To Raise All Boats

17 02 2016

We RiseI don’t believe in Affirmative Action. Promoting, hiring, or accepting into a program, based on anything other than qualifications, only serves to deepen divides. Hence the nasty remarks about the achievements of a non-white or female being “only because of affirmative action”, and the gripes about “reverse discrimination”. Affirmative Action was adopted with all good intentions, but has had serious negative repercussions. Its attempt at justice leads to injustice. It’s time to toss it out and address the real problem.

We have lost too many great talents to poverty and marginalization. As an investment in the future of our country, we need to aggressively fund programs that will end the savage inequalities. Start with health care for all, so no women goes into a pregnancy in poor health. And include free access to all forms of birth control, including abortion, allowing a woman to have only the children she truly wants and is ready for. Next, even the poorest households should have access to prenatal care comparable to what affluent households enjoy. When the baby is born, no matter the circumstances, support systems should be in place for parents and child. Paid family leave allows mother and father to bond with the new child and give it a good start in life. Giving birth is stressful enough without the pressure of getting back to work and securing good child care (which also should be available at reasonable cost).

Invest aggressively in education. Rethink how schools are funded and teachers paid, so that even the children in the poorest neighborhoods get as good an education as children in affluent suburbs. Put social programs are in place to make sure every child is well-fed and able to meet the challenges of a top-notch curriculum. Schools in need should get their needs met, not their funding cut. Small, neighborhood schools are better than huge, centralized schools. They can be a safe haven in places where crime and poverty make life difficult and dangerous. Key to providing the best education to all children is not more testing. It is radically raising the salaries of teachers so that the best qualified are attracted into the profession. Make sure class sizes are kept small so that teachers can see to the problems of children with special needs, be those needs physical, academic, or emotional.

Finally, make college available to all who want it and can fulfill the basic academic requirements. Higher education can include professions from plumbing to accounting to nursing. Any skill which might enable a person to secure a good paying job or enter a profession should be available regardless of income. Invest whatever it takes to begin turning out entire generations of skilled, well-educated workers. This would truly mean no child left behind.

How do we pay for this? By changing the corrupt priorities of a government which thinks nothing of wasting billions of dollars on defense. By changing the mindset of a public which fusses over the cost of social programs but doesn’t question the cost of useless wars.  By demanding that everyone pay their fair share of taxes, instead of settling for a system where those who can most afford it pay the least. And by battling the pernicious demonization of the poor as deserving their misery because of laziness or stupidity. The poor of all races and ethnicities are a vast, untapped resource far more vital than any other, for they are the ones whose abilities, properly encouraged, can revitalize our country. It is in our best interest to invest in them.

Of course, we will also need to find ways to make the selection process for jobs and programs more color and gender blind. Work on eradicating subtle racism and sexism. Find ways to conduct interviews that focus on qualifications and talent alone. Make the playing field truly level, so that those of exceptional ability can rise, and the merely competent still can get work that gives them dignity and a living wage. Allow no one’s potential to go to waste, no matter how humble.

This is socialism at its finest. No give-aways; no free rides; just equal opportunity for all those willing to work hard to succeed, regardless of where they came from or how much their parents earned. It’s what our country once stood for and must stand for again. The American Dream has been stolen by a wealthy elite who want it just for themselves and their children. We as a nation must work together to take it back and make it available once more to everyone, even the most disadvantaged.

I believe in making Affirmative Action not just obsolete, but irrelevant.

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