Monday, December 27, 2010

Biden says gay "marriage" inevitable in America. Evidence suggests otherwise.

With the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Vice President Biden and gay activists are spinning it to suggest gay "marriage" is inevitable. I wouldn't be so quick to draw that conclusion.

The precedential removal of three Iowa Supreme Court justices for judicially imposing gay "marriage" on Iowans, efforts in other state's to repeal gay "marriage" laws and the potential for passing state marriage amendments in other states would suggest momentum is in other direction.

Frankly, the more the issue is debated and discussed the better. People will realize the nature and purpose of marriage. It's more than a "loving relationship" between two people. Instead it's profoundly connected to procreation, the raising of children, and the unique, complementary relationship of a man and a woman.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Reagan's 1981 Christmas Address to the Nation

Here's a powerful address to the nation given by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. It 's a simple but touching message on the true meaning of Christmas. It's easy to be sentimental for the days of his moral leadership of our nation.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Public education is in trouble and change is coming. Whether teachers' union likes it or not.

Here's an interesting article in Newsweek, that bastion of conservatism by the outgoing chancellor of public schools in DC, Michelle Rhee, who was known for trying to reform public education and lost her job because the teacher's union defeated her boss, the mayor, in his bid for re-election.

She points out what she did and the battles she faced improving the quality of education in the district.

When I started as chancellor in 2007, I never had any illusions about how tough it would be to turn around a failing system like D.C.’s; the city had gone through seven chancellors in the 10 years before me. While I had to make many structural changes—overhauling the system for
evaluating teachers and principals, adopting new reading and math programs, making sure textbooks got delivered on time—I believed the hardest thing would be changing the culture. We had to raise the expectations that people had about what was possible for our kids.

I quickly announced a plan to close almost two dozen schools, which provoked community outrage. We cut the central office administration in half. And I also proposed a new contract for teachers that would increase their salaries dramatically if they abandoned the tenure system and agreed to be paid based on their effectiveness.

Though all of these actions caused turmoil in the district, they were long overdue and reaped benefits quickly. In my first two years in office, the D.C. schools went from being the worst performing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress examination, the national test, to leading the nation in gains at both the fourth and eighth grade in reading as well as math. By this school year we reversed a trend of declining enrollment and increased the number of families choosing District schools for the first time in 41 years.

She talks about the state of public education in America, which isn't very good compared to the rest of the world.
After stepping down, I had a chance to reflect on the challenges facing our schools today and the possible solutions. The truth is that despite a handful of successful reforms, the state of American education is pitiful, and getting worse. Spending on schools has more than doubled in the last three decades, but the increased resources haven’t produced better results. The U.S. is currently 21st, 23rd, and 25th among 30 developed nations in science, reading, and math, respectively. The children in our schools today will be the first generation of Americans who will be less educated than the previous generation.

And finally she says the major impediment to reform is the teacher's union which believes it has a vested interest in the status quo.

Education is no different. We have textbook manufacturers, teachers’ unions, and even food vendors that work hard to dictate and determine policy. The public-employee unions in D.C., including the teachers’ union, spent huge sums of money to defeat Fenty. In fact, the new chapter president has said his No. 1 priority is job security for teachers, but there is no big organized interest group that defends and promotes the interests of children.

You can see the impact of this dynamic playing out every day. Policymakers, school-district administrators, and school boards who are beholden to special interests have created a bureaucracy that is focused on the adults instead of the students. Go to any public-school-board meeting in the country and you’ll rarely hear the words “children,” “students,” or “kids” uttered.

Instead, the focus remains on what jobs, contracts, and departments are getting which cuts, additions, or changes. The rationale for the decisions mostly rests on which grown-ups will be affected, instead of what will benefit or harm children.

The teachers’ unions get the blame for much of this. Elected officials, parents, and administrators implore them to “embrace change” and “accept reform.” But I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.

What that means is that the reform community has to exert influence as well. That’s why I’ve decided to start StudentsFirst, a national movement to transform public education in our country. We need a new voice to change the balance of power in public education. Our mission is to defend and promote the interests of children so that America has the best education system
in the world.

