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Friday, June 24, 2011

America in Denial

“Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man’s nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God.” — John Adams

While watch a TV show former senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was being interview. He made a comment that caught my ear when he said he was talking with a professor of American History at Washburn College. According to Santorum the professor told him that he gave a 40 question history and citizenship test to all of his incoming students and the average for correct answers 40% with only 15% achieving a passing grade of 70% or above. I have written on this issue before and I find it appalling that only 15% of college freshmen can score above 70% on a simple history or citizenship test.

Tonight I heard on the Sean Hannity show the Maryland Superintendent of Public Education has mandated that all K-12 schools in Maryland have to teach environmental science and that all high school seniors High school seniors in Maryland will have to be “literate” on environmental matters to graduate from now on.

This is a defining moment for education in Maryland,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said. “By approving this environmental graduation requirement, the Board of Education is ensuring that our young people graduate with a keen understanding of and connection to the natural world. Only through exposure to nature and education about our fragile ecosystem can we create the next generation of stewards. ”

“This is a momentous day not only for Maryland but for educators across the country who are watching what Maryland does, and hoping to increase outdoor learning in their states,” Don Baugh, director of the environmental advocacy group No Child Left Inside Coalition (NCLI), which pushed for the vote, said in a release. “Governor O’Malley and Dr. Grasmick deserve our profound gratitude. For years they have put Maryland at the forefront of the environmental education movement.”

The Washington Post reports on what the requirement means: “Under the graduation requirement, public schools will be required to infuse core subjects with lessons on conservation, smart growth and other environmental topics. School systems will be able to shape their programs, but they must align with state standards.”

“With today’s vote school districts must now move beyond standard science courses that provide minimal focus on the environment,” NCLI added in its release. “The Maryland State Department of Education has established two workgroups to begin revising and aligning Maryland environmental literacy standards, and developing guidelines to provide school systems with guidance and support for implementation.”

According to the Post, 48 other states are considering similar requirements.

“The No Child Left Inside Act would increase environmental education opportunities for students across the country,” Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland, author of the bill, said. “Such opportunities are essential to grow the next generation of scientists, promote environmental stewardship, and encourage Americans to live healthier lifestyles.”

According to the Baltimore Sun Maryland ranks last in personal freedom:

“Maryland has earned yet another dubious distinction: The lowest-ranked state for personal freedom in the country.

A recent study, "Freedom in the 50 states," from the market-oriented Mercatus Center at George Mason University faults Maryland's strict gun control laws, extensive automobile regulations, tight gambling laws, burdensome home-schooling laws and high drug arrest rates for our state's low ranking.

Maryland -- nicknamed "The Free State" -- is also ranked 28th in economic freedom and 43rd in overall freedom.

The study faults Maryland for "severe" labor regulation, high health insurance coverage mandates, eminent domain abuse and smoking bans.

And the state has been getting consistently less free since 2007, the study states.

Which are the freest states in the country? New Hampshire (which famously refuses to enact a seatbelt law) and South Dakota (which has low taxes and government spending).”

(clip_image001Actually the George Mason University study Ranks Maryland at #43 and California at #49 with New Hampshire at #1 and South Dakota at #2.)

Under the graduation requirement, public schools will be required to infuse core subjects with lessons on conservation, smart growth and other environmental topics. School systems will be able to shape their programs, but they must align with state standards.

So what we have are high school graduates who can’t pass a simple history and citizenship test, but will be able to tell you all about global warming and how man has wrecked the planet, something right up the lefty greens alley.

As someone who graduated high school in he mid 50s and has extensively travels the United States and the world I believe I know something about the land of my birth, the United States of America. This was once a great nation offering everyone freedom and the opportunity to succeed (or fail). What happened to us? How did we lose our optimism and confidence? How did we turn into a nation of the recipient class envious of those who have worked hard to achieve success? How did we become a people dedicated to class warfare?

Steve McCann has a good article in American Thinker where he, as an immigrant, lays out some good points on what has happened to us since the end of the Second World War. Mr. McCann writes:

Many of us who immigrated to the United States from either war-ravaged or totalitarian countries, where freedom was either unknown or the quintessence of daydreams, find ourselves baffled by a trait common to the majority of Americans: the belief, consciously or subconsciously, that the worst cannot happen here. That somehow the demoralizing images and disturbing experiences of those elsewhere are confined to those poor souls and will never find their way to American shores.

While this characteristic is found across all political and economic strata, it is particularly rampant among the current ruling class in the United States, who by their control of the culture and education, have ingrained that sort of thinking into the psyche of the vast majority of Americans.

Is this mindset a by-product of 66 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity? Is there something unique in the American character that revels in denial? Is there over-confidence that Americans can accomplish anything? Is this outlook the end-product of a lack of education and appreciation of how the success of the United States is extraordinary and of the fact that since modern man took his first tentative step on the plains of Africa 200,000 years ago until the present less than 9% of all humanity has ever experienced true freedom?

