Sunday, July 16, 2006

To Have the Compassion of an Ogre

At least when it comes to using government as a weapon of compassion, I have the compassion of the ogre. I will explain below why I think government cannot and should not be in the business of compassion.

The force of government has caused many people to show less compassion to their fellow men. On the other hand, some of the best things happen when government is not compassionate. In such circumstances, individuals personally begin to display more compassion. One such instance of this happened recently in Utah when the governor asked the legislature to convene a special session in order to (among other things) provide special monies to pay for dental care for the disabled. If they didn't fund the governor's compassion project, it would make the legislators look even more heartless in a year where the budget surplus was projected to be at least $150 million. In spite of these political odds, the legislature did not grant the $2 million that 40,000 members of the disabled community required to receive adequate dental care.

Perhaps not surprisingly, especially for the very charitable state of Utah, private donors came up with the money that had been requested. I applaud in this case the correct exercise of compassion.

Government is in the business of compassion, but it was not designed to be so. Good government is limited to providing for the general welfare, because a populace that is afforded peace and tranquility by its government is apt to be more compassionate than government could ever come close to being. Forced compassion by government is an abdication of its primary responsibility to provide peace and tranquility.

When government works toward the special welfare (that is, toward issues that benefit a small group of people at the expense of society at large), even when it is something as apparently appropriate as providing dental care to the disabled, not only does the moral authority of government break down, but so do the morals of society as well.

Government compassion is frequently misplaced. Even worse, it is woefully inefficient, and not just because government employees are paid to administer government compassion distribution projects. An excellent example is a comparison of the responses from private groups and individuals following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, versus the response from government. Individuals and groups responded with alacrity and compassion, while government responded with lethargy.

I believe in compassion. I attempt to be compassionate in my personal life, though I may not always succeed. But when government usurps from society the responsibility to be compassionate, then before long neither society nor government have any compassion left.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Evolution: To Teach or Not To Teach

If we don't want to teach our children anything about faith and religion in the public schools, then we clearly should not teach them about The Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Evolution is every bit as much a religion of liberalism and a tenet of their faith as the creation story is of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Shinto, and many other religions.

Public schools should be allowed to teach The Theory of Evolution, so long as they correctly identify it as a theory. Children are potential adults, and can make their own conclusions about whether The Theory of Evolution is a fact or not. If children can be taught one theory, then they are perfectly able to digest others.

I hear from time to time that we all surely believe in evolution, because we can all observe that things change over time, people become generally taller, world records are broken in track and field and weightlifting on a regular basis, and similar such occurrences. This tactic is simple logical slight of hand. Everyday evolution is not the type of evolution the Utah public schools primarily teach. The Utah Eduation Association website supports the fact that many educators believe The Theory of Evolution to be much more than a theory.

Nothing from The Theory of Evolution has ever been proven. The Evolution Theorizers have had nearly two centuries to explain such things as

  • How all of the parts and processes that make up the human eye (or an animal eye, for that matter) would have any functional benefit to an evolving organism until they came together in one perfect eyeball. Charles Darwin himself admitted this gaping hole in what he referred to as his "theory".

  • How the complexity that is involved in a single cell could have come about on its own.

  • How, in the absence of any evidence that it has ever occurred, one species could evolve into another.

Let's examine The Theory of Evolution for a minute as being a part of our culture. Whether for better or for worse, it has become such. It has also been okay to teach Islam from a cultural perspective in the public schools. Why then shouldn't other religions that are a part of our culture, including but by no means limited to Christianity, be exposed to the children as additional forms of cultural enrichment? What better way to get children to understand that different people have different opinions about the world, and that we can all get along despite our different opinions, than to teach them about the various popular theories that exist? Why limit the public educational experience to the propounding of one theory? I hope the fear is not that by exposing them to a variety of cultural experiences, to include religion, that they might become more intellectually mature and decide for themselves that The Theory of Evolution is baseless!

Very few Creationists or Intelligent Design proponents are asking that Creation Science or Intelligent Design be presented as fact. It is simply asked by most of these advocates that Creation and Intelligent Design be presented as equally popular and probable theories.

Your next argument, if you disagree with me, is, I'm sure, that the difference between The Theory of Evolution and Creation Science or Intelligent Design is that research into the Theory of Evolution is observable. I will grant you for a moment and just for the sake of argument that evidence of Creation or Intelligent Design cannot be observed. If that were true, that merely puts Creation and Intelligent Design on the same footing as The Theory of Evolution, for which there is no observable evidence either. Uh, uh, uh! Hold on a sec. Keep in mind that everyday evolution and The Theory of Evolution are two separate things. A multitude of evidence exists for everyday evolution, but none for The Theory. But somehow The Theory is what is most heavily propounded in the public schools, and a near-monopoly at that in the world of theory.

