How did American leaders in the 1940s and 1950 conceive of their obligations to their country? We will survey episodes from the lives of George C. Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and various “Wise Men.” We will pay special attention to those who attended elite prep schools and universities.
Week 11: Seemliness (April 9)
Modern societies have become economically and socially more unequal. We will explore status competition and the desire for social distinction—executives who feel unabashed when asking for lavish salaries. We will ask whether it is proper to put a Yale window sticker on the back of your car. We will look at codes of social modesty and ask whether modest people make better business leaders
Week 13: Fate (April 23)
In the 1940s researchers began a longitudinal study tracing the life courses of Harvard Men. These men had every advantage, but a third of them had their lives ravaged by alcoholism and other setbacks. However well one is trained for life, one cannot control life. We’ll look at the Grant study and other studies of how lives develop.
The MAP appears to be a perfect storm of the problems with standardized testing: put in place through a corrupt, profit-driven process; with an unacceptably high margin of error; not measuring the things students are actually supposed to be learning; and taking needed time away from instructional time in order for students to take a test they don’t take seriously. But while its problems may be especially large, they’re not unique. What these teachers are doing in saying no to the MAP is brave, it’s in their students’ best interests, and it’s yet another demonstration of how badly teachers’ voices are needed in the broader education policy debate.
Teacher refusal to give the tests is a risky but brave and inspiring way to stand up to the forces that seek to turn education into a profit-generating system that sucks the soul out of both students and teachers.
Wow. If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is.
Also, make sure you read the comment section. I’m sure it’ll soon be inundated with people ripping the magazine. But right now, it’s clearly a coordinated campaign by Scientology to flood the comment section with laudatory comments. It’s all very special.
Benjy Sarlin with a nice overview of how organized labor has shifted from a key anti-immigration force to one supporting immigration with great fervor. To be sure, there are a lot of individual unions, particularly in the building trades, that are not pro-immigration. But those unions are increasingly marginalized within the larger labor movement, particularly when you have unions like SEIU with large numbers of undocumented members. Labor’s problems with immigration go back a lot farther than Cesar Chavez. Organized labor’s first big political victory in this country was the Chinese Exclusion Act, Gompers’ AFL was largely anti-immigrant, etc. That organized labor is so strongly on the side of humane immigration legislation is a big deal and will help push for a quality bill this year.
“She’s got a very simple message that is highly seductive because it appears to give an answer to our difficult education problems,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning research group.
It would be great if her ideas translated into good results for kids, Kahlenberg said.
“But, in fact, we’ve got two grand experiments of her theory,” he said. “The first is the American South, where teachers unions are weak and the schools are not lighting the world on fire. The other is charter schools, which are 88 percent non-unionized. In charters, you can do everything that Michelle Rhee wants to do — fire bad teachers, pay good teachers more. And yet, the most comprehensive studies looking at charter schools nationally find mediocre results.”
So Rhee’s premise is faulty, he said. “But it’s a simple idea, and in the media, it’s powerful to have heroes and villains,” Kahlenberg said. “The fact that evidence doesn’t back her up doesn’t seem to prevent her from getting wide notoriety.”
I want our children to get the best education possible. Were teachers’ unions an impediment to that education, I might take Rhee’s arguments seriously. But they aren’t. There’s just zero evidence that Rhee’s policies work. What I see are teachers’ unions telling authorities that students can’t learn when schools don’t have air conditioning. There’s not a single institution in this country more invested in children learning that teachers’ unions. The real problem with education is poverty. But Very Important People don’t want to deal with poverty. As Kahlenberg notes, Rhee provides the media a nice simple message they can repeat without research, thinking, or questioning their own privilege. Unfortunately, our children and our middle class suffer as a result.
