Until Midterm Elections...

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.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A discussion on our public discourse

On June 10, 2009, James Von Brunn entered the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and opened fire. Von Brunn was known Holocaust-denier and his actions were that of a dying man trying to fix what he believed to be an injustice – too much focus on the Jews.

Immediately after the attack, liberals attacked conservative talk radio for inciting the actions of a man that was always extreme, but never psychotic. A gross generalization, but it has some elements of truth. After all, the tone of many of these shows – and those on the left – is angry bordering on rage.

On November 5, 2009, Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, killing 13 people in his rampage. The motivation for Hasan was his open hatred of American military policy against Islam, his religion.



Immediately after the attack, conservatives attacked the Obama administration for being soft on terrorism and allowing for anti-American speech in the name of multiculturalism. A gross generalization, but it has some elements of truth. After all, the tone of multiculturalism does often ignore general moral principles.

On December 25, 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a plane on route to Detroit. The accused bomber has indicated that he was acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, which has also claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing.

Immediately after the attack, conservatives attacked the Obama administration for being soft on terrorism and allowing a man to board a plane in Denmark, of which America has no jurisdiction.

Two of the men behind the Christmas Day plot on Detroit were in American custody, having been arrested and placed in Guantanamo in 2004. They were released by the Bush Administration in 2007 to Saudi Arabia and placed in a “art therapy rehabilitation program” and then were set free. This has not been part of the Republican attack.

My conclusion from this information…Liberals and Conservatives Hate Each Other!!!

I know that I might not have stumbled on something original, but I think this is getting out-of-hand. I mean some liberals still claim Bush new about 9/11 and allowed it to happen. Conservatives continue to clamor that President Obama wasn’t born in America.

But the debate know borders on causing paralysis of our decision making bodies. The policies of the President, just one year into his term, are as responsible of the December 25 bombing as conservative talk radio is responsible for the Holocaust Museum shooting.

There are crazy people out there who are trying to do bad things. Sometimes the best policies can’t prevent madmen.

And blaming others does not solve the problem.

After all, the intelligence community that was found responsible for the 9/11 attacks is the same intelligence community that has continued to let America down with this latest incident. The blame for this failure to fix the system falls to both President Bush and President Obama just as the blame for 9/11 falls to both President Bush and President Clinton.

In 2007, President Bush and his National Security team began looking at the close of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and moving prisoners to secure locations in the United States and/or overseas. Now conservatives attack President Obama for the same policy.

To blame one side and absolve the other reduces the debate to the lowest common denominator, which, unfortunately, wins elections.

It seems that everyone on the right and left wants their cake and to eat it as well.

All of this reminds me an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. I scanned it and put it on my website. The address of the strip is http://www.mysocialstudiesclass.com/Calvin_and_Hobbes_on_Public_Debate.pdf.

Attack the left is the mantra of the conservatives so as to discredit Democrats so that the election can be won.

Attack the right is the mantra of the liberals so as to discredit Republicans so that the election can be won.

I wish I could say this blog was free from this pettiness, but, at times, it too has devolved into a discourse that appeals to the lowest denominator of humanity.

When did this happen?

One thing that is true of American history has been rigorous debate that has often gone too far. After all, the United States Senate Chamber has been the site of five shooting incidents.

However, it seems different today and I don’t think the 24/7 partisan news cycle has helped.

What can we do?

Unfortunately, we can’t just wish everyone in America to develop mature and logically reasoned political arguments. After all, we don’t even teach such things in our public or private schools.

I just saw where the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has dropped philosophy as a major. I would hope that was an aberration, but colleges and universities across the nation are dropping humanities courses. Sure, a business degree (or any other type of training degree) can teach how to make a living, but humanities courses (i.e. history, literature, philosophy, etc) teach a student how to live what Aristotle called the good and principled life.

In our high schools, students take one course on American Government and two courses on American history. In many cases, it is the first time students are exposed to these disciplines.

Let’s not even get us started on logic and debate. In too many schools, this is a club and not a part of the curriculum.

How can we expect our political discourse to be above that of an adolescent when most of the nation has the knowledge of politics, history, philosophy or literature similar to that of our adolescents?

Because of this, our public discourse is just what little Calvin describes. Take everything to the lowest common denominator and yell it repeatedly.

No solutions are put forth other than elect our person and the world will blossom as never before.

The solution is stronger academic curriculum in the social studies. I’m not talking only at the high school and collegiate level. My colleague on the blog has proposed a civics curriculum that emphasizes United States history starting at the Kindergarten level and continuing throughout the entire career of the student.

