The State of Texas Education

Ryan Pakebusch | August 10, 2014

In the most recent decision announced by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the Fisher v. University of Texas case, the University’s admission policy of “[using] race as part of a holistic admissions program” was upheld. UT Austin’s President, Bill Powers, soon followed with a press release as well a post to his blog Tower Talk celebrating this decision as it brings “the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students.”1 While diversity can be supplemental to one’s education as it creates an environment promoting the exchange of ideas from people of all walks of life, UT Austin’s policy is achieving this in a most artificial way. The main objective of a university’s admissions should be admitting the best scholars, regardless of race. Basing a university’s admissions program on merit alone does not preclude diversity.

Furthermore, I must dissent with President Powers as the use of race in admissions disrespects the civil rights of students who are applying to UT Austin. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Section 703 (a) (Unlawful Employment Practices) states, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individuals of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”2 If this is law exists within one sector within the spectrum of employment in the United States, why is this not the case in admittance to public American universities? Students should be evaluated solely on their academic performance and application, not something they have no control over. It is impossible to quantify one race over another; it is a policy of preference over qualifications. If this nation truly believes in equal opportunity, our laws and our public university’s policies should reflect that idea.

I am cognizant of the social inequalities that have been reflected in our institutions and our entire nation historically and, the idea of ‘white privilege’ resonates with me in that some people are misled in believing only whites, or at least a super majority of whites, will make up UT Austin’s population and students of other races and ethnicities will be unrepresented without this policy. However, creating a tilted application program is not the solution to the problem of social inequality in education. Proponents of affirmative action claim that without affirmative action, few non-white students would be would be able to get into prestigious universities like the University of Texas at Austin or the University of California-Berkeley. In reality we see that a ban on affirmative action is irrelevant as a hindrance to non-white applicants. In fact for the first time in its history, the University of California System, even after banning affirmative action in 1996, admitted, this year, “more Latino applicants to its incoming freshman class than those who are non-Hispanic white.”3

While I’ve written against the practice of using race in admissions, I do offer alternatives that exist to achieve the goal of addressing social inequality. Something like a “strivers” admissions model that identifies students who post impressive achievements despite economic and cultural obstacles can be useful in overcoming the current usage of traditional affirmative action programs; admitting students based on how well they have handled adversity, whether this is due to their identity or background, is, in its own right, an indicator of future academic success. Moreover, I believe this all begins in our public schools and early education programs where all students should have equal access to the same resources and success programs in the classroom to prepare them for the work force, college, or anything post-high school. We need creative education experts at both the state and local level creating these programs, doing research on what works for student success and recognizing where and at what stage of development these programs are most needed.

Far too often, there have been disproportionately large amounts of money given to school districts which are already populated with students who are privileged economically while leaving smaller, more economically disadvantaged school districts to fight for scraps of state monies. In 2013, a state district court in Texas ruled that the way the state funds its public schools is unconstitutional, both because the money is insufficient and because it is not distributed fairly. This has led a bettering of our public schools in that our funding provides equal educational opportunities across the state rather than being preferential based on location. But even when you factor out the amount of money, the management of that money is what’s crucial to all students’ success. Conservatives like Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Michael Quinn Sullivan, President and CEO of the anti-tax lobbying group Empower Texans, both agree with Sullivan in that “we need more money into the classroom… [not] more money period.”4 This is the responsibility of the school districts to appropriate money to offer the best opportunities for students and the citizens who vote for school board members that promote and uphold academic success of students the highest; it is everyone’s civic responsibility to address and resolve social inequality and educational issues as it affects all of our lives as Texans and Americans.

While this short post has only scratched the surface of the problems and solutions associated with social inequality in education, I hope it begins an open dialogue that brings forth creative ideas for achieving true equal educational opportunities. Texas legislators have an opportunity in the 2015 Legislative Session to reframe and reform our state’s education system to become one that is teeming with opportunities for social mobility without bending the Texas or United States constitution. If we are able to create more opportunities for students across Texas, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, national origin, or sexual orientation, then we can stop relying on this unconstitutional, preferential and unfair admissions practice.

