Posts Tagged ‘Education’

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Deconstructing Rick Santorum’s Argument that Obama is Detatched from American Experience

06.29.10

Former PA Senator Rick Santorum:

“Obama is detached from the American experience. He just doesn’t identify with the average American because of his own background. Indonesia and Hawaii. His view is from the viewpoint of academics and the halls of the Ivy league schools that he went to and it’s not a love of this country and an understanding of the basic values and wants and desires of its people. And as a result of that, he doesn’t connect with people at that level.”

His argument: Obama is detached from the American experience, which prevents him from connecting with people at that level.

His support:

  1. Obama’s background of living in Indonesia and Hawaii.  Despite Indonesian Americans only comprising about .02% of the US Population (as of the 2000 census), it doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans who live in that country for a period of time, or those who emigrate to America, are less knowledgeable on the American experience.  One could argue that part of the American experience is being able to see the world and learn other cultures first-hand.  Perhaps Mr. Santorum is unaware that Hawaii is actually our 50th state and part of the union.  Sure, it’s way out there in the Pacific, but to say that living there makes your experiences less American than the average American sure is a slap in the face to the nearly 1.3 million citizens that call Hawaii home.  Maybe he has Hawaii confused with Puerto Rico.
  2. Obama’s viewpoint of academics.  Since when is it un-American to value an education?
  3. Obama’s time at an Ivy League school.  See previous rebuttal.

Therefore, he comes to this conclusion:

Ivy League schools and academics are in direct opposition to loving America and understanding the basic values and wants and desires of its people.

By this line of thought, even Santorum himself falls into this group into which he lumps Obama: he attended Penn State University for both undergrad and his law degree.  Not quite Ivy League, but a highly esteemed public school nonetheless, and one that surely falls into the realm of academics.  How does he reconcile the fact that he apparently loves America and understands the basic values of its people despite also coming from academia himself?  Also – the choice of saying “its people” implies that Obama isn’t even a citizen, that he’s looking in from the outside at America, of which he’s not a part.  Subtle, yet rather inflammatory in its suggestion.

This argument seems to be another way for Santorum to portray Obama as an elitist, that he doesn’t understand the common American.  It’s an offensive argument to both Obama and to whomever passes off as “common Americans” these days.  First to Obama because it casts him aside as some outsider, an out-of-touch American — or worse, un-American.  But the real offense is how he patronizes everyday Americans as not being able to relate to Obama because he’s highly educated.  As if the average citizen is an uneducated, ignorant person who finds intelligence to be suspicious and unappealing, and considers school to be against his or her core beliefs.

Nothing quite like someone with a relatively similar education background telling people that education is not for the common American and they should be skeptical of people with Ivy League degrees, but never mind my own graduate degree in law from this nationally ranked university.

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Obama Shockingly Out of Touch with Technology and Social Media

05.10.10

These latest comments from President Obama seem rather odd considering he blasts the very media that helped spread his hugely successful grassroots, Web 2.0 campaign that got him elected less than two years ago.

President Obama:

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.”

First off, lumping together iPads in with PlayStations shows the kind of ignorance that I don’t expect to see with him.  Especially not from a president whose administration spends so much time tweeting, blogging, vlogging, and reaching out to the masses through all of the social media networks.  While Xboxes and PlayStations remain predominantly video game consoles – although, more and more connectivity to the web and social media channels happens constantly, like being able to stream video from Netflix and YouTube – the iPod and iPad are much more than mere distraction devices.

This brings me to my next issue.  Perhaps if Obama himself knew how any of these devices – which is rather pathetic to admit that he doesn’t since he’s collecting income on all of the e-books he sells of The Audacity of Hope via iTunes – he’d know that just because newspaper circulation is plummeting, the subscriptions to newspaper and blog feeds are skyrocketing.  And where do people read those online newspapers and blogs?  Yup: on their iPods and iPads.  It’s one thing to not yet come to terms with the fact that Facebook isn’t just for teenagers to gossip anymore; it’s quite another to think that the iPod is just the modern-day Walkman.  I doubt colleges would be providing iPads to students instead of email accounts if they were only useful for dispensing entertainment.

It seems that Obama’s central argument is that there’s too much misinformation out there and the root of this is the proliferation of outlets for anyone with a voice (or fingers to type, most likely) to be read by the whole world.  I agree with him that there is far too much unsubstantiated opinion passed off as fact out there in the news-ish realm of blogs and the mainstream media; the insane necessity for balance has caused the misunderstanding that every position on an issue has validity simply because it provides counterbalance to the other positions to which it opposes.  Our media has forgotten that some positions are just wrong.

Where Obama and I differ is that I don’t think this misinformation problem lies in our modes of technology.  The problem is the widespread lies that people eat up as facts, not the way they happen upon those lies.