I think change is in the air. For one, we, as society, don't have the money to keep throwing at public education. In Minnesota, K-12 education constitutes roughly 40% of our state budget. When facing a $6 billion deficit, changes will be demanded in public education. I also think technological changes will force to public schools to change. The online revolution is and will continue to dramatically change how education is done.

I compare it to the state controlled economy of the Soviet Union. On the surface, it seemed to be doing fine. But inside the system was rotten and ready to collapse. Same is true with our current public education model. It's unsustainable as it currently stands.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A rebuttal to repealing, "Don't ask, Don't Tell"

Here's a clip on the head of the military testifying on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". It presents a different picture from what we generally hear in the media about the issue. They don't think it's a good idea.

And here's a good rebuttal, by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, for those who think, gays in the military works fine for Britian, why not the US.

Americans may have defeated the British, but there are still people who think we should take our cues from Her Majesty's Forces. On yesterday's "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" on ABC, a panel of mostly liberal guests argued that the U.K.'s military is more effective for allowing homosexuals to serve openly. In a video package about Britian's policy, a voice claims, "When the ban was lifted in 2000, nothing happened: nothing, no resignations, no impairment of fighting ability, and almost no incidents of harassments... Some homophobic politicians and service chiefs played up and exaggerated their likely dire consequences of allowing gays to serve, but their fears did not materialize...." FRC's Bob Maginnis begged to differ. "The U.S. military," he said, "is about 18 times larger than the Brits'... [T]o compare them to... us is like comparing an M1A1 tank to a Roman chariot." But they both have the same issues, another guest interrupted. "No," Maginnis fired back, "the issues are fundamentally about privacy, about unit cohesion, about trust and confidence, about readiness... retention... recruitment. You look at all those. Unfortunately, Christiane, the report that the Pentagon came out with--based on a flawed survey--doesn't support that..."

In that report, which FRC fully read, the Defense Department makes a point of comparing the American military to its counterparts in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. But those nations are radically different than the United States in two key areas. Their militaries, while sophisticated, are not nearly as large--or as advanced--as ours. Secondly, those countries are much farther down the path of secularization than America. Each one lacks a moral restraint that is still very much a vibrant part of our nation.

While some British officers make sweeping statements about the success of open homosexuals in their military, there is absolutely no empirical data to base them on. By their own admission, there has been no systematic review of the effects of open homosexuality on retention, HIV rates, and sexual assault over the last 10 years. Nor do I think the British model of "recruiting at gay pride parades" is worth replicating. According to U.K. officials, that's where they've been forced to shop for new enlistments. (I don't know if you've had the misfortune of seeing a gay pride parade, but it's not exactly a scene from A Few Good Men.) The United States military is the best in the world. Sure, other countries may sprinkle a few drag queens in its units and call it "progress," but as the leader of the free world we don't have the luxury of using our military for social experimentation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Should religion be taught in public schools? Yes and it already is.

I came across an interesting opinion piece on the religion and education which asks the question, should religion be taught in the public schools.

Charles Haynes discusses the thesis of a book by Warren Nord entitled, "Does God Make a Difference." In the book, Nord says "American education proceeds on the assumptiion that God is either dead or irrelevant." Strong language yet I would say accurate.

Haynes goes on to describe Nord's argument:

Conventional wisdom in public schools and universities, Nord claims, is that students “can learn everything they need to know about any subject (other than history and literature) without learning anything about religion.” Students are uncritically taught to make sense of the world in
“exclusively secular categories.” And that makes public education “superficial, illiberal, and unconstitutional.”
Haynes asks:

Is Nord right? On the charges of “superficial and illiberal,” I would agree. Ignoring the role of religion in history and society — and, more deeply, ignoring religious ways of understanding the world — deprives students of what used to be called a broad or liberal education.

Education, Nord rightly argues, should address the “big questions” about meaning and morality — questions that cannot be properly considered without giving religion a place at the curriculum table.

