21 Reasons Why You Should Read Dissent
1. You are a teacher or you know teachers. Therefore it galls you to think of what’s happening to teachers’ rights in the United States. If teaching is “the largest profession in the country,” then why is it that “teachers in the United States are paid less, have less substantial professional development, and enjoy less occupational status”[i] than most other countries? Doesn’t it seem that lately teachers (and their unions) are getting blamed for every failing in our schools?
2. You have a child or you know children. It terrifies you to think of what’s happening to education in the United States. Even more terrifying are the recent reform strategies proposed by policy-makers, reforms that are conservative, right-wing, and sure to continue to alienate poor and minority students. “Reformers appeal to the urgency of confronting ‘failing schools,’ but the logic of their argument leads inevitably to students’ dependence on parents who know how to maneuver within the system to gain private advantage.”[ii]
3. When someone refers to The Left in America, it makes you laugh. “What Left?”
4. You believe that published research ought to be fair, balanced, and free of bias. So it disgusts you to think of how much information published in the media is actually a result of research done by privately owned conservative think tanks. “With funding from right-wing donors, market-oriented think tanks have been able to engage in aggressive outreach to media and policy makers to promote their favored ideas.”[iii] This includes everything from education reform to tax policy to women’s health.
5. You are outraged by recent acts to repress the collective bargaining of public employees. In fact, you are sick and tired of unions and the people who belong to them becoming scapegoats for every problem in this country. “A powerful wave of opposition against public sector unions is now taking shape, strengthened by Republican control of the federal budget-setting in the House of Representatives, which is likely to stifle further aid to hard-pressed states and cities. These circumstances are setting up 2011 to be the worst year for government workers since collective bargaining first came to government a half-century ago.”[iv]
6. Seriously, this is disgusting.
7. You want to do something about this, but don’t know where to begin.
8. You wonder what America’s workers might learn from a country like France, which was so quick to protest when their retirement age was raised by just two years. Could we ever get organized in such a meaningful way?
9. You saw the documentary Waiting for Superman. It pissed you off.
10. You are a writer and you sometimes interrogate the substance of your own work. Are the ideas big enough? Important enough? You occasionally think about the many great writers, filmmakers, actors, artists, and playwrights who were influenced by their political ideals: Lillian Hellman, Orson Welles, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, Ralph Ellison, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller. You wonder what you can learn from those artists whose “words, music and images were as essential as minor-party officials and grass-roots organizers.”[v]
11. You have ambivalent feelings about private schooling. It has benefits for the children who can afford it. But is it good for the educational system overall? Is it fair? Would it truly benefit your child? “The structure of public education will always be controversial because it concerns us as public, private, and social beings all at once.”[vi]
12. You are an immigrant. Or your parents are. Or your grandparents. Still, you did not know how precarious immigrants’ lives are in America, that “The Obama administration removed more [immigrants] during each of the last two years than in any other year in U.S. history.” Nor did you know that “postwar America can more accurately be described as a nation that deports immigrants than as one that welcomes them.”[vii] Now you know.
13. You are a professor in a university, or you know someone who is. You are horrified to think of the extensive hours that professors work as adjunct faculty, how little they get paid, and the benefits they forego for slim shots at teaching jobs. Perhaps you have felt this way: “What really drove me berserk as I rushed from campus to campus and class to class was why, after preparing for it through four years of graduate school, I couldn’t find a full-time teaching gig.”[viii]
14. You are a writer. You are tired of hearing about writers who get six-figure advances. The frequent hoop-lah made over such large sums distorts and masks the reality of most writers: working hard for long hours for little, if any, promise of financial remuneration. You think the system needs to change, and that writers, like other workers, should be paid for their labor.
15. You are Jewish. Or you aren’t Jewish. Either way, you wonder about the relationship of Jews in the United States to Israel. Is it love/hate? Despair/hope? Anger/fondness? Fear/longing? You have your own thoughts on the matter. But you want to learn more.
16. You want a magazine that presents facts in a lucid and engaging way.
17. You are tired of big commercial magazines that do nothing but instill fear, panic, and present distorted information.
18. You are sick of reading magazines and books that are published out of the Big Six media conglomerates.
19. You want to read political articles that do more than just criticize the system or highlight everything that’s wrong with America. You want to read articles that actually offer solutions.
20. It is heartening to think there are people out there who put together a quarterly magazine dedicated to social justice, equality, and societal change. Maybe you have not spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. Maybe now you would like to start.
21. Now is as good a time as any.
[i] “The Mismeasure of Teaching and Learning: How Contemporary School Reform Fails the Test,” by Mike Rose
[ii] “Free-Market Think Tanks and the Marketing of Education Policy,” by Kevin G. Welner
[iv] “Convenient Scapegoats: Public Workers Under Assault,” by Joseph A. McCartin
[v] “Has the U.S. Left Made a Difference?” by Michael Kazin
[vi] “If you are an egalitarian, why do you send your children to private school?” by Margaret Kohn
[vii] “A Nation of (Deported) Immigrants,” by Adam Goodman
[viii] “Paying the Pied Piper: Is Culture Ever Free?” by Kevin Mattson