What’s Wrong With Us

Here’s some things wrong. There are plenty of others.

What’s wrong with schools.

We already have several examples of school systems with excellent support plans for teachers, especially new teachers, that guarantee teacher competence. These school systems have hands-on programs that evaluate all teachers on an ongoing basis, with a special emphasis on helping new teachers. The goal is to bring all teachers to a high level of competence, and new teachers commonly need help. Such systems involve continuous active participation by mentors and the teachers union. There is no reason such enlightened approaches cannot be used throughout the country. But they are not.

What we have instead are teacher and school shaming and punishment that are part and parcel of the ineffective No Child Left Behind law and similar political meddling. In better programs, if a teacher is found to be ineffective, rather than NCLB’s useless punishment and shaming, extra assistance is given in the form of intensive mentoring. If the teacher fails to improve after a judicious period of assistance, it is suggested that he or she leave the field.

In school systems with approaches like this, problem teachers either improve or leave, and only competent teachers remain. In most school systems that don’t have such supportive programs, unsatisfactory teachers can hang on for decades because there is no fair and impartial method in place to evaluate and, particularly, to help them improve. Because of the fact that the usual teacher evaluations are often biased and unfair, teacher unions are bound to defend them, thus working at odds with the greater goal.

“Accountability” is not the only thing schools need. Schools cannot function with inadequate, roller-coaster funding, and that’s what we usually have. Schools can’t function with 75% funding one year, 50% the next (they never have 100%). Teachers cannot be fired one year, hired back the next; they are professionals, not post-high school filing clerks. They are paid a fraction of the salary of teachers in the world’s best systems, and rarely given the respect they are shown in countries with better systems. When schools are not supported with consistent, adequate funding, the entire country suffers. The best teachers will quit. The students will not become satisfactory citizens. Industry will be unable to find people able to become competent workers.

What’s wrong with jobs.

The problem with jobs is that the pay for common under-appreciated work is utterly inadequate to provide life’s necessities. Minimum wage is $7.25, far from the $23 that would be barely adequate. It’s not that these poorly paid jobs are marginal and unimportant. They are absolutely essential to the smooth functioning of society. It’s not that these jobs are easy. These jobs require the same devotion that all jobs require: 40 hours of being on the job and satisfactory performance of all the tasks assigned. There is no job that can be performed without persistent effort and a certain level of expertise and devotion.

If you think $7.25 is bad, get this: pay for waiters in many states has been frozen at $2.13 for two decades. Two dollars and thirteen cents—a large cup of coffee! Thanks to Herman Cain of Republican primary, pizza, and philandering fame, waiter pay was left out of boosts of minimum wage. Waiters are expected to make up for it in tips. In most markets they don’t, of course. Average waiter income is $18K, which includes those in generous tipping markets. This is not sufficient for basic essentials, let alone health care and retirement.

People who work at these essential jobs, all of them, must be adequately paid if they and the entire nation are not to suffer. In the end, it would cost us less to pay a Living Wage than it does to pay poverty wages and compensate for the inadequacy with a complex of tax-supported supplement programs with their accompanying bureaucracy, plus sky high costs for “emergencies” paid from taxes. We cannot “end welfare as we know it” unless people earn enough to live on when they work full time.

What’s wrong with health care.

What’s wrong is that every day 120 Americans die because they can’t afford health care. This is not just tragic; it’s a moral insult for the wealthiest nation in history. Not only that, but inadequate health coverage is the most common cause of family bankruptcy, a disaster that ruins generations.

We have a clear choice. Either we provide an affordable national health care system that covers everyone, or everyone must be paid enough to buy private health insurance. We’re doing neither. We don’t have the national plan that all other advanced nations have, but income, particularly at the low end, is completely inadequate to pay for health insurance.

All national health care programs in existence are better than our system. There are two reasons for this. First, under national plans every person is covered, whereas we have tens of millions of uninsured, which translates to 45,000 deaths annually, and enormous unnecessary costs for society because of it. Second, even the least efficient of national plans costs half what we pay.

The one path that is clearly not satisfactory is the path we are on: private insurance that itself provides no health care whatsoever wastes nearly one health care dollar in three, and inadequate income for many millions prevents far too many from obtaining any health care at all.

What’s wrong with mental illness treatment.

In the seventies we closed all the state mental hospitals and gave everybody their “freedom”. Few of the newly “liberated” could even manage to take their medications every day, let alone manage life on their own.

The result is apparent in every city: dirty, poorly dressed and disheveled people addressing—or shouting at—adversaries who do not exist. Or begging on street corners. Yeah, they are no longer “captive”, or artificially “repressed”, but this can hardly be considered an improvement in their lives or ours.

We must come to some sort of national understanding about how to help people with mental illnesses. Certainly the best way is not to turn them out to live on the street. Neither should we imprison them solely because of their illness. At the very least, there must be ways to assure that they always get the medications that control their condition. They cannot do this themselves.

There is another important element. A large percentage of the people in prison, perhaps 25%, are mentally ill. Often these illnesses are untreated. Certainly, few of them would be in prison if their lives had been better managed by others. For many of them we are doing nothing. We spend more on prisons than we do on schools in some places. The cost of managing the lives of these 25% would be far less than the cost of imprisoning them.

What’s wrong with homosexuality.

Nothing, actually, since it’s been around since the dawn of time. It’s the rest of us who have the problem.

There have always been people, and even animals, who are not attracted to the opposite sex. Given that fact, it’s hard to understand why homosexuals have been so universally hated and abused over the course of all history. Fundamentalists of  the Abrahamic religions find vile and inhumane writing about homosexuals in their holy books—horrors that should have no part in any civilized society, then or now—and use these ugly words to justify the barbarian treatment they endorse. The irony here is that they ignore those vile and inhumane writings from the same books that apply to their own family and neighbors.

A bride must be murdered if she is not a virgin, according to the holy word; the hand of a child who steals must be chopped off; a neighbor must be killed for working on the sabbath. Who could guarantee that his loved ones and friends are innocent of these and equally inane “crimes”? Only a complete fool.

The most difficult thing to understand is why anyone at all can believe that gay people simply choose to be homosexual. No person who makes that claim could choose to be gay himself, not a single one. Here is the all-important fact:

No one can choose to be homosexual. Not one person.

Further news: no child becomes gay because he or she has gay parents.

The biggest practical problem gays face, however, is official discrimination that denies them many of the common rights the rest of us enjoy. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking, as when someone very ill is denied the presence of the most important person in his or her life because their informal marriage does not make them officially “family”. Sometimes it’s plain and simple discrimination, as when lifelong partners are denied health or survivor benefits.

While there is slowly growing maturity in our understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality, there is at present a nasty right wingster backlash that has resulted in ugly and repressive laws from hyper-conservative legislatures who are on the wrong side of morality—and proud of it. Eventually this will improve, as did the official racism that was prevalent a half century ago. It will never be easy.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Well spoken! And, the truth! Especially on Mental Health. We are so in the Dark ages; and it’s the 21st Century!


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