We live in a world filled with contradictions, conflict and confusion. We are constantly facing challenges and making decisions in an environment that is changing and dynamic. This is part of who we are as a species, as parts of groups and as individuals living in the world. While we may strive for stability and long for consistency, we also continually find ourselves acting in ways that create, or add to the chaotic climate of our lives. Change and conflict are a part of the fabric of our lives, as well as a vital part of our continuing development and growth. One of my favorite Frederick Douglass quotes reflects this well when he states, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Yet, with all of this complexity and challenge, there is also a constant undercurrent of simplicity. When we strip away all of the extraneous and sometimes irrelevant "noise" around us, we often find that the most simple choices are the ones that lead us in the most constructive direction. Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted from what is really important. We also allow ourselves to be mislead, or find ways to mislead ourselves and justify ideas or actions that we know to be untrue or simply wrong. As Arthur Conan Doyle's famous character Sherlock Holmes said on multiple occasions, "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth."
We can't forget that truth is a tricky concept. Too often those who claim to speak "truth" are the ones who would lead us further away from goals of social justice and the promise that was made to all citizens at the founding of the United States. We mix the concepts of truth with morality and justice on a regular basis, and this blending of very different terms causes us a significant amount of difficulty. This idea that we can continually strive for, to quote from Superman, "The never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way," implies that these three concepts are inextricably linked. Yet we know that America is a nation built by humans, with all of the flaws and problems that this entails.
When trying to uncover the "truth" it is a good idea to gather facts to help us further our investigation. In this case I turned to Merriam-Webster to give me the basic definitions of the words truth and justice. These definitions shine some light on the reasons for our ongoing confusion about these concepts. Truth is defined as, "The real facts about something: the things that are true," which seems straightforward enough until a later part of the definition states that it is "A statement or idea that is true or accepted as true." This means that truth can be a fact like 2+2=4, or a something like this. . .
How can Ann Coulter and so many others in the Republican Party support the Confederate battle flag while also claiming to have a monopoly on patriotism?
Truth now becomes something potentially different from fact, "Something that truly exists or happens: something that has actual existence, or a true piece of information." Truth defined this ways isn't a universally accepted fact, in other words, my truth can be different from your truth. This becomes clear when we hear people discuss current events and make statements according to their perceptions of reality and their interpretations of what should, or shouldn't happen. It is in this context that statements about any controversial issue can be so divergent and contradictory. This becomes confusing as our society grapples with such opposite ways of defining the truth about any issue.
Because we struggle to define truth we turn to the second part of the Superman quote, Justice. Justice is linked to truth in that it exists in (once again turning to Merriam-Webster) "conformity to truth, fact or reason." So we recognize that justice has a basis in truth, but can't ignore the fact that truth is now a shakier foundation than one might hope for. Further exploration of the concept of justice leads us into more confusion and new terminology. Justice is defined as, "The maintenance of administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments." It is also, "The quality of being just, impartial, or fair." Even if we rely on the safety of the rule of law we must also deal with the concept of equity, as justice is "The establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity."
We find ourselves in a troubling situation, and one that leads us back to our ongoing struggle as individuals, communities and a nation to collectively identify what exactly is promised to us by the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the legacy of rhetoric around truth, justice, freedom, opportunity, equity, and the idea that America is a place where all of these grand ideas are available, accessible and even guaranteed to every one of us on an equal basis. This is the "American Way" part of the Superman saying. There are some who would cling to the idea that this is a concept that is clearly defined and absolute throughout our nation's history, and one that should continue on without change or significant modification into our future. This idea that we need to interpret all our current actions through the lens of an elite group of males from the 1700's is one that finds it's champions in the current extreme conservative movement.
The case is "one more nail in the coffin of originalism."
The U.S. Supreme Court's legalizing of same-sex marriages nationwide comes as longtime opponent Scott Walker prepares to officially launch his campaign for president.
www.channel3000.com|By Channel 3000
The struggle to define the "American Way" is the true heart of our growth and change as a society and as a nation. We may frame it in glowing terms like freedom and justice, but its essence is one that we share with all other cultures, nations and groups throughout history and around the globe. America's struggles to fulfill the promise made to all citizens is grounded in the ongoing struggle for power and wealth that motivates us as individuals and groups. In order to achieve the lofty pledge made to all of us as American citizens we must struggle for, utilize and maintain our individual and collective power. The rest of the Frederick Douglass quote sums this up clearly:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason
State Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, wrote a guest column claiming that the proposed state budget will help Wisconsin students (June 15 Tribune).
lacrossetribune.com|By Kathryn Mayer, Anita Jagodzinski, Liza Collins Holmen
Under him, Wisconsin’s public school students have endured the biggest cuts to public education in our state’s history.
jsonline.com|By Scot Ross
School is out for the summer, and kids are overjoyed. But across the country, the future of public education is in serious jeopardy.
There is a growing anti-intellectual dumbing down of our culture
Without tenure, it will be easier to eliminate fields that give us an informed historical perspective.
I have served on the River Valley Board of Education for the past nine years and I have seen, first hand, the erosion of support for our rural public schools
The more the people of Milwaukee find out about the Takeover of MPS, the more concerns and questions they have. One question keeps being asked is: What's...
Justice Anthony Kennedy praises marriage—and same-sex marriage.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has gone on the offensive against women again, despite the backlash against his previous ugly remarks about rape victims...
www.slate.com|By Amanda Marcotte
Our story so far in America's laboratories of democracy: Over the past few years, Republican governors have been eagerly implementing big tax cuts, insisting that they will supercharge their states' economies and increase revenue instead of reducing it. Kansas was the poster child for this experimen…
Amid criticism from many educators and school officials over the upcoming Republican K-12 education budget, Rep. Dale Kooyenga rejects the notion that...
