bin Laden

(Overhearing someone say that Osama’s death will save the lives of innocent people): Last time I checked his death and these wars had nothing to do with preventing innocent deaths, otherwise we’d be doing things a little differently.

What it does have to with is preserving American ideals, such as freedom. And as far as America is concerned, innocent or not, there is no limit to the lives we’ll sacrifice for those ideals.

We should reflect on whether the American ideals we’re preserving are universal enough to extend to other people of the world; if they are, what would we be doing differently? if they aren’t, well, I think we’re doing everything accordingly.

But I have to ask myself if the inequality bred by this double standard jeopardizes the legitimacy of the very ideals we’re trying to preserve?

Additionally, Osama’s death is more symbolic than practical. His death has no affect on the insidious tentacles of Al Queda’s vast network; cutting a head off a hydra is no immediate cause for celebration. If anything, we just made him a martyr, and fueled their enthusiasm and hate. hm..

Goal of Education

“The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.”
— Jean Piaget

Do you think this is being accomplished? What can be done about it? What is the utility of raising generations who only know how to repeat rather than think? A well trained and well behaved populous? Perhaps the cause of a generation caught in cyclical misfortunes?

I just read an article by NPR that detailed the lack of critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills being learned by college students today:

“….[the study showed that] more than a third of students showed no improvement in critical thinking skills after four years at a university was cause for concern…”

“Part of the reason for a decline in critical thinking skills could be a decrease in academic rigor; 35 percent of students reported studying five hours per week or less, and 50 percent said they didn’t have a single course that required 20 pages of writing in their previous semester.”

I am inclined to say that it is of no fault of the university. Rather, it is indicative of the protypical American culture. Payment does not guarantee education. It requires work, vision, and sacrifice, something that very little of the populous is inclined to embrace.

At every university, however, there are students who defy the trend of a decline in hours spent studying — and who do improve their writing and thinking skills. The study found this to occur more frequently at more selective colleges and universities, where students learn slightly more and have slightly higher academic standards. Overall, though, the study found that there has been a 50 percent decline in the number of hours a student spends studying and preparing for classes from several decades ago.

This is sad.

I’ll add to this post and write more later.

A quote:

“Modern schools and universities push students into habits of depersonalized learning, alienation from nature and sexuality,obedience to hierarchy, fear of authority, self objectification, and chilling competitiveness. These character traits are the essence of the twisted personality-type of modern industrialism.They are precisely the character traits needed to maintain a social system that is utterly out of touch with nature, sexuality, and real human needs.”

–Arthur Evans

Fundamental America

This is what a paper written in 1 hour and 20 minutes looks like.

Fundamental America: Free for a Price

Examining the paradoxes of social inequalities within the scope of democratic sentiments

Inherent Paradoxes

            Two hundred and thirty years ago the American people declared their independence from tyrannical autocratic rule. The founders synthesized the enduring democratic rights and truths of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. Despite this, democracy was reserved for a margin of people and out of reach from the vast majority. Since our countries conception, great advances have been made to refine what democracy is and establish who has the right to contribute their voice. Major movements in women’s suffrage and later slavery and African American rights were milestones that helped shape the seemingly exclusive ideal of democracy. Currently America faces several fronts that challenge the legitimacy of our current democracy.

Social Inequalities

            In our readings in Signs of Life in the USA, authors Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon address a variety of paradoxes that exist within our American culture in chapter six, American Paradox. No paradox is more controversial and relevant than America’s simultaneous declaration of universal human freedom and equality and its long history of racism. This paradox addresses the tip of the iceberg of much larger paradox illustrating an advertised freedom that was not intended to be free.

Historical inequalities

            Examining our American roots we can see that our puritanical Christian forefathers desired a society of their own, free from autocratic dictation. They envisioned this society for the United States. As time went on, these puritanical sentiments persisted and found their way into our legislation. Because their ideals subjugated the rights of women and African Americans, they were prevented from voicing themselves for the first half of American history. Only after massive opposition and generations of change have these become matters of the past.

