Kudos to the Superintendent of Medina City Schools (just South of Cleveland) for leaving it up to parents to decide whether their kids should listen to Tuesday's address. Also impressive is his emphasis on the Constitution. Good for him.
Dear Parents of Medina City Schools,
In case you haven't heard, President Obama intends to address the children of our great nation on Tuesday, September 8th at noon. As a district we will not be airing President Obama's speech or utilizing the supporting documents for the speech. While we believe his intentions are good, we will leave it to you, the parents, to determine if you wish to have your children view President Obama's speech.
While we sincerely respect the position of President of the United States, as an educational institution we must also respect the rights of a parent to make decisions for their children when it comes to politics. Many parents have called the District both in favor and against the speech being broadcast live to students. In order to minimize any controversy and the potential disruption of the educational process, we decided to leave it to parents to discuss or watch the speech with their children on their own time. Should you make the decision to view the speech with your child you can access it via an archived webcast at www.whitehouse.gov or www.ed.gov.
The Medina City School District will teach your children to think critically and think for themselves. We will also teach children how to sift through all of the information that is available to them (political or not), decide between fact and fiction, and then understand the process for making an educated decision based on quality information. We will also continue to make sure that our students know and understand the branches of government and the Constitution of the United States. We believe that once they truly understand the Constitution they will then be able to make good political decisions on their own.
Thanks for your understanding on this matter and thank you for your ongoing support of the Medina City School District!
Medina City Schools
President Obama appears to believe that civil society ought not to be truly independent of government. His latest effort in this direction is his recent phone call lobbying the arts community to use their talents to help the President and his party pass health care legislation. It is similar to his call to America's Rabbis to use their pulpits to lobby for the same legislation. (And his reaction agaist civil soceity in action at the town halls might reflect the same beliefs. Community organizing ought not to be done independently, and the middle class ought not to be asserting its own ideas an interests Only ogranizing on behalf of the Progressive agenda is letitimate). This effort is unprecedented:
As a former National Endowment for the Humanities official told me, "Nowhere, as far as I know, has there been even the suspicion that federal agencies under any administration have been enlisted by the administration to further specific legislation or legislative goals. And that's what happened. [They said,] 'We want to make art that will specifically advance Obama's agenda.' "
Given the importance of the US government in funding the arts, this is a big step (The fear of precisely such leverage is one of the main things that leads conservatives to oppose government funding for arts. Once the government pays for something, it will, inevitably, attach strings). Of course, as Michael Lewis notes during the Obama campaign, America's artists became more politicized than they had been in quite some time. As Lewis notes, great art can have a moral agenda, but when it descends to regular partisan politics, it usually turns into kitsch. Presumably, the President thought he could use his following in the arts community to help push his preferred legislation through Congress.
The President here continues a trend that David Billet noted in a recent issue of Commentary by examining President Obama's desire to reduce the tax deduction on charitable contributions. Billet disagrees with this post of mine from last year. I suggested that there is no reason to give wealthy people a tax deduction when they write a large check to Harvard to get their son into the school. Billet notes that altering the status quo for charitable contributions would risk undermining civil society in general. The argument gives me pause, suggesting it would be very difficult to alter the law in one way without changing much else. More to the point, Billet connects this with a larger effort of Lefty groups to use the levers of power to direct civil society. Nothing should simply be free of government control, and free to do whatever it wants in American society, it seems. It must always be pushed to support another agenda:
The most notable campaign against the philanthropic status quo has been waged by the California-based Greenlining Institute, a nonprofit that seeks greater "racial and economic justice" by attempting to force greater minority representation in government, commerce, and higher education, mostly by publicly shaming or suing companies into doing the right thing. (The institute's name is a play on the practice by banks of "redlining" poor neighborhoods as bad credit risks; "most of our money," its director has boasted, comes not from donations but "from lawsuits.")
After a Greenlining study found that a mere 3 percent of private grant money in California went to minority-led causes, the group waged a concerted campaign on behalf of state legislation to require foundations with assets over $250 million to disclose the race, gender, and ethnicity of board members, staff, business contacts, and individual grantees (at one point sexual orientation was also included), and to report the amount and percentage of grants to organizations in which 50 percent or more of board members and staff were minorities.
I suspect that President Obama is sympatetic with that agenda. Any pool of money that can be used to further his agenda, which he regards as the national agenda, ought to be co-opted. In short, the President thinks America is a community of 300,000,000, and he wishes to organize it as if we were a republic the size of ancient Sparta.
Anxiety is now pervasive. Trust in government rose when Obama took office. It has fallen back to historic lows. Fifty-nine percent of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction." Although everyone knows this to be true, and has known it to be true for about six weeks, I think now the White also knows. And that fact is massive because everything they do from here on out will be with this in mind. Now we will find out how clever these guys are, and/or whether Obama can persuade or his voice is nothing more than background music. I am slo prepared to be surprised. I think they are in a tight political bind, and it will get tighter, the squeeze will now come from the right, now from the left, and then again. See George Will's call to get out of Afghanistan.
While perusing an old essay about John Adams, I stumbled upon this pearl of wisdom: "After [reading] a long and learned discourse from St. Augustine on the thesis that copulation was not known to Adam and Eve until after their expulsion from Eden, Adams could stand it no longer. 'Had Eve Bubbies?' he exploded. 'Could Adam see them, or feel them, without Concupiscence? Were they not made to Suckle Infants? For what was the Uterus made?"
Is there a better, short introduction to the idea of nature?
How low are the standards in New York City's schools? Would you believe that one can pass the test, and move up to the next grade, by guessing the answers?
Paul Krugman waxes nostalgic for the Nixon era, not because he likes Nixon, but because back in those days "moderate" Republicans and Democrats could come together to pass pretty much any piece of legislation that a liberal might want. The piece would be unremarkable if not for this line: "our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s."
Let's leave aside the blithe assumption that if things aren't developing as Krugman would like, it must be that evil corporations are to blame. Surely it can't be that le Peuple, repositories of all that is virtuous, are opposed to Nancy Pelosi's health care proposals. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he is correct. Large corporations are not new to the United States, nor are campaign donations. Shouldn't the fact that this "corporate-cash-dominated system" has allegedly arisen in the environment created by the Federal Election Campaign Act and, more recently, McCain-Feingold make us a just a tiny bit skeptical about campaign finance reform? In this context, this 1995 study by Brad Smith seems more relevant than ever.
The classic liberal used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a long-time refuge of the liberals: "Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible."