In order to achieve the maximum number of successful schools, school districts need to participate as key players in reform. There are many questions and critical issues facing schools as districts evolve from their bureaucratic roots. These questions include the roles that should be kept at the district level, those that should be eliminated, or those that should be passed on to others. Districts also have to look at new functions they may wish to take on and the capabilities needed to assume these functions. At least initially, they will need to determine whether decisions should be made at district level, school level, or elsewhere.
There is also support for districts to take action to discover common interests between schools and the community, through ongoing outreach. Districts need to find ways for people to meet and discuss how to further common interests and work on them cooperatively in order to break down barriers. This type of outreach empowers families and communities, making them useful assets to school systems. Building relationships within the education system and holding open conversations are excellent ways to foster engagement.
Our political leaders have finally begun to recognize the importance of education to the survival of individuals and societies in the 21st century. The other aspect of this conversation is all too familiar: while our children do learn, not all of them are learning as much or as well as they should to meet the demands of the new century.
In the United States, there are low levels of achievement among students from low-income backgrounds and students of color. This is in contrast to the fact that students in educationally supportive states and those from advantaged backgrounds easily rival students from across the world. To put this into context, nine year-olds from White, advantaged backgrounds read as well as thirteen-year-old Black and Hispanic students. In addition, even though funding has increased, it has done so unequally and the achievement gap has grown.
Typically, schools that serve a large number of “minority” students face big issues, which put them at a disadvantage when compared to other schools. They have to deal with lower budgets, larger classes, and often less qualified teachers and school leaders. The effect of this has been to create an “educational debt” that negatively affects the students in these communities. Major efforts are needed to address this issue. Recruiting great teachers is important, but it is not the whole answer. Systemic elements are needed to support the work of talented educators. It is not the people who are at fault: it is the system that needs an overhaul.
As Ted Sizer once put it, “The people are better than the system.” We have come a long way in understanding how to create more effective school leaders and build a national commitment to educational leadership. However, we are not there yet. We need leadership to forge all of the various elements of school reform today into well-functioning systems that make sense for those working hard to achieve results for students.
Student performance depends on the existence of an modern, well organized system at district level. Any model focused on increasing the academic performance of students must involve every segment of the district, from the custodians to the school board. Most districts know exactly what their students need, and their district-wide curriculum and reform should reflect those needs. The district needs to make sure the developed curriculum aligns with the standards set by national and state entities.
Districts that show continuous positive results often base their decisions on data alone, as opposed to relying on observations and data together. Schools should regularly evaluate the pros and cons of instructional programs and realize that standardized tests should make up only a piece of the assessment puzzle, not the entirety. Continuously monitoring the progress of the school’s student body will allow the task force to alter the reform plan as needed.
Successful schools also take measures to institute checks and balances, to ensure the decision-making process is fairly distributed among a variety of reform participants. Superintendents are charged with the duty of ensuring that improvement efforts are carried out in a positive manner and meet the needs of the students. The team leader’s job is to ensure teachers have all of the tools needed to foster the academic performance of students.
Districts all over the country recognize accountability as the key to the school’s improvement process. Everyone is expected to give their best effort, or face the consequences. To ensure that staff and faculty members are able to perform at optimal levels, the school district must provide them with high-quality professional development.
Successfully implementing and sustaining school reform is possible. It may not be easy, but with a big effort, the use of all resources, and the expertise of professionals, school reform can be successful. The level of success the school is able to achieve will be based on the school’s situation. Whatever the obstacles, the leaders’ decisions need to be resolute to foster academic achievement.
In order to complete the process of school reform, restructuring efforts must be monitored and measured. The process of evaluation can be completed in-house, or the leader can hire outside consultants to perform the task. If the task force is willing to evaluate the success of the school’s reform, they must first develop a plan for evaluation.
The team’s evaluation plan should have been created before the reform was started. Performance goals that were created at the beginning of the process should be used to guide the evaluation process. The team will need to decide who will collect, study, and interpret the data. In order to avoid biased results, it may be in the best interest of the school to hire an outside consultant to provide a more objective assessment of the reform efforts. The team will also use the results to determine whether or not the reform efforts were effective.
