12.16.2009

When is it Religion and When is it Prejudice?

A story in the Guardian describes:
Judges today ruled that one of Britain's most successful faith schools had racially discriminated against a 12-year-old boy who was refused admission because the school did not recognise him as Jewish....M's mother converted from Catholicism to Judaism under a non-Orthodox authority, meaning the Chief Rabbi does not recognise her as Jewish...."The majority held that JFS had directly discriminated against M on grounds of his ethnic origins."...the judges did not consider the Chief Rabbi to be racist.
It happened in Great Britain and not in the U.S. so there is nothing here to speak of, legally. But having read _Holy Hullabaloos_ recently I was left with a vacant spot in the dialog. And when I read this story I was reminded of it.

When does religion become prejudice? The panel of judges deliberately stuck in a disclaimer to stop people like me from yapping about it. I don't think it should stop me. Largely because it doesn't make sense.

The parents got married and to keep her husband happy, the woman became an official member of her husband's faith. But when they sent their child to a school run by a similar-but-not-identical faith group, he was judged racially-cum-religiously impure which is OK if you're of the similar-but-not-identical faith group.

It reminds me of the job application process at several conservative Christian schools that asks you to "Describe how and when you were saved." It isn't part of Christian doctrine that adults have a non-baptismal-saving (I love hyphens tonight) ordeal in order to be Christian. The official description of Christianity is described by the Nicene Creed as "one baptism for the remission of sins..." so the job application contains an odd requirement. Perhaps even un-Christian.

Sorry.

What bothers me is that in the U.S. we must allow the free exercise of religious beliefs when they interfere with inculcating the faculties of reason and judgment in our young. Luckily, the young are able to withstand most of it the way they withstand the onslaught of education in general.

12.15.2009

Open Letter to Senator LeMieux

Dear Senator LeMieux,

This statement from your recent letter disappoints me.
"I have talked with Floridians from Pensacola to Miami and without exception, people are concerned about this bill's proposals to raise taxes, increase health insurance premiums, and cut access to quality care. Citizens tell me they want Congress to scrap this proposal and start over. I agree. We cannot afford the government we have, much less the government this bill seeks to create. We need to be smarter about approaching health care reform and target those areas where we can reduce costs and expand access to health insurance."
I'm sure you are listening to people. The question is, "Who?" Your language is not conciliatory. Your language does not look the way it should after hearing the arguments for universal health care over the last few months. In fact it looks combative. Do you really need to mirror the angry white guys who yell at their TV sets? Are they the citizens whose wants and needs you are representing?

It makes me sad to see you take this stand in opposition to data from countries like Japan that have health outcomes similar to our own but have a mix of public option and multiple payors while maintaining much lower cost structures. These things exist and have been successful. We are in fact one of the last countries in the world with a high standard of living that does NOT include health care as part of that high standard.

You have had access to testimony from public health doctors whose job it is to evaluate and compare health delivery systems across national boundaries, but you have chosen to listen to the voices of special interests. You have had the unique opportunity to hear from a former Aetna manager what he did the last time publicly funded health coverage was brought up in D.C. You have seen the same strategies used a second time, knowing who funded the astroturfing.

I owned a general lines insurance agency from 1974 to 1994 and was among the most profitable independent agents in the U.S. for my size. I understand insurance. I also understand the people. Some of them are generous, smart, and successful. Unfortunately many are fearful and lack the confidence to move into a new economic model.

If we think there is a reason to have national education standards and we want children to grow up to be productive citizens, they must be healthy before they become productive. If we want citizens to be productive, we must keep them healthy and not support a system that by its very design prices out a significant portion of the otherwise productive population in order to keep costs in check. The current system fails to address the more difficult issues, consequently driving a system that has the highest cost in the world.

12.14.2009

Colin Marshall Hits the Nail (School) on the Head

The Humanists: Frederick Wiseman's High School (1968)
More important than any overtly political point is a purely mechanical one, to wit, that our educational machine isn't working as desired, or at least as advertised. The mismatch between large-scale education's declared aims and its actual function should come as no surprise to anyone who's spent any time in the system, but here Wiseman has assembled an effective reminder indeed.


Wiseman's notes and contact information.