DEBATE WITH AN EDUCATOR?

Of my many communications and e-mail discussions as the founder of the Direct Democracy Center, the most recent is topical and interesting. The debate was conducted between July 31, 2000 and August 9, 2000. It touches on government, democracy and public education. Though there was a name attached to the e-mails sent to me, I will refer to the person as the EDUCATOR and myself as the FOUNDER in the dialogue that follows:

EDUCATOR: You (whoever you are) are living in a dream world. There is some truth in what you say about the failures of our system and the need for reform, but your solutions are unrealistic. I doubt if anything or any one can overcome the tremendous apathy of the American voter. I haven't read everything on your site, so I may have missed this: I believe what would help for the coming election is a national debate that involved more than the other two candidates.

Note: The above e-mail was followed by this one 11 minutes later: I plucked this from one of your statements: "The aggregate rate for local, state and federal taxes for most people amounts to about 40 percent." It is a highly questionable figure. And, besides, what's the point? The government may not own anything, but I'm glad they built a school down the street so that my children can get an education. I'm glad they're fighting wild fires in the West. That they build roads. Etc. You people sound like bird-brain Rush Limbaugh and his ilk: demonize the government. It can do no right. If we had no government, then we would have no taxes, no surpluses, no deficits. Wonderful! Think of all the money we could save.

FOUNDER: Thank you for your comments below and the e-mail just before this one. Sorry for the delay in responding. You are absolutely correct when you say that we are living in a dream world. Our dream is tipping the scales back toward the people enough to wag the tail. It's not realistic in the sense that we're shooting for the moon and hoping at least get it into orbit.

Indeed, most American voters are apathetic, or cynical like yourself, but much of it comes from feeling helpless or hopeless rather than simply indifferent or jaded. You must have some interest in government and our future or you would not have visited our site. That's encouraging.

The 40 percent tax figure is not exaggerated. When the boomers start retiring and placing enormous demands on Social Security and Medicare, the total tax figure will rise accordingly. And if the economy takes a turn to inflation, recession, higher unemployment and lower wages, you and your children will certainly feel the pain.

You say that you're glad government built a school down the street so your children can get an education. But are they? We are just beginning to feel the impact of the failure of public education

. Some things we say may sound like Limbaugh, but we're just as far from the radical right as we are from the radical left. We come from the middle ground where most Americans reside. In the end, I guess it comes down to this: Do we want government controlled by a two-party system and ruled by a bureaucracy? Or do we want nonpartisan self-government with more direct representative democracy?

Again, thank you for your interest and comments. It was a learning experience. And that's what direct democracy is all about. But please don' t dismiss it out of hand. Keep it in the back of your mind and give it some thought from time to time. Each of us can make a difference. I would not leave my family or my country with anything less.

EDUCATOR: (Re: "The 40 percent tax figure is not exaggerated) Can you substantiate that figure? In my state the rate for taxes, fees, and dues, local and statewide, are 17.2%, for the average taxpayer. That means, if your figure is right, the average taxpayer in my state pays 22.8% in federal taxes. I know there are rates that high, but that doesn't mean that people pay that percentage amount, nor does it mean that it is the average.

You said, "You say that you're glad government built a school down the street so your children can get an education. But are they? We are just beginning to feel the impact of the failure of public education."

It is one thing to say that public education is failing, but quite another thing to prove it. Remember that the public schools are in the process of educating 53,000,000 students. Failing? What is failing? Below 70%? Are nearly 16,000,000 students failing?

FOUNDER: According to the National Taxpayers Union, that is the average. Don't forget the taxes on utilities (especially phone bills), gas taxes, excise taxes, surcharges and the multitude of other (hidden) taxes people pay, many of which are not included in the 40%.

(In reference to the question of nearly 16,000,000 students failing)...Yes!

Honestly, It's difficult to believe, unless you're part of the education establishment, that you haven't grasped the enormity and seriousness of the education problem. Nearly a third of high school graduates are functionally illiterate. Nearly half of the students in the country are severely limited in reading, math and science. 30 years of academic experimentation ruined the system. State and national testing is proving the inadequacy of public education. It's been covered in depth throughout the media, even on PBS National Desk. Highly respected, longtime, educators verify it. They also say that a high school education in 1945 is the equivalent of a bachelor's degree today.

