While we are noting that education matters, it is worth it taking a look at this new piece by Richard Kahlenberg and Cliff Janey in The Atlantic. It argues that public schools are failing to fulfill one of their main duties – to make sure their graduates are prepared to function as citizens. Preoccupations with economic competitiveness and market preparedness have usurped the schools’ requisite agenda of democracy preparation. And if these authors can’t convince you, then check out the work of Yascha Mounk and Roberta Stefan Foa, who note a decline in commitment to democracy among youth worldwide. We shouldn’t be surprised that millennials are losing sight of the importance of democracy. Kahlenberg and Janey urge a recommitment to civic education before any more ground is lost.
The New York Times becomes pro Union? We think this editorial is a first, at least it is as far back as we can remember. Not surprisingly, you can’t find it looking for “unions’ in the Times search engine, but it’s there, and hugely important. The Times also just ran a sympathetic story on Joe Biden in which he regrets the loss of his pro-worker message mid-campaign. Then there was a positive piece on higher education organizing and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s effort in behalf of labor. The Times’ anti-unionism runs deep. We remember when it didn’t even want to sell the United Federation of Teachers advertising space for Albert Shanker’s “Where We Stand” column.
Whither Democrats is a question that has conjured up too much analysis to grapple with here. We note just two pieces – both point to failings to build strength at the state and local level. The first comes from 538 to remind us that the Democrats neglected Party infrastructure during the Obama years. At the beginning of Obama’s term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures, while now they control only 31 percent, the lowest percentage for the party since the turn of the 20th century. They held 29 governor’s offices and now have only 16, the party’s lowest number since 1920. This is a part of Obama’s legacy he has admitted to briefly, and it’s huge. Fellow African-American Danielle Allen advised him and all Democrats of the need to return to tough organizing and Party-building outside of Washington. We think they will need a Karl Rove type operation built without his “ends justify the means” of cynicism. Another thing they could skip is what Mark Lilla call “identity liberalism”. Lilla’s post-identity politics would stress common ground issues like education, jobs, health insurance, freedoms, common destiny.
What Does Vladimir Putin See in Donald Trump? Thomas Edsall asked a slew of analysts and commentators like Anne Appelbaum, Charles Krauthammer and Norman Ornstein. The result is well worth reading. Jacobson and McKew are my favorites because they “get” Trump and Putin in just a few words.
Notable Leftists Hentoff and Henry Foner die. We didn’t agree with either of these men but need to acknowledge their influence on our formative years. Henry Foner is the last of the famous leftist Foner brothers, who included Moe, Philip and Jack. He was President of the Joint Board, Fur, Leather and Machine Workers Union.) from 1961 and until 1988. Representing workers in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, it could always be counted on to be the furthest left among unions. Nat Hentoff, jazz expert and versatile commentator on politics, free speech, education, etc., etc. was not in the same place and was less predictable. He even received a favorable obituary from the right wing Cato Institute for his unbiased advocacy of freedom of speech. Hentoff was not a friend to teacher unionism and wrote, inaccurately in our view, of the conflict between the union and black parents.