Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Constitutionally educated, but detached - A challenge

James Phillips, PhD, my ninth grade civics teacher (1961-1962), taught me three principles that have helped shape my life. First, love the constitution. Second, love education. Third, pay attention to what is happening around you.

Dr. Phillips was a dark-skinned teacher. He would not have called himself African-American, because no one had coined that term yet. He may have used the term negro, but it made no difference to him or to me. He was, quite simply, the most passionate, intelligent, articulate, and motivating public school teacher of my K-12 years.

Remember, I am talking about pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964, pre-Martin Luther King, and far before today's slave-minded, left wing African American spokespersons. Dr. Phillips, with a PhD, able only to teach ninth grade in an inner-city public school, never let color be a barrier.

He knew his constitution well, and made sure we did, too. Our class tore it apart, clause by clause, line by line, word by word. Then we wrote our own. I believe I served on the Preamble committee. Why focus on the constitution? Because in it, Dr. Phillips found freedom, hope, and a future.

Since 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court has often turned the constitution on its head. Landmark decisions that seem transparently at odds with the definition of words, the culture in which they were created, and the purpose for which they intended to serve, were tossed aside. The Court's attack on the constitution began long before Dr. Phillips began my enlightenment, but since then, has often spun out of control, leaving us with little ability to have confidence in the document.

Dr. Phillips second admonition was to be educated. Actually, I believe he meant to keep on being educated. As Charlie "Tremendous" Jones said often, "Life is about learning to be learning, so that in learning, we can learn that we need to be learning."

The high school student holds a tiny seed in his/her hand that, with proper nourishment, will continue to grow into a solid, strong, tall tree of learning. But without nourishment, it will wither and become of little use. Eventually, it dies.

Life comes alive through ongoing learning.

Third, pay attention to what is happening. Perhaps this admonition is the reason I wrote a paper on creeping socialism for Dr. Phillips - in ninth grade. Phillips read five newspapers every day. TV and radio news helped shape one's knowledge of current events, but could not begin to compete with the in-depth reporting and commentary available through newspapers.

Today, I teach a class titled "American Government-For Real." My lesson today is on the media, and its impact on our system of government. My 30 students are bright, healthy, eager to learn, and pretty much ignoring what is happening. They may have never seen a newspaper, do not listen to radio, can not tell me what time TV news is broadcast.

On the other hand, my students are serious about study, and work hard at academics. But they are doing so in a vacuum, without contemporary context.

Their "media" is designed to entertain and distract them from the mundane [important] nature of life. A make believe world of villains, heroes, personalities, tragedies, but seldom tied to real life.

My students have had the "Phillips" treatment on the constitution, and they have bought into being educated. Now, the challenge is to get them to pay attention to the world around them. Constitutionally based citizens that are motivated to learn, who pay attention to what is happening makes a powerful force to move our country forward (and a bit more to the right).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Well, well, well. We can certainly give thanks now.

My title is a bit short-sighted and selfish. It presumes that our instant predicament is worse than at times past. As in, "Wow, the American people woke up and actually threw some of the bums out." For that we can be thankful.

Compared to the mass starvation encountered by the Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth Rock, and the astonishing nature of Divine intervention in their lives through Squanto, our politics is piddly. Yet, the fact is that what those early Pilgrims eventually became - a great nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal - has truly been in jeopardy for some time now.

When 1980 voters elected Ronald Reagan, Larry Burkett, a teacher of Biblical financial principles said, "We may have bought another four years." By this he meant that the U.S. had staved off financial collapse, at least for time, because a conservative leader would make it so. Reagan did usher in an era of unprecedented growth, from which the world benefited.

The Democrats in the current Congress, and the Obama administration seemed intent on completely reversing our economic good fortune. Worse, our common sense and a fourth grade understanding of how money and incentives work, told us economic darkness had begun to arrive. Whatever Reagan had wrought, Obama was undoing.

Reid, Obama, Pelosi - ROP - did themselves proud, and as the scriptures teach, "Pride goes before a fall..." and "Those who are stiff-necked will suddenly fall, and at that, without recourse." ROP hung themselves. We reaped a harvest.

Squanto visited us again this Thanksgiving, with new reasons to celebrate faith, family, and freedom.

"We have given you a republic, ma'am," Ben Franklin said. The voters have done so, too, in 2010. Now, it is up to us to see if we can maintain it.

Thanks to God, in Jesus Christ, for His abundant blessings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Can't Create Good Models from Bad Ideas

The new health care law requires each state to establish an operating health insurance benefit exchange by January 1, 2014. I have written elsewhere about why the exchanges will never work, unless their purpose is to drag us into single payer health care.

The exchange has created a real political phenomena -- forcing otherwise intelligent, principled people to try to design it so that it will do as little harm as possible. So greatly do these well-meaning people fear the establishment of federally-dictated exchanges that they are working overtime to design state-based models.

Even while doing so, they know the exchange is a bad idea.

Worse, yet, they feel impotent to do anything else. Decades of federal government overreach has convinced these voting citizens that they are at the mercy of Big Government. If Congress passed it, and Obama signed it...well, we have no other recourse but to build it. This idea that we are powerless to resist bad, unconstitutional law is far more worrisome than the law itself.

The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect unalienable rights. Our United States Constitution is a document of enumerated rights, where we the people, in order to preserve our unalienable rights, tell the federal government what it can and cannot do -- not the other way around.

Here is the right strategy concerned unconstitutional laws, such as that which forces states to establish health insurance exchanges: Refuse, and instruct members of Congress to repeal the law. If they don't make them pay.

If we have no power to resist the health insurance exchange, then we have no power to resist any federal mandates about anything: This is not freedom , it is servitude.