Scott versus Scott

Welcome to our blog. Here we will debate the days most serious topics and allow users the chance to discuss the topics as well. The range of topics will vary, but one thing will remain certain, the debate will rage on. Scott Lesinski is a proud conservative and Scott Jones is a proud liberal. However, the roles will switch on some topics. Stay tuned.

Scott Lesinski is currently an actuarial associate for a large human resources and insurance consulting firm in Saint Louis. He is also an avid student of US history and enjoys following current events, with an eye to their contextual relationship to the past. He is also, in fact, a former student of Mr. Scott Jones. Scott is working toward his FSA credentials, which is akin to earning a PHD in Actuarial Science.

Scott Jones is currently a high school social studies teacher at a high school in suburban St. Louis, MO. He teaches World History, AP American Government and Senior American Foreign Policy. He has a BS. Ed. (Secondary Social Studies) from the University of Missouri - Columbia and a M.A. (History) from Southeast Missouri State University. He is currently working on a dissertation in character education to earn a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The True Liberal Revolution Has Been Successful

First, if you haven’t yet read Scott’s outstanding post just below this one, please read it first. There are some references in this post that will only make since if you’ve read the previous post from Scott.

In his post, Scott does an outstanding job of laying out a True Conservative philosophy of individual responsibility. I have no doubt that my fellow contributor to this blog has the best for America in his conservative philosophy. We do, however, see the path to this even greater America differently.

Unfortunately, both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are more interested in attracting blocs of voters than to embrace a truly liberal or truly conservative path to this greatness.

Scott has been a vocal critic of the Republican Party when it has steered from True Conservatism. I have done, and will do, the same for the Democratic Party as it strays from True Liberalism as defined here.

If I am silent on a post from Scott that criticized the Democratic Party (see Cap and Trade), then you can conclude my silence is my agreement with the criticism.

Therefore, it is left to us to get our respective parties on the right path.

What Scott has done is brilliantly describe the battle I face every day in the classroom. I provide, through Character Education and a True Liberal philosophy, an opportunity for everyone to receive a high quality education so that they may share in the American Dream.

At the same time, I spend tremendous amounts of time, through the use of Character Education, teaching individual responsibility in order to take advantage of the opportunity provided for them as it relates to attaining the American Dream. True Conservatism.

Talk about conflicting political ideologies.

On closer look, however, this is not a conflict.

In his post, Scott is absolutely right that True Liberalism is only able to deal with the first two levels of needs motivation in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He is not wrong when he states that the top three levels can only be achieved individually (i.e. with a conservative philosophy).

But I think Scott misunderstands True Liberalism to a point here. True Liberalism does not oppose individual accomplishment. The United States has produced a long line of individual accomplishment in its short history. This is what the American Dream is about.

True Liberalism does not seek to discredit these outstanding individual accomplishments.

True Liberalism does not believe accomplishment can be forced on individuals.

True Liberalism does not seek to eliminate individual responsibility for success and/or failure.

True Liberalism only hopes to achieve an equal opportunity to the accomplishment by allowing all individuals to have their two most basic Maslow needs met.

So how do we hope to accomplish this equal opportunity? The children of our nation.

LBJ’s War on Poverty, as originally planned and implemented, was created to help poor children have success in school, which would provide for better opportunity for them as an adult.

Any True Liberal policy in this area has the end goal of helping poor kids have secure family lives, food, safe schools and quality teachers so that they can have the same opportunity as their rich suburban counterparts where the needs are being met by their social influences.

Again, we are speaking only of opportunity and nothing else, despite what conservative propaganda might speak about.

Scott refers to the psychologist Maslow and how the hierarchy of needs develops within the individual and Scott focuses on the top 3, while correctly identifying the bottom two as the highest level True Liberalism can accomplish.

So let’s take a look.

Maslow’s bottom two levels are crucial. According to Maslow, no one can move to higher level until the needs of the lower level is met. Therefore, one can only be concerned with self-acceptance (level 4) after group acceptance has been accomplished (level 3).

Therefore, if one is not able to meet their basic physical needs (i.e. food, clothing, shelter) or their basic psychological need (i.e. safety), one cannot achieve the higher levels.

