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Character education and the ethically challenged

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 29, 2001


"Morality is expediency in a long white dress." — Quentin Crisp

Because I have a knack for seeing the humor in the gravest of situations, George W. Bush never ceases to amuse. Not even a year into the second Bush administration and things have all already moved beyond "I told you so" into the territory of Uh-Oh. Meanwhile, George, the would be king, floats before the media in his new clothes of moral righteousness.

Vacationing on his parched homestead, George has found time to walk among his people and spin sound bites around the concept of an idealized agrarian myth and communities of character. Comfortable making the rounds of American grade schools, the Home to the Heartland Tour is all about accountability, as if George W. had any clue what accountability really meant. President Bush also found time to appeal a federal judge's ruling that makes it harder to drill new oil wells off the California coast.

Two months ago, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) illegally extended 36 undeveloped oil leases off the central California coast because it failed to comply with the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This ruling freezes activities on the leases, and requires MMS to comply with federal environmental laws before moving forward. On Friday, August 17, the Bush administration appealed the judge's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

Considering it took a pocketful of Supreme Court Justices to put him in the oval office, it should surprise no one that the Bush Administration is shopping around for a federal judge to do his bidding, and make sure his buddies in the oil industry can have their way with the environment. Californians don't want oil drilling off the coast. We don't want the oil rigs that are there now, and we will certainly fight to stop the development of any others. Unlike the people of Alaska, Californians don't receive a yearly kick back from the oil industry. The only things residents of the golden state can expect is more corruption, more pollution, and a diminished quality of life.

It's time to face the fact that America is becoming a rouge superpower. In the jargon of the schoolyard, George W. is a bully. To think George wants to start teaching his brand of morality in public schools is frightening. Visions of school children in brown shirts come immediately to mind. I'm sure Hitler actually believed he was creating communities of character as he pursued his agenda. Perhaps the President's proposed "character education" curriculum includes lessons on greed, entitlement, and Machiavellian considerations, such as voter disenfranchisement, corporate rule, and the politics of ecocide.

In New Mexico, George W. told students that not only was it important to teach kids how to read and write but also to tell the difference between right and wrong. Any fifth grader will tell you that being a bully is wrong. They will also tell you cheating, lying, and not doing your homework is wrong. An admitted C student, it is obvious George did not do his homework, if he had, he would understand that the policies he promotes would cripple this country faster than a baseball bat to the knee.

Most school children understand that destroying the planet is wrong; perhaps this is why George feels the need to indoctrinate them into his armies of compassion. Preaching about accountability while trying to undermine those working towards economic and environmental sustainability is far from moral. Being accountable to future generations requires us to recognize global warming as real and then to make the necessary sacrifices. To continue chaining ourselves to fossil fuels and the out dated technologies that depend on them we are only robbing future generations.

I don't believe morality should be taught in schools, as it is always subjective and usually used as a way of invalidating the choices of others. In George Bush's world, damning the porcupine caribou to extinction is seen as moral, as are weapons of mass destruction and arsenic in the drinking water. However, two men raising children together is not only seen as immoral, but as a threat to America. Government should never be in the morality business.

What needs to be taught in school is ethics. Had George W. been introduced to Socrates and Aristotle perhaps he would understand that might does not always make right, and that the greater good is not reserved for his bank account, or his narrow view of the world.

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