Despite this lack of awareness (how do you promote education yet admit knowing nothing about the very devices you blast — especially ones that are as ubiquitous as iPods), I agree with Obama’s conclusion that a strong education is the prime form of combating this misinformation.  And instead of blaming the increased democratization of information, perhaps we ought to focus our efforts on teaching people how to sift through the mounds of non-facts to find the basic truths of issues.  Those basics might not direct us all to the same conclusions, but at least we should arrive at them from an objective foundation rather than a disparate array of opinions.

I just don’t see how having unprecedented ease of access to both up-to-the-moment news as well as classic tomes of literature and everything in between could impede education.  Like NBC’s public service announcement slogan goes: the more you know.  There’s a reason it’s not “the more you believe.”

Image courtesy of DayLife/Getty Images
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The Senate Immigration Reform and My Case for Humanities and the Arts

04.30.10

Apparently amid all of this Arizona immigration law controversy, Senate Democrats in Washington have actually released an immigration reform plan.  It seems extraordinarily unlikely that this will go anywhere in 2010 since this is an election year and nothing is more polarizing than tackling immigration.  (Except maybe health care reform.)

You can download the REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) proposal here.  (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that acronym and I wonder how excited they were when they finally made it work.)

I haven’t had a chance to study this 26-page document but I stumbled upon this excerpt that caught my eye, which shot me off into a completely different topic entirely but one still worth talking about:

This proposal will reform America’s high-skilled immigration system to permanently attract the world’s best and brightest while preventing the loss of American jobs to temporary foreign labor contractors. At the moment, high-skilled workers are prevented from emigrating to the Unites States due to restrictive caps on their entry. In order to accomplish this goal, a green card will be immediately available to foreign students with an advanced degree from a United States institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and who possess an offer of employment from a United States employer in a field related to their degree. Foreign students will be permitted to enter the United States with immigrant intent if they are a bona fide student so long as they pursue a full course of study at an institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. To address the fact that workers from some countries face unreasonably long backlogs that have no responsiveness to America’s economic needs, this proposal eliminates the per-country employment immigration caps.

My emphasis.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the real-world necessity of having the best and brightest minds in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics here in the States working for American companies.  Our ability to compete with China, Russia, and India depends on it.  But, I have to say that the total lack of respect and throwaway mentality that is associated with the arts is appalling and depressing.

Upon telling inquirers that I was studying film in college, I couldn’t count how many times they would respond disdainfully with: “Well, what are you gonna do with that?”  As if learning about dozens of cultures all over the world through over one hundred years of celluloid art was a preposterous waste of time, money, and energy.  The change from excitedly curious to holier-than-thou tones in their voice still hasn’t escaped me to this day.  And I know that I still feel slightly ashamed that I haven’t become a successful filmmaker only because it would truly spite those people and their ignorant disapproval — and another part of me is slightly ashamed to admit that.

I have to think that our society wouldn’t be dealing with some of our current woes were we not so dismissive of the studies of humanities and the arts.  We need English majors.  We need Philosophy majors.  We need Sociology majors.  We need Fine Arts majors.  We need Comparative Literature majors.  We need History majors.  We need Psychology majors.  We need Photography majors.  These studies matter.  These studies provide value.

Perhaps they’re not the sexiest of degrees, nor do they promise immediate paydays upon graduation.  Admittedly, many of them don’t even guarantee employment in their respective fields once those students enter the workforce.  But what these studies and those who study them provide to our society and culture can be measured in countless other ways.  Not everything worthwhile in this world can be calculated by how much you bring home each paycheck.

If everyone became an engineer, who would actually assemble the product?  Who would interview the designers for the newspaper article that brings them attention and acclaim?  Who would film the inaugural release of that innovative creation, showing the whole world their success?  Who would turn that amazing story into a bestselling book and subsequently (less) amazing movie?  Who then would catalog these historical documents and relics so that this feat can be remembered forever?

(H/T The Daily Dish)
Photo courtesy of MLibrary

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Fox News: Being Liberal is Un-American

02.20.10

Before you listen to the fair and balanced reporting over at Fox News about this topic, check out the actual article for the raw facts.  According to a new report by The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, those with higher eduction degrees tend to have more liberal opinions on controversial social issues:

The institute found that people who had attained at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely than Americans whose formal education ended with a high-school diploma to take a liberal stance on certain controversial social issues. For example, 39 percent of people whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree supported same-sex marriage, compared with 25 percent with a high-school diploma. The trend continued with advanced degrees: About 46 percent of people with master’s degrees supported same-sex marriage, as did 43 percent of people with Ph.D.’s.

(I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video so click the following link to watch it and then continue.)