It is these higher levels that separate humans from the other animals on the planet.

Where True Liberalism has its strongest merits, is the attempt to allow ALL humans the opportunity to achieve certain levels of humanity.

When it comes to our children, this is a critical point. It is a social obligation that we provide the opportunity for kids to move forward on Maslow’s chart.

In a psychological development sense, this debate rages.

Psychologist Jean Piaget argued that the child develops on an individual basis as it is exposed to the stimulus of the other (the group).

On the other side, Lev Vygotsky argued that the group (the other) interacts with the child, which promotes development.

This is classic Western versus Eastern philosophy as well.

As you read both sides, you see elements of truth in both. I tend to fall on the importance of the group to nurture the individual, especially in the way this relates to children

In my experience in the classroom, students where the group has done its responsibility for the child’s development (i.e. the parents, the teachers, peers) have tremendous amounts of academic success. In fact, I realize that, for these children, I have very little impact.

The students where the group has not acted responsibly in this manner have tremendous academic difficulties. It is with this group that I have the best chance to change a life. It is also the group where I experience the greatest amount of failure as a teacher.

For me, this makes it very difficult to blame the child. This is a failing of the social influences on the child.

Furthermore, attribution theory has allowed us to understand that every child needs a significant adult in their lives that provides their basic physical and psychological needs. Unfortunately, too many children do not have such an adult presence.

This is where LBJ’s intentions have had the greatest good. There is an argument to be made that the cost has been too high, but the outcomes have been equally positive. It hasn’t solved the problem of poverty, but we have made great strides in equalizing the opportunity to experience the American Dream.

The War on Poverty, along with policies such as Affirmative Action, the Federal Housing Authority, the Equal Rights Commission, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others have allowed more people access to the American Dream.

Does this mean that everyone has to take advantage of the opportunity to achieve the American Dream? No.

Does it mean that we have taken many excuses away from those who have failed to achieve the American Dream? Yes.

Since the 1960s, we have had tremendous success in equalizing access to the Dream.

For example…

The African-American middle class, which did not exist prior to the 1960s, is larger than ever before and growing larger with every subsequent generation. Currently, 19% of African-Americans have a Bachelor’s Degree, which is closing in on the overall number of 27% of all American having a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. Compare that to 34% of African-Americans in 1970 that had a HIGH SCHOOL diploma. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009; The Black Collegian, 2001).

Women now make up 56% of our college population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Something unheard of before the 1960s.

People with disabilities now have more access to help in overcoming the limitations placed on them by nature or nurture.

Women and minorities are making strides into corporate leadership positions each generation (Business Week, 2009). It won’t be long before women and minorities start showing up on lists of CEOs of major corporations. A discussion unheard of twenty years ago.

Our last two Secretaries of State have been women. Colin Powell was the first African-American Secretary of State. And Barack Obama, well you know his historic achievement. Imagine writing this paragraph fifty years ago.

Can True Liberalism alone claim these successes? No.

Can True Conservatism alone claim these successes? No.

Each of these individuals took advantage of their opportunity and then went on to have great individual success. To say otherwise, discredits the individual accomplishment.

However, True Liberalism has allowed greater access to the American Dream, which has allowed for much of the minority success, which was shut off to them prior to the True Liberal revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

Has it been expensive? Yes.

Could we have funded it a better way? I don’t know, because if we would’ve shortchanged the effort, the results could’ve been different.

Can we claim success? Yes, but it is not complete.

If we had to do it over again, should we? Yes. Yes. Yes.

I know we will always have poverty in America. I know we will always have a system of haves and have nots.

This, however, should be a result of the individual failing to take advantage of the opportunity and not due to the fact the child was born into a bad social environment where the opportunity was never had for the taking.

We still have too many children born into hopeless situations in our inner-cities. Ninety-nine percent of these children will never be able to make the American Dream a reality.

Many of these children do not have even their basic physical needs of food, clothing and shelter met. Almost all of them are living in situations where safety – physical and psychological – is nothing but a dream.

Yet, conservatives expect these children to simply set aside these basic needs and still achieve self-actualization. Impossible.

