Jody DeRitter

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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Has the time come for the U.S Second Amendment to be repealed or amended?
Hi, Larry. You're right that the argument jumps to extremes. That's because I was trying to make the point that we already accept some limitations on the absolute right to bear arms. Because the Second Amendment doesn't say "the right to bear small arms" or "the right to bear muzzle-loading muskets," the country as a whole has had to decide which arms we can tolerate in our midst & which ones we can't. You & I simply draw that line in different places; you want to keep ARs & SARs but presumably would be uncomfortable if someone in your neighborhood had a 50-caliber machine gun nest in his attic. I think that automatic & semi-automatic weapons are weapons of war, not weapons of sport. I really have no problem with people who want to own handguns, rifles, & shotguns. I come from a family of hunters, & I enjoy a venison steak as much as the next guy. But I'm pretty sure that my brothers don't really want to share the woods with someone who thinks you should go hunting with a Bushmaster & a 30-round magazine, because it suggests a lack of perspective & a lack of skill that would be dangerous with any kind of firearm. And if you're just target shooting, I don't know why you'd need a 30-round clip--after all, that target's not going anywhere. Calm down, take a breath, reload. Regarding your last paragraph, we actually do have regulations about fertilizer these days. The kind of fertilzer used to make bombs now includes (by law) a chemical fingerprint so that (if necessary) the police can figure out where the fertilizer was purchased. I can't remember offhand whether this law was partly in response to the Oklahoma City bombing or whether it was on the books earlier, but either way, it makes good sense to me. Would you support a similar law calling for mechanical / chemical fingerprints on all ammunition?
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Has the time come for the U.S Second Amendment to be repealed or amended?
Mr. White and Mr. Taylor seem to be assuming that the individual right to "bear arms" trumps any reasonable consideration of public safety. If that is the case, why stop at automatic weapons? Why can't I put a dozen landmines in my front yard in order to discourage the deer and the neighbor's dog? Why can't I booby-trap my front porch so that any unwanted solicitor gets a faceful of Sarin or anthrax? The fact is that the unregulated presence of automatic & semi-automatic weapons in a free & open society will inevitably lead to the deaths of some innocent bystanders, & that the availability of automatic & semi-automatic weapons to the general population means that those numbers will continue to rise with each passing year. If you believe that the country's gun laws should be left as they are, then you must acknowledge that this is a price you are willing to pay. Gun advocates often raise the spectre of an armed takeover of the U.S. by some internal or external foe, but this is a fantasy, not an argument. There is no rational or plausible narrative that would get the US from where it is now to the point where it would make sense for any large military force to invade & then to impose martial law on a country of this size. Instead of watching old Patrick Swayze movies, people who think this is a realistic possibility should read a book or two about military history or military strategy. So I agree with Mr. White--let's leave the emotions out of the discussion. Let's look at the likely public-health costs of leaving the current gun laws in place, & weigh them against the likelihood of the general population of the US surrendering either to its own government or to an invading power at any point in the foreseeable future.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Has the time come for the U.S Second Amendment to be repealed or amended?
A thought experiment: Over the next ten years, which seems more likely? a) that shock troops hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (or some other military or quasi-military agency of the US or world government) will show up on the edge of your property, demanding that you give up your guns & pledge allegiance to a Fearless Leader you never heard of. OR b) that 5000 innocent bystanders will be killed during that same period by a**holes with automatic weapons.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?
Petar, Yes; if there had been a better school (either a magnet school or a private school) available when my daughter reached high school age, I would have tried to send her there. However, I would still have paid my school taxes, & I would still have tried to do what I could do in my own community to advocate for better public schools. I think there's a compelling public interest in establishing some kind of base line for all future citizens of any democracy in literacy, numeracy, & critical thinking, I don't object to paying taxes in order to bring that about. It's not just about educating my own kid; it's about educating everybody's kids, at least up to a certain point, for the good of the whole community. In a sense, the system you're proposing is already available to high school graduates. (The subsidies here don't come in the form of vouchers, but rather in the form of state- & federally-guaranteed loan programs, which as I'm sure you know are the proximate cause for the ethically dubious recruiting practices of many colleges, universities, & trade schools.) I can understand the argument for introducing the same level of choice for high school students & their parents, but I have reservations about it, & below that level, I very quickly lose faith in the free market approach (for reasons I mentioned in earlier posts). Regarding the second hypothetical proposal, I'd just say no thanks. I appreciate the fact that I am able to teach classes and work on my scholarship without having to dig up my own customers for whatever it is that I have to offer. Students & their parents still seem to think that a college degree is worth pursuing & worth paying for, & as long as that's the case, I'm content to be part of that larger enterprise. I don't actually think that an academic who was seriously committed to both scholarship & teaching could make even a modest living in the way you describe.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?
