• Bridging Differences

    In Bridging Differences
    Deborah exchanges views with a different colleague, each for a month or two.  Her current correspondent is Harry Boyte, a Minnesotan (although his roots are southern). He has always been a friend and mentor, even though we come to stuff in different ways and even disagree on and off. He is a professor and an activist, a theorist and a practitioner, with a focus on democracy—beginning a long time ago when he worked with Martin Luther King. He has written or edited ten books on the topic and founded a Center on
    democracy which is now at St Augsberg College, but formerly at the University of Minnesota.  

  • Where I’ll Be

    Dec 1-3, 2016 Fall Forum Coalition of Essential Schools: Providence, Rhode Island

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  • Good Morning Mission Hill

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Thoughts on Democracy

Dear friends,

I am back “in business”—I hope. Permanently one-eyed but out of pain.

I am usually out of town before general elections—I have gone to Pennsylvania several times as well as Ohio. I combine visiting friends and electioneering in possible swing states. I would love to be there in Ohio now.

What a terrible election to live through. I was excited by the possibility of voting for someone I was enthusiastic about (Bernie), but I am equally “enthusiastically” against Trump, so I find I can put my whole heart into this anyway. We did miss a great chance—maybe once in a lifetime (mine) of electing someone who is a democratic in the full sense of that word. Many of my allies did not support him even though they agreed with me because they thought since he had no chance in the primary, and certainly not in the general election, it was fruitless effort. Oddly they turned out to probably be wrong on both counts.

What next? I have no idea. Forgive me for rarely being a good prognosticator. Actually on the whole I have anticipated worse rather than better than we got. That’s the good news.

Harry Boyte and I are carrying on an exchange—not a debate—about the meaning of democracy on my Bridging Differences EdWeek blog. There is a range of so-called democracies from outright fraud to a fulsome healthy democracy such as maybe we have never seen on a grand scale. Defining its essence is not easy. An uncompromised democracy on a large scale may even be impossible. It is hard enough in one small school.  Which should not stop us from getting as close as we can in each situation and not falling back on undemocratic means in order to get our ends.

Robert Reich, economist at the U of California, Berkeley has written a neat little book called Saving Capitalism. Actually, I am not for saving it as a system, although some practices that developed as capitalism took over the world are definitely worth preserving. That is because my definition of socialism is a system of democracy—both economic and political and social. There is plenty of room for argument about who should control the “means of production,” where decisions should be made about x, y and z, and who should have the vote (12 year olds? Felons? “foreigners”, etc.). What a fulsome democratic community should look like will take time for “the people” themselves to develop, and it will involve compromises of all sorts. And arguments. The only reasons we need democracy is because we need those arguments, and we need them to matter—count in the real world.

Also—have Isuggested before that you get a copy of The Math Myth by Andrew Hacker. Of course, I see democracy as part of most arguments—including the math wars. Therefore, I would claim that Hacker presents a case for the kind of math schools should be teaching that supports democracy. And I am not for mandating it! More on that another time. Meanwhile it is a fun read.

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10 Responses

  1. So good to hear you’re free of pain!! Will call tomorrow. Come here to door knock or make calls!

  2. I my, so good to hear you are feeling yourself again and to “hear” your voice come through in this post!

  3. You are an amazing person; that I am related to you is my luck

  4. Remember what Tip O’Neil said about local politics.

    Put a school board in every school and see what happens to our kids and our country!

  5. Warmest hello!!! Neal

  6. Dear Deborah,
    I am your admirer of many years. I have a book, DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION, that fits ‘hand in glove’ with your ideas of democracy, You or anyone else can read it on slideshare.net/jamesleiter

    Thanks for the inspiration you give me and so many others.

    James Leiter
    Morelia, Mexico

  7. Dear Deborah, It’s so great to have you back. I think of you often.
    I was so excited about Bernie. (His poster is still in my window.) I’d been waiting for someone with his values and convictions ever since I first voted so many years ago. That said, I feel like I must vote for HRC because of Trump. I do, however, feel like I’m being denied my free will in this election. What a travesty.
    Again, so glad that you’re back in action. We need you!
    Renee

  8. Glad to see you back on the elusive trail of democracy!

  9. 🙂 Keep on truckin’ 🙂 Neal

  10. Beloved cyclops: I was not aware of your tribulations, but glad to hear your voice and your spirit in this post. Like you, I had hope and excitement about Bernie Sanders — and think various allies were wrong about what was possible with his campaign. Unlike you, I did not find this liberal “realism,” at all odd. All politics begins in the imagination — in what both leaders and the rest of us consider the realm of the possible to be. And it is there that we lose our first battles. Although not a Big-C conspiracy, a lot of effort is put into propagating a sense of consensus, pragmatism, and what is “normal”. If I can define a range of possibilty as everything worth talking about, then I have mostly won the argument before it begins.

    That our current President buys into the myth of American exceptionalism, for example, explains the grotesque abyss between his nuanced discussion of nuclear weapons and military solutions to international problems, and his actual poilcies (incremental drone- and commando-rich expansion in the mideast, and vast “modernization” of nukes.) Ditto the unprecedented hostility towards whistleblowers and consolidation of “emergency” measures (cf. Patriot Act) enacted after 9-11.

    Also, I suggest, related to why–in his Birmingham Jail letter–Dr. King said he was more frustrated by the shallow understanding of some of his friends, than the ill will of his enemies.

    “Roll of thunder, hear my cry…” (!)

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