Education and Work

March 22, 2014

Reader,

I have found myself curmudgeonly of late. This comes of reading other people’s ideas about school and learning, and it comes from watching so many of us scurry around for the few crumbs dropped our way. It bothers me greatly that so much effort is put into the idea that schools should prepare students for the workforce and nothing more. I find it condescending and supportive only of the unbalanced wealth structure of our society.

Generally speaking, people work more hours for less money (inflation adjusted) than they used to. This is not how it should be. If you consider that technology has, in many ways, eased the production of so many of life’s necessities while scarcity of resources has not yet become a serious issue in our country, we should not find ourselves working more. We should find ourselves working less. Instead, what has happened is that, through various implementations of bad social policy, too much power has been placed into the hands to a wealthy few who then divy it out among the rest of us based only on how hard we are willing scurry around for it all while convincing us that we need many of the things we only want and that many of the things we want should cost much, much more than they actually do (go look at cellphone/internet costs internationally).

And so we work harder and harder for less. Failing to accumulate any kind of real comfort or wealth. Ever precarious. This is why I am a socialist (not a communist, there’s a difference).

And on top of all of this, we educators are coming to be regarded as mere cogs in the machine whose job is to produce more cogs that are “career” ready. I recently saw written that careers should be one of the results of education, but not the goal of education. This is precisely how I feel.

Much is made of the unimportance of the humanities in academia. Don’t study art history or English literature or film or anything like that. No. Engineering and hard sciences are the only way to go. Engineering and science are wonderful. No one who knows me will accuse me of deriding the STEM fields, but it is folly to think we don’t need the humanities. To point out the painfully obvious, there is a reason the first five letters spell “human.”

Instead of what we currently have, what we should have is a world where people have a vocation – a career – that contributes to society and which they find rewarding, but which also allows them the free time to engage with the world. Not to simply consume art and music and literature, but to make it if such things are of interest.

I don’t want my children to go to school only to learn career skills. I want them to go to school to learn how to be people. To learn how to engage the world in thoughtful and meaningful ways. If that is to happen those of us currently steering the world need to take more time thinking about why we spend so much time working. Why we have less time off than our parents. Why we don’t have paid maternity and paternity leave. Why so many of our children live in poverty.

As a society, we have surpassed the wealth disparity of the famously disastrous gilded age. This can’t endure. I’m not the kind of person who calls for revolution, but this isn’t acceptable. Things should be hard. They should take work. But they shouldn’t be this hard.

Why I Voted for Jill Stein

November 8, 2012

I am thrilled to death that Barack Obama won reelection this week. I did not, however, vote for him. Here are five reasons why:

1. My vote is irrelevant. I live in Kentucky. Kentucky was going to Mitt Romney. In fact, for the second election in a row, it was the first state called for the Republicans. It doesn’t hurt that I felt pretty certain Obama was going to win.

2. Climate change. Obama is certainly no Romney (he’s not trying to build a giant pipeline, for instance), but I am extremely worried about climate change. The shit is hitting the fan on that as we speak and the US has pretty much done nothing. Republicans are so in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry it’s hard to blame Democrats too much, but this needs to be an issue. Nothing showed that like the monster storm that wrecked the East Coast last week. My kids are going to grow up dealing with this and it’s going to be a mess and I’d really appreciate it if my government could maybe, kind of spend some time worrying about it (if you are still denying climate change and man’s role therein, please pull your head out of your ass and go read a study that wasn’t sponsored by Exxon).

3. Women’s rights. President Obama’s administration decided young women under 17 need a prescription if they want to buy Plan B because otherwise they might abuse it or something. First, Plan B is freaking expensive. Second, Tylenol is more harmful in large quantities. Third, pander much? Once the Democratic party realized they needed women, they snapped back in line pretty quickly, but this was an egregious slap in the face and stunk of the idea that parents should have paternalistic control of their daughter’s virginity.

4. Civil liberties. If the government decides you have aided Al-Qaeda (and their latitude here is wide) they can lock you up forever without trial. This is not a good thing. At least, not if you believe in fair trials and due process. Those things, for the record, are part of the Constitution.

5. I am not a puppet. For most of the last four years, the Democratic party has been griping about the base and taking us for granted. I have my limits. If a party is going to so separate itself from some of my most basic values while pandering to people whose values are antithetical to mine at the same time, I am forced to conclude that this is not a party that wants m vote.

Democrats do seem to be getting the message that a lot of liberal policies (a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, etc.) are actually pretty popular. There’s a good chance they’ll get my vote back next time, but they need to show me that they care before it’s the 23rd hour of the next campaign.

Welfare

September 25, 2012

I suppose because it’s election season right now, I’ve seen a lot of talk about how everyone taking anything from the government is lazy. I’ve heard this even from supposedly liberal friends. I thought, given that, it might be a good time to share some personal stories…

First Story

My dad was poor. Dirt poor. His father served in the Navy in WWII and Korea. When he came back, he worked hard. Still, there wasn’t always food on the table. The kids went hungry a lot. The parents went hungry even more.

Second Story

When I was little we were poor. Both my parents worked, but sometimes my dad was laid off. They both had a hard time finding work. We always had food, but sometimes we could only heat one or two rooms of the house. My parents both worked very hard and yet, sometimes they missed payments on the mortgage. Times were hard.

Third Story

I went to a good college. A really good college. The year before I graduated, practically everyone who came out either had a good job lined up or they were going to graduate school.

Then September 11th happened. When I graduated, the economy was in the toilet. I knew one person with a job. He had been hired by the accounting firm Arthur Andersen. If you don’t remember what happened to them, just Google “Enron.”

I took the first job I could get. Door to door canvassing. I worked strictly on commission. During an especially slow period, I worked two 40 hour weeks and got paid $140. It sucked, but no one else would hire me. Either I was over-qualified and they were sure I’d leave or I was qualified, but hey, here’s this other person who has four years experience and just lost another job.

Eventually, I quit the canvassing job to try and make ends meet as a substitute teacher. That didn’t go very well, either. I did find a job, eventually. It took me six months, but I got a job doing editing work. It’s the kind of job I would have been qualified for when I graduated from high school, but it was a job. It paid the bills. I was, at this point, what would probably be called under-employed. I never stopped looking for another job, but I never found one.

Eventually, I went back to school (and took on a bunch of debt I didn’t need) so I could be a teacher. This represented a substantial raise over what I had been making and it was work that didn’t make me miserable.

This entire process took six years. Times have only gotten harder.

During the first year after college, I had a lot of help from my family. My parents supported me. They paid my rent. They bought my food. I lived with them for ten months.

I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I hadn’t had them.

Because I needed some kind of help. I was doing everything you’re supposed to do. Everything even Mitt Romney says I’m supposed to do, but if it hadn’t been for my family, I would have had nowhere to stay. It is entirely possible I could have ended up homeless. With a college degree. From a good school. And a willingness to do just about anything to pay the bills.

Fourth Story

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I had surgery to remove a tumor when I was 18. My parents carried me on their insurance as long as they could and then they bought private insurance for me because they didn’t want me to have a “preexisting condition” dogging me for the rest of my life.

And then the insurance company dropped me.

Fortunately, I’d gotten a job with benefits and switched things over (though the coverage was pretty miserable). Otherwise, I would have been screwed.

What It Means

Look, I get that there are people who find a way to take advantage of the system. I get it and I don’t care. I think people who think of welfare recipients as getting an awesome free ride should look into it and see what they really think. I don’t know anyone who even has a concept of what middle class is who would rather depend on the government. I want those same people who don’t think healthcare should be a right to tell me why I deserved to very nearly have my life ruined by something totally out of my control.

There’s all this talk about how people should pick themselves up because we aren’t socialists and why are those other people so lazy?

My parents weren’t lazy. May grandparents weren’t lazy. Why did they have to go without heat or food?

I wasn’t lazy, but if I hadn’t had a family to help, there’s a chance I would have ended up homeless.

