The Round Table: A Next Generation Politics Podcast
By Next Gen Politics
The Round Table provides a platform for conversation and engagement of civically-minded young people from different parts of the country. We strive to model civil dialogue across various divides--socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, political, and regional. We aim to challenge norms and represent all kinds of diversity--especially of perspective and ideas--enabling listeners to “hear” our thinking.
The Round Table is 100% created and edited by young people committed to building a more just and joyous world.
At this week's Round Table, recorded on the evening of Wed, Jan 20, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with friend of the pod Nicholas Stefanidis, veteran teacher of Government and U.S. History and the PERFECT guest with whom to discuss the days historic inauguration. Our podcasters were all in middle school during the last inauguration, making this inauguration all the more meaningful--especially after an insurrection exactly two weeks ago and an impeachment exactly one week ago. We were so inspired by Biden’s words and tone, and by his emphasis on civility and working across divides. We also, of course, recognize that very hard work lies ahead, and Nicholas reminded us that although change might feel too slow for us, and too fast for others, meaningful progress IS happening, as the inauguration exemplified. And yes, we also fan-girled and boyed out on 22 year old inaugural poet Amanda Gorman. Thanks so much for joining us!
At this week's Round Table, Divya, Eliza, Inica, and Madeline spoke with Brianna Cea, Cofounder and CEO of Generation Vote, which is building a movement of young people to advance youth voting rights and transform the way young people engage in politics. In light of recent events, we wanted to discuss the history--and future--of civic unrest, protest and, most importantly, movement building and the importance of young people being at the center. Movements don’t get talked about--or built--nearly enough in our view so we broke it down in order to build ‘em up. We talked about the importance of story, strategy, and structure in change-making movements--and of ensuring that all participants have internalized them. We talked about different paths to creating change--outside in as activists vs inside out as electeds--and the power of bringing these paths together. We talked about how to use our voices as citizens most effectively--and the importance of building and broadening support for democracy and public institutions. And we talked about the power of nonviolent movements remaining nonviolent even in the face of violence and attacks. Thank you for joining us!
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, Olivia, and I spoke with Michelle Mason and Shanakay Salman from the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution (IIP) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. We recorded this conversation on the evening of Jan 6, just hours after a mob incited by President Trump stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress certifying the election--and Trump openly condoned the supporters--AND the day after the Special Election in Georgia resulted in two Democrats being elected to the Senate--one black, one Jewish, both historic. It was a rollercoaster of a day and this, along with the treatment of today’s protesters in Washington DC vs treatment of protesters responding to the killing of George Floyd this summer, further demonstrated the stark divisions in our country. These disparities play out very significantly in criminal justice, the work to which Michelle and Shana have devoted their professional lives. We delved into the issues of the day, which are both disheartening and galvanizing for our work. We hope you emerge feeling as energized for the hard work ahead as we did. Thank you for joining us!
Next to learning, being seen and known within a school community is paramount yet sadly, school can sometimes be a very anonymous place. As our guest Frank Stebbins noted, “just a simple hello in the hallway can go a long way.” In a school year dominated by virtual learning this is harder but the principle is still alive. Schools are places to interact with a broad range of people like and unlike ourselves. We should not conflate diversity with inclusivity, and must be cognizant to honor both. So when you're in class, either on Zoom or in-person (hopefully soon!), be sure to reach out to that person who could maybe use an extra boost--you never know what might come from it!
Willingness to listen is so, so important. Our guest Frank Stebbins noted that one of the lines that tends to get emphasized in classrooms is creating safe space. While obviously that’s important, when we start discussing topics with students who may feel marginalized, or may feel their voice isn’t represented, they may be giving up some of that safety and they’re becoming brave. Engaging in conversations with people who may not agree with our point of view DOES often entail giving up a full sense of safety and what we know. Distinguishing between ensuring safety and demonstrating bravery is important. The richness of the resulting dialogue is reward enough, even if you leave the conversation with more questions than answers.
