Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The United States: it's okay, it's an easy mistake to make

The first and biggest mistake that people make about my beloved country is that it is one country, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I realize that there is this pledge that we ourselves use to perpetuate this misunderstanding. But seriously, you know you can't take these advertisements literally. I mean, think of food photography, for example.

When you buy those little frozen meals (and I do...I'm like a Lean Cuisine-a-holic), do they come out of the microwave (because we all know nuking food is the healthiest method of preparation) looking as pictured?

No.

They do not.

For one thing, I don't even own that style of plate.

For another, notice the little caveat on the image: Serving Suggestion.

I found out about food photography ages ago when I first began my career. I was working for the production company and we had a professional photographer on retainer. In fact, we had two. One who specialized in people and one who specialized in objects. These are very different skill (and tool) sets. So the object photographer was taking photos of hamburgers one day for a client, in the studio. These hamburgers looked gorgeous. But I was curious about the Elmer's glue on the side.

"Oh that's for the mayonnaise," the photographer explained, "It photographs better, whiter. Mayonnaise comes out slightly yellowed. That's not appetizing."

Back then people still used film and actual brushes for photography, instead of digital and software. So the image itself had to be perfect.

Upon further investigation, absolutely nothing in that hamburger was real. Lettuce wilts, tomatoes run, mayonnaise yellows, etc.

To look perfect, it must be fake.

So there you are---through food photography a big life lesson: Nothing real is ever perfect.

Thus the nature of our nation must be imperfect. The object, of course, is that we strive to do our best, right? The trouble, of course, is that we disagree what is best.

I'll tell you two things we need to quit disagreeing about if we want to at the least appear to be a fresh, appetizing hamburger:

* health care

* education

Let's take on education. No Child Left Behind. Drop it.

I give you a quote about standardized tests:

1. "They reward the ability to quickly answer superficial questions that do not require real thought. They do not measure the ability to think or create in any field. Their use encourages a narrowed curriculum, outdated methods of instruction, and harmful practices such as retention in grade and tracking."

Source: "What's Wrong With Standardized Tests?" December 17th, 2007, Fairtest

Is that your educational goal for yourself or your child, or the children of the US?

It's not mine. I expect my children to learn how to think, critically think, reason, logic, and pull from a mass of across-the-board knowledge in a variety of subjects.

Where will they get this?

In private school. That I can't afford.

(Speaking of recessions and depressions, I think the musical Annie should be remade, and let's update the song, "We'd like to thank you, Herbert Hoover," to "We'd like to thank you, George W. Bush." I'd like to know where the Republicans who spend money like it grows on trees get off criticizing the Democrats for potential "fiscal irresponsibility" and call them spending fools. Hello pot!)

Standardized tests can do good. They can be measurement tools, comparable measures, and good tools of assessment. Even private school use them as such. They can also be good indicators of situations in which student learning isn't up to par, for one reason or another. But I caution against using them as we are now. Relying on one factor, overrelying on one factor, puts unhealthy weight on that factor. And it becomes harmful rather than helpful.

Let's get back to comprehensive education.

Next up, health care.

Today, Bon wrote an absolutely fantastic post about universal health care. It's incredibly persuasive. A must read. She touches on the very reasons why I support universal health care.

Plus there is also Kyla's tale of her struggles to get necessary health care and treatment for her daughter KayTar. There's today's post about how she isn't at the doctor and why, how her journey affects those who care about her, what it's like to know you lose your health care the next day, and more.

Karen of needs new batteries made a very poignant comment on Bon's post---a comment I think is applicable to every discussion about universal health care. She wrote, "Sadly, sadly, sadly for many of my fellow Americans freedom = freedom from, freedom from tyranny, by which many seem to mean freedom from obligations to have their money help others. I know it is more complicated than that, but I’ve boiled it all the way down a few times now & it keeps looking back at me, ugly in the bottom of the pot- just plain selfishness b/c those claiming freedom from, already have freedom to."

Think about it.

Who are we, how are we, able to say it's not for us to support government sponsored programs that help our fellow citizens?

We sponsor state prison, state education, state murder, state welfare, and more.

We are a chain. One nation. Under God. Indivisible.

Chains are only as strong as their weakest links.

Now is the time, time for change we can believe in, change that strengthens us all, by providing a basis for the ability to be intelligent and healthy.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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26 comments:

Kyla said...

But in America, we say "You are the Weakest Link, GOODBYE!"