Milwaukee city leaders made it clear on Tuesday morning that they are unanimously opposed to a Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. They also...
The No Vouchers Coalition says Speaker Robin Vos has no business setting education agenda for local legislators.
host.madison.com|By Pat Schneider
On a national scale we've seen this message of fear and division play out in the violence directed at African-Americans by angry whites who act out of fear. Fear that is promoted and directed by those who would manipulate others for the sake of maintaining power, and fear that generates hatred, anger and violence. This is a historical and current reality. When we look at the social structures around race and other demographic characteristics we see both overt and covert efforts to divide the populations that should be acting cooperatively to improve their status in society. Look at the rank and file members of the Confederate Army which was made up of poorer, often non-slave owners (by the start of the war about 75% of Southerners did not own slaves) fighting to defend a way of life and economy that was decaying rapidly. These men had been indoctrinated in a way of thinking that belittled and dehumanized the slaves while failing to acknowledge the significant similarities in social and economic power that they shared with these people who they considered "lesser." Nothing excuses the entrenched prejudices and biases that exist in our society, but efforts to make positive change happen must be supported on all levels.
Calling Wednesday’s shootings in Charleston a “tragedy” makes this explosion of murderous violence seem like an accident. It isn’t.
werehistory.org|By Stephen Kantrowitz
"We utterly condemn Roof's despicable killings, but they do not detract from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed."
This effort to divide and conquer the majority of citizens has continued into the present day. The debate over the Confederate flag flying over South Carolina's capitol has returned it to the national spotlight. Yet, the reality and results of racism are evident in all parts of our nation. We face a lasting legacy of hatred and fear that will take all of our concerted effort, and significant amounts of time to overcome.
The Confederate battle flag, a symbol of treason and brutality, somehow still flies in America.
The battle over a fraught symbol is resurrected.
During a speech in Washington, D.C., the Republican governor said the murders of nine people in a South Carolina church were “racist” and “evil,” but he begged...
What does Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) think about South Carolina flying the Confederate flag outside its state Capitol? It depends on when you ask him. As a...
Blaming "mental illness" is a cop-out -- and one that lets us avoid talking about race, guns, hatred and terrorism
slnm.us|By Arthur Chu
It is clear that hate begets hate and creates a climate of fear, anger and division.
Ahem.... it is 2015 in much of America: It's still 1963 in the South, apparently. Following the Attack on...
While we work to change the future of our nation in terms of relations between the diverse populations that make up our country we can see how those in power work to help perpetuate the divisions. Once again looking at education, the emphasis on a skills based, benchmarked and standardized curriculum restricts our conversations about social justice issues, and limits students' exposure to important topics around issues of equity, race, gender, etc.
Common Core pressures make it difficult to educate students about social justice
It is good to see that there is significant resistance to the excessive testing, but we must also recognize that those who profit from this system will seek to defend it using any tactics available. One of these is the reliance on data to drive decision making, even at the expense of professional expertise, community input and un-measurable factors that influence and measure a student's growth and progress.
Seven percent of Madison students opted out of the test, compared to 2.2 percent of students statewide.
host.madison.com|By Molly Beck | Wisconsin State Journal
Expanding the number of tests parents could opt their children out of taking could have consequences, such as obscuring actual school performance and...
jsonline.com|By Erin Richards
While charts and graphics can help us visualize large amounts of data, they can also greatly misinform if not presented correctly.
Our national ideals of freedom and opportunity has been co-opted by the rhetoric of individualism, the marketplace and capitalism. It is interesting to me how often we hear about the values of America in terms of a combination of capitalism and Christianity. These are two concepts that almost seem mutually exclusive, and have given rise to a host of policies, reforms and social constructs that actively contradict each other. We find it difficult to be a nation built on individual effort and "rugged individualism" while still displaying the values that are espoused in Christian teachings. This emphasis on individualism has an impact beyond the religious and/or philosophical as well.
Is it because the idea of the collective good has given way to ‘individualization’? Whatever happened to e pluribus unum?
nytimes.com|By Thomas B. Edsall
This overemphasizing of the role of individuals over the work of a collective group has been on display in the attacks on labor unions, both public and private sector.
Unions have the ability to provide a collective voice for those who lack the power to influence the system. They also provide structures that can help alleviate fear based on demographics. A well negotiated collective bargaining agreement provides a structure that works to eliminate overt and covert discrimination in the workplace. Union have been an integral part of our nation's progress towards equity and social justice throughout history.
Women and men in unions will continue to lead the way, fighting for rights and protections for all workers. The more workers who join us, the stronger we are, and the better off we all will be.
EduShyster has a fascinating report on the...
In the end we begin to realize that the grand ideas of "Truth, Justice and The American Way of Life," are difficult to define and quantify. In many ways we know them when we see them, but struggle to describe them. In fact, we may not need to identify them, define them, or attempt to lay out a plan to achieve these ideals. Instead we need to take a closer look at what our founding documents say, and apply them to modern America. The blueprint for a socially just society is contained in our national dialog around rights, freedoms and justice. What needs to happen is for the general citizenry of our nation to unite and work towards equitable implementations and equitable applications of the contents of these documents. An organized, engaged and informed population is what it takes to overcome the errors of our past, to equitably define the "American Way" and to fulfill the promises made to all citizens.