Day after day, I see Common Core arguments across the Internet. However, there's another issue that is closely related, yet far more sinister in terms of education: the disengagement of teachers and students. A while back, a video made the rounds of a student being kicked out of his World History class. Before he leaves, he makes an impassioned plea to the teacher to engage with her students. Jeff Bliss might not have said it in the most articulate way, but he hit the nail on the head on an incredibly important issue-and one that should go to the heart of anyone interested in the future of this country.
As someone who's spent time in a number of classrooms recently (both high school, community college, 4-year university, and military training), one important thing that stands out to me is the importance of interaction. While a lecture or handout might physically get the information across, the only way to ensure that students know the material is to involve students and teachers in learning. Whether that comes in the point of a debate or some form of activity doesn't necessarily matter-without fail, every one of my favorite classes involved the teacher interacting with students constantly and consistently. Classes which have little or no student-teacher interaction tended to be not only less interesting, but more difficult to retain information.
Now, I know that a significant number of modern college courses are lecture-based-or, in this tech-centric era, completely online. However, even then it is possible to feature student interaction and debate. It is even more crucial at that point to maximize the amount of interaction between students or between students and professors. Let me use a current example.
To make it personal, I am currently enrolled in two online courses. Both are offered through the same university, through the same department. They are extremely similar, in fact, and I have used information from each to benefit the other. The only major difference I have found has been in the level of interaction between students. For the rest of this, I'll simply refer to them as Class A and Class B. In Class A, students are required not only to write a short essay every week regarding the week's topic on a board viewable by all students, but they are required to respond to at least two other students' essays in order to encourage debate back and forth on the issues. In Class B, student interaction is minimal, and information is tested only through quizzes and papers submitted directly to the professor. Now, which class do you think has forced me to learn more-and to retain that information? That's right-the student-to-student interaction allows everyone the chance to refine what we each take from the lesson, and forces everyone to defend our ideas on a regular basis. This back-and-forth encourages us to spend much more time refining our ideas, which results in not only significantly more learning actually being accomplished, but in students having much more fun in learning.
It comes down to this: we have to find a way to improve the educational system in our country. Common Core is a highly controversial (and, most would agree, highly dysfunctional) attempt to solve this problem. However, Common Core or not, if teachers don't engage their students, they do a disservice to everyone. It's a problem that's far more difficult to solve, and it involves everyone getting involved. School boards and administrators must provide incentives to teachers that foster student engagement. Parents must involve themselves as well in ensuring that those who teach their children actively are committed to doing so. Finally, though, students need to do their part-both participating as much as they can in those settings which allow such engagement, and complaining if teachers don't meet the standard. Jeff Bloom showed the extreme. Students want to learn-at this point, it's up to everyone else to give them an environment in which they can.
Just a few months ago, if you asked just about anyone who was going to win the 2014 Senate race in Virginia, they'd answer 'Mark Warner'. Democrat or Republican, it was assumed that he had an insurmountable lead, which (in that self-perpetuating vicious circle) led to several viable candidates not looking into the race, which spun right back around into giving Warner even more of a lead. After all, who'd go against the popular, incumbent Senator, former Governor, and general all-but-guaranteed win? After all, just 6 years ago, when Virginia went blue in the Presidential race by less than 8 points, Warner won election over another ex-Governor (Jim Gilmore), 65%-35%. Even counting the massive failure of Obamacare (to which Warner, no matter his attempts to distance himself, will always be tied), the general rightward turn of the state, and the strong conservative-friendly climate, Warner was considered all-but-guaranteed to sail to another term. The few candidates who had put forth their names against him at the time (Shak Hill, Howie Lind, Chuck Moss, and Tony DeTora) could only be described as extreme longshots.
Then Ed Gillespie announced that he was willing to run. Far from a dark horse or unknown candidate, Gillespie brought the promise of national attention to his campaign, and instantly made it a guarantee that fundraising would not be a problem. After all, he helped found Crossroads GPS with Karl Rove, served as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and former Counselor to President Bush. Finally, Republicans in Virginia had a candidate that stacked up well against Senator Warner, and one that promised to at least make this an even fight.
However, early polls seemed to indicate that Gillespie's benefits weren't as great as they seemed. His name recognition across the state paled to Warner, who had a 30-point lead over Gillespie, according to the Roanoke Times. Republican interest, which had spiked upon Gillespie's announcement, seemed doomed again.
Then, a pair of miracles happened.
