Thursday, January 29, 2009

The True Patriot

My most recent read was a book given to me by one of my most conservative/Republican co-workers. It is called "The True Patriot" by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer. Ironically, Eric and Nick are self proclaimed "progressive liberals".

The theme of the book is that they feel liberal and conservative politicians have spent far too much energy pandering on specific issues to gain votes, instead of holding fast to the core values of America. We citizens don't get off too easy either, ultimately it is our self focused thoughts and behaviors that allow, encourage and select these politicians. (ie "we want something for nothing")

Therefore the authors propose that citizens increase their focus on "we", and decrease their focus on "me". All the time remembering that it is America that has enabled our personal success, not our "special" abilities and efforts. (Success) And America can only help our future generations to be successful if we sacrifice for it like our forefathers did. They acknowledge this is hard, however no one said being a good patriot would be easy.

Of course, they are self proclaimed Progressive Liberals, so a few of their ideas will challenge the Right Wing Conservative paradigms. Still, it is worth a read.

Now, how does this relate to the current RAS issues:

  • We elected a school board, who after due diligence made a decision. Why are citizen's writing to papers saying that they will not support a possible capital referendum in the future because "their" school was closed ???? If you want to vote no because you thought their process was weak and they do not deserve more money, GREAT !!! But because your special interest was not served, GIVE ME A BREAK !!!
  • The goal of the public school is to provide strong core education/activities and prepare children to be good productive adult citizens. Why are citizen's complaining that their kids will not be Spanish immersed in Middle School, or some other activity far from the core goal of RAS ???? Give me a break !!! We have kids that are failing to meet the basic performance in the core curriculum. If you want something "special" for your child, pay for it at a private school, tutors or club activity.
  • The role of the parent is to ensure their children are prepared to learn and to model/enforce the correct behaviors. Why do we have parents allowing their children to not complete homework and then blaming the "the school" for their kid's poor academic performance? Why do we have parents suing the district when their child misbehaves, chastising teachers when their child is punished for disrupting the class, etc? The parents must teach and model/enforce good values and behaviors if the child is to succeed.
  • The diverse student body in the district offers more challenges than most in the state of Minnesota, yet we citizens choose to fund it lower than the "easy" districts. (ie Edina, Wayzata, Orono, etc) Citizens, does funding the "more challenging" district with less money than the "easy" district make any sense? And then complaining about how much they spend... This is the public education system that enabled your success.
  • The board and administration continue to try and "woo" the parents who want special things for their kids. Also, they want to spend money to develop / improve curriculum so RAS can be "special & proud" about their school offerings. How about we steal practices and curriculum actively and often from districts that are working, partner closely with them to reduce/share costs, ensure that our academic standards are high and return any excess money to the citizens? I would feel much more "special and proud" regarding RAS if student test scores far exceeded the state averages.
  • The administrators and teachers continue to support tenure and seniority.... How can protecting the poor performers possibly help the kids learn? Or support raising the perceived professionalism of the American education system and it's personnel? In the business world, Supervisors work hard to keep the best performers, improve the marginal performers and move the poor performers onto a job that better fits their skills and interest. It's in the Supervisor's best interest to have successful employees working for them. (ie it makes them look good and their job easier) If Educators want more respect, they need to allow the poor performers to fail and move onto something they are better at.
With these questions in mind:

Is maintaining the American opportunity worth personal sacrifice?

If so:

  • How can we all be better "Patriots"?
  • Are we willing to volunteer and get involved?
  • Are we willing to pay for our "perks" rather than demand them?
  • Are we willing to be happy and proud to pay the taxes that support our society?
  • Are we willing to be more than a one issue voter? Focus on the greater good?
  • Are we willing to hold poor performers accountable? Even if it may be us someday?
It is all these small decisions and actions that will determine what our country will be like in 50 years.

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