1 Civil Rights Act of 1964. Section 703 (a) (1-2). http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

 

2 Powers, Bill. Court Rules for UT Austin in Fisher case. Tower Talk. July 15th, 2014. http://blogs.utexas.edu/towertalk/2014/07/15/court-rules-for-ut-austin-in-fisher-case/

 

3 Anderson, Nick. UC’s experience with an affirmative action ban. The Washington Post. April 23, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/ucs-experience-with-an-affirmative-action-ban/2014/04/23/d5a196aa-cb14-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html

 

4 Smith, Tovia. Judge Rules Texas’ School-Funding Method Unconstitutional. NPR. Feb. 04, 2013. http://www.npr.org/2013/02/04/171113168/judge-rules-texas-school-funding-method-unconstitutional

There Once was an Executive Administration that Did Whatever They Wanted

Prisoner Swap

Clay Olsen | June 4, 2014

Five terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay were released last week in exchange for an army man that had been held for five years by the Taliban. The five terrorists that are now freely roaming the earth were high-level Taliban operatives that have committed their lives to jihad (if you are not a Muslim, you deserve death). The American that was rescued was a deserter. He left his unit. Six honorable and courageous members of our armed forces died trying to find him and bring him out of captivity. Negotiations were made with terrorists, and perhaps terrorists will now assume that we will continue to negotiate with them.

Every time I read about events like the prisoner exchange that occurred last week, I cannot help but recall the Schoolhouse Rock video that I saw in elementary school that explained how the three branches of government work. Then I think of the philosophy behind this structure. Why did the Framers establish it? Well, because an increase in power and/or a decrease in accountability leads to corruption. Mankind is imperfect, and those with authority must be overseen by others. Left unchecked, one branch of government might simply do as they see fit without considering the consequences.

That is what I see in this “scandal”: a branch of government who has already reached the border of its power and has stuck its toe across it to test the waters; then they have moved their entire foot across, then their body and are prepared to dive in. Putting aside the details of the swap, look at the big picture. The President authorized an exchange with the Taliban, a terrorist group that seeks to take as many innocent lives as possible in the name of their god (jihad). Prisoner exchanges require the Executive Branch to inform Congress 30 days before the swap. This is law, not a suggestion; and yet, the law is blatantly broken without repercussions. When you don’t discipline a child, that child gets the idea that he can do whatever he wants. That is a huge problem considering the scale that this clever metaphor correlates to.

After Congress and the world finds out about this exchange, we find ourselves in a (unfortunately) familiar situation. A huge story, which very few people knew about while it was happening, with many questions left unanswered by those on the outside. I turn on the news today (several days after the swap occurred) and a news commentator says that there are so many questions that need to be answered, “but let’s not jump to conclusions until we have everything figured out.” I have a feeling that this commentator might be saying this tomorrow and the next day and next week and next month and on and on and on until the story dies out. That in fact seems to be the strategy of this administration: do as they wish and if something negative leaks out, cold shoulder the questions until they stop.

History would prove this to be true. Over a year and a half after four Americans died in Bhengazi, a Congressional committee is still fighting to simply find answers to legitimate questions. Last summer, it is uncovered that the IRS was targeting and harassing groups because of the ideas and beliefs that these groups held. What happens? No news coverage, no firings, we only get to see the use of the Fifth Amendment. Instead the head of the IRS at the time is asked to lead the implementation of Obamacare and is personally thanked by the President at a presidential dinner. Scandal after scandal are starved of all information and accountability and is then swept under the rug, and there is little doubt that this prisoner exchange story is next.

A Call on “Progressives” to Actually Talk About Progress

 

Clay Olsen |  April 16, 2014

There was a time in this country when leaders spoke of the limitless potential and aspirations of our citizens. Those grasping for a better life were given encouragement and hope. Today, we are living in a different environment. Instead of discussing opportunities to climb the ladder, there is constant attack on those on a higher rung. Instead of vibrant speeches about an American citizen’s potential that knows no bounds, there are events held across the country about raising the minimum wage. Do you see the difference? For a change, I would like to see the former of these scenarios. I would like to hear our leaders rally us into striving for a maximum wage. Let’s talk about recovery. Let’s talk about job growth. Let’s talk about people getting back to work with great opportunities. All the rhetoric today seems to be about how we are going to survive in the circumstances we are in. Well the American way is not about surviving; it is about advancing.

I am not going to spend much time discussing the economics of raising the minimum wage. You are perfectly capable of researching and understanding the matter. My goal is to point out the priorities of left-wing politicians that are clearly defined through their words and actions. We have a minimum wage. We can discuss what that rate should be, but I do not think we need a presidential bus tour across the country to do that.

