Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Real Position on Democracy

The Daily Herald has an article about the Alpine school board race which mentions me but doesn't quite get my position right. It's called, "School district candidates oppose the term 'democracy'," and it mentions me as one of those candidates. It begins:

Several school board candidates in the Alpine School District are earning parental support for wanting to eliminate the use of the term 'democracy' from the district's mission statement.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports a small group of parents has been protesting Alpine's mission statement, which says it is "educating all students to ensure the future of our democracy."
The parents want to scrap the word democracy because they say it is contrary to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which describes the nation's government as a republic.

The Salt Lake Tribune article appeared yesterday and is entitled, "Alpine district parents say democracy is unconstitutional."

Actually, there are different kinds of democracies and republics. Not all democracy is bad, and not all republics are good. Democracy and republic are not opposites. In our case, they overlap. Both are present in the United States Constitution, which begins very democratically, "We the People," and goes on to provide for democratic elections of representatives to make laws for our republic. The Bill of Rights protects individual rights, which is considered an essential feature of our kind of modern democracy, at least.

I'm not opposed to revising the mission statement, but it is proper to refer to the United States as a democratic republic or as a representative democracy.

The related problem in the Alpine School District is that the district's official statements of goals and values include promoting social democracy, a very specific term for a gradual route to socialism through democratic means instead of revolution. I don't think for a minute that any significant number of teachers and administrators in the Alpine School District are socialists of any kind. We need to remove the promotion of social democracy from our official statements and make sure it's not a part of our curriculum at any level, but I think very few people in our schools or our community actually want to promote social democracy, or even understand what it really is.

Once the parents mentioned in these articles come to a better understanding of this, they may focus their arguments a little differently, on social democracy specifically, and eliminate quite a bit of unnecessary confusion.

For a detailed discussion of these terms, I suggest a recent four-part series called "What the Words Mean" at David Rodeback's blog.

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