Political Dysfunction Spells Trouble for Democracies

Op ed writer E.J. Dion’s newest piece appeared in our local newspaper this morning titled, Political dysfunction spells trouble for democracies. It is a timely and terribly important topic about which we here at MMR have bandied around for some time. It focuses on youth, primarily American and German, who face ever-smaller slices of the economic pie.

Of course, there is a difference between American youth and the German youth even though nations both belong to the G8. One political the other educational. German children are educated on a two-tier track: they either go on to higher education or begin studying a trade depending on high school testing. They aren’t tossed to the wind on graduation day as are American students.  And college tuition is free in nearly all of the states and only moderately expensive in two [500€ per semester]. Thus German youth are prepared well as they enter the workforce.

Secondly, as Dion points out, today’s youth, according to a recent report titled, The Democratic Disconnect, are facing obstacles that post-war children never faced:  “The collective engagement of a concerned citizenry for the public good is eroding. Democratic governments often seem crippled in their capacity to deliver what their people want and need.”

Here in the U.S. many of us know that and are lamenting the gridlock that has kidnapped our democracy. As Dion says at the end of his article, “They could begin by pondering what an unemployed 28-year-old makes of a ruling elite that expends so much energy feuding over how bureaucrats rewrote a set of talking points.”

Dion points out, in a 2009 survey by the German polling firm Forsa: “that zero percent — yes, zero percent — of workers in Germany believe they can have a significant impact on how policy in Germany is shaped via the ballot box.”

At least they are realistic.  Of course, at the present time, the German social safety-net is much broader and tighter than here in the U.S. Germans take care of their youth and pensioners. Their cities run well, transportation and infrastructure is excellent as are their schools  and their economy is relatively stable.

Here in mid-May many high schools are holding graduation ceremonies. For many, it is the end of their formal education. They will walk across the stage, smile, get their diploma and face the reality that this piece of paper guarantees nothing. It is essentially useless in planning for a solid economic future. Of course, this all sadly suggests that our society may become responsible  for the care of this person throughout their life.

What a jackpot for right-wing political banter!

And the vicious cycle.

And the gridlock.

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21 thoughts on “Political Dysfunction Spells Trouble for Democracies

  1. Let me comment first on German education. You write:

    “the German youth…. either go on to higher education or begin studying a trade depending on high school testing. They aren’t tossed to the wind on graduation day as are American students. And college tuition is free in nearly all of the states and only moderately expensive in two [500€ per semester]. Thus German youth are prepared well…”

    We are an English country and not a German foundational country. And, of course, we have incorporated our own concepts, values and
    experiences into our educational system. Let’s go back to 1960 when
    our population was something like 180 million. The population of Germany
    today is around 85 million, while that of the U.S. is 311 million.

    Growing up in Toledo, I do recall that there were two vocational schools, one for boys and the other for girls. A cousin attended the girls vocational
    high school in the sewing and clothing area. Upon graduation she
    obtained a retail job at Sears in the piece goods department. She ended
    up retiring at the Sear’s Tower in Chicago as a managing director of
    clothing. She received great compensation and benefits which college
    educated could only dream of. The boy’s high school was Macomber.
    Do you recall what was said about the education at Macomber? The
    saying was “Macomber makes them dummer.”That was the mindset that many people in Toledo had of those two schools. I have always supported
    vocational educaion.

    In 1960 Toledo we had three choices. We went to college or to work
    or to the military. Well, really we didn’t have a choice, did we? Our
    parents made those decisions for us. There were factories all around
    Toledo to employ high school graduates, and they paid well and good
    benefits. And, many leared their “trade” in the factory. No machine
    robots in 1960 doing the work of 3-5 workers. No real competition from
    Asian and European manufacturers. So, it can be argued in 1960 why build a competing school system. After all, we were in a Cold War and
    the congressional-military-complex needed money to protect the country.
    We used our money to build military bases in Germany and throughout Europe to protect them from the Soviet menace. With little needs to protect tthemselves, the Germans then took that money and put it to work socilly and economically, at our expense. I don’t think that we were “tossed to the
    wind in 1960.

