful past of this organization other than to say that they put a man on the moon (fulfilling President Kennedy’s dream and challenge to do so), they made orbital space flight and almost routine endeavor, and they made possible the exploration of the cosmos (with, for example, the Hubble Space Telescope and numerous unmanned probes to the planets and beyond.) The mostly distinguished record of NASA is largely unassailable as an exemplar of man’s cooperative pursuit of science and achievement.

However, with recent statements made by NASA administrator Charles Bolden, the future mission and potential accomplishments of NASA must be called into question. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mr. Bolden said the following:

“When I became the NASA administrator — or before I became the NASA administrator — he charged me with three things. One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering…”

These three “things” are a fine mission for the the educational or foreign services arms of our government, but how do they bolster and support any aeronautical or space activities at the present time? In a nutshell, they do not! This is unfortunately PC crazy talk. I can understand that inspiring children to pursue math and sciences is a noble priority — we need young, engaged minds to train as tomorrow’s scientific leaders. However this should be done through the accomplishment of SOMETHING. Nothing inspires young minds like accomplishments, whether it be home run records, best selling songs, or the piloting of the world’s fastest aircraft. One cannot dredge up inspiration out of best wishes and butterfly kisses.

Expanding international relationships is not a traditional NASA task, unless it is performed under the aegis of in-space or scientific cooperation as demonstrated by the ISS (International Space Station.) However, this notion of relationships must be linked closely with scientific endeavors with specific goals and milestones…and not just a blanket feel good statement. Again, a pathway to accomplishment and achievement would provide the perfect framework for successful international cooperation.

As for Bolden’s third, and in his words “foremost” mission to reach out to dominantly Muslim nations and help them “feel” good about their contributions to the sciences, this is pure and unadulterated nonsense. It is politically-correct inanity raised to the power of madness. What would be the goal of such an outreach? Jihad in space? Sharia law on the moon? The naming of the “Great Satan” nebula by distinguished Islamic scholar? To borrow from Ebeneezer Scrooge — “Bah, Humbug!” This “mission” has NOTHING to do with space exploration, space travel or the advance of our understanding of aeronautics and science. It represents the worst of a flawed new-age liberal mindset where we can somehow convert the world to a 1970′s Coca Cola commercial, with all the inhabitants of the world singing “Kumbayah” with locked arms. It is foofarall and nonsense…and is an indication of just how deeply in trouble we are as a nation vis-à-vis our leadership. Or, by all indications, the lack thereof.

Yet, here we are in 2010, a time when the dreams of former star-struck children from the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s and 80′s should be coming to fruition as viable space programs. But this is a time when the NASA budget has been cut, key missions (like returning a man to the moon and the manned mission to Mars) have been canceled or greatly curtailed out of political expediency and a lack of scientific zeal at the uppermost levels of our government. And NASA is then given this grand “mission”…a slap in the face to men and women of pure science. An insipid mission that not only contradicts the vision and spirit of accomplishment of past missions and past administrations, but one that chafes at the sensibilities of most thinking Americans who, by the way, have to pay for this foolishness.

This is yet another example of how refreshing it will be to have a real change in administration in Washington in 2012.Perhaps we will be served by adults with authentic feelings and appreciation for America’s traditional values and exceptionalism as nation. Perhaps we’ll put this four year experiment in “change” for change’s sake behind us…and admit our failure to be more vigilant of our precious votes as a nation. This us unlikely to happen, but it would be refreshing.

Because right now, as this essay is being typed, the “mission” of our crown jewel in national technological achievement has been changed from pure science to political science. And when politics is brought into the equation, only bad things will come as a result. So, goodbye National Aeronautics and Space Administration and hello No Americans (in) Space Anymore.

I’m sure that millions of American schoolchildren will be suitably “inspired.”

In comments this morning preceding President Obama’s speech to America’s schoolchildren, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decried the 30% drop out rate in American schools.

The obvious question to this staggering number is “Why?” Why are our kids in such large numbers choosing to opt out of the chief means for them improving their lives and their futures? What aren’t we doing as a society that fosters this enormous failure to inspire or instill the value of learning into our future generations?

I think I know what the proposed solution that Mr. Duncan and the Obama administration will suggest to this “problem.” Naturally, they will recommend a vigorous shaking of the money tree! Money solves everything. Throwing money at the problem of student dis-engagement will immediately invigorate the desire for learning those kids who have given up on school, and it will promote a ned spirit of educational excellence.

Uh, no! That might be the well-intentioned goal of pouring more money into the America’s education system by the government. But it will not solve the root cause problem.

