Moral Relativism Strikes Again

April 14, 2013

The nation has been justly horrified at the news out of Albany New York concerning a social studies assignment in which high school students were asked to write an essay justifying Nazi treatment of Jews. The teacher was suspended, which was the right thing to do, but the district announced they will hold diversity workshops to help students get over whatever trauma they suffered.

Given that one-third of the students refused to participate in the assignment, it’s good to know that not all students thought this was a useful academic enterprise. The adults, however, in suggesting the need for workshops forcusing on diversity and tolerance, are missing entirely the source of the problem.

This exercise and other similar examples that have been reported in other states reflect the fact that the teacher in question took to the extreme a core tenet of 21st century social science which says anything is permissible as long as it is done in support of politically correct positions. This is a fundamental violation of almost every ethical and religious doctrine, but unfortunately it has become a foundation of modern political behavior.

Taken to the extreme, diversity has come to mean that all viewpoints are equal. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ACLU defended the teacher’s right to conduct such an exercise.

A critical definciency in 21st century social science and its political counterpart is the lack of belief in evil. If there’s no such thing as evil––just winners and losers––then all things are permissible in the pursuit of one’s goals. That means thinking like Nazis or Islamic Jihadists can be a legitimate learning experience.

A fundamental principle of ethics and religion is there are boundaries one may not cross in one’s personal or public life. To most of us that starts with the Ten Commandments. Of course, the Ten Commandments may not be taught in public school. Instead teachers praise leaders for whom the end justify the means and teach that one shouldn’t let one’s religious or personal beliefs interfere with what’s “good” for society. Example? Those who argue you’re intolerant if you don’t support gay marriage or amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Instead of focusing on diversity, the Albany schools might ask students to puzzle out what kind of thinking allowed Adam Lanza to enter the elementary school he attended with the goal of killing children he did not know? That could have led to a discussion of whether it’s possible for either mental health professionals or government agents to determine who is likely to resort to violence, which is what much of gun control legislation purports to accomplish. That in turn could have led to a discussion of individual responsibility and whether a society where anything goes will long endure.


Buffalo Teachers Story

April 29, 2012

Are you following the battle royal taking place in Buffalo between the teachers union versus the Buffalo School Board and the NYS Education Department?

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School Dropout Poll Results + This Week’s Poll Question

February 5, 2012

Empire Page readers favor Pres. Obama’s admonition to states to raise the drop-out age to 18 by 67% to 25% opposed and 8% having no opinion. Truthfully, however, it’s a hard position to argue against without appearing to be a died-in-the-wool libertarian — i.e., someone who might argue mandatory schooling is an affront to human liberty.

This week we’re asking people to stick out their thumbs and tells us where things stand with NYS’s economy: Is is “on the mend,” “moving sideways,” or “getting worse.” Vote today at the Empire Page website and while you’re there if you’re not already a subscriber why not take out a free trial subscription. Just click on the subscribe link at the top of the page.

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From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy My Employer

January 11, 2012

If the “99%” can feel justified in taking property away from the “1%” on the grounds of fairness, then why can’t workers take a bigger share of a company’s revenue on the same basis? That’s the logic behind a campaign launched by CWA 1199 against Cablevision. Why do Cablevision’s employees need a union according to 1199? Because a former company COO earned more than twice as much as his employees.

Fairness as a determinant of a person’s pay level is also behind the drive to raise New York State’s minimum wage and behind living wage legislation on the agenda in New York City and elsewhere.

The fairness doctrine is predicated on the notion that one’s pay should be more a matter of want than one’s contribution to the enterprise in which one is employed.

Hence, performance as a basis for rewards of pay and status should be downgraded because that criteria undermines the opportunity for those who do not perform well to get their fair share.

Further the ability of the enterprise to pay — whether public or private — should not be considered when it comes to compensation of the work force. Such considerations undermine the ability of those who are unproducitve to gain their fair share.

Let’s be clear that fairness is a subjective value. In the past fairness was balanced against the need of the enterprise to be successful and survive (either make a profit or do the job with available resources). Today, there’s an underlying assumption that no company or government entity is paying its workers a fair wage. Rather, they are hoarding their resources and giving them to the 1%.