Sorry, Peter.Regarding the 1st question: many TED talks do a superb job of demonstrating both the creative & practical uses of intelligence & talent, & I accept your implied premise that most kids in public schools just don't see enough (or in some cases, any) of that. I do have reservations about the idea that kids can learn everything they need to learn simply by watching & (presumably) trying to imitate what they see. (I should also admit that I'm troubled by casting this as a "voucher" argument rather than a straight discussion of teaching & learning, because voucher money is collected by state & local taxing authorities & then distributed to private enterprises. Dollars that go to vouchers are taken directly from funds that otherwise would have been spent on public schools, & while money can't solve all the current problems of public education, lack of money IS one of the major problems plaguing many failing schools.) Regarding the 2nd question, I would argue simply that musicians, like all citizens, need a solid foundation in the arts & sciences (& perhaps especially in critical thinking skills) before they begin to specialize. I'm all in favor of magnet high schools, for the fine arts & for STEM & for skilled trades as well. But (to connect this to the previous question) I'd also argue that while you can use on-line pedagogy to teach music appreciation, you can't really teach someone to BE a musician unless you're in the room with that person. Regarding your last question, I would say 1st, that we did send my daughter to public school, & 2nd, that as middle-class parents we also tried to find ways & spaces for her to make the most of her brains & talent. (We have no magnet schools & no truly distinguished private schools in our area.) I think most parents want their kids to be both happy & financially secure, which means they need both to cultivate talents & to inculcate a healthy respect for the practical side of things.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?
While I wouldn't want the entire food industry run by government, I'm grateful for the existence of the FDA, which (in theory at least) places public health concerns ahead of the need to keep private shareholders happy. The education bureaucracies at the state & federal levels are inefficient and slow to change, but some states do better than others, & I would argue that on balance most of them (the feds included) do better than for-profit outfits like the University of Phoenix. I'm not at all opposed to making use of TED talks & Coursera & the web in general, but as I mentioned in my first post, you can't teach critical thinking skills by using multiple choice tests; for that, you need teachers & classrooms. One reason that public schools spend so much per student is that they are expected to make a good-faith effot to educate everyone, including those with learning disabilities & behavioral issues. On balance, I think this is a good thing, but special ed programs are definitely not cheap. Parents will always be the first & most important teachers of their children, but parents are not perfect, & some of them have badly skewed priorities. Another reason that public schools spend so much is that it costs more than $750 per year to outfit a high school football player. On balance, I think this is not a good thing, but it is absolutely true that in the average American community the the high school football team will have many more supporters than you will find for music education, for the humanities, or even for programs in the currently stylish STEM disciplines. The free market functions very well when intelligent & informed consumers (not shareholders) can dictate what happens by making rational choices, but if your consumer population includes too many uninformed or misguided parents, & when your real clientele is children (who by definition don't yet know what they need to know), the market will not produce the results we need.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?
I agree with much of what you say about the weaknesses of the current system, but I don't believe that the free market would do any better than the federal & state governments are doing right now. I haven't thoroughly researched the question, but my experiences as a professor at a private university (not in the Education Department) and as a member of an elected school board for a public district here in Pennsylvania have led me to be very skeptical about the motives, the standard practices & the results associated with for-profit educational institutions (regardless of level). You're also right that some kinds of learning can be done more effectively and more efficiently on line than in a classroom, especially if that classroom is under the control of anything other than an intelligent, knowledgeable, and engaged teacher. Daphne Koller's TED talk about the Coursera project does a great job of explaining the possible upside of this new approach. However, even Koller suggests that while on-line learning is a great way to impart conventional models of facts and concepts to students, even a great web course cannot do much to advance a student's critical thinking skills. For that, we need direct mentoring in small classroom situations by intelligent, knowledgeable, & engaged college professors. And we need to make sure that college classrooms have moved away from and beyond the old model of lectures and multiple guess exams (if only because these things can now be done on a much larger scale & much more effectively on the web). Our current mess notwithstanding, there are good high school classrooms and good college classrooms out there even now. Parents and students need to seek those out.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Has the time come for the U.S Second Amendment to be repealed or amended?
