Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union

Bush disappointed me. I’m sure he’s really torn up about it, too.

In his State of the Union tonight, he spoke of goals for the future when it comes to technology and competitiveness in the world market. He paraded his new “initiatives” for cultivating the talent and creativity of the next generation by giving “our Nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.” (Is this truly the best way to foster creativity?) He pronounced increased funding for scientific research and a plan to train more math and science teachers. Wonderful.

When it came to the character and culture of America, however, the president spoke in vagaries. Where were the initiatives? Where was the funding? Where was the push for more “arts and humanities” education? We were led to believe that no such efforts are required – everything is fine in this department. He trotted out a litany of statistics about declining abortions, fewer unwed mothers and dropping crime rates, and passed this off as evidence of moral progress. “These gains are evidence of a quiet transformation – a revolution of conscience, in which a rising generation is finding that a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment.” Is it just me, or does anyone else fail to share the President’s optimism about American mores?

Perhaps this is simply an inexorable feature of a capitalistic society. When the dollar is the bottom line, culture gets the shaft. Training high school students in art, music and history does not prepare them for high-paying jobs. It does not ensure our competitiveness in the endless race for technological superiority. It isn’t quantifiable. It isn’t practical. Arts and humanities are nice for hobbies, but not for serious careers.

President Bush mentioned that, “we must never give in to the belief that America is in decline, or that our culture is doomed to unravel.” I disagree. There is one condition under which we should give in to this belief – when it becomes true.


Blogger Keith said...

Chris, wow- this is an interesting reaction to the Address. We are indeed all entitled to our own opinions, and Im glad you've shared yours. For what its worth (which probably won't be much to you, having read your feelings), I was pleased with the Address. I think its important to realize just what the Address is for, and what it is not for. It is not intended to be the President's opportunity to exhaustively treat every issue; he only has less than an hour! I was pleased at the attempts to breach party lines.
I am inclined to disagree with you that "we were led to believe" that absolutely no effort is required of the American people when it comes to "the character and culture of America." No one, especially the President, is so naive as to entertain such a belief.
In the end, one beauty of democracy is the presence of varying opinions. And besides, what do I know? Im only a philosopher, not a political analyst. My personal desire is to see us as citizens become more like the NT model of the Church- unified. Further, as Christians we are to do all that we do in love, including pass judgement on the leader of our nation.

1:01 PM  
Blogger chris said...

You can take me with a grain of salt -- I'm a little weary of the "math and science" mantra. Is this really our top priority?

I agree that he can't treat every issue. The people counting words just amaze me. "The president only devoted 152 words to hurricance relief!" However, if he felt the need to talk about education, why was math and science such a high priority?

1:54 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Chris, thanks for responding! I had second guesses about commenting on your post; its always risking talking politics!
You mean you didn't count the words of the speech??? (just kidding, who cares how many words long it was!)
Of course I cannot answer for anyone else's priorities (especially GW's), but your point on education is well-taken.
As I feel out of my element in this realm, I will forego any more political commenting. I am, however, eager to discuss philosophy any time.

8:11 PM  

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