One of my favorite readers has expressed her impatience with social critics like myself because we seem to point out problems but never make predictions or suggest solutions to the problems we point out. In a word we are “nattering nabobs of negativism” — remember that!!?? In that spirit I thought I would make a stab at suggesting a few remedies for the many problems we face at this point in time.

Let’s begin with politics. There are a few things that are obvious, but I will state them anyway. There should be term  limits for every elected office at the state and federal levels. And let’s put pay raises for elected officials up to the voting public — they should reflect the rise in the cost of living in the general public and not  be determined by the officials themselves in a closed meeting. And the PACs, especially Super PACs, should be disallowed immediately. No more lobbying for special favors. On the economic front, we should demand that taxes be across the board — no special loop-holes for the wealthy and the corporations. Everyone pays his fair share. I would prefer that we go even further away from raw capitalism, but this is a step in the right direction, it seems to me. And while we are at it reduce “defense” spending and put that money, plus the millions “donated” by the wealthy as a result of fair taxation, into repairing the infrastructure and into important items such as health care, education, and major welfare reform that puts money in the hands of the millions of people in this country in desperate need. Also, demand funding for alternative energies and take steps on the Federal level to slow climate change — which requires, at the very least, that we stop denying the obvious. Just for fun we could also limit electioneering to one month prior to the elections and limit donations to $10.00 per person (including corporations which, in its wisdom, the Supreme Court decided were “persons”). All of this is possible if taxation were fair.

As I have said before, we should make clear that the Second Amendment to the Constitution refers to the militia — as Judge John Paul Stevens has said it takes only a simple clause in the amendment: ”A well-regulated Militia, being  necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.” How delightfully simple! And while we are at it, outlaw all automatic weapons and make it harder, not impossible, for every Tom, Dick, and Sally to buy guns. As I read the tea leaves, these are things the general public favors, but the gun lobby (see above) fights against tooth and nail. And since they provide the elected officials with special favors and bundles of money to help them hang on to their high-paying offices this change is not likely to happen unless we eradicate the PACs and lobbying as suggested above.

In education, we could take some on the money we collect in the revised tax structure and the reduction in “defense” spending — as per the second paragraph — and put it into education. Pay the teachers an attractive wage in order to bring the best and brightest young people into teaching. Eliminate the teachers colleges and the certification requirements. They are a waste of time and money. Private schools do not require “certified” teachers and their faculties are made up of college graduates from all major fields. And they have inspiring results. This is also the model in Finland which sets the benchmark for education the world over. This should be the norm in public education. Turn the bright teachers loose after a year of apprenticeship with a seasoned teacher, and let them teach the subject matter as they see fit. And while we are at it, turn the electronic toys off while the kids are in school and teach them only basic computer skills. The rest of their study should focus on books and interaction with fellow students and the teachers. Provide them with the intellectual tools they need to succeed in an increasingly complex world.

In the social realm we should do whatever is necessary to discourage use of social media. All electronic toys should be monitored and use limited so all of us would start looking around us to see the beauty that it everywhere and look others in the eye while talking with them. And let’s start listening to one another and disallow uncivil discourse. Television is the worst possible example: curb the talking heads and refuse to allow them to shout one another down. It’s all in the name of opening each of us up to  one another. We cannot make anyone love anyone else, but we can certainly demand that we respect one another and at the very least that we are aware that there are others in the world who matter and who deserve our attention and even our concern. As a society we are far too self-centered and increasingly we ignore those who have important things to say and who need to be heard.

Pie in the sky? To be sure. But it all starts with dreams and these are steps that might take us in the direction of preserving some semblance of a civilized society. If you can think of others, or find fault with any of my suggestions, I would appreciate your comments. This should be an ongoing discussion, it seems to me!


29 thoughts on “Suggestions!

  1. Interesting and provocative ideas, Hugh. Sadly you’re right about some being pie-in-the-sky: I think many would not pass muster with the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. I’m also leery of comparisons to Finland’s education system. Finland has a small and largely homogenous population and student demographics. The U.S. isn’t that. (!) So, a lot of it isn’t apples to apples. But, definitely, there are things they do there that we should consider for our schools here.