The results may indicate that the reform was not successful. In this case, the best solution is to build upon the small successes and learn from mistakes. Another reform could then be put in place, or the unsuccessful reform changed to better suit the needs of the school. School restructuring is a long-term process, occurring on a continuous cycle. Keep in mind that not every restructuring effort bears fruit. Even the best schools have to continue to work in the restructuring process.
As the focus on the improvement of learning becomes stronger, expectations change about what educational leaders accomplish through the allocation of resources. Historically, supporters of education were more concerned with the dollar amount allocated per pupil, and they spent most of their political capital asking for increases from one year to the next.
Educational leaders were responsible for creating balanced budgets with the dollars they had available and accounting for expenses in a responsible manner – a complex task in large school districts. Little attention was paid to how resources were related to performance, or the expected results. The standards-based reform movement of the past several decades changed the basic situation , posing new questions about what the learning standards should be and how educators should be held accountable for improved performance.
Educators now focus on results, taking the stance that higher performance requires adequate resources. A change has occurred, prompting educational leaders to consider how funding is related to building high-performing systems benefiting all students. As they s become more learning-focused, leaders critically examine the fairness, efficiency, and effectiveness of existing resource allocation policies and practices, and make decisions about how resources might be reallocated more productively.
This resource redistribution challenge is important in the present era of standards-driven reform and accountability for results. Given the considerable diversity in the needs, capacities, and contexts of schools, it is striking – though not surprising – that resource allocation patterns in K–12 education are relatively uniform.
The similarity of leaders’ responses may simply signal a safe course: the most easily defended set of decisions while competing for scarce resources. Beneath the surface , however, conflicting expectations, tensions, and barriers may hurt leaders’ ability to think more creatively about the organization and allocation of limited resources, and strategic action. These barriers exist at all levels of the educational policy system.
Leaders need clear understanding about the impact of certain investments on student learning, yet knowledge here is incomplete. The highly contextual nature of schools, the variations in the implementation of improvement strategies , the motivational conditions that are present, and adapting strategies to fit specific circumstances. All these factors interact with the resources affecting learning improvement goals.
For districts that want a new start at student-weighted allocation systems (whereby funds are allocated on the basis of student types), offering clear-cut guidance on what amounts should be assigned to each student type is a crucial first step. A standard response cannot exist in the current state of fiscal allocation policy. Currently, there is no efficient resource allocation system that gives reliable answers.
Policymakers are therefore forced into determining fiscal policy without information relating to spending on student types. They do so without understanding the workings of funding policies at different levels (federal, state, and local) either together or in contrast. Policymakers have little clarity on expenditure for different student types at the school level, nor do they know the types of policies that would more effectively guarantee that dollars reach students in the proposed ways.
School finance today works against the focused and effective use of resources that promote improved student education . This nation’s school finance system is frozen by a combination of unrelated spending policies and administrative plans that no work. Ours is an educational system calling for reform. A new model is required to ensure that every child receives instruction for his or her needs, in order to become an involved citizen participating in this modern economy.
Current school finance systems fund programs, uphold institutions, and offer resources and staff employment so school and district administrators can carry out the multitude of laws and regulations that have become part of public education. However, the methods used by today’s school finance systems – distributing funding levels based on habit instead of need, covering up where funds actually go , supporting institutions regardless of whether they work, being insincere about fairness, careless spending , trying to make adults accountable by compliance instead of results – confuses the links between resources and academic aims that make finance important to student performance.
The school finance system evolved in a era in which programs were funded, and students passed or failed without much thought to the role of funding in student performance. This pattern was sustainable then, as low skill jobs were available , and most workers didn't need to be well educated to maintain a healthy economy. That legacy has proven impractical in today’s high-tech, information-based economy, where low-skilled workers cannot rise above the poverty level and overseas workers are able to compete in the market for skilled jobs, once available solely to Americans.