I had a conversation with a friend once and the very American notion that anyone can rise to the top came up. And, in one of my better moments, I said, “Anyone can, but everyone can’t.”

If everyone works as hard as they can, someone will still be at the bottom. In good times, that means working at McDonald’s. In bad times, it means losing everything. These are bad times.

I know that not everyone works as hard as they can. Few do, perhaps. But I also know there are many people at the top who did not work for what they have. I need look no further than the people who ran the company where I had my first real post-college job. They were incompetent. All of them. They were also the sons of the owners. That company went out of business not long ago. How do you think the incompetents at the top are doing now and how do you think the hardworking people at the bottom (and I know they were hardworking. I worked with them) are doing now? Who is better off? Who should be better off?

I look overseas, and every nation I can find doing better than us provides healthcare for its citizens. It often provides food and shelter for those who have nothing or some equivalent material benefit. It doesn’t ask for anything. It simply says, “you are cold and hungry. Eat this food. Sleep here.” I see that they have higher standards of living, longer lifespans, better education, and lower poverty rates and I think maybe there is something important about valuing every person, no matter how little they do. I think that maybe says something about your society and I think it maybe encourages your citizens in a way our “tough-luck” philosophy does not.

If you think that’s wrong, we disagree. I don’t want to live in a society where, “not my problem” is the response to other people’s struggles (go read A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer).

If you think you couldn’t easily be one of these people, you suffer from a lack of imagination.

Teachers Are People

September 12, 2012

It seems like something happens every six months or so that compels me to write about how teachers are being treated by the general public. This week, it’s the strike in Chicago.

To hear the media (even the supposed “liberal” media) tell it, teachers have walked out for no good reason and they don’t care about the kids and they are just greedy and lazy and we all wish they would go to hell except then who would teach the chillun’?

So let’s look at what the teachers actually want:

1. They don’t want their evaluations tied to student test scores. Why? Because socioeconomic status varies widely from class to class and school to school and this is the thing most closely linked with student performance. Teachers, rather obviously, have no control over this and thus, not nearly as much control over test scores as everyone wants to believe.

2. If a school closes down, they want experienced teachers at that school to be at the top of the list for schools that are hiring. Schools often want to hire new teachers because they are cheap. They are also not as good as experienced teachers. Now who doesn’t care about the kids?

3. They want basic supplies like books and, yes, toilet paper. Assholes.

4. They want to paid more if they are going to be made to work a longer day.

5. They want a raise that isn’t immediately offset by increased healthcare costs.

I don’t know how or why teachers and teachers unions have become so demonized in the US. Go around the world and look at the countries doing better than us. They are almost all unionized. Look around the country. States without teachers unions do worse on average than states with teachers unions. These are facts. It doesn’t matter whether you like them or not. They show, pretty clearly, that unions are not the problem.

The problem is that we don’t take care of the poor in our country.

The problem is that schools in rich neighborhoods get more funding than those in poor neighborhoods.

The problem is that many, many rich people send their kids to private schools. Those kids are important resources because they come with support networks and expectations that kids from the lower classes often don’t have.

The problem is that our country is so focused on test scores we haven’t noticed that test scores don’t correlate with success in life.

I’m tired of it. You want to fix the schools? Tell me how anything ever got fixed by fighting against the people doing the work instead of working with them.

You want to call me lazy? Kiss my ass.

Right now, on average, I’m after school three or four days a week. I run a writing program that I started. Twice this year, I will be teaching what amounts to two classes in one period because I have a handful of advanced students who want to learn more about writing, but I don’t have a class to put them in.

And you know what? All the crap? All the ridiculous accountability that the federal and state governments push? It makes my job harder because I have to spend time on pointless paperwork and other silliness when I could be teaching.

Teaching is my job and I love my job, but I think all the time about getting out. It’s not the students. It’s not the challenges. It’s the way I’m demonized daily no matter how hard I work. Hell, if the right person saw it, they’d probably gripe about this post and wonder why I wasn’t “doing my job” instead of writing this.