To summarize what I said at Bon's, AMEN.

Kevin Whited said...

** I'll tell you two things we need to quit disagreeing about if we want to at the least appear to be a fresh, appetizing hamburger **

Democratic republicanism is imperfect, just like a real hamburger (as opposed to a perfect plastic one). I prefer it just the same, thanks. And I hope everyone keeps right on exercising their right to disagree.

Christine said...

i am standing up and cheering right now!!!

way to go Juli-- i am totally agreeing here.

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

Amen, amen.

thailandchani said...

Needless to say, I agree.

Got your prints this morning. They're beautiful! Thank you. ;)

niobe said...

In another life, I would have loved to be a food photographer, combining art and artifice, two of my favorite things. I know this isn't the point of your post. But I don't know what to say about the rest.

another good thing said...

I remember reading about how they used butter for the scoops of vanilla ice cream- some caveat that the substitutes they used had to also be edible... but hold out under hot lights longer. I love looking at the plates of food/serving vessels in cook books. But I too NEVER have those kinds of plates...

Family Adventure said...

I missed you, Julie. Still crossing fingers and all....

I knew about the picture magic, Time Magazine had an article about it a few years ago.

As far as universal healthcare goes, well, you already know where I stand on it. As an outsider, I cannot get my head wrapped around the fact that this is even debatable in the US. It's SUCH a no brainer.

Heidi

Melissa said...

Well, we all know how I feel about standardized tests. And I'm with you in that they have their place; they just aren't used properly anymore.

And great posts on the health care. We too are in a mound of debt from my Year From Hell. They wouldn't completely cover my colonoscopy because I was under 40, so I had to pay half.

So is there a hump day tomorrow, or do I have to come up with my own blog fodder? :) You got me all intrigued with this atonement thing and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop....

Karen said...

well, you already know that I agree - so Amen and Amen, sister (and thanks for the quote, I'm really quite a blushing admirer of yours, so, to be quoted over here, well...!!!)
Also, oh the posts not yet written about standardized tests & no child left behind (behind what? a good book?)

jennifer h said...

I absolutely agree about both issues.

Bon said...

amazing post, and bold, Julie.

i will say, in partial response to Kevin above, that i'm not sure Americans even need to stop disagreeing...but do need to decide if their "core values" involve making sure that everyone has access to a few basic standards...and health care should be among them. it does not make us Canadians any less free to speak or minds or disagree about standardized testing (and by gum, we do) just because we can actually all go to the doctor for care when we need it. yes, there are waits. but in emergencies and even most other circumstances, there is always care, no one turned away. in that sense, we are all equal in a way that our neighbours south of the border do not get to be...and i value that.

Gina Pintar said...

I don't agree with universal health care. I am actually afraid of health care run by the govt. I don't want to be told what procedures I have to take or what methods are best. I can see a system that is much, MUCH worse that what we have now. The pharmaceutical lobby is already huge and I can see that getting worse as well.
Someone above complained that he/she had to pay for 1/2 her colonoscopy since she was under 40. I see more of that. I see cost cutting and mandates. I like my option not to vaccinate and I see that going out the window too. I see the govt saying that no vaccine means no healthcare. Not acceptable to me.

A better answer is non profit healthcare companies. Their first obligation is to their shareholder NOT to those who hold the po;icies. Get rid of profits and have mandates for coverage. Maybe I would then get some of my son's therapy covered.

NotSoSage said...

It's amazing to see this discussion as I often wonder (but, yes, I'm lazy, so I have to wait 'til it's offered up to me in the blogosphere) how Americans feel about the health care system.

On a different note, I think it's oddly amusing that we are so far from real food that mayonnaise is supposed to be white to be appetizing. Real mayonnaise is made with egg yolks! That just goes to show how far our everyday food is from its original state.

Mad said...

This was an old-timey Julie post. It started out at the North pole and ended up in Antarctica (how scary is my brain that I remember a comment I left on one of your posts over a year ago).

I sometimes wish that those who fear universal health care could live a few years with it. That just might change some minds.

Robert said...

Your perspective about "freedom from helping others" seems fairly jaded, I must say. I find most truly wealthy people give and give heartily of their time, talents, and wealth to help those around them. They certainly give a pile of money in taxes if they ever get to be "rich", but more they also give to charity. I give to most fundraisers in my area through my business, and I give of my time, talents, and money to my church. I would give more, but the government has a bad habit of taking a big chunk of my money before I get to decide what to do with it.