Education is the cornerstone of success. Those who are educated have more opportunity, tend to make better choices, and will go on to teach their children to do likewise. Those who are educated tend to give back to their community more than they take from it. With that being said, what can we surmise by what is happening in high schools around the nation, and especially in places like the Rochester Public School District? A lot!
We have a serious problem in this country and it is one that is not getting nearly the amount of attention that it deserves. The problem is the number of black males who are, and who are not, graduating from high school around the nation. The statistics are startling and in my opinion, a major call for action. It is imperative that people become aware of what is going on so that we can use the information to do something about it, before it’s too late.
Black males are slipping through the cracks in large numbers in the country’s high schools. It would be difficult to beat what is happening in the Rochester Public School District though, where only 9 percent of black high school students will graduate within four years. Nationwide, 52 percent of black males graduate from high school, which is compared to 78 percent of their white male counterparts.
The 52 percent nationwide signals that there is a major problem in this country when it comes to educating our black male students. But the 9 percent rate in Rochester is downright jaw dropping. This is a serious problem that must be addressed for the students, the community, and the nation, as all will be impacted by these students being sent out into the adult world without the basic education they need to survive and make it.
Those who do not get at least a high school education will in all likelihood go on to cost the tax payers of this nation a lot of money. The research and statistics support this notion, including these facts:
· Those who don’t finish high school earn less money, on average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with less than a high school diploma earn an average of $451 per week, compared to $638 for a high school graduate, and $1,053 for someone with a bachelor’s degree.
· The lower the amount of education one has, the higher rate of unemployment they typically face. Those who have not finished high school are hit the hardest, with a 14 percent unemployment rate, compared to a 9.4 percent rate for high school graduates, and a 4.9 percent rate for those with a bachelor’s degree.
· In recent years the nation’s prisons reached an all time high incarceration rate. The population of those incarcerated hit 2.3 million. Disproportionately, the largest segment of those incarcerated were black males, making up some 35 percent of the population. Coincidentally, it’s estimated that around 40 percent of those incarcerated do not have a high school diploma or equivalent.
It’s clear to see that when these young black males slip through the cracks it is going to impact society as a whole. And not just in Rochester, but beyond. When they don’t graduate they are at a high risk of getting involved in crime and being unemployed.
Another startling statistic that comes out of the Rochester Public School District is that 42 percent of black male students fail the 9th grade. Compare this to the 2 percent of white males that fail the 9th grade in that school district and there is some real disparity here that needs to be examined and swiftly addressed. When a student is held back in the 9th grade they will fall further behind and be less likely to graduate. They also force struggling mothers to depend on social welfare programs for economic assistance, as young black males are rarely prepared to be financially supportive fathers.
The solution to this problem in Rochester and across the nation is in examining the issues at hand and pulling people and resources together. If there was ever a time for people to come together in the name of creating a better society, this is it. Solutions need to include hiring quality teachers, increasing parental involvement, high expectations, taking back those who have been pushed out, and focusing our efforts on early intervention in reading and math programs. Students who struggle with core subjects like reading and math are 75 percent more likely to drop out of high school.
We need to create more intensive reading and math programs, to help set them up for academic success as they move through the grades, it is important that schools not be so quick to push out these black male students. Many are pushed out, or sent to special schools, simply because they fit a demographic and people expect them to behave a certain way, without actually giving them a chance. This is not an exhaustive list of solutions, but it's a start.
Finally, because the problem in Rochester and around America of our black males not graduating from high school does impact all of us, it’s up to all of us to come up with solutions. You now know the facts, and you know what’s at stake. What do you propose is the solution to this problem, so that our black males will see higher graduation rates, as well as the benefits that come along with it?
Take a look around the office because, statistically speaking, one out of every four adults will experience a mental health disorder within any given year. It’s a common occurrence, yet we live in a country where mental illness comes with a side of stigma and a second helping of hardly anyone caring. Sounds harsh, but when you look at the facts, it’s clear to see that we are a nation that is failing those who are in desperate need of some professional help.
