from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Monday, February 16, 2004


the following is the text of a post I made in response to Stirling Newberry on dailykos today. Since I do not have much time to blog or to think today, I thought I would post it here for those who might encounter my ramblings on this site, but do not regularly peruse www.dailykos.com.
This is one question we did not cover in our delightful exchange at Recessions on Firday the 13th.

While Republicans do not agree on all issues, in general if one is talking to a Republican one can expect a person who will want in general to lower taxes, thinks corporate taxes and inheritance taxes are wrong, wants to minimize the ability of the government to regulate corporations and the private uses of land, and is likely to support giving public funds for school vouchers. Beyond that there may be disagreements, such as questions of abortion, or how much authroity the government should be given to regulate private behavior, such as drugs and sex.

If I look at the Democratic party, I have a hard time phrasing something to which most Democrats could agree. Certainly most Democrats are at least somewhat pro-Choice, although we had as a ranking member in the House David Bonior who was actively pro-life. We have taken very inconsistent positions on issues like taxes and the government regulation of private behavior. Some, like John Dingell, are perfectly willing to oppose the general party consesus on things like CAFE standards for the benefit of industries in his state. others, like Baucus, have opposed sensible attempts by people such as Bruce Babbitt to get some meaningful Federal control on the misuse of public lands in the west.

One reason I absolutely refuse to identify myself with the ABB people is because I think the Democratic party has to explain FOR what it stands, not just what or whom it opposes.

it has bothered me for years that the Democrfatic party, the party of the New Deal, the party which claims it supports the little guy, was far more dependent upon the big contributors than was the Republican party. That was one thing that excited me about the Dean campaign.

And while I fully accept that in political endeavors there must be compromises, the purpose of compromising one issue is supposed to be to achieve success in another, and to me the compromises I have seen made by many in leadership positions of the Democratic party have been t best to preserve their own "electability" but to what end I am not sure.

You write about choosing to put aside life in the private sector to pursue your endeavors in the public sector. I made that choice many years ago, when I left a promising position in a consulting firm to return to work for local government. I reaffirmed that decision when I left a supervisory position with local government to go become a public school teacher. I attempt in my teaching to persuade my students that their efforts can make a difference, that they as individuals can affect who gets elected and what actions are taken in our names. So long as I can maintain an honest intensity towards this in the teaching I do, it may have a far greater effect than anything I have ever done in the political arena, which has at times been intense, even before my involvement for Dean the past 8 months.

I saw an opportunity to change how our politics were being done. That, as much as anything, is why I got involved. It is also why I cannot take the route of active involvement in local party structures because I believe that even at the local level they are a major part of the problem. I will continue to actively support candidates I believe represent on the whoel things in which i believe, and/or who can advance a more progressive and inclusive way of doing politics. it is one reason I continue to live in Arlington Virginia when I could either move the Capital Hill where my wife works and get rid of one car and cut my commute, or move to the city of Greenbelt MD (which is also somewhat progressive) where I teach. Despite our almost 200,000 people, Arlington is still a place where it is possible to affect public discourse without having to go through the normal political structures, and those political structures are themselves still somewhat amenable to change or at least to influence.

So while I welcome your very lucid exhortation to not give up the fight, I also have to say for myself that they way I will continue the fight is unlikely to be through traditional party mechanism. Perhaps if others think I have any skills of persuasion, I can use those to advance the causes and issues about which I deeply care. I can write op eds, continue to participate in blog exchanges, talk to people in both public and private settings. But I think i have far greater influence by merely living what I believe. That means I am willing to stand up and speak out when I see things wrong, regardless of personal or political consequences. That means that I remain willing to sacrifice time, treasure and even privacy on behalf of that which may not benefit me personally, but which is essential if this nation and the communities and people within are going to realize their full potential.

For me, I know that teaching is who I am, but that teaching often occurs outside the formal classroom. To me, teaching is a dialog, one which requires as much listening and observation as it does speaking and writing and correcting.

I do not have wonderful quotes from others that I can now offer to buttress the statement about how I think I should proceed. I can only suggest that we all accept that there will be different paths, that, to refer to First Corinthians as an exemplar, there are many different gifts of the spirit, but even were we to have all and have not charity {love} we would be nothing but instruments whose sounds were not music but merely noise.

Put another way -- America and Americans desperately need to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. Rather than to confront someone on our points of conflict, we will only advance those causes we hold dear when we can find common points of interest and concern.

And I think I now being to ramble, so this becomes a good time to end this post and return to my task of helping my students express their thoughts more clearly and more persuasively. I note that I am most effective in helping them not by telling them, but by asking them, by giving them a chance to try again to say what they intend. I wonder if there is for us in that insight anything of value for the political endeavors about which we express ourselves here at dailykos?
FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME OFFLINE at kber@earthlink.net Comments, suggestions and even rude remarks are welcomed! Preface any messages with "teacherken" so I know they are not spam.
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