Like the NY Times op-ed column “After the Women’s March” by David Brooks, and the accompanying linked article by Mark Lilla (here), I think the Oregon Democratic Party and school activists in Portland are too focused on identity politics (and the organizational interest of some of the governing political coalition, like teacher unions) and not enough on the larger issues of our times.
From the Brooks column (here), writing of the Women’s March:
In the first place, this movement focuses on the wrong issues. Of course, many marchers came with broad anti-Trump agendas, but they were marching under the conventional structure in which the central issues were clear. As The Washington Post reported, they were “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change.”
These are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities. But this is 2017. Ethnic populism is rising around the world. The crucial problems today concern the way technology and globalization are decimating jobs and tearing the social fabric; the way migration is redefining nation-states; the way the post-World War II order is increasingly being rejected as a means to keep the peace.
It will not be easy. We do, as many are saying, need to reach out to the White working class, both urban and rural. But what do we tell them about jobs and education. We cannot tell them we are going to bring back the jobs of the past. Or that our current education system can prepare them and their children for a better life. We have to look to the future in ways that Trump does not. We cannot be complacent. We have to change. We need to sell more to the rest of the world. We need an education system that develops global marketing and production skills.
So, in Portland Public Schools, we need to shift the focus from identity politics and “neighborhood schools” to, as Brooks writes, “All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.”
Our schools need to be in the “main arena of national life” with better solutions than those offered by Trump. We need to shake off our complacency, consider a broader range of issues, and do more.