Monthly Archives: May 2010

Parents as Teachers, or Government as Parents?

Lisa Crawford of the St. Joseph News-Press reports on the cuts to the Parents as Teachers program, and the impact perceived by some in that community.

It’s important to reach kids early. We all know that. Or at least, anybody who cares about their kids knows that.

Why do parents need a government program to teach them how to be parents? Maybe PAT does some good things. I don’t know. I do know  there are many ways to learn about parenting without relying on the assistance of an employee of the government.

There is instinct. There is experience. There are other parents. There is the church. In many places there are formal and informal parenting groups, often free of charge.  There is the library. There is the internet. There is extended family, and there are friends. I would not think we would need to add “government” to the this dynamic list.

The first line of this news article reads:

“Many parents, like Robin High, 32, are suddenly on their own after the St. Joseph branch of Parents as Teachers had to suspend services…”

That is false. Parents are not on their own simply because the government is not helping them. First of all, what about the Dad? Where is the Dad in this picture? Does he not even merit a mention? The fact that he does not, in the mind of this reporter and newspaper, ought to bother and offend us. It demonstrates a disregard for fathers and fatherhood.

“Ms.” is used in the article, but if the person above was married, are there not two parents? If that’s the case, this person is not alone. If the biological father in the case above is now out of the picture, does that not merit mention? Wouldn’t reporting that fact help the reader understand why this person was in a position to seek the help of the government?

I see this kind of reporting all the time. Or I should say, I see this kind of non-reporting all the time. It is no wonder that if we do not even think about Dads, we will, as a people, then think of the government to be our protector and provider.

Not every mother is a wife to a husband and not every father is husband to a wife. Ideally, that would be the case. If a spouse dies or is injured or because of financial hardships is unavailable, then understandably and unavoidably one parent might be doing most of the parenting alone. In other cases, however, raising a child alone is most often the result of choices. (There are of course exceptions to this rule, rape being one of them). If you do not want to or are not capable of raising a child, then do not have one. To do so would be a selfish and cruel thing to do.

I was shocked to learn that “more than 50 percent of St. Joseph parents with children pre-kindergarten age participate with PAT.” Really? Should this really be happening in our communities? Is it healthy and productive in the short and long run for these communities for over half the parents to be coming to the government to teach them how to raise their children?

I say, No.

It’s lean times that sometimes force us to make good decisions. From what I know – and I will be happy to learn more if someone wants to further educate me on the matter – cutting Parents as Teachers is a good decision.

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Of bread and circuses, and bicycles

This may be the only time I’ve agreed twice in one week with columnists for The Kansas City Star. In the first instance it was Jason Whitlock for his insightful critique of caustic comedian Bill Maher. Now, I’ve got to second the sentiment of editorial columnist Barb Shelly.

She questions why former Governor Matt Blunt and some other Republicans (Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is the first to come to mind)  are dismayed by the cancellation of the Tour of Missouri. In each of the three years since its debut, the state has sponsored and promoted the five day, five hundred mile bicycle race as part of a public-private partnership. This week, organizers canceled the event because tourism officials would not allocate $1 million in public financing.

Why is the state of Missouri involved with bike races anyway? I never quite understood the justification, particularly coming from Republicans. How could some of the same people who had the wisdom and courage to scale back a sprawling, costly entitlement program like Medicaid then push to spend taxpayer dollars on this athletic and entertainment event?

I’m not saying politics weren’t involved with this decision. The speculation of course has been that Gov. Jay Nixon wanted to strip a feather from the cap of his political rival, Lt. Gov. Kinder. That’s a realistic interpretation of recent events, though at some point it’s irrelevant. Missouri faces serious budget issues, and no program or expenditure – even relatively small ones like the Tour of Missouri – should escape examination. As for the politics,  I’d like to think Peter Kinder could hang his hat on a few other issues to get elected governor.