First, a Harper poll indicated that, far from the 30-point margin that pundits were talking about, Warner was only ahead by 6%, 44%-38%. In a generic ballot, Republicans were ahead 46%-42%! To push the good news even further, Warner had dipped below the 50% approval rating that is normally a minimum needed for an incumbent to win re-election. With 7 months to go before voters went to the polls, we had a race.
Then, Warner started making what can only be described as a series of politically questionable moves. Jumping into a celebrity-gossip story normally reserved for teenagers, Senator Warner pushed for the deportation of Justin Bieber. Not quite the image you want when running for office, is it? But wait, there's more...he also, on his public Twitter, stated that he thought Republicans would blame the colder winter on Obamacare. Not only does this not make sense, but it only makes it easier to turn the subject to Obamacare-a law which is disapproved by 52% of voters in that same Harper poll.
Now, I'm not saying that this race is over-after all, there are still 4 candidates for the Republican nomination, to be decided on June 7. But this race is no longer a "Safe Democrat" or "Leaning Democrat" race. With 7 months to go, Virginians have a Toss-Up on our hands.
With the midterm elections starting to heat up, not to mention the opening moments of the 2016 primaries starting to loom ahead, I think everyone is starting to look ahead to millions of dollars' worth of negative ad blitzes on television, mailers about everyone's opponent filling the mailbox, and fundraising phone calls filling up the voicemail. As I've already started to receive these, I can only imagine what it'll be like in 3 months, as the primary enters its final moments and the general elections start to heat up. However, I think it's important to take a moment to look at what we can improve on, so that we can have a good Election Night 2014 and 2016.
I was far from born when Reagan, in his 1966 campaign for Governor of California, spoke his '11th Commandment'- "Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Liberal Republican attacks on primary winner Barry Goldwater were a significant part of the 1964 Presidential defeat. More importantly, attacking a fellow Republican during the primary makes life significantly easier for the Democrat in the general election. Looking back at the 2012 primary fight, you can see this clearly-Mitt Romney's highly negative attacks on his primary opponents, and their attacks in return, made it much more easy for Barack Obama's campaign to win re-election.
More importantly, these negative attacks are disastrous for party unity at a time when it's most desperately needed. After all, the end of the primary cycle is when the party needs to come together most-and yet, with negative attacks on everyone, it leaves a significant number of Republicans-conservatives and moderates alike-with a sour taste in their mouths, unwilling to help elect the nominee in the general election. Again, this plays perfectly into the liberal candidate's hands.
I'm not a fool-I know that primary fights are going to get ugly-especially with conservatives going up against moderate incumbents like Bevin in Kentucky. However, can we try to keep it somewhat positive? The Party-and the conservative movement-will be much better served by having a nominee who isn't already battered by the negative attacks of fellow Republicans. At least keep attacks professional, please-personal attacks do nothing but hurt everyone involved. Thanks, and let's look forward to the next year!
Normally, I have a very pro-libertarian attitude-after all, on many issues they support the conservative issues. However, my blood boiled today as I heard that Robert Sarvis, the man who several leading Republicans believe cost the GOP the Governor's Mansion in Virginia, announced that he was running yet again for the Senate in 2014.
Here's my problem with this. Unlike in 2013, when he spiked the campaign of Ken Cuccinelli, Ed Gillespie (the frontrunner for the GOP nomination as of this writing) is far from extreme conservative. He has a lot of potential in winning this election-so all that Sarvis does by running is hurt the libertarian ideals he claims to espouse (I'll save my personal opinions on, let's say, the veracity of his beliefs for another day). All Sarvis will do in this campaign is pull 3-4% of the vote away from Gillespie, which only helps Warner continue to vote for every liberal bill that Harry Reid can come up with.
I can't wait to see what the field looks like in 2014. It should be an incredible election year, in which Democrats elected on President Obama's coat-tails finally get swept out of office, allowing the GOP to correct the decline that this country is in. I really do not see the point of taking one election that is already going to be close and just handing it to the Democrats-and yet, that is what Sarvis is doing with his announcement.
I'm not going to try to deceive anyone-I'm a strong conservative. Any person who speaks to me for more than 5 seconds can tell you that. But I had a conversation today with a good friend of mine which got me to thinking.