This where True Liberalism offers hope to the disadvantaged and the disadvantaged tend to vote for the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, this is also where today’s Democratic Party too often fails to see the goal of True Liberalism and sees only voters to be rewarded.

Schools have been the place where we have attempted help children overcome some of these obstacles with school lunch programs, transportation, safe environments, etc. However, our inner-city schools struggle to accomplish even this.

Social welfare has been the place where we have attempted to provide money for parents and children in order to for them to be able to eat, have a roof over their heads and clothes. Children cannot be expected to succeed in school if Dad and Mom are starving or they have to live in their car.

Health care for parents and children are crucial for achieving the American Dream. Pre-natal care along with medical care for children are important aspects of achieving the Dream. Children with sick parents that could be healed with modern medicine, struggle to have success in school as their safety need is threatened.

Affirmative action for women and minorities forces employers to look beyond social stereotypes and allow access to the American dream for social economic advancement for minorities. Parents in the middle class raise kids to be part of the middle class or higher. A stronger minority middle class, where affirmative action is the strongest, equals a stronger minority middle class for the future.

Again, a debate on cost is valuable so long as the net good is still accomplished. It is also crucial that we accomplish the goal of access to the Dream in a way that does not violate the principles of our Founders. Although its great effectiveness in helping to create the African-American middle class, I struggle with the constitutionality of Federally-imposed affirmative action requirements. Can the end justify the means?

However, the benefit to society of these programs have been invaluable as the American Dream continues to be alive and access to it continues to be based on ability and not birth, which was a major goal of the Founding Fathers (slavery and the rights of women notwithstanding).

The Dream is not a right. The Dream is a choice.

Equal opportunity to access the Dream is a right. True Liberalism seeks this.


Please feel free comment on this post or on Scott’s conservative philosophy post. The only way to seek common ground on the future of America is through effective dialogue. Neither Scott nor I claim to have the complete answers to the problems facing America. If you have any thoughts on this matter, please post them so that the blog can be a place for this dialogue as our great National Constitution enters its 221st year of existence.

Scott and I appreciate your readership of the blog.


  1. Scott, let me say there is not a whole lot in your post that I can absolutely disagree with, just perhaps shed some clarifying light on a few points, or at least provide my interpretation.

    "I tend to fall on the importance of the group to nurture the individual, especially in the way this relates to children"

    If you substitute "group" with "family" then I really agree with this statement. I think its a load of BS what Hillary Clinton said about "it takes a community to raise a child". I think it takes an attentive set of parents and possibly some siblings to properly raise a child. Some of the most down to earth, intelligent, and successful people I know were homeschooled, and while its not as if there is zero interaction with "the group", there really is not all that much influential interaction. A caring, disciplined, and attentive mom and dad are the two best forces for good in the early development of the child.

    "Yet, conservatives expect these children to simply set aside these basic needs and still achieve self-actualization. Impossible. "

    This is a liberal caricature of Conservatism. I don't think nothing need be done to help, but Conservatives are constantly accused of "wanting children to starve" or wanting to cause a genocide all because we dont support throwing infinite dollars into the coffers of supremely corrupt education bureaucrats and administrators. We have different ideas, ones that the teachers unions may not like, but ones that Americans should. Many of them you outlined in your post earlier this year.

    I appreciate the fact that you acknowledged the epic failure of the elected Democrats in our government to fully grasp the ideology that you have discussed. As people like Rush Limbaugh and many others have been saying for decades, the elected Democrats in office see these groups of minorities and the poor not as innocents needing a hand up, but as permanent voter blocs. You highlight several statistics that seem to show Affirmative action and welfare programs are succeeding, but we know that many other statistics exist that prove their failure, beginning with simple comparisons of academic performance.

    There really needs to be a whole paradigm shift in the worldview of minorities in this country, as stated by "The Hutch", Dr. Kenneth Hutchison. He describes the Minority Thought Pattern as the perpetual status of victim that millions of blacks, hispanics, and other minorities harbor as their own self-image. This mindset has been completely created by liberal (if you want, I'll start saying "Marxist" or "Fascist" to differentiate between what you describe as liberal and what these leftists in the media and government ascribe to) members of government and media such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama, et al. Minorities are always given an excuse for their failure and it is always the evil white conservatives' fault. This type of demagoguery does nothing to serve the public good or inspire minorities to look past their (in many cases self-imposed) shackles.