I’m a person, that’s why. I get to have interests outside my job. I write. That’s what I do. I’m doing it right now. In a minute, I’m going to go heavily annotate 50 pages of The Sun Also Rises so I can be ready to discuss it with my class on Friday. Early next week, I’ll be spending my “free” time reading 60 or so short stories from my writing classes.

You don’t think I’m doing a good job? You don’t think I deserve what I make? You do my job and tell me I don’t deserve it. I’m tired of being treated like part of the problem when I spend everyday trying to find the solution. You want to gripe about the teachers in Chicago? You can go to hell.

Bits and Pieces

February 27, 2012

There are several things I could write full blog posts about right now, but it’s not going to happen. Instead, I offer you the following semi-worthwhile snippets.

1. We had a new child! James Atticus was born last Thursday. He is named for my dad and for the character you’re all thinking of (if you’re not thinking of the character – go read a book, slacker!). Everyone is home and happy and Cate and I are adjusting to a two-child household. Mercifully, he’s been easy to get along with so far, so we probably won’t have to take him back to the baby store. Frankly, I couldn’t take all the pecking. Those storks are brutal with the high-pressure sales-tactics.

In semi-seriousness: I’m quite happy and it’s very odd to have a baby around the house again. I have lots and lots and lots of things to say about attempting to raise a man who respects women and doesn’t buy into the misogynist nonsense of our culture. That will come in time.

2. I taught my advanced writing class for the first time today. I walked into the room, said I’d been looking forward to this class all year and immediately had several students respond that they had, too. It was so gratifying. I love writing and I love teaching writing. This class is pretty much why I got into teaching in the first place. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it.

3. There has been a movement afoot on the internets to encourage men to speak up about the birth control nonsense going on right now. I feel compelled, and so I have to speak up. The ridiculous bullshit being spouted by a handful of conservative men who believe they should have the right to control women’s reproductive choices is simply absurd. It is born of a hatred for a women and I find it sickening. If we really want to start making moral arguments, I want to start talking about all the places I don’t want my money to go.

That’s beside the point, though. The point is women are just as capable of making decisions as men. It’s absurd that we’re still having this conversation in 2012. I look forward to watching Republicans be crushed in the upcoming elections.

The Flaws of Capitalism

January 13, 2012

So, I realize I’ve been blog-absent for a bit. It’s been a busy time. I lost a friend, as you know, and the baseball world has been taking much of my writing energy. I’ll probably have a longer post soon, but I’ve come across some little nuggets lately that I wanted to share in response to all the capitalism-is-perfect bloviating coming out of Republican primary candidates lately. They go like this:

“All of our antibiotics are 50-years-old because it’s not cost effective for drug companies to come up with new ones.”

That might not be an exact quote, but it’s pretty close. I caught that snippet listening to Science Friday on NPR today. The discussion was about a strain of TB that’s been found to be resistant to all the drugs we have. Good thing capitalist companies are making money selling old and increasingly ineffective antibiotics while sending there R&D to work on problems you didn’t even know you had. Yea capitalism!

“There are no private schools in Finland.”

That’s from an article in The Atlantic. The Finland it refers to would be the Finland with the best education system in the world. All of its teachers are also unionized, but that flies in the face of what we know here in America – that unions are the devil and just encourage slackers and hangers-on to drag down the system.

I just finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. Obviously, that will be discussed in a few days during my monthly book log, but I found one particular passage especially resonant. For those who don’t know, For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of an American fighting with guerrillas during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Nominally, it’s communists versus fascists with the main character on the side of the communists. Mostly, it doesn’t take sides, but focuses on the horrible injustice of war, but there is a spot in the middle when Hemingway writes this:

Robert Jordan, wiping out the stew bowl with bread, explained how the income tax and inheritance tax worked. “But the big estates remain. Also, there are taxes on the land,” he said.

