Russ Feingold: KO-ing the Money Power
John Nichols's cover story "Russ Feingold, the Senate's True Maverick" [Oct. 11], on Feingold's fight for re-election, aroused numerous emotions in me:
§ Sadness that too many Americans—and Wisconsinites—do not recognize a great public servant when they see one.
§ Anger that while Feingold acts in the best tradition of the Wisconsin Progressives, his opponent's camp acts in the tradition that produced another senator, Joe McCarthy.
§ Amazement that even Nichols suggests only that John McCain's "independence" was mere "attentiveness to the media," when it's clear that McCain never was a maverick.
§ Hope that, just as my senator, Harry Reid, who has done so much to advance the president's agenda and gotten so little credit, shows signs of overcoming his hateful opponent, Feingold can do the same.
His Silver Tongue Has Turned to Tin...
If there is one matter that seems beyond dispute, it's that President Obama has failed to use his silver tongue to the advantage of his program and his party. He should have started, on January 21, 2009, to weave a Democratic narrative: who we are, what we've done in the past, what we stand for. If he had done that, framed the issues to our advantage, it would have been much more difficult for the other side to get credence for its distortions. Now the Republicans are telling the stories, and their versions are prevailing. Look how Obama turned things around with his speech on race; why doesn't he use his verbal gifts on other issues? There is nothing—not money, not the GOP, not Congress—to prevent him from speaking out loud and clear. As one of your readers said ["Letters," Oct. 11], "We must fight the right by shouting out what the left has won for us all." Yes!
Waiting for Superman—or Mr. Chips?
New York City
As a teacher for thirty-four years, I was interested to read "Grading Waiting for Superman" by Dana Goldstein [Oct. 11]. She cites the Finnish school system as the best in the world. Ask any teacher what he or she would want if given one thing, and the answer is: reduced class size. Even bad teachers improve with smaller classes. So I looked up statistics on Finnish schools. The ratio of teachers to students in elementary grades is 15:1, lower in high school. The answer to the question, "What should we do first?" is clear: reduce class size. The Finns do it. Why can't we?
As a Baltimore Public Schools teacher, I thank you for Dana Goldstein's excellent review. Waiting for Superman is just another example of how teachers are being brutalized in the media in an effort to destroy the teachers unions. I would argue only with Goldstein's focus on the need for union organizing to appeal to the energetic, enthusiastic young teachers who pour into our schools from Teach for America. Most of these teachers stay for only a few years before they get on with their life (TFA is often dubbed Teach for Awhile), so this is hardly the way to build a long-term teaching force.
Recently I watched the networks relentlessly pushing Waiting for Superman, along with a crisis mentality about the state of education in this country. I was reminded of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. CNN's John Roberts commented, "America's schools are in desperate need of a rescue."
But do not despair. There is no shortage of free-market education profiteers poised to capitalize on this media-induced crisis and "rescue" the schools.
EUGENE B. PICKLER Read More