June 28, 2009

The ACLU & Students' Aching Backs - Unintended Consequences of the PC Agenda

The ACLU, the PC police, has struck again—sadly, public school students bear the brunt of the burden yet again. Many public school students have aching backs because they must carry their hefty textbooks in their backpacks daily. To combat this painful trend, states have announced maximum textbook weight recommendations, medical groups have pronounced guidelines that backpacks should not weigh more than 15% of the student’s body weight, and textbook companies studied using lighter paper weights for their books while trying to maintain the durability of the textbooks. Other recommendations were also made to rectify this problem. One solution would be to provide class sets of books so that students don’t need to carry their books to and from school. Publishers could break up textbooks into volumes (16) that are lighter and easier to carry. Digitization of textbooks and utilization of the Internet are also possible solutions. Or… school lockers could be brought back from the brink of extinction.

June 8, 2009

Modern Progressivism

Justice, equity, community, democracy enforced by a large federal government…..these are the tenets of progressivism, then and now. There are many names more commonly used to describe them: pragmatics, liberals, social democrats, greens, the new left, the old left, socialists. We call them progressives because it brings continuity to a better understanding of the focus of this site – Progressive Education.

Now, what does modern progressivism look like? Modern progressivism actively courts justice in the quest to bring about an equal, democratic community. Progressives are first and foremost activists who are searching for injustice and inequality, barriers that inhibit the formation of a democratic community. A democratic community would change our form of government into something it was never intended to be - America is a Republic for a reason. It is crucial at this point to make a differentiation between a democracy and a republic as the founders of America determined. A democracy is a government of the masses resulting in mobocracy. Property rights do not exist; property belongs to the community. The rule of law does not exist; only the wavering judgments of the majority. In James Madison’s own words from the Federalist Papers: “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” In the Federalist Papers Madison further clarifies the definition of a republic which protects the rule of law and property rights: “We may define a republic to be…a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons hold their offices during [the people’s] pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

A democratic community, to progressives refers to grassroots, bottom up, direct participation in all forms of government and in private matters, including business. After all, if the ethnic, racial, sexual, and sexual identity groups of a community are represented and participating in every aspect of life, our society will be much more of the accepting, diverse, and pluralistic type of community progressives seek - localism mediated by the federal government. Many of the Obama Administration’s words and actions are steering us more to the consensus-driven, democratic community vision of localism; Obama’s administration will do nothing but encourage government involvement to that aim. Here’s an example of the lingo from the FCC website:

“The purpose of Localism Proceedings is to gather information from consumers, industry, civic organizations, and others on broadcasters’ service to their local communities. Along with competition and diversity, promoting localism is a key goal of the Commission’s media ownership rules.”

Some think that the FCC will bring back a form of the Fairness Doctrine through their pursuit of localism. The thought is that through localism, local advisory boards will not only be formed, but will also wield more weight in the approval/disapproval of FCC operating licenses thus changing the landscape of radio.

A democratic community includes direct election of President, so the Electoral College would have to go. It would also include some form of online citizen participation in government, maybe even online voting. This leads to a better understanding of why the U.S. Congress and Senate have been pushing the universal broadband initiative so hard.

Now is a good time to introduce the integral component of progressivism – justice. Social justice is now talked about freely, but it used to be called things like celebrating differences, evening the playing field, multiculturalism and affirmative action. It means finding anyone not being treated equally (meaning gender, racial, ethnic, and sexual discrimination) and making it right. Equal treatment, however, is in the eye of the beholder. Equality to progressives means that literally everything has to be equal, even if it sometimes means giving some more rights and privileges than others. The remedy to inequity (ie. the social justice) usually involves educating those who discriminate, reparations of sorts, promoting diversity, and quotas. We’ll come full circle to our example from the Federal Communication Commission’s call for localism, rereading the quote above the word diversity pops out. The desire is that each local board will reflect the make-up of the community it represents. If a community is 51% Hispanic, then the board must be 51% Hispanic, if at all possible. But generally, normal people are too busy working to sit on multiple community boards, so the board membership can be made up of special interest groups representing the Hispanic community, for example. The special interest group could be an extremely activist group like La Raza, which has worked very hard to ensure quotas be in place in many important areas like home loans, TV shows, etc.

Another example, perhaps more clear, of modern progressivism is the recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. Obama stated he was looking for empathy in a nominee:

"You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you," Obama said in an interview carried Saturday on C-SPAN television. "But you have to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living."