Frank talked about how much his daughter’s pre-school experience informed HIS perspective and teaching as a high school teacher, underscoring
Shortly thereafter, he participated in professional development with Facing History and he was hooked and started to incorporate exploration of identity in his classroom. His response from the juniors and seniors he taught was that they had never thought about things through this lens. Frank was struck by how many missed opportunities there had been to introduce these frameworks earlier in their school career. That got him to pursue opportunities for his students beyond their immediate community--and led him to be a founding Civic Mentor and bring groups of his students to participate in NGP Civic Forums. How can we challenge the status quo and build beyond it?
“I remember going to my daughter’s school and looking at the textbooks to see if my own name was there from many years ago.” Unfortunately, it often takes a looong time for curricular materials to evolve. Our guest Frank Stebbins told us about working with a group of teachers to make a pie graph representing all voices in their curriculum, both when THEY went to school and now in the schools they teach in, and to examine whether they mirror each other or are they different. He emphasized the importance of really focusing in on how we can include more stories that represent diverse points of view. Memoirs are particularly valuable in providing this, and Frank cited favorite memoirs like Night, Warriors Don’t Cry, along with current literature by people who are defining who they are as Americans in their own voice. Without this representation, we run into the danger of identifying others with our OWN perspective on who they are rather than being able to truly learn from other perspective.
We were honored to be joined by Facing History and Ourselves Program Associate and longtime educator Frank Stebbins this week. Frank supports educators across the state of New Jersey, supporting them in doing work is centered around the power that identity and perceived identity can have on the stories that we learn and the stories that we tell. He focuses on who gets to belong and who feels marginalized, whether it’s in our school communities or our global communities, and what the implications are when strategies are determined, when policies are shaped, and when people don’t have an active voice. Importantly, and in ways that are very consonant with NGP, Frank looks at how to incorporate ways to engage in authentic dialogue--not in debate and trying to prove each other wrong but in the service of learning from one another. Another key component of his work is how we can look at events of the past, appropriately memorialize them, and look at the legacy and impact of them on how we live today and how we choose to participate in our communities.
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Frank Stebbins, Program Associate at Facing History and Ourselves and longtime educator. Frank shared his belief that identity should be the cornerstone of any classroom, and we discussed what students and teachers need to commit to for that work to happen. We agree that asking questions, digging into diverse histories, engaging in dialogue with people different than ourselves, and listening deeply with a desire to find common ground are keys to good teaching and good learning. We also talked about the importance of finding communities where we can extend learning beyond the classroom. Frank underscored the degree to which teachers often learn as much from their students as vice versa and, not surprisingly, engaged us in exploration of what we believe makes an inclusive and focused classroom. Thank you for joining us!
Eliza asked Sara about her goals for joining Student Council at Columbia University. Sara underscored her aim to foster dialogue and create space for free flowing exchange of ideas--both amongst students AND between student and administrators. She noted that there is often a lack of trust between students and administrators, which can lead to hostility. Sara feels this stems from lack of understanding as a result of administrators not communicating reasons for their actions, or when their actions differ from those of peer institutions, which can lead to students lashing out in frustration and to make themselves heard. The current response to Covid and administrators decisions about housing this past semester was an example of this--first year students had been told they’d all get housing on campus up until August, which led to hostility from the student body about why they hadn’t been warned earlier.
Riya notes that although she goes to a pretty liberal college, it doesn’t always do a great job of including all viewpoints nor of honoring people of all ethnic backgrounds. In this clip, she shared a sobering story about how institutional racism and policing play out even on the campus of a small, ostensibly “woke” liberal arts institution. On the upside, she shared that it has sparked constructive conversation on the issue, and an increased commitment to including marginalized populations rather than writing them off.
