Archive for Conservatives

Conservatives Create Opportunities, Not Programs: Education

Posted in education, My Government with tags , , on December 29, 2008 by nighttwister

This is the first in a series of conservative solution proposals. I have no idea how many more I will do. I just know that we have to have an answer to the programs the liberals and conservatives have been implementing for the past couple of decades.

For the past eight years (some might say twenty), conservatives in government have been acting like democrats. We’ve seen program after program implemented, give more and more control of our lives over to the government. This flies in the face of the true conservative principle of limited government. This, I believe, has been our greatest failure, and has resulted in being marginalized and beaten at the voting booth. We will never be able to out-program the Democrats.

Nowhere is this as evident as it is in education. Federal spending on education has increased at an alarming rate since 2000, with little measurable benefit. The following hockey stick graph from a Department of Education website shows the increase in K-12 federal spending since 1966.

Too many students continue to fail to meet minimum standards in basic subjects, even with this dramatic increase in federal spending. State spending also has been trending up at a concerning rate. The following graph shows the increase in spending broken down by local, state, and federal government.

You’ll note in the graph that local spending has risen at a more reasonable and consistent rate. This is expected, since people have more control over the rise of local taxes than they do for state and federal.

As if this weren’t enough, not nearly enough of this money is making its way back to the classroom. It’s difficult to obtain information on how much money makes its way to the local school districts, the Heritage Foundation reports that New York City’s public schools revealed that only 43 percent of the city’s total education funds was used for direct classroom expenditures. The simple fact is, most government programs are run like the DMV. Anyone that doesn’t realize this is either incredibly ignorant, or is someone that benefits from the system.

Another thing conservatives often do is to promote solutions that don’t have enough support. In the case of education, vouchers is a good example. While I think there are some great possibilities with them, I think there are also some negatives. And let’s face it; if the issue can’t win in Utah, it’s not going to win elsewhere. We simply can’t continue to take an all-or-none approach when presenting conservative solutions. The best conservative solution is the one that brings opportunity, while at the same time emphasizing responsibility and accountability. I wrote about this recently in a blog called The Three Parts of Freedom. I’m not usually one to link to my own work, but for those that want a deeper understanding of the philosophy I propose, it’s an important read.

Opportunity

Opportunity begins with choice. Choice brings competition, which is absolutely necessary for success. You’d have a difficult time finding a successful small businessman that didn’t want fair competition in their marketplace. It not only benefits the customer, but it also pushes them to continue to improve and stay sharp.

The two most attractive opportunities in education today are Charter Schools, and School Choice. There’s no question that Charter schools have been successful where they’ve been implemented. The State of Colorado released the School Accountability Report this month. Four of the top five high schools are charter schools, including Fort Collins’ Ridgeview Classical School which came in at number three with a score of 2.33. Eight of the top ten middle schools were also charter schools, including Liberty Common School in Fort Collins.

The Charter School concept is simple. Families in a local community meet together to determine how they want their children to be educated. This is the conservative way; keeping control over government programs at the lowest level possible. This keeps both responsibility and accountibility (to be discussed later) where it belongs.

School choice drives competition, even among traditional public schools. Examples in my community are Lesher Junior High School, which is involved in the InterBaccalaureate (IB) program, and my son’s school Kinard Junior High School, which uses the Core Knowledge educational approach. My older son attends Centennial High School here in Fort Collins, which is an alternative school that specializes in educating kids that have difficulty in a traditional school environment. They use the Discovery Program approach. Having the ability to choose among programs such as these is important to parents, who have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s education. This leads me to,

Responsibility

To take advantage of the opportunities of school choice, there are certain responsibilities we all must bear. Government’s primary responsibility is to promote educational choice. It must not continue to be manipulated by education associations and teacher unions into believing that children are best educated without choices. These same associations and unions would be better served supporting educational choices which would improve the system for everyone, including them.

Parents also must take responsibility for the education of their children, and that does not simply mean getting them to and from the school building. It includes attending school board meetings, talking with school administrators and your children’s teachers. It also includes volunteering at your school. Most school districts have a list of volunteer opportunities to help fill in gaps in education. They are usually of such a variety that most anyone would be able to help out somewhere. One of the greatest needs is helping students read, or reading to them. This doesn’t require any special skills, yet can make the difference for that student whether or not he succeeds.

Local businesses can help out here too. Often, businesses complain that the workers they hire are not sufficiently educated to do the job required of them, yet how many of those same companies are willing to allow their workers a little time off each month to go help those future workers? A blogger at RedState kansasconservative wrote a very good blog recently on this subject.