While such a US-centric approach makes this Western European historian shutter, the idea has much merit. Combined with an emphasis on our government (the health care debate was an excellent opportunity to learn the rules of our Senate), the development of political thought throughout human history and logical argument construction, such a curriculum would help us raise the level of political discourse in our nation.

But that might lead to solutions. Solutions are dull. Compromise is boring. Deep philosophical discussion is difficult.

Who wants that? It is entertainment we want. Even if it is the cause our problems.

4 comments:

  1. And this morning's news further proves my point. Limbaugh pleaded with the President to not give relief money to the government of Haiti because it is a corrupt dictatorship. Liberals attacked this as Limbaugh not wanting to give aid to the Haiti people. Not true.

    However, Limbaugh implied though that Obama had to be happy for the Haiti situaiton because he can get some good political points for it. This is no different than liberals implying that Bush's reaction to Katrina proves he hates poor black people.

    Both are gross mischaracterizations of the fact.

    Another example of public discourse appealing to the lowest common denominator.

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  2. There is no evidence that von Brunn shot anybody.

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  3. Happy New Year!

    I'm glad you recognize the nonsense coming out of our media (liberals) regarding Limbaugh and many of his recent statements. Regarding Haiti, we've been pouring billions into that country for decades and it has remained one of, if not the, poorest countries in the Americas. What we need to export is a little Capitalism...but I digress.

    I'll stick up for Limbaugh here, being the resident conservative. His point about Obama reflects as much on our sycophantic media as it does anything else. Just Friday, a mere 72 hours after the earthquake, the stories of utter devastation and the complete lack of ability for people to actually distribute aid into the region are vast. However, if you only got your news from the AP, you'd think Obama was swooping in and really fixing things up. You'd think that Obama's response to Haiti was ten times better than Bush's response to Katrina; but you'd be wrong. That is the point Rush was making...

    Essentially, getting in to help out these devastated areas is really difficult. Our military does a fine job, as good as anyone else, but sometimes there are limitations and even obstacles.

    In New Orleans, Ray Nagan (mayor of the city)utterly failed as a first responder living in New Orleans. He could have shipped people out in the vast cadre of school buses but did not act, then he bitched about Bush not doing anything to help them because they were black.

    In Haiti, starving and desperate people are attacking the aid distributors and roaming gangs are attacking and stealing food. People are coming down with dysentary and dehydration. Its tough.

    What I dont want to see, but we probably will see it, is Obama trying to make it all about him and his actions instead of crediting the thousand charitable organizations that are on the ground in Haiti doing the really hard work.

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  4. Now to address your main point:

    You are absolutely correct when you say the problem is Education Education Education.

    I one-hundred percent agree that we need a MUCH stronger educational background regarding thought, debate, philosophy, politics, and most important...History!

    I've told the story before, but I'll mention it again here anecdotally. In second grade, I distinctly remember learning a whole unit about slavery and Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad. Now, not to discredit that woman, she was a brave soul and her spot in history should not be diminished, but at that same time in my life, I could not have told you the first 3 presidents. Probably Washington. Well, okay maybe the first 3. But not the first 5.

    Now that is absurd! I think learning about the presidents and the American founding...the TRUE story of the American founding, not the whitewashed, perverted Howard Zinn version of the founding.

    Children from a young age need to understand market principles and economics - as high level and basic as it may be, but these things need to be something that are constantly being built upon and drilled down into deeper. In the same way that we first learn to count, then add, then subtract, etc etc, until we are doing calculus and even beyond, school-children in the USA need to have an education in civil matters. Infact, such an education is even more critical than mathematics. I believe that the education of the American experiment and its real history is the key to preserving America as we know and love it, as it was established.

    Scott, these aspects of our educational curricula have been slowly destroyed over 50 years of liberal influence in the schools. You recognize that we lack these things, but it was not always the case.

    Real educational reform in this country needs to start with a return to the basic principles that founded this country - individual responsibility,
    hard work, pursuing excellence.

    These are virtues that too few people learn and practice these days. In our schools, we have things like "Late work not allowed" where you are basically permitted to turn things in whenever. We have WAM - which my brother lovingly points out as a total and complete waste of educational minutes. We have "Extra help". Why is "extra help" build into our very limited educational time? That's what summer school and staying after school are for.

    Essentially, sloth is encouraged by the system. People are being raised to be dependent, which is what will eventually kill this nation.

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