Smarter choices needed for government to change

Monday, August 18, 2008 | 12:35 p.m. CDT; updated 12:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 18, 2008

I am always fascinated by people who insist that we need less government. While I could certainly agree with them that this would be an ideal worth striving to attain, we have a long way to go. From what I have experienced with my fellow citizens, I have to say that the more laws we have, the better we can maintain civilization.

Let's face it. A great many people really don't seem to have any idea as to where their rights end and another's begin. Just a quick look at the number of traffic tickets issued daily for careless and imprudent driving in one's home town would provide an indication of how far we have to go. How many individuals in the past year walked into either their work place or a public facility with a gun and opened fire on relative strangers? Are we expected to believe that people in general are capable of governing themselves?

Ask yourself if you believe that an overwhelming majority of taxpayers would hand the internal revenue service their fair share if there were no laws in place against tax evasion. I sincerely believe that there are many who would consider it their duty to comply. But I believe equally that there are many who would not. Even with a penalty in place there are those who try to get around the law.

Unfortunately, too many of us have failed to realize the important role education played in keeping the society in stable condition while at the same time it was evolving to stay in tune with developing social attitudes. We did our part and established free, public schools. But then we deceived ourselves, for example, into believing that the majority of parents would value education. We thought that they would foster cultural attitudes in their families that would assure that children would remain in school until they were sufficiently qualified to take care of themselves and make a productive contribution to society. When we discovered that this was not to be, we failed to develop an alternative system by which the state required children to remain in school until they could meet the same criteria. We accepted the faulty belief that making the children happy was more important.

And so here we are, dogged by an illiteracy rate that is steadily diminishing our ability to maintain a democratic republic. Instead of making progress toward self-government, our society is becoming so chaotic that we are risking the loss of many of our freedoms because of the inability of so many to control their own behavior. Our misguided political leaders in their efforts to bend the world to their will seem to insist on making young people think the only way that they can make a contribution to their country is by joining the military service. How about making sure that every school system that receives federal funds has progressive classes in civics? How about diplomacy training in the schools, along with Reserve Officer Training Classes (ROTC)?

I run into examples in every field of endeavor of incompetent, ill-mannered and illiterate employees. It would seem that expecting people to know how to budget their time so that they can get to work at the hour in which they are due is too much to ask. In most cases, attempting to receive satisfactory customer service over the telephone is equivalent to trying to scale Mount Everest. Nevertheless, things probably will only worsen. Apparently, there is a gene in the DNA of many Americans that forces them to live with the belief that the U.S. is the land where only perfection exists. They seek perpetually to project an image that only good guys exist here, a proposition that has never been true. So there is no improvement to be made on perfection and there is no purification to be made for purity. In the meantime, to become believers, we need only to keep flying the Stars and Stripes and fooling ourselves at our own expense.

Still, in spite of the hard work by the messengers of social suicide, a sizable number of young men and women have stayed in school and are prepared to contribute to the country the best of their skills, intelligence and labor. To be sure, the scavengers have left very little to be salvaged, but for their sake and the sake of their progeny, we can only hope these young people can restore some elements of the promise that generations of Americans have inherited.

This is not to suggest that the spoilers will give up without a good fight. They have been convinced too long that might makes right, and they are willing to die in the effort while trying to convince people that only Islamic terrorists want martyrdom. This is the weapon of choice for many who favor self-government, and some of us would argue that this is the primary reason they have failed to acquire it.

If the generation seeking change is smart enough to study the efforts of early educators and adapt some of those ideas and philosophies to restructure our present educational system, they might have a chance to get it right.

Overcoming the influence of the spoilers, television, movies and over-indulgent and ineffective parents will make it a full-time job. But these are the parents and teachers of the future. If you want things to change, they're worth the effort.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at


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