Hello, Pot? Kettle Here.

I accept that in politics people are just fundamentally going to see some things differently.  The difference could stem from philosophy, experience, interests or a number of other factors.  But, when that blindness is willful, and includes significant revisions to the past, that’s when accepting those differences just turns into bullshit.

For example, the whole hullabaloo about ‘right to work’ legislation that passed through a lame duck session of the Michigan legislature this past winter is a prime example.  The whole reason that it was taken up in the session was that the GOP majority was about to become smaller and that outgoing members would never again be subject to the wrath of the voters at the ballot box.  It was, at its best and worst, a hard-nosed calculus of what they could get away with.  It enraged much of the state, but it worked.  At the time, Michigan Republicans were called anti-democratic (note the lower case D), and that they were trying to subvert the will of the electorate, a charge that was later borne out in a spate of polls.

Now that we find public institutions adapting to the new reality of the law, it’s the turn of Republicans to be outraged.  Why?  Because state universities such as Wayne State and Ferris are attempting an end run around the legislation, which has not yet taken effect.  Those two schools have negotiated new long-term contracts that would take effect before the RTW legislation takes effect.  It is, in effect, an end-run around the law, a perfectly legal tactic, and clearly an effort to subvert the intent of the law.  In short, it’s just politics.

The Republicans are blinded by their own rage that their will is not being adhered to.  According to this report, a faction of legislators made the trek up to Big Rapids to convey the message that should they lock in new contracts (before RTW takes effect) against the will of the GOP, they would lose a portion of their funding.  And Ferris folded, fearful that the educational-industrial complex they’ve constructed for themselves would lose one of their biggest revenue streams with which they use to compensate themselves quite richly.  I doubt that should the same delegation come to visit Detroit, they will probably be chased out with torches and pitchforks, such is the outlook of Wayne State.

Republicans opened up Pandora’s box when they rammed this through in a lame duck session of the legislature.  They have no right to attempt retaliation at institutions who respond to in a completely legal fashion.  What these people are doing is nothing more than outright bullying.

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Another more troubling trend that is beginning to use our universities as political props.  From the fracas at Michigan State last year that mandated students have insurance because aggrieved Michigan Republicans thought it smacked a bit much of Obamacare, to meddling in internal policies when it comes to same-sex partner benefits, the state government is continuing a policy that as amoral as it is stupid.  This applies to both Democrats and Republicans.

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Michigan Kids: Too Fat, Stupid Or Criminal to Join

It’s been getting harder and harder for the military to find qualified recruits in recent years.  That’s partly due to the fact that we have ongoing military conflicts in which combatants are killed on a regular basis.  And it’s partly due to the fact that the pool from which they recruit is steadily declining in quality.  To highlight the issue, state Senator Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Township) and Major Generals Thomas Cutler and William Henderson met in Saginaw yesterday to make a few points.

Henderson spoke about how obesity and a lack of general, basic knowledge, in conjunction with criminal records, render three quarters of American youth unfit for military service: ‘Because Michigan’s problems with weight are similar to the national average and the state’s problems with education are worse than the national average, it is likely that at least three out of four young adults in Michigan cannot join the military.’

Now, I’m not certain, but if you had to ask me if an air force general was a Democrat or a Republican, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that they’re all Republicans.  They went on to say that the solution was $140 million more in state funding for early childhood education.  Needless to say, I’m shocked, and, probably more shocking, I’m not sure that more funding is the solution.  Americans have long conflated solving problems with spending money.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work, and education is just one such area.

We already spend more on education than any other major economy in the world, and, much like healthcare, the results we have to show for it are pretty piss poor.  I’m not opposed to the idea of shelling out another $140 million dollars on early childhood education, but it has to be something that does two things: 1) produce long term, cost effective results and 2) act as a template for further reforms so that the results can be replicated across the entire state.

Spending money on education is like looking for a job on the internet: it’s quick and it gives the illusion of having actually done something when in fact you haven’t done anything.  In both the US and in Michigan, we need a fundamental overhaul of how we staff and finance our schools, the expectations that we have, not only of our schools, but more importantly, of our students, and the underlying culture upon which all of this sits.

I’m amazed at the education that my boyfriend received in China, particularly in terms of math and science.  Granted, he was part of an academic elite in a nation that places a high premium on scholarship, but the quality of his knowledge in math and applied sciences, even by the time he got to college, was probably far beyond anything that I’ll ever be able to feebly grasp at.

This isn’t a partisan issue.  I agree with Sen. Kahn and the Generals.  That three quarters of our kids are either too fat, too stupid and too criminal to serve in the military is an abomination.  And while increasing spending on specifically targeted programs to combat the program may work, it’s not a substitute for the much harder and much more time consuming job of fundamentally overhauling the cultural priorities that we have.  Put simply, you can’t buy standards.