July 1, 2001
I have been away from The Common Voice for about a week now. The swamps of southeastern North Carolina beckoned my family and me to join my siblings and their broods for a family get-together.
One sister lives in Greenville, another lives in Florence but one lives in Laredo, Texas. She and her family normally take a week in the summer to come to my parents for a visit. We all converge on the homestead so we can all be together once again. With dad, mom, the three siblings and eleven grand-kids (a twelfth is on the way), it can get pretty crowded. Still we wouldn’t trade that week a year for anything!
You wouldn’t think that vacation would be a very educational experience on the issues of the day, but it really is. My eldest sister is married to a man who earns his living managing the flow of natural gas from the Texas oil and gas fields. She home schools her kids now, but she paid her dues working in the Texas educational system.
The next oldest sibling is married to a director of logistics at one of the larger international firms in Greenville. She gets to play soccer mom with four boys under 12 and one girl who can hold her own with all the guys. (Sports update: the 7 year-olds coaches pitch team won a resounding victory in the championship game just before arriving in North Carolina.)
My youngest sister is married to a doctor-in-training. He currently is in residency in Florence, South Carolina. The son of a doctor with two doctor brothers, I assume he knows what he is getting himself into. Sister number three is expecting the grandchild to make my parents get an even dozen out of the deal.
“Okay, now you have introduced us to your family, what is this about education?” Well, it is one thing to read about issues in the news. It is another thing to sit and talk about these things with folks who are on the front lines of the issues. Here are some of the impressions I left with.
Natural gas prices and “energy shortages.” My Texas brother-in-law responds to the admonition, “Hey, you guys drill some more wells down there! We need more supply.” “If the government would have allowed us to drill over the last ten years, we wouldn’t be in the fix we are now.” His take (can I argue with him?) is that the environmental restrictions and outright hobbling of the industry have created the inability of our domestic producers to make a dent in the demand. His conclusion is that it will take the opening of ANWR or a turn to nuclear energy to really turn things around.
Bilingual education. My Texas sister tells of being thrown into the Texas bilingual education system. Her first year as a teacher was spent in a slow learner’s class. Why were they slow learners? They couldn’t read English. Though they were in third grade they were on a first grade reading level. Of course, she did not know Spanish. She ended up having to have students translate for her. At least one good thing came out of it, before the year was over she had them reading English.
She told of a conversation she had with a neighbor who had moved to the States. The mother was asking her advice about the type of classes in which she should place her Spanish-speaking daughter. My sister told her to demand that she be placed in English only classes. After two years of English only education, the little girl was an honors student and near the top of her class.
The serious threat of the loss of American manufacturing. My logistics brother-in-law has worked for over a decade in international firms. He has been based in the US and Europe. Now he helps with the moving of product through the United States to ports and border crossings across the country. He sees how that more and more our economy is based on service. He sees a day when only high performance and highly technical products will be produced in the US.
Already here in rural North Carolina textile plants are closing putting workers out on the street who have worked there for over two decades. The equipment is being boxed up and shipped to Mexico and other countries with lower wages. It isn’t only the textiles that are feeling the rumblings. Name the industry and there are plans for relocation.
Patient’s Bill of Rights. After talking with my doctor brother-in-law, it is more obvious to me than ever that the PBR is nothing more than an attempt to bring about socialized medicine. Sure, we all feel cramped using HMOs. The doctors share the frustration. However, the medicine being offered may be worse than the pain we currently experience.
I was amazed to hear him speak of the myriad of rules and red tape they must follow. It is obvious that the government is telling the doctors, “You money hungry misers. You don’t really care about your patients’ health. We don’t trust you. We know better how to help your patients. You do what we tell you to do.”
I could go on, but I have to go pack the car. We are heading back to Greenville now. All the other siblings are already gone. It’s time to head back to the real world. However, relaxation and a little bit of education at the same time isn’t a bad deal. Thanks guys.