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Posts Tagged ‘community’

I have a special place in my heart for anyone trying to give guided instruction in current events, especially lately. For one thing, we as a country are in the middle of an incredibly interesting journey on which we’re throwing it all on the table, getting it out in the open, and hashing out some things that have been swept under the rug for a long time. For another thing, the analysis of current events always looks different a month or a year or a presidential term later, so what we first see as truth is bound to change a little eventually. But someone has to get the conversation started.

I have a friend who says he’s teaching a class in civil discourse this coming semester. I think that’s a brave thing to do – I imagine it means he’s going to try to teach young people how to communicate without using anger or irrational behaviour. The more I think about it, the more I think it should be a required class in our schools. All of them. Catch the kids with the attitude problems before they’re old enough to buy guns.

The evidence is piling up in favor of paying extra attention to our country’s educational system. And that’s normal – schools need new rules all the time in response to a changing society. Remember typing class? That changed a bit over the years, didn’t it? In the seventies, it was typing class. In the nineties, it was keyboarding class. I have no clue what they’re calling it nowadays. For all I know, they’re now teaching 5-year-olds their ABCs using the touch typing system, word processing software, and the media controls on the computer, which takes care of all three skills at once.

So I made a little list of the new classes I think ought to be added to each and every school’s curriculum, and be made a requirement for high school middle school graduation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think these new classes will really make a difference in the lives of the young adults we throw out into the world with questionable social skills.

– Civil Discourse: how to state opinions and discuss issues in productive ways, especially in response to angry and hateful boneheads (must earn a B or better to pass)

– Criminal Law 101: introduction to the nature of crime and punishment, the penalties for various laws in their local area, and the difference between movies and reality (unit on survival skills to be made available in certain gang-infested school systems)

– Beginning Personal Finance: everything from making change to balancing a checkbook to the joys of compound interest (or the avalanche of compound interest, in the case of credit cards), with a special section on how to avoid getting ripped off

– Fifth-Grade Ethics: why and how to act in everyone’s best interest, how to begin figuring out what that is, and when and how to speak up in the face of injustice (violators of other school rules must repeat this class with the fifth-graders, no matter how old they are)

– Introduction to Gun Safety (mandatory in TX, NM, and AZ; optional everywhere else): how to safely handle, clean, and fire a gun; with emphasis on hunting, the difference between self-defense and self-importance, and the dangers of semiautomatic weapons (prerequisite, Ethics; must be taught concurrently with the class on Civil Discourse)

Feel free to add your own, but I think these five classes could be the start of some cool new rules in school – and save lives, and save the government a heck of a lot of money down the road, and…

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I’ve discovered that I really like tag-surfing on WordPress. It’s a little like using the remote control to channel-surf the TV for something cool to watch – and if you have as little control over the clicker as I do, you can appreciate the excitement here. I never know what I’m going to find. I can click Tag Surfer on the left of my Dashboard, choose any word or phrase, and surf into the unknown world of anyone who decided to use that phrase on that day.

My favorite tag at the moment is Mental Health. Now that generates variety. Some people are blogging about general issues, some people are blogging about their treatment, and some people are just blogging about the struggles of everyday life. These are real stories about real people with real challenges. And this is just the thin slice of the population who have access to the Internet and decide to blog. I don’t know if this is a statistically valid sample, but it’s a start.

Some people should tag Mental Health and read these stories on a regular basis. For instance, I’d like to make it mandatory for politicians who are facing decisions about budgeting for health care and social services. Teachers at all levels could use some continuing ed on how nontraditional brains work in real life, and not just in their “special needs” course at college that they’ve already forgotten about. Educational administrators could use some of these stories when they’re contemplating budget cuts for the kids who really shouldn’t be forgotten at all. Then there are the people who truly and honestly believe that all unemployed and underemployed people are lazy. I’d like to see them tag-surf Mental Health every day, read at least a full page of entries, and see how the “different people” live.

Psychiatrists and other doctors should tag-surf Mental Health, and then suggest the tag-surfing or some specific blogs to their patients – they could all use some real-life stories to fill in the blanks about the definition of “normal” and how others experience it. Some of these bloggers seem to be contributing to a big virtual support group, and a psych patient who feels alone could really get a lot of mileage out of tag-surfing here.