Obama’s search for an empathetic nominee, for someone who can “stand in somebody else’s shoes” and Obama’s nomination of a Latina are the clearest examples of Obama's promoting activism, social justice, and equity – the progressive platform. Let's examine the implications of having an empathy litmus test for the Supreme Court. Isn't justice supposed to be blind? And, what makes one empathetic? In Sotomayor's case, is it because she's Hispanic? Is it because she's a woman? Is it because she was poor growing up? Is this the laundry list we need to review before deeming someone empathetic enough, if empathy is even required? Empathy is the new code word for "diversity". Diversity brings us right back to the core values of progressivism: social justice, equity, and community. Picking a (1)Hispanic (2)female who was also had a childhood in (3)poverty hits nearly every major definition of diversity. The best candidate, in addition to being a Hispanic female who was poor at one time, would also be a lesbian atheist, what a coup to find one person who represents nearly all the diversity possible in society in one person!. So, picking Sotomayor not only rights the wrongs of how women and Hispanics have historically been treated (check off social justice), it also promotes equity of females and Hispanics in important positions (check off equity), and it promotes a sense of community because everyone feels the love of acceptance by promoting a female Hispanic who has known poverty (check off community). There's also the more sinister side to social justice: pay back and reverse discrimination. Maybe there was a better Supreme Court Justice candidate than Sotomayor, maybe someone else had better grades, a better track-record as a judge, someone who would perform that position better, who also happened to not be a minority in need of social justice. Tomas Sowell wrote a column titled Equality or pay-back? which explores the implications of social justice and equity and how it shouldn't be thought of as the positive mechanism toward bringing our community closer as many to the Left suggest.

Social Justice isn’t the only form of justice needed to bring about equity. There’s Economic Justice: a living wage is paid to everyone, housing is given to everyone, life-long learning is available to everyone (no more costly college degrees), healthcare is free, childcare is free, progressive taxes, and redistribution of wealth to name a few. This is where unions come into play. According to unions and their progressive backers, even business should have representatives from labor share nearly equally in the company's decision making as well as profits. Something very similar is happening in the restructuring of the new government owned General Motors. Economic justice is reflected in the push for nationalized healthcare and in the recently attempted Card Check system that would have given the unions even more power to organize. The public education systems very powerful National Education Association union requires (forces) public school teachers to pay to belong to the union in non-right to work states because they get their power from the numbers of members even if its members have no choice but to join.

Environmental Justice - everyone has the right to a clean environment. It means that a lack of pollution is considered a basic human right. This presumption leads to trying to find ways to make a lack of pollution possible. The only way many concerned with environmentalism justice see to make it possible is by living within our environmental and resource limits of our communities and planet. The only way to live within our environmental and resource limits is to leave a smaller carbon footprint – consume and waste less. This premise leads us to require fewer people on the Earth and/or to scale way back on heating, gas, air conditioning, and general consumerism. Our country would have to undergo serious changes to avoid leaving such large carbon footprints, perhaps if we were homeless? Currently, we have Cap & Trade legislation being drafted that will levy heavy extra taxes average Americans will see in their heating and air conditioning bills and it will all but force coal companies to go out of business. This will help our country be more "green" by giving us the little extra push we all need to get used to living with less heat in the winter and less a/c in the summer. We need to get back to nature anyway, after all.
Justice, Equity, Community, Democracy - these progressive tenets are reflected in nearly every single aspect of public schools in America. The question is which came first, public progressivism or progressive education? Or have they fed on each other through the years to bring us to the situation we face now – a full transformation from within of what our country once was?

Connecting the Progressive Dots

Progressivism is gaining ground and is taking the Democratic Party more to the left than in recent memory.

  • Saul Alinsky was born 1909, grew up in Chicago, went on to become a very influencial organizer, and can be considered the bridge between the Progressive Movement of the past and modern progressivism. He was also connected to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama through his Industrial Areas Foundation.
  • Barack Obama beat out Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in large part because of a very supportive progressive community. Obama grew up in Chicago and returned to Chicago to join an offshoot of Alinsky’s IAF as a community organizer.
  • Hillary Clinton is a self-described progressive with roots in the original Progressive movement we described below in this blog. Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on Alinsky and was personally invited by Alinsky to join one of his community organizer training camps.
  • John Podesta, former President Clinton’s Chief of Staff, who just recently served as the co-chair of Obama’s transition team and is also president and CEO of the progressive think tank, Center for American Progress.
  • Robert Reich is the former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and is currently serving as a member of the Obama-Biden economic advisory team and a Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
  • George Soros (love muckety.com) and his family has been bankrolling many progressive causes like Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, moveon.org, and Media Matters. These are just a few of the connections related to modern progressivism and we haven’t even begun to discuss Progressive Education. More will be added to the list as opportunities arise.

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