Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hope for America

OK, back to the state of education - and of America - for a moment.

After my op-ed piece entitled "The Mis-education of Sean Hannity" was published on the Denver Post's website, I read some rather pessimistic feedback about education. Obviously, the readers ignored the clear concessions I made to the argument that there are problems with the education system. My point, of course, was to take exception to Hannity's use of the term "ruined." There is far too much caustic, negative, pessimistic commentary about American society. And, it's not helping us. While contemporary American society is no utopia - what place is? - life is good, and opportunity abounds. That point - one often made by conservative critics like Hannity - gets overlooked when we refer to America's schools or government or environment or families as "ruined."

Optimistic viewpoints about the future can be found in the writings of people like David Brooks of the New York Times and Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek. They are often the voices of reason in contemporary commentary, pointing out the positives in the economy, the education system, the government, and even the Middle East. Sadly, their viewpoints are often overlooked, though I encourage you to read them. Zakaria, for example, recently published a book called "The Post-American World." In many critical circles, there was outrage about the supposed negativity in the title. However, the book is a surprisingly insightful and optimistic evaluation of the contemporary world, focusing not on the fall of America, but instead of "the rise of the rest." It's not that America is failing, but that the rest of the world is finally "catching up." This is a good thing, and we should view it that way.

Last week I attended an education conference sponsored by the Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News Service that focused on the 1908 and 2008 Democratic National Conventions. Many historians spoke about the comparable aspects of both eras. One of the most enjoyable and insightful presentations came from an economist named Erik Erickson who compared the finances of both eras. When he was asked about the current and future state of the economy, he noted, "I'm quite optimistic." Compared to life one-hundred years ago, Americans are, by all measures, doing quite well. We are healthier, wealthier (at all levels), and wiser. That's something to feel good about, and that was my point for Sean Hannity.

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