Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Notes From the Classroom

I have a different philosophy on teaching history than may be common.  In my classroom, I fully expect and encourage questions, even if they may be tangential to the topic at hand.  Discussions often start up and I let them run with it for a while.  Hell, I even try to drive them forward.  You can't have a discussion on history and politics if you are not thinking, and it's almost impossible to tell if people can think about politics and history based on standardized tests.  Make them think on their feet to prove they are truly capable of thinking.  

With this, I've noticed some very alarming trends, both in my students and in others throughout society.  People are tired of the partisanship in this nation.  The bickering between Republicans and Democrats is irritating to people; all they want is the parties to come to an agreement and work together on whatever is best for the country. 

I've heard way too many positive comments on establishing a dictatorship in this nation.  

I see the reasons for this all too clearly. Our educational system creates people incapable of independent thought, incapable of taking responsibility, who only want somebody to either give them the answer or "do something" to make things right.  These people would never challenge either the answer or the plan, even if those things should be challenged.  The startling truth is this: our people will never accept tyranny imposed upon us, but we may very well end up begging for it instead. 

The following should be self evident, but somehow are not: 

  • The parties are not putting their own interests ahead of the nation's.  They legitimately have differing ideas as to what is good for our nation.  Therefore, it is impossible to "put politics aside", since politics itself is debating what is good for our nation and what is harmful.  
  • To say a certain party should put aside their positions "for the good of the country" is to say that party should abandon its conception of what is good for us...for the good of us.  It's a non sequitur, but you have to actually think the statement out to realize that.  
  • Partisanship is not all that bad.  One party states completely lacking in partisanship are common; they are known as fascist states or dictatorship.  Their standards of living and respect for human rights are atrocious.  Partisanship helps keep bad ideas in check by allowing somebody to stand up and say "this is a bad idea and I oppose it."  
  • The people in government may very well not have an answer that works.  In fact, they may have been the cause of problems.  To wish maximum efficiency from the government, or to wish they would "just do something", is to assume that whatever they will do will be good.  There is no reason to grant that assumption. 
 Our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances to require broad consensus before our government could move forward.  That means that often ideas proposed by factions are shot down.  This is a good thing and proof the system works.  

For those desiring a more active government, be careful what you wish for.  The 20th Century should be more than enough proof that checks and balances, partisanship, and bickering are preferable to their opposites.  Teach your children to question and think, rather than to beg for an answer.  Those who can think independently will be citizens, those who cannot will be subjects.

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