By Athena Phillips
Are you tired of hearing the same old things on the news…”economy this” and “economy that?”
Yes, it is important for us to get the nation’s economy out of its current crisis phase, but education reform is just as important. In fact, education reform will do more to strengthen the economy’s long-term performance than throwing billions of dollars at Detroit and Wall Street. Before President Obama took office, he pledged that he would make “a historic commitment to education.”
Almost three months have passed since our nation’s new president took office, and it is a rare occasion to hear the topic of education discussed. His monumental list of education programs is astounding – but his administration has yet to achieve anything. As an aspiring teacher, I am worried that education for our country currently sits on the policy back-burner.
Most surprising of all is that the new government has done nothing to reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Reforming and successfully implementing NCLB should be the most important item on the President’s agenda. 100% efficiency in schools might be idealistic, but to do nothing is tragic. If President Obama’s $11.5tn budget includes bailouts and infrastructure stimulus spending, then surely education funding is not out of the question. If my children are going to be stuck with the bill, they should get something out of it – and quick.
What is stopping the President from reforming education? The reality is that teachers are stuck in dreadful, unglamorous teaching situations, where the constant threat of losing their job – pitiful salary and all – exerts a tremendous amount of pressure on them. It’s no wonder that their students underperform; undue pressure would make any teacher underperform.
The President continues mesmerizing the American public with flowery rhetoric regarding education reform. I know that President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have a lot on their shoulders. Did Obama promise us things that are not realistic? Can his administration achieve these goals in four years? It will be interesting to see if he passes this particular test.
So far, Obama has left us with more questions about education than he has given us answers. For example, President Obama plans to weed out bad teachers by rewarding the teachers whose students achieve better test scores. This is not the way we should reward our teachers! Tests are not always the most accurate measurement tool for gauging a teacher’s effectiveness. Student levels of community participation – from service projects to tutoring their classmates – could reflect a “change we can believe in.”
President Obama has also argued that he can implement education reforms without adding to the federal deficit. Forgive my skepticism, but as a prime debtor for the new government’s massive spending program, that seems pretty questionable to me.
These tasks are easier said than done. Although President Obama’s reform promises sound amazing, we need to ask ourselves: are these goals realistic? Will they ever be achieved? In time, I hope he succeeds. For now, we must remember that education touches the lives of everyone around us in one way or another. It is crucial to our lives as students. It is time for change to happen and for us to start thinking realistically.
Athena Phillips is a junior English Literature major.
By Rachel Baily
On a recent flight back to Nashville, I had the pleasure of sitting beside an American soldier who had served a 15 month tour in Iraq. As we talked, the conversation inevitably explored his experiences in Iraq. As he recounted his stories, I automatically started to feel a twinge of guilt.
I couldn’t intelligently speak with him about any of the current events regarding our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan because it has become such a peripheral issue in my life. I thought “Oh my God, we’re still fighting a war,” as if it were some revelation. I had hoped that maybe this was just the case for me. I think this lack of awareness is a larger issue.
Over the past two years, U.S. news coverage of the Iraq War has dropped significantly. The Pew Research Center’s “Project for Excellence in Journalism” released a study revealing that only 4% of media coverage involved any news on the Iraq War. In addition, many of the articles covered the funding of the war, not the events themselves or how our soldiers were doing.
Since 2007, we Americans have had plenty of things to occupy our attention. This past presidential election dominated all media during 2008, and the recent economic downturn has become the most pressing issue for many citizens. Understandably, we are reluctant to dismiss the fears of unemployment and financial issues.
The result, though, is that, as a country, we have become largely apathetic to this war. Those who do not have a personal connection with a soldier do not recognize the war as part of our daily lives. 4,232 soldiers have died since 2003 in the Iraq War. But we have collectively been more concerned about closing down Guantanamo Bay, the drug cartels in Mexico, taxes, and the bailout phenomenon.
We are collectively curious about our new administration. It is normal for us to be concerned about our own lives and economic situations. It is a problem, however, when we become so involved with these other issues that we forget we are fighting a war.
Forgetting two overseas wars means we have forgotten about our soldiers.
As we worry about our jobs and futures, let’s remember that the sacrifices from our soldiers allow us to live the lives that we do. Furthermore, soldiers, returning from service to this country, will face the same difficulty with rising unemployment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for veterans has been 7.3 percent since 2001. We are all facing this crisis together, but soldiers returning from war are at an even bigger disadvantage with limited time and energy.