Xenophobia of Middle Easterners

            In our current culture racism seems to be localized to extreme fringe groups. Popular culture has seen women take center stage on political issues, and African Americans dominate multiple industries from entertainment to sports. However, social inequalities are still alive and well, and although racism may be withering, xenophobia continues to blossom with every generation. Most recently our country has been in multiple wars and with every war is an accompanying fear. Middle easterners have been the target of these fears as our government denounced radical Muslims and extremists from the middle east of reeking havoc world wide. While the atrocious crimes were committed by radical sects, the language used to single them out has effectively caused a mass hysteria directed towards the Middle East as a whole. Ignorant Americans forget that the numbers of such extremists are next to nothing.

Xenophobia of Illegal Immigrants

            Another xenophobia gripping our nation is that of illegal immigration. The news of illegal immigrants storming our borders, scaling walls, digging tunnels, enduring deserts and dangers has America in a panic. While Americans national security has been called into question, another issue of economic security has been the focus of most news. Illegal immigrants are publicized as taking hard working tax paying American’s jobs. In light of our economic decline, this has been the spotlight of most Americans concern. To compound the issue further, America’s war on drugs is now directly battling the major trafficking of illegal drugs through our southern Mexican border.

Social Inequality of Homosexuality

            The last social inequality that challenges the fabric of our constitution and agitates the ethical and moral minds of America is the issue of homosexuality. It seems it would be an inevitable topic given our ‘free’ country was founded by puritanical Christians. While the issue of homosexuality has made much headway in popular culture and open acceptance the past two decades, it has only recently been challenging the roots of America. Proposition 8 and the issue of same sex marriage has been the most widely publicized debate on the issue.

Examining the Paradoxes

            Why are these paradoxical? While some might look at these issues and produce valid concerns for their legitimacy, they overlook the very foundations of America. This land, whatever the founder’s initial intent, was established as a haven for the persecuted, a home for those underfoot, those whose rights were molested or stripped. Social inequalities serve to destabilize the creed of freedom. To remove one man his rights would be to undermine the rights of all men. This, however, is what America has done throughout its history as it has attempted to reserve democracy to a select few.

Reserved Freedoms

            These examples illustrate a major flaw in America’s declaration of freedom and equality: where the line of freedom is drawn. While we hold our relativistic and tolerant values supreme, we are terribly protective and afraid of anybody watering this down and wavering from these values.  In the case of illegal immigration, most would think that America, of all places, would be the most receptive and lax about this process. Considering that there are no true natives other than the Indians, we should embrace the people who venture here to exercise their rights. The truth is that earning your citizenship and freedom in America is an arduous test of patience that many people simply do not have the time to pass.

Paradoxes: Generational Entrapment

            Democracy is defined as a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people. These people make up the common people and dictate the governing rule through the legislative and judiciary process. However, problems arise when one generation’s laws improperly reflect the current generation. As the generation of one common people phases out, another phases in, often met in opposition to outdated traditions and beliefs that made their way in legislation. These tendencies create obstacles for progress, as is seen throughout American history with landowners only being able to vote, women’s rights, and African American rights.

Defining a Free Democracy

             Another paradox that exists within these paradoxes is that of a free democracy itself. Any form of government is a form of control. Whether that control is derived from single or multiple sources detracts from that fact that there is a degree of freedom is forfeited. In a democracy this power is derived from the common people, the populous. This causes difficulties among those who compose a margin of the population or any minority with fringe beliefs and philosophies.

Conclusion

            Overcoming these paradoxes will be the result of overcoming an inherent part of the human nature: fear, specifically the unknown. That includes all unfamiliarity extending to foreigners, homosexuality, or just change in general. While I would love to say these inequalities have all but disappeared with the advent of the mass media, internet, and other mediums of communication that break down the one sided walls of ignorance, the truth is they remain an enduring part of our culture.  Though America once related with the tired huddled masses in Emma Lazarus’s words on the statue of liberty, we have grown alien to these feelings and are less empathetic to those who need it most.