What we as a country desperately need is to provide those who have mental illnesses with the help that they need. Doing so will benefit our communities, because those people will most likely become productive members of society once again. Mental illnesses, by definition, are serious mental health conditions that people cannot overcome on their own or simply by summoning up more will power. They include such issues as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, depression, etc.
These conditions affect an estimated 58 million adults per year, as well as 10 percent of children and adolescents, and that’s something that can successfully be helped. 70-90 percent of those who get the professional treatment they need will go on to experience a better quality of life, as well as a reduction in their symptoms. Unlike some diseases, where we are waiting for a cure or some effective help to come along, we already have that for the majority of mental health disorders.
So, if we are not giving mental health issues the funding they need, and not giving people the support that is essential, what exactly is happening to all those people? Not a whole lot, unfortunately. Many of those with mental illnesses are cast aside, and ending up living on the streets. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 25 percent of all homeless persons suffer from a mental illness.
It gets even worse. Just down the road from the White House, there are plenty of homeless individuals who suffer from mental illness. Shockingly, just steps from the most important office in the land, and perhaps the whole world, where decisions could be made to help people, those in power literally drive right past the homeless on the way to their comfortable offices. It makes you wonder who’s not thinking clearly. Most people feel that mental illness is a problem that happens somewhere else, to some other families, and impacts someone else’s community. But that’s just not the case.
Mental illness doesn’t care what you look like, how much money you have in the bank, or how well educated you are. It is something that can happen to anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, race, and creed. Indeed, mental illness impacts our own families, our friends, and people in our community. It’s time to start helping those with mental illnesses, so that they can rejoin our communities and feel good about who they are.
When it comes to mental illness, we need more tolerance, empathy and compassion. We need to remove the barriers to help, and remember that if it were our family member or friend who had such problems, we would view things with a lot more compassion. We have an obligation to help them while they are in a position where they cannot help themselves. Let’s all stand together and show our support for our mentally ill neighbors and community members. If not now, when? The sooner we help people who are suffering from mental illness, the sooner they will be able to enjoy life again, and be a vital part of our community.
The general concept of democracy is arguably the longest political experiment in the history of humanity. Yet, after more than two millennia of trial and error, the world is yet to engineer a system of democracy that could adhere to the highest democratic ideals. In its most basic form, a democracy emphasizes the ‘rule of the people,’ which usually refers to the concept of majority rule. However, this definition hardly represents a fully-fledged democracy of the 21st century. Modern democracies are overwhelmingly representative democracies, in which citizens elect representatives and empower them to manage the tasks of government on their behalf. Currently the predominant form of representative democracy is considered to be liberal democracy, as seen in the US.
Scholars of democracy will be keen to point out that virtually every democracy has been flawed to a certain degree. Furthermore, all attempts to build a democratic system that could stand the test of time have failed. The reason for this is not that democracy itself in inherently flawed but like any other system of government it is an artificial construct that is a reflection of its creators' time. Moreover, it is created to service the ever-changing requirements of humanity, which in turn are influenced by a variety of changing factors including economic, environmental, social, political and technological factors.
While humanity is almost eternally susceptible to change as a system, a democracy can only be changed in a gradual manner, once the citizens of a democracy can become comfortable and evaluate the changes that they themselves are being exposed to. In a globalized world, these changes are occurring more rapidly, which in turn put more pressure on liberal democracies and democratic principles of governance. However, despite its flaws, one unmistakable truth about liberal democracy, is that regardless of its particulars, is that it is by far the most flexible form of government that is both open to change from within and actively built on the ideals of freedom and equality.
Surely, it is easily debatable as to how receptive to change a liberal democracy is or to what degree it is built on freedom and equality; but that does not change the fact that these are the fundamental qualities of a wholesome liberal democracy. Thus, democracy has evolved from its fledging foundations into the most dominant or perhaps the most desired form of governance in the modern world. Arguably, liberal democracy of the 21st century is merely another stage in the evolution of democracy itself, and like every era of democracy that preceded it, it is certainly flawed but it has not failed yet.