We were thrilled to have the OPs (Original Podcasters…) join us for a Reunion Episode this week upon finishing their first semester of college! Madeline asked them to share how their transition to higher education had been amidst, you know, a pandemic. Founding Podcaster Julianna shared that her last few months of high school didn’t FEEL much like school--she didn’t really have formal classes, didn’t have to wake up at a certain time, didn’t even see some of her teachers until graduation (on Zoom…) As such, while she wasn’t on campus at American University this semester, the expectations of participating in live time in long classes of remote learning in college felt more jarring--albeit in a welcome way--especially since her college took away what breaks they would have had.
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia were excited to speak with our founding podcasters--Julianna Davis, Riya Mehta, and Sara Chough--freshly home for the holiday break after finishing their first semester at college. Of course, “coming home” is metaphorical for some in COVID--Julianna has been home throughout her first semester at American University, as so many college students have been. It was so good to reunite with the founding team and hear their reflections about what it’s like starting college in a pandemic, lack of diversity--racial, socioeconomic, and political--on campus and the limitations that creates, the need for better communication by administrators, the importance of student voice in decision making, and more. Our podcast founders also provided some invaluable advice for those of us still in high school. Thank you for joining us!
The backbone of democracy is relationships: relationships with elected officials, with political ideals, and most importantly with each other. Now more than ever, with polarization the norm in American politics, it is essential to note that the rifts did not begin four years ago. It is a result of an unwillingness to compromise and work together to achieve meaningful change for decades. Like any other broken friendship, we must start listening to each other and find common ground and common purpose from which to build upon. Our guest Karen Murphy strongly believes that this is the only way we can bring about significant progress in this nation.
Podcaster Madeline referenced the degree to which people are being dehumanized amidst calls to make America great again. There are competing ideas for our future and whether we are heading towards destruction or a renaissance. She asked our guest Karen Murphy what we can learn from the history and culture of dehumanization, as well as how we can learn from history of pushing institutions in positive directions. She also inquired about how to distinguish between what we hope to do as a country and what we can ACTUALLY do.
Amid growing tensions and increased polarization in the U.S., it’s helpful to look back to the idea central to our nation’s founding. Citizenship was not based on birth or blood--it was about the idea of committing to a principle of being elastic and inclusive. We must recognize, of course, that “we the people” referred to a very narrow band of people at that time but the guiding principle as enabled the American PEOPLE to push the country and its leadership and institutions in vital ways Our guest Karen Murphy underscored that this is a critical differentiator that has the potential to propel much-needed progress today.
Our guest Karen Murphy is a proponent of teachers being as highly trained and valued as top medical professionals. She noted that if one is trained as a surgeon, in an emergency that professional is likely able to apply those skills even in an area that isn’t their specialty. With teachers, the more confident and skilled one is with teaching as a practice, the more one can apply that to other things that you teach. This is all the more important when it comes to teaching about very difficult moments in our history, ESP those moments with which we may have an intimate connection. It’s a sophisticated skill to be able to conduct difficult conversations about things that are personal and close and have consequences.
Our guest Karen Murphy reminded us that we think about as history changes over time.--not just what we care about and who we care about but what is considered history. Facing History and Ourselves came to be in 1975 when its founders met at a conference on the Holocaust and it was the first time they’d learned about that history despite ostensibly being well-educated teachers and citizens. We take for granted now that the Holocaust is something people need to know, but it’s a history that needed to be fought for--as is still the case for many nondominant histories today.
Karen reminded us that just because a decision is made about the importance of a historic event--that we should all know about Frederick Douglass or read Toni Morrison or know about the NY Draft riots--doesn’t mean it will be continued forever unless decisionmakers (classroom teachers, education officials, textbook writers) sustain commitment to it being important.