The implications of funding such an event go beyond the event itself or this year’s state budget. Here’s the kicker: If the state should fund this sort of spectacle, what shouldn’t it fund? Like it or not, that is one messages sent by support for this event. In time, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue with credibility and resonance that a state that throws circuses should not also buy bread.

Republicans must remind themselves of this fact the next time they are tempted to indulge another “Tour of Missouri,” whatever it may be.

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Whitlock on Maher

Jason Whitlock – whom I don’t always agree with but so often makes it interesting – takes Bill Maher to task in The Kansas City Star today for the comedian’s unreasonably caustic  attitude towards faith and the faithful.  I’ve got to say, I really appreciate Whitlock speaking out on this issue.  Whitlock actually counts himself among the fans of Maher, so his criticism carries special significance.

Last Sunday, Dave Cover, senior pastor at The Crossing Church in Columbia, Missouri, spoke on a similar topic, regarding the fundamentalism of some of the new atheists such as Maher. He noted that religious fundamentalists of any stripe seek to expel and ridicule, thereby shutting down serious conversational exchange. You can find a podcast on the church website, linked to above.

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Graduation attire at MU A&S

At the National Association of Scholars blog, I’ve written about the MU College of Arts and Science commencement, and the practice of some graduating students of wearing racially-oriented apparrel at the event. This seems to have become custom at a number of colleges and universities.

While I don’t approve, I hope I’ve been reasoned and perceptive enough in my criticism that I’ve conveyed only concern and good will towards the university and nothing less towards those who choose to take part in this practice. I think I can understand the motivation, but I believe that the commencement ceremony is a time and place to celebrate academic achievement, and not racial identity or association.

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Graduation

So, today was the big day. Having returned to school about a year ago, I officially earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science today from the University of Missouri-Columbia. My parents, my four siblings and two of their spouses, plus several friends all observed the MU College of Arts and Science (the largest college in Missouri, apparently) commencement exercise or joined us for the reception at my place afterwards. We had a lovely and lively time together.

Thank you, for those of you who have strongly supported me in this endeavor. Honestly, there were times when I did not know whether I would make it back into school and finish. It’s been something of a saga, indeed. But, a few years older and wiser than my first time around, I not only came back to school with a new appreciation of the luxury it is to be a student, but managed to turn in a pretty respectable academic performance. I’m still waiting on a grade in one class but I’m looking at above a 3.5 GPA this semester (I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the 3.7 I’m shooting for), something I could not often have said during my earlier undergraduate experience.

I’ve got more thoughts on my time at MU and about the university and the academy generally, but I think I’ll save those for the National Association of Scholars website, which I have been regrettably absent from since my debut post there a couple months back. I even have a few thoughts on commencement exercises!

So, what’s the next step? Well, for now and the next day  or two, to catch up on some much needed sleep. To re-establish a more stringent writing schedule, and to finalize my professional plans for the near and medium term future. I’m strongly considering teaching English overseas, and have been looking at some programs (at this point that could be for the Fall, or some have rolling admissions in which I might be able to drop in a little sooner). I’ve got a couple other general directions I’m looking as well.

People have asked me if I’m going into politics. Or looking for something in politics, etc. The short answer is “No.” I love politics, and probably always will. But, right now I’m more interested in learning, traveling, writing, serving, teaching, and generally being removed from anything that resembles day-to-day political work. I think politics represents both the best and the worst of human nature and possibility. Politics can be about people but more often is about power. It can be public service or it can be something far less, and again, all too often is.

Frankly, much of the front line work that goes into politics, whether it’s campaigns or organizing, etc, is so chaotic and stressful that I can’t ever imagine seeking out anything like that in the future. Obviously if you work at a high enough level it can be great, and some people thrive on all that can be involved with political work. However, if I ever come back to politics full time, at least anytime soon, it would be to write about political affairs, or to work for an individual, organization or cause in which I had absolute confidence in the integrity and viability of the mission.