One, we don’t know enough about Lew’s actions while at the NYU to draw any definitive conclusions; he certainly wasn’t working in concert with or on behalf of the organizers. Yet it’s important to appreciate that this wasn’t his job. If he made some kind of decisive push against them, one that wouldn’t have happened in his absence, then that’s significant and something lefties are right to find appalling. But we don’t know — maybe we can find out during Senate hearings, though I doubt it.
We don’t know. But we should. If you are being nominated to lead the president’s economic team, your positions on extremely important economic issues such as the support of workers to have union representation should be a litmus test. As a progressive Democrat, I believe that an economy without high unionization rates is an economy that makes life very difficult for working and middle class people. Democrats should be supporting unionization anywhere and everywhere. We need all the people involved in the president’s economic team to have the interests of working-class people in mind. Or at the very least not have a history of fighting against the institutions most responsible for creating the middle-class.
Second and more important is whether or not Lew will actually be influencing policy rather than merely implementing it. The 2012 elections resulted in something of a two-sided political retrenchment, with the perpetuation of the status quo near-guaranteeing that no stimulus is in the offing for 2013. The near-term policy goal for liberals? Less austerity than there might be otherwise — at best. (Not quite Braveheart’s “Freedom!” when it comes to rallying cries.)
This I find dubious. The Secretary of Treasury does far more than just implement policy others create. The Secretary of Treasury is a central person of any president’s economic team. Tim Geithner was absolutely vital in creating the economic policies of the last four years. It’s true that if Lew bucked the no-stimulus, no-union trend, he might not be nominated for the position. But again, we need to demand that the people who are creating economic policy for working-class people support the right of those people to the representation of their choice on the job. That’s not just at Treasury, but in all major economic appointments.
And even if both sides have agreed that there will be no stimulus in 2013, so what? Progressives are just supposed to say OK and live with it? That’s not an effective political strategy. We need to speak loud for economic justice and demand it from our party leaders. That includes through demanding that his economic team stand for policies that not only resist cuts in Medicare, but promote workers getting a larger piece of the pie from their bosses. As I’ve stated many times before, the time to create change is between electoral cycles, not during the election itself. One way to do this is to for progressives to hold the president accountable in appointments, not sweeping issues like this under the rug.
Obama has marginalized the Department of Labor from his administration’s central economic planning team. There’s little evidence that he really cares all that much about organized labor and won’t expend political capital promoting its agenda. Even when he could bring labor and its supporters into the central circle without political damage, something he could have done beginning with the crafting of the stimulus package before he took office and continuing on every major economic issues since, he hasn’t chosen to do so. And the nomination of Lew is another piece of evidence that not supporting unions is just not that big a deal to this administration.
In the end, the question comes down to how important support for unionization should be within a Democratic administration. In my view, it’s a moral issue, the equivalent of the social issues that so engage us today. 50 years ago, supporting organized labor would have been unquestioned for most leading Democrats (non-Dixiecrats at least). Today, no. I think that’s wrong. I think involvement in anti-union campaigns is deeply immoral behavior.
1. People like food variety
2. That variety leads to waste
3. Let’s use technology to just eliminate grocery stores and get groceries to consumers without the middle man!
For we technological festishist Americans, this probably sounds good. I don’t want to go to the store and I want what I want when I want it!! Problems solved and we can feel good about our impact on the planet since that food won’t be wasted.
The issue of food waste is way more complex than this and Voila! technological innovations are no solution. Something like 50% of food waste happens in the home. But I’ll leave that alone for now. Quick question though–what happens to grocery store workers? A lot of those are union jobs too. What happens to those people? Do they even deserve consideration? In our rush to replace all work with robots and technological efficiencies, what do ideas like this mean for long-term economic and community sustainability? These questions are not only unanswered (and no doubt unconsidered) in the Good article, but in our society generally. We talk about unemployment and underemployment but are extremely reticent to consider that our unstated goal that eliminating work in the name of efficiency is a positive good is a big part of the problem.
It’s at times like this that I am at a loss to defend environmentalism to organized labor.
