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Book Review: 50 Facts That Should Change the USA by Stephen Fender

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As I read through the fascinating book, 50 Facts That Should Change the USA, I kept reflecting back on the words in its title. I think it is the word “should” that puzzles me. While I realize many of the researched facts could change our nation, I don’t know that all of them should.

Fact 11: For example, Americans spend more than any other industrialized country on civil litigation. That fact makes me wonder why. Is it simply that Americans have more dollars to spend? Maybe it’s because the American psyche tends to award high premiums for lawsuits. Could it be that in the United States, juries side more with the plaintiff, or perhaps are easily persuaded to do so?  

Idealistically, maybe there is a greater sense of fairness in our country than in the rest of the world? Come now, this last comment seems to stretch the truth, considering the number of daily media reports of injustice occurring in government and industry.

Should this fact change America? I doubt it should or could. There will always be a myriad of lawyers, judges, and plaintiffs until the American economy turns so sour that people cannot afford a trip through the court system.

Fact 13: The fact that 18,000 adults die each year because they don’t have health insurance is deplorable and should change America. But alarms go off when Congress is beleaguered by insurance companies and their lobbyists, warning that in our free nation, there is no room for socialized medicine. Could it be that the word socialized remains scented by the word communism?

But what about Fact 40: “65% of American adults are overweight, and 30% are obese, and these proportions are growing.” Should all Americans be paying for the healthcare of these people? But then, real obesity is probably more of a mental illness than an inability to curb overeating.

We all recall the 1993 defeat of Hilary Clinton’s attempt to stir Congress to act on a healthcare plan for all. Now that Mrs. Clinton is Secretary of State working with President Obama, maybe both can sneak behind the scenes to lobby for a reformed health system for every American, regardless how poor—but then, are Americans supposed to be poor?

Fact 38: Answers a resounding “Yes!” “More than 37 million Americans or one in eight of the population, live below the official poverty guidelines.”

Facts 21 and 22: The United States emits 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions which are heating up planet earth to the point of self-destruction. At the same time, our population is increasing twice as fast as that of Europe. These two facts alone tell the USA what it should do to limit the growth of both. Perhaps Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, which has been viewed around the world, will embarrass American technology and industry into curbing emission pollutants.

Obviously, Fact 23: “One baby boomer dies every 52.5 seconds,” is probably an insensitive statistic to mention here. And then there's Fact 30: "For 38 years San Francisco had a freeway that ended in mid air." Simply removing the signs warning motorists of impending doom could have reduced our population…!

Fact 18 and referring back to the previous paragraph: Since 44% of Americans believed in year 2000 that Christ would come again during their lifetime, let’s hope he comes soon enough to convince Americans that teaching their children about sex and birth control is not sinful. What is truly evil is bringing unwanted children into the world who are unloved. Maybe Jesus’ teaching about love would help population control which would then lower carbon dioxide emissions.

Fact 25: America has some of the best universities in the world yet some of the worst high schools. This reviewer has been an educator for more than 30 years with the Pittsburgh Public School system. He feels that fact 25 should change the way Americans think about education. Children with severe behavior problems usurp much of a teacher’s time in a regular classroom. This is not the case in college or universities where students pay their way and can be forced to leave a lecture hall if they even hint of becoming unruly.

Not so in public elementary, middle, and high schools, where one will find some of the nation’s best, most knowledgeable teachers. While many of these folks could easily teach at a college or university level, the reverse is truly questionable. 

Yet lack of student performance is rarely attributed to classroom time wasted with disruptive children. So often, especially in urban schools, students enter from broken homes with a garden-variety of overwhelming psychological and social problems which cannot be solved by their teacher. Disciplining these students steals invaluable on-task time from the average child who should be learning. However, one wonders the consequences to society if these students were dumped from school to roam the streets.

Fact 37: The teaching of intelligent design in American public school has been deigned unconstitutional. It is good that no particular religion is taught in our schools considering the horrors initiated by conflicting religious beliefs down through the ages. One need only look at the state of the world today to see that those same murderous conflicts are alive and healthy.

But on a more educational level, one wonders how terribly wrong it would be to engage children’s minds about the “big paradoxes” everyone faces at one time or another: How did the alleged Big Bang occur from apparent nothingness? Will the ultimate particle/energy wave ever be found? Is evolution following some systematic procedure? Is our brain the same as our mind? Granted this may cause a general discussion about various religious doctrines, but would differences not be better addressed in the classroom instead of some nuclear battleground.

?In this review of 50 Facts That Should Change the USA, I’ve attempted to give readers a flavor for only a few of the 50 researched facts found in this book. Although the intention of author Stephen Fender is not to suggest what should be done about any of the facts, nevertheless, the book will gnaw your conscience at times. More often, as a repository of odd truths, it will make you chuckle.

I'd recommend the book to any person seeking a novel slant about the United States and its inhabitants. Its 50 Facts That Should Change the USA, will provide anyone who loves data with plenty of good conversation starters.

Finally, as a retired educator, I’d recommend the book be read as part of a high school program to improve students’ critical thinking skills. As I have done above, it would be fun to let students correlate some of the 50 data pieces. I feel certain that lively classroom discussion would result.

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