Students are not free from responsibility either. When someone else is paying for something for you, you not only have the responsibility to do your part, but demand that others do theirs as well. That means doing your work, getting help when you need it, and helping others that need a little extra help with their work. A community only works when all of its members do their fair share.

This involvement by everyone is what can lead to greater gains. As people see that educational choice leads to better educated students and a better community, voters will be much more willing to consider things like vouchers.

Accountability

Schools still need to meet certain standards, regardless of the desires of the local community. This is where government standards can make sure that all schools are working towards the same goal, and that students that graduate from any type of school can compete in the marketplace. Unfortunately, too many government programs like NCLB and others have failed. All accountability without choice gives us is a list of schools that aren’t meeting the necessary criteria, without the impetus to create real change.

Parents need to hold school and State administrators accountable to providing the opportunity for education for their children. We need to hold our government legislators accountable when they try to take away or prevent educational choice.

The final thing that is necessary for this to be successful is to be able to present it to the public in a simple way. People aren’t going to read a several page position paper to be convinced that an idea is worthwhile. Heck, I’m surprised any of you made it this far in such a long blog post. It seems to me though, that will all of the talented conservatives around, the idea of opportunity, responsibility, and accountability should be able to be communicated in a 30-second commercial.

We’re never going to win the battle of programs with the liberals. Theirs is always going to sound better because there’s less for the individual to do. We have to win the battle of philosophy, which for conservatives means we promote freedom, opportunity, and responsibility. It is there where we will win back the hearts and minds of the American people.

Night Twister

The Three Parts of Freedom

Posted in My Government with tags , on December 15, 2008 by nighttwister

During the Presidential campaign, I made a comment on someone’s blog about why Sarah Palin garnered so much support by people from all walks of life. I’ve been wanting to expand on this for some time, but haven’t had the time do to so until now. That comment was,

Conservatives want to help those that can’t help themselves. Liberals want to help those that won’t help themselves.

Palin’s popularity shows that the majority of American people still support conservative values and freedom. This blog is not intended to be a rallying cry for Palin, but rather an introspective look at what Americans really want from their elected leaders, and why Republican candidates continue to fail. More importantly, I believe it can be a road map back to relevance and respect for our Party if we choose to follow it.

It should come as no surprise that Sarah Palin comes from the last frontier in the United States. Alaska is still a place where the independent, self-sufficient spirit still lives in our nation, at least to some degree. This spirit includes working hard for what you earn, and sharing with others that are less fortunate or have had a bad break. What really brought this to the forefront was her efforts to champion the cause of Down’s Syndrome children. For once, we found a politician that had genuine care about those that could not care for themselves, instead of just looking out for themselves our those that paid them to get there. But that’s the second part of freedom. I’ll get to that later.

The First Part of Freedom is Opportunity.

Opportunity is freedom. This simple truth has been proven countless times throughout out nation’s history. Now, there have certainly been times when opportunity has been denied to various groups of people during that time, but that only shows why we need to work towards making it available to everyone.

Opportunity offers the best avenue to success, but that avenue can also lead to failure. There are some that believe that the possibility of failure needs be eliminated if we care about people. The thing is, they go hand-in-hand. If you remove the possibility of failure, you also take away the possibility of long-term success.

Failure is one of the greatest teachers. Without it, we would be doomed to repeating our mistakes over and over again. It is also those failures that make our successes even more worthwhile. It also allows those around us to lend a helping hand in our time of need so we can get back on our feet again. This is what community is supposed to be about.

Our elected representatives have completely forgotten this over the past eight years. Democrats and Republicans alike have passed spending bill after spending bill, offering temporary help to their friends and supporters, while at the same time taking away everyone else’s opportunity at freedom. Rather than acknowledge the problem they’ve created, they only seek to exacerbate it by continuing to believe that they can prevent failure. This only delays the inevitable, and will hurt everyone even more. Almost everyone knows it, many acknowledge it, but it has become like a runaway train that no one seems to be able to stop.

The Second Part of Freedom is Responsibility.

Freedom isn’t free. It takes the commitment and sacrifice of every one of us to maintain it. Protecting freedom isn’t just for soldiers deployed halfway around the world, although they provide us with a wonderful example of what need to be doing here at home. Protecting freedom, means looking out for and helping those that are unable to help themselves.

How many of us complain about the public school system, but never offer to volunteer to help those that need a little extra guidance and support? Not every kid in town has the same wonderful, supportive parents that I’m sure you are to your children. The most treasured possession I have other than what my kids have given me is a bookmark I received from the parent of a special needs young girl that attended our summer vacation bible school a few years ago. As always seems to be the case, I know I received much more than she did in the exchange. For those of you that wonder why some of us are so adamantly pro-life, this is a primary reason why. We want to help those that are unable to help themselves. They have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness every bit as much as we do.

