Social Capital and Civil Society

An individual’s success, or falling through the cracks in society, may depend on their social capital.
The idea of social capital is the network of connections that each one of us have including our family, friends, and engagement in civil institutions like church, organizations, and clubs. As more Americans confront despair and feel the angst of perceived economic and social inequities, it is important to equip individuals and families with the skills for developing their personal social capital. This starts with educating individuals about the importance of social capital, but includes instructing individuals how to build their social capital with networking, volunteering, and other civic engagement.

Education Reform

In recent decades, we’ve seen a constant trend of increased federal, state, and local spending on public education. Despite the near tripling of cost to put a child through the K-12 system, we’ve seen stagnant science, math, and reading scores over the same time period across the country. Rather than continuing to throw more money at the problem, Texas should strive to implement a real school choice policy to give students and parents the ability to enroll in schools that give them the best opportunity to flourish. And the tax dollars that do fund public schools should be spent to directly benefit students, rather than administration as we’ve seen recently. Moreover, Texas should refrain from any one-size-fits-all education standards such as Common Core, and be weary of accepting federal funds with strings attached which dictate state education policy from the national level.
Similarly, Texas should be more prudent on higher education spending and focus on strategies that get young adults ready to work and compete in the modern workforce. Texas should clamp down on bloated university administrative budgets and focus public spending on ways that can make public education more affordable. Moreover, our public higher education institutions should not use the constant influx loan money as an excuse to keep budgets and tuition inflated.

Free Expression

The right to free speech is at the core of what makes a free society “free”. And while our public universities should be bastions of free thought, self-expression, and inquisitiveness, we’ve recently seen these institutions clamp down certain types of speech from students, as well as speakers who expound certain political views. Universities in Texas and around the country have used various tactics including the imposition of arbitrary fees to invite certain speakers, the creation of “free speech zones”, and the allowance of students and hecklers to disrupt speakers who have different ideas from themselves. Students at our public institutions shouldn’t be hidden from certain ideas and viewpoints and shouldn’t need to live in fear of being quieted for expounding ideas different from those of their colleagues. As the first amendment does apply to our public universities, the state of Texas has a responsibility to ensure the right to free speech is given to all.