Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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My letter to Patti Bellock, Illinois State Representative

July 30, 2014

My state representative for the 47th district is a lady named Patti Bellock. She seems to be a nice lady, and she’s been in the position for quite some time. She is at least nominally a Republican for certain values of Republican. However, she recently sent out an email to her constituents that included these two paragraphs:

Illinois Supreme Court Decision on Retiree Healthcare

In a 6-to-1 decision on July 3 in the case of Kanerva v. Weems, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that health care benefits for retired public employees are protected under the pension clause in the state constitution, which says public worker benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.” The ruling came in response to a class-action legal challenge to a 2012 Illinois law that gave the state the right to require retired state employees to begin contributing to their own health care costs in a manner commensurate with their ability to pay. 

This ruling will definitely impact putting Illinois back on the path of fiscal stability.  We will continue to keep you informed as developments occur.

I got a little steamed. She put this entire email out for two paragraphs of incomplete and slanted information. So here is what I sent to her:

Ms. Bellock – In your recent email newsletter you discussed the Illinois Supreme Court ruling on Kanerva v. Weems. I hope you did not mean what I think you meant when you stated, “This ruling will definitely impact putting Illinois back on the path of fiscal stability.”

It seems to me that statement implies that “fiscal stability” is sufficient reason for violation of the Illinois State Constitution. My concerns about all of the ways the legislature has addressed the “crisis” have to do with the fact that the public employees retirement systems are set up in the Illinois Constitution. Making significant changes would require an amendment to the Constitution, not just legislation.

I am a retired public school teacher from Hinsdale District 86. I pay ALL of my own medical insurance, although I am nominally included in the group through the district. The implication in your email was that this affected all public employees, when it certainly did not. Putting out an email to let your constituents know about the ruling is one thing, but to then cover it in two short paragraphs seems a waste of time at best and an attempt to affect public opinion without telling the whole story at worst.

Unfortunately, using terms like “in a manner commensurate with their ability to pay” sounds like liberal-speak nowadays. It is not a direction I expected you to take.

I hope you and your colleagues will look at the “fiscal crisis” as something that needs to be corrected through more frugal spending practices, while keeping in mind that legislation in violation of the Constitution is no more legal in Springfield than it is in Washington, D.C. The public employees retirement systems have been systematically (and illegally) plundered by the state government on many occasions over the past four decades, and that created this “crisis” as much as the rampant overspending – it should not be corrected by even more attempts to circumvent the Constitution. Thank you for your attention.

Remember, the entire “fiscal crisis” in Illinois started after the economy took a dive in ’09. The state legislature had been “borrowing” from the retirement funds since at least the early 80s. The investments in the funds were well-managed and they were paying well enough to stay ahead of the theft and still make the retirement payouts. This time, the State went to the same cupboards and found that they were finally at a point where they couldn’t steal any more without breaking the bank. So it was now a fiscal crisis and the retirees were at fault because of their excessive retirement plans – which nobody complained about at the time.

Unlike most states, the setup of the public employees retirement systems were decreed in the 1970 Illinois State Constitution, not created by legislation. Therefore, the state can’t just screw with the systems without problems like Kanerva v. Weems. They are trying all kinds of sleight of hand, like telling the local school districts they have to pony up more money. That was met with a resounding “screw you guys and the horses you rode in on.” There is a new law in place, but it’s been challenged and will no doubt end up going to the Supreme Court for review as well.

If you are a union official and you steal from a pension fund, like the Teamsters, you go to prison. If you are a state senator and/or representative in Illinois, and you steal from the public employees’ retirement funds, it’s “sound fiscal management.” Bah. And while Governor Quinn is an incompetent boob, Bruce Rauner, who is running against him, seems the type to throw the Constitution out just because he’s going to “shake up Springfield.” Double bah.

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More prescient than even he would have expected

November 19, 2013

demonhauntedIt is well-known that Dr. Sagan was not religious – he described himself as agnostic, believing he had seen no proof of a supreme being. His 1995 book, The Demon Haunted World, was about using the scientific method and critical thinking instead of superstition and pseudoscience.

Admirable goals, and Carl Sagan was very articulate. His Cosmos series and book (PBS, 1980) probably did more to to help laymen understand the universe than any previous media program. (He also wrote the novel upon which the Jodie Foster film Contact was based.)

