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Monday, December 13, 2010

More Thoughts On Education

It seems that educating our children is an important topic! Since it is something that we all care about, how about some more ideas on how to change our system? Where do we start? Writing down our thoughts and sending them to our representatives in Congress is a good idea, but I propose that we take it further and start/participate in a "grassroots" movement to change the way things are set up. It seems that the only way that things are ever going to change is to take it upon ourselves, each and every one of us, to  "manually" change things. This will involve a great amount of energy and participation on the part of everyone involved. No one person can make change happen by themselves. I believe that while it is no small task it is one that can be accomplished no matter what your political preference because it is a matter that concerns all of us whether we have kids or not.
It is time to force our government to act in a meaningful way. Our children are the future and a better public education for them can't wait any longer. It is our money that funds the current system, why not decide how to spend it? Change doesn't have to be drastic either; as I have said before, small changes like doing away with the tenure system would have a big impact. We should have the best teachers for our kids regardless of seniority.
My goal is to get ten good ideas from the readers of this blog and type them up to be sent as an email to President Obama. I would like them to be well thought out and have names attached so you can be given credit for your ideas. Ideas can be posted here as comments or emailed to dlwood81@gmail.com. Regardless of how they are given take the time and share a few more of your thoughts. A few good ideas have already been thrown out there so lets keep on with it. The more ideas the better and the more people that participate the better. Email your friends, share on Facebook and Twitter, and just talk about it with everyone you meet. Let's see what we can do!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pondering our Education System

Education is one of the major building blocks to a successful life. I have been thinking a lot recently about the role that education plays in our lives and how it interacts with other competing interests such as sports and other social programs. I find myself frequently wondering why sports programs are so often put ahead of educational programs. I am angered by what I have seen firsthand in my own daughter’s school. When things got tight with the budget many programs such as art and music were the first to be cut with almost no thought as to what the consequences would be. Young teachers that the kids liked and that had new perspectives on teaching were laid off and the entrenched tenured teachers that had been in the school system for many years were kept on with no regard to teacher performance; at the same time the school sports program surged ahead with my town voting to build a brand new state-of-the-art track.
This is really troubling and I don’t think that it is something that is confined to my town only. If the American people and politicians truly want American kids to grow up to be world leaders in areas such as science and math we need to put education first. That is not to say that sports don’t play a very important role; I do believe that programs that challenge kids physically are very important, but it is a matter of finding a fine balance between too much and not enough with more emphasis on cutting edge education .
Bureaucrats at the top of our school system need to start being more creative and look for ways to do away with the tenure system. There are many young teachers out there that are unemployed or unable to get the jobs they want because of the way the system is set up. Many of these individuals are vibrant and enthusiastic about learning and teaching. They would bring a love of learning and a new perspective on learning down to our kid’s level where it is needed the most. Of course there is one major obstacle in the way...teachers unions. 
I am also perturbed by the way that a select handful of students that are ahead of the majority of the class are made to wait for the rest to catch up instead of treating each kid as an individual and challenging them on their own level. Imagine the things that could be done if each child was infused with a love to learn without limits and challenged to always try to do better, making learning fun but not boring! This kind of philosophy starts at the very top. It is high time that Americans got a fresh start and bounced back.  For our economy to flourish again we need to be leaders not followers. We are clearly not leading the world in manufacturing anymore. If jobs are to be created we need to take action now and ensure that our kids have a brighter future and keep the American Dream alive and well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Main Stream Media

How does the news we get on a daily basis from the main stream media affect the way we act and think? All or most of our news comes from major networks such as Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Some say that many of these large networks are advancing their own agendas. Take for example Rupert Murdoch who owns News Corporation, Fox News, The New York Post, and Dow Jones and Company which runs The Wall Street Journal. He also has ties or direct investment in many other media groups in the U.S. and Europe. Mr. Murdock has donated 1 million dollars this year to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and his News America division has given 1 million dollars to the Republican Governors Association both of which are working to get Republicans elected.
Since he founded the Fox network it has been slanted decidedly to the right. It is not a station that people can watch and get an unbiased view. Fox News, however, has one of the highest ratings for consumer satisfaction because people know exactly what they are going to get. MSNBC is the flip side of the coin as a left leaning media corporation.
News stations and other media seem to influence public thinking just by reporting the same things over and over again and "hyping" up issues and events. It seems that the more reporting is done on something the more other reporters are attracted to the same issue, resulting in more reporting on the same issues. It is a never ending circle that gets bigger and bigger with every pass. I don't know if this is intentional and it may be that as the digital, instant, media gains in popularity that it will work itself out by providing unfiltered news and commentary that can be deciphered by the end consumer instead of being edited, chopped, spun, and watered down by the news networks.
I am interested in hearing what others have to say about this so please comment with your thoughts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tea Anyone?