For now though, I’ll be content to put in “Anchorman” with Will Ferrell, crash, wake up for church and enjoy the next day or two in relative relaxation.

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School sends American-flag wearing students home

—UPDATE: Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics points to what could become the watchwords of ordinary Americans fed up with the intimidation tactics of the PC Police: “There will be no apology.” As someone who has had the “racist” epithet or its variations hurled at me numerous times over the years, for no reason other than my own political disagreement with the accuser, I will absolutely be using this phrase when the need next arises. Remember: “There will be no apology.” Thank you, James Crowley and Mrs. Dariano, for your courage, insight and strong sense of morality.—

NBC News reports that five students at a California public high school were ordered by its vice-principal to remove or reverse clothing featuring the American flag on Cinco De Mayo. Mexican students said they felt offended and demanded an apology, while school officials called the display “incendiary.”  Rather than ditch the clothing, they left school to avoid the punishment of suspension, as threatened by administrators.

While details will likely continue to emerge, this incident appears to be troubling on several levels. That Mexican students would see the American flag as a sign of disrespect and an offense reveals that they do not self-identify as Americans, favoring instead the identity of their own ethnic heritage. It may even signal outright hostility to their new country of residence. The young students gravitated instinctively  to victomology language, essentially claiming aggrieved status under conventions of political correctness.

One student said that wearing an American flag on Cinco De Mayo would be as if Mexican students wore the Mexican flag on July 4th. (Side note: Ever notice how people rarely say “Independence Day” anymore?). The sensitive young soul missed a crucial piece of this logical puzzle she tried to frame. Yes, it would be the same – if American students came to Mexico and wore the American flag shirts on the Mexican national holiday (while enjoying the host nation’s public education services, naturally).

Adults should know better, but the rationale they seem to have employed is informed by political correctness and Diversity doctrine. Diversity – the sociopolitical movement, not the dictionary word suggesting variety – rejects assimilation in favor of multiculturalism, in which separate but equal identity groups comprise the sociological sphere. Political relations among them are often more competitive than cooperative, animated more by emotion, suspicion and disharmony than reason, charity and unity.

In this case, a logical basis for action was irrelevant, because the correct emotional response on the part of the administration dictated hyper-sensitivity towards the historically aggrieved party claiming offense, at the expense of the historically oppressive party standing accused. One of the offending American students is partially Hispanic, and the American students’ families say an apology will not be forthcoming.

The families also have met or are planning to meet with school district officials. According to a district statement, it does not encourage or discourage the wearing of patriotic clothing, but did say the school acted out of an interest in ensuring safety, and failed to condemn the school’s action. The situation is “under review,” but the district superintendent or school board must act wisely and decisively to this situation.

At a minimum, if the facts as initially reported are correct, the superintendent or board should strongly consider reprimanding or suspending Vice Principal Miguel Rodriguez. He should also receive remedial instruction on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and should be required to attend a diversity training workshop in which he can learn that “diversity” does not involve censorship of patriotic expression. The superintendent or board, if they feel these actions are not enough, should also considering terminating Mr. Rodriguez’s employment. He clearly lacks the good judgment a person in his position should demonstrate.

All in all, a troubling story, but not terribly surprising. I imagine these types of stories will only occur with increasing frequency in the years ahead. It’s my understanding that the majority of children in Arizona’s public schools are of Hispanic origin, and I would take an informed guess that that’s the case in California as well.

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Obama’s campaign pockets stuffed with BP money

Politico, relying on The Center for Responsive Politics, reports that Barack Obama has collected more cash from BP than any politician in the last twenty years. That’s not a crime.

It is, however, a nice little tidbit to remember anytime somebody accuses Republicans of being in the pocket of big oil, etc. (It may also be the reason – along with his recent approval of some modest off-shore drilling plans – that the president has been so behind on the BP oil spill).

I wonder when the group that’s been smearing Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) in tv and internet ads will now run the same ad against President Obama? I’m waiting.

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