Bush's Address To Congress - Environment, Charity, and Education

Bush's Address To Congress - Environment, Charity, and Education

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Bush's Address To Congress - Environment, Charity, and Education

After this year's chaotic election, the country is divided and furious. It is up to our new president to heal the wounds. To do so, it is obvious he must alter his original plans a bit to make the entire nation, both liberals and conservatives, content. Naturally, the first chance he had to express his plans to congress and the rest of the country was immensely important, as it could have been a uniting or dividing step. Luckily, it appeared as though Bush was trying his best to compromise on many issues. I believe his address was a step in a consolidating direction. Three issues of utmost importance to the American people are the status of the environment, charity and the poor, and the education of their children. What was Bush's stance on these three issues, and how will his attitude towards them affect America?

Bush said that he aimed to clean up toxic wastes and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He also proposed that 4.9 billion dollars will go to cleaning and maintaining our national parks. Clearly, he wishes to do a great deal of good for the environment, although helping the environment to such a high extent is not a traditional Republican view. (The Democrats did not have anything to say about Bush's environmental program in their response; they focused on his tax cut plan.) However, if he desires to unite America, helping the environment is a great way to do so. I cannot think of anyone who would turn down the idea of having cleaner water and fresher air. I think the condition of the environment could very well improve during the four years Bush is in office. The Land and Water Conservation Fund will know best what to do with the massive amount of money they will be granted. I am concerned about the protection of animals though- Bush has expressed a desire to clean the environment, but only those areas that pertain to Americans and their living conditions. It would be wonderful to be rid of toxic brown fields, but what about the depletion of the ozone layer? What about rapidly diminishing species of animals? Will Bush attempt to help these areas of the environment, or is he simply planning on excluding them? I hope he is, and that he neglected to mention them in his address to congress simply because he didn't have enough time, or else the environment will suffer more than it will gain from his presidency.

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When discussing the poor and disadvantaged, Bush said: "We must encourage and support the work of charities and faith-based and community groups... government should welcome these groups to apply for funds, not discriminate against them..." He concluded this section of his speech by saying: "I propose allowing all taxpayers, whether they itemize or not, to deduct their charitable contributions. Estimates show this could encourage as much as $14 billion a year in new charitable giving, money that will save and change lives." His statements on this issue are, in a unifying perspective, very well planned. The tax deductions are traditionally Republican, and aiding the poor appeals traditionally to Democrats. The fact that he is encouraging individuals to take charge of charity rather than the government follows the views of Republicans. However, the manner in which Bush worded this section of his proposal was contradictory: "Government should not fund religious activities. But our nation should support the good works of these good people who are helping their neighbors in need." How exactly does he think the government will support "the works of these good people" if it doesn't fund them? The government is not a person who can hand out sandwiches at a soup kitchen, or a worker who can help build homeless shelters. The only thing the government can do is fund these organizations. The way I interpreted this statement when I first heard it was a mental picture of President Bush in some sort of large, reclining chair telling a charity worker: "well, we like what you're doing, don't get us wrong, but we won't give you any money, so basically if you keep on doing this we'll appreciate it, but don't expect any help." It just doesn't make sense. He should clear this up if only for the sake of making a good impression on the American people. The issue of the poor and charity touches Americans on a sensitive, caring level. If Bush appears as though he supports it, he will touch them in this way as well.

Bush stressed that education is his top priority. In proclaiming this, he reached nearly every American. Virtually all Americans have close ties with education- parents with children in school, students currently enrolled in school, graduates, or teachers. Since Bush has made education his top priority, he has undoubtedly touched millions of Americans. The specifics of his education budget will not make everyone happy, though. He has taken a Republican approach, expressing his desire to localize education. Personally, I do not see the benefit in this. Putting education in local hands will not be fair. Certain states are not as wealthy or experienced as others, and if their students have poor test scores, Bush's plan will punish them. I believe it is more efficient to have one overall standard formed at the federal level. Bush's education plan also takes away the creativity of schools. If every student is expected to fit Bush's mold, how will there be any room for aberration? Bush also scoffed at the idea of "teaching the test." However, I see it as a potentially serious problem. If schools are rated based on test scores, they will undoubtedly compete for funding and recognition. He says that education will not come down to "teaching to the test," but the schools that will gain the most from his plan are the ones that take funding from the arts and put it into teaching how to test well. There is no doubt in my mind that although he says it will not happen, schools will fit their curriculum to the testing that will happen every year. There is already too much influence on CAPT and the CMT's simply because schools and districts are competing for recognition and funding. My English teacher is struggling with younger advisors telling him he must substitute the reading of great literary works like The Catcher In the Rye and The Red Badge Of Courage for dry exercises on how to take multiple choice tests and the most effective way to write an essay in 45 minutes. The reason why great schools are great is because they cater to the needs and abilities of individual students, not a nationwide achievement test. If Bush takes the individuality out of schools this way, he will drain America of its uniqueness. He cannot force the youth of his country to fit such a uniform mold. He also says that if a school or student is not doing well on the testing, there are other options: "a better public school, a private school, tutoring or a charter school." However, these options he describes are only an effort to make the student in question test better the next year. Some students simply do not test well, and there may not always be a "better" option. Families may not be able to pay the high expense of tutoring, and a better school may be too far away from home to be practical. In trying to localize education, he has estranged it. Bush also supports vouchers which give failing students government money to attend private schools. It is not the government's business to give irresponsible students money that could be used elsewhere. I am not saying that all failing students are irresponsible, but it does take a lot of effort not to do well. All students I know now that are failing classes are doing so simply because they do not care. Why should students like these be the government's problem? Bush took a non-traditional stand with disabled students, which Republicans have generally come to favor. Bush has allocated no additional funds for special education in his spending plan. The Democrats were glad that Bush made education his top priority, but did not agree with him on much else. They are against vouchers and a reduction in the federal commitment to under-served children and communities. Moreover, they said plainly that if he intends to pay off America's enormous debt, he will not have enough money pay for the things he plans.

Bush's address to congress was a step in the right direction, but it is not without flaws. Democrats say that his numbers simply do not add up. There will always be contrasting ideas, because the United States is full of different people with different views, but it is clear that Bush is willing to listen and alter his budget in an effort to keep the majority of Americans happy.
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