EDUCATOR: I hope you'll forgive me if I don't believe you. Your statement lacks verification. It goes back to my original statement: You can make any claim you wish, but can you back it up with some facts? I agree that there are problems with educating children and there always will be, but to say that 30 years of academic experimentation has ruined the system is bunk. I know of schools where 50% of the children are reading below level or not reading at all. When you look at the student population in some of these schools, you find a good proportion are ESL students -- they are Somalis, for example -- another good proportion have problems because of home environment (poverty, broken homes etc.) some do not stay enrolled for any significant length of time, there is a high rate of absenteeism among many, and some are special students -- students with learning difficulties.

You say highly respected educators verify the failure of the educational system. Who? Think you are the victim of propaganda. And so what if I am an educator? Does that mean I can't look at the system without bias? Most educators I know work ceaselessly to improve the system, to educate. What do you think is their goal? To foster a system that will fail? How does that help them?

With regard to taxes: You mention the Taxpayers Union. Why not quote the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities?

FOUNDER: At your suggestion, I reviewed the Web site of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. As I expected, the staff and board of directors come from the who's who from the left. And, of course, their "Debate Over Tax Levels: How much does the typical family pay?" uses the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation data to dispute the Tax Foundation's 1997 report, which indicated that the typical family paid 38 percent of income in taxes.

It's abundantly clear that your sources come from government, political and educational establishments, which are quite different that concerned citizen groups and organizations, and real educators who have been around long enough to have witnessed the decay. Rita Kramer, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell are among them. My uncle, with whom I've had many discussions, was the head of the education department at UCLA in the 1950's.

Your denial of the failure of educational system comes as no surprise. Indeed, you undoubtedly believe that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it because you have become part of the problem, unwittingly, if you were educated in recent years. However, if you come from those who tore down the old education establishment and helped construct the new one, which can hardly be called education, you are the problem.

My wife and I had to supplement our children's education, while they attended what were supposed to be good public schools, during the education revolution and reconstruction. We know how the revisionists gutted academics and replaced them with social engineering curriculums. One member of our family is a math teacher. Another was going to be an English teacher. Both of them know the system has failed and a major reason why. Teachers are taught how to teach, not what to teach. Clearly, the system has not only failed students, it failed teachers.

And yes, I, along with millions of people are the victims of propaganda. But many of us waded through it and found the truth. Hopefully, in time, you will too.

Though I answer all inquiries to the Direct Democracy Center, continuing this discussion, simply for the sake of debate, serves no productive purpose. Your responses have been informative.

EDUCATOR: How easily you dismiss an argument, simply by saying those in opposition aren't on my side! That's a good way to avoid an answer.

My sources come mainly from my experiences with the system, but, yes also from other sources including concerned citizen groups and organizations who, nevertheless, do not trash the system because it isn't perfect, who recognize the problems and work for solutions. I'm not na´ve enough to say that it has failed. Tell me where I might find some of the writings and findings of the people you mention: Rita Kramer, Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. Evidently these are people who have studied and analyzed the problem. They must have published something to that effect. Where can I obtain it?

Nothing has been torn down, at least not the entire structure. Educators are always working to improve it, building what works. Yes, in some cases we have learned that one thing or another doesn't work, but then we try to change it. Note: Though the Educator had to have the last word, those last words were revealing. To my statement ending with: "Clearly, the system has not only failed students, it failed teachers," the Educator replied, "Prove it."

To my statement: "And yes, I, along with millions of people are the victims of propaganda. But many of us waded through it and found the truth. Hopefully, in time, you will too," the Educator replied, "There was a man in ancient history who said, "What is truth? Well?"

To that I say, What can you say to an Educator or anyone who cannot or will not recognize the truth? The truth is, as John Leo (US News & World Report) so aptly put it in one of his many critiques on public education and higher education, "...much of the professorate now believes that NOTHING CAN TRULY BE KNOWN, SO NOTHING TRULY MATTERS."

To the Educator I say, if you want to earn the title of Educator and the tax dollars that provide you with a living, you had better understand the truth of this: Educating our children TRULY MATTERS. That is truth!

As to the Educator's other questions I say, READ OUR BOOK.

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