First, let's go into a bit of history. There have always been many wings of each of the political party in the United States. In the Republican Party, these can be most easily simplified into the 'Conservative' and the 'Moderate' wings of the party. The modern status of these has been seen since at least the 1960's, when Barry Goldwater represented the 'conservative' movement and Nelson Rockefeller the 'moderate' movement. Both wings of the party were instrumental in winning across various states, and it is the combination of the two wings of the Republican Party that gave the GOP its historic 1984 landslide.
However, the two wings have been at somewhat at odds in recent years. 2000 brought about the election of the conservative George Bush, and his later years saw historic losses for the GOP, most clearly highlighted by the catastrophic losses in 2006 and 2008. The 2012 nominating process saw a new and somewhat disturbing trend in GOP. The massive infusion of Super PAC cash in the primary season meant that moderates and conservatives alike wound up with a candidate whom neither wing particularly approved of-and yet hundreds of millions of dollars which would have been much better spent on showing the positives of the GOP candidate were wasted bashing other candidates-moderates and conservatives alike.
Now, we're unfortunately starting to see the same mentality crop up in preparation for 2016. Potential candidates are still largely silent on what they'll do come campaign season, but the crop of candidates is growing quickly. Just as quickly, supporters are starting to bash other candidates as either 'too moderate' or 'too conservative'. However, why can't we find areas where we agree, and not just areas where we disagree? I'd love to see a primary season in which Reagan's 11th Commandment is followed. Please, let's not bash another candidate just because we happen to support someone else.
The Fight Goes On
As a resident of Virginia, I am fortunate that gun laws are lenient enough to allow me the right to carry for defense in most areas of the state. However, one of the most gaping areas in which it is illegal to carry are college campuses-not for the general population, mind you, but for students. Students who have gone through the process of applying for a Concealed Weapons Permit and been approved may carry off-campus, yet face expulsion if they feel the need to carry for their own self-defense on-campus. Not only is this absurd from a legal standpoint, but it makes college campuses open ground for criminals, who know that any student is all but defenseless.
Liberals love to argue that the presence of weapons on campus is inviting random acts of violence. However, Concealed Permit holders have been shown by studies to be much less likely to commit crimes of any type. Also, liberals like to argue that defense is best left to police officers. However, what liberals refuse to accept is that the police aren't capable of preventing crime-their job is to investigate crime after it occurs. It can often take several minutes for police to respond to an emergency situation, minutes during which the victim of the crime is defenseless-unless that victim has the capability to defend himself.
Let's take a minute and compare two campus shootings that've taken place in the past few years. Both shootings have involved lone gunmen who forced their way into the campus and began shooting. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and opened fire. Almost immediately after the shooting began, multiple 911 calls went out-yet 5 minutes passed before the first police officers arrived, and almost 5 minutes after that before the first police officers entered the building. Lanza had time to kill 20 first-grade students, 6 adults, and himself before police entered the building. Connecticut has some of the strongest gun-control laws in the country-and yet every person in that school was defenseless because no one was allowed to carry.
Now, let's change schools. Almost a year to the day after Sandy Hook (December 13, 2013), Karl Pierson walked into Arapahoe High School in Colorado. Armed with a shotgun and Molotov cocktails, he also intended to kill as many people as possible. However, this time there was an armed school resource officer on the school grounds, who immediately rushed towards the gunfire-the shooter, realizing this, took his own life after shooting only one student. The entire incident lasted less than 80 seconds, and it received little attention.
The reason I bring these two schools up is because of this: After the Sandy Hook shooting, NRA Executive Vice President called for armed officers in every school in the country-and was vilified for it. Liberal groups attacked him with a vengeance, and his proposition was seen as a joke. However, just one year later, it was an armed resource officer who saved possibly dozens of lives at Arapahoe High School.
Now, let's go back to college for a moment. College campuses are significantly larger than high schools, so the idea of armed resource officers is less feasible. However, why is it so threatening to allow licensed permit-holders to carry their personal weapons onto campus? Even teachers are prohibited from carrying their own weapons concealed onto campuses-and what does it solve, other than acting as an invitation to violence by criminals who by their very nature are deranged?
It makes me angry sometimes when I see the Brady Campaign and other anti-gun groups lash out against legal gun owners carrying guns-they never seem to see the benefits, despite the number of times that they've stopped mass murders in their tracks. For a few more examples of this, see this article by Ted Nugent, a conservative activist who serves on the board of the NRA.
Would Concealed Carry on Campus stop school shootings? Probably not. Would Concealed Carry on Campus limit the body count of those shootings? Absolutely.