  2. All that being said, I won't deny that there needs to be some amount of help for people who, through no fault of their own, drew the short stick in life. The difference is that I'm worried that liberalism seeks to provide equal outcomes through massive wealth redistribution using the full force of government whereas conservatism seeks to provide equal opportunity by ensuring fair rules of the road.

    What you describe as "True Liberalism" seems closer to "classical liberalism" than what is modernly referred to as liberalism. Nancy Pelosi does not have the welfare of America in her heart when she crams through a massive, budget busting, highly unpopular, healthcare-delivery system destroying, liberty and freedom usurping disaster of a "healthcare bill": she has eternal Democrat Power in her heart.

    Even if she really believed her bill to be a good thing for America, intellectual honesty would allow for some consideration of the will of the people along with ample time to actually read the friggin' bill before force-feeding it to the people at 11:30pm on a Saturday night!

    The bill ought to be called the "Re Elect Democrats Forever Act of 2009", because she's figuring that once the Democrats get national healthcare, voters will always send them back since the Republicans will be the party of "trying to take healthcare away from the poor and minorities".

    Its so insidious it makes me sick! Why do I, a free man living in the United States, HAVE to buy a government approved healthcare plan or face a fine of $250,000 AND a year in jail? How in the hell is THAT going to make healthcare better in this country?

    So Scott, when I claim that your elected representatives are behaving in a manner which seems antithetical to your stated philosophy, you know what I'm talking about.

  3. We can disagree with the group statement. Here's how I see it, I don't think Clinton was wrong with the village idea. Even your friends that were home-schooled had interaction with groups outside of the immediate family.

    Here is a list of things that influence child development. It is not complete, but it is a start.

    Mom and Dad

    Brothers and Sisters, if present

    Grandparents, if present

    Church and/or other community organizations

    The parents of peers (if they do their jobs, then the parent can be assured of less negative inlfuence)

    School (Good teachers that reinforce what the parents are already teaching and parents reinforcing what the school is teaching)

    I know there are others, but it is early.

    I have heard of too many stories where great parents had children that became deliquent. Every time this has happened, the conclusion as to why always falls on at least one of these group/village factors failing the child (i.e. peers without parental influence).

    A good parent tries to control for all of these factors, but it is impossible to always have your eyes on your child, especially as they become adolescents.

    When the group/village functions in the best interest of children, then the child develops within the social ideals.

    This was what I was meaning by the group.

  4. My conclusion about conservatives seeing the poor as having made bad choices comes from O'Reilly and Hannitey that have been reinforced by conservations with conservatives.

    It isn't a liberal stereotype. There is a significant portion of the conservative population that sees poverty as simply due to bad choices of children who couldn't overcome their position in life.

    This is counter to the Maslow heirarchy. Scott, I know you have compassion (through your work with the United Way) for those who start out in a bad situation, but too many of your conservative brethren lack this trait.

  5. You're right that "the group" has an impact, but you yourself said that by the time a child makes it to school, most of that development has taken place. I fully believe that a strong family can overcome other outside negative influences. It may make it harder, obviously, but the number one, vastly more important factor in a child's development is strong family.

    As far as the bad choices argument for poverty, I think the argument goes both ways and you have a bifurcation. Are there lots of people (especially kids) who are poor through no fault of their own? Absolutely and we ought to do our part to help get those folks self-fufilling.

    However, the ones you hear Hannity and other conservatives complaining about are the people who are abusing the welfare of others. There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why a 20-50 year old person in workable health needs to spend perpetuity on welfare. If the liberals really believed in this True Liberalism of providing that opportunity for individual success and NOT the cradle to the grave impoverished welfare handouts, we'd see some turnover in this population.

    Poverty cannot be eliminated, however, perpetual poverty for the same group should not exist in this country. My argument is that your ideology has hijacked the "Equal opportunity" goal and replaced it with "Equal outcome".