Last month, President Obama spoke on the need for a minimum wage increase at Central Connecticut University. As usual he pointed out current income inequality and the need to decrease this gap. He stated that it is “a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.” I suppose when the president refers to ‘building an economy’, he means bureaucrats in Washington D.C. manipulating the operating expenses of businesses across the nation. Actually building an economy would mean creating sustainable jobs, something this president all to often brushes off to the side while pursuing class warfare rhetoric.

Of course, President Obama received the applause he spoke for. The crowd’s reaction is not very surprising. What kind of evil person would be against raising the minimum wage? Like always, the liberal ideology is nothing more than a fairyland of impossibility whose artificial pathway is sugarcoated with unreasonable promises. Republicans are seen as the hateful enemies of progress when they point out how impractical the claims are. It becomes a difficult task to run against empty promises that will not work in reality.

So let us start putting the focus on allowing businesses to succeed by not burdening them with countless regulations. I want businesses, not bureaucrats, to fuel our country’s growth. When businesses succeed, opportunities increase, workers are in high demand, and wages increase. I do not want to place our economy’s future in the hands of the government that created healthcare.gov. I want to place our economy’s future in the hands of hard working Americans.

CLASS WARFARE Part 2: Ruling Class vs. We the People

D.C. Protest Pic

Clay Olsen |  February 6, 2014

In my last post, I discussed the senselessness of class warfare. We are being told by politicians and the media that others’ success is to be despised. They have done their best to forge conflict between the “rich” and the “poor.” Sadly, this idea dominates their speech and fuels their power. However, their incessant talk of the enmity that should exist between two people separated, not by their humanity, but by an amount of currency is ironic because of the positions that they themselves hold.

Originally, the expectation of a Senator or Congressman was to serve the country for a short period of time. Many Congressmen retained their private sector jobs while they were serving and returned to them after their term was up. It was strange for someone to serve more than two terms. Today we have career politicians. These Congressmen fight to retain power every time their term is up. Naturally, this leads us to develop a government that is foreign to the world outside the city limits of Washington D.C. Not so surprisingly, this situation does not always establish the best legislation.

Men and woman that have pursued goals to rise through the ranks of power in the national government and have spent countless years in D.C. write and vote on laws that greatly affect millions of citizens across the country. Congressmen, whose children attend the best private schools in the country, tell millions of others how public education should operate. Congressmen, who live in gated communities and have personal bodyguards, determine how we are allowed to protect ourselves.

This power seems to have given politicians the feeling that they are the top of society. This elitism is clear to those who not only listen to them but also view these politicians’ actions. As the state of the economy worsened over the last several years, we were told by politicians that “we all need to make sacrifices.” At the surface, this seems to be somewhat noble. But what sacrifices did we see from the federal government? Were politicians’ salaries cut? While the country limped along in double-digit unemployment, the President of the United States was throwing party after party at the White House. I’m not saying the President can’t hold a party; it just seems strange for him to talk down to us that we need to make cutbacks while he is so openly living in luxury.

The hypocrisy continues throughout the nation’s capital. It was only a few years ago that Congress rammed through Obamacare. Neither the American people nor those that passed the bill knew what was in it. Apparently it does not matter if legislation is fully understood. This law requires Americans to buy a product or pay a penalty if they choose not to purchase it. Anyways, it turns out that those who passed the law do not wish to be bound by it. Congress has been pushing hard to become exempt from the law.

Another example of blatant elitism is insider trading laws. Citizens are not allowed to make trades in the stock market based on nonpublic information. When it comes to D.C., things are a little different. The Stock Act of 2012 clarifies that lawmakers and their staff cannot trade on nonpublic information that they have acquired from the nature of their job. However, they are not prohibited from investing in companies and industries that they are investigating or regulating. Think of the corruption that this must cause. Congress may be instituting certain regulations based on personal investments. The Stock Act was passed not too long ago. This means that lawmakers were not bound by these rules until recently. Many of them became rich off of insider trading that was technically legal regardless of its morality. The Wall Street Journal had an article back in December (“Lines Blur When Lobbyists Invest”) about insider trading laws concerning lobbyists. The report was not good. The regulations placed on lobbyists’ ability to invest “are vague and limited.” Howard Marlowe, a current lobbyist said “it’s the Wild West” in terms of investing for him and his colleagues. He referred to the subject as “a blind spot.” This is something that can only be fixed through the voices outside of Washington, not from within.

