December 2, 2004

New visions....

In a comment to the previous post, about the pessimism that seems to have become the dominant feature of the Left these days, Megan left a comment that pointed to a site: 2020 Democrats, as an example of optimistic "Progressives."

2020 Democrats is an independent organization dedicated to uniting young people around a vision for our future—and then turning that vision into a reality.

I do wish them all luck and success. They seem like some nice folks, but at a guess, they are not quite ready to come up with new visions. To do that, you have to be willing to give your old visions a clear hard look. And be willing to seriously consider the possibility of discarding them. I suspect they're not there yet.

For example here's an essay from their site I liked, by Jorge Miranda, one of the founders of the group. He's a teacher, and writes movingly on the difficulties teachers face, and how important it is to give them needed support and training. But he concludes by saying, more or less, "we need to think about these things." OK, yeah, but what I noticed, sitting in the middle of his essay like the proverbial elephant in the living-room waiting to be thought about, is this:

...At my current school, the MATCH (Media and Technology Charter High) School, I have a principal with 30 years experience in the public schools, available to talk through situations with me and present solutions and ideas based on his own experiences. This is how young teachers should learn.

MATCH supports me in other ways as well. We have a school-wide set of rules called the "Non-Negotiables" (i.e. Be prepared to work every day; Attend school daily on time) with school-wide consequences, which creates consistency from class to class and frees teachers to focus on the quality of student learning. For the first time in three years of teaching, I'm actually having conversations with colleagues about how to become a better teacher.

Most importantly, the MATCH school revolves around its mission: to prepare Boston students to succeed in college and beyond, including and especially those students who have not been led to expect a university education. As simple as it sounds, this mission has helped create an environment in which teachers and staff strive constantly to improve academic achievement...

SO, you go from a public school to a charter school, and discover a much better learning environment. Doesn't this cry out for some thinking? Probing? Why are charter schools different? If one charter school is good, would ten be better? Or ten thousand? Might this be a small part of a new vision?

My guess is that people like Jorge aren't going to venture down that road. It would put them in conflict with parts of the old vision. Not to mention parts of the old coalition. [Take a look at this.]

Likewise with another education essay linked on their site, about tax policy and providing more money for public schools..interesting stuff, but there's not a hint of thinking about whether lack of money is really the problem. (One might ponder on the fact that one of the best-funded ($ per student) school systems in our country is...Washington DC—a notorious failure)

I think that Democrats have internalized a lot of limits on what they can question and debate. You just don't probe certain sore spots, sort of like a family with a big scandal in its past. The 2020 Democrats claim to be young people, perhaps they will eventually be more flexible.

Posted by John Weidner at December 2, 2004 8:10 PM
Weblog by John Weidner