The morality of education and the DREAM Act

I don’t see Harry Reid having the political umph to pass the DREAM Act, but I also never imagined back in 2007 that Barack Obama would be President, so what do I know?

I do know that I have a problem with the DREAM Act, and that’s despite the fact that there are some very pragmatic reasons to pass it. Michael Gerson articulates them well:

The legislation would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children. Applicants must have graduated from high school or have gotten a GED. They would be given a conditional legal status for six years, in which they must complete two years of college or serve at least two years in the military.

It would be difficult to define a more sympathetic group of potential Americans. They must demonstrate that they are law-abiding and education-oriented. Some seek to defend the country they hope to join. The Defense Department supports the Dream Act as a source of quality volunteers. Business groups welcome a supply of college-educated workers. The Department of Homeland Security endorses the legislation so it can focus on other, more threatening, groups of illegal immigrants.

Critics counter that the law would be a reward for illegal behavior and an incentive for future lawbreaking. But these immigrants, categorized as illegal, have done nothing illegal.

You can read the rest here. Many of his points are good. And it certainly would be good for the GOP to integrate more with the Hispanic community which has core values much more consistent with conservatives than with Progressives. But…. There’s always a but….

Before I get to my “but,” though, let me clarify one thing. I would be entirely for the DREAM Act if it was limited to young people who serve in America’s armed forces. That service is an entirely giving thing — giving to ones chosen country — although I do think those who serve take something away too, in terms of skills, discipline, and self-respect. If you’re willing to risk dying for this country, something I, fortunate enough to be born here, was not willing to do, you deserve citizenship.

My sticking point is the education thing. Yes, it’s nice to have an educated population, although it’s useful to remember that education lately has little to do with the three “Rs” and a whole lot to do with politically correct thinking that’s often extremely hostile to America. (Indeed, it seems that those pushing hardest for the DREAM Act are the ones most hostile to America and her values, and the ones who feel much more strongly affiliated with Latin America and Leftism.) Still, even the meanest school teaches some minimal form of literacy and math . . . maybe. However, the primary beneficiary of education is the student. This student has a better chance of success in our world, and it’s nice to have successful people.

Also, I disagree with Gerson’s conclusion that adding yet another incentive to the pile of incentives we already offer to illegal aliens won’t have an effect on the decision-making process some poverty-stricken soul, living in the failed state of Mexico, makes as he looks at his growing family. After all, it’s a great deal: Sneak over the border, and your kids get a better life. I’d do it for my kids if I was in those shoes. But it’s not a great deal for us. In California, for example, the children of illegal immigrants get first dibs on university slots over out-of-state students who are legally in America. (It’s also not a good deal for the Mexicans who remain behind, since their government uses the money sent back by illegal immigrants, and the safety-valve of the emigration itself, as a way to prop up a government that is overwhelmingly dysfunctional, not to mention dangerous.)

If education is an incentive, imagine how great an incentive education plus citizenship would be? So it’s foolish for people to say that “the kids are already here.” Yes, they are here. But it doesn’t stop there. Enact the DREAM Act and tomorrow more and more kids will be here, as we create one more incentive for the suffering of Mexico to disregard our border laws.

As for the argument that “they’re only children and it’s not fair that they suffer,” that’s a camel’s nose that, once allowed in the tent, brings in the whole camel. You see, the sad fact is that it’s always the children who suffer. Dad’s committed a crime? We don’t let the fact that it will destroy the family stop us from convicting him and sending him to jail — unless, of course, Dad’s crime was sneaking over the border. Mom’s an alcoholic or a narcissist or a histrionic personality who is turning her children into front-of-the-line candidates for a psychiatrist’s couch? As long as she can take care of them in a basic way, they have to suffer. For some, life is pain.

It is a cruel fact of life that we cannot right all wrongs parents do to their children. Further, as in the case of children whose parents are “ordinary,” as opposed to politically correct, criminals, we make no effort to protect the children from the effects of their parents’ wrongdoings. The best thing we can do is enforce the law as written, so that parents don’t subject their children to this suffering in the first place. After all, they knew when they came here that they were consigning their children to a shadow world.

Yes, I know I sound heartless. I am heartless. My children are lucky enough to be in a stable, loving, legal home, and I am grateful for that fact. I am terribly sad for those children who are not similarly situated, but I am also sufficiently invested in my own children that I have no desire to turn our whole society upside down and, possibly, destroy it, to remedy a wrong that can never really be righted. I know that I shouldn’t malevolently visit the sins of the father on the child, but the fact remains that not all sins can be avoided, without enormous destruction flowing from that avoidance.

So far, as I hope you’ve all surmised, I’ve been speaking of obvious ills flowing from giving a free pass to illegal immigrants. Those ills are more illegal immigrants, with all the attendant economic, social and national security risks.

There’s a more subtle ill, though, that flows from rewarding an illegal act, and that’s the lesson we teach our children: Cheating pays, especially when it comes to education. This is not an inconsequential lesson. You see, if the illegals can cheat — and win — everybody should be able to cheat and win, an approach that pretty much destroys education as we know it (not to mention just about anything else we can think of).

I blogged a few weeks ago about a New York Times publication for children that commented on the prevalence of plagiarism thanks to the internet (although the writer could not make himself offer any opinion about the immorality of that cheating). It turns out that this rot runs much deeper than “blocking and copying” someone’s paragraph off of the internet (although that is bad enough). A recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education has a very disturbing article detailing the shadowy world of college level papers — including doctoral theses — written by people who are virtually illiterate. As the writer, who publishes anonymously, explains, he’s produced a lot of product, and he’s only one of many offering the same services:

In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.

I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

The article is rightly written as a scathing indictment of the education system, one that churns out illiterate, ill-informed youngsters, and teachers who cannot, or will not recognize the chasm between the unintelligible, illiterate youngster in their presence and the polished paper that same youngster offers as his own work. It’s also a scathing indictment, however, of a moral system that says cheating is fine. Sure, if you’re caught blatantly cheating, you might get in trouble, but the fact remains that the illegal alien sitting next to you is also cheating, but he (or she) still gets welfare, health care, public education, preferential college admission and tuition, etc. If some cheaters not only prosper, but do say blatantly with government encouragement, it’s reasonable for all of us to abandon our stuff propriety and give dishonesty a try.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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