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Do Parents’ Rights End at the Schoolhouse Gate? PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 12:40

Do parents have a right to control the upbringing of their children, especially when it comes to what their children should be exposed to in terms of sexual practices and intimate relationships?

That question goes to the heart of the battle being played out in school districts and courts across America right now over parental rights and whether parents essentially forfeit those rights when they send their children to a public school. On one side of the debate are those who believe, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, that “the child is not the mere creature of the state” and that the right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children is a fundamental liberty interest protected by the U.S. Constitution. On the other side are government officials who not only believe, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Fields V. Palmdale School District PSD (2005), that “[s]chools cannot be expected to accommodate the personal, moral, or religious concerns of every parent,” but go so far as to insist that parents’ rights do “not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.”

A recent incident in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, clearly illustrates this growing tension over whether young people, especially those in the public schools, are wards of the state, to do with as government officials deem appropriate, in defiance of the children’s constitutional rights and those of their parents. On two separate occasions this year, students at Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg were administered surveys at school asking overtly intimate and sexually suggestive questions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Students were required to complete the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at school, a survey that asks questions such as “Have you ever tried to kill yourself?”, “Have you ever sniffed glue, or breathed the contents of spray cans, or inhaled any paints?”, and “With how many people have you had sexual intercourse?” Older students were also given the Youth Program Survey, which asks true/false questions about a student's beliefs about contraception (“I feel comfortable talking with any partner I have about using a condom”) and sexual activity (“I have had oral sex at some point in my life”).

 
A Sound Tax Policy PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Windham   
Friday, 13 May 2011 10:38

Every four years, we citizens of Iowa must endure a bevy of presidential hopefuls presenting tax proposals. These proposals have a few things in common: (1) They’re long, complex, and full of details; (2) Pundits attack the details; (3) Iowa voters don’t read the details; and (4) They never become law as written.

Perhaps this cycle will be different. Perhaps, rather than long and complex proposals, the candidates will simply articulate their fundamental beliefs of what a tax policy should be. Then if elected, these principles can be the foundation on which the tax code is written.

Will this happen? It’s doubtful, but in a triumph of hope over experience, let me offer the following five tax-policy principles as a guide.

 
Jeff Terronez: Just Sorry He Got Caught PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 03 May 2011 11:53

Following Jeff Terronez’s resignation as Rock Island County state’s attorney and his guilty plea last week, I was waiting for the Quad Cities’ daily newspapers to forcefully and directly raise a simple question: Why didn’t he resign sooner?

More relevant at this point: Why didn’t the county’s Democratic leaders strongly encourage his resignation long before he agreed to a plea deal?

Alas, the closest the newspapers got was the Quad-City TimesApril 27 editorial: “Terronez ... has decimated the credibility of his office, his former colleagues, and every Democrat who stood by silently as this crime was covered up for at least six months. That’s how long Terronez dodged specific questions from us and others about this crime. ... If, as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claimed, police found only enough to charge him with providing the alcohol [to a minor], Terronez could have cleared that up with an honest answer in October.”

But the “honest answer” the Times said Terronez should have provided is far different from his resignation. And both the Times and Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch seem more concerned with getting full details of the Illinois State Police investigation.

 
“Proven Oil Reserves”: Avoiding a Slick Argument PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Donald J. Boudreaux   
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 11:43

With Japan’s nuclear crisis and a wave of instability crossing the Middle East, pols and pundits are turning again to the question of our energy future. Will civil war and strife disrupt access to oil and our way of life? Can the United States change its century-old pattern of relying heavily upon petroleum?

People will reach different answers to these questions and draw different conclusions about what to do. It would be helpful, however, if everyone could get the factual premises right.

Unfortunately, one thing all too many observers have in common is an erroneous understanding of what the term “proven oil reserves” means. The myths surrounding this oft-cited figure are pervasive. And there’s no way to have a realistic conversation about energy without getting facts and definitions straight.

 
Crucifying Jesus: Killing a Radical PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by John W. Whitehead   
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 08:46
[Jesus] was surely one of the great ethical innovators of history. The Sermon on the Mount is way ahead of its time. His ‘turn the other cheek’ anticipated Gandhi and Martin Luther King by two thousand years. It was not for nothing that I wrote an article called ‘Atheists for Jesus’ (and was delighted to be presented with a T-shirt bearing the legend).” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

For those who profess to be Christians, the week leading up to Easter is the most sacred time of the year, commemorating as it does the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet while Jesus is a revered religious figure, he was also, as atheist Richard Dawkins recognizes, a radical in his own right whose life and teachings changed the course of history.

Too often today radicalism is equated with terrorism, extremism, and other violent acts of resistance. Yet true radicalism, the kind embodied by such revolutionary figures as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr., and Gandhi, actually involves speaking truth to power through peaceful, nonviolent means. Separated by time and distance, Christ, King, and Gandhi were viewed as dangerous by their respective governments because they challenged the oppressive status quo of their day.

 
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