Politicians in D.C. love to point fingers and divide the country. We must stop fighting amongst each other. The next time you hear someone attack your neighbor, do not fall into the trap of envy and hatred. Look at the person stoking the fire and evaluate their motive. We must remember that Americans are not defined by the amount of money they currently make; they are defined by their hard work and their potential for success.

CLASS WARFARE Part 1: Rich vs. Poor

Obama-Class-Warfare-Strategy

Clay Olsen | January 22, 2014

Something that we have heard constantly for many, many years and something that I guarantee we will hear much more of during this year is class warfare rhetoric. Recently, the newly elected New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, made a speech in which he stated, “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities… We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can” have X, Y, and Z. He reminds me of the ignorant kid from second grade who ran on free ice cream for his class presidential campaign. It is an old speech that never actually produces results. But let us continue our investigation into this philosophy known as class warfare.

This tactic is not a new one. It has been around for much longer than any of our lifetimes. The scheme was given the spotlight by a man named Karl Marx. Marx believed that the upper class, the bourgeois as he called them, was suppressing the working class, the proletariat. In order for the proletariat to regain ownership of his livelihood, he must join his fellow man and overthrow the evil bourgeois class. Now this is undoubtedly a quick summary of his ideas, but that is the meat of it. I believe that this idea is being rammed through the minds of the American people, and I fear it will hurt our country.

A great example of the implementation of class warfare attacks is the 2012 election. Of course, you can look at any recent presidential election and see similarities, but it is easiest to view the one that is freshest in our minds. Right now, think to yourself and use one word to describe Mitt Romney based on what you heard during the campaign. Well, if you watched any news or heard any speeches you all probably thought of the same word: rich. Yes, Mitt Romney is an extremely wealthy man. And because this is what you thought of when I asked you to describe Romney, the media will give themselves a pat on the back because that was their goal, to paint Mitt Romney as a rich, old, white man. The amount of Romney’s wealth was constantly being pointed out and yet no talk of how he achieved his success.

His previous private sector career was described as a destructive one. Supposedly Romney’s job was to fire a lot of people and steal their money. Isn’t that horrible! In actuality, Romney was part of a company that would get calls for help from struggling businesses. Romney and his team would meet with the executives of the company to learn about the business. They then would advise them about what a smart plan would be to move forward and grow. Sometimes this involved saying, “If you employ all 100 of your employees, you will go bankrupt so for now, you have to let 15 of them go.” Now a fool would look at this and call Mitt the devil for causing the firing of 15 hard working Americans. Yes, some lost their jobs in these processes, but all 100 employees would have lost their jobs had not the company taken their advice. As the company grows, it can hire 20 or 30 or 50 more people. Mitt Romney did not make his money in an unethical fashion. On the contrary, he made his money by doing more for the private sector than we could hope to do. Yet he was demonized for his earnings.

A lot of this class warfare rhetoric sprung from a movement that was started in 2011 called Occupy Wall Street. The premise of the movement was to educate people about the “1 percenters.” They wanted to get people furious at the extremely wealthy people in America. Well this classy movement bled out due to rapes, drug overdoses and murders that occurred within their “camps” and now belongs to the history books. What stuck was this notion that if you are not in the top 1%, you should be angry and demand more to be squeezed from the rich and given to you. A common theme coming from the Obama campaign was that “the rich need to pay their fair share.” It was thought that the rich needed to pay more taxes. Fun fact: the top 10% pays for 70% of the income taxes in this country due to a progressive income tax system.

The liberals’ thirst to take more money is almost comparable to their fierce craving to spend us into oblivion. Democrat campaigns are relying on a certain message: “The rich guy doesn’t deserve his wealth. Vote for me so I can take it away from him and give it to you.” Soon Democratic primaries will amount to the candidates attacking each other by pointing out that one did not spend enough or that one did not tax the rich enough. Sadly, this is what politics has become. We are being taught by politicians to hate our neighbor if he has a bigger house, nicer car, or better job than us. We are being taught that that neighbor deserves to have more taken away from him. We cheer at the thought of higher taxes being implemented on those that are a step above us. Well I have a message for our politicians: we the people are not split into bourgeois and proletariat classes. We the people are a united country that doesn’t need a handful of corrupt men telling us who deserves what. There was a time in America when men aspired to be greater. And this aspiration was accompanied by hard work, not hatred.