The freedom upon which we pride our nation comes at a high cost, a cost paid by servicemen and women. We cannot allow the media to determine which issues we will concern ourselves with when the sacrifice of human life is part of our policy fiber. Whether or not we agree about the war, our country cannot afford to be apathetic; we dishonor our military’s service in doing so.
As the soldier I sat next to told me, Americans don’t know what’s going on over there. We haven’t just committed funds to this war; we’ve committed our brothers, sons, sisters, daughters, neighbors, and friends. Let’s not forget.
Rachel Bailey is a junior Political Science major.
An Interview with Tennessee State Senator Diane Black
By Susan Harbison
Senator Diane Black graduated from Belmont in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She served three terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives before her election to the State Senate in 2004.
On Friday, April 17th, State Senator Diane Black spoke to a group of students about a state bill currently in the House of Representatives: SJR 127. She has co-sponsored SJR 127 in the Senate since 2004.
Despite passing several times in the State Senate, it has always failed to pass through the House Health Committee. On April 7th, however, the bill finally pushed through the deadlock.
In 1974, the state of Tennessee lost a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood. The Supreme Court of Tennessee decided that our state constitution gave women a fundamental right to an abortion. Tennessee now has the most unsupervised abortion clinics in the country. The Health department has no jurisdiction to inspect abortion clinics. There is no other medical clinic in the country that can still operate without Health Department Inspection.
Furthermore, Black contended that there is no required informed consent in Tennessee. A doctor may or may not choose to tell you the details of an abortion and its after-effects–he doesn’t have to. For any other surgery, however, informed consent is required.
Senator Black reiterated that SJF 127 would not restrict the protection of abortion under Roe v .Wade. Instead, SJR 127 is designed to level the playing field and put “common sense protections back in place”. SJR 127 would simply require informed consent, a 48 hour waiting period, and regulation of abortion clinics just as every other clinic in the state is regulated.
Holding abortion to the same standards as other surgeries does not seem like to much to ask, but apparently some disagree.
I then asked Senator Black some personal questions about the abortion issue:
RAR: When did you become opposed to abortion?
Senator Black: I have always been a right-to-life person.
RAR: Does your nursing background strengthen your belief that life begins before birth?
Senator Black: Being a nurse probably only confirms my belief that every life is important. You can’t see a new life enter this world without being amazed by the creation of a new life.
RAR: Will the abortion issue be on the ballot for the 2010 elections for sure or is it still being debated?
Senator Black: As I said in the meeting yesterday, the referendum for the question will be on the 2014 ballot if it is passed in this general assembly and again by 2/3 in the next general assembly.
RAR: What is the next step after SJR 127 for pro-lifers? What can we do to keep the momentum?
It is very important that the CORRECT message regarding the purpose of SJR127, which is to restore correct sense protections, is heard by the public. The pro-abortion groups want to confuse the issue.
RAR: What is the biggest obstacle standing in the way of more restrictions on abortion in Tennessee: legislators, lack of public support, apathy, etc?
Senator Black: SJR127 can reduce the number of those choosing abortion if they are given complete and correct information. Other states have shown that if an individual is given choices and support they will often choice life over abortion. Although SJR127 will not stop abortions, it will reduce the number.
Tennessee is behind the times, and new legislation is needed to correct past mistakes. SJR127 will go a long way in this regard.
Susan Harbison is junior Entrepreneurship major.
Tea Parties, Third Parties, and National Discontent
By George Shifflett
Excitement filled the air as the next speaker ascended the platform. After each railing accusation against the government, thunderous applause resounded down the hillside; tension gripped the authorities as participants shook their pitchforks and political signs. While this scene could easily be from 1773, it actually played out on 15 April 2009 below the steps of the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. This was the scene at the Tax Day Tea Party.
That national media ignored the Tea Party is not surprising. Like many other conservatives, I have long accepted that the media is embarrassingly liberal. However, it is the degree to which they are willing to exaggerate the truth that troubles me.
Capitol Police estimated attendance at 9,800; the Tennessean stated it barely touched 3,000, more than three times less. Having attended the rally and discussing it with State legislators who described it as larger than the tax revolt of the 1990s, I’d say the Capitol Police were closer to being right. Yet, Nashville was the site of only one demonstration; organizers held similar events all over the country.