    Like you, I wish to God we could unplug TV’s big-mouthed talking heads and reduce the length of campaigns. They both feed our incivility, and TV talk shows have, sadly, superseded actual journalism. There is little reporting or journalism, just shouting and opining. And, hatred. Sean Hannity alone is a like a wound the size of an axe blade to the soul of America. But it’s free speech nonetheless, so those are among the areas we’d have to rewire the First Amendment.

    Absolutely, we must get back to applying the full wording of the Second Amendment to our gun issue. Only knuckleheads try to split the amendment.

    Thanks for the invigorating list of ideas, Hugh. It’s good to see the suggestions and get folks thinking about solutions.

      • Just a note on the Finish comparison.Your comments are often heard in apology for the American system which falls so far short of the Finnish example. But the schools in Finland attract students from all over Europe –because they are so good. Their student population is not similar to ours, but it is certainly heterogeneous — not homogeneous as you say. There are different forms of heterogeneity! And when I hear comments about how the two systems cannot be compared they sound an awful lot like excuses.
        Our system is failing: that’s the long and the short of it. Whether it is by design, as some have said, or by accident, it is failing our young people. A few slip between the cracks, but most are lost along the way. Teachers in Finland are well paid and teachers have prestige. And the students are the best in the world — given the comparisons that have been made. We will never begin to improve our system if we continue to insist that it is not broken.

  2. Hugh, thanks for the additional information on Finland and its schools! I hadn’t known about them drawing students from other countries.

    As far as our schools, you’re quite right. Things have to be done. We cannot excuse away our obligations to improve them or fix what is broken; we have to have the will to consider changes large and small, and we have to strip politics out of any reform programs. That probably entails some significant overhauls to social services — too much of which we dump on our schools now — as well as education reforms themselves. No easy road, but that is why we need the collective will to do it.

    • I know that most, if not all, of my suggestions are pie in the sky. But it seems to me that if enough people can agree on what needs to be done they will find a way to do it. What bothers me the most about the situation in our schools is that the teachers and administrators (at all levels) are busy dismissing the data and making excuses they refuse to admit there is a serious problem.

  3. Regarding funded political campaigns I would add that the person campaigning should also be legally limited as to how much personal money can be used to run a campaign. That should be obvious if a millionnaire oil magnate is running against the local midwife.

  4. My dear friend Hugh Curtler … I can only wish that your voice be heard far and wide, for you are one of the wisest men I have ever had the honour of knowing. I cannot argue against a single one of your recommendations and would likely have but a few of my own to add. Unfortunately yes, they are likely pie-in-the-sky, but some, I truly believe, will happen over time IF we do not lose out to the current madman at the helm. I believe that strict campaign finance rules must be reinstated, for it is the only way we will ever again have anything approaching a fair election. I also believe that the current system of taxation is not only unfair to the middle class, but is also unsustainable, for we simply cannot continue increasing our national debt/deficit. The military budget is a joke, for we spend more than any other nation, bar none, on the globe, though the threats against our nation are fewer than most Middle-Eastern nations. It is past time for us to wake up and realize that we are headed down a dangerous path: denying our responsibility to the environment; allowing the ‘dumbing-down’ of our educational system; supporting unlimited guns in the hands of every man, woman and child; failing to address the income disparity that grows worse by day. Either we pull together, make some serious changes, or we awaken one day in a nation that is nothing that we thought it was. Thank you, Hugh, for this more than excellent post! I shall, with your permission, re-blog tomorrow.

    • Bless you, Jill. I always welcome your comments — and not because we almost always agree. (But that is certainly part of it.)
      As I said to Dana: pie-in-the-sky to be sure. But where there is a will there is a way. We simply lack the will at present!

      • Thanks Hugh! Yes, well … some of us do have the will … perhaps more than we realize, but we have temporarily contracted laryngitis and seem to have no voices in the places that matter most. Let’s change that! 😉

  5. Excellent suggestions, Hugh! If I may suggest – get rid of Trump first and then the rest have a chance!

  6. All great ideas, Hugh. The only reason they are pie-in-the-sky is because our country is too polarized and intransigent. I agree with John, a good starting point is to impeach Trump. But that can’t happen until Congress gets a makeover.

    I’ll go even further than you and say let’s try a monarchy, only for a change of pace. If we like it, keep it. Americans love royal weddings and stuff, anyway. Our country at this stage is a democracy in name only. Corporations and special interests now determine who gets elected, and what legislation gets passed. Time to clean the slate. While we’re at it, begin teaching history in schools again. And mandatory travel overseas (most Americans are too insular). I’m serious about all this.

