Texas is an amazing place to live and explore, and the state's so large that a person could spend years traveling it without ever being able to see everything. Whenever I hear people from other places bashing the state or Texans in general, it's often someone who is judging us without ever visiting, or someone who spent a little time in one part of the state, didn't like it, and never bothered to go anywhere else. Texas is a state that polarizes people's opinions unlike many others. It seems to have a national identity problem, or at least a confusing one, where outsiders often form strong opinions that aren't exactly accurate.
That aside, there are lots of things about Texas that we can rightly be proud of, but pride's a weird thing, and it often blinds folks to legitimate problems occurring around them... At least until someone from somewhere else points out the problem to them. Here are just a few of the legitimate things about Texas that are difficult to make excuses for.
4. Texas Is One Of The Worst For Kids.
The welfare and quality of life for children is one of those things that most people consider extremely important, but according to a recent national report, Texas is among the ten lowest ranking states in regards to the well being of its kids. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report ranks the Lone Star State as the 43rd worst state to be a kid... Pretty dismal news. That trend hasn't improved much in recent years, despite a healthier state economy relative to other parts of the country. The study analyses data from four categories - Family income, Health, Education, and "Family and Community", which looks at children living in single parent families and teen birth rates. According to the study, statewide Texas's children are now almost 50 percent Hispanic, and one third of the state's kids have at least one parent born outside the United States. In 2013, when the data was gathered last, Texas was second in the nation in the highest uninsured rates for children, and 25 percent of the kids here were living in poverty.
The report isn't all bad news, and showed slight improvements in several categories from previous years, but it's pretty clear that Texas has some major hurdles to overcome if we're going to make it a better place for children to grow up and thrive. Some people will likely howl that it's illegal immigration driving these trends, and first that's not entirely true, and even if it is, many of the kids are American citizens. Secondly, even in the case of non-citizen children living in Texas, it's immoral to let them suffer for choices their parents made.
3. Our State Government Screwed Its Residents Out Of Better Healthcare Coverage.
When the country passed healthcare reform with the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare", a lot of people flipped out, spinning tales of "death panels" where the fate of elderly and ill folks would be decided by some penny pinching committee, or bought into other apocalyptic scenarios. Other people were gleefully awaiting a single payer system where all of a citizen's healthcare needs would be met without amassing a huge financial burden for the patient.
Neither came to pass. Instead we got a confusing and imperfect new system where kinks are still getting worked out. Texas politicians, including then governor Rick "Good hair" Perry decided to deny residents of the state an enormous federal Medicaid expansion program which would've gone a long way to filling many gaps in health coverage here. Why? They claimed that the money from the program wouldn't materialize and Texas would end up having to fund it... Or something like that... The bullcrap gets pretty thick and hard to translate. It really seems to be a case of silly defiance, perhaps with the hope that the healthcare act would fail, putting us all back where we were before. But whatever the motivation for refusing the expansion, most experts seem to think it was foolish, and many Texans will suffer because of that choice. I know two individuals who've moved to states with the added Medicaid coverage, because they couldn't afford adequate health care coverage here.
2. Texas Allows Religious And Social Conservatives To Dictate What's In School Books.
Texas' State School Board of Education is a 15-member elected group of individuals who have enormous power in what students in this state are taught, or at least what materials end up or don't end up in their school books. In recent years, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the content that the state board has approved, including misrepresentations of world religions, and portraying national tragedies such as slavery in a less critical way than is deserved. Compounding those controversies is the national reaction to it, since textbooks approved in Texas are used in other states as well. So in a very real way, the decisions of 15 people, some of which are outspokenly religious and socially conservative, influence the educations of millions of kids in this state and others. Some people within the publishing industry claim that Texas doesn't control textbook content as much as people think, and that technological advances will make it even less so in the future, but the situation still makes our state look like the punchline in an unfunny joke.
1. Texas Is A World Leader... In Executions.
As more and more foreign countries and American states cease the killing of people convicted of anything from murder to social protest, Texas looks more and more out of step with other civilized societies. The "eye for an eye" style of "Justice" is still popular in places like Iraq and China, but it's being abandoned by many others. The US is in the top five countries worldwide when it comes to numbers of people executed, and Texas leads our nation in them. It's hard to feel good about that when a person considers just how many people sentenced to death in this country have been exonerated by new evidence, or how studies show the death penalty probably isn't a deterrent to other criminals, and also costs the state more than imprisoning someone for life.
Most people opposed to the death penalty aren't arguing that we should just let dangerous criminals run free, or that they shouldn't be harshly punished, but there are too many problems with capital punishment to allow it a place in a civilized society. Texas is a leader in many many things, but we shouldn't be a leader in executions.
As I said earlier, Texas is a great state, but it's not perfect - No place is. Rather than ignoring real problems or never trying to improve, Texans should work together to fix these issues.