Connectedness

Notes from Our Past: Understanding the Threat of a Demagogue

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There’s no clearer sign about the character of this year’s presidential contest than the renewed interest in asking Google,  “What is a demagogue?” Senator Joseph McCarthy (led the Communist witch hunt) and Governor George C. Wallace (defended segregation) have landed in the news again as everyone grapples with whether or not we’re on the verge of electing a demagogue to the highest office. We all know demagogues are bad and could probably name a couple. What we really want to know is if we have the self-governing skills to recognize a demagogue without the benefit of reading about it in a…

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A Student Steps Up: Creative Impatience and the Willingness to Act

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As a High School Civics teacher, I am often and absolutely embarrassed by my own lack of civic activism. While I am encouraging and requiring and rewarding my students for getting involved in something – ANYTHING! – that they care about to protect or improve their communities, I nearly never practice what I preach. And it’s not simply that as a young, charter school teacher, my time and energy seem to disappear into an unending vortex of planning/grading/updating/bureaucracizing. OR the fact that as a perpetual presenter of the fair and balanced, I am daily forced to equivocate, moderate and pause…

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Opinion: I Knew Shays’ Rebellion. You’re No Shays’ Rebellion.

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Once upon a time, a militia saved our young nation from domestic insurrection, ages before the “Y’All Queda” interest groups cast themselves in false-flags: Saviors of the Constitution. Now: If you’ve been following the episode in Oregon, you know that the Hammonds were sent to jail by a federal order for setting brush fires on land they were leasing from the American people.  Willingly, the Hammonds reported for jail time; yet, in a bizarre twist of events, a group, riding on the coattails of “federal intrigue,” chose the moment to occupy a National Wildlife Refuge in the area. Again, the…

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Amplified: Obama and Uncomfortable Progress on Who We Are

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It’s not surprising that it was Obama’s take on Trump that made the headlines from a much more extensive interview with NPR’s Steve Innskeep. There’s a question that appears to be stuck on repeat today, a question of “national identity, who we are.” That was Innskeep’s proposition but Obama’s answer suggests this question has nagged us since the beginning. Recognizing these persistent questions and the moments when we start changing our answers is an important act of citizenship. The “Amplified Treatment” of the text below is intended to focus on the most substantive and timeless pieces of Obama’s response to Innskeep’s question…

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This Is a Good Sign of the Times

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All movements are a sign of the times, but this movement takes signs more literally than you might expect. Kevin Alan Lamb and founder Eric Dennis, as well as dozens of close team members, show up to events across Detroit brandishing yellow diamonds, large and small, that read: THIS IS A GOOD SIGN. And what started as a desire to strengthen communities has morphed into a worldwide, viral wave of positivity. Inspiration… Can an organization exist solely for its purpose? Yes. They aren’t religious, unless your religion is goodness. And there’s absolutely no hidden agenda. In today’s world of irony…

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2015 National Academy: The Real Power of a Political Classroom

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The 2015 National Academy for Civics and Government crossed the finish line in Los Angeles as the summer rolled into its final act for teachers, students and their families. The first day of school is again imminent and the Academy’s alumni are returning to their classrooms with big ideas about how to talk about politics. After three weeks of relentless reading, provocative learning and sometimes heated debate, alumni leveraged the work of a long summer seminar to present their own answers to some very big questions about our political life together. Panel teams worked together to articulate the tension embedded…

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