Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Should Matter in This Election (and Always)

Human dignity.

I'd like to propose that supporting human dignity serves as a guiding principle in prioritizing policies and spending in our society.

And then, because we are not the only living beings relying on the resources of our planet, I suggest we consider the health and welfare of local and global ecosystems as well.  The dignity of my children and their children's children depends on it.

In education we often plan curriculum by envisioning the desired outcome first and then planning "backwards":  designing a map of the journey to achievement from a beginning.  Imagining that our society's goal is to produce and sustain dignified, self-sufficient, healthy and contributing individuals, we can also imagine what our society needs in place to promote such citizens.

Supporting human dignity starts with our youngest citizens, infants.  Or, perhaps, it starts with our citizens who are pregnant or potentially pregnant.

It's a huge responsibility to feed, grow, nurture a human.  Understanding that there may be No Greater Responsibility (nor greater influence than parenting on the fellow humans with whom we occupy space), supports for parents and the potential parents among us is a priority.

The more unplanned, unhealthy pregnancies there are, particularly if choices to discontinue unwanted pregnancies are limited, the more Big Government we need.  Babies born to unprepared, unhealthy people or families invariably need assistance or interventions  Adoptions require regulation and management.  Children awaiting adoption or whose parents are temporarily deemed unfit need foster care.  Foster families and adopted children often benefit from additional resources.  Government provides these services.

First, let's acknowledge and dignify human sexuality and promote healthy, safe options for both expressing sexuality and preventing pregnancy.  Education dignifies.  We should continue look for more ways to promote healthy bodies and minds.  Let's nurture young people to respect their own and others' bodies and see themselves as beautiful inside and out.

Speaking of education, I think we should acknowledge that educating our citizenry is only second to parenting in Great Responsibilities, and it deserves being treated as such in terms of attention and resource allocation.  The path to dignified, independent, self-sufficient, and healthy adulthood runs right through classrooms.  With the goal of fostering independence, critical thinking, and ingenuity, schools should continue to develop programs that assist young people in determining how to both sustain themselves and contribute to a functioning society.  Whether or not graduating high school students plan on post-secondary education or work, we ought to be laying the foundations from preschool on, increasing the number of courses and pathways designed to match student interests and talents with the jobs and careers relevant to a changing society.  That means more partnerships and internships with industries and opportunities for young people to be actively involved in their communities while in school.

We had a long summer, the kids and I.  Cuts to education in the form of furloughs mean shorter school years for all of us.  I traveled and camped with them, took them to museums and beaches.  But as I signed my girls up for summer camps, swiping my credit card and signing checks for enriching experiences at the zoo, park, and pool during weeks when I worked, I couldn't help but think of families with fewer resources, whose children were likely stuck at home with parents either working or not working in this flailing economy, languishing in the heat, hanging around the block and buying soda and chips from the corner store.  I began to think that long summers aren't so healthy for all families and children. 

We need more affordable programs and childcare so the families we implore to get off welfare and get a job have an incentive:  earnings that exceed the cost of babysitters and camps.  On the flip side, opportunities offered for children to exercise and maintain math, literacy, and critical thinking skills.  Opportunities to build things and be creative.   Opportunities to be productive, independent, and proud. 

Coincidentally, look what a bunch of kids in Minnesota did at a creative summer YMCA camp:  an homage to Hot Cheetos and professionals collaborating with kids to encourage creative expression, group projects, and culture.  More of this, please. 

Let's keep working to make college affordable and meaningful.  Let's invest more in community colleges and career/technical/vocational programs which result in job placements.  Let's do our best to make healthcare affordable and accessible for all. 

Let's dignify the struggles of those working to overcome addictions, mental illness, and homelessness with programs that foster safety, independence, and self-sufficiency.

Let's dignify the relationships of adults who love each other and recognize their marriages. 

Let's dignify aging citizens by providing resources for them and the families who support them. 

Let's reach across party lines and agree on some key things that matter (I think it's possible!).

While I fear months of vitriolic campaign ahead, I am remaining hopeful. 

As I've written before, "I recognize my sense of well being as highly affected by the well being of those around me." 

Call me selfish, but I'm going to vote with that in mind. 


Cheryl said...

There's a scripture (Mt 5:22) in which Jesus equates murder with calling a person a fool. Seems to me he was also very concerned with human dignity.
But dignity is not so concrete nor is it testable in a measureable way. So we have to do some imagining of what gives people dignity; it may not be the same everyone. We'll make mistakes and some people likely will take advantage, but it's worth the risk.
It's worth the risk because we know it hasn't worked with the other approach. Following the reptilian-brain approach of attacking everything that is unfamiliar and therefore threatening hasn't worked so well. It may be selfish to want a healthier community, but the community benefits in the bargain. It's not such a bad vice, that kind of selfishness.

Kate said...

I think human dignity includes bringing into the world, and joyfully caring for, those "unhealthy" pregnancies and unhealthy people. That does require some big government but expanding the option to terminate these pregnancies doesn't seem, to me, at least, necessarily in favor of human dignity.

ASuburbanLife said...

I clicked over here from your comment on Mom101 and I really like your "manifesto". You have a new follower in me!