    As to comparing a “free” college education. Because of the hugh
    disparity in population and the difference in the cultural differences
    of the two countryies it is is like comparing apples and oranges.
    To be sure I don’t believe that college is for everyone. There is not
    the money for that, nor does out elementary and secondary schools
    prepare most students to enter college. It seems to me that a change
    from the more permissive courses at the elementary and secondary
    level, to a return of the more core curriculum of “reading,
    writing, arithmetic, and history/geography.”

  2. The statement is “..Germans take care of their youth and pensioners.”

    I think that we do a fairly good job of that too. But, again, we have to look
    at the small population that Germany has to the third largest population
    in the world for the U.S. And, what is the German tax structure, compared
    to the U.S.?
    The Socialist Government of France has or is putting an 100 tax rate
    on any one with an income over $1.6 million, I think. The result is that
    those people are beginning to leave France. One actor has moved to
    Belgium, futbol athletes and clubs are threatening to leave. Others are
    doing the same. The previous President had given the wealthy a 50%
    rebate on their taxes, so this Government decided to make it up with a
    100% tax. There is nothing free, as some one has to pay. Truly, there
    is no free lunch. With 10,000 people becoming Medicare and Social
    Security recipients every day, how long can that go on? We hve to face
    this shortfall, and a dollar to donut so will Germany.

  3. ““..that zero percent — yes, zero percent — of workers in Germany believe they can have a significant impact on how policy in Germany is shaped via the ballot box.”

    So what do you think? Is that the way it is in the U.S.?

    1. Thanks for your multiple comments, my friend.

      Yes, Macomber H.S. and Whitney H.S. were useful for the segment of our population- our peers- who felt that college was beyond their dream. These schools currently operate in Germany. One of my distant cousins there did not pass her abitur exam and moved on to a trade school where she learned carpentry; her sister passed and went to college for free [Baden-Wurttemberg]. Three other male cousins moved on to college after their abitur. All 4 of the college grads have excellent jobs there [one in Paris].

      You write, It seems to me that a change from the more permissive courses at the elementary and secondary level, to a return of the more core curriculum of “reading, writing, arithmetic, and history/geography.”

      There is a standard “core curriculum” available for the 50 states to adopt which focus the students’ skills on more firm academic achievement. Ohio adopted it as have forty-four states, including MS.

      Take 8th grade math for example. What did you and I learn in 8th grade lo those many years ago? Arithmetic, essentially. We never heard of algebra or geometry, let alone linear equations, functions, probability, statistical analysis, abstract reasoning, radicals and integer exponents.

      These latter concepts [beyond arithmetic] are standard core math curriculum outcomes for 8th graders moving on to high school. Arithmetic is for shopkeepers.

      So who will ‘object’ to these new requirements for students? Parents. Why? Because they don’t know that stuff and figure ‘they didn’t have to know that to get through life!’

      …forty years ago.

      Board of Education members might object too for the very same reasons. Sadly, some teachers too. Why? Because they will need to bone-up on that stuff and add it to their teaching plans. Of course, they need to delete other stuff, but many are not willing to give up the ‘old ways’ and will still focus on arithmetic skills- even in 8th grade.

      ——————————————————————–

      You quote me, ““..that zero percent — yes, zero percent — of workers in Germany believe they can have a significant impact on how policy in Germany is shaped via the ballot box.” and ask, So what do you think? Is that the way it is in the U.S.?

      Trending that way and with the ‘gotcha!’ political games being played by our legislators, the public, The People, are tiring of it all and turning it off. Me too! What is there to attend to these days in the political arena? Bengazi? IRS? Inhofe and Colburn dissing their own state’s emergency relief funds? Goofy tirades by Rand and Cruz?

      No interest in jobs or infrastructure or science or the environment or for that matter, education.

      Idiocy. The Germans figured it out already; we, the LD class, take longer. The People are learning that our congressional representatives care about their next election, period.

      2.

  4. I don’t know how much you in your professional life used algebra, trig,
    calculus, and the like, but I had no occasion except as you say with doing
    my children’s homework. That arithmetic did just fine; it got us to the
    moon before anyone else then or since.It made us a technological super
    power. Maybe it just culd be that we were grounded with the
    fundamentals.