“But surely the big proprietors and the rich will make a revolution against such taxes. Such taxes appear to me to be revolutionary. They will revolt against the government when they see that they are threatened, exactly as the fascists have done here,” Primitivo said.

“It is possible.”

“Then you will have to fight in your country as we fight here.”

“Yes, we will have to fight.”

And this is exactly what has happened in the 70 years since Hemingway published that book. The rich have continually fought against attempts to increase equality. This is especially true of the income and inheritance taxes. They have been largely successful and those of us not at the very top have taken a long time to wake up to what was going on, but finally – finally – there is a fight.

It is impossible to say if there will ever be any kind of real equality of opportunity in the US – that is what those taxes are meant to create – but at least now, there is some sense that what has been happening is unfair and that there has been conflict, even if it’s been non-military. Hemingway only shows us that it is an old fight we are fighting. The fight of the few rich and powerful against the many poor and marginalized.

As the Father of a Daughter

December 8, 2011

As you have probably heard, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently decided for the entire country that young women under the age of 17 shouldn’t be able to buy Plan B. President Obama agreed with her, saying something about being “the father of two daughters” and “common sense.”

I have a daughter and I have heard of common sense, so let me take a crack at this…

Common sense tells me that if your issue is with 10 or 11-year-olds buying something, then maybe you should restrict them instead of restricting everyone under 17 and then only talking about 10 and 11-year-olds.

Common sense tells me that we should realize that some girls, sadly, are raped by people they know – maybe even their fathers – and that just maybe making them reliant on their parents to get a prescription is not the best course to take.

Common sense tells me it’s ridiculous that young women who are – in most states – considered legally old enough to have sex don’t also have full access to birth control.

Common sense tells me that pretty much no one wants to come up to their parents and say “So, um, a condom broke.” And maybe, just maybe, this reluctance is going to hold kids off long enough that suddenly there is a much bigger problem.

Common sense tells me that you can buy a lot of dangerous crap over the counter and that this is only different because the pander-machine that is the Obama administration thinks liberals won’t punish them for it.

I really, really hope Simone would feel comfortable coming to Cate or I if she needed Plan B. I also realize that she might not. And you know what? That’s her right because, if  you ask me, I don’t own her. I am not entitled to control her body until she turns 18. In fact, I don’t control her body now. Simone is a person and she always has a right to autonomy (within reason, it’s not like I let my two-year-old play with knives). This assumption that our daughters need us to control them is misogynist and morally repugnant.

And here’s the thing: This was the last straw for me. I won’t be voting Obama in 2012. Maybe I’ll vote 3rd party and maybe I’ll write in Hillary Clinton or someone else. It won’t be Obama, though. Why? I have a few friends who insist that you should always vote Democrat and try to shove them to the left. But I think there has to be a limit. The Obama administration has always operated as though they had liberals in the bank. Nothing they could do will send us away. If that’s really the case, they don’t have to pay attention to liberal values. And they haven’t. So I’m gone. If they want me back, they’ll have to earn it.

Living in a Plutocracy

November 16, 2011

As is probably obvious to people who know me and regular readers, I have been thinking a lot about the OWS movement, where it comes from, and what it says about America. I haven’t said anything because I didn’t feel like I had a lot to add. Then Zuccotti Park was cleared out, and I feel like I have to comment, even if I have nothing new to say.

I could go with lots of charts. I like charts, but I’m not going to do that. If you want charts, go here. They will tell you plenty.

Instead, I’m going to go for context in words. Let’s see how it works.

Right now, the distribution of wealth in America is more skewed than it was during the Gilded Age or the Great Depression. Think about that because those are not shining chapters in America’s history. I recently read The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. It’s set in the Gilded Age, and has an interesting perspective. The characters in it, generally speaking, take their wealth so for granted that it’s almost impossible for the reader not to be offended. It’s a society that concerns itself almost entirely with wealth.

It feels a lot like right now.

Right now. 1% of Americans control 35% of the country’s wealth. 10% control 72% of the wealth. These are the people who control virtually everything in America. They are captains of industry. They are elected officials.

