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Change We Can Believe In

1. For grades 8-12, teachers could choose either the traditional credential or the MA degree in an academic subject. Few laws would have wider ramifications in curbing the power of the education lobby and its union partners, and vastly improve classroom teaching performance.

It would cost nothing and do more for educational progress than anything of the last three decades (high school students can sense who wrote a MA thesis on the Civil War and who got a teaching credential taking Bill-Ayers-like courses on race, class, and gender stereotyping). Why can PhDs and MAs in American history walk into a JC classroom, but not a high-school history class? Eliminate tenure for teachers and professors, replaced by 5-year renewable contracts, subject to completion of contracted targets on classroom performance and continuing education. The combination of a therapeutic curriculum, with an increasingly illiterate student, has resulted in a national disaster. Hint: when students arrive ill-prepared from dysfunctional families as was common in the last few decades, they need more math, grammar, and basics, not more self-esteem and “I am somebody” pep courses. Each year I taught, I was struck by the ever more common phenomenon of students ever less prepped in grammar, syntax, and “facts”, but ever more ready to expound on something—anything really—about themselves, usually with the theme of their own victimhood.

2. Transfer the UN headquarters to an African or South American capital closer to the problems of hunger, disease, and poverty. I suggest either Lagos or Lima. Global elites could not walk from five-star hotels  to the CBS studios to grandstand about US pathologies. But delegates could match their solidarity rhetoric by concretely living with the other. We would get away from the “U.S. did it”.  UN forces could ring UN headquarters when a nearby Chavez or Mugabe was rumored to be saber-rattling and crossing borders. When the Kofi Annans of the world got upset stomachs from their luncheon salads, perhaps they could address world sanitation and government corruption rather than Israel.

3. An end to affirmative action based on race. If “help” is needed, it should be based on class and income. Why should Eric Holder’s children be classed as in need while someone from the Punjab (of darker hue) or Bakersfield (with less capital) is considered ineligible? Why should a Carmel female at the corporate level be seen as progress, but not a son of Appalachian coal miners? The entire corrupt system is redolent of the 1/16 laws of the Old Confederacy, as almost every American is conning some sort of Ward-Churchill-like heritage to pull off what Ward Churchill did—get some edge over the competition for something that they otherwise might not obtain. Whether intended or not, affirmative action has become the pet project  largely of elites, who feel their own capital and insider connections will ensure their own do not suffer from the unspoken quotas they impose on others—as a sort of cheap psychological penance for their own guilt over their own privilege.

4. Return of the US Homestead Act and expand it to urban areas. Instead of redevelopment for wealthy insider grandees who tear down neighborhoods for convention complexes, state and local government should be encouraged to deed over idle properties to individuals willing to build homes and stay 10 years on the property. Shedding, not adding to, government land-owning makes more sense.  Who knows, one might find self-help recolonization projects in downtown Detroit. Maybe Californians and some of their industries might move to the empty top third of their state, rather than families paying $1 million for a 800 sq foot bungalow in congested Menlo Park.

5. Outlaw the naming of federal projects after any living politicians. Don’t laugh. Without their names on highway stretches, bridges, and “centers”, most of these projects would not be built. Once a senator or congress-person accepted that there would never, never be  “The Hon. Tadd Burris Community Center” or “Mt. Bud Jones Wilderness Area”, much of the earmarks would cease. What is the logic behind the notion that we immortalize a senator or congresswoman who uses someone else’s money to build a bridge, or lobbies for an earmark for his district, or, at best, simply does his job? Should carpenters get every fourth tract house named in their honor for their work? Should teachers have their classrooms forever emblazoned with their own names (Instead of “room 11,” we would get The “Skip Johnson English room”?)? Should doctors have surgery rooms with their own names on the door? People who give their own money have a right to eponymous monuments, but not those who do it as part of their job descriptions and with someone else’s capital. Our political class, not content with being increasingly corrupt, is now buffoonish as well. The career of the court-jester John Murtha is emblematic of the age.

There!—some modest suggestions for change we can believe in.

Vero possumus!