    You write often about the low information voter and their lack of history
    and geography(climate change as an example). Well, when we clutter
    the curriculum with add ons, something has to suffer. When we hire
    P E teachers and coaches and then have them teach history and geography what
    result can we expect.

    1. When we hire P E teachers and coaches and then have them teach history and geography what result can we expect.

      Hopefully, that is changing, although not universally across the states. And it is still the case in non-public schools where $$ is tight.

    2. I don’t know how much you in your professional life used algebra, trig,
      calculus, and the like…

      Not much, but the students in Japan, Singapore, Germany, China, Russia, S. Korea, Taiwan etc. are learning it and are preparing the next generation of engineers and tech-savvy students because of it. If we remain an uneducated blob, then we’ll need wars to keep ourselves relevant in the world theater.

  5. Yet, they come for higher education in engineering and other tech fields to
    the leading United States universities and research labs. Indeed, this is
    one of the problems with our current immigration law, they get an American education and then we send them back to their country of origin, instead
    letting them do their research and/or setting up their business here in
    the States.

    Speaking of an “uneducated blob”, M_R, what do purpose to do with the
    fact that one in fifty children today are autistic? Why is that? A few years
    ago it was 1 in 100, then a couple of years ago it was 1 in 77, now it is
    1 in 50. Why has autism and ADHD accelerated to the state in has? Now, those conditions are relatively new for the youth of this country. Yes, ADHS has been around, but not at the explosive rate of cases today. And, on the other end, is Alzheimer’s for the older Americans. Why is that?

  6. Sure you do, you just don’t want to comment on them. Yet, how are schools and classroom teachers going to teach this rapid rate of
    growth in autism and ADHD at pre-school thru 12?

    As to the Federal Government paying for college costs, the figure is
    $144 BILLION. That is a LOT of money!

  7. You asked me, “Why?” My answer: “I don’t know.”

    Not too complex.

    Re the $$ for college, that figure is 20% of the budget for the Pentagon. Who is more important to the U.S., generals or college grads??

  8. Sorry, I didn’t understand what you meant by the word “syndromes”. I thought that you meant what the diseases are, not the why.

    Since you have asked about the why, let me give a plausable answer.
    I think all three maladies are caused by a lack of proper nutrition. Our
    food is now terribly deficient in minerals and vitamins. It is in the first three
    months of gestation that the human brain is developed. Without proper
    nutrition the brain does not develope normally. Two results are autism
    and ADHD. Alzheimers is caused by not enough cholesterol in the brain.
    Doctors and Big Pharma have convinced people that it as all genetic. Not true! It is the prescribing of cholesterol lowering drugs like crestor and
    lipitor, etc. that reduces the amount of cholesterol in the brain and this leads to Alzheimers.

    Medical practice and religion are the bane of modern society!

  9. Don’t you think we as a country would have been better off pursuing free college education instead of free healthcare five years ago?

    1. Good question and welcome back, JOB. Too bad it has to be either/or as both would be good for our nation. Those on the right-side of the political spectrum want neither (as we see re health care even now) and would certainly have obstructed both issues.

      The two issues are on different tracks; one immediate, one futuristic. One is social, the other individualistic. So, who knows the will of The People, the legislators? Beats me.

  10. Hello All,
    Well The Republican controlled House of Representatives has voted to end overtime pay for workers under the labor laws, and also to double interest rates on student loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, effective July 1.

    This is an all out attack on the Working Middle Class and a fact that needs to be passed on and a reminder for the 2014 elections.

  11. Hello, Engineer, good to hear from you. The way GOP states have Gerrymandered their state s, I don’t see much change in the House.

    moreover, the recent IRS abuses and the Obama’s desire to find leaks
    with the wire tapping of the AP may face retribution from the press
    and the voters.

  12. Hello Uptheflag,
    I do conceed that GOP states have Gerrymandered their state s and may not see much change in the House..

    As far as the recent IRS abuses, wire tapping of the AP, i would say much to do about nothing and won’t be a factor.

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