Somewhere in Moscow’s international terminal, an American freedom fighter or domestic terrorist, his exact epitaph yet to be written by the federal powers-that-be, is hiding in between the Starbucks and duty free shop. Edward Snowden’s purported destination from Moscow is Ecuador, and whether he is able to live off-the-grid for the rest of his days (doubtful) or if he is found by the men in black, the ex-CIA employee’s resounding entrance into the public arena is simply the predictable sound of a twelve year old shoe dropping after being suspended in mid-air by paralysis at the federal level of government, a lack of political conviction, and public apathy and disinterest. The debate which surrounds the legality, morality, and consequences of the Patriot Act of 2001 is a serious conversation that Snowden’s shoe hitting the public floor has, perhaps, re-ignited. The new Wiki-Leaks flag-holder is a freedom fighter. He is a criminal. His revelations about the privacy that the American public do (or do not) enjoy are covered by the Constitution. Or they are not. The United States is a country that protects personal liberties. Or it is not. The actions of a 30 year old are helping to revive the fundamentally American practice of questioning, debating, and challenging legislation and policies that give the federal government more power than is intended by the people. Regrettably for Mr. Snowden, the awakening of the American people to the sound of the Patriot Act shoe falling may be twelve years too late–a reflection of the apathy and disinterest in political affairs that has become the new American way.
Meanwhile, somewhere inside the Beltway of Washington D.C., the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, taking a moment away from practicing his jump-shot, is mounting a campaign to defend the Common Core initiative from a last minute round of debate over the exact worth of the nation-wide attempt to introduce standards which purport to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century. At the 11th hour, a wave of rebellion has swept a number of otherwise seemingly placid states who, presumably, were accepting the Common Core Initiative and the federal funds which are attached.
Much could (and has been) said about the worth (or worthlessness) of Common Core Standards. The Standards prepare the next generation in ways that old, locally controlled standards cannot. The Standards are an unconstitutional overreach of Federal authority. Each state needs to be teaching the same content so that the next generation is uniformly prepared. The Common Core will push more students out of high school than it will prepare for college. The debate, and the questions which surround it, are fundamentally important and will be further examined in this space in the near future. What is more important, however, is the timing and staying power of the debate itself. Once upon a time not so long ago, similarly confusing, nation-wide legislation was signed into law and ceded an incredible amount of power to the Federal government, citing potential harm for this generation and the next, with little to no debate over the merits (or lack thereof) of the constitutionality of the act itself. That legislation has been the law of the land since 2001 and has been the framework, if Mr. Snowden is to be believed, upon which the unannounced intrusion of privacy of every American with a cellphone, email account, or access to the Internet has been based. The American people didn’t hear the sound of the Patriot Act shoe dropping until it was twelve years too late. While perhaps Mr. Snowden’s revelations come too late to inject life into the Patriot Act debate, time remains to keep the Common Core shoe from falling twelve years from now. Understanding the issues. Informed conversation. Spirited debate. Participating in the political process to help shape legislation before shoes start dropping. That is the American way.
”Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama
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