But I doubt he would have expected that his description of America in the quote above would have happened so quickly, or that we got there in the way we did. He seemed to believe the “New Age” trends he saw in the 1980s and 90s might grow, and that the much-publicized decrease in our ability to educate our students would result in an overall dumbing down of America. He himself did what he could to keep that from happening. I doubt he thought, though, that only two decades after he wrote those words we would have fallen so far and so willingly.

Hat tip to Scott Lowther and his “Up-Ship” blog for tipping me off to this one.

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Few posts over the next few weeks

February 28, 2013

Sorry, campers, I know you hang onto my every word. Family medical issues will keep me away most of the time until about May 1. I know you can hang on that long without my observations!

I really recommend that you check out Jerry Pournelle, at www.jerrypournelle.com. I think he’s the original blogger, and his commentary and that of his readers covers science, science fiction, politics, music, health care, education…a very wide range of topics. He is a very wise man and a kickass hard science fiction writer. In fact, he and Larry Niven owned most of the hard science fiction real estate for about 20 years, and both are still writing, together and separately!

See you around the intertubes. Keep your heads down.

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How to improve our standings in the world’s education rankings

December 7, 2012

I recently saw a reference to yet another article decrying the state of US public education. Here, in a nutshell, is what I think:

Like with the recent presidential election, be careful what you wish for.

Huh? I’ll explain.

See, we say we want one thing, but we reward another. I taught high school for 34 years, in rural, blue-collar and then in “high achieving” suburban environments. I saw a wide range of student achievement and parental and societal expectations. What bugged the living hell out of me wasn’t the belief that if the kid didn’t get into exactly the right college, he would be a failure at life, although that pissed me off a lot. It was that there was so much focus on the environment of the school and the social life offerings there.

It was as if the kids and parents were picking a place to go for their summer vacation, not to get an education. The appearance of the campus, the athletic teams, the other social programs for the students, all the stuff completely unrelated to the actual business of learning dominated their thinking.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We have been looking at education that way all the way through, K through 12 and beyond, for decades.

Schools can’t be demanding, unless it’s an Advanced Placement course. Then you can do darned near anything to a kid and the parents won’t complain, because it’s cool because it’s a college course. We had one at our school that was targeted at sophomores. Sophomores? Really? Since when are they able to handle college material? If they are, why stay in high school? Skip the crap and go get the degree.

But the degrees are watered down in a lot of fields, too, and grade inflation has made “academic rigor” practically meaningless. I laugh when I hear somebody from a regular college complain about the “for-profit colleges” that are out there. To me, they should all be for a profit and not receive any state tax money. You want a college education, you pay for it. You need loans, you get them yourself.

“But college is too expensive.” Sure it is…cut the nonsense out of it, just pare it down to the education, and you can probably reduce costs (and staff) by half. It’s completely gotten out of hand.

But that wasn’t the point of this piece. It’s why we can’t compete in the rankings with other countries.

Here’s how to fix it, if the rankings are the priority:

Shoot the horses that can’t jump. Start in, say, 6th grade, separating kids by examination into college bound and non-college bound programs. Non-college bound will prepare the “workers” our Socialist President thinks we need more of. (How Lenin of him to call us “workers.” Sheesh.) Another set of exams at 8th or 9th grade. Kids who test high in science and math don’t get to be dockworkers or taxi drivers, or investment bankers or hotel operators…they are funneled into engineering and pure sciences, or into medical profession preparation.

You see, in many countries those are the kids who are tested for the rankings – not the entire general population. Every time we include everyone in that kind of testing we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Make businesses run the colleges. For example, if you test well in 12th grade, you can go to the college run by GE, or by Apple, or by BP…their own R&D folks would teach, and you would learn what they want you to learn to actually be of use to them. Afterwards, you work for them for a number of years to pay back your education. No summer vacations starting in mid-May, no winter or spring break…you learn straight through, 8 hours a day. You could do the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in two years, tops, without “Gender studies” and garbage like that loaded in the curriculum. No football games, no fraternities.

This would also give those companies a stake in how the lower grades are handled…I can’t see how that could be worse than the way we in public education are led by the nose by the colleges today.

Sound silly? Japan has been doing this for more than 20 years, that I know of. I know because I was present for a panel discussion with Japanese educators where they laid the system out for us.

Trim the fun stuff out. No more athletic teams. No extracurricular activities. No fine arts. None of those are used in those rankings, so why bother? Do you think the Estonians who rank higher than our kids are all great violinists or soccer players? If they are, it is because their parents decided to have them do that after school on their own, not depend on the school to pay for it and teach it. There are some outstanding concert bands in Japan, for instance – but not school-sponsored, and they for sure don’t rehearse during the school day.

