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Democracy and the common good

Dear friends and colleagues,

Well, it’s been nearly three months since I have written here.  But I am about to change my ways.

I am debating/discussing structural vs cultural change with Harry Boyte on Bridging Differences.  Tune in.

I am thinking a lot about math education since reading a pre-publication of Andrew Hacker’s The Math Myth.  I can’t wait until it hits the stands.

I am taking note of all the ways we are privatizing our society and abandoning our belief in democracy,  the “common good”, the public space, call it what you will. The New York Times (Nov 2nd) had a front page headline on the “Privatization of the Justice System.” We have always known it helps sway the judge and jury if you are rich, have top lawyers, etc. But this is about the many areas in which people often unwittingly agree to give up their right to ever see a judge and jury if they have a grievance, but are forced to use private arbitrators and cannot sign on to any class-action suit.

The more egalitarian our definition of citizenship the more concern there is by some about the “idea” of one person, one vote.  Too many of the choices the privatizers are now suggesting open up more possibilities for some than others.  The choice of going to a private school with a voucher is not actually a choice if you haven’t the means to pay the difference or aren’t “chosen.” Yes, you have a choice of cars to buy…but. The data I have read about the number of poor people who do not have the choice of a lawyer to represent their interests. No surprise: some choices cost a lot ore than others.

The idea of democracy comes out of an idea of the “common good”—a way to hold rulers accountable to all. However who belonged to that “all” was not everyone.  Sometimes it was, in fact, a very small proportion of the entire population.  But it assumed that among those who had full citizenship there was good reason to have considerable trust. It assumed that most citizens had their peers interest at heart, even if they interpreted it differently. It assumed free speech, free assembly, and mutual respect— win some, lose some. It was an answer to royal inherited power—instead “the people” had the power.  When we expanded full citizenship to include men without property, women, former slaves, etc. it naturally become harder to identity what our “common interests” were.  Some “wins” seemed too dangerous to those with more power to let free choice play itself out. It was not obvious to some parents, for example, that “their” precious child was of equal interest to those who determined school policy.

That is what we are struggling with these days in school “reform”—and it will not be easily solved in a society that holds private space as more precious than public space, especially when some have a lot more private space than others have, in the order of thousands of times more.

Deb

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3 Responses

  1. You are right on I look forward to your discussion

    I wonder if we still had a school board in every school we might not have lost the democratic process — “The Road to Trust”

    Thanks Conrad Stroebe 406-245-6102

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. The Road to Trust

    Why not put a school board in every urban(neighborhood) or inner city school?

  3. Great, Deb. It resonates deeply. Hugs from China. Later on my way to struggling Europe. Happy to miss repub response for it is shameful. Have a great day! Bianca

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