Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Unseen Issues of a Debate

As an informal introduction: I normally try to avoid some of the more controversial issues (particularly of political nature), but after talking to my mom and my husband about some of my feelings related to the recent political debates in our state, I felt really strongly the need to address some issues that I felt particularly strong about here on my blog.

When I first started reading the gazillion facebook comments and seeing the countless news stories and articles regarding the recent political debate surrounding our great state of Wisconsin I had my own opinions but didn’t feel strongly enough about my stance to publicly declare it. However, I’ve decided to speak up regarding the issue of HOW the entire debate process is occurring.

To put it bluntly, I am amazed by how ignorant we have become!! And please, hear me loud and clear, I am not speaking of this specific political issue! What I am referring to is the fact that we are failing to teach our children the process of thinking for themselves and seeing around the argumentative fallacies our government, media and self-motivated debaters are using to persuade towards one side or the other of any debatable issue!! And just as sad, many adults are falling into the same trap as our uninformed children.

The entire process by which many are drawing their conclusions is down-right shameful not to mention inaccurate!! Using our current situation as an example I’ve heard several arguments like “IF you care for education, THEN you care for teachers”, (not a true statement, but it goes on) “IF you care for teachers THEN you agree with collective bargaining.” Which is also not true but a further conclusion is then drawn that “If you care for education then you must agree with collective bargaining” or “If you don’t support collective bargaining, you are not supporting education.”

However, despite this popular debate approach – it is possible to care for education and not support collective bargaining, as well as it is true that you can support collective bargaining and not give a rip about the education system. Furthermore, you can agree with education and/or collective bargaining and not consider the current public school system as very educational at all. The truth is, the possibilities of opinions between people are endless, but our students aren’t being taught that and in discussing political issues in particular they are often persuaded to one side or the other through improper, incomplete arguments and are none the wiser for it.

Do you see what is happening here? It’s referred to as a “false dilemma” and it happens when we simplify a complex problem into an either/or of two sides.  It is an attempt to make a person agree with your argument (which may merely be a matter of opinion), by limiting the options of your opponent. If the person you are trying to convince is unable to see past the delusion, they easily fall to the temptation of agreeing with your statement. Regardless of whether your point is right or wrong, the premise by which they arrived at that conclusion is FALSE!! This is called a fallacy (“an error of reasoning based on faulty use of evidence or incorrect inference”).

This is so much bigger than any single issue or debate (political or otherwise). The danger is, our children are not being taught to distinguish the difference between fact and opinion. So when they are told “If you value your education you value your teachers” they think that that is always true. While education is in fact made possibly by teachers (as a whole) they are NOT one in the same, and it is even possibly (though undoubtedly tougher) to receive an education without public school teachers.

The truth is, we each have the God-given ability, responsibility and right to our own differing opinions (with or without the same outcome), and we should all be taught how to develop them!

It is a sad reality that this incomplete process of reasoning is exactly what is being taught in our public schools and often portrayed to our children as “freedom” and “being American”. It’s a scary realization that our children are no longer being taught how to think for themselves, and how to draw their own conclusions based on fact rather than opinion, or even the ability to distinguish the difference between the two. Whether you get your way this time or not, is not really important, what matters is the fact that we are in the process of raising a generation of children who are able to do nothing more than jump on the next bandwagon of whatever political, religious or personal agenda the next figure of authority in their life tells them to join.

From here, I can’t help but confront a few other issues that have been brewing in my mind throughout this entire process, which again I must state are not merely a reflection of my views on collective bargaining, as much as the approach of both supporters and those opposed of the bill in their process of debating the issue.