And yes, I know that since I am a former fine arts teacher I sound hypocritical. Remember, I am telling you how to raise our rankings, not to provide the proverbial “well-rounded education.” Obviously that has not been a priority or I would not have had a job for 34 years.

If you know of a country that matches the extent of arts and athletic and extracurricular activities we offer in most of our schools, let me know; I don’t know of one – including those who rank ahead of us.

While we’re at it, we can cut about half the social studies classes – have you looked at what kids are offered today? But American History and American Government, especially learning about that pesky Constitution, are not required. But we don’t cut the Home Ec and Industrial Tech – those are needed for the kids going into the service and technical industries. We need more auto shop, not less.

Full-time school. Sorry, fellow teachers, but the cushy part of the gig is the days off. We aren’t bankers and really it doesn’t make sense to barely see kids 180 days a year. Kids no longer work on the family farm, and that’s what determined the school schedule a hundred years ago that we still use today. Give ’em July off, even, but not Columbus Day, or Presidents’ Day, or whatever, and for God’s sake cut out all the shortened days for conferences and teacher work days and meetings. Just teach the kids. We have been reducing the actual number of hours kids learn for decades. It’s a crime, and I never saw that most of those days were worth the time spent. Most of us thought most of the stuff we did was a waste of time and effort. Often the activities were planned to make it look like the administration had us focused on something new and cutting-edge; then we went back into the classroom, closed the door, and taught like we always had because the old way still worked.

Make teachers accountable. Not in terms of social interaction, but in knowledge of subject matter. I don’t want my granddaughters to get an education from people who teach math but got no higher than a B in algebra – and that is far too possible today. One of the reasons for the turnover in education is because smart people get out to do something real with their lives instead of putting up with the administrative BS, the snotty kids and their arrogant parents. That leaves us with, sorry to say, not the top of the heap. I’m not saying we need PhDs in physics to teach our classes – often those folks have no clue how to teach. But we do need people who know how to teach and what they are teaching.

Look, to a great degree, the effectiveness of a school has to do largely with the raw material. I taught in a district that selected for intelligence just like a Catholic high school that required entrance testing, except ours was based on housing costs. You couldn’t live in the district if you couldn’t afford a house there, and really stupid people rarely could. Or really unmotivated people. Move kids from low-achieving areas to that school and sorry, you wouldn’t get the same results. We were good but not that good. We had smart kids to work with, motivated kids with motivated parents and a history of valuing a good education. So we got results and were ranked high in the state tests. But that’s a topic for another piece another day.

That should be enough to move us up, say, 10 places. But we won’t do it, because we can all complain about the rankings, but we still want our daughters to be cheerleaders, or in drama, or our sons to play football or (heaven forbid) join the Chess Club. And then, when they graduate, we want them to “enjoy their college experience.” When or if we ever get more serious about kids getting an education than about the football team’s record, we’ll see some changes.

Oh, and one more…

Make the schools ethnically and culturally homogenous. According to an article in the UK Guardian, the top 10 countries in reading are:

South Korea
Finland
Canada
New Zealand
Japan
Australia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Norway
Estonia

Math and Science rankings were similar. Show me how any of those countries are as ethnically and/or culturally diverse as the USA. The dirty little secret is that we are trying to be everything for everybody, and to do anything else is racist by the standards of the US. I’m not saying any ethnic or cultural group is less able than another, just that cultures dictate learning styles, as well as a host of other things that help or hinder receptivity to educational processes, and we can’t do everything at once for everybody. I think some of the inner-city charter schools are doing well because they understand this and focus on particular neighborhoods and populations. They have high standards but they don’t have to take their eyes off the educational ball. We are constantly being told we have to do this and that because of culture and diversity. Either we all learn the same way and buckle down or we don’t. If we can’t get to kids one way, we don’t have time to find six others. We really don’t. But other schools can.

When I retired, the smallest department by enrollment was “Educational Services,” or what used to be called “Special Education.” It also had the largest number of faculty. Huh? But that, too, is another piece for another day.

This little piece ought to piss some folks off. But I’m telling you, if the goal is to be better at math than the kids in Finland, we have to become them. We can’t do it the way we have our schools structured now.

Well, what do you think?

