Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My definition of liberalism, Part 1

This is the first part of future discussions regarding my definition of liberalism. Today: tuition vouchers.

A discussion over the Thanksgiving weekend got me thinking about what it means to me to be a liberal. But first, here's my comments on this in my Weekend Wrap-up of 11-12-2006. I also want to note the response by JB. His whole reply is worth noting (and I encourage you to read it), but I am posting this passage in particular, because it's related to my response afterwards:

"Now that we are in such an affluent nation, the vast majority of people are content with the status quo, leaving the democratic party with only the most extreme forms of social change to glom onto.Think of it. The last major social issue for the democratic party was the environment. The republicans saw the environmentalists as radicals. Now that we have so much social change in that area, it has become the status quo, stripping the democratic party of that issue. What are they left with? What social change can they pursue?"

Thing is, I think that there's plenty for the Democrats to pursue in our current day and age that would still be in line with their tradition of "helping the little guy".

There's the injustices in the educational systems - specifically the public ones. Families that can't afford private schools or religiously based schools are pretty much stuck with what the public schools offer, and since all things religious have been driven away from public schools, the students are left with a questionable secular curriculum that more encourages "feelings" rather than education. In other words, the "little guys" in this scenario are the students, and the "oppressive establishment" are the school systems and the teachers unions that won't allow changes or challenges that threaten their hold on their power.

One way to help these "little guys" is to allow for tuition vouchers so that students can have "the right to choose" what schools they might attend. However, teachers' unions are vehemently opposed to them, this despite that it could actually help public schools in the long run. So basically, the "right to choose" applies only to legalized abortion.

I grew up in a poor, single-parent family. My mother scrimped, saved, and sacrificed so that my brother and I can go to a Catholic school. And as far as Catholic schools go, this was a pretty poor (as in: low funding) school, but it was all that my mother could afford. However, my brother and I benefited enormously. He went on to get a scholarship to a Catholic high school, and then another scholarship to go to college. I also went on to college, and even went on to get a Master's degree. So our experiences demonstrates that even if you start out poor, you can rise above it. I also know that my mother would have gladly taken a tuition voucher had they been available back then.

But none of us could have done it without a lot of help. All three of us had a support group that we relied on time and time again, and for which came through time and time again. My mother and her two sons were one family, but we also had the support of an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This same group still meets three times a year for family gatherings. Beyond the extended family were other, more distant relatives as well as neighbors and the surrounding local community.

We each knew each other, and we helped each other out in times of need. It was because of that support group that, during our whole youth, my brother and I never felt "poor", even though technically that's what we were. It was also during this time that I grew up around the "village" concept of everyone helping each other - which, back then, was basically the Democratic ideal in a nutshell.

Somewhere along the way, however, the Democrats' "village" ideal got lost and was replaced with the current "village idiots" concept of the extremism that JB mentioned in his reply. Instead of helping "the little guy", Democrats now serve the more extreme left wing special interest groups. Instead of supporting the tuition voucher concept to help students in poor families to get a decent education, they instead back teachers' unions because these unions donate to their party. In other words, it ain't just in the GOP that money buys politicians.

Instead of seeing that the voucher system can help public schools to keep to their church/state separatism, the Dems instead are insistent in making it much harder for the poor families to go to other schools if the local public schools are failing to educate their children. It appears that keeping on the good side of teachers' unions takes a much greater precedence than seeing that our nation's children get the best education possible. This is an injustice that the old Democratic party wouldn't have tolerated, much less facilitated. It would have sickened the old Democratic party to be an enabler to an oppressive power structure.

To me, being truly liberal would mean finding the best means possible to educate all children, regardless of the income of the families that they come from. Instead, being liberal today means that you support an intolerant and closed-minded establishment such as teachers' unions because they donate to party coffers. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but that's not what being liberal was supposed to mean.

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