It is disingenuous for public educators to believe that children are mature enough to be taught one theory, but that they are too immature to be inculcated with others. Let's teach The Theory of Evolution, but let's also teach other plausable theories. No child will be harmed by learning more than one theory regarding the meaning of life. After all, look at what they already watch on television. Wait, that's for another post... ;-)

Friday, July 14, 2006

To Have Children's Best Educational Interest at Heart

Children thrive educationally when there are a variety of educational options open to them. An educator who tries to put stumbling blocks in the way of alternatives for children's education is actually encouraging children's educational failure.

The Deseret News recently published an article about the tenure of Pat Rusk as president of the Utah Education Association. I don't know if Pat Rusk feels the way the article portrays, but the following paragraph in the article jumped out at me.

the leader of the 18,000-member union also has friends, handing over dollars and manpower to one of Utah's strongest political arsenals that has helped block Republican Party-backed tax credits or vouchers for private school tuition in one of the nation's reddest states.
Let me get right to the point. I can't, based on the above paragraph, cast aspersions at Ms. Rusk, but I do feel that anyone who feels proud of blocking other educational opportunities for children, such as vouchers and tax credits, truly does not have the interest of children at heart. They only have the furtherance of their own career and interests at heart. The DesNews article makes it sound like it is thrilling for the UEA to block educational opportunities for students, simply because the republican majority in the Utah legislature makes such a good enemy.

Now I know that Utah public educators have taken their series of bumps and bruises from some of the Utah public and from the legislature, much of which has been undue, but it doesn't change the fact that more educational options are better than one. More options encourage each other to provide a better service in order to remain viable. Public educators can show their true dedication to children's education by at least not frowning on alternative methods of education.

I applaud charter schools as an alternative to regular public schools. I applaud private schools as an alternative as well. And I think that in nearly all cases, home educator-mothers and fathers can provide as good an education as any of the three alternatives listed above.

Lest I be misinterpreted, I think public education is an excellent alternative as well. It has been for a long time, especially in light of the fact that--whereas home, private, and charter schools can be selective--regular public education must take all students from even those areas of society where parents are more concerned with such things as drugs and debt than they are reading to their children. But additionally, regular public education has and will become better as it is confronted with competition in the form of other methods of education.

Competition causes innovation, which is nearly always positive. Public educators, if they truly have the interests of children at heart, should support alternative forms of education, as these alternatives will help public educators find even better ways to provide better education for the children they serve.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Illegal Utah Aliens and In-State Tuition

At first glance, it seems unfair for Utah to provide lower-cost, in-state tuition to non-resident aliens. But precautions are in place that make it more fair than it seems.

In a March 2003 article on the Eagle Forum website, Phyllis Schlafly chastized four states, including Utah for contravening Federal Law by providing, lower-cost in-state tuition to illegal aliens. I have not studied the laws enacted by the other three states, but the Utah law makes a great deal of sense.

In 2002, prior to the Eagle Forum article, the Attorney General of the State of Utah gave the opinion that Utah actually is in compliance with Federal Law in allowing in-state tuition to "nonimmigrant aliens". His letter to the President of the University of Utah on the subject is reprinted here.

Most importantly, Utah is not allowed to provide in-state tuition to aliens if it violates Federal law. To wit, if it would provide the same lower-cost tuition to other groups of residents or foreign nationals, it can offer the same to nonimmigrant aliens. The letter linked to above provides a few instances of where Utah does offer such a benefit.

Furthermore, in Utah's case, alien students can only be considered for in-state tuition if they have attended a Utah high school for 3 years and have graduated (or equivalent) from a Utah high school.

To tighten up matters even more, the student's family must be in the process of applying for legal US residency to be considered for the in-state tuition benefit.

The United States can absorb a large influx of immigrants. Many of the problems thought to lie at the feet of illegal immigration actually are the blame of government programs. Students who are furthering their education while at the same time attempting to become American citizens should be considered potential Utahns.

The board of regents is tasked with writing the rules for the implementation of the law. Assuming they have included punishment rules for fraudulent use of the benefit, I am in favor of providing in-state tuition to those potential Utahns who have complied with Utah law.