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Appropriate comment for many occasions

December 4, 2012

overabundance of schooling

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“Atlas Shrugs Part II” opens Friday!

October 10, 2012

With a new cast, the second installment of the “Atlas Shrugged” trilogy, based on the Ayn Rand novel, opens in theaters this Friday. It will be interesting how the whole “Galt’s motor” thing will be handled in the near-future setting of the movie series. (The book gives no particular date, but there is a lot of speculation that was to be set in the – at the time of the book’s publication – near future of the mid-1970s.) It will probably not be in theaters for a long time, so check it out right away. It’s important to see before the election. And if you haven’t purchased the first installment, it is available here and is on the Amazon video-on-demand service as well as  on Netflix.

https://www.facebook.com/AtlasShruggedMovie

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Constitutionality

May 31, 2012

From the Illinois State Constitution, as ratified by the voters of Illinois in 1970:

SECTION 5. PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS
Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or
any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which
shall not be diminished or impaired.

Illinois legislators: Was that so hard to understand? Did you have to swear an oath when you were sworn in to your current positions?

Oh, I forgot – They’ve just learned from the President and the US Congress…

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The further adventures of the Illinois legislature

May 31, 2012

I’m no union activist. I belonged to IEA/NEA because I was required to. (OK, there was that “fair share” clause, which meant I would pay essentially the same as the union dues while receiving none of the benefits. Clever.) I also just as a rule hate the idea of lobbyists. I know that some of them provide a useful function. Both at the state and federal levels, lawmakers and their staffs do not have the time, resources or expertise to know everything about every issue before them. However, lobbyists come with baggage – they are obviously attempting to influence the content of law as it is written.

I may be softening my opinion on lobbyists somewhat. “Of course, now it affects you! Hypocrite!” you say. And, to an extent, you’re right. I’m finding out as this “pension reform” bill gets bounced around the Illinois state legislature that not only are those whom we elected to represent us unable to know everything concerning decisions they are making, but that they are making those decisions based on how they will look for upcoming elections, not on what is good for the citizenry.

I know, big surprise, right?

You see, I’ve met or at least followed closely both state and federal representatives in both Ohio and Illinois. By and large, I think I’ve been well represented by my local reps. For example, I think Judy Biggert (in the US House) and Patti Bellock and Kirk Dillard (in the Illinois legislature) have done pretty well, overall. (Don’t start with me about the Illinois Senators, though.)

Unfortunately, that’s not true for everyone. In fact, I’d lean toward saying that there are many of our duly elected representatives who do not have our best interests at heart. I know, another revelation!

At the risk of going on too much about this, here’s a case in point: The Illinois “pension reform” bill included a clause that would shift the cost of the teachers’ retirement system to the local school districts, therefore shifting the costs to the local taxpayers. Note that we wouldn’t see a decrease in our state taxes – so this is an additional tax, and depending upon how much a district pays its teachers, the increase in property taxes could be large. In the “collar” counties we have a”tax cap” – property taxes can only be raised by so much by law. If the cost of the new retirement payments causes the budget of the district to exceed the capped amount, something else gets cut. And the property tax payers hate teachers even more.

Removing this clause was a sticking point, with the Democrats wanting it included, and the Republicans wanting it out. If it’s in, it will be unpopular with the voters. If it’s gone, where is the money to fund the system coming from?

The Governor decided he could live with the removal of that clause. He passed it on to the Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, who then dropped the bill on the Minority Leader, Tom Cross (a Republican) to shepherd the bill through. This is called plausible deniability. “It’s not our fault!”

I’m waiting to hear if the bill comes out of committee this morning. I don’t know what else we can do to influence the outcome here. It sounds like “looking good” to the voters is far more important than actually getting a real solution. I’m afraid that the lobbyists are our only hope. I never wanted that to happen, but it’s all we’ve got!

I sent this message to Tom Cross, who is not my representative but is the Minority Leader:

Dear Rep. Cross:

I actually live in Rep. Bellock’s district, and I have emailed her and my Senator, Kirk Dillard. I am a recently-retired teacher from Hinsdale Township High School District 86. I am writing to you to add my voice to those who are urging you to abandon this pension “reform” bill and start over in a reasonable manner, instead of trying to push something through on the last day of the legislative session.

I am not a “union activist” – in fact, if I was not required to be a member of IEA/NEA I probably would not have done so. I generally dislike the influence of lobbyists both in Springfield and in Washington. However, I do not know of any other way to let our representatives know that this entire pension reform process seems to be flawed.