A religion-free education may be wrongheaded, but is it unconstitutional? Here Nord goes beyond where most legal scholars are willing to go by boldly asserting that public schools and universities violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause by failing to be religiously neutral.

According to Nord, teaching about religion in public schools is not only permissible under
the First Amendment (a point the U.S. Supreme Court has made many times); but it is also required by the Court’s past rulings about the constitutional necessity of government neutrality between religion and non-religion. There is nothing “neutral,” he argues, about teaching all subjects through a secular lens without exposing students to religious alternatives.

I don't know that I'd agree that the courts should mandate particular religions be taught in the schools but it would do well to require "truth in advertising" about what what is currently being taught in the schools under the guise of neutrality. The courts could make the public aware that the reigning orthodoxy in many of public schools is secularism which is a faith just as much as Christianity or Judaism.

Haynes concludes by restating a critical problem with our current education system.

As Nord reminds us: “An educational system that ignores the great existential questions — political, moral, spiritual, religious — is not worthy of respect, indeed, it shouldn’t count as educational at all.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

State facing structural deficit of $6.2 billion. Time to reduce the size and scope of government.

The state is facing a projected budget deficit of $6.2 billion over the next two years. That's bad enough but an added problem is it's a structural deficit, meaning that even with strong economic growth, we're spending more than we're due to take in via tax receipts.

As Tom Stinson, the state's economist, said in a recent interview with Capitol Report, we're coming out of the worst recession since World War II, plus we're facing an ongoing structural deficit in our state finances.

This was the worst recession since World War II. We’re coming out of it, and everybody would like us to come out of it as quickly as possible, and we are coming out of it, but it’s going to take some time.

The good news, from the Minnesota point of view, is that we seem to be coming out of it faster than the national economy. But, to put it in perspective before we pat ourselves on the back too much, you’ve got to remember that California is part of the U.S. economy and the situation there is much worse than it is in Minnesota, so we better be doing better than the U.S. average....

We have a $6.2 billion structural shortfall. The revenue forecast for 2012-2013 went down by about $900 million [in November] because of some economic changes….

But I think the important thing to know is even if it went up twice - if we gained back that $900 million and then the economy improved enough so that we actually added another $900 million - we’d still have $4.4 billion worth of problem to deal with.

That means on an ongoing basis we're spending more than we have been taking in. The funding shifts and delay of payments used in the past to balance the budget aren't available. That means tough decisions about cutting spending and tax increases will have to be faced now.

I believe government is too big and needs to be cut back rather reverting to raising taxes. That will be very painful for those who have come to expect government to do more and more but in the long run expanding government isn't in the best interest of society or the family. Growing government has meant government taking over more and more family responsibilities which not only costs lots of money but also means people are becoming more dependent on the government for those services.

This dependency on the government hasn't improved the condition of the family, rather it's contributed to its decline. We can see government's ineffectualness by looking to results of anti-poverty programs. Despite spending trillions and trillions of dollars since the 1960s, poverty rates haven't decreased. Instead the health and well-being of the American family has declined dramatically. I believe the government has played a significant, though not the exclusive, role in that decline.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Homosexual parenting leads to more homosexual kids? Common sense and research suggests as much. Implications for gay adoption and gay "marriage".

The debate over homosexual "marriage" invariably implicates the impact of homosexual couples on the children they raise. While there's debate over the exact origins of homosexual attractions and orientations, it's generally viewed as resulting from a complex interaction of biological and environmental factors. Even gay researchers like Simon LaVay acknowledge as much.

It shouldn't be surprising then when kids raised by homosexual parents have a greater propensity for developing same sex inclinations. That's what Dr. Walter Schumm, professor of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University found in his research. Here's what he said in an interview on the topic.
For decades it was politically correct to argue that parental sexual orientation had nothing to do with a child's sexual orientation. However, about 1995 or so, a few scholars began to admit that, at least in theory, parental values would be expected to influence children's values, including sexual orientation preferences. Nevertheless, it was argued that even such an expected result had little empirical support. I decided to tackle this difficult problem from three perspectives, in a report in press with the
Cambridge journal, Journal of Biosocial Science.