The idea of democracy traces its roots to ancient Greece, especially the Greek city-state of Athens, in which democracy took the form of a 'direct democracy.’ In this case, citizens directly controlled all aspects of government. Furthermore, all citizens had an equal say, and were obliged to both deliberate on policies and take part in the governance of the city. Similar systems of governance that featured majority-rule have existed for centuries since, but usually confined to certain institutions or relatively small provinces or cities.
Modern liberal democracy only started to emerge with the founding of the United States of America in 1787 with the framing of a constitution that granted equal rights to all its citizens. Not only did this mark a significant evolution in the process of democracy but it was also the first time that democracy was used to govern a large state.
However, the long journey of democracy was neither perfect nor fair. In the case of Athens, only citizens were eligible to vote. The Athenian conception of citizenship was very narrow and excluded members of the lower social-strata, women and slaves. Even major liberal democracies such as the US and UK only extended full franchise in the 20th century. In the US, the original idea was to grant voting rights only to property-holders.
Furthermore, slaves were excluded from voting until the late 19th century, but even after this, they were often treated as second-class citizens until the mid 20th century. In the UK, the first sparks of liberal democracy were the result of the Civil War in 1642. However, voting remained restricted to all segments of society until 1928. Other liberal democracies extended franchise much later. Clearly, democracy is not an inherent human virtue, and in many places, the idea of democracy actively contradicts or conflicts with local religious or cultural beliefs. However, it is also clear that in the long-term, democracy seems to be advancing slowly but steadily.
In most liberal democracies, political parties often adopt different positions on many issues and thereby provide voters with a choice on a variety of matters. However, in standard voting models, it is assumed that political parties strive to converge on the median position. Therefore, one could argue that the existence of different political parties makes little difference. This is because regardless of the initial political stance of the winning candidate or party, in most cases they will identify the same electoral issues and often adopt similar measures in response.
However, in reality certain factors prevent parties from fully converging on the median voter position. While, candidates themselves might be unable to appeal to the median voter position due to strong personal beliefs or principles, the internal structure of parties also may play a part.
Most often, political parties with internal democratic mechanisms will elect party leaders who can appeal to most median voters but whose ideology and policy principles are closer to the party's position than the rest of the electorate. For example, a left-wing party will be keen to elect candidate who can appeal to median voters but would be more left wing than the rest of the electorate. In this case, the candidate might occupy the median position within the party, which would still be more left wing than the rest of the electorate.
In response to recurring problems and issues, modern political parties embarked on wide reforms aimed at creating more transparent and democratic mechanisms. In the US, many states feature primary elections and party caucuses that are better regulated. Therefore, most often, the winning candidate of the democratic or republican nomination emerges quite clearly and early in the process.
As a result, party conventions ceased to be events in which parties choose candidates and became more of a formality in which the nomination of a candidate was officially announced and celebrated. In the UK, the Labour party began to choose its party leader through an electoral college, which was composed of a third of each of the votes of party legislators, members associated with the trade unions and individual party members.
These changes were certainly welcomed, as they seemed to address many of the flaws of the existing systems through more democratic and transparent mechanisms. The new election processes not only opened up the leadership process of political parties but also made it more accountable. However, critics argue that these reforms have exposed modern political parties to a new set of problems.
One of the major criticisms is that modern political parties no longer fulfill the role of being independent organizations that feature their own unique character and the ability to bring together contrasting social interests to the political process. Furthermore, the reforms have transformed the election of party leadership into a spectacle that is comparable to a general election. This has allowed other forces such as the media, interest groups and business co-operations to play a more significant role in the internal election process of a political party. The expanding influence of these forces has come at the cost of the influence held by traditional party groupings. Thus, the ability of political parties to develop policy ideas and allow leadership candidates to emerge has declined significantly.
In the early 20th century, it was vital for political parties to develop a network that could rapidly recruit members, supporters and election workers from amongst the voters. Thus, parties were massive organizations that could mobilize thousands of election workers during the election cycle. Failure to organize on a large-scale often meant loosing the election. However, by the 1970's parties began to evolve into a 'catch all' model. This required party leaders to run a more direct campaign and winning candidates had to successfully appeal to the electorate and the media.
