Friday, April 24, 2009

What is America?

I think there are a lot of people confused in this country about what America is and should be about.
  • What does it mean to be an American?
  • What role does our government play?
  • What is the American culture?
  • How is it protected?
  • What is "The American Way"?
  • How does that apply to our government?

These questions just rolled off the tongue and I'll let these be the tangent of the day. :)

What does it mean to be an American?

There's a legal definition of course - being an American citizen. That's not what I'm getting at obviously.

What I'm talking about is how a citizen thinks about their country and their role as part of it. To me, it's a state of mind related to the principles of liberty and freedom. It's not the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, The Star-Spangled Banner, etc. Certainly those are symbols of the country and things to be proud of. However, they are simply that - symbols.

An American should try to view the macro stance on an issue with regard to whether it upholds a test of freedom and liberty. It is perfectly ok to have a personal, even vehement, stance against an issue. If you believe in freedom, you should rise above personal feelings to evaluate it though. You should be willing to stand up for that freedom, even if you disagree with it.

What role does our government play?

Our government is completely out of control. Anybody that thinks our national government resembles the one the Framers envisioned is either in denial or uneducated about it. This is not an attack on the current administration and party in power. This government has completely run amok for over a century, if not longer.

The government's job is well outlined in the Constitution. It should be the driving force in promoting and protecting the freedoms of its citizenry, as well as be an example to the rest of the world. The Preamble is the guide ...

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

It's a shame the Framers didn't use a better phrase than "promote the general welfare" as this is language that allowed so much interpretation and expansion of the federal government. Regardless, it's succinct and to the point.

What is the American culture?

That's a tricky one for most people. Too many people think that the culture should dictate government policy. "We're a Christian nation," says many. This is a nation of mostly Christians, yes. However, this is not a Christian government. It may be a government of mostly Christians, but that's still not a Christian government.

This is such a fundamental key to the success of a democracy with a base for liberty. This country is failing at that.

Take gay marriage for example. I'm not going to argue whether the Bible allows it or not. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it's crystal clear that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Should this be a springboard to limit the actions of homosexuals? Does that live up to the test of liberty and freedom?

So many groups, liberal and conservative, think that their views should be imposed on the rest of America. If it is forcing citizens to give up their claims to freedom, then it is most likely the wrong path. Educate the citizenry through all of the forms of media until your heart's content.

Don't use the government as an instrument to impose your will.

"Don't tread on me!"

How is it protected?

The American culture, other than the culture of liberty, should not explicitly be protected by the U.S. government. Rights, however, should be protected by all three branches of the government. These protections should allow individuals to practice their own brand of America without infringing on the rights of other to practice theirs.

What is "The American Way"?

I'd say "The American Way" means a lot of things, but not all things to all people. To me, it's rather simple:

  • If you work hard, you'll get somewhere
  • Everybody has a shot, regardless of where you start
  • All men (ok, people!) are created equal
  • Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc.

How does that apply to our government?

Follow the Constitution! The government is not a solution to our problems. It is there to make sure society flows properly so that everybody gets to live their lives!

Public School Testing

I have a good friend that is a public school teacher in my Metro Atlanta county. The other day, she told me that they currently are doing standardized testing for 42 out of 180 school days now ... 42 days! That's almost 1/4 of the the school year spent testing.

Sound crazy? Impossible? Bad information? That was my initial reaction.

They have national tests, which apparently aren't released anyway. I think that's the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills). That only take a few days apparently.

Then, the state of Georgia has the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests), which last a week. Apparently, the CRCT is used to judge a school's status in No Child Left Behind. Since that's so important to the administrator, because it's important to the county, because it's important to the state, because it's mandated by Washington, the schools have practice CRCT tests. This, of course, is taking up instruction time.

The CRCT is a battery of minimum competency tests that are probably unnecessary in the Atlanta suburban schools. The state of the suburban schools vs. the rest of Georgia is like night and day. The test is so below the average student here, that the county decided to implement their own tests.

These tests are called the Benchmarks. These tests are intended to guide an advanced curriculum and then test the students (and ultimately the teachers) on what they've learned. These tests aren't in lieu of normal testing that would occur, relative to normal instruction. These are on top of that. These tests are interspersed throughout the year and make up the balance of days to bring the total to 42.

On top of the 42 days, these tests are made to be so critical in importance, the teachers are basically put into the position of teaching to the test to make sure the kids maximize their test score. This is taking away from real learning. The administration puts on pep rallies to show the students how important these test are, taking up instruction time.

25% of classroom time solely devoted to testing ... and how much prepping for that?