The idea that our public education system is dysfunctional is pretty much a given nowadays. Indeed, just about every Gallup poll concerning education shows that Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the quality of American schools. Yet 77% of parents award their own child’s public school a grade of A or B, which is the highest level of approval since the question was first asked in 1985.
So I still see anti-Obama signs that say something like “Castro/Stalin/Hitler/Mao wanted change too” – as if to suggest that only evil people run on a platform of change. Didn’t Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and our own Founding Fathers desire change too? I mean, isn’t Mitt Romney himself running to change things up (presumably dramatically)? Change in and of itself is not a bad thing; it’s one thing to criticize certain types of it. But to essentially demonize the very concept of change shows just how absurd and petty our public discourse has become.
Many Americans, particularly self-identified conservatives, erroneously believe that the government spends far more on foreign aid than it really does: typically, most people think it’s 25% of the federal budget, when in actuality it’s only around 1%. Furthermore, when asked what amount they think should go to foreign aid, these same respondents – again, including conservatives – end up picking a percentage higher than 1%. In other words, most people inadvertently support more humanitarian aid than we actually provide.
I can think of no justification for paying an executive hundreds of millions of dollars in salary, bonuses, stocks, and other assets. Tens of millions of Americans are expected to work hard and do their job well without such incentives – indeed, low-paying jobs that offer little to no benefits make up around 60% of jobs recovered since the recession. So if a person needs an eight or even nine figure salary to do a good job, it says a lot about their ethics and integrity. Heck, in many cases they can still run a company to the ground and come away very rich, which defeats the original presumed purpose of paying them so much in the first place.
Another day, another senseless act of violence (in reference to the recent events in Colorado). No one ever goes to a mall, theatre, or school expected to be gunned down for no good reason. We don’t wake up thinking this day will be our last. We go about our lives completely oblivious to the fragility and finiteness of our existence. Perhaps that’s a merciful thing, since it would no doubt depress us and lead to much anxiety (which would defeat the purpose of living every moment with appreciation and gusto). Maybe we should just keep it in the back of our minds at least.
In just about every one of these massacres I read about, there is at least one incidence, if not several, of people sacrificing themselves to save their loved ones (or even total strangers). It’s such a strange juxtaposition of human nature: at the very same time that someone is senselessly murdering others, people are unflinchingly giving their lives to save each other. I wonder if I am capable of that sacrifice? The best or worst aspects of us can emerge during such tragedies. I hope I never have to find out.
Colorado, where the recent gun massacre occurred, has one of the loosest gun regulations in the country: there are no limits on assault weapon ownership, no limits on handgun purchases per month, and no permits or licenses required for gun ownership. The state has no authority to regulate guns, while safety measures such as safety lock requirements are nonexistent. With all that said, most research I’ve read suggests that gun policies, whether strict or loose, have little to no effect on gun violence. Instead, the underlying causes are child poverty, a lack of mental health services, socioeconomic inequality, and a lack of community cohesion.
The US has a woefully inadequate mental health system, with among the fewest people receiving psychiatric help of any developed nation. Now, many of these mental health clinics are closing down or facing budget cuts, including in public school and prisons. Imagine the consequences of this.