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I am enthused by the notion of educating our young people against the dangers of indoctrination, as mentioned by Rick Thibodeau (Empire guest column, Nov. 16). Education is the way to a more humane and democratic society. A good education gives students the skills needed to avoid indoctrination by teaching the importance of gathering the best information available, of listening to all sides of an issue, of evaluating the various options, of choosing the wisest path and not blindly following the loudest voice. It teaches the value of protecting the rights of others.
An elected leader does not have the right to govern as he or she sees fit, as Mr. Thibodeau suggests. However, that leader does have the responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens, apply critical thinking skills when shaping public policy, and in so doing, listen to all sides of an issue. In contrast, a leader who, in the act of governing, allows opposing views to be purged and classified as disloyal is a danger to a free and open society.
Affirmative action is an attempt to include all citizens. If certain classes of citizens are deliberately excluded from the fruits of democratic principles, it is the duty of elected leaders to see that those citizens get onto the playing field so they can compete based on their own merits. Affirmative action is an effort to open the gate to that playing field. In a society in which the vast majority of gatekeepers (educators, employers) are Euro-American, affirmative action helps to insure that minorities are fairly represented. It is not a claim that minorities can't make it on their own, a claim Mr. Thibodeau seems to suggest is the liberal view. And it's not a claim that Euro-Americans are evil people. Instead, it is a recognition that in any society the members of the ethnic majority tend to be the gatekeepers to the avenues that allow individuals to improve the quality of their lives.
And as for robbing the rich to help the poor, a society's treatment of its most vulnerable is a reflection of its moral values. A system of taxation in which all citizens pay a fair tax based on their income and circumstances is a good model; today we are heading for a tax structure that will continue to widen the gap between the very rich and the rest of us. That sounds like elitism to me.