A company that pays its workers above the value of the contribution they add to the product or service will not long remain in business. The history of the American car industry is about that very issue. By giving in to union wage and benefit demands, GM, Ford and Chrysler had to charge so much for their cars that they opened the door to foreign manufacturers which were able to sell a superior product at a lower price even when the cost of shipping foreign made cars to the US was taken into account.

The history of the public sector over the past 40 years parallels that of the automobile industry. Elected officials gave in to union demands without consideration of the ability of taxpayers to foot the bill, often by ignoring the future pension obligations they were agreeing to. That lack of political courage has harmed both public sector employees and the general public, as it contributed to the belief that public sector employees are overpaid and underworked relative to private sector workers.

Let’s not waste our time debating whether fairness as a basis of compensation is socialistic or communistic. Labels are not important. What’s important is to recognize the long-term implications of undermining ambition and achievement.

Taken to its logical conclusion doing well in school and working hard in order to obtain a job that gives one decision-making authority and pays well should be discouraged. Why? Those values place the successful individual above the norm and undermine the ability of those who are below average to get their fair share.

Like pay, school grades should not be given out on the basis of performance but rather on the basis of want. Minority and handicapped students have a greater want of good grades since many come from low-income households and enter school with “unfair” disadvantages. Since they will not need to learn skills or work-world values in order to get a fair wage why require that they master subjects or compete with other students!

Grades, jobs and compensation should not be based on merit or performance but rather want — the measure of fairness.

Since the majority in any country skew to the average, the tendency of democractic societies is to elect officials who are in favor of policies that focus on results rather than contribution, on rewards rather than worth, on outcomes rather than effort.

The question we must ask ourselves is will that kind of society be able to compete against those that reward success based on enterprise, competition and equal opportunity and that provide a model for young people justifying effort and ambition? We only need to read the daily accounts of the problems facing Europe to gain a hint of the answer.

If that’s where this country is headed, is such an outcome the kind of fairness we owe future generations?


School Mergers Work

November 12, 2011

Need evidence that merging school districts can be done with benefit to the taxpayers and students? Read today’s story in the Auburn Citizen “Union Springs, Port Byron merger working“.

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Education Merger Cold Feet

November 11, 2011

School district officials — elected and appointed — who have cold feet about considering merging with neighboring districts might consider the discussion taking place in Maryland. The State Legislature is considering merging the University of Maryland with the University of Baltimore. The reasons are the same ones that should propel school districts mergers in New York state — the ability to offer students more choices, cost savings by eliminating inefficient use of capital equipment — from buses to copy machines, better use of personnel and the ability to devote resources to education which are now wasted on administration. The points of resistance are also the same — people who have a vested personal interest in their fiefdoms don’t want change. They try to rally others around the myth of their unique identity, claiming individuals will be lost in the larger institution. That could happen of course if the new administration isn’t conscious of the need to maintain open communications channels for all participants, but the time to recognize that consolidation is not just a good thing, but a necessary thing, is now.


Can School Aid be Cut Equitably?

March 1, 2010

The answer, according to an analysis posted today by the Citizens Budget Commission, is “yes”.

In “Unavoidable School Aid Cuts: Do the Least Harm by Targeting,” CBC staffers Elizabeth Lynam and Selma Mustovic argue “limited available funding should be targeted to the neediest schools and pupils”.

Can cutting state aid to education be avoided? Given the state’s projected $7.5 billion deficit, CBC says the answer is “No”.

The problem is that most people don’t know the facts when it comes to state school aid.

  • They don’t know that New York spends more than $52 billion on education –one out of every three tax dollars raised locally and by state taxes.
  • They don’t know that state aid doubled in the past decade.
  • They don’t know that only 37% of the increased spending went to teachers’ salaries. The rest — nearly $5,000 per pupil — went to such things as increased administrative costs, construction costs and fringe benefits.
  • They don’t know that New York’s student-to-teacher ratio is 17% lower than the rest of the country.
  • They don’t know that all that spending has not yielded significant improvements in student test scores.

So while the Governor’s budget proposal would help poor districts and cut state aid to rich districts — many of which have substantial reserve funds, CBC recommends taking an even knife to the problem in order to give greater aid to poor districts.

It would take great political courage to follow this recommendation. Courage is a commodity that’s sorely been lacking in Albany in the past. Will 2010 be any different?