Where we must correct the norm

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as being pragmatic, as being more influenced by the practical consequences of an idea than by any other considerations. But that self-image is marred when political and economic considerations complicate the picture.

What follows are what I believe to be very practical suggestions to some seemingly intractable problems. Some of you will find my thinking to be naïve or that I am tilting at windmills. Nevertheless, here is my offering:

Bring our troops home

Our nation's immigration problem, assuming that we can all agree that we have a problem, can be likened to the Gulf oil spill, where the flow has proven to be unstoppable despite efforts to contain it. My solution is wide ranging and would solve an even larger problem at the same time; kill two birds with the same stone, as it were.

All over the world, we have more than 700 military bases employing hundreds of thousands of troops. Let's bring them home and deploy them along our porous borders, and finally plug up a mass migration that this country can no longer absorb.

I would ask: Do we really need 116,000 U.S. military personnel in Europe, including 75,603 stationed in Germany? Same question for the 30,000 troops in South Korea.

I do realize that our presence in the Middle East is a slightly more delicate matter, but I must also ask: Does anyone believe that the United States can bring democracy to people who cling ferociously to a culture and a religion centuries old and decidedly undemocratic? Will women there suddenly achieve basic human rights because America has dictated it at the point of a gun?

What makes us think that we will succeed in subduing a nation (Afghanistan) that has defied similar efforts by the Greek and British empires and Russia? Some people, myself included, believe our continued occupation of Middle Eastern countries fans the very flames of terrorism we're fighting so desperately to control.

Let's bring our brave and dedicated troops home to address a real need.

Stop private campaign funding

Make all elections in this country — national, state and local — publicly financed. Take private money and its corrosive influence completely out of political campaigning. That influence has become a sickness that infects our democracy at all levels and makes a mockery of the first three words of the Constitution.

Our elections should be about the voters — not corporate donors and lobbyists. Public funding of campaigns would end reliance on special interests for campaign cash. Being freed from the money chase would give candidates more time to spend with constituents, talking about issues that matter to them. When they enter office, they would consider legislation on the merits, without worrying about whether they are pleasing well-heeled benefactors.

Mandate alternative energy source

All new residential and commercial construction throughout the country must be fitted with solar panels. If we had made that commitment back in the early '70s, when we first learned that oil was a weapon that could bring this country to its knees, we would have made enormous strides to break our dependence on fossil fuels.

Corollary: All new construction in California must come equipped with gray water recycling systems. These systems would divert water draining from sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, showers and bathtubs into the soil and plant life that is on the property. This would save millions/billions/trillions of gallons of water now allocated for plant irrigation.

We've been told often enough that drought in California is no longer an occasional problem, but a permanent condition. We need to do more than stop-gap conservation and start thinking in terms of long range sustainability.

Keep politics, education separate

Return control of education to local school districts. Let politicians and educators each do what they do, but keep their domains separate. Get teachers unions out of the political endorsement business and get politicians out of our business.

And while we're at it, dismantle all bureaucracies that siphon public money away from our schools and into the pockets of businesses and "experts" more in touch with the politicians mentioned above than the true interests of education.

Make them teachers, too

Just for good measure, I'll throw in one more suggestion for the umpteenth time: Every school administrator statewide should be required to teach one class daily.

At a typical high school, that would equate to a savings of one teacher's salary. Multiply $50,000 (average teacher salary) times the thousands of high schools and junior high schools throughout California, and then think of that amount as a partial offset to the deep slashes presently gouging our schools, with more gouging to come. Consider also the benefit of administrators getting out from behind their desks and seeing first-hand what teachers deal with.

[jim dash]

As I wrote this, I realized that the pessimist in me demands equal time with the pragmatist. I am well aware that the forces arrayed against each of these suggestions are formidable and tied securely to the status quo.

But the optimist in me demands equal time as well. He insists even in the face of overwhelming odds that, where there is a will that derives from the common sense of the people, from their basic sense of fairness, and from the founding principles of this great country, there is a way.

DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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