I’ve recently read an excellent book on the history of Prohibition in America, called Last Call. I can’t help thinking of the similarities between the educational situation now and the insanity behind the drive to have a Constitutional Amendment outlawing all alcoholic beverages back during the first third of the 20th century.
Right now, we have educational Deformers — and that includes Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg, George W Bush, Edward Kennedy, Joel Klein, Barack Obama and Arne Duncan — who are doing their level best to destroy public schools by making it impossible to teach and destroying the curriculum and making it so that almost every single public school will be labeled ‘failing’ and will have to, by law, eventually be shut down and turned over to some private corporation or other. Certainly none of the Deforms that this crew has instituted has done anything at all to make teaching and learning any better!
Therefore, these educational Deformers objectively join company with right-wing religious nuts like Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson, the Amway billionaire family, as well as many of Michelle Bachmann’s political mentors and heroes, all of whom openly state that they want to destroy the American public school system.
This is reminding me more and more of the utter insanity that brought on Prohibition of the sale, purchase, production, or consumption of alcohol in the US from about 1918 to 1933. Prohibition was actually made into an amendment to the US constitution! The entire idea was crazy, and was pushed by a small focus group that never represented a majority of the population.
(Not that I’m advocating that everybody get drunk all the time! I know the bad effects of getting drunk, from first-hand experience and from the exampes of relatives who died early because they drank too much booze. But I believe there are not too many beverages, other than cold, pure water, that are better-tasting than the occasional glass of beer or wine or a mixed drink. I also claim that if used in moderation, they can enliven conversations among friends and even in a group of strangers, to no ill effect. If done moderately.)
On the other hand, I’m not sure about the research that claims that one or two glasses of red wine per day actually makes you healthy. In fact, my son (who studies health issues both extensively and intensely) tells me that those studies’ results are skewed out of any relationship with the real truth, because of how the issue was framed. People who are really sick for a long time generally don’t drink much alcohol – at least while they are sick, though some of them used to drink a lot, and will start up drinking again when and if they get well – unless they are really serious alcoholics, in which case they keep right on drinking hard while they are sick, until they die sooner than they might have.
Consider surveying those three groups:
Group A. Seriously sick people who therefore have stopped drinking because of their illness (that included me for about 10 years). Some fraction of these folks will die earlier than other folks, precisely because of their serious illness.
Group B. Alcoholics who drink heavily, with all of the known bad effects on liver function and digestive system (and often, especially with heavy beer drinkers) problems with obesity and diabetes, etc. I suspect strongly, based on my observations, that their life span is generally shorter than the average.
Group C. Healthy people who drink moderately, however that’s defined. I suspect that this group will, on the average, outlive the other two groups, perhaps by a decade or so.
Now think: could you think of other groups of people who don’t drink much, or don’t drink at all, who are NOT sick? I can: most Adventists, some Baptists, many Muslims and Jews (though not all), and most Mormons come to mind, though I have no idea how many of any of those groups are, in fact, “closet” drinkers, despite the tenets and mores of their religion…
Would the result of your survey change if you included those fairly large classes of mostly non-drinkers in Group A? You betcha.
Are are there other things about those natures of those groups that I just named that will make them have longer or shorter lives? You betcha, again. Some of them have a tendency towards being wealthier or poorer; some groups tend to have better or worse eating and exercising and lifestyle habits [whatever that means — yet another topic for debate], or happen to belong to a group seen by the majority as inferior/superior, etc etc etc…
But if those are your three groups of interviewees, even if you have accurate data about their alcohol habits and their life expectancy, your study is still skewed: naturally the moderate drinkers (group C) will appear to do better. So are those studies about red wine accurate and of real importance? I’m not sure.
Leaving all of that aside: think of all of the insane side-effects of US Prohibition:
(1) massive illegal smuggling and violations of the borders of the US;
(2) utter corruption of most police forces;
(3) the rise of organized crime and its evil influence over all sectors of society, because there was lots of money to be made in marketing illegal booze;
(4) tens or hundreds of thousands of people sickened or dead because of honest-to-goodness poisons dissolved in the illegal alcohol (lead, arsenic, methyl alcohol, insecticides, etc etc)
(5) a huge rise in the level of hypocrisy and corruption of politicians;
( 6) a huge loss of personal privacy to raids by various police forces;
(7) a rise in the prevalence of “scofflaws” — in fact, the word was coined during prohibition.
After the Depression hit the US very hard, people began to see quite clearly that Prohibition was part of the problem, and not the solution; it was repealed in 1932 much faster than it took to make it the law of the land in the first place.
I hope that some time soon, a majority of the people will see that the current fad of Educational Rhee-formism, or Ed Deform, which has now been in power for at least 10 years, and which is having such a profoundly negative effect on the American educational system, is just as crazy. And that then, the people, however defined, will turn away from these insane faddists and change course by 90 degrees or so….