Wednesday, August 19, 2009

State-controled education

One of the longest running debates in the world is what exactly is free will. Every major philosopher from Plato to Sartre have debated this issue. As any follower of history will know, the United States was an anomaly: a country founded upon the principals of individual rights. Never before had such a concept taken root up to that point. The ideas offered by Rousseau, Locke, and other great thinkers advocated the role of the individual, rather than the group, which would influence other great minds like those of our founding fathers. A whole country founded not on the basis of conquest, but on an abstract thought: the idea that all men are created equal. How powerful is that? An idea forming the basis for a whole country is amazing. It brings up the point that an idea, especially that of freedom, is not only worthwhile, but a responsibility of the people. If you wish to maintain freedom, you must be on guard against all those that would seek to undermine it.

Over the past century, anti-individual thought has taken hold. The ideas of Hegel and Kant brought us back to a more platonic view of the world, in which the individual is secondary to the state. In The Republic, Plato advocates removing the bonds that bind the family together by having the children educated in such a manner as the state sees fit. What we really see now in the disintegration of the individual is not exactly a novel idea. It is the manner and subtlety by which it is done that is disturbing. In our own country what we see now is a gradual infringement upon our rights, which has gathered speed during the last twenty to twenty five years of the last century.

Our own education system caters not to the students or teachers, but to those that have the most to lose by having a group of educated and well-informed individuals. The clearest example is seen in how poorly our education system is compared with other countries. This is something that can't be fixed by lengthening the school day, week, or year. Improving the education system would be as simple as not permitting the government to become as involved as it currently is. This would put the responsibility of education back where it really belongs...with the child, parent(s)/guardian(s), and the teacher(s). Our culture now is less about knowledge, but more about accepting the information that the government wants you to have. We need to remember that our country was founded on ideas; it can also be destroyed by them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Bill we Love to Hate Crime

Recently, there has been buzz about the controversial hate crimes bill, so I thought that I would talk a little about it. This bill, if passed, will basically destroy the first ammendment, since it so obviously limits what we can say. While there are some glaringly obvious reasons why we should contact our representatives in the Senate, there is one other reason that we should be opposed to it.

What will happen to novels of the past century? One could argue that these are out-dated and have no bearing upon us now, which I disagree with. I have found more reason and honesty in classic literature, than with the modern day. There is also the metamorphosis of word meanings, such as the word "gay." The original meaning meant that one is happy and general in a very positive mood. Now, this seemingly harmless word is something that is now used in a negative way--to hurt someone's feelings. Should we destroy those works because they use this word now because of one word? No, because, 1) it is ridiculous and 2) it destroys the past by manipulating it. The work is less powerful and is more meaningless. Do you think that Mark Twain's Huck Finn would be as powerful by making the language more "friendly" or banning Dostoevsky's The Idiot because it is sad, or destroy De Sade's work because it is salacious? I don't think so. Some of the best literature resounds with us today because its impact upon our concious. Rest assured, this ignominous bill will have an impact upon our creative impulses.

Goethe said, "the decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation." If this is true, then yes, America is on the decline, considering that our creative output is diminishing. This bill will hasten us towards destruction by stifling the human need to express ourselves. In studying Rome and most ancient culture, we saw one thing in their eventual demise: literature (with substance) was diminished along with the collapse with the culture. In looking at the rennaisance (take your pick of which one), there was a blossoming of art, culture, and the written word. While civilizations do come to and end, shouldn't we leave something for future generations to look at that is reflective upon our culture? We shouldn't give our progeny the task of rising from a self-mutilation that could have been avoided. They deserve more than that. But we have to fight against the ignorance we are taught. Now is the time to show our fangs.