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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Values v. Ideology

Reading The Audacity of Hope

I just finised Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope which I found to be intelligent and insightful. Obama clearly understands that there are no easy answers to the problems we face in this country. He recognizes that conservative, liberals, libertarians, greens all have points of view that need to be considered when we formulate policies and laws in our republic.

One important insight he had has to do with those who govern by their ideologies and those who govern by their values. He clearnly prefers the latter. He uses as an example a time while he was in the Illinois state legislature. A bill had been proposed to provide school breakfasts for pre-schoolers. A fellow member of the Illinois Senate, a Republican, opposed the bill in debate over it claiming that it "would crush their [the pre-schoolers'] spirit of self-reliance." Obama tried to point out that few of the 3-5 year old set were self-reliant, but the man would not be moved. The bill was defeated though a version of it later passed.

Obama writes:
[M]y fellow legislator's speech helps underscore one of the differences between ideology and values: Values are faithfully applied to the facts before, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question.

I think this is a valuable lesson we all could learn whether our ideology comes from the left or the right. I may dislike certain aspects of business: the tendency to view human beings, especially workers, as merely figures in the ledger; the disregard for the environment; the encouragement of conspicuous consumption. However, when it comes time to discuss economic policies, I must recognize that the business owner is also the job producer, and capitalist societies allow us to enjoy lives of dignity better than state socialist societies. If I ask my conservative friends to consider the facts, the so must I.

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