Tell me again about how the tax system is unfair.

I am a teacher. A teacher. Cate does not have a paying job. Yet, somehow, our household income places us in the 56th percentile in America right now. We are something approximating upper-middle-class. I always thought that if I eventually made it to upper middle class I’d be able to buy a book or go out to eat without worrying about how much those things cost. Of course, in those fanciful musings, health insurance didn’t take up 20% of my take-home pay while still leaving my family with significant medical bills.

Tell me again how socialized medicine is a bad thing.

Plutocracy is rule by a wealthy class. The goal of the wealthy class is to maintain their power.

Even adjusting for inflation, the cost of attending college has gone up 300% in the last 30 years. College is supposed to be the great equalizer. Everyone my age was indoctrinated to believe that if you Worked Hard and Went to College. You would Be Successful and Wealthy.

Of course everyone can’t be wealthy. And now, everyone can’t go to college. This is where all the complaints about student loan debt come from. College has become so expensive that a great many people can’t do it. Of course, they’ve all been told that college is the only way.

America is supposed to try to at least approximate equality of opportunity. Rich kids are already going to have a lot of breaks. Their parents have connections and can open doors for them, after all. But we have also become a nation that saddles its bright, but disadvantaged youth with tens of thousands of dollars of debt that wealthy youth do not have to face simply to keep up. It’s a sad thing. If we really cared about equality of opportunity, it would be hard, but not this hard.

I know what I have written here is fractured. I know it doesn’t describe all the problems with money in this country right now, but I hope it makes clear that there are problems. I know a lot of people are upset by the OWS movement, but its purpose is a good one. These people are trying to create a more equal country. One where who parents are doesn’t play as much of a role in your success as your talents and your willingness to work. There have been times when America got close to these ideals. Sadly, we are not living in one of those times.

Reinventing the World

August 5, 2011

This is a long and meandering post. I’m not entirely sure what the point is. This is the luxury of a blog.

As you, dear reader, are likely aware, I spent a good part of last month plowing through A.S. Byatt’s wonderful novel The Children’s Book. It is centered in England at the beginning of the 20th century up to WWI. The main characters are, primarily Fabians, Socialists, and similar derivatives. What they generally have in common is a desire to make the world into something different. They live in a time of enormous injustice and are generally aware of it. They hold political meetings or write editorials or participate in protests in an attempt to change their society for the better. They do not, generally, succeed, but that isn’t the point. The point is they tried, and much of what they started did lead to real changes over time.

Beyond that, there was this idea/feeling of optimism. It’s something the US really had after WWII. I can remember the last strains of it from my childhood.

And then I look at the absurd mess that is the United States right now and I am totally flabbergasted. We have now reached a point where some of our elected officials are willing to destroy the economy of our country to ensure that rich people get to keep every-damn-penny they have. There is no sense of optimism. There is no sense that we are all working together to make something new and good. There is only division and selfishness.

Never mind that there is no evidence – none – that conservative economic policies work. What is most disgusting to me is how utterly uncharitable it all is. America has become a place where money is the only thing that matters.

You may be familiar with the concept of Gross National Happiness. It is a concept introduced by the king of Bhutan in an attempt to better measure how well the people of the nation are doing. It attempts to measure several things. Let’s look at each one for the US:

1. Economic Wellness: This is bad and getting worse. Republicans haven’t totally destroyed the economy yet, but they’re getting close. Real wages haven’t gone up in I don’t know how long and unemployment is high. No one thinks the recent deal in Washington is going to make things better.

2. Environmental Wellness: We are currently in the process of gutting a lot of our environmental standards (at least where enforcement is concerned) and it’s impossible to get any new regulations through congress because we don’t want to hurt industry. Someone remind me, again, how it is that industry has been helping the general populace lately?

3. Physical Wellness: Well, once the rest of Obamacare kicks in, things should get a little better here. That said, every year I’ve been teaching, the cost of health insurance has gone up (often matching exactly whatever raise I was given) and benefits have gone down. A great many Americans are still uninsured, and we rank near the bottom of the industrialized world in health care. But again, at least this one figures to get a little better.