Despite the apparent tension, the White House simply could not bring itself to respond honestly. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs fits the description of Daniel Hannan’s “…Brezhnev era apparatchik, giving the party line” when asked about the demonstrators, conveniently ignoring their message for the President to stop spending their money. I am not surprised by his “perfunctory” claims of cutting taxes while simultaneously bankrupting my grandchildren.
The real issue, however, is the crowd and why it appeared.
Some feared government bailouts as the advent of socialism, some railed against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano who vicariously accused veterans – through a now infamous policy report – of being a probable source of domestic terrorism. Many attendees criticized the DHS for its Stasi-esque tactic of profiling political thought as “right-wing”, and others just needed an outlet for the frustration they feel at the continuance of the recession.
If there was one unifying theme, it has to be the oft-repeated mantra of, “This cannot be the only day!”
The Tea Party movement may actually be the emergence of a viable third party – no pun intended – in this country. The prospect is not nearly as radical as it sounds. The Polish Solidarity movement was solidly anti-communist; Tea Party goers are solidly anti-socialist, socialism being a branch of the same Marxist tree.
These people are tired of being ignored by the two major political parties and these Tea Parties offer hope and a home for the opposition; Bush started the bailouts and Obama took them to new heights. Of course, with due deference to Belmont professor of political science, Dr. Nathan Griffith, this writer knows that the viability of a third party depends on much more than vehement opposition. For the prospect to have any real chance at success, proportional representation would have to replace our first-past-the-post system. But it is always interesting to speculate.
“We the People” movements often begin in the wake of economic crisis. Like the patriots of 1773, these Americans are Taxed Enough Already.
For those interested in “joining the revolution” or following it a little closer, visit teapartynation.com.
George Shifflett is a Belmont Alumnus with degrees in Political Science and Philosophy.
The Economic Policy of Unrestrained Greed
By Tyler Johnson
Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel and Harvard Law professor, Elizabeth Warren, recently quoted astronaut Frank Broman in reference to the financial crisis. She said, “Capitalism without the threat of bankruptcy is like Christianity without the threat of hell. It doesn’t work very well.”
Critics of recent economic policy, namely, the policy to “bail out” multinational corporations have been asking questions. They question why we must “bail out” companies. Why can’t we let the big banks and corporations fail? If I run my small business into bankruptcy, they say, no one will bail me out. Shouldn’t we let the free market, and not the government, sort out the problem? It was, after all, big business executives and financers own fault, right? We should hang these Wall Street big wigs out to dry!
The government has deemed various multi-national corporations and banks “too big to fail.”
Certain companies have bought and created debt that was molded into investment products that were then bought again and subsequently repackaged into further more investment products. They have become so large and interconnected that some believe bankruptcy would ignite a chain reaction that would affect virtually every business—small and large—in the country. Some postulate that their failure could lead to the wholesale destruction of our entire economic structure.
The national, and possibly world, economy would subsequently collapse.
Everything from risky hedge funds to safe mutual funds and 401ks has consumed the toxic investment products. The fault not only lays at the feet of Wall Street fat cats, but also with your mom and dad—trying to cash in on the free money machine that was our stock market—gleefully neglecting the lessons of the tech bubble crash.
Consequently, failure—allowing these investments to unravel—would lay waste not just to Wall Street, but also to a majority of the population for years on end. No one knows how bad it would get.
Something must be done to prevent a similar crisis in the future. The answer, with apologies to my laissez-faire libertarian colleagues, is regulation.
When probed about the size of the quasi-private lending arms of Freddy and Fannie Mae, Alan Greenspan said, “Fannie and Freddie were not too big to fail. How do I know? That’s what the law said.” Greenspan understood that the law is the only restriction that directly limits how large a corporation can get. His statement perfectly illustrates a flaw in pure free market thinking. Left unhindered, a corporation’s best interest is pure profit—at the expense of all else, there is no individual self-interest. Profit is the only reason for its (the company’s) existence. Thus, the company will push to the very boundary of the law, regardless of ethics, morals, or social responsibility, for that is how the system was created to work.
In Federalist 51, James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Madison understood human nature. He understood that restrictions were necessary to insulate individual desires from corrupting the whole of society. There must be smart, balanced regulation to ensure that the system will work to benefit all.
