What Does This Country Need?

What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar. Thomas Marshall, United States Vice President

The cigar quote is attributed to Woodrow Wilson’s two-term Vice President, Thomas Marshall. Presiding over the Senate and after listening to an interminable senatorial speech on what America needs, Marshall allegedly leaned over to a colleague and offered his pithy assessment of what the country required. And, of course, Marshall is remembered today. A footnote.

What do you think America needs today? Seriously, if you could wave a magic wand, what would you implement/initiate that would make America a “better” place?

I think the nation is “half-measuring” itself to the dustbin of history. We seem incapable of achieving two important tasks: 1.) Determining (as a society) important national priorities and, 2.) Agreeing (a consensus) on how to achieve/pursue them. I am sadly disheartened regarding the course of America.

Is there one particular example that best exemplifies where 21st century America finds itself? I am sure that my more reflective readers could provide an illustration, or two. Send me your examples but I insist they be unambiguous as to how they clearly demonstrate the nation’s descent to mediocrity.
I make the distinction between specific acts of self-interest (recall Alaska’s bridge to nowhere), which was merely legislative “PORK” run-amuck. It is a timeless practice, based on greed and power. No, I want clear-cut examples of systemic deterioration of the national fiber.

Among the many examples that immediately come to mind, I’ve one that clearly captures the challenge confronting the United States.

In the summer of 2012 the Texas Republican Party agreed to the following provision in its Party Platform: Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills . . . which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

To go on record, publicly no less, that as Republicans you oppose teaching our children critical thinking skills is a staggering indictment of the nation as a whole. Why oppose critical thinking? Because it might challenge one’s “fixed beliefs?” What? Critical thinking might actually lead to behavior modification? For shame, that we ever change our thinking or –horrors!– our behavior!

My goodness, Jepson, I’m not sending my kid to school so she learns to think for herself! Sacrebleu!

What does it say, that the governing political party in the second largest state in the United States goes on public record opposing higher order thinking skills, critical thinking, because—bottom-line—authority may be challenged?

This is at the crux of much of human history. Time and time again, authority opposed change because change is threatening. To power. To privilege. To wealth. To what is known. To the status quo. To the “sacred” unchallengeable verities.

Fortunately, for humanity, such rearguard reactionary actions never succeed in the long run. Change is as predictable as each new day. Mercifully so. No nation, no people remain “in” power forever. We like to think we (Americans) are different in that regard. That history is irrelevant, that we will be on-top forever.

To oppose the teaching of critical thinking facilitates America’s decline and is emblematic of us today, as a culture. Someday future Americans will sadly ask, “What were those people thinking?” The answer: we weren’t.

Nay, Republicans are actually on record opposing it.