    Hannity and others (myself included) get upset with people who have no excuse except for "life isn't fair". No friggin' crap but are you going to allow some unfairness to dictate the way you spend the WHOLE of your life? That's the difference.

  6. "My argument is that your ideology has hijacked the "Equal opportunity" goal and replaced it with "Equal outcome"."

    And you complain that liberals stereotype conservatives. Other than the ridiculous rhetoric on conservative talk radio, there is no one that believes this.

    In order to accomplish this goal of equal opportunity do we need to have progressive taxation? Yes!!! Even Adam Smith understood this.

    Conservatives want to call this wealth redistribution. However, they are wrong. All progressive taxation is allowing those who can afford to pay more, to pay more to help those children who got a bum deal at the beginning of their lives.

    Scott - you are argue about the importance of the family, but then have no real solutions to the crisis other than telling people to make better choices.

    I love when conservatives say that they shouldn't have had kids if they can't afford them. Yet, Scott posts about the importance of Maslow's needs hierarchy, which places sex at the most primary needs level.

    Oh yeah, conservatives also argue against the availability of free condoms.

    So let's see if I have this right...

    Even though it is counter to Maslow, poor people shouldn't have sex if they can't afford kids.

    However, if they do have to have Maslow sex, then be responsible.

    In order to help with responsibility, we won't make condoms available, nor will we allow schools to teach responsibility.

    The poor then have to learn it from their families. But the family is dysfuctional, which is why the kids is poor in the first place.

  7. Hannity and other conservatives like to rail on the abuses of the welfare system. Fine, but there will always be abuses to any system created by mankinds.

    Where is the conservative outrage about the mispending of money in the Pentagon. Last fiscal year, the Pentagon could not account for $19 billion. Funny how conservative talk radio has been quiet on that one.

    However, attack the poor. Attack social welfare.

    Don't touch the Pentagon. Leave corporate welfare alone - unless a Democratic president proposes some.

  8. "The poor then have to learn it from their families. But the family is dysfuctional, which is why the kids is poor in the first place."

    So how much money is going to make these families functional then?

    "All progressive taxation is allowing those who can afford to pay more, to pay more to help those children who got a bum deal at the beginning of their lives."

    Really? That's all it is? I'm sure glad to see my "progressive tax dollars" go to someone to buy cigarettes and junk food and you call it helping a child who got a bum deal.

    "Hannity and other conservatives like to rail on the abuses of the welfare system. Fine, but there will always be abuses to any system created by mankinds."

    Yes, I'll rail on the abuses of the system. People LIVE off this. That's not what it's intended for. I mean, by your logic, we should have nobody on welfare by now. If it's supposed to help kids who got a bum start to life then they shouldn't need welfare because this should help them to become educated, no? How many more generations need to be on welfare before they don't need it any longer?

    "Where is the conservative outrage about the mispending of money in the Pentagon. Last fiscal year, the Pentagon could not account for $19 billion."

    RIGHT HERE!!! You think just because it's the Pentagon I don't care? Dude, waste is waste and THAT'S WHAT YOU GET FROM THE GOVERNMENT!

  9. I agree that misspent and unaccounted for money is bad anywhere, but can we have some context? $19B the Pentagon supposedly can't account for...Scott, Obama signed a 787B "stimulus plan" whose sole objective was to create or "save" jobs and since then, we've lost about 3 million jobs and the federal reserve recently came out to speculate that unemployment could remain in the double digits for several more years.

    We spent $700B on bailing out financial institutions. There is a story on Fox right now about the misspending of billions of taxpayer funds to AIG that ended up in the coffers of Goldman Sachs, Wachovia, etc.

    We spend billions each year on "education" and what do we get in return? Epic failure from the schools who receive the most of that money.

    And we've been spending God knows how much to "fight poverty" since the 1960s and we still have the same problems as before. You claim some success due to the advances made by women and minorities, but there are still poor people waiting in line for "Obama's stash money".

    Like I said, I agree that the government, in general, wastes taxpayer money, but you always want to point at Defense as this huge criminal of waste...yet Democrat (and liberal Republican, so liberal) policies are to blame for a 1.4 Trillion dollar deficit THIS fiscal year (the one we just ended).

    Context plz?