American Issues

Possible Solutions: Learn from Others

Sometimes we get caught up in the notion that because we are such a great country, we know it all. This leads to polarization or refusal to see another point of view. Today, polarized politicians and elected officials are very critical of the views of their colleagues across the aisle. The truth is, our politicians and leaders have a great deal to learn from each other and their constituents. Also, Americans can learn from other nations which often excel in various important ways. Finally, a great strength of America is its federal structure of 50 separate states, each with the potential to learn from other states as well as the potential for the federal government to learn from the states (as it often does).

Checklist

  1. Democracy Index (US –not in top 15) – Leaders: Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Malta (1)
  2. Gerrymandering – Nine States with recommended Independent commissions: Arizona, Alaska, CA, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, NJ, Washington (2)
  3. Constitution
    1. Rights Specified in the Constitutions of majority of 188 surveyed countries, but not in US Constitution: Women’s rights, Freedom of movement, Right to work, Right to education, Judicial review, Presumption of innocence, Right not to be expelled from home territory, Right to unionize, strike or both.
    2. The world’s democracies are less similar to the US now than they were at the end of WWII.; Canadian Law” serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world” (3)
    3. “I would not look to the United States Constitution If I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012”,Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Instead, she recommended the South African Constitution, The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights. (3)
    4. On average, other nations replace their constitutions every 19 years (coincidently, recommended by Thomas Jefferson) (3)
  4. Public Schools
    1. Finland, Canada (overall-less dispersion between higher and lower socio economic students); Canada has no role of national government in education, large geographic dispersion; Culture (value education, read at home), welfare state (national health insurance, strong safety net, valuing common good), teacher selectivity (teachers recruited from top of talent pool), equalized funding (to districts provided by provinces), and provincial curricula.
    2. Singapore, Shanghai, Japan (7). “Some countries have school to work transitions, and many do not, the United States is among the later. (”Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems”, Marc S, Tucker, Ed, 2012, p203.
    3. US Ranked 17th in Reading (2000), 23rd in Science 2003, and 31st in Math (2006); (4)
  5. Public Support for Health Care (Massachusetts, Canada are potential models)
  6. Voter turnout: US ranked 120th (5)
  7. Health Spending: US – highest (1)
  8. Life Expectancy: US – ranks 42nd (Leaders: Japan , Hong Kong, Andorra, Switzerland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Spain, France, Sweden, etc. ) (1)
  9. Press Freedom: 28 nations rank ahead of US: Finland, Norway, Estonia, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Cape Verde, Canada, etc. (1)
  10. Campaign Finance: Highly regulated: Canada; Unregulated: Australia (6)

Data from (1) The Economist: Pocket World in Figures, 2013 Ed., (2) Wikipedia, (3) The New York Times, “We the People Loses Followers”, 2/7/2012, (4) “The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)”, (5) Pintor, et. al., “Voter Turnout Since 1956 [to 2001]: A Global Report.”(Undated), (6) Boatright, Ed., Campaign Finance: The Problems and Consequences of Reform, 2011, (7) Tucker Ed., Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, 2011

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