First, I reviewed ten books concerning over 250 children of gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents and evaluated the children's own stories about their sexual orientations. I used a 10% baseline for a simulated comparison group of heterosexual families. It was clear that the children of GLB parents were more likely to either have
identified as GLB or to have at least experimented with nonheterosexual behavior. The more I controlled for age (using older children) and availability of data (using only those children who specifically described their sexual orientations), the stronger the results became. Gender was an interesting and strong factor in that the daughters of lesbian mothers were most likely to reject a heterosexual orientation whereas sons of gay fathers were least likely to do so.

I then compiled data from 26 studies about GLB parenting and found that children of GLB parents were more likely to report a nonheterosexual orientation than were children of heterosexual parents in those studies, an effect that was strongest for mothers.

Third, I studied reports from a number of cultures from around the world and found that the less strongly those cultures condemned homosexuality, the less rare was its actual (open) practice.

Thus, all three sources of data indicate that sexual orientation, at least in terms of its open expression, is subject to the influence of social and cultural factors, including family background. While not surprising in terms of what social science theory might predict, the results differ greatly from the testimony of many experts at a host of previous court cases concerning gay or lesbian parenting.

Furthermore, my analysis of previous data, some of which has seldom been mentioned, showed that gay or lesbian parents were less likely to want their children to grow up to be heterosexual than were heterosexual parents. Gay and lesbian parents also seemed less likely to expect that their children would grow up to be heterosexual. Thus, both parental expectations and aspirations tend to pressure children to model their parent's own sexual orientation, providing a clear pathway for parental sexual orientation to influence a child's sexual orientation.

Some gay activists want to discredit Professor Schumm and his research though one has to ask why if there are no problems with homosexuality. The problem for gay activists is the public is uncomfortable with the promotion of homosexuality and the resulting behavior. And that uncomfortable is reasonable in light of the negative health consequences of the behavior.

Such research has significant implications for the gay adoption and homosexual "marriage" debates.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The new elites in America. Out of touch with people they govern and influence.

Here's an interesting article by Charles Murray from the Washington Post last month which talks about the new elites and how out of touch they are with the average American. It shows up not only in the politics but also their lifestyles and values.

We know, for one thing, that the New Elite clusters in a comparatively small number of cities and in selected neighborhoods in those cities. This concentration isn't limited to the elite neighborhoods of Washington, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It extends to university cities with ancillary high-tech jobs, such as Austin and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle.

With geographical clustering goes cultural clustering. Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows -- "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven't any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they've never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.

Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.

They can talk about books endlessly, but they've never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).

They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn't be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.

There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven't ever attended a meeting of a
Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn't count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don't count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn't count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.

Taken individually, members of the New Elite are isolated from mainstream America as a result of lifestyle choices that are nobody's business but their own. But add them all up, and they mean that the New Elite lives in a world that doesn't intersect with mainstream America in many important ways. When the tea party says the New Elite doesn't get America, there is some truth in the accusation.

Part of the isolation is political. In that Harvard survey I mentioned, 72 percent of Harvard seniors said their beliefs were to the left of the nation as a whole, compared with 10 percent who said theirs were to the right of it. The political preferences of academics and journalists among the New Elite also conform to the suspicions of the tea party.

But the politics of the New Elite are not the main point. When it comes to the schools where they were educated, the degrees they hold, the Zip codes where they reside and the television shows they watch, I doubt if there is much to differentiate the staff of the conservative Weekly Standard from that of the liberal New Republic, or the scholars at the American Enterprise Institute from those of the Brookings Institution, or Republican senators from Democratic ones.

The bubble that encases the New Elite crosses ideological lines and includes far too many of the people who have influence, great or small, on the course of the nation. They are not defective in their patriotism or lacking a generous spirit toward their fellow citizens. They are merely isolated and ignorant. The members of the New Elite may love America, but, increasingly, they are not of it.

I saw this last summer when a CNN producer talked with me about the Minnesota Family Council's views and their connection to religion and what not. I could tell I was someone she hadn't encountered very often or at all.