As a result, political finance became extremely valuable in order to finance media coverage, opinion polls, focus groups and other elements of a political campaign. This change transformed political parties into more flexible organizations that could quickly evolve around a new leadership and the significance of the party bureaucracy declined. More importantly, these transformations also coincided with the dwindling levels of party membership.
Just as campaign financing became the most important resource in any election, major political parties began losing their key sources of revenue such as party subscription fees and individual donations. Thus, party leaders had to depend on large donors in order to gain the necessary funds for election campaigns that have become increasingly more expensive. This dependence has exposed political parties to significant amount of influence from wealthy individuals and corporate donors.
Therefore, powerful donors can set the agenda of an entire political campaign or fund candidates who champion policies that are favorable to their interests. This has even caused some critics to argue that party leaders are now becoming more focused on designing policies in order to attract wealthy entities.
As a result, voters are tasked with electing representatives who are more inclined to serve the interests of their major donors rather than their constituents. This has arguably set about a vicious cycle in which the influence of powerful donors discourages ordinary voters from taking part in political parties or making significant donations because they feel that their influence will always be very little in comparison, which in turn forces party leaders to depend on such donors even more. The wide range of campaign-finance related scandals that have plagued elections in liberal democracies in the past few decades have not helped to improve things either.
In the United States, we do a good job of regulating the media, but the same can not be said of many democracies across the globe. As a disclaimer, this article is not directed towards the U. S. media, but rather the media in various other liberal democracies. Media organizations in many liberal countries around the world have become powerful tools in the hands of certain individuals. Thus, with vast media empires behind them, they have gained the ability to significantly influence public opinion. However, before looking at some of the reforms that could be introduced in general, it must be noted that for the most part, media organizations cannot be perfectly regulated. The content and analytical perspective cannot be made completely neutral because no ultimate standard exists.
For example, it is possible to broadly identify at least nine different perspectives amongst media subscribers.
1. Religious: Viewers with strong religious faith and moral values inspired by religious doctrines.
2. Conservative: Viewers that are more inclined towards the traditional norms of a particular culture. Sometimes there is also a strong religious influence as well.
3. Natural: Viewers who seek to classify things according to an established standard of nature or normality (the standard usually being subjective).
4. Legal-Technical: Viewers who favor codified regulations regarding media programs.
5. Liberal-pragmatic: Viewers who favor looser regulations based on specific factors, rather than a universal standard.
6. Scientific: Viewers who are more inclined to introducing media regulation that is backed scientific research.
7. Market: Viewers who believe that regulation should only be used for explicit acts against the law. Otherwise, media organizations should be allowed to cater to consumer demands, regardless of the specifics.
8. Aesthetic -professional: Viewers who believe that the value of information or media should be decided on the artistic or professional criteria.
9. Libertarian: Viewers who believe that individuals should be able to create or subscribe to any sort of media they prefer.
Often the political stance adopted by a particular media organization reflects the views of its subscribers. More importantly, governments in liberal democracies cannot force citizens to divert a certain amount of time on media organizations that reflect opinion from the other end of the political spectrum. However, governments can work to increase competition and inject a level of neutrality in certain instances. The following are some of the general reforms that could be implemented to enhance the contribution of media organizations.
Media empires usually have a large amount of political influence because there are relatively few strong competitors to provide an alternative viewpoint. Therefore, if one media empire has a strong influence in a particular region, then citizens will be exposed to the perspectives of that media empire even if they have no natural inclination to support those perspectives. This may distort the quality of information they receive. Meanwhile, citizens who are naturally inclined to its perspectives will be less inclined to examine alternative perspectives. Thus, governments could pass legislation limiting the amount of media assets a single organization can control. This would limit the reach and power of media empires. However, governments should not directly get involved with the internal workings of media organizations, because this would damage the concept of a free press.
Governments should create strong and independent regulatory systems. This is important because if done properly, regulatory commissions or media watchdogs can improve the diversity of political coverage and limit the use of extremism, violence and indecency. However, as mentioned earlier, regulatory systems must be left independent at all times, otherwise press freedom will be endangered. A successful regulatory system must also have the power to control or punish media organizations for breaching standards.
