Opinion

Like most people who grew up in the sixties and seventies, I knew a lot of people who tried a lot of drugs. Marijuana of course, but also LSD, psilocybin, peyote, later cocaine.

History buffs know that Abraham Lincoln died exactly 150 years ago today, his great heart stopping forever at 7:22 in the morning. When I was a child the story of his assassination was as well-known as any story in the Bible.

  

I have decided I owe it to my listeners to announce today that I am not running for President. I am indeed old enough and have no felony convictions, but I have decided not to run, for a number of reasons. One of which is that I don’t have access to the billion dollars anyone nowadays needs.

Detroit can be model for how to do things right

Apr 13, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

When we hear the term “perfect storm,” the image that generally comes to mind is one of a high-level disaster.

The phrase is relatively new, though its use as the title of the 1993 Sebastian Junger novel which inspired the 2000 film of the same name has accelerated its use in the cultural lexicon.  However, no common dictionary definition for it exists. 

Remember when people used to make fun of Florida as “God’s waiting room” because of all the elderly who went there to live out the last years of their lives?

Well, here’s something startling: Michigan is rapidly becoming an old people’s state. Instead of arguing about whether maize and blue or green and white should be our state’s official colors, we might be more honest if we made them gray and white.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell came to the University of Michigan yesterday to host an hour-long roundtable discussion on student loan debt.  

She began by saying,

“I think we’re all concerned about the staggering amount of student debt we now see in this country.”

Courtesy of Laurentide Winery

The Next Idea

When was the last time you drank a bottle of Michigan wine? If it’s difficult to remember, you are sadly not alone.

Can you imagine a war in which two hundred thousand young Michigan men were killed? Well, we had one, proportionately as bad, and it was settled exactly 150 years ago today.

I have to say that for once I admire something Republican State Rep. Gary Glenn of Midland has done. Glenn is a freshman in the legislature, but has been a militant Michigan conservative activist on social issues for a long time, especially opposed to same sex-marriage.

We like to say we are against unfair discrimination against anyone, but that isn’t true. There’s one group who we legally and happily treat as less-than-human pariahs: convicted sex offenders who have done their punishment and served their time.

Today is Opening Day of the Major League Baseball Season, a day in which guys making fifty thousand a year take the day off to see men making millions play ball, on a day when it is usually too cold to sit outside for three hours. But they do anyway.

Honoring a hero

Apr 3, 2015

Exactly half a century ago, the nation was waking up to how terrible segregation was in the deep South, thanks in large part to television. In early March, TV brought horrifying images into homes across the country of black people being beaten, tear-gassed and clubbed as they attempted to peacefully march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama.

We will pay for our lack of respect for teachers

Apr 2, 2015
Courtesy of TeachingWorks

The Next Idea

Teaching matters. We know that it can make the difference between a child learning to read by third grade, being confident in math, and developing the mindset necessary for success. Yet skillful teaching is not commonplace, and it’s hurting our society. Three reasons stand out:

A number of people have been outraged that I haven’t denounced the Constitutional amendment that would raise the sales tax, largely to fix the roads.

Well, in a less imperfect world, this is indeed not how legislation should be made.

Two days ago a group calling itself the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren presented its recommendations for how to fix the Detroit Public Schools.

They had some good ideas, such as creating a citywide data system so parents can better compare schools to find the best options for their children. 

When Indiana passed its controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” last week, one of my more irreverent friends asked me, “Do you think the Taliban will do the same?”

We already know what it takes to train great teachers

Mar 30, 2015
Flickr/BES Photo

The Next Idea

Just a couple of years ago, a colleague of mine – a woman who has taught for over 25 years – broke down in front of me after school one day and cried her eyes out.

She felt like she was failing her students, not because of her inability as a teacher, but because “the system” has increasingly made it impossible for her to meet their needs. 

As everyone knows, we are in the middle of a great statewide debate about whether to raise the sales tax to pay for our roads. Last week, someone asked me a different question about the whole road repair process.

In this episode of Let’s Review,  your hosts Jenn & Kim debate the merits of checking in and checking out on current events. What are the social, political, and psychic benefits and costs of being aware of what's happening in the world? 

The guest for this episode is…wait for it…Kim and Jenn, your podcast hosts!

One of the most significant stories in America is also one of the most neglected by both the politicians and the media. Over the last thirty-five years, there has been a massive redistribution of income in Michigan  and the country from the poor to the rich.

Elaine Fogel

The Next Idea

For new ideas to flourish, for innovations to truly take hold and change our communities, we hear all the time that we in Michigan need to connect and collaborate more and be more civil to each other. But how, exactly?

Collaboration and civility are feel-good abstractions that well-meaning folks use, but often without offering a clear pathway to actually achieving improvement. Instead, we are left with flimsy takeaways that basically say, “Just try harder to be more open” or "Just go meet people." 

If you don’t live in the Flint area, you may be wondering what on earth is going on with the politicians and the water.  For many years, Flint, like many other communities, bought its water from Detroit.  Then, less than a year ago, they switched to save money.

Years ago, when we had a governor from one political party and a legislature controlled by the other, we often saw epic battles over spending priorities, otherwise known as the state budget.

Back in pre-term limit days, compromises would eventually be reached, often at meetings of what was called the “quadrant,” the leaders of the house, senate and the governor.

I spent some time yesterday with Douglas George, the Canadian consul general in Detroit.  We often take Canada pretty much for granted, which is precisely what we shouldn’t do.

We sometimes half-forget that it is, after all, a major foreign country stretching across our entire northern border, and which actually has more land area than we do.

Flickr

The Next Idea

Michigan will never be the next Silicon Valley.

Michigan can't compete with the allure of the Coasts, or even Chicago, for the nation's best talent.

Michigan investors and politicians are too conservative to support true innovation.

Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives are introducing bills to repeal the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. This has about as much chance of becoming law as I have of becoming starting forward for the Detroit Pistons.

Republicans have large majorities in both the house and the senate, and they’d never support this. 

Virtually everyone who doesn’t have a political reason to pretend otherwise would agree that the Detroit public schools are a dreadful failure.

More than three-quarters of its students have fled the district in the last 14 years. Test scores remain appallingly low, and a succession of emergency managers has failed to stabilize the finances. Most children in the district now go to charters, private schools or schools in the suburbs, a clear vote of no confidence by Detroit parents.

I’ve said more than once that it isn’t fair to expect teachers to solve all the problems of educating our kids. When a child is hungry, or has a chaotic living situation and no support at home, the best curriculum and the most effective teachers may not be able to make enough difference.

Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

You’ve heard the impassioned arguments about public transportation in Michigan. Let’s start with the rational. Our roads are among the worst in the nation. Our lawmakers have clearly demonstrated that they are not up to the task of maintaining our aging infrastructure. Michigan, a state known for producing automobiles, has become a place where it is increasingly difficult to drive one.

The education community was all a-flutter yesterday over the news that Governor Snyder had moved the school reform office from the Department of Education, which he doesn’t control, to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which he does.

That may not sound like the most exciting development in the history of American government, but it is significant in this sense. This is the office that oversees the state’s worst-performing schools. 

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