Solutions through common sense
"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." — Edmund Burke, statesmen and writer (1729-1797)
One of my earliest childhood learning memories was doing the Standardized Reading Assessment or SRA tests in grammar school.
It was somewhat similar to a sticker system: when you moved up in reader level, you moved to the next color and you got a ribbon or some small token of acknowledgment that you had passed onto the next level.
A similar system works for the Boy Scouts — as you work your way from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout, you get badges. It works in karate — as you improve, you pass through a belt system that takes you to a coveted black belt. Both are about earning your merits.
Why not take this concept and incorporate it into our entire educational system? It seems like a great way to motivate both the young and the older student. It not only rewards your efforts, but it allows all students to grow at their own pace and get the recognition for success when they reach a new plateau.
This seems like the opposite of the “dumbing down” we see as schools try to fit square pegs into round circles.
Creating a classroom of “winners," based on accomplishments seems like a sure-fire way to raise self-confidence and encourage effort. Isn’t that what educators want?
SRA should be incorporated into all aspects of teaching and life because it creates a motivation to move forward, not seen in the current system; a system that just passes you along from stage to stage, whether you are ready or not. If you are too far ahead of the curve you must lobby to get ahead, or if too far behind, you get put into a “special” class which may not lead you to your best future.
Congress should be ashamed
The government shutdown and the threat of a debt ceiling crisis should be enough to motivate our president and our legislators to work together.
Usually in situations like this, there is blame to be shared on both sides and partisan politics play a role in a compromise. Compromise is the backbone of our democratic government.
This time the right-wing fringe, supported by their Republican counterparts, have gone over the line by holding America hostage. The president’s refusal to negotiate is unfortunate, but correct. It has been a time-proven fact that you can never negotiate or pay ransom to terrorists because it ups the stakes for the future.
Putting the people you serve first would have prevented this and doing what’s best for our country should have ended it. What are the core principles here?
Instead a battle ensues and we all lose in the process. If Congress and the Senate cannot fix this, how can they be considered “essential” and why do we continue to pay them for their services? Their lifetime benefits should be erased (perhaps a government default would act like a bankruptcy and get the American people off the hook on this?) and our legislators should have to live with every law they enact. They should get the same health care and the same Social Security and not continue living in a bubble that has no connection to real Americans.
One of the sad realities is that while we are asking hard-working people not to go to their jobs, the unemployed and disabled continue to get their checks. This does not make sense or pass the smell-test.
On "60 Minutes" in early October, Steve Croft did an expose on the disability fund, which is about to have the distinction of being the first government entitlement program to run out of money.
With an estimated third of participants probably not disabled in the true sense of the word, this is an ongoing and upcoming tragedy heading for a smack-down into a solid wall of hurt.
At its best, the abuse stems from becoming a fall-back position for many who have had their unemployment benefits run out and, at worse, an outright fraud. Survival creates the biggest part of the abuse and the powerful lobbies make this a political hotbed that prevents a wide-range solution.
The $135 billion budgeted for disability payments are more than is spent on Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the Labor Department combined. It is truly big business and an important part of our economy so stopping it cold is not as sensible as it might seem.
Curbing the abuse before the program runs dry — which it will in two to three years if something is not done — is important and should be the first priority. Perhaps whistle-blowers might work, but that feels icky and will create a different kind of abuse and threats on privacy.
To fund this so it does not collapse or to pick up the pieces when it collapses will, as usual, fall on the working people. No wonder there is such animosity toward welfare and social programs and the left wing that promotes these without concern or restraint for what is right. If they did have concern for what is right, they would fix it and put stamping out abuse as top priority, which it isn’t.
In the end, it brings me back to the simplest solution: workfare.
I do not care if you are unemployed, disabled, or just ingrained in the system. There is something you can do if you want to get money to live. I tutor a disabled person, who needs his check to survive. He supplements his check by working in a productive lower-end situation. But he is proud of his work; he makes friends and is out in the world because of this job. It is part of the self-esteem that makes this man a person that many of us are proud to call our friend. If he could work more, he would.
Perhaps if we put some of these billions of dollars into an infrastructure to create jobs (workfare) instead of welfare we would be infinitely better off as a society. People would be redefined in a positive way.
Why shouldn't people have to work for money? Are we worried it might be more embarrassing for someone to shovel snow than collecting money for doing nothing? And why not mandatory drug tests for those on welfare? If we are paying them for not working, what is wrong with a few strings attached?
It is a firm belief in most of our society that doing for others is part of what a civilized society does and that every citizen has a duty to give back. I also personally believe that all citizens should be taken care of in respect to basic needs, including health, food and shelter.
In my younger years, I tried to do things on my own because I did not want the strings attached to living at home and taking money from my parents. I encourage my children to do the same. Being your own person is more satisfying than having daddy and mommy (or Uncle Sam) buy you things, or pay for everything.
In my book, the book of common sense, freedom is earned by doing, not by taking, and we should not cheat anyone of that accomplishment.
Shouldn’t it always be about giving our children, our friends, and our fellow citizens a “hand-up” rather than a “hand-out”?
Isn’t that where you find self-respect and dignity?
Turn the page.
Reade Brower can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.