Our liberal representatives however, believe that these people are expendable. They want to give rights to terrorists who’s choices led to taking away the freedoms of so many, while at the same time doing everything they can to take away the rights of those that cannot obtain them for themselves. These people were given the responsibility to protect our rights, but seem to have forgotten that almost from the day they arrived in D.C. Reality has been turned in its head

The Third Part of Freedom is Accountability.

There are those that will tell you that all we need to do is trust the basic goodness of man. Most of us don’t really believe that though. It’s what we say to try to convince ourselves that we aren’t all that bad. Character is what we do when no one is watching. All too often we know that we fail ourselves and others when no one is looking.

Many of us that have come to this realization know that the only way we can do something about that is to make ourselves accountable to others. Knowing that we have someone to answer to when we’re alone causes us to think twice about what we’re doing.

For far too long now our representatives have failed to live up to their responsibilities. But who can blame them? We have failed to hold them accountable time, and time again. You can’t pick up a paper these days without reading about corruption at some level of government somewhere. Sure, we can point to a couple of recent instances where we tossed them out on their ear, but for those stories there are many, many more where we continue to send the same people back once again for expediency’s sake.

Perhaps its because we’ve forgotten that these people represent us. For those that have forgotten what that word means, here’s a handy definition.

To portray or depict; present the likeness of, as a picture does.

Perhaps we would do well to consider this definition of represent then next time we vote someone into a government position, whether a local school board member, or federal representative. For those that we’ve already sent, it is imperative that we hold these people accountable. Not only with their personal actions, but their votes. We can no longer stand idly by and let them give away our freedoms anymore. Technology offers us the ability to know what they’re doing and how they’re voting. Let’s use it for the good of ourselves and others.

Freedom. It’s difficult to obtain, easy to lose, and even more difficult to get back once we’ve lost it. Fight for it. For yourself, but more importantly for those that cannot fight for themselves.

Night Twister

Are We Watching Conservative Republicanism Die?

Posted in Constitution, Economy, Elections, Fred(!), Giuliani, healthcare, immigration, Mike Huckabee, national defense, News, politics, Ron Paul, Second Amendment, Stupid Media, taxes with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2008 by Randy Streu

I’m beginning to think the liberals and the media (but, as some would say, I repeat myself) have finally won.  Or, perhaps, are about to.  When I look at polls, when I listen to people talk (both of which are horrible, horrible methods with which to gain information — and I understand that) it seems people actually want the government to do their thinking for them.  They want the government to deny them liberty and force charity, or health insurance, or social security — or whatever.  They are truly beginning to believe that the average citizen, perhaps, shouldn’t be trusted with weapons — Second Amendment be damned.

This is what happens when you stop thinking with your brain.

What’s been really demoralizing to me personally is that this disease of liberal stupidity (to risk being redundant again) is striking in the Republican party — even harder than in the past.  I’m demoralized because, frankly, I don’t have the strength to start a new party which will stick to Goldwater conservative principles, the Constitution — and not force us to retreat from a war that we’re winning.

For example, as we move along in the primaries, we start looking at what sort of impact the Republican candidates are going to have in New Hampshire.  Why?  More importantly, why would conservatives wish to use a traditionally blue state (in which even many of the Republicans are liberal) to gauge the outcome of the Republican ballot?  Fred(!) Thompson has wisely chosen to skip this state altogether and move along to SC.  Why?  Simply put, because that’s when the Republican race begins.  I’m not going to harp on this point — Limbaugh touched on it today, and better than I could.

My point is that the Republican party seems to be under the impression that pandering to the Left, that producing a liberal candidate and winning the election is, in fact, winning.  Folks, I’m here to tell you, giving up liberty is not winning.  Period. 

Allowing the government to have any control over your personal life, including whether or not you and your family are covered by health insurance, is a loss of liberty.

Allowing your tax dollars to subsidize abortion, welfare, amnesty (even in the form of educational aid) or whatever, instead of those thing for which the federal government was actually formed is, in fact, loss of liberty.

And for what, Republicans?  To get a president with the (R) next to his name?  What good will that do, if the choice simply brings us further down the Left, after all?  Just what the hell is the point of having a Republican president if he governs like a Democrat?

I’ll close with words of wisdom from Fred Thompson.  “I believe conservatives beat liberals only when they challenge their outdated positions — not embrace them.”

-Streu-