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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Column: Onward

This year has been a great learning experience for me, and I hope it has been for you, too. If you are like me, and your college experience is coming to a close, then your knowledge and experience gained from years of study will hopefully be of great benefit to you in seeking out employment.

I cannot stress more the value of an education, but I don’t necessarily mean the one received in a classroom. For students in engineering or the hard sciences there may be a clearer path to a future career. If, however, you have pursued a major in the liberal arts, like I have, then your path will most likely depend on your ability to think and adapt.

The ability to think and be creative is oftentimes stifled in a classroom setting, where the greatest priority for students is to maximize a grade. We have to focus so much on the minutiae and facts in specific areas that the big picture is often lost. The key to success in the liberal arts will be the ability to discover and follow your passions, along with your ability to use your critical thinking skills.

Understanding politics is not always about understanding basic facts. This is why there is often such a sharp divide between politicians of different parties and different regions.

Politics isn’t just about what can be done, but also what should be done.

Many governmental policies in this country and our own state of California are either ineffective or contradictory. This is the result of democracy and reality, as people have different visions about how government should operate. Many well-thought-out laws created with good intentions have backfired or have created new problems.

There is a belief among citizens and politicians that the answer to our problems is moderation. If only we just all agreed, then maybe things would get done. The problem with this is that moderation can push aside the convictions, ideas and beliefs of many people who may not be popular but just might be right.

The strength of our system comes from a vibrancy of ideas coupled with the moderation of our institutions.

In writing this column I have tried to explain my views through reasonable and factually-based arguments that also reflect my own personal worldview. As with any political argument, my positions should be looked at critically and with a healthy degree of skepticism.

I have discussed problems with our justice system. Our prisons have become both overcrowded and are a drain on the good people of this state. Does the answer lie in letting large numbers of dangerous people go in a haphazard manner, or is the answer found in eliminating the inefficiencies and inconsistencies within the system itself by holding state politicians and judges accountable for upholding our laws?

I have routinely questioned the efforts by state bureaucracies to manipulate and control our decisions. I consider their efforts to be an abridgement of our basic freedom, as well as a misguided and ineffectual attempt create a more perfect society through the limited knowledge of a few rather than the wisdom of the many.

Most importantly, I have defended what I consider to be the most important aspects of what a free country is all about. This includes our institutions, way of life and the people who preserve and protect it.

Our world is more complex than any one mind can comprehend, and even the brightest and most well accomplished people can make mistakes that in hindsight appear to be silly or incomprehensible. Other ideas have withstood the test of time, and have made our lives dramatically better.

I don’t think that it’s much of a stretch to say that challenges for college students and graduates are greater than they were just a few years ago. I have addressed the fiscal problems of our state extensively in my column.

The questions concerning the way we raise and spend money, the size and scope of government, and each citizens relationship to the government are the most important that we now face. Ultimately, Californians will have to decide which way we want to go, and that decision might not just be a question of left and right, but up or down.

JARRETT STEPMAN thanks all the people who helped him write this column, the people who gave him the opportunity to do so and the readers who stumbled upon it while looking for the Sudoku. You can say goodbye at jstepman@ucdavis.edu.

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