The New Yorker is a pricey purchase here in Central Europe, but every so often I make it anyway, because its in-depth reportage is often unparalleled. One such piece of reportage I still vividly remember one or two years later dealt with valiant efforts to reform the education system in Denver. Nominally, at least. In truth, it was a both heart-wrenching and challenging panorama of how deep the roots are of the inequality of educational opportunity, and the problems of poverty, exclusion and ghettoisation that underlie it.
Even as the article covered chunks of policy debate, it didn’t get abstract and made you feel the human challenges involved. It resonated with personal experience, and I felt like forcing people to read it. Foremost those with glib answers about poverty and how people should just get themselves to work and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It sounds stupid when you try to explain that even just getting yourself to another part of town for a job or better school can be an insurmountable obstacle if you’re – well, fill in your cliché – on the outside. But this article made you feel it.
Reading it you couldn’t help identifying with the Schools Superintendent who was trying so strenuously to make sense of it all, and to undertake a daunting effort, from the ground up, to make changes that would spread the benefits of education beyond the middle class.
Well, that Superintendent, Michael Bennet, last week was selected by Colorado Governor Ritter to take Ken Salazar’s seat in the Senate.
All I know about him is that New Yorker article. Taniel at Campaign Diaries, however, explains that “Bennet looks to be among the most centrists of Ritter’s potential choices” and that “Ritter himself emphasized Bennet’s centrist politics, describing him with the “postpartisan” terminology that has become the cloak of the ideological center.” Practical, pragmatic, not dogmatic, that kind of thing.
Bennet himself pledged to follow in Salazar’s “bootsteps”, which are distinctly conservative for a Democrat. In short, the Bennet pick will “be frustrating progressives”, and he might oppose card check. Not exactly encouraging stuff.
And yet I can’t help feeling happy about the pick. Such is the power of good journalism. Happy except, of course, for the fact that the man will now no longer be heading Denver’s school system. When one of the major problems with the efforts there have been to improve the school system is inconsistency. The lack of follow-through: a burst of activity as the latest reform model is implemented, and just as effects start moving some of the intractable problems, a change in regime or a new model. Maybe you should make Schools Superintendent as prestigious a position as US Senator …