Monthly Archives: September 2011

In What Way Justice?

What does it mean to be an American the day after Georgia may have just murdered an innocent man?

Read the first words of the preamble to our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice.”

Read the phrase engraved above the entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

And read the reaction by the widow of the man Troy Jones was convicted of murdering 22 years ago: “We have laws in this land so that there is not chaos.”

In this year of global upheaval – from Egypt to Wisconsin – what is happening to our capacity to serve as the world’s beacon of freedom and equality? And when did our conception of justice shift so mightily – from securing equal treatment to avoiding chaos?

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Mission Accomplished? What the U.S. Can Learn from China

I just returned from my first visit to China in 15 years, and I still can’t get over how aligned the Middle Kingdom remains around its core “mission statement” – and how misaligned we remain in the United States.

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The Many Faces of Thea

It wasn’t until the end of her tragically short life that Thea Leopolous first discovered the depth of her talent as an artist.

A buoyant, beautiful girl with dark eyebrows and sharp brown eyes, Thea spent her childhood believing the experts who first told her, back in third grade, she was unworthy of acceptance to the local program for “gifted and talented” children. Since then, Thea had struggled in her coursework and felt uninspired by a stream of classes that focused too much on academics, and not enough on other forms of learning, like the arts.

Then, in her junior year of high school, she produced a finger-painted portrait of B.B. King and removed any doubt of whether or not she was talented. Soon after, her capacity to excel in every area of her life changed dramatically. She had discovered a new source of confidence and calm. She had found her path.

A few months later, she was killed by a drunk driver.

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Is School Renovation The Change We Seek?

OK, I realize I’m late to the game – I was in China last week when President Obama first outlined his jobs proposal to a joint session of Congress. But I’m back now, and I just read it, and as I look at it I’m wondering if anyone else has made a simple observation about his idea to renovate America’s crumbling public school buildings:

Is this really the change we seek?

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What Plato Would Think of School Choice

“But how, exactly, will they be reared and educated by us? And does our considering this contribute anything to our goal of discerning that for the sake of which we are considering all these things – in what way justice and injustice come into being in a city.”
—Plato, The Republic

Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call, I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the city breathin’, Chest heavin’, against the flesh of the evening, Sigh before we die like the last train leaving.
—Black Star, Respiration

What characterizes the ideal city – and the cities in which we live? How accurately does the health of a city reflect the quality of its plan for educating its youngest citizens? And does the push towards greater school choice get us closer to, or farther from, that ideal?

I’ve been thinking about those questions a lot since reading a column by George Will in last weekend’s Washington Post. In it he references two U.S. Supreme Court opinions in which the Court affirmed the constitutional right of parents “to direct the … education of children under their control.” As a student of the 14th Amendment, I sought the opinions out. What struck me had less to do with the legal arguments, however, and more to do with an excerpt in one of the opinions from Plato’s Republic, arguably the most famous political work of all time, and a work squarely concerned with the role a city – and, by extension, its education system – must play in helping all people develop their fullest potential.

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