At the center of this, one of the most spectacular acts of geographic and cultural self-immolation ever undertaken by a free country, is Massey CEO Don Blankenship, the highest paid executive in the coal industry. He’s a West Virginia native, from Mingo County, the son of a poor single mother. From unremarkable roots he’s ascended the corporate ladder at Massey, made its powerful board his courtesans, ruthlessly suppressed mineworker unions (just 3% of Massey employees remain unionized), threatened and bullied critics, and single-handedly purchased at least one state-wide election — the 2004 race of state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, who had the gall to rule against Massey. During the campaign, McGraw was accused of allowing child rapists to go free and defeated after 12 years of service by a virtually unknown challenger.
The bigger polluters, the multinationals, pour money and effort into polishing their public images and disguising their agendas. Not so a local thug like Blankenship. In 2005, when WV governor Joe Manchin threatened to keep a closer eye on Massey operations, Blankenship sued him in retaliation, represented by Robert Luskin, Karl Rove’s lawyer.
Today, Blankenship wields political clout via his grotesquely titled 527 PAC, “…And for the Sake of the Kids,” into which he’s poured millions of dollars of his own money. (When he founded the PAC he promised to start a foundation for the actual kids, but years later that hasn’t happened.) He’s going after the only other liberal Supreme Court judge in WV, and has vowed to shift the balance of power in the state legislature to Republicans. His interest is in maintaining WV’s low taxes, paltry social services, and lax regulatory enforcement. But the attack ads now airing in the state prominently feature abortion, gay marriage, and drunk drivers. Massey has learned something from recent Republican successes.
So what does our good man Blakenship have to say about safety?
An example of our governments misdirected approach to mine safety solutions is provided by an accident that occurred at the then Massey Energy Rockhouse mine in eastern Kentucky. An experienced miner was crushed by a rock while attempting to recover a mining machine that had shut down under an unsupported roof. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) action after the accident was, and usually is, to find someone to vilify as being at fault. Those of you not familiar with mining should note that the continuous miner machine is always out from under supported roof while mining. If the miner machine shuts down due to an electrical problem for example, the government allows electricians to access the continuous miner for repair by building temporary “crib blocks” as roof support. However, the building of “cribs” requires the miners to be slightly beyond the roof bolted line and therefore puts them at greater risk.
For years the government has approved the use of this “cribbing” to access the equipment and to get it trammed back to the supported roof area. But after the Rockhouse accident mentioned above, I challenged the electricians to develop a remote control device that could reengage the tram motor breaker so that no one had to work out beyond supported roof to recover a broken down miner. They successfully did so, and today throughout the industry this remote device frequently prevents miners from having to get in harm’s way. This is the kind of real step honest leaders can take toward making sure that “this never happens again” — if their focus is on avoiding future accidents as opposed to faulting someone for one that has occurred. Simply put, MSHA often acts more like a police force than like safety professionals.
Listening to an anti-safety plutocrat like Blankenship blather on about safety reminds me of “The Crime of Carelessness,” the National Association of Manufacturers film created response to criticism of factory safety after the Triangle Fire. Because we all know when workers get hurt, it’s their own fault. Or they assumed the risk when they took the job. Or whatever excuse you want so long as corporations never suffer any consequences for their actions.
Also, I just took that photo at the top of this post yesterday. It was very exciting.
“Sitting back and doing nothing and hoping it doesn’t happen to you is just not good policy anymore. There is a need for schools to beef up their security measures,” Supertendent Jamie Grime told the Toledo Blade today.
Really hard to see what could go wrong here. And given that school custodians are often poorly paid and treated as expendable labor, my thoughts that nothing could go wrong are only reinforced.
Human civilization as we know it cannot survive this level of climate change. The political, social, and environmental implications are too great. Humans are an extremely adaptable species. We aren’t going anywhere. But the world we know and love, it is slipping away. I really remain unconvinced that one can say our children and grandchildren will live better lives than we will. And it’s not because of national debt.