Well, the most obvious answer to the question is yes, the future shall be different from the past. But I wouldn’t have anything to write about if that were the case, now would I? But, to paraphrase George Santayana, if I see the future as the past, then my life would be condemned and I would have no future.
The other day I received a series of robot-calls, calls generated by a computer. Unlike so many of these calls that have been plaguing our home phone recently, this one left a message telling us that it was a political survey and that they would be calling again. For those who have registered their phone numbers with the “Do Not Call Registry”, politically-based organizations, charities, and debt collectors are exempt from the rules concerning such calls.
So, as it were, I was left with no alternative but to answer the call and endure whatever message or questions were involved in this survey. It turned out that this call came from Mike Huckabee’s political action committee. When it was all said and done, I found the website for this PAC and sent them a letter indicating that I wanted my name and number removed from their database. As of today, I haven’t heard anything from them so I shall assume they took the hint and will leave me alone.
Here is part of what I wrote in that letter,
. . . “I am going to quote Arlo Guthrie, specifically a statement he made to a sergeant during his draft physical, namely, “you have a lot of damn gall” (from “Alice’s Restaurant”) to phone my home today. You had even more gall asking me to contribute to your political action committee when my wife and I are registered Democrats.
The only reason that I answered the phone call today was because you have tried to contact us twice before and left messages that you would be trying again later. Because of my financial situation, I have found it necessary to screen calls and I am not in the mood for more computer-generated junk.
If I thought for a moment that Governor Huckabee and his political philosophy matched mine, I would have supported him during the primaries. Now, it is clear that he wasn’t satisfied with his results in the last set of primaries and is now going to bombard the landscape with his robot/computer generated calls until he gets the funds so that he can try again.
One of the things that Governor Huckabee implied (and I presume that he recorded the message that accompanied the survey) was that I would be angry at the way the Obama administration was dealing with the economic crisis and that a contribution to his PAC would enable him to find candidates who were equally angry and they would go to Albany and Washington and stop this from happening. But he never offered a solution or counter proposal; only anger and spite. I am not in the mood to hear that from any politician. And as I also pointed out in my letter to his PAC,
Let me remind you that it was President Bush and his administration that began the bailout process; don’t blame the present administration for the errors of their predecessors.
Don’t tell me that it was Democrats who tanked the economy and who’s reckless spending wrecked the budget. It was President Bush’s policies and lack of concern for the average American that brought about the disaster that we are now trying to dig our way out of. I have no desire for more of the same from any Republican who wants to return to the good old days.
Of course, I am angry about what is happening in this country and I am not all that certain that the present administration has the proper plans in place to deal with the problems. But they are trying and the Republicans and conservatives are more interested in obstructing those plans than they are in offering realistic and plausible solutions.
If the battle plan of the Republicans for the next few years is to say “no, no, no<” then why should I listen to them? All they are doing is reinforcing the belief that I have had for many years that conservatives don’t want to see change and that they long for the old days. They want to maintain the status quo at all costs. I went to school in those days and I don’t see much that was good back then.
But I am not simply saying that the Democrats have the appropriate answers either. For what I am hearing from the Democrats is that they are going to try the same old stuff, the stuff they tried many years ago. But they are ignoring the reality of the moment in favor of their own glary days and I think that is a big mistake.
As I have pointed out before, the call for increased support for science and mathematics education is not new; it is a call that has been with us for at least twenty years (see “Have We Learned Anything?”), and yet we haven’t really done anything. In part, we have done anything because we have not faced a crisis like we did in 1957 when the former Soviet Union launched the first Sputnik and we felt that our mathematics and science education was not up to the task of meeting the challenge.
The country’s response then was to launch a massive national campaign to improve mathematics and science education. Through that effort, we saw a rebirth in those areas and met the challenge put forth by President Kennedy to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before 1970. But when the war in Viet Nam and the social problems at home began draining our resources, we began cutting back on the support for science and mathematics education (see “Liberal Arts and Science Education in the 21st Century” and “Who Goes First?”). With each cutback in support, we have regressed in what we can and cannot do in regards to science and mathematics education.
Now, we are trying to re-support that education when what we should be doing is to re-establishing what we did and moving beyond that. I understand that that there is money in the stimulus plans to rebuild our schools and I agree that this is a necessary step. But let’s not build the schools so that they look like and work like the ones we have now; let’s build the schools so that they utilize alternative energy resources and let’s make sure that they are cutting-edge technology centers. Right now, education answers to technology and is always behind; we have the opportunity to be pro-active with technology in the schools instead of having schools react to the changes in technology.
It should be pointed out that mankind once walked on the moon but we now have had two and perhaps three generations of students who only know that from history and not present day exploration. It should also be pointed out that should we decide to once again walk on the moon, all of the data that was gathered almost forty years ago is essentially lost; lost because we have not supported the technology that was used to store that data forty years ago and we have not maintained systems that could keep that information available.
This will require that our teachers be brought up to speed with regards to technology and our science and mathematics labs (from kindergarten through college) need to be the focal point of technology change, not one generation removed from the change.
Second, our schools must get back into the business of teaching our children how to think, not just simply reproducing answers. But, for our teachers to teach the students how to think, they must know how to think and that requires some extra effort. We cannot look at the past and say “that” worked, we have to look at the future and figure out what is going to be “there” when we get “there”.
Will the future be any different than the past? If we allow the present day politics to drive our thoughts and processes, no, the future will not be any different and that will be a shame. But if we look to the future and cast off the burdens of the past and move into the future, we might find a better answer than the ones we are working with right now.
Cross-posted to RedBlueChristian