While the Tea Party movement in America may be a sign that Democracy is alive and well as former President Bush recently noted, I believe that many of the Tea Party's ultra-conservative ideas are going to drag the country backwards at least in the short term. Don't get me wrong there are many ideas that have been floated such as cutting program administrative costs rather than cutting the programs and making government smaller that I do agree with. At the same time I am worried that all this cutting is going to be counter-productive to advancing the issues and programs that I believe are vital such as the Affordable Care Act. I am also worried that if we cut way back on government spending now while the economy is still struggling to recover more jobs will be lost due to a lack of demand. If people are scared to spend there has to be an alternative to provide the demand to drive the economy forward.
Wall Street lobbyist are already calling on the new Republican House to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Law saying that it is unconstitutional based on the fact that it only applies to banks with over a certain dollar amount of assets. I ask, is it in the Constitution that when a large bank fails is it up to the taxpayers and citizens of the U.S. to bail it out? If there exists a business or group of businesses big enough to bring down the whole U.S. economy there certainly needs to be a barriers in place to prevent it's failure. That seems to me to be a pretty straightforward and honest answer. As I have said before, if business is allowed to be completely "free" and unregulated it will push harder and harder to improve it's bottom line regardless of the cost to the people that are run over in the process.
These things worry me. While on one hand I believe in capitalism and free enterprise, I on the other hand also believe that we need a system in place and "tools" in the toolbox to prevent and control the inevitable downturns. The Federal Reserve Bank was set up precisely for this purpose. Political wannabees like Sarah Palin saying that the Fed should "cease and desist" are not going to do anything to help create jobs and boost the economy.
I must say that the U.S. Constitution of two hundred plus years ago while founded upon a core of truly great ideas and rights that still apply today may not always work in today's world. We are fools to think that is does and will. We need to take the basic document and interpret it as it applies today not yesterday. The Tea Party's core mission is to defend the Constitution. What about the people that are standing behind the Constitution? Is it in our interest to defend corporations on the same level as the individual? When money is allowed to "buy" the law something is morally wrong! 
In conclusion it is our obligation to question everything that we hear and always be on the defensive. It is not a time to be complacent and let someone else do the job for us. We should welcome good ideas regardless of where they come from but always be on guard for  propaganda from corporate America  and from those among us that are only looking out for their own interests. It is time for the people to come first!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A New Promise of Change

Now that he 2010 election is over many of us are left wondering what the future will hold. Will the Republican promise of change have any meaning in two more years? Will the Republican party be willing to compromise and work with a Democratic Senate and President? One thing that is encouraging is the influx of new lawmakers with a lot of new ideas and the motivation and energy to get things done. I am hopeful for this country that they don't hit to many road blocks and are able to do something constructive with all this energy that is not damaging to the economy or the middle class.
I do believe that the Democrats were caught in a political cross fire that was planned by the Republican Party for the last two years. By snubbing the Democratic majority's every idea and digging in their heels they set the backdrop for yesterdays big Republican wins. They knew and many have admitted off the record that the economy was not going to get better in just two years and that by biding their time and stalling they would be well positioned to win in 2010.  It is saddening that they couldn't be more productive with their time and our money.
I am willing to set all this aside though and give the benefit of the doubt. I am of the thought that like me most Americans are sick of the political bickering and just want to move forward regardless of what party is in power. In the past good things have happened when government powers have been divided; after all that is what makes our government so great. With a wider range of ideas in the pool and no one power able to "push" their ideas ahead there is more likely to be meaningful compromise that draws the whole Congress to the middle.
I truly believe that we do have a government that can work for the people . I also believe that issues like health care and wall street reform are important and should NOT be repealed or blocked. In the interest of moving forward I hope that the new Republican House majority can put aside partisan fighting and realize that their are many people out here that want these new laws. Only time will tell what will transpire but we can only hope that the people will prevail and that the government will be able to move forward in a bipartisan way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Midterm Election 2010