  7. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    Our friend Hugh is a philosopher and a professor who nearly always makes me think, makes me question some corner of the world, of life with questions of his own. Often I find he is out of my league and he makes me think very hard! Today, however, instead of questions Hugh is giving us his insight and, as often happens, I can find not a single thing with which to disagree. When I read his excellent post last night, my first thought is “he must run for president!” But I really like Hugh and wouldn’t wish that on him. Please give Hugh’s post a few minutes of your time, and be sure to let him know your own thoughts on how to fix that which is broken! Many thanks, Hugh, for allowing me to share this work!

  8. Bravo Hugh, well said. If you’ve seen me write to Jill before you’ll know I have one more bugbear which is your first amendment. I think it’s time to take a look at it and prohibit hate speech the KKK should not have the right to set foot on the streets in fancy dress scaring people and spewing the kind of hate they do. Personally I’d like to see them declared an illegal organisation rather than nice people.Magazines that spout hate should go the same way since they are known to incite riots and spread hatred.

  9. Dear Hugh,

    I’m with John on this one. The first thing that needs doing is the ousting of President Trump with his republican sycophants. Then I would enact laws where the chances of another President Trump winning would be almost nil. For example, future presidential and dates would have to share at least 10 years of their IRS returns.

    I would enact a law where gerrymandering in every state be drawn by a commission with equal number of competent, knowledgeable republicans and democrats on it, so that elections would be more fair to both parties.

    That’s just for starters.


  10. While we’re touching on education, can we also require high school aged students to take 2 semesters of Accounting. Trigonometry and calculus and geometry are fun and all, but let’s graduate more kids who have a better understanding of how to handle their money when they enter the working world. Just a thought.

    • I fear to start down that road. Everyone has a favorite subject, or subjects, they want required of all students. I have no problems with accounting — it sharpens the mind and teaches valuable skills. But History, literature, and civics are desperately needed by students who do not read or write well and know practically nothing about their country or the world at large! Thanks for the comment!!

  11. Hugh, good and well-thought ideas. Let me reiterate a couple and expand on them and a couple of others.

    Money influence in politics has to be lessened or we are wasting our time on better governance. Just from a practical matter, legislators spend 40% of their time fund raising, meaning only 60% of the time governing. Term limits would help – two terms – just like most non-profit boards. Citizens-United and McCutcheon were absolutely disgraceful SCOTUS rulings and let the US and foreign oligarchies fund campaigns. They need to be legislated out. Plus, we need to shorten the campaigns. They are way too long and costly.

    Poverty is rising at the same time the middle class is falling. Healthcare needs to be a right not a privilege. People forget before the ACA (which needs improvement and stabilization not sabotaging), hospitals were picking up the tab for uninsured and passing the costs to taxpayers and insureds. We also need retraining for new industries and interim incomes when people have been displaced due to relocation of businesses. There are jobs that remain unfilled. And, we need to redevelop deteriorated assets using ABCD funding – Asset Based Community Development.

    We must also address the jobs of the future better. We are protecting some very mature industries and some who are declining. Companies do this all the time. Where do we invest – more on growth, some in stable, less in retrenching businesses? Renewable jobs have double digit per annum growth. With electric grid infrastructure spending, they could take off even more like they have in Texas and California.

    We should also stop lying to people. Whether you like Bernie Sanders’ ideas matters not, but he was the only Presidential candidate that stood up in front of WVa coalminers and told them the truth – your jobs are not coming back. But, here is what I plan to do about. An energy consultant told the truth about Trump – he is more interested in coal mine owners and less about coalminers.

    Thanks again for the great suggestions. Keith

    • And thank you! You are right: Bernie Sanders was a breath of fresh air — and in retrospect how refreshing he would have been if he had been elected. He wouldn’t have gotten much done with this Congress, but he is a decent and a bright light in a dark room filled with bottom-feeders. Thanks for the thoughts.

      • Thanks. Bernie did his homework and when he told it like it is, he was not making it up like the President did. Yet, the one area he lacked was dealing with our debt. He aspired to raise taxes for national healthcare, but some poor public servant will have to raise taxes to pay down debt as well as make some huge spending cuts because of the failure of this and previous administrations. And, that servant will be blamed for his or her predecessors’ failures.

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