Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Columns

Square one: Critical thinking needs to start here


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There is not one legislator who has the knowledge to understand all the legislation they vote for. There is no legislator who reads all the legislation they sponsor or co-sponsor. That is reality. The congressperson's brilliant staffers author it; lobbyists for special interest probably have input; and their party's leadership tells them how to vote.

Congress then passes on their legislative work product to an army of career bureaucrats who then investigate and determine their own facts ("as the Secretary may determine"), which are usually unknown to the Congress until after the bill is passed and signed into law by the president. This flawed process always results in more regulation and unintended consequences. Needless to say, it is inevitable that more government employees will be needed to determine the facts, or enforce sanctions that inevitably follow. So government keeps getting bigger.

What does all this mean for us? After all, every one of our elected officials is a blank slate on most technical issues - which is as it should be - so realistically this means that we ordinary citizen voters are nothing to brag about either. (The only exception is the accredited specialist; e.g., a medical doctor, a computer scientist etc.).

And here's the rub. Unless one knows the facts, one cannot think critically. Well, here is the seminal fact: If voters and legislators don't know enough to make informed decisions, how can our current political system work?

The short answer is it hasn't, which makes the case for small government and a large private sector acting in their own self-interests paying the price for unintended consequences or their failure - not the taxpayer. The private sector must have the expertise for survival or they become dominated by competition and go out of business.

Government has no competition and it never goes out of business.

Existentialists are no-nonsense thinkers who believe a person's existence is the sum total of all their personal choices - not some preconceived, arbitrary label. So a practical answer to the seemingly devilish question of how to develop voters who can think critically would be for us to look at the macro picture and start at the beginning - parental skills and mentoring, and an effective early education - all at a very early age.

Most experts agree that whatever the causes of our subconscious, an individual's personality is firmly established at the end of early childhood. So if a child goes through these critical early years with no effective parental guidance and is relegated to an inferior early educational system, the outcome is predictable - the child will be lucky to succeed. The values they will create to determine the meaning of their lives all but doom them to failure. (Think of the inner city boy whose existential moment is when he touches his first gun. This is at the time he feels he can function on his own.)

The point being that the child doesn't need an educated parent during these critical years as much as he needs a functioning parent with a value system - someone to train him to get up in the morning, go to school, study, respect authority, etc. These are the disadvantaged kids who truly need an early education, because far too many of their parents are government-dependent and have no parenting skills.

Let me quote from charter preschool website in Harlem New York: "Educational environments for children ages 6 weeks to 4 years that are safe, nurturing.excitement for learning.operates year round."

Imagine a school that admits a six-week-old baby. It seems clear it is simply getting the child into a safe place away from his neighborhood and caregiver.

Amazingly, the U.S. ranks only 28 out of 38 First World economies in the proportion of four-year-olds getting an early education.

Instead government keeps throwing money at schools for teacher salaries to placate unions with no measurable results.

Here's the point: There are far too many "no knowledge" voters - particularly in large urban areas - incapable of understanding the political process. They simply have not learned basic values or have an educational foundation and are victims of poor parenting. A deadly combination.

A nation's only path to political success starts at the beginning of a child's life with effective parenting and investment in early education.

If successful, the result would be a functionally literate citizen with a basic value system who could critically evaluate the issues, the candidates for office and their elected officials.

Conservatives would hope that average voters - realizing the practical limitations of elected officials and bureaucrats trying to govern this large economy - would opt for large, private-sector economy that is not government centered. It would probably make for a more collegial and more manageable government.

But that requires critical thinking.

The Economist recently reported that U.S. "private enterprise dominates the corporate premier league again, thanks to the waning evaluations of state-backed firms."

The most significant force at work is America's mix of "dynamism and resilience," not seen in state-run mega companies, which are losing profit share because of inefficiencies and graft.

John Reiniers is a retired attorney and regular columnist who lives in Spring Hill.

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