For the first time in a good while, we are about to be asked to stop some of what we’re doing, pay attention and take measure of various allegations of wrongdoing in high Washington places. You know — Benghazi “talking points,” the IRS’ special attention to Tea Party groups, the Obama administration’s snooping around reporters.
We are being told these are exciting days for education in Minnesota. For the first time in better than two decades DFLers control both houses of the legislature and the governor's chair. The spigots have finally been pried open, and the dollars are about to flow. What could be more exciting than that? Plenty.
Coolidge. The title is as spare and direct as the subject. Building on her previous book, The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes might have added “The Forgotten President.” Then again, perhaps she realized that Calvin Coolidge’s problem is less that he has been forgotten than that he has been “misremembered,” as the unforgettable Roger Clemens might have put it. Such “misremembering” has had its minuses and at least one plus. On the negative side, it’s contributed to the reviling and ridiculing of Mr. Coolidge. On the plus side, it’s also contributed to his having been generally underestimated.
Nearly a decade ago, the Minnesota Department of Education thoroughly revised the social-studies standards for K-12 public schools. Largely a response to the much-reviled Profiles of Learning, these new standards sought to beef up content and drastically reduce the busywork that was so prominent under the Profiles -- and so frustrating to both teachers and students.
Thanks to Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis, Abraham Lincoln is with us once again. Actually, in a very real sense our sixteenth president has never really left us. He is always hovering over us and preaching to us, forever prodding us and haunting us.
We learned that our president and his party really do believe in a version of American exceptionalism. Remember that great debate over this thing called American exceptionalism? The whole thing briefly came to a head during the first Obama administration, when the president was asked if he believed in it. At the time his answer seemed to speak volumes. Yes, he did believe in American exceptionalism. Then he promptly added a qualifier: He believed in it just as the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.
Ever since Barack Obama entered the White House, pundits and historians have been searching for presidential parallels. Is our 44th president the new Lincoln out to give the country a “new birth of freedom?” Is he another Theodore Roosevelt bent on pursuing the Rough Rider’s progressive agenda? Is he some combination of FDR and LBJ delivering a new and greatly updated version of the New Deal/Great Society? Or is he the next JFK, full of youth and energy and a new New Frontier?
This new American Experiment symposium grows out of a book of mine published just about a year ago, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation, which examined many of the problems and shortcomings resulting from very high rates of nonmarital births, very high rates of divorce, and routinely short-lived cohabiting relationships. One of the book’s central themes is how such family churning—more specifically, the extent to which it hurts great numbers of children—is leading, and can only lead, to stunted mobility and deeper class divisions in a nation that has never viewed itself in such splintered ways.