From the Executive Editor
One of the trickier aspects of editing a monthly magazine is dealing with a rapidly evolving topic, such as a presidential election, in a timely fashion. (To keep up with the hourly back-and-forth, visit our Web site, www.prospect.org.) Imagine my surprise, then, when Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama apparently sensed my apprehension and each decided to win just enough delegates (and no more) to keep their race going well into the spring, if not the summer. So it is that we are able to bring you Ezra Klein's essay on the policy similarities and political-existential differences between the two candidates, as well as Bob Kuttner's article on the kind of program the eventual Democratic nominee will need to reverse America's economic decline.
Elsewhere in this issue, David Bacon uncovers a story with major political implications for the Deep South: In Mississippi, black political elites have taken up the cause of Latino immigrants in hopes of ousting the state's reactionary political establishment. Barbara Dreyfuss and Tara McKelvey report on the nationwide rise of casino gambling and conclude that while states may view the new revenue as a financial panacea, the actual costs, both fiscal and human, that gambling incurs far outweigh the benefits. And Eric Alterman explains the inexplicable -- what Bill Kristol is doing on The New York Times op-ed page. Electoral choices contextualized and journalistic choices eviscerated, in this month's Prospect.
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No Compromising on Climate Change
In his otherwise astute survey of the political landscape around climate change ["This Will Mean the World to Us," January/February 2008], Chris Mooney takes a puzzling tone toward the activists who have pushed the issue forward in the last few years. He scolds them for asking too much. Urges them to be "pragmatic."
I wonder how many energy-industry lobbyists or right-wing think tankers are hearing the same thing. Only progressives suffer from the peculiar compulsion to compromise on their values before the fight has even begun in earnest.
On the question of auctioning permits under a cap-and-trade system, core values are at stake. If pollution permits are auctioned, the revenue can be used to offset the impact on middle- and working-class Americans. If the permits are given away to large polluters, the policy will amount to a large, regressive tax.
Politicians frequently must compromise. That is their job. For those of us who understand the gravity of the climate crisis, it is our job to push, and keep pushing.
Staff Writer, Grist.org
Richard Rothstein's analysis of the No Child Left Behind program?s enormous damage to American public schools displays his usual insight and comprehension of schooling issues ["Leaving 'No Child Left Behind' Behind," January/February 2008].
His agenda for "what the next president can do," however, lacks vision and ambition.
A truly progressive president could help to educate Americans that most of the problems in our public schools stem from the fact that the schools embody an industrial 19th- and early 20th-century paradigm?a structure and culture intended to produce classist and racist outcomes. A progressive president could support progressive educators, most of whom believe in an educational paradigm that focuses on learning, not sorting, and values a diverse ecology of learners and learning. If we truly want our democracy to work, we need to create profoundly democratic schools.
Rothstein responds: More democratic schools is a great idea, but calling on the president to "support progressive educators" or "educate Americans" about democratic education doesn't get us very far. No progressive educator I have ever met wants the federal government to try to force all schools to be like his or hers. What progressive education needs most is for the government, the federal government especially, to cease its efforts to standardize and micromanage schooling.
A Better Way for Our Kids
The Prospect's December 2007 special report, "Life Chances: The Case for Early Investment in Our Kids," is a thoughtful examination of our nation's desperate need for a comprehensive early childhood education system. The American Federation of Teachers for years has advocated for such affordable, accessible, and high-quality programs, which are the most effective way to shrink the achievement gap.
Two of the biggest obstacles to building high-quality programs are the abysmal wages of most early childhood educators and the pervasive lack of benefits, both of which contribute to constant staff turnover.
A system of high-quality early childhood education and care cannot be built on the backs of underpaid staff. A popular refrain in the early childhood education community sums it up best: Parents can?t afford to pay. Workers can't afford to stay. There's got to be a better way.
Edward J. McElroy
President, American Federation of Teachers