In order to solve the myriad problems that lead to this dire drop out rate, we as a nation need to do some serious self-examination and find out what the major reasons behind this apparent educational malaise. I firmly believe that this may be an 80-20 problem…that 80% of the problem is found in areas outside of the student’s educational experience and the remaining 20% exists within our schools. We ask our schools to be so much to an individual child. In essence, for many children, we ask schools to take on the role as parent and guardian. Schools have evolved from a role as temples of education and learning to dispensing medicine and insuring nutrition for a growing number of school-aged children. And this evolution has been mandated by a federal government that ignores the roots of the reasons why children would need these services at school.

Why do schools provide these extra, non-traditional social services (beyond education) to children? Simply put, many parents are parents in name only. They conceived and brought the children into the world, but they are poor care givers and custodians of their children’s growth as an individual. Parents are failing their children in greater and greater numbers. Parents are allowing their problems and their failings to overshadow the needs of their kids — it seems that for many, many parents in today’s society that parental responsibility is optional. What the heck, if they fail, somebody else will pick up the pieces for them. It doesn’t matter that their failure will indelibly change their children, and create barriers to their success and prosperity.

But the ignoring of poor parenting is a natural extension of the entitlement mentality that hs been cultivated by the liberal social engineers in Washington. But the children suffer.

Hey, if you’re going to make an omelet, like changing societal norms and morals, you’re going to break some eggs. So what if these eggs are children, right? If the kids are affected by lousy parents, we can help them out in the government-run schools, like so many wards of the state.

See, it’s easier to a cowardly government to treat the children of poor parents like pseudo wards of the state than it is to cure the root cause of the problem. To demand parental responsibility. To penalize parents who don’t make the grade. To insist on child-centric behavior from adult care givers. Because wow that the genie popped out of the parental responsibility bottle, it will never be coaxed back in without society, not the government, demanding that children come first.

I can tell you that as sure as I’m typing these words that government or government-run programs will never solve the drop out problem in our schools. No number of speeches by this president or future presidents to America’s students will convince kids with troubled family lives that they will benefit from their own excellence in school. If you have a lousy family experience, then school naturally becomes a lower priority behind survival. And no amount of money, short of directly paying kids who would otherwise drop out to stay in school, will cure these root cause problems.

Hilary Clinton told us that “it takes a village” to raise our children. I completely disagree. I think raising kids to be successful, contributing members of society starts with concerned, loving parents who nurture a spirit of excellence and merit in their children. I think I can say with great confidence that the children of such parents do not drop out of school at a 30% rate. I think I can also say without much argument that the children of good parents gain in a positive, personal manner from their educational experience. No amount of money is a substitute for good parents.

I think if President Obama and Secretary Duncan were either honest or astute, they would be speaking to a different audience today. They would be speaking to parents — in particular marginal parents — and reminding them of their awesome responsibility to their children and to society at large. They would stress that parents need to accept responsibility for the proper education of their children. And they would be pressuring lawmakers to create both incentives for good parenting (tax incentives, etc.) and punative measures for bad parenting (loss of tax credits, etc.).

And they would stress that the solutions to many of the problems in our schools are more easily cured in our home towns than from Washington DC.

The recent pandemic scare with the swine flu (H1N1) virus has presented the US an opportunity with a teaching moment. But what could we possibly learn from this lurking pathogen?

For starters, it is a tremendous wake-up call to all citizens that we have borders and control our population egress for a list of rational and critical purposes. First and foremost, the control of our borders helps to control the spread of illnesses like H1N1 into our general population. That this virus emanated from Mexico is in itself a wake-up call. There isn’t a soul in the US that doesn’t know or have an opinion regarding the illegal alien problem in our country. And we all understand that the lion’s share of the aliens who sneak onto our soil originate in Mexico. All of us, of all political persuasions and sympathies towards these interlopers, should see the irony in the Mexico-illegal alien-H1N1 connection. This connection is precisely why we scrutinize those individuals who would like to either visit or emigrate to our country. We, the people, want to make sure we’re not releasing an agent of our own demise into our midst. You know, one bad apple and such.

But the Obama administration has taken a more PC attitude towards H1N1 and the Mexico connection. In their own inspired way they apparently feel that if we want to be players on the world stage, we’ve got to be willing to lose a few citizens here-and-there so that we don’t alienate (no pun intended) our neighbor to the south, or God forbid, the UN and Europe. And we certainly don’t want to rankle the powerful Hispanic political appratus in the US by suggesting that perhaps, maybe, sick illegal Mexicans could carry H1N1 into our country unbeknownst to immigration officials and the populace at large. My God, what a racist notion that is!

