Supremes: Working Hard for the Money

Roseville, Minn.

With each reading of your superb Supreme Court edition (Oct. 8), I gain a better understanding of the peril our democracy is in and wonder if/how our elected officials are up to meeting what could be the greatest challenge facing this country ever. It’s a must-read for everyone who wishes to stop our America from becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.


Newberg, Ore.

The entire special issue on the Supreme Court was beautifully, beautifully done, I’m truly sorry to see.


Washington, D.C.

I agree wholeheartedly with Nan Aron in “The Way Forward” on the need for more progressive action on the judiciary. But the goal isn’t just to swing the pendulum back in a progressive direction today, but to make the courts a central theme for progressives tomorrow as well. The good news is that the Constitution is on our side. Working to create a judiciary that is true to progressive values and that represents us all will restore the public’s confidence that the courts are where all Americans—not just the rich and powerful—can get justice.

On a tactical level, much of what Aron suggests is already being done. At the Center for American Progress, we developed a progressive message on the courts focused on access to justice for all Americans and judges who are not captured by corporate special interests and rooted that message in the text and history of the Constitution. That message is changing the national conversation. The American Constitution Society was created to develop a “bench for the bench” and is cultivating future judges across the country. The Constitutional Accountability Center is engaged in cutting-edge, cross-issue progressive litigation. Many other organizations have been working on judicial nominations for decades.

Looking forward, progressives need to expand the circle of those who care and who will take action. So we are working to develop a foundation of progressive advocates nationwide who can integrate the courts and nominations into the work they are already doing in other areas. The message is simple: no matter what issue you care about, you must care about who is on the courts.

ANDREW BLOTKY, director, Legal Progress Center for American Progress

CTU: Have We Got Reforms for You!

Portland, Ore.

Pedro Noguera is right [“Chicago Strike Lessons,” Oct. 8] to praise the Chicago teachers for standing up to the political establishment on both sides of the aisle, and his proposals to focus on poverty, changing demographics and growing segregation warrant further effort. However, his claim that the Chicago Teachers Union has been “less clear about what should be done to promote change and improvement” and that the CTU is not “offering a vision for comprehensive change” is completely false. The CTU has put out “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” a lengthy document that details ten research-based proposals. Unlike teacher accountability, high-stakes testing and privatization, these are proven educational reforms (see

STEPHEN SIEGEL, school counselor,
Social Equality Educators

Students: Lost in the High-$takes Shuffle

Fernley, Nev.

Melissa Harris-Perry’s column on the Chicago teachers strike was very true [“Sister Citizen,” Oct. 8]. The focus on high-stakes testing has eroded students’ rights and blurred the role of public education. When I began teaching in 1981, the long-term goal of public school was to ready our students to become productive citizens. Teachers had a good deal of autonomy in the classroom while following a school district’s guidelines. We administered a standardized test in the fall and a follow-up in the spring to evaluate student progress. Tests were not used as weapons against teachers but as diagnostics for reaching students. It was not difficult for a dedicated teacher to meet student needs and keep focused on the long-term goals of our schools.

The push for testing to be used for teacher accountability has been accelerated by the No Child Left Behind Act, a dystopian nightmare conjured up by the textbook corporations that participated in the education commission initiated by the Bush administration. Publishing companies profited greatly from NCLB, which was based on a failed policy from a Houston school district. Later investigations showed that administrators from that district presented manipulated data to show false student graduation rates. These skewed data were then used to push NCLB into law. The superintendent, Rod Paige, was then named head of the Bush Education Department and is now an education adviser to Mitt Romney.

This shift toward tests as a measure of teacher performance has set up the battle between teachers unions and policy-makers. The same companies that provide standardized tests also offer textbooks that correlate with those tests. Profits have soared. Certainly a win-win for them.

The goal of education has shifted as well. Now the aim of public schools is to prepare students to become “workers who can compete in a global economy.” The jargon and policies implemented by public school administrators is remarkably similar to those of global corporations. Our public schools have been turned into employee training sites for Target and Walmart.

As more money goes toward test readiness, test analysis and test administrators, and as more time is spent on classroom testing procedures and teacher training seminars, less time goes to meaningful classroom lessons and planning. And as the battle between teachers and policy-makers intensifies, student needs are pushed aside; both have staked out their battlegrounds and drawn their lines in the sand. And in the mess we’ve created, we are losing our students.


Greeks & Godfathers

Brownington, Vt.

Eric Alterman’s comparison of a search for sensible conservatives to the task of Sisyphus escapes me [“The Liberal Media,” Oct. 8]. The horror of Sisyphus was having to repeat the same task over and over for eternity. A better analogy might be Diogenes’ search for an honest man.



As a Godfather fan and concerned citizen, I have to let Eric Alterman know that Michael Corleone didn’t say, “This is the life we have chosen.” Hyman Roth didn’t even say it. Roth did say, “This is the business we have chosen.” But point taken. Conservative “intellectuals” have been intellectually bankrupt for a long time and have become morally bankrupt as well.


Alterman Replies

New York City

Take the cannoli…