It has been insinuated throughout this debate that if you don’t support collective bargaining or the education system, that you are opposed to to teachers in general, which is not true. For me personally, I respect some teachers, particularly the few Christian teachers called to serve in our public school system. The fact that a few Christian teachers remain in the public school to fulfill a God-given call on their life is admirable, and it is a sad reality that they are the minority. Whether they consider the benefits and their calling worth the poor treatment they are subjected to as well as what they will be (and are) held accountable for (James 3:1) is their own personal choice, one they must make (and is between God and them), but it is not one that I will base my opinions of the public school system as a whole on. And for the record, I am grateful for their efforts, I pray for them, I want to support them in any way that I can. Lord knows we need more people like them, and perhaps if there were people brave enough to step up to a challenge that great we wouldn’t be in the position that we are in. A position which many seem to be forgetting includes a God-mocking, Jesus-hating, government taking religious freedom from Christian students and teachers while supposedly promoting religious diversity and acceptance. And as if that weren’t enough they continually brain wash our children with both personal and governmental agendas, encourage sexual immorality and tolerance, introduce marriage destroying habits, teach evolution as “science”, allow vulgar language and illustration to be used in their so-called literature and teach God-defying world views without any acknowledgement of absolute truth.

I personally know and respect several public school teacher, so this is not coming from anywhere near an attitude of disrespect or personal contempt. However, when discussing public school teachers in relation to something like a bill being passed, we need to do so as “a whole”; to take a few (particularly “good Christian teachers” or a few “bad teachers”) out of the group and use them as our examples is not an accurate portrayal of reality, nor is it a good foundation on which to base your decision. Like it or not they (individual teachers) are a part of a system and will be treated (at times) as such when discussing the educational system. A system, by the way, which is broken and failing and often used to push agendas that I, as a Christian, am directly opposed to.

Again, I will say it, while I am able to respect a few individual teachers, I do not respect much of what they represent or stand for as a whole, and I will not base my voting power and opinions on any issue based on a selection of individuals when it is the system as a whole that is under scrutiny and question.

Regardless of what NEAP records show as far as US standardized tests, the truth is education is pointless without teaching our students how to think for themselves and to value morals and absolute truth. All of which our schools are failing to teach. The question begs to be asked, are we even aware of what kind of education we are fighting so hard to defend? The sad fact is, the system is what the system is, it’s the only one we have, but I personally do not see standardized test scores as an indicator of how good our school systems are doing. I expect more from our public school, I expect more from our teachers (particularly the “good Christian ones”) I expect more from parents and I expect more from our government.

Perhaps my standards are to high – I do not consider what our public school systems consider as education, to be education. To be honest, if the education system was working and raising up students who could think and reason beyond the “information” put directly in front of them, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the situation we are currently in.

It’s a sad reality we live in, that the arguments being made are accepted as appropriate and truth. I’m appalled by the number of things I have heard in the last couple of weeks and by the actions of both political parties and supporters. But truth be told, after several paragraphs of ragging on the education system, I am more disappointed in the majority of parents than I am any teacher. Regardless of what is going on in the schools, it’s ultimately the parent’s responsibility to monitor, filter (when need be), build upon what our children are taught at school.

Are we taking our job seriously enough?


Sheila said...

Well stated Amber. I also spent the first few days of this keeping my mouth shut and gathering information. However, I found myself NEEDING to take a stand...especially when my nieces and nephews were getting involved in VERY scary ways. I know their parents did not raise them with these beliefs so it is quite disturbing to see what the public school has put into their heads. I find myself praying more and more for this situation and most of all for our kids and the attack they are under! I am thankful that God has not left us and has given us the ability to teach out kids to think for themselves but I worry about all those close to me who are in the lion's den!!! Once again...thanks for sharing!

Alexis said...

You make very good points and I think have eloquently put into words what a lot of us feel. It is sad that we are seen as being either for or against this issue - when in reality we can stand for part of it but not all of it. Thanks for speaking out for those of us who have chosen not to "make a scene" and for doing it in such a firm but polite way.

Jessica-MomForHim said...

Well said! The whole thing going on in WI has gotten ridiculous and it is appalling the ways people are reacting. You are completely right that it goes beyond just one side or the other.