It’s now time to sup deeply of the euphemism food pantry: It looks like we collectively bit the bullet, dodged a fastball…got luckier than hell regarding the destructive capabilities of H1N1 to our people. It seems to be far milder and less virulent strain of influenza than was initially feared.

But, and there is always a but…if our leaders and representatives in Washington were sincere in their fealty to their Constitutional duties and responsibilities, then they would have most certainly realized the ticking time bomb that exists regarding public health and safety that unchecked illegal immigration poses to our country. And this threat exists if the means of entry is from the south or from the north…or by air or by sea.

We have immigration laws for a reason, and H1N1 has demonstrated one very good and compelling reason why. If the folks in Washington don’t learn from this obvious warning and get on the ball, and fast, then the consequences may be far too dire to simply demand an explanation from the negligent parties. We would be more than justified to demand swift legal action and appropriate legal punishment for those who neglected their sworn Constitutional duties. The souls of the many Americans who could possibly die as a result of the immigration law negligence would scream for this justice!

The crisis isn’t fully over…H1N1 cases are still popping up all over our nation and there has been at least one fatality…however it appears that we were extremely lucky this time around with this virus…however the next time we may not be so fortunate…

I really don’t mean it…but in this atmosphere of nanny-state mandates and laws to “protect” the apparently dumb citizens, it probably won’t be long before a majority of Americans are saying those words.

Take for example the new law in California as of July 25, 2008 which bans trans-fat use in restaurant foods. According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California.” You see, trans-fats have become food enemy #1 due to their purported health risks.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe trans fats are bad food additives as they are linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. But I also believe that the government has no place in our lives determining what we can or can’t do, eat or think. California’s new law may have been well intentioned, but it should have been a law of citizen education (about the dangers of trans fats) and about requiring restaurants to reveal their presence and quantity in the food they serve, rather than an outright ban. I think that states are doing the right thing when they ban the sale of trans fat-laden foods to kids at school…because kids aren’t able to make informed decisions regarding the foods they eat. But when it comes to adults, we’re all big boys and girls, and ostensibly capable of making decisions for ourselves. We don’t need the government stepping in and making decisions for us or limiting our choices in the free market of commerce and ideas.

I stay away from trans fats like they were radioactive. My wife and I actually read the “nutrition facts” labels on the food we buy. If the product is to come to our house, it best say “0 g” of trans fat (or in the case of a tasty, indulgent treat, a VERY low number). Otherwise, the product goes back to the shelf. And that’s the way it should be — informed consumers making informed decisions.

The same should go for the restaurant dining experience. The amount of “stuff” contained in the offerings should be available for perusal by the prospective consumer. If the restaurant is using quality ingredients then they should have nothing to fear. The nutrition facts are just more information allowing the customer to make a better informed decision on what they’re going to eat. This becomes more relevant because more people are eating out more frequently and receiving more calories and fats from their restaurant dining experiences. I would think quality restaurants with nothing to hide would be clamoring to get this information on their menus to give themselves a quantifiable competitive advantage!

But whether a particular restaurant chooses to use trans fats in their food preparation should be their choice. And if they do use them, then they should be rewarded or punished for their use by discerning, educated, savvy diners.

Otherwise one has to wonder where this government “nannyism” will end? How much freedom and liberty are we willing to give up one tiny cut at a time in order for us to be “safe” or “healthy” or “secure”? I don’t have those answers, but I do know that the government doesn’t either. And I know that they will keep on mandating and legislating for our alleged benefit until we all cry out in unison, in strong unwaivering voices, “NO MORE!”

I had to pinch myself earlier today! I read an editorial in the Boston Globe that agreed with my feelings for once. This editorial, Education doesn’t take a palace, recognizes that it doesn’t take magnificent buildings to create a meaningful learning experience for our kids. In this piece, they actually use the word “boondoggle” in an apparent reference to the planned $200 million high school in Newton. The wording of this editorial is so “unGlobe” that I’m shocked and delighted that they would take such a reasonable and measured stand on this issue.

I’m an advocate of moderation being practiced when a community constructs a school building. The only trappings of a public school should be modest architecture and bare-bones landscaping. As many folks will attest, the schools of the past were austere and functional — places that contained desks, chairs, blackboards, chalk, students and teachers. And these schools successfully turned out legion Nobel laureates, scientists, educators, writers, poets, engineers and physicians. It wasn’t the edifice that made the student — it was the experience contained within the four walls of the classroom.