I agree that Republicans in Congress need to scale back spending, starting with a lot of programs that have gone too far. What I think those are and what you think those are, though, are vastly different I'm sure.

I did hear an interesting statistic: since the Democrats took control of Congress (i.e., Jan 2007) fuel prices have risen a full dollar per gallon. Diesel has risen even higher, to the point that truck drivers have built the most organized strike effort I've heard of in more than a decade in the business. Most of the reasons for inflation in the market have to do with government policies.

So, in short, I see where you're coming from. I just don't agree with the indictment of the wealthy. The evidence just doesn't bear that out. (for the record, I am FAR from wealthy myself and paid virtually no taxes last year because of various elements of expenses, losses, and giving).

Cathy said...

Amen!!! Great post -- both topics send me into rant mode. I'll refrain here, but again -- you rock!

flutter said...

I don't even know what to say to this

jen said...

jules sometimes you blind me with your brilliance.

Julie Pippert said...

Kyla, it does. I am always disturbed by the immediate presumption of guilt and accompany recriminations whenever someone presents as "needing."

***

Kevin, I think Bon covered one angle of it well in her reply. What part are you wanting to disagree with? I'm asking that we all agree that health care is a need, as is comprehensive education rather than teaching to a test. Is that what you disagree with? Or do you disagree with how we ought to achieve that? Because those are really different things.

***

To all the Amens and cheers and agreement, thank you!

***

Gina, what I think I hear in your comment is that we agree health care and covered access to health care (adequate, needed care) is a need.

You just have a different idea of how to make that happen.

That's what I hope for: that we all agree it is a need.

I definitely agree that not for profit is essential.

***

Mad, that's a good idea. It just very well might.

***

Robert, I'm perplexed how you hear an indictment of the wealthy here, or any criticism that they aren't charitable. Karen's quote is meant to, from my use, show that those who disagree with the idea that access to health care is a need are typically those who have always had---even if expensive and a personal strain, or inadequate---access to health care. None of that implies wealth. It also doesn't imply that everyone with access opposes it. (Grr do not like how I just explained that, but it's ridiculous early in the day.) Each and every person I've spoken to who does not have health care coverage, or access to it, is a big believer that every citizen should have it.

Do you really believe that only the rich oppose equal access to health care?

***

SciFi Dad said...

I'm a bit late to the party, but I'd like to make a little comment.

First off: I am complete agreement with everything you wrote. Well said.

The reason people believe state prison, state murder, et al are "important" while state health care is not is because the people who would be expected to fund the health care don't see any benefit from it for themselves.

The penal system gets the bad guys off the streets (and potentially - shudder - dead in your state). What would public health care "get" them?

It's sad, but it's true. Until the average person is willing to support public health care, or a leader comes into power with a vision (and an understanding that after their one term the citizens will toss them aside) and implements it (because once the public health care is in, it'll be nearly impossible to remove), you're in the same boat.

Multi-tasking Mommy said...

Oh, don't even get me started about Standardized Tests!!! There's a great book to read--Your Child's Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them by Jenifer Fox.

Robert said...

The quote seemed more general in its meaning, and as such it sounded a lot like the fairly typical indictment of the wealthy I hear from plenty of liberals. My apologies for my confusion on how you meant it. I don't think it is only the wealthy who oppose equal access to health care, though I don't believe "universal health care" and "equal access to health care" are at all synonymous. I would say universal health care, in its best intent. means open access to health care for all, but not equal access. I have not yet seen any application of such a program nor any proposal for it that would mean equality. The worst thing that could happen is a general implementation of a program that further limits access to medical care to all when the intent is to make it more available. I'm still waiting to hear a better idea on the subject, quite frankly. I have made a few suggestions on it, though.

liv said...

nice job, lady. i have made scoops of vanilla ice cream with shortening. i know whereof you speak.

thordora said...

I just can't imagine arguing against something that would help protect everyone, regardless of class or wealth. Aside from some waits, I have never once had any problems accessing care. I've had to navigate my government, which, from what I understand, is just as painful as navigating some of the insurance plans in the states.

I have just as much access to health care as the next person-depending on my condition. What we don't have are doctors. Which is another issue altogether.

Angela said...

I could not agree more. Amen, Julie. AMEN. But the other side of the coin, then, is this: how do we improve teacher quality? Because as much as I hate to say it, we have a REAL problem there that NCLB "pretends" to be able to fix.