“It’s our democracy, stupid.”


The continued existence of democracy, much less an even stronger one, is what is in a crisis. The “school crisis”, along with many others, is a distraction. Just a symptom of the more serious crisis we face. Schools are simply one of our many institutions that are under attack. The very “idea” of democracy is being undermined over and over again–and its not easy for me to see how we can put humpty-dumpty together again. Because it’s democracy that is the real basis for the idea of accountability! “Throw the rascals out” is where it all begins. But “accountability” is now being used as a tool to undermine democracy!

The democracy we have experienced for several hundred years was pretty thin at it’s start, and began slowly to take on some flesh—as more and more of us were included, viewed as members of “the ruling class” with a right to make decisions about our future. But on every front we’re losing ground: voting? Clearly between gerrymandering and media consolidation and huge spending by rich individuals, corporations and foundations (so-called) the decks are heavily stacked against “us”. For perhaps the first (or 2nd?) time in our history the people’s vote for Congress is not reflected in who got elected to represent us. The number of low-income and black citizens who are now in jail make a mockery of democracy–and deprive millions of their right to vote. And the campaign to restrict voting further continues. (No country comes close to having as many of its people in prison!) And on and on.

I remember….when people said that our “exceptionalism” was due to our unusually large middle class, our social and class mobility, etc. These are not true anymore. We are lower on the international lists of mobility, care for children, income and wealth inequality than almost all OECD countries. Thank god for Russia and Mexico–who did even worse. In comparison, US schools look pretty good!!!!

But the same is true no matter what and where we look. Public libraries are endangered, local Post Offices closed, local school boards eliminated or increasingly irrelevant (In 1940 we had 200,000 such boards, today we have maybe 10,000–and many more students ). We want college degrees for “all”–but tuitions keep rising higher and higher, and now interest rates on tuition loans are increasing too!

Taxes are more unequal–and less onerous for the rich than they have been since before the New Deal–80 years ago. Fear, the enemy of democracy as FDR noted, is rampant. Secure pensions and social security seem precarious. The “government” thus cannot be “trusted” to hold our money safe for our future, claim the democracy enemies.

And the one major “balancing power” –labor unions–haven’t been so weak since I was a child.

I’ve barely covered a small part of what’s in store for us. And those behind these developments are moving as fast as they can–so that unraveling them becomes harder and harder to imagine. I hesitated to write this down–because it can paralyze us if it’s true. But it mustn’t.

Who is to stop this assault? I know, us.

10 Responses

  1. You’re right. This is hardly a battle that is being waged on public education alone. Jon Awbrey’s link is a noteworthy addition to your post. Keep writing for all of us.

  2. “us” is right, but by that we must find a great leader. How do we do that when it seems all the great leaders of today are corrupt in some manner???

  3. Yes. And the lack of civics education is no accident. I thought that would be in the Common Core, but no. Working people are being set against each other and young and old as well. People are riven by fear and envy. Please keep speaking out.

  4. Deborah, I have written to you before. A solution to the problems, stated above, is at hand. My school discipline plan works. Parents and communities can bring schools under control. When schools become disciplined, parents, communities, and schools empower themselves. You bemoan and complain about the state of affairs and wonder what can be done. How would you like being a person who has a possible solution and no one pays attention?

    • I’m accustomed to that and it feels terrible.

      Yes; I may disagree with x or y approach, but it takes parents and teachers together to tackle this ne.

  5. I came to Dewey from the direction of Peirce, so I probably noticed the war on our communities of inquiry before the others. Chris Mooney, among others, told us more about the Regressives’ war on science than we could bear to hear, and things have gotten even worse since then.

  6. Strong stuff, but undeniably true. I don’t think we can have real democracy until it is instilled in us at an early age..primarily in the family..and then in the schools. These two social creations are, in general, still highly authoritarian, so it’s no surprise that other social institutions created by us reflect this. The visions of people like Marshall Rosenberg and Paolo Freire havn’t begun to take root. But many are keeping the spirit alive. You are one of them! Thank you.

  7. The problem is: Eric Holder is wrong. Unlike citizens in every other advanced democracy—and many other developing ones—Americans don’t have a right to vote. Popular perception notwithstanding, the Constitution provides no explicit guarantee of voting rights. Instead, it outlines a few broad parameters. Article 1, Section 2, stipulates that the House of Representatives “shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States,” while Article 1, Section 4, reserves the conduct of elections to the states. The Constitution does, however, detail the ways in which groups of people cannot be denied the vote. The 15th Amendment says you can’t prevent African American men from voting. The 19th Amendment says you can’t keep women from voting. Nor can you keep citizens of Washington, D.C., (23rd Amendment) or 18-year-olds (26th Amendment) from exercising the franchise. If you can vote for the most “numerous” branch of your state legislature, then you can also vote for U.S. Senate (17th Amendment).

  8. At the heart of democracy in principle is the right to vote. Though many erroneously believe this right appeared magically after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the only Americans allowed at the polls at the turn of the 19th century during the “Birth of a Nation” were free, white, male landowners at least 21 years of age. It took a lot of later amendments to enfranchise the majority of the people, after the Civil War, another just after World War I and yet another during the final year of the Vietnam Conflict. It took a lot of courageous common people to win the battles for voting rights for black people (1865), for women (1920) and for people under the age of 21 (1972).

  9. […] Published by Deb Meier on April 28, […]

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