Overwhelming peace and prosperity, over the past many decades, has sown the seeds that will lead to rapid erosion in the American way of life. As the United States has not experienced a major national catastrophe in over 146 years, coupled with no significant economic hardships since 1940, the view across the landscape as far as the mind's eye chooses to see is of never-ending affluence and freedom from strife.

With this perspective in mind, it is easy to believe, as human nature would choose to do, that there will always be an unlimited source of wealth and with that wealth the country should be obligated to see to it that no citizen, as a factor of residency, suffers any hardship. It is a belief easily exploited by the Left as a means of obtaining sufficient votes to acquire and retain power. But this conviction is also the foundation of American socialist dogma for those who revel in the self-importance and superiority that attaches itself to this errant philosophy.

It is of little personal sacrifice to espouse Marxist/socialist theory while doing so in a comfortable environment provided by the entrepreneurship and wealth creation of others. But the key to this mindset is the deep-seated belief that there is no end to the prosperity the United States creates, regardless of the increasingly heavy hand of government It is only a matter of allocation, and more importantly to the Left, the authority over society that predetermined re-distribution brings about.

But the Left is not alone in its acceptance of never-ending peace and prosperity. Many on the Right also subscribe to this mindset as they, in order to also acquire political power, do not point out the folly of this state of mind and what the Left preaches; but instead choose to proceed on a slower, but ultimately the same track in placating and abetting this belief that has become so ingrained in the American psyche.

The United States is unique among nations because of its founding principles, geography and mix of cultures and races. Those factors enabled the country to overcome a myriad of tribulations in its early years and develop an atmosphere conducive to an overwhelming barrage of creativity, ingenuity and individual advancement. But those days are rapidly receding into the pages of history as the oppressive hand of government, now encroached into the day-to-day lives of all Americans, has nearly made that nation a relic of the past. Yet among many there is still the belief that regardless of this ever growing intrusion and forced wealth re-distribution America can still accomplish anything at anytime against all odds or competitors.

As long as those in the ruling class, abetted by a majority of the public, continue in their present state of mind, then the ongoing immature and childish game of political one-upmanship, name calling and winning at all costs mentality on the Left and obsession with civility and moderation on the Right will persist as both sides naively believe there are no negative consequences in doing so. The end result, however, is to obfuscate the true depth of the country's problems, while genuine solutions to the nation's dilemmas become impossible to achieve.

The American populace is no longer taught the basics of the founding of the United States and how it was able to achieve the peace and prosperity that is the hallmark of the present day. Nor are they aware that the annals of history are littered with the refuse of once invincible cultures whose citizenry never thought the worst would ever happen to them. All succumbed to greed, complacency and hubris; traits which have also begun to dominate American society.

While some Americans are waking up to the potential economic and security disasters that loom over the horizon, the vast majority are not. There still exists, deep in the recesses of the American mindset, the entrenched thought that none of this will really happen. That somehow, because this is the United States, there will be an easy and painless way to offset the potential problems -- that is if these dilemmas really are genuine.

Those of us who have first-hand experience from other nations of what the worst can be, say with great assurance that it can happen in the United States and it will unless Americans, and in particular the governing class, awaken from their self-induced stupor and honestly face that reality. Until that happens the country will continue its headlong dash toward disaster when it may well be too late to resolve the problems without massive suffering and a greatly diminished country.”

I could not agree with Mr. McCann more. While he identifies the issue of America’s denial I would like to offer, what I believe are the reasons, our education system, our entertainment industry and our social our love affair with social justice.

In 1976 Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter promised to create a Department of Education, and was is endorsed by the National Education Association. This is first time that the NEA has endorsed a presidential candidate in more than a century of existence. After his election in 1978 Carter got Congress, after much opposition, to narrowly pass legislation to split off a new Department of Education from the existing Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers provided powerful lobbying support for the creation of the new department. The Department of Education began operations in 1980 with 6,400 employees.

Once this happened to floodgates were opened for total control of our public education system from Washington and its takeover by the teachers unions. Once this happened the local control of our public schools began to vanish. The control came in two forms, one through legislation and the other through the coercion of federal dollars.

Local school districts, always in need of more money for more things, were easily coerced by money from Washington. Every time they took a dime’s worth of federal money they got a dollars’ worth of federal intervention. This money dictated curriculum, testing, reporting and diversity. Subjects were no taught in Montana schools dictated by elites in Washington that perhaps the people of Montana did not want to teach on their schools. History text books were rewritten to no longer emphasize or founders and the constitution. All references to God were removed and the civil rights era became more important than the Federalist Papers. Saving the rainforest replaced building the transcontinental railway. The plight of the Native Americans replaced the great migrations to open the west and racial justice became the reasons for the Civil War.

We were educating a generation of children that were learning very little of the reasons for the United States, how it came about and the culture of its people. This generation went on to teach the generation that is teaching our children today. And with each succeeding generation the history and reasons for the United States became more watered down until today we have school districts teaching the overthrow of the United States and separation of its lands.

While this was going the teachers unions were gaining more power and collecting more dues money to support progressive politician who would do their bidding. It was no longer about educating our children with our history and values it was about power and control. As these unions were taken over by elite academics willing to experiment with our children’s minds and enforce their left-wing progressive agenda our schools became factories of indoctrination, not places where critical thinking was the goal. Graduation rates dropped, especially in urban school districts where today, in some cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Philadelphia is less than 60%. It’s no wonder the history professor at Washburn College had such appalling passing rates on his history and citizenship test.

The next, and perhaps most influential reason, is our entertainment industry. In the 1950s and 1960s we had movies and TV shows promoting family and American values. TV was becoming more and more influential as its programming entered the homes across America on a nightly basis.

There were shows like Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons where the father of the house was a problem solver, bread winner and leader of the house. He was not a dufus, comedic character as portrayed in today’s sitcoms and TV shows. There were shows about pioneers and adventurers like Little House on the Prairie, Wagon Train and Bonanza, who risked body and treasure to build this nation. Little House on the Prairie also had an intact family with the father as the leader of the family. There were shows about law, justice, honor and integrity like Gun Smoke, Davy Crockett and Paladin where the good guts wore white hats and the bad guys wore the black ones. There were wholesome comedy and variety shows like The Show of Shows, the Texaco Star Theater, the Carroll Burnett Show and the Red Skelton Show where comedy was based on our everyday lives, such as buying a hat, a family vacation or a first date. They were not loaded with vulgarity, soft core pornography, homosexuality or anti-American rhetoric.

Somewhere in the 1970s this all changed. When the movie Mash came out it portrayed the heroic military doctors, nurses and medical technicians as comedic characters. When the TV show of the same name came out it was more of the same with an anti-war, left-wing agenda added. It did not take long for films like Platoon and Apocalypse to begin portraying the American soldier as a drug induced psychopathic killers. This is the stuff two generations have grown up with. Can you wonder why America is in denial of its roots and founding principles? Even simplistic children’s programs like Sesame Street took on a new agenda. Instead of teaching pre-kindergarteners the alphabet they began preaching progressive left-wing gender agenda.

Social Justice has become the watch word of the progressive left. Not justice for all, but social justice. In the parlance of the progressive left social justice means affirmative action, diversity, lack of personal accountability and shared wealth. Class warfare has replaced personal responsibility and entrepreneurship. Need and demand has replaced the ability to earn the money to pay for something — if he has it I want it. Frederic Bastiat writes in The Law:

“See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

With such an accurate description of legalized plunder, we cannot deny the conclusion that most government activities, including ours, are legalized plunder, or for the sake of social justice, legalized theft.

Herein lies Bastiat’s famous distinction between illegal and legal plunder, which is at the center of his analysis in The Law. The purpose of government, he says, is precisely to secure individuals in their rights to life, liberty, and property. Without such security men are reduced to a primitive life of fear and self-defense, with every neighbor a potential enemy ready to plunder what another has produced. If a government is strictly limited to protecting men’s rights, then peace prevails, and men can go about working to improve their lives, associating with their neighbors in a division of labor and exchange.

But government can also be turned against those whom it is meant to protect in their property. There can arise legal plunder, in which the powers of government are used by various individuals and groups to prevent rivals from competing, to restrict the domestic and foreign trading opportunities of other consumers in the society, and therefore to steal the wealth of one’s neighbors. This, Bastiat argues, is the origin and basis of protectionism, regulation, and redistributive taxation.

But the consequences of legal plunder are not only the political legitimizing of theft and the breakdown of morality through the blurring of the distinction between right and wrong — however crucially important and dangerous these may be for the long-term stability and well-being of society. Such policies also, by necessity, reduce the prosperity of the society.

Why does legal plunder come about? Bastiat saw its origin in two sources. First, as we have just seen, some people see it as an easier means of acquiring wealth than through work and production. They use political power to redistribute from others what they are unwilling or unable to obtain from their neighbors through the voluntary exchanges of the marketplace. One basis for legal plunder, in other words, is the misguided spirit of theft. The second, and far more dangerous, source of legal plunder is the arrogant mentality of the social engineer. Through the ages, Bastiat showed, social and political philosophers have viewed the multitude of humanity as passive matter, similar to clay, waiting to be molded and shaped, arranged and moved about according to the design of an intellectually superior elite. With a timeless relevance, Bastiat points out that the political elite praises the ideal of democracy, under which “the people” select those who will hold political office. But once the electoral process is finished, those elected to high political office arrogate to themselves the planning, directing, and controlling of every aspect of social and economic life. The task of modern democracy, apparently, is to periodically appoint those who shall be our societal dictators.

After 66 years of peace America has turned into a state where plunder is accepted in the name of social justice where people feel entitled to the “good life” without seizing on the opportunities of freedom and property rights protected in our Constitution. Today we look to government for our rights and blindly take what the elites choose to give us. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to amend America‘s ’Sacred Documents‘ for ’ever-expanding freedom’ of jobs as Democrats line up to call for the federal government to hire the unemployed. Hire to do what?

We will not be able to reverse this trend until we, as a people, decide to return to constitutional government as defines by the written words in the Constitution and the writings of our founders. Also we need to return to God. Not the God of any organized religion, but the God of our founders who from all rights and morality stems.

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