These schools of the past didn’t have air conditioning, computers, networks, multimedia systems and all the trappings that make up a modern school. All these things are contrivances — meant to enhance the learning experience. I believe what they’ve done is add little to education except for cost at the bottom line: The cost of the equipment and the electrical power required to run them are expensive indeed. But parents feel good if little Johnny or Sally types out a paper on a computer or learns how to use PowerPoint to give a science fair presentation — even though half of the words are misspelled and the grammar is atrocious. We’ve gone from being results oriented to process oriented.

Add all these trappings to the buildings which contain them and you have a model for costs gone wild. And costly buildings filled with costly equipment inevitably means higher and higher future operating costs. Once the genie is out of the bottle, and we are societally inured to this education process, it is damned hard to put the genie back in its rightful place! After all, what proud parent in their right mind wants their kid to have less than the kids who came before them? I mean how are the future parents in Newton, for example, supposed to deny their kids a learning experience unlike the $200 million “Taj MaHigh School” when it comes time to eventually replace that munificent edifice? This begs the question — What’s next? A billion dollar high school? Where do we end with this escalation in spending and what goal do we have by spending this kind of money on a school?

Like it or not, the example of Newton is the main reason why school department spending is far-and-away the largest line item expense in any municipality. For any given city or town it may not be the building that is a boondoggle, but there are numerous extraneous trappings that have become accepted practice. And these trappings become heaped on one another like layers on a cake. And each layer is “important to the education of the child”…or so say the educators. So municipalities struggle to pay for this education lest they deny all the Johnny’s and Sally’s out there the “best” education that can be given them, and that they’re entitled to.

The problem is, as the Globe editorial writers have pointed out, that we can’t always have our cake and eat it too. We’ve turned what once was a modest and successful enterprise into an untouchable municipal fiefdom. And it will take some time to reverse this trend — but only after we’ve punished ourselves with onerous taxes and fees in order to feed this beast. I guess the old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” aptly applies to our present predicament with ever-escalating school budgets.

And for most municipalities in Massachusetts, and nationwide for that matter, the pavement is about 100 feet thick and growing thicker every day!

The countless legions of the socially offended apparently get little sleep. They spend countless hours searching for any insult or slight and then use prevailing institutional guilt (and the legal system) to punish the perceived “offender”. All this is done in the name of racism, segregation, intolerance or myriad other insensitivities. Jesse Jackson has raised this practice to a high art…followed by Al Sharpton: They use a combination of false indignation, self-proclaimed advocacy and blackmail to extract money, influence and power from corporate America. Just ask some of the “quota CEO’s” that have fallen into their gravitational pull.

Now, we have grassroots offense monitors dictating which plays a school may perform. This is what occurred in Liberty Township, Ohio (the name is ironic, if anything), when an NAACP official protested to school officials in this Ohio community that the upcoming stage presentation of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” by students at the Lakota East High School. The play is also known by the alternative title “And Then There Were None”.

NAACP president Gary Hines complained that performing the play was racially insensitive because of the original name of the play — “Ten Little Niggers” (most publications call this the N-word or N——”). This title was scrapped by Ms. Christie’s publisher over 60 years ago. That’s right, 60 years! Mr. Hines cited the 1939 title of the play and the fact that the cover illustration depicted a black man and a noose. Since the play had this tarnished history, then in Mr. Hines’ opinion it was wholly unacceptable to be performed. Obviously the school officials concurred, because they canceled the play, to the consternation of the school staff and the students.

So now we have these apparently boorish, racist and intolerant student actors and their high school advisers who dared to put on this play with callous disregard for the feelings of their black brethren. Huh? How could these kids have possibly known about this title change? How can a long-ago renamed play possibly be offensive to anyone? Where does the reach of indignation and offense begin and end?

I understand that the former name of the play is offensive. The so-call N-word represents world-class ignorance and bigotry. BUT, the blade cuts both ways: I just yesterday watched the movie “Antoine Fisher” and that offensive word was used probably over 50 times in the dialog by the black actress who played the title character’s foster mother. And Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Tyler Perry as well as most characters in a Spike Lee film use this word as frequently as the word “the”! I get it, if you’re the “right” color, you are accorded Carte Blanche usage of the word by the arbiters of all things racially offensive. But if you’re in the cross hairs of the NAACP, Jackson or Sharpton, suspected or accused of “racism”, then you are guilty, guilty, guilty.

