Thursday, March 01, 2018

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for A Better Tomorrow - March 1 Edition

Politics, Society (Foreign Policy)

"From an anthropological perspective, Western politics has, it may be argued, become more tribal. Tribes are distinguished from other human groups by their relatively clear social boundaries, often defined by kinship and demarcated territory. It’s clear that our political groups are increasingly based on single aspects of common identity with unambiguous boundaries, such as race and educational status.

Equally undeniable, however, is that most commentators vastly misunderstand the nature of tribes. The mistaken view of tribes as primitive, violent, and insular is already having pernicious effects on our response to this new era of politics. Tribalism, contrary to popular belief, is not atavistic. But American political rhetoric, by suggesting otherwise, has become essentially fatalistic; it suggests that tribalism marks a reversion to some natural and ancestral mode of thinking and, thus, even if tribes can be temporarily transcended, their pull remains inexorable.

If we hope to live productively in this new political era, it helps to understand what tribes actually are — and how, rather than simply being the cause of our political problems, tribalism can also contribute to the solution."

Education, Arts Programs (Slate)

"Despite the gradual erosion of the arts and physical education in America’s public schools, the students of Stoneman Douglas have been the beneficiaries of the kind of 1950s-style public education that has all but vanished in America and that is being dismantled with great deliberation as funding for things like the arts, civics, and enrichment are zeroed out. In no small part because the school is more affluent than its counterparts across the country(fewer than 23 percent of its students received free or reduced-price lunches in 2015–16, compared to about 64 percent across Broward County Public Schools) these kids have managed to score the kind of extracurricular education we’ve been eviscerating for decades in the United States. These kids aren’t prodigiously gifted. They’ve just had the gift of the kind of education we no longer value.

Part of the reason the Stoneman Douglas students have become stars in recent weeks is in no small part due to the fact that they are in a school system that boasts, for example, of a “system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.” Every middle and high school in the district has a forensics and public-speaking program. Coincidentally, some of the students at Stoneman Douglas had been preparing for debates on the issue of gun control this year, which explains in part why they could speak to the issues from day one."

Work (Yes! Magazine)

"We all spend a large part of our lives at our jobs. Yet how many of us are bored or frustrated at work, whether unhappy with our company’s goals, stressed from overwork, or dealing with toxic coworkers? Don’t we deserve better than that?

The new book How to Be Happy at Work makes the case that, yes, we do, and happiness at work should be our ultimate goal. Written by Annie McKee—an international business advisor and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education—the book provides ideas for how to turn your job into a source of happiness no matter where you find yourself working.

According to McKee, part of our collective problem is that too many of us fall in the trap of believing that “work is work” and isn’t supposed to be a source of happiness, or that work goals will suffer if we focus on what makes us happy. But research suggests the opposite: Happier employees are more productive, benefitting their companies as much as themselves."

Corporations, Political Spending (Brennan Center for Justice)

"The administration has been a veritable font of bad news as executives hostile to reasonable rules have taken the helm from the Department of Education to the Environmental Protection Agency. But there’s a little good news coming from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Provided Congress allows, it will determine the winner in the long-running battle over whether publicly traded companies should reveal their currently hidden political contributions, known as “dark money.”

Stockholders have long been agitating that the companies they own improve the transparency of their political spending. This is often done through shareholder resolutions, which are a bit like ballot questions, to require companies disclose their spending on campaigns and lobbying. In part as a result of these efforts, more than half of the S&P 500 have agreed to be open about their political activities. They now share information that would otherwise be opaque and untraceable, including money flowing through dark money trade associations and so-called social welfare organizations, such as Crossroads GPS, the conservative group founded by George W. Bush operative Karl Rove.

But the trend toward transparency is still being met with resistance. Goldman Sachs wrote to the SEC in December to block its shareholders from voting on a lobbying disclosure proposal in part because the amount of money at issue “relates to operations that account for less than five percent of the Company’s assets.” The shareholders withdrew their proposal."

Elections (New York Times)

"The 2018 midterm elections, featuring hundreds of congressional, state and local primaries, will culminate with the Nov. 6 general election to decide whether Democrats can gain control of Congress or if Republicans will keep their hold on the legislative branch."

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