Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

12 November, 2007

Mmmmm, that's some tasty kool-aid

Well, it appears I've been thoroughly socialized into the intellectual and political norms of the organization for which I work. I just finished reading Richard Kahlenberg's Tough Liberal, a biography of Al Shanker, and I found myself nodding in agreement with his stands 95% of the time. On issues of public education, school standards, identity politics, and the future of unionism I would read of Shanker's contribution and think to myself, "Yeah, that sounds about right." Where I diverged was on issues of foreign policy. While I certainly believe that we (as Americans) have a responsibility to promote democratic institutions (like a free labor movement) abroad, I'm profoundly uncomfortable with Shanker's explicit linking of the promotion of democracy with militarism. I'm not naïve enough to believe that democracy doesn't require arms to defend it at times, but I can never bring myself to believe that it can be imposed, nor do I believe that those who most vocally trumpet the need to bring democracy via military force are, in fact, interested in it at all. The rhetorical linkage between "democratic values," economic free-market globalization, and military intervention isn't a topic that the book broaches

On the little matter of the book itself, Tough Liberal is a pretty straight-forward conventional biography. Admittedly, I like my biographies to be a little more analytic and critical, but as a tool for understanding teacher's unions (and one in particular) as they currently exist, Kahlenberg's book is an important contribution. I'll go on record as recommending it, if only to make you proud to be following in the footsteps of a truly gifted union leader and thinker.

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