But what about the play? Where is it’s offense, excepting of course for its original title in 1939? The answer is that there simply is NO offense! This whole situation could have been used by the NAACP and the Lakota East HS administration as a meaningful “teaching moment”. It would have been a more measured response to this situation if Mr. Hines had approached the Lakota East administration to request that he or a surrogate be allowed to speak to a school assembly. They could have related to the kids the history of the play and the hurt and intolerance that the original 1939 title represented. Rather than use the unknown history of the play to put the kaibosh on it, Mr. Hines could have used this opportunity to sensitize the kids to the pervasive racism which permeated 1939 America, and to frankly discuss his feelings about the original title.

But the only thing that Mr. Hines’ objection did was to create ill feelings among the staff and the students at Lakota East HS towards Mr. Hines and the NAACP. This is definitely a case where Mr. Hines could have better picked his battles, as sometimes there can’t be enough said about the value of discretion.

It’s been a tough week for Principal Evander French, Jr. at the McCall Middle School in Winchester, MA. That’s because it is a tough task to bend yourself into a donut shape, at least philosophy-wise, when it comes to determining what material a child at this school may be subjected to in order walk the tight rope of political correctness.

Several seventh grade classes at the school were scheduled to attend a stage play of “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Stoneham Theatre. Parents had signed permission slips, and the kids had already paid their $20 ticket fee. Suddenly, Mr. French steps in last Friday to save the day! According to him in an e-mail to all the parents, the trip to the play was canceled because “…the basic theme is objectionable to some members of our McCall Middle School seventh-grade community.”

Objectionable theme? You can’t make this stuff up!

I could understand if the kids were scheduled to attend an evangelical revival or some blatantly religious event. But a stage play? Well, Mr. French, ever the excavator, dug himself in deeper. “The people who complained were concerned about the very narrow focus on Santa Claus,” he said yesterday. “The ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ is not in any way, shape or form tied to our curriculum. That was brought to my attention by parents.”

Huh?

“It’s a wonderful story about a miracle on 34th Street, and it’s all about Santa Claus,” French said. “It doesn’t really tie into the McCall Middle School curriculum….It would have been a nice experience, but parents can take their kids to that on their own,” French said. “Certainly, kids in Winchester get plenty of exposure to Santa Claus and all that Santa Claus represents and the gifts that he brings on Christmas morning. I don’t think they’re missing out much.”

Ho boy!

It is obvious that Mr. French is a “victim” of the tyranny of the minority. A parent or several parents had complained about this Santa-centric piece of art. I can hear it now: ‘Remember Mr. French, not everybody shares reverence for a jolly, rotund fictional elf passing out goodies at Christmas.’ ‘Can you imagine the carnage that will be done to these young, impressionable minds if they are exposed to this shamelessly bigoted and insensitive piece of stage prose?’

Well, obviously Mr. French collapsed like a cheap lawn chair on this issue. I’m sure in his mind it’s better to bar the kids from attending this play (which by all accounts they were unanimously and eagerly anticipating), and curse the proverbial darkness. With this convoluted choice, he chose the lesser of the two evils. Apparently, the evils of inclusion of all viewpoints, exposure to multiple cultures and philosophies, tolerance of all religions, and all the other PC gobbledygook slogans outweighed the evil of closing up minds and impinging upon academic freedoms.

Listen, someone is always going to be offended by every single issue or event. Do we chose to do nothing in an effort to placate the often verbal minority who trade in this victimization of the offended? I think the proper response is to allow the offended to keep THEIR kids home from school on the day of the loathsome event and preserve their antiseptic view of the world in their kids minds. The principal should be an advocate for the majority of the kids, rather than an arbiter of the “correct” thing that must be done to satisfy everyone. Who speaks for the 99% of the kids (and their parents) who were disappointed by this specious decision by Mr. French? I think that Mr. French wouldn’t have batted an eyebrow if the kids went to going to a play named “Heather has Two Mommies” or “George Bush is a Hegemonistic, War-Mongering Dolt”. I’m sure that those topics would have been perfectly acceptable in Mr. French’s mind.

But, the whole thought process goes pear-shaped when we have perceived religious content or intent enter the equation. The Founders assured us of a separation of church and state. They didn’t guarantee (and I assure intend) us a surgical excising of anything religious from our public lives. The attendance of a play by several dozen kids doesn’t come close to the Winchester School system espousing Judeo-Christian or, better yet, fantasy holiday icon values…and furthermore, instilling these values into the kids. They would have been watching a play, for crying out loud. To limit their horizons and cheat them out of these experiences is a crime far worse than exposing the kids to a whiff of religious content, at least the whiff as perceived by paranoid, closed-minded parents.

I was always taught to believe that the purpose of school was to turned empty minds into open ones. It is becoming obvious that some parents (abetted by spineless school administrators), in the name of secular ‘Puritanism’, have decided to lock up their kids minds and throw away the keys!

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