From watching the interview, it’s fair to say that Tucker Carlson at Fox News interprets this data as such:

1) College professors push their liberal agenda on impressionable youth

2) Going to college makes people liberal on specific social issues – gay marriage, abortion, and capitalism

3) College doesn’t raise graduates’ level of civic knowledge

4) This makes going to college potentially more harmful than not going at all

5) Going to college is mainly about learning civics

6) College makes people promote no school prayer and less American work ethic

7) People becoming liberal is a problem that needs to be fixed

8) Colleges need to be more diverse with their professors – allowing more moderates and conservatives to teach the liberal arts

Here are my rebuttals:

1) How do these data at all prove that all professors are liberal and that have any sort of agenda of pushing propaganda on their students?  In fact, the data doesn’t say anything about how the students are becoming more liberal – I’m sure Tucker knows (being a college graduate and all himself) that there’s more to college than just going to class.

2) Tucker takes an extreme liberty by throwing “capitalism, the larger question of capitalism” into the list of socially liberal beliefs that are held by college graduates.  He’s insinuating that liberal college graduates are likely to question capitalism, the American way of life, and – most likely – communism.  He’s playing into the base who already think that Obama is a socialist.  The study doesn’t say that at all.  And, perhaps the reason that educated people support gay marriage is explicitly because they know more about American history – the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage – and the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution than someone with only a high school diploma.  Not because they’re being fed some liberal propaganda.  They’re educated on worldly matters, which has made them more tolerant of other people’s beliefs.  This is a good thing.

3) It is troubling that more people don’t know basic civics, but they certainly don’t learn less by going to college.  Tucker makes it sound like going to college makes you dumber with regards to basic knowledge of the Constitution.  Given the fact that many liberals are against school prayer and in favor of same-sex marriage, I’d say they have a much better understanding of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment than most Republicans.

4) Really? You’re going to say that going to college might be a bad investment?  That it will do more harm than good?  That could be one of the most irresponsible things to say.  There are tons of data showing that people with a college degree make way more money – and are actually keeping their jobs during this recession at a much higher rate – than those with only high school diplomas.  And this is coming from Tucker Carlson, who went to college, and know enjoys a high-paying, high-profile job (not that one needs to be a college graduate to work in conservative media – see, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck).

5) Not that this says anything good about college, but since when was attending higher education ever about learning civics?  Sure, there are prerequisites in the humanities, languages, and math that all universities have but students still get to choose which courses they want to take to satisfy those requirements.  But not everyone is interested in politics or government at 18 years old when they go to undergrad.  I certainly wasn’t.  And I wasn’t going to take a political science course when I didn’t have to; I already had enough required courses to fit in to finish my major in four years.  Either way, I do think that there should be more required studying about these civics basics… in high school.  Students should learn basics like, how to file your taxes, what FICA means on your paycheck, how to vote in elections, as well as the way our government works and what the Constitution says.

6) According to the report, college grads are more likely to disagree with this following statement: “With hard work and perseverance anyone can succeed in America.”  This is not how it’s phrased in the Fox News interview, which implies that liberals don’t have a strong, American work ethic.  It’s more that college grads are more disillusioned with the “American Dream,” or at least: they’re not ignorant of the fact that lots of people work hard, but not a lot of people are well off.  Just ask any number of the millions currently jobless right now.  Also, the stance on public prayer isn’t that college grads think that it shouldn’t ever take place.  The actual wording in the report is that they disagree that public school teachers should be able to lead prayer in school.  This is vastly different.  Having the freedom to express your beliefs is one thing.  Having the public school align itself directly with one religion is quite another.

7) Fair and balanced, indeed.  If you’re not conservative, there’s something wrong with you, apparently.  Thanks, Tucker.  I didn’t realize that the words “American” and “conservative” were synonyms now.  Talk about someone needing to brush up on his civics.

8)  Really? The whole nature of the liberal arts are that people who study them have a liberal mindset – one that is open to new and conflicting ideas.  Can you imagine a fundamentalist Christian learning about sound arguments for and against the existence of God in Philosophy 101?  This actually brings up an interesting question about this survey.  I would like to know more about the demographics of these college graduates and what their majors were.  It won’t be all too surprising if most of them end up being liberal arts majors.  If most of them are business majors or engineers, I’d be intrigued and surprised.

One thing in the report that wasn’t mentioned in the interview is that college graduates are more likely to not believe that the Bible is the word of God.  Not at all surprising.

You can form your own opinion.

Tucker Carlson and the Fox News anchor, Clayton Morris, make this out to look like there’s some vast collusion amongst all of the universities in America to indoctrinate impressionable young adults as liberals.  It’s a theoconservative’s wet-dream of a conspiracy theory.  The partisanship has gotten out of control.  The nature of being socially conservative is staying rigid, having traditional, old views on the world, being closed-minded.  In essence, not being open to the new or different.  I can’t imagine that mindset would cause many to rush out to some new city, to take new classes with a diverse group of new people with various, different faiths and cultures.