Obviously, no state legislator will admit that the reason for the pension problem today is that the state has not funded the pension systems as required by the Illinois Constitution. Now the day of reckoning seems to be at hand, and the Governor is trying to find a way to cover the shortfalls without doing what was legal and required in the first place. It’s difficult for me, and for others, to “feel the pain” of the state government when spending money they did not have caused the problem. If I overspend my income, I cannot go to the taxpayers for more money, no matter how good the reasons for my expenditures. Many taxpayers today find it hard to understand why the state and federal governments refuse to live within their means.

Back to the issue at hand: any solution to this “crisis” needs to follow the Pension Clause in the Illinois Constitution. It also needs to be done in a manner that demonstrates that our representatives are thoughtful stewards of our tax dollars, not merely politicians most interested in their re-election and handing out largesse to their constituents to buy votes.

Please take the “high road” on this issue – please do not push this reform bill, in whatever form it takes at the moment, through the legislature today. The Governor is most interested in looking good, not in finding a reasonable solution. I appeal to you as a reasonable man and a true representative not only of your district but of Illinois citizens in general, since you are the person who has the ability to determine the outcome of this process.

So we’ll see what happens. I hate this feeling of powerlessness!

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SB 1673

May 29, 2012

The Illinois legislature is well-known for pushing through controversial legislation at the 11th hour just before the conclusion of a legislative session. SB 1673 is supposed to reform the state pension system, which everyone should be in favor of, right?

Except it doesn’t. It’s unconstitutional, it lets the State off the hook for the lack of funding to the system that was mandated by the Illinois Constitution, and it puts more strain on property owners. Information about it can be found here.

I don’t buy the argument that the system has to be fixed now as some sort of emergency. The legislature has been screwing with the pension system for decades. If private union pension systems were handled by the union leaders in this way, they would be in prison. As legislators, it’s “sound fiscal management.”

Maybe the current system is not working. It would have if the state would have been making its payments for the the last 30 years. But it was easier to use the money for other things and give IOUs to the pension systems. Now that mismanagement has come home to roost, and the way out of it is to reduce benefits and shift the burden to others.

Except it’s not legal. One law doesn’t negate a part of the Illinois Constitution, no matter what they say. It’s sort of our own Illinois Obamacare  – the legislation has to be passed now or disaster will befall us, but we can’t tell you what that legislation is, and it’s probably not constitutional anyway.

Unfortunately, this is business as usual in Springfield. I’m afraid they will get it through no matter how much we object.

If you believe pension reform should be done in a reasonable, fair, and constitutional manner, you may want to let your senator and representative know that – and soon. The thing might pop up to a vote tomorrow.

Here’s what I sent to my state representative:

Dear Ms. Bellock:

I wrote to you a little over a week ago about the pension debate in the Illinois legislature. If you recall, I am a recently-retired teacher from Hinsdale District 86. 
 
Now my worst fears are coming true – there is a bill that just came out of committee that is designed to “reform” the pension system. As I feared, it has only appeared two days before the end of the legislative session – a move clearly designed to make it impossible to marshall opposition to the bill in time and to make it difficult for representatives to get feedback from their constituents.
 
Of course, it does not reform the system. It provides political cover to those legislators who need to go back to their constituencies and say they held the line to try to save the State of Illinois from its “pension crisis,” and, if passed, it will probably help to do that for a very short while. However, it promises what it will likely not deliver, such as restitution to the retirement system of back payments by the State required by law.
 
On the other hand, it should be quickly challenged for its constitutionality, since the pension system was established in the Illinois State Constitution and this bill clearly negates parts of the Pension Clause. It also will cause no end of problems for school districts across Illinois – many of which cannot raise their property tax rates because of the tax cap. It widens the rift between the taxpayers and public employees that has been created by demagogues for their own purposes.
 
This bill is NOT the kind of reform we need. We need reform that can last, that is constitutional, and that requires the State live up to its obligations. The fact that the State now does not have the money to pay for pensions is a result of poor fiscal management and political pandering, not of the retirement system or its managers.
 
I am offended that some legislators believe this is the way to make law and handle the affairs of the citizens. Pushing this bill through may look good for a few politicians in the short term, but as the ramifications of it are felt down the line, those who are responsible will be remembered.
 