I think Ms. Tran is right to remind us that one of the main purposes of the Constiitution in general & the Bill of Rights in particular is to guarantee as much personal liberty as can reasonably be allowed to every individual citizen. At the same time, the claims of absolute liberty always have to be balanced against the explicit & implicit limits on those freedoms based on a whole range of legitimate concerns about personal & public safety, property rights, and the common good. I don't know anyone who sees the requirements that all drivers should stop at red lights, drive on the right side of the road, & keep their cars insured and in good repair as serious infringements on one's right to own and operate an automobile. Those requirements are in place primarily for the protection of the people who are encountered by people in cars, & only incidentally for the benefit of the drivers themselves. It seems to me that we expect the government to protect the common good by placing reasonable restrictions on activities that can be lethal to random bystanders. A rocket launcher would be an effective means of defense against a government invasion of my homestead; weapons-grade anthrax or a small nuclear device might really teach those one-world guys in the black helicopters a lesson they wouldn't forget. But I suspect that if I had any of those things I'd be more of a threat to my neighbors than I would be to the government. And I think my neighbors would be entitled to keep me from owning any of those things.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Has the time come for the U.S Second Amendment to be repealed or amended?
Amending the Constitution is a complicated & unwieldy process, & there's no way that Congress or the requisite number of states (75%, if I remember correctly) would go along with what you propose. We've had an assault weapons ban in the past, & I could see that coming back if it happens quickly (say, before March 1st), but the NRA would certainly do everything they could to block that as well. During the early part of this decade, there were some rumblings about filing some public-health-based lawsuits against gun manufacturers in order to recoup some of the public costs resulting from the use of guns in crimes (I think these were loosely modeled on the lawsuits against the tobacco companies in the 1990s), but the NRA had enough clout during the George W Bush administration to have a law passed that basically immunized them against this kind of action. The Sandy Hook massacre offers a brief window of opportunity for a few incremental improvements in our national gun policy. It seems to me that we might be able to re-institute the assault weapons ban & maybe ban semi-automatic weapons as well, & also that we might be able to get rid of the 30-round ammo clips & get all ammunition labeled so that we can trace a used bullet back to the purchaser. This doesn't really amount to much, but it may be all we're capable of accomplishing in the current political environment. The US Congress is dominated by big money & as dysfunctional as it's ever been, & the average state legislature is even worse, so I'm not optimistic. The gun question in the US is complicated by different assumptions & concerns that are dictated by whether one lives in the city, the suburbs, or the country & by the fact that many Americans still hunt. I have no problem with hunting, & I have no problem with individuals who feel they need to own a handgun or a shotgun or a rifle. I don't see any legitimate reason why an individual private citizen would need an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.
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Jody DeRitter
Posted over 2 years ago
Increasing voter turnout in primaries would dramatically improve the American system and result in more candidates with moderate positions.
It's relatively easy to conceive of several changes that could bring about fairer contests with better choices and greater voter participation. For example, we could (in theory) replace the gerrymandering by state legislatures with bipartisan commissions that would follow geographical rather than political logic when they adjust district boundaries. We could (in theory) replace party primaries with a single open primary followed by a general election that pitted the top three candidates from the primary against one another. We could (in theory) offer a small tax credit or a discount on car registration or driver's license fees to anyone who votes in any election. None of these things is going to happen, at least not over the short term, because the people who would need to make these changes are the same people who have already benefited from the gerrymandered big-money two-parties-only low-participation system we currently have in place. There are a very few worthwhile experiments going on around the country at the state level (Wisconsin set up a bipartisan redistricting commission, Vermont seems to be moving into a post-party model at the state & national level), but these have been swamped by the recent efforts of Republicans to shrink the size of the voting public & protect the careers of incumbents. I know that primaries were originally intended to be an improvement over the smoke-filled room, but they've become a new version of the problem they were intended to solve. We'd be much better off without them--but I have no idea how to make that happen.