How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Thoughts on Trump & DeVos

More and more we are becoming an opt-out society in which we provide more and more chances for our citizens to opt-out of a particular activity or program.  Buried on page eight of the December 26, 2016 Sports Illustrated was a tiny little note that read "IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE SWIMSUIT ISSUE. The annual SI Swimsuit Issue will be published in February.  If you're a subscriber and would prefer not to receive it, call our customer service center toll-free at 1-888-228-1175."    

On the surface, this trend appears to be a good thing - consistent with the cherished American value of self-determination. However, I'm beginning to think that the proliferation of opt-out opportunities is very detrimental. Like an evasive weed, if left uncheck, it could destroy our social cohesiveness and corrode the melting pot that is America.

For as long as I can remember, America prided itself on being a melting pot where different types of people from all around the world blended together into a harmonious whole.  As we become more heterogeneous through the influx and assimilation of foreign elements with different cultural backgrounds, we become a stronger more diverse nation.  With the emergence of Donald Trump, there appears to be a paradigm shift, with him opting to make us a more insular country that is concerned about outside influences contaminating our "American values."

During his campaign Trump indicated that "Christianity is being chipped away at and I'm not going to let it happen." He pledged that "If I become president, we're gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store...You can leave happy holidays at the corner."  Those who sought to make the Christmas season more ecumenical use terms like "Happy Holiday" and "Season Greetings" instead of saying have a "Merry Christmas". 

During the campaign, Trump also took a stance against non-Western clothing styles when he chimed in about the French burkini debate, in which various French towns implemented a "no burkini" policy at their beaches.  Trump told reporters that a similar rule would be implemented immediately at Trump hotels and resorts.

We have an incoming Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, whose claim to fame is that she is a national leader of the school choice movement and strong advocate for charter schools, private schools and school vouchers.  She will, no doubt, champion efforts to provide more opportunities for parents to opt-out of our nation's public schools -- the primary inculcator of American values.  While I acknowledge that many of our nation's public schools, especially those in urban areas, are not educating the children of cities, I'm not in favor accelerating the demise of our public school system by culling-out students whose parents care most about their education.  I want these parents to stay involved in public education and prod the system to do more for their children.

The Times recently reported that "an enthusiastic testing "opt-out" movement ... cost New Jersey taxpayers more than a $1 million dollars in 2015."  While I acknowledge that PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of  Readiness for College and Careers) test takes valuable classroom time away from learning, I feel that abandoning the test will further hide evidence of the under performance of urban vs. suburban schools and reduce the pressure to provide necessary funding for special needs districts.

The Trump phenomenon is the ultimate embodiment of the opt-out mentality.  While many of supporters recognized that he lacked both the qualifications and temperament to be President, they opted-out and voted for him because they so disliked Hillary Clinton and so despised the Washington establishment. Likewise, his supporters want him to opt-out of the old Washington D.C. way of doing things.  While he has not "drained the swamp," it does appear that "his way" of doing things will be dramatically different than in the past. 

With the election of Donald Trump we have the opt-out president whose world view is contrary to conventional  wisdom e.g. globalization is bad; climate change is not a huge problem that needs to be addressed; nuclear proliferation is not something that needs to be avoided at any cost; expanding the mining of coal is not a bad thing; trade wars may be an appropriate strategy; the NATO alliance is not sacred; its okay to speak about a totalitarian communist dictator in favorable terms; open borders are not a good thing and presidential candidates are not required to disclose their income taxes.  

I'm extremely fearful that President Trump will foster cultural isolationism and dismantle many public goods i.e., the public school system, the safety net, environmental laws/regulations, workers rights and our civil rights.  Don't be surprised if you see efforts to provide us with more and more opportunities to opt-out or to self-determine what we want or don't want.  For example, with lower environmental standards, I could see the day when we will have the choice to op-out of having all that evasive pollution control stuff on our car engines, not have to waste our time sorting our recyclables and once again have the pungent smell of burning leaves in our backyards.  The good old happy polluting days could be just an opt-out away.