4. Mental Wellness: I don’t really know much about mental wellness stats in the US, but since basically everyone is worried about losing their job, I have to believe this is kind of a downer, too.

5. Workplace Wellness: Yeah. Do I even need to explain?

6. Social Wellness: We live in a nation where religious discrimination is almost status quo. We live in a nation where sexism, misogyny and violence against women are horribly rampant.

7. Political Wellness: Oy. vey.

And here’s the thing, we could fix most all of these things. Much as the Republicans have been trying to tear apart the New Deal for decades, it freaking worked. Why can’t we do something like that now? Why can’t we make a giant investment and agree, as a society, that we want to make a better nation. Things we should do:

1. Economic Wellness: We’re going to need some kind of rational tax system. Rich people benefit from the society that allows them to be rich. In most instances this comes in the form of inherited wealth. In other instances, someone is simply lucky enough to have their particular talents valued highly by the society in which they live. A stock broker is very important in America. Less so in nomadic Mongolia. If you are rich, you are also almost certainly very lucky, thus you should pay a higher percentage of your wages to keep society going.

2. Environmental Wellness: It is time to go the route of green energy (if you don’t think global warming is real, you are an idiot, I’m just going to state that as a fact) via direct government. The US government has invested in industry infrastructure before (think railroads, among others) and it’s time to do it again. The primary problem with green energy is the upfront cost. If the government starts to offset that, suddenly green energy is much less expensive.

3. Physical Wellness: Socialized Medicine. Single Payer. Do it. I know socialism is a bad word, but if you really hate social programs, I hope you’re sending your children to private schools and hiring a private security force to take care of crime in your neighborhood. Why basic health needs aren’t considered on par with these other things is beyond me. Also, socialized medicine works way better than our current system as about a million studies will tell you.

4&5. Mental Wellness & Workplace Wellness: I’m tying these together to talk about human-friendly labor policy. Why on earth don’t we have paid maternity and paternity leave? Why don’t most of us have decent amounts of vacation time? This one would be pretty tricky as it really requires a mental shift to the idea that time can be more valuable than money. Less work would lead to less production, overall, but I don’t know why that’s a bad thing. Economies can’t grow forever. Eventually, we need to stabilize, and I would be willing to bet that most people would be way happier without the 60-hour work weeks and constant fear that you could be fired at any moment. Stronger unions would certainly help this along. Interestingly, despite this idea that lack of job-security makes people more productive, every study I’ve ever seen says the more secure a person feels, the harder they work. This comes, I suspect, from feeling like and important part of an organization instead of like a nearly-worthless cog that can be replaced at any time.

6. Social Wellness: Let’s start by trying to value all members of society equally and go from there. It would certainly help if a certain political party could drop the sexism, homophobia, and mad-crazy religious intolerance.

7. Political Wellness: This comes down to the anti-intellectualism in place right now. I don’t know how this happened, but it now seems to be decidedly uncool to have any idea what you are talking about. I suspect a lot of it stems from the political power ultra-conservative religious groups currently have. You can’t be a member of some of these sects without stomaching a lot of cognitive dissonance (I’m thinking of the things that come out of Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck’s mouths). Basically, you can’t believe that nonsense if your willing to actually research information. Thus, researching information (also known as learning) is bad and ignorance is good. This explains how the Tea Party got so many people elected during the last go-round. If you could take care of this and get everyone thinking that it’s a good idea to listen to people like Paul Krugman (who has been very, very right about what’s been happening in the economy) because, you know, they actually have some expertise and don’t say stupid things like, “You know, where I grew up, we believed in common sense…”

So what if we did all this? Well, we’d end up with a sustainable nation where people are mostly happy. Instead, we have an unsustainable (oil is going to run out eventually) mess with high unemployment and an overwhelmingly unhappy populace. But it could change. We just need to realize, as a nation, that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s time to try something else. We can reinvent the world. We have the means, we only lack the will.