I consider you a “cooler head” and someone who has not fallen prey to the politician-as-celebrity style of representation. I hope you, and like-minded Representatives across Illinois, will do all you can to stop this bill. It is another example of a bandaid solution made so that some people – including the Governor – look good in the short term while only creating more problems down the line. Please do all you can to keep this bill from being driven through and becoming law.
 
Sincerely,
I urge you to send something similar, or call their offices.
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The new constitution of the Nation of Hungary, part 1.

March 12, 2012

I recently found out that Hungary enacted a new constitution last year. Apparently it has generated some controversy, inside the country and out. I found the full English text of the constitution at www.presidentialactivism.com and I’ve started to parse it out. There are some interesting things in it.

I remember reading (in a novel, in fact) about the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The uprising only lasted a couple of weeks before the Soviet Union put the hammer down, but it remains a special event in Hungarian memory – in fact, the date of the beginning of the uprising, October 23, is still a national holiday. We have our Independence Day, but our revolution was successful. The Hungarian people didn’t stand a chance against the Soviet military machine.

The new constitution takes into account two important facts: first, natives of Hungary are scattered throughout eastern Europe, and the constitution protects them as citizens even if they do not reside within its borders. I’m not talking about someone living in the Czech Republic for a year or two, working or attending a university; I’m talking residents of those countries and their descendants who were not born in Hungary. You see, the historical ethnic people of Hungary are the Magyars, and the current nation of Hungary is not the same borders as those of the mostly-Magyar nation prior to 1920, when the Treaty of Trianon broke several areas off. See this article for more.

This is similar to what happened to the Ottoman Empire, when a young Winston Churchill drew the boundaries for what are now many of the countries of the Middle East, without much regard for who lived where – except, apparently, a few ruling families that were on the right side when World War I ended. In this case, not only history, but geography was written by the victors.

So there are several significant ethnic and religious-based groups living within Hungary’s borders who are not, according to the government, “real Hungarians.” That’s my term. The term in the constitution is “nationalities.” Article XXIX states, in part:

(1) Nationalities living in Hungary shall be constituent parts of the State. Every Hungarian citizen belonging to any nationality shall have the right to freely express and preserve his or her identity. Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to use their native languages and to the individual and collective use of names in their own languages, to promote their own cultures, and to be educated in their native languages.

(2) Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to establish local and national self-governments.

If this was the US, I think that means (legal) Mexican immigrants can have government schools that teach in Spanish. Back about a hundred years ago, Chicago could have had government-sponsored schools that taught in Polish, and New York in Italian.

However, Article XXIII gives certain voting rights to non-citizens:

1) Every adult Hungarian citizen shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of Members of Parliament, local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(2) Every adult citizen of any other member state of the European Union who is a resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(3) Every adult person who is recognised as a refugee, immigrant or resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter in the elections of local representatives and mayors.

Yep, a non-citizen immigrant has the right to vote at least in local elections. No citizenship required. (I’m not even going to get into the whole European Union bit. The way things are going for the EU lately, it may not even exist by the time you read this.)

I thought that was interesting.

There are some other zingers. Article XXI prohibits pollutants being brought into the country for the purpose of dumping. Article XX outlaws “genetically modified organisms,” so no genmod seeds for Hungarian farmers.

There are four words or phrases that are of particular interest. One is “have the right,” and there are lots more rights in this document than in our Bill of Rights. Or, at least, they are enumerated in greater detail. There is “Hungary shall strive,” which gives them government an out on things like “providing every person with decent housing and access to public services.” (Article XXII.) My favorite is “shall be obliged,” and I don’t know the legal definition. This is used in places like Article XVI, in, “(4) Adult children shall be obliged to look after their parents if they are in need.” Does this mean Gramma and Grampa have to move in with you? Exactly what obligation do you have, and – I have to ask – what business is it of the government?

Turns out a lot is the business of the government. They may take your land (even though you have a right to ownership of property, Article XIII) but they must pay you for it right away. Article XVII says in part that every employee has the right to “annual paid leave.” What? How much?

Free and compulsory education is only through the primary grades. Secondary education must be “free and generally available.” (Article XI)

Here’s one of the things that has many in the EU getting their panties in a bunch: Article II, right away, states “Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; embryonic and foetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.” Yep. No pro-choice here, folks.

If you were waiting for that cloned liver to save you, don’t go to Budapest. Article III prohibits human cloning.

There’s more. As I said, it’s a very interesting document, and the connections between the State and religions is particularly novel, despite stating in Article VII that e”very person shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

I’ll get to that in part 2. Stay tuned…