Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taxes and Education

I was talking with someone on Tuesday about taxes.  We were talking about taxes because Tuesday was voting day (which took me by surprise, having learned in school that voting day is the Tuesday after the first Monday in November ... did we change that without my awareness?), and because there was a proposal to raise taxes on the Colorado ballot.   

The revenue from this tax increase would have gone to pay for schools.  As it turns out (the votes having been counted), the proposal failed miserably.  Of course, as you can see from the previous blog post, I voted in favor of this increase.  It makes me sick that this measure failed ~ it makes me sick from my perspective as a citizen, and it makes me sick from my perspective as a Christian.

As a citizen, I find it to be tremendously short-sighted that we prefer individual comfort in the short term to societal well-being in the long term.  Sure, each household may end up with a little more money in our bank account next year; but having chosen to continue to underfund our schools, we are dooming the long term well-being of our society. 

It seems to me that one question we haven't resolved, a question we might not have even adequately asked, is the question, 'What is the goal of public education in this state/country?'  If our goal is that students graduate knowing how to read, how to write, and how to do basic and essential math, we could do that job with much less money than we spend now.  If, however, we choose to value educational goals that are not as easily measurable (skill in and appreciation of art and music and literature, long-term physical fitness, critical thinking skills, etc.), then we must fund schools so that we can teach these things to our future, because most of those items are being (or have been) written out of school budgets.  

If we choose the former, we will end up with individual graduates who can read and write and do basic math.  If we choose the latter, we will end up with a generation who can build a healthy, sustainable, and life-giving society.  I choose the latter, and for this reason will always vote in favor of tax increases that will benefit schools.

On the other hand, as a Christian, I find it unconscionable that any Christian would vote against this sort of measure.  Sure, the educational issues mentioned above may have a role to play in our decision; but ignore those completely for a moment.  For Christian adults to vote against increasing taxes which would benefit schools teaches Christian children that looking out for the self is more important than looking out for the other.  In a word, it teaches greed.  Whether you have children in your household or not, is this what we want our Christian witness to be?  We can say all we want about loving other people, but children pay more attention to what we do than to what we say; and if our actions don't follow our words, then our words are meaningless.

I wonder whether the fact that so many people think that our nation is a Christian nation causes problems for our faith.  It seems to me that if we see our nation as a Christian nation, we will assume that our national values are Christian values ... and, often, they most certainly are not.  But that's a topic for another blog post.  

For now, I'll simply hope that other measures end up on future ballots, and that we come to our senses.


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