BY KYLE SCHAFER, Staff Columnist
I proposed last week five ideas that needed to die in this country in order for us to progress into the second decade of this century and beyond.
This week, I will propose five ideas that we need to embrace.
Education is Key
Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe that children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” She couldn’t have been more right! As I mentioned last week, we have fallen behind many countries in the important areas of math and science. There is a lot to be done in fixing our education problems, but we can start by overhauling primary and secondary education so that it better fits the needs of math and science.
Furthermore, the heavy reliance on standardized testing has teachers focusing on directing teaching to the tests, taking attention away from the subject matter students will need in college.
In high school, I decided to take the MEAP test at the beginning of my sophomore year. The math curriculum at my school was geared to teach students how to pass the MEAP. I spent two years taking classes that I found to be of little use, and there are many stories like mine. If my school had a math program geared toward teaching students what they needed to know in college, maybe I wouldn’t have switched out of being a math major after my freshman year. Label this a cautionary tale.
But there is yet another problem with the educational system, and that is student loans. Some students graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree and $200,000 in debt. You can get a nice house for that! Unless you get a very nice job out of college, you are likely going to be paying student loans for most of your life. Throw in a house payment or rent, and I just don’t see how you will be able to retire. Simply stated, education needs to be more affordable.
Investing in Our Infrastructure
This is a good way to fix our crumbling bridges and roads, as well as put people back to work. I do not have to tell a bunch of Michiganders that our highways are in poor shape. Worn roads take a toll on motor vehicles, and worn bridges are prone to collapse.
Abandoned buildings in Detroit and other large cities that have seen massive population loss can be either reinforced or demolished and have the sites rebuilt or used for other purposes.
Railroad lines can also be renovated. Travel by rail may take just as long as with a car, and not be practical for many, but it can be used for trans-continental shipping. It costs less to ship the same amount of goods via rail as it does by truck, and it is more environmentally-conscious. We can even build subway and light rail systems, which would facilitate commuter traffic within and even between cities. This would cut down on automobile traffic, which would cut down on pollutants. Not to mention that people would have to be hired to build all of the rails, fix the buildings, repave the roads, and reinforce the bridges.
Investing in Renewable Energy
This has many implications. Solar and wind energy are both viable forms of generating electricity. We have lots of desert for placing solar panels, and expansive plains for erecting windmills. Converting natural kinetic energy into potential electrical energy needs to be the main aspect of our energy policy by the year 2020. A lot is made about the need to get off of foreign oil for issues of national security. Really, we need to get off all oil.
The other two reasons we have to kick our reliance on coal and oil are economical and environmental. This energy is cleaner, sending fewer pollutants into the atmosphere. We will use fewer fossil fuels, and generate power from the wonders of nature. Furthermore, this is going to be a huge undertaking, and it will require people on the worksites. Workers will need to be hired to install and maintain solar panels in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. The same is true for windmills in the Great Plains states. This creates the elusive jobs we have been trying to create for ten years. This solves two problems with one move, albeit a big move.
Health Care Should be a Right
I won’t go too much into this, as much has been made of death panels, “Obomneycare,” and the demagoguery of left and right in the recent health care debate. But we need to keep in mind that almost every other first world nation has some form of universal health care.
Every time the debate is brought up, the Congressional Budget Office predicts overall savings (due to the elimination of insurance company overhead). In the richest country in the world, there is no reason that we should not be able to cover everybody. The benefits of health care for all are numerous. Chiefly, this shifts the burden of health care costs from employers in the business sector, allowing business to thrive and hire more workers. This subject leads me into my next topic.
Embrace the “We” Mentality
We need to kick this habit of thinking about ourselves. In the Book of Genesis, Cain killed his brother Abel. When asked by God if he knew where his brother was, Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The moral of the story is that we ought to look out for one another and take great interest in the brotherhood of humankind. English poet John Donne famously penned, “No man is an island….” No man stands alone in life. We ought to look out for each other, and make sure we are all healthy, fed, and have a roof over our heads. It is the lack of the “we” mentality that leads to hatred, racism, and greed.