The alternative is a world where corporate identity will supersede the ideas of capitalist Adam Smith’s beneficial self-interest. The benevolent “invisible hand” becomes the hulks fist, smashing everything in its path on a quest to satisfy its unquenchable thirst for profit.
We need to ask ourselves what we really want to get out of the system. Should pure profit be the only motivation, or should we ask ourselves if there is something more? Can we alter our definition of profit and value to include societal good, or should we trust unfettered free markets and return to the pre-Depression days of “boom and bust?”
We must learn a lesson from the unrestrained greed of the past decade. When we rig this new game of lighting fast technology and instant information, by creating superstructures and businesses too big to fail, ceteris paribus will not save us, because nothing ever stays the same.
Tyler Johnson is a senior Business and Economics double major.
Over A Year Later, We’re Still Here…and Growing
By George Scoville
It was a typical Thursday morning. I arrived on campus five hours before my only class (just to find a parking spot). I was sitting in the Massey Business Center lobby, sipping my fair-trade Corner Court coffee and preparing for that afternoon’s Nietzsche class with Mark Anderson. I was minding my own business, just sitting there in my Phish hoodie, with my Predators cap pulled down over my face.
“Hey look! The Right Aisle Review! Right-wing PROPAGANDA!”
I still have no idea who you are but I thank you for the warmth of heart you gave me that morning. People who believe this is nothing more than a liberal-debasing or pro-Republican rag have missed the point entirely. This publication is the brainchild of a group of like-minded students who couldn’t believe that a university campus existed in America that didn’t have a political rag. The absence of open political dialogue at Belmont was the impetus behind creating this newspaper. The ground was fertile for launch given the advent of Debate ’08.
I may be speaking for myself here, but I’m not out to convince you that I’ve gotten it right in the realm of political philosophy, ideology, or policy preferences.
Working for the Right Aisle Review is a matter of practical virtue. John Stuart Mill wrote in his essay “On Liberty” that nobody has a monopoly on truth – that only through continuous discussion do we get anywhere close to truths about human experience. Any prohibition of speech or thought – no matter how erroneous the conclusions might be – is the most egregious form of tyranny a society can suffer.
This university’s overwhelmingly Leftist slate of campus guests is the very type of tyranny against which Mill would have us guard ourselves. I view this publication’s work as a service to the community – a political good in and of itself, independent of the content we publish. I pity those of you upon whom this notion is lost.
Some of our critics have accused us of being harsh or mean-spirited. This strikes me as odd, given our efforts to promote a reason-centered, analytical forum that welcomes submissions from everyone – students and faculty alike – including our ideological counterparts. We have been vigilant in upholding the university’s Mission, Vision, and Values.
By contrast, though, our critics have taken up the mantle of subverting us. We have found stacks of our newspapers in the trash in Wheeler Humanities Building and the library. We have also found stacks of the Belmont Vision distributed on top of our papers, even though the school provides the Vision with distribution racks (and won’t permit us to provide our own).
We receive emails that attack our publication, but which furnish no substantive critiques. We heard through the grapevine that at least one administrator labeled the Right Aisle Review as a “tendentious tabloid” and that some professors won’t even allow their students to bring this paper into class with them.
“Some have asked “Is this thing going to survive after you and Travis graduate?” or “Have you guys been able to raise any money?”
I’m happy to report that we have a prudent reserve built that will sustain this publication’s needs for no less than one calendar year. I am equally proud to announce the formation of an Alumni Advisory Board, which will both continue to assist the organization’s new leaders as they navigate the challenges of running a controversial newspaper and which will assist in securing a steady stream of income to sustain it long term.
Our Twitter following has doubled since our last edition and our new website boasts over a thousand unique visits in just a few weeks of operation. To our detractors: I’m sorry – but the Right Aisle Review will be a lasting institution on this campus.
You don’t have to agree with us. We count on you not agreeing with us; it’s the only way a project like this would ever work. We don’t even agree with each other on a lot of policy issues. But this project has helped me continue to mature as a writer, provided me with an opportunity to work with younger writers, taught me how to overcome bureaucratic adversity, boosted my confidence and effectiveness in fundraising, and has provided me with an opportunity to lead people in a forum that matters.
So I thank you, Belmont community, for providing me with one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.
George Scoville is a senior Philosophy and Political Science double major. He will attend American University’s School of Public Affairs in pursuit of a Master of Public Policy beginning this fall.