There’s another article about college that maybe Tucker and Fox News can investigate while we’re on the topic: College Dropouts Record Higher Divorce Rate.   I wonder how they’d spin that one.  People go to college, can’t handle being indoctrinated by liberals, so they drop out, become depressed, and get divorced.  I can see the headline now: “Liberalism Breaks Up Happy Families.”

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Hey, The South, Come Join The Rest Of Us In 2009

11.01.09

I know racism is a loaded accusation and shouldn’t be tossed around lightly.  Former President Jimmy Carter recently launched it at Rep. Joe Wilson for his absurd outburst at President Obama during his address to Congress.  Perhaps it was unwarranted to label him a racist, perhaps not.  But to simply dismiss that race has anything at all to do with some of the dissent with Obama is to be blind to reality.

Just take a look at these approval-disapproval numbers:

Obama's Approval-Disapproval Numbers

(via The Daily Kos)

Notice Obama’s numbers in the south: 28-67.  Unreal.  That’s not a slight shift from the rest of the country.  That’s polar opposite.

It seems like a lot more than coincidence that a black president would have such an unfavorable approval rating in the part of the country that seceded in order to be able to keep slavery from being outlawed, don’t you think?

I know that urban areas across the country are in dire need of education funding and improvement, but I think our entire society would benefit from pumping money into schools in the south, especially the rural areas.  And not just K-12, but let’s start a mandatory adult education program for all registered voters to inform them of a couple apparently overlooked topics like American History and Biology.

(thanks to The Daily Dish for the link)

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Don’t believe. Know.

10.22.09

Understanding something as complex as climate change requires one to know the difference between climate and weather as well as realizing that one needs to gather more evidence than simply noting that it’s cold and raining on a random day in July on the East Coast.

We put way too much emphasis on belief and not enough on fact.  There are factual data that show rises in ocean temperatures and that the polar ice caps are melting.  This is FACT.  There’s nothing debatable to believe nor not believe here.  This isn’t a theory.  This isn’t about something intangible like the afterlife or sin.  This is reality.

Let’s look at things from a really, REALLY basic level.  Say you’re standing at the corner of an intersection when a bus drives by emitting nausea-inducing black smoke wafting your direction.  Why do you suppose that you gag and cover your mouth and hold your breath waiting for fresh air when that happens?  Perhaps the exhaust is full of toxins, chemicals, and gases that generally aren’t good for you.  This we know: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.  It’s lethal in the right dose.

So, if this concoction of gases causes adverse effects in our body, why is it so hard to believe that it would cause adverse effects in our atmosphere?  The atmosphere – that fragile and delicately balanced array of gases that provide us with the environment ripe for life.  And here we are pumping absurd amounts of toxins into it and then people have the audacity to say they don’t believe that humans are doing anything to cause global warming.

Believe.  Think.

The freedom to think has been confused as meaning the freedom to believe.  As in, believe whatever you want without thinking.  These numbers released that show a large drop in people who believe in global warming is truly scary.  Scary that our education system clearly is failing at teaching science, and the difference between belief and fact.  Instead of pouring money into green business, I say put all of that money into schools.  At the rate we’re going, we won’t have any children left believing in science to implement these green programs.

Although, I am being quite hard on this whole situation.  The problem also lies in the study.  Why even give people the chance to not believe?  The question in the poll should be “Do you know about global warming?” not “Do you believe in global warming?”.

It’s not a matter of belief.  It’s about knowledge.

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Maine’s Question 1 = Cali’s Prop 8

09.23.09

Maine voters are getting the chance to legalize gay marriage through the No on 1 campaign, much like the No on Prop 8 battle in California last year.  I only hope that the marriage equality camp does a better job than they did out west and that the voters do what Californians didn’t.  So far, they’re up against an almost identical anti-gay marriage assault.  For any Californian who remembers seeing the ads on TV last year, this should look familiar:

My favorite part: “He’s in SECOND grade!”

The fact that they’re truly scared that their eight-year-old will end up choosing to marry a man later in life because he was taught that it’s legal shows how disgustingly ignorant people still are.  There’s no other way to describe it.  It disgusts me how ignorant and bigoted people still choose to be.

Being gay is not some plague that you can catch.  Your kids will not just happen to become gay because they learned about gay marriage one day in second grade any more than you became a Latino because you took a Spanish class.  To think otherwise is not just uneducated, it’s unintelligent.  It’s not living in reality.

I suppose that’s the biggest problem plaguing issues these days: the lack of people living in reality.  From people believing that Obama was actually born in Kenya to those who truly think that there will be death panels in Obama’s healthcare plan.

They’re called facts, people.  Read them.  Learn something.  It’s time to stop listening to opinion as fact.  I’ve said it before – everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean that your opinion is valid outside of your own head.  There is still a reality to contend with and too many opinions passed off as facts these days live far outside the boundaries of the real world.