What a good public university can do

The value of public educational institutions extends far beyond the K-12 schools I wrote about earlier this month. Public universities can also be outsize contributors to the public good. Washington Monthly has a track record of excellent work on higher ed — this article on the University of California system is a great example.  It describes how the UC system has largely managed to be free tuition, even after the Reagan administration abolished free tuition for all.

What difference one good public school makes

It’s now more than two weeks since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. By the usual chronology the story would be old news, the brief activism for gun control would have passed and the NRA would again be in control of the story. That’s what has happened after many shootings. But Stoneman Douglas is still news, still in our faces, largely because of the activism of the survivors themselves. Why are they different? One thought is that their school prepared them for this role.

From the Washington Monthly: read this story about their school and their AP Government class.

From Slate: Another story on the same theme, noting the importance of adequate funding

Make schools more like churches and less like prisons.

Sometimes really good ideas appear in unexpected places. I really like this infographic from a tech blog.

There are nearly a dozen really helpful ideas about making schools safer and more affirming places. Far better than arming teachers.

Words matter

Many have commented on how our Pr*sident talks about terrorist attacks, specifically the differences between his responses to a white shooter and a shooter of color. As qualitative researchers know, a graphic can make the point very strongly.

Word cloud white v. non-white attacker. God is center of white attacker; terrorist is center of non-white attacker

Word cloud white v. non-white attacker


This is from a Patheos post that I recommend.

Long campaign? Yes, that’s a good thing

The last ten days or so have been really interesting in the presidential campaign. I think the news over that time may have changed my mind about the length of presidential campaigns. Like many of you I looked with envy at the short UK campaigns. And I’ve complained as our campaigns stretch into another year.

In so many ways, of course, this campaign is unlike any prior campaign. The difference is Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is the first woman candidate of a major party, but is in most respects a conventional candidate. Trump is anything but conventional. It has taken time, perhaps months or years, for investigative reporters to figure what to look for and where to look in exposing Trump’s past. He has no political history. Where reporters have been investigating the Clintons for decades, they are just getting started with Trump.

In only the last couple of weeks, the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has written about illegal behavior of Trump’s foundation, including that the foundation appears to lack even the basic documentation from the state of New York to accept tax deductible contributions. He has also exposed self-dealing, illegal behavior for a foundation. Fahrenthold has been on the story since January, but it takes time to build a case and develop the story.

Similarly Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald has documented Trump’s violation of the embargo of Cuba. These stories don’t get investigated and reported in a couple of weeks.

Vox has a good summary of Trump’s corrupt past.

Maybe a longer campaign is a good thing, since it may take a while to figure out what a candidate has done, when that candidate has no political history and reporters have to start from scratch in building that history. They could not have done that work in three months or so.


Shining a light on privatization of Michigan schools

Michigan Public Radio has been running a really good series on the state of our schools. They’ve talked about declining funding and the increase in charter schools, but haven’t quite gotten to the point of asking how this all happened. That’s going to be up to activists.

Progress Michigan is taking that on. A lot of it goes to one family, DeVos, of Grand Rapids. They’ve contributed to Republicans and spread the myth of failing public schools and the supposed benefits of charters. This is going to be important.

Creating low information voters

The Michigan Legislature never ceases to amaze. Making it hard to vote is not enough. Now they want to reduce the information available to voters. It has long been illegal for municipalities to advocate for or against ballot initiatives. But cities and school districts have been able to publish objective information about initiatives. Under this legislation that would be illegal for 60 days prior to an election. What does that mean? Information will come from those with an interest in the outcome, such as, oh, let me see, maybe Americans for Prosperity? Sure, liberal and progressive groups would also be able to publish information, but we generally have less money than the Koch funded astroturf organizations.

This is an example of fixing a non-existent problem. Kind of like eliminating straight party voting.

Religious Freedom

This is from Juan Cole. The post is about the importance of religious freedom to the founders. Islam is particularly mentioned as included in religious freedom.

But for those of us who identify as Episcopalians, there is this:

So not only did the Founding Generation not harbor a grudge against the religion of the British Crown (which had tried to crush them), they were perfectly willing to give non-Tory Anglicans high official positions in the new Republic. It would be as though the the current chaplain of the Senate were a former al-Qaeda member who had broken with Bin Laden and declared allegiance to the United States.

That is, the Founding Generation made a key distinction between religious practice and political loyalty, and had granted freedom of religion to non-Tory Anglicans.


Read the whole post.

MSNBC and Trump

Last night was crazy. The network that used to be considered liberal (and still is labeled as such by conservatives) is slowly going mainstream. It will soon be carrying a Bloomberg network news show. Of the liberals, only Chris Hayes and Rachel are left. (Chris Matthews is pretty centrist, DLC style.)

But last night MSNBC played most of Trump’s speech live. This was the speech in which he announced his plan to bar Muslims from entering the country. Yes, that’s newsworthy. But the whole speech was not newsworthy. MSNBC was just giving him free air time. It would have been better to use the time to play his statement on Muslims, then discuss it and talk about its basic inhumanity, impracticality, and conflict with American values.

I’m not afraid of dangerous ideas. But I want serious journalists to take their time to analyze issues, bring in knowledgeable people, and help us think through the consequences of crazy ideas.

What is a Deacon?

During summer, 2014, I was away from my home parish. While away, I served at Christ church Cranbrook and Holy Cross Novi, introducing these two churches to the diaconate. My sermon at Christ Church Cranbrook was picked up by The Record, the magazine of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. It’s available online, so rather than copy it here, I’ll let you read it in The Record. You’ll need to flip to p. 14.