Passing limits on the growth of media organizations should be complimented by enhancing access to the media. For example, the government must be willing to provide incentives and aid to help nonprofit groups and smaller firms to enter the media industry. This will help increase the diversity, competition and the quality in the media industry. One concern is that governments will use their influence to encourage the growth of government-friendly media organizations. Therefore, it would be best if an independent body, which should be empowered with the ability to evaluate and approve/disapprove applicants for development aid, oversees any such process.
The reforms mentioned above can indeed help enhance the contribution of media organizations regarding political information. The challenge would be to apply these reforms without opening the door to more conflict or chaos in the media. Thus, regulations should be designed merely to guide media organizations with the lightest touch. Regulations that are either too weak or too strong stand to do as much damage as openly bias media organizations.
It’s no secret I support President Barack Obama. I voted for him in the previous election and I will vote for him come November. As a liberal, I share his political views and I continue to be wowed by his forward thinking initiatives and policies. As an American, I am proud to call him my president. As a black man, I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he has represented black men everywhere with his ceaseless demonstration of dignity, superior intellect and unparalleled innovation.
I have yet to find the words to describe the overwhelming sense of satisfaction I felt on Nov. 4, 2008 when Obama won the popular vote by 53 percent. With tears in my eyes, and joy in my heart, I stood alongside people of color across the nation as we celebrated America’s first inauguration of a black president. As a young black man, I felt a true sense of patriotism as I witnessed our country rally together to show, finally, that we are more concerned about who is the most qualified man for the job, regardless of race or age. As Obama so simply, yet eloquently, stated during his celebration speech –change had come to America –a change we so desperately needed after eight painful years of George W. Bush’s colossal failure as our nation’s leader.
A lot has happened since then. I am loyal to the Democratic Party and to my president, but I am not blind, deaf or dumb. I recognize that Obama has made more than one controversial decision and rocked the boat a time or two in recent years. Sure, he has committed his share of blunders and tripped over his own words from time to time. But, there isn’t a president in American history who didn’t flub up big time at some point during his administration. While I acknowledge he has made a number of mistakes in recent years, I stand firm in my conviction that Barack Obama is one of the greatest presidents America has ever seen. I believe history will prove this, and with time, he will be remembered in the annals of history as a revered revolutionary.
Here are 12 reasons why I am for the reelection of President Barack Obama and why you should be too:
If these 12 reasons aren’t enough to convince you to reelect Barack Obama in November, here’s one more: he’s not Mitt Romney!
Liberal democracy is by no means a finished product and will not disappear anytime soon. Furthermore, it is important to remember that liberal democracy is itself the result of the larger democratic experiment. Thus, liberal democracy features a variety of strengths that are unique to it alone. Sometimes it is frustrating to realize that every conception of democracy thus far has never fully satisfied our requirements. Interestingly, based on the experience of democracy, maybe it is our conception of democracy that is inherently flawed.
Perhaps for too long we have mistaken democracy for a system that dictates governance, and maybe it is time to look at democracy as a system that facilitates governance. Therefore, instead of focusing on how to make democratic institutions foolproof, it would be better to examine methods that could enhance the relationship between democratic institutions and the public. The challenge would be then to create a system that is both stable and consistent and which results in an atmosphere that allows individuals direct influence over major policies.
Hence, it would not be enough to simply elect leaders and let democratic institutions do the rest. Instead, democratic institutions would require a more substantial interaction between the governed and the government, and this could provide a very positive outcome for everyone involved. In this aspect, contemporary liberal democracy is clearly lacking. Not only does it explicitly create and enforce a structure in which the role of ordinary citizens is mostly reduced to electing representatives, but also it also actively promotes a culture of apathy and even cynicism.
