The quandary in our counting house
June 12, 2007
Go ahead, Congress. Raise our taxes.
You too, Gov. Gibbons. You know you’re only delaying the inevitable.
Build more prisons.
Hire more police.
Expand those schools, double the number of teachers.
Accept it all now, my fellow Nevadans. Because if we want to keep our state, there’s nothing else to do, nowhere else to hide – neither ourselves nor our money.
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Like homeowners hooked on low interest rates, we’ve spent beyond our means to expand our society’s ‘lifestyle.’
What we’ve indulged ourselves for is not more playrooms and stylish baths and kitchens – but more of communal diversity.
Too much diversity.
Diversity is a good and necessary goal, among the many of a society like ours. But it has become an overwhelmingly expensive indulgence that we all must go on paying for, more and more, because the silence of our political correctness about diversity has allowed it to shoulder its way to the top of our nation’s values.
Replaced is the bright American dream that belonged to us all – that working hard and playing by the rules are the road to success in our land; replaced by the dysfunctional acceptance of Failure as a legitimate option, and even as society’s own fault.
The corollary of this default setting everywhere is that we finance failure: more addictions, more criminals, more illegal aliens, more school drop-outs and more family destruction. The bottom line has become “the defining down of deviancy,” as we have been warned for a generation now.
Flight to the suburbs has been an escape for too many of us from our own responsibilities for the resulting threats, as has passing the problems on to taxpayer-financed ‘programs.’
Well there’s no place left to fly, fellow Nevadans. And Washington, even with its deep pockets and deepening debts, cannot help – because it has become deviant itself.
“We are the most diverse nation on the planet,” said commentator Lou Dobbs. We are also the richest.
And that has had the unfortunate effect of allowing us to evade the results of our own civic mistake: the mistake of allowing the elevation of the ‘cultures’ of our communities to the status of law.
Reagan speechwriter Peg Noonan characterized our mistake more succinctly when she wrote “We stopped Americanizing ourselves forty years ago.” She meant that we stopped telling the tale, stopped teaching the lessons, of the American dream to our children two generations ago.
Rather than fighting the growing political validation of failure as a legitimate alternative to learning the hard lessons of success, we began back then to allow our programs and too many of our leaders to simply encode it as a fault-free American outcome.
We must go back and retrace those steps, because there isn’t enough money even in America now to keep on pretending that spending is a solution rather than just one tool. We have to get all of our own values straightened out, in rank and consequent personal obligation.
How to begin? In the schools, which are the responsibility of all of us.
Television, which introduced itself into the national discussion of values 40 years ago, through the powerful megaphone of advertising and eventually, through its panoplies of talking heads, posed an unrecognized threat to our young – by leaving them and all of us with a vanishing use for literacy. Not just functional literacy, of the take-a-driver’s-exam sort, but cultural literacy. Literacy that carries content as well as skill, literacy as a family of media on its own.
Not just reading and writing, then, but history and rhetoric and philosophy and civics and literature and, yes, poetry. Stories: all of them stories that tell us where we come from as a nation, what it has cost each generation, and what each has learned. And what we must know to apply the lessons of all those lives – including their failures – to achieve success.
Math and science, yes, can and will come in those 12 years in the classrooms. But first, teach the lessons of America’s own success. Leave correctness and diversity in their places, and teach the American story. Teach it now.
• Robert Cutts is a career journalist who has been a news reporter, magazine writer and editor; author of two nonfiction books and a college journalism teacher. He lives in Gardnerville and Japan.