The upcoming election and all of the buzz surrounding it are causing me to wonder...if the majority switches over to the Republican party will the people that are so supportive now still be supportive two more years down the road? Will the support vanish when people discover that it does take time to make any real progress? Where will we be then...certainly no further ahead than we are now in anything but years.
It is easy to campaign on promises but it is much harder to deliver on them. I think that President Obama is finding that out for himself right now.  Sadly, it has almost become an acceptable rule in the U.S. that campaign promises are made to be broken, people now expect it.
It does takes time to deliver on big promises and President Obama told us that at the time of his election. I find it disheartening that the same people that were so supportive two years ago are now backing away from the President, even Democratic candidates are trying to distance themselves. Why? I am a strong believer in finishing the job that was started. Don't run away like a coward just because it looks like everyone else is going to. It took so long to get here. If there are flaws in the laws and policies they can be fixed. Why throw them out and start over? President Obama has demonstrated to us time and again that he is willing to fix mistakes that he makes. We are all human and we all make mistakes. We have to be able to get past them and on to the next thing.
Regardless of how the midterm election goes I am hopeful that a new Congress will be able to work with President Obama and get on with business. Maybe some new thoughts and ideas will be a good thing. I hope that the candidates that are promising to act independently from the leadership truly do so. I am reassured knowing that we have a system of checks and balances that keeps people of one extreme from going to far. Who knows, maybe they will be forced into working together without so much of the partisan bickering that our lawmakers are famous for! If there is any politician that can get people to work together I believe President Obama can.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bipartisan Governing

Bipartisan governing has a great history in the U.S. dating all the way back to our founding fathers. In fact, many would argue that the further back in history you go the less partisan the politicking would be. If in the beginning we were as divided as we are now the United States would probably not exist as we know it. 
Many great leaders before us brought their rivals into office to work with them. Take Abraham Lincoln for example; he brought many of his political opponents into his cabinet and as a result he is seen as one of the United States’ greatest presidents. In recent history President Obama was inspired by Lincoln to do the same, taking in two of his Democratic opponents and a Republican Congressman, and even keeping on Defense Secretary Robert Gates from the previous administration. It is inspiring to see a current leader welcoming people in with views and opinions different from his own.
Amazing things can be accomplished when people of opposite opinions agree to work together towards a common goal. If you really get down to it most of us have the same desires, wants, and needs; it is just getting to the point of setting aside a few of the minor details and reaching a mutual consensus. I believe that bringing in others’ ideas enhances the process and breaths new life into old ideas. If two people agree all the time it would be easy to get things done but if you had two or more people that had different ideas and had to work out a compromise the end result would be much more satisfying to many more people.
I feel that the way that the political atmosphere has become the politicians are more worried about how they are going to keep their jobs than in stepping out from the pack and trying to get things done for their constituents. Term limits look to me like an idea worthy of more exploration to head off this problem. If there were term limits Congress could focus more on getting things done and less on looking over their shoulder trying to get re-elected. I am sure that I am not the only one out there that is disgusted with the amount of time, energy, and money that is poured into campaigns for public office. If only there were that same enthusiasm and energy put into getting real, meaningful things done!
I do believe that political parties have a place but as a general guideline politicians and constituents need to try to be a little less biased and visualize themselves in the other side’s shoes. If someone has a certain view they should take a hard look at it and see if it really does make sense. I believe that you should always try to do what is right and just, no matter if it is something that you believe in or you yourself would do. Only when the partisan bickering stops will this country truly be able to go forward and get things done for the people again. Looking back at some of the bright spots in history like the 1787 Constitutional Convention and in more recent history the 1964 Civil Rights Act gives me hope that we can again return to the type of non partisan negotiations that made those moments so great. It is up to us, the people, to tell Congress what we want and force the real change that is necessary so that we can get back to a less divided and more bipartisan way of governing.
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