It is based on these weaknesses, that advocates of reform have suggested incorporating features from other models of democracy that seek to enhance participation and activity within the system. However, it must be noted that the process of re-imagining liberal democracy would require us to accept that in any conceivable scenario there will always be a chasm between the idea of democracy and reality of democracy. There are many different theoretical models of democracy and some of which are actively used in the real world. The recent democratic reforms of the 20th century highlight some of the direct influence of these models.
As seen in earlier, direct democracy has always been associated with a more idealistic tone. Direct democracy in its pure form is impossible to use in modern society. The reason being that classical direct democracy would require the full participation of citizens with regards to virtually every element of governance and legislation. However, in the recent decades, certain elements of direct democracy have made their way into contemporary liberal democracy. The most common elements are initiatives and referendums. Both these tools empower citizens with the ability to decide certain government policies in a direct manner, bypassing the institutions of a representative democracy.
These tools essentially seek to strike a balance between citizen partnership and consistent governance. Ballot initiatives; allow parties outside the government to effectively control legislation and even the timing of policy debates. This sort of direct influence allows citizens and groups to wield vast amount of influence in the legislative process. Referendums, on the other hand focus on a single issue at any given point of time. The popularity of referendums has increased immensely in many liberal democracies. Thus, mechanisms for referendums have been introduced at national and local levels of government.
The impact of ballot initiatives and referendums are still open to debate. These tools in general strive to increase access to the political process and provide citizens with the ability to directly take part in many political decisions. However, sometimes they also create a vast amount of problems for governments. A major concern is the impact of direct democracy on the stability of a government. Tools such as referendums or ballot initiatives have the ability to restrict the action of governing bodies, which in turn damages the concept of democracy. Ballot initiatives that control intricate functions of governments can also prevent governments from taking unpopular but necessary actions.
Thus, there is a chance that elements of direct democracy result in more costs than benefits. There is also a danger that vocal or energetic minority groups can gain an advantageous position if the majority becomes complacent and does not take part in the political process. There is also a real danger that people will use ballot initiatives to pass populist legislation that will be favorable in the short-term, without looking at the long-term consequences. This, when combined with legislative gridlock, can do severe harm to the democratic process.
Furthermore, there is a concern that those who take part in ballot initiatives or referendums lack the necessary information to make proper decisions. Therefore, while tools of direct democracy also stand to provide great benefits for citizens in general, there needs to be more reform or regulation in order to prevent them from being exploited.
In such a democracy, citizens are allowed to directly take part in the process of administration and policy formation. However, the power to make decisions and actually formulate policies will remain in the hands of elected representatives and officials. Thus, citizens gain the ability to participate in open government meetings, advisory hearings, demand information from government institutions and take legal action to challenge government policies. The recent trends have been broadly positive with regards to advocacy democracy.
Currently, many liberal democracies actively incorporate elements such as public hearings and citizen consultation with regards to certain types of legislation. This in turn has enhanced the role of citizens in the decision making process. Furthermore, there is a broad trend towards enhancing access to information regarding public policies and government administration. Freedom of Information laws are an established feature in many liberal democracies. The unprecedented access to information and policy planning is generally very positive since it focuses on providing citizens with information and holding their representatives accountable instead of giving them direct control over legislation.
Therefore, the chances of a government becoming destabilized or legislation becoming gridlocked are minimized accordingly. Furthermore, citizens will also gain a unique perspective as a result of the information that is passed around in official circles. This is very important since citizens will not only be able to monitor the decision-making process but also examine the elements that help legislators make decisions in the first place. However, while advocacy democracy is broadly positive there are certain drawbacks as well. One of the most notable problems is the potential waste in time and resources with regards to public consultations.
This is most damaging with regards to far-reaching legislation concerning things like infrastructure development projects. In these cases, extensive consultations may result in long delays that could contribute to significant increases in the cost of the projects. Furthermore, in some cases public hearings attract very little attention. Another related issue is that even though citizens can monitor the decision making process, this may have little impact on the legislative agenda of politicians and political parties. However, overall the enhanced participation of the citizenry is considered a good thing. Furthermore, imposing certain regulations that prevent public consultations from spiraling out of control can prevent interest groups from blocking the legislative process.