WordPress is a great window into the minds of people from all over the world. Go ahead. Peek in the window. Learn something. Then take it with you when you go. You never know when it just might change your own mind about the world and the other people in it.

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It’s April – have you filed your taxes yet?  Are you going to?  Of course you will – you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen and you’re afraid of the IRS.

There is a case to be made about how taxation borders on socialism.  The ‘redistribution of wealth’ argument has been staring us in the face ever since the beginning of the 20th century, when the tax code began to take shape and become enforceable.  Most people agreed, however, that financing a war or two was a little too daunting for volunteer efforts, so off we went.

When the tax code began to allow for social programs and complicated business practices, it began to get messy.  Various administrations began to use it as a motivational tool for different purposes, and eventually to manipulate the economy. 

Did we go too far with that?  There’s a question – but I’m not qualified to answer that one.  I’d love to hear the answer, though.

The difference is that, while taxation is meant to be somewhat of a mandatory collaborative effort to provide common services to the people, our government and our tax code are kept in check by Congress – the representatives of the people.  If we don’t like how they do things, we can replace them.

In a socialist government, the government doesn’t just keep the economy in check, the government owns the economy.  They own the resources and don’t allow for private ownership.  They plan the economy, they manage the distribution of the GDP, and they make sure everyone gets some no matter who earned what, all without respect for private enterprise.

We are nowhere near socialism.  For instance, whether or not President Obama’s bailouts were the right thing to do is debatable, but they don’t qualify as socialism for the same reason that sane bank presidents generally insist that you prove that you are responsible with your money before they lend you enough to buy a car or a house.  In a way, they own the property, but only until you pay it off.  That’s not socialism.  That’s just good business.

Property taxes have always been around in some form, but we are still free to own the property.  Income taxes have been around for years, but we are still free to start our own businesses and charge our own prices.  Our government has been running the country for over two hundred years, but we are still free to elect our own representatives to participate in setting policy.

In America, there is no danger of us giving up our property rights, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our free market economy.  In this country, we can implement social programs without practicing socialism.

Socialism is not in the future of the United States of America – not even with a qualifier of “if we don’t…“.

The loud voices of the people do serve a purpose.  Be loud to keep things in check, though, not to scare people about something that isn’t going to happen.

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I have to say that I’m impressed.  Brand new to blogging, I’ve done a little surfing lately and found little mini-communities sprouting all over the place.  What hits me the most is how many people fighting in the trenches of the mental health system are using this type of forum to connect with others like themselves.  Those of us who like to write can spout off, share information, and encourage the others with funny stories and empathy.  Those of us who like to write and happen to be having an off-day can poke around and learn from everyone else.  It’s like therapy without all the bills.

Speaking of therapy bills, I have a couple of people I’d like to send my bills to…

It’s amazing to look at all the different types of people reading and posting about mental health.  Concerned professionals write about their experiences and their patients.  Patients write about their experiences and the mental health professionals they work with.  (These two groups had better be keeping in touch with each other – I love the “You don’t know what it’s like!!!” posts.)  Then there are the people who are simply trying to come to terms with whatever oddities they find between their ears.

I like the posts from people who are trying to encourage the rest of the world to understand the complexities of mental health and not lump us all into the “too weird to give a crap” basket.  What we have now is sort of a huge identity crisis.  Seriously – we label someone mentally ill if they’re hospitalized with next to no cognizance of reality, and we give the next guy the same label when he just gets overly excited once in a while.  Some of us are still not sure what to do with the bored housewives who go out and do something completely out of character, except maybe give them a reality show.  Really, the weird thing is that we apply the same term to so many different people.

I’m on anyone’s team who decides to attack the stigma surrounding mental illness.  There has to be a way to make it less of a fright or a scandal when we meet someone who has a problem with their brain.  I know – it’s hard to know how to react to people who are different.  Some people are scary, and some people aren’t.  Some people are fine with medication, and some people are hard to treat because there are other physical problems in the mix.  Let’s start with a little unconditional respect and see where that gets us.

If you have issues, find others who are in the same boat, even if it’s only online.  Keep in touch with each other.  Share stuff about how you deal with mental health.  You never know when you’re going to touch someone and help their off-day from getting worse.

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