At this week's Round Table, Divya, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Karen Murphy, Director of International Strategy for Facing History and Ourselves. Karen had a lot to contribute to our series on national identity, inclusion, and belonging through her global lens, drawing upon lessons learned from Northern Ireland and South Africa. Her worldview is predicated on the belief that we have to know where we come from--individually and collectively--in order to make decisions about where we are, where we’re heading, and what it will take to get there. We talked about how the history we learn changes over time—not just in terms of the what and the who but what is actually considered history--and how what is omitted is often as important as what is included. We talked about how to reckon with the contradictions of our history—for example, that our forefathers idealized freedom while keeping a significant portion of the population from being free. And, of course, we talked about warring visions for the future direction of our country, the period of transition we are in, and the need to restore not just institutions of democracy but habits of democracy and relationships that have been breaking down for quite some time. Thank you for joining us!
2020 has shown us that the #covid_19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our society and immigration is no exception. Our podcast guest @bethfertig underscored that with the inability to hold hearings and proceed with trials in a timely manner—only people seeing judges have been immigrants held in detention —the vast majority of immigrants with court cases have been frozen in time for 8 months. In early Dec, the immigration court system put out a memo saying that all cases and filings will now be done by paper--not even by video conferences or by phone--leading to a lot of concerns about what the implications will be and how this will impact the existing backlog of more than 1 million cases...
With the imminent transition of the Biden-Harris administration, it is evident that @joebiden’s plans for immigration reform will have to promptly address the inefficiencies that are impacting immigration on a massive scale in this country.
There are a lot of potential changes in immigration policy on the horizon through the incoming Biden administration. Our podcast guest @bethfertig, helped us think about what can be determined by Executive Order--such as overturning the Muslim travel ban--and what requires Congressional approval—such as how to handle DACA and creating a path to citizenship and full legalization for everyone in the Dreamers’ families. There are potentially 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, an issue that has been a political football since the Obama Administration. This is in fact what led Obama to create DACA since Congress hasn’t been able to agree on sustained immigration changes in decades.
As we head closer to Inauguration Day and the beginning of a new administration, we anticipate dramatic differences in orientation, and immigration is at the top. In this week’s Round Table Podcast episode, we spoke with Beth Fertig, Senior Reporter for WNYC Radio for immigration, exploring key differences in the immigration policy agenda of President Obama vs President Trump--and what we can and should anticipate in the Biden Administration over the years ahead.
Beth Fertig, Senior Reporter for Immigration, Courts, and Legal Affairs, shared what brought her to her beat, after years covering immigration. She noted that in 2016, she started covering the courts. She was clear that she didn’t just want to cover broad themes of justice; she wanted to see how it was affecting people. Once Trump was elected, it was decided that she would cover immigration courts and she immersed herself in learning all about them. Did you know that it’s not a regular court but rather run by the Department of Justice? Or that immigration judges are technically lawyers who work for the Attorney General, so there’s questions of how independent they can be
She underscored how fascinating it’s been to see all the ways a presidential administration could affect the immigration courts and the people going through them, even so far away from the border.
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline & Olivia spoke with Beth Fertig, Senior Reporter for WNYC Radio for immigration, courts, and legal affairs. We discussed what brought Beth to the immigration beat and what she’s learned covering the biggest, busiest immigration court in the country--especially during the time of COVID. We explored key differences in the immigration policy agenda of President Obama vs President Trump--and what we can anticipate in the Biden Administration. We examined the degree to which immigration has been a political football for years, and talked about what issues are handled through the Department of Justice--meaning under direct Presidential control--versus what needs to be approved by Congress, which has bottle-jammed immigration reform for many decades. The conversation reminded us of how immigration is a bedrock of this country, and how diverse and dynamic each of the stories are. We’re pleased to be able to share some with you this week. Thank you for joining us!
On immigration courts and why so backlogged now
On last ditch efforts by the Trump administration and what Biden can do
Our guest Shawnda Chapman noted that entrenched systems of injustice like racism and sexismcan make us feel helpless. Often what we try to do to remedy such feelings is provide help, when what we really should focus on is providing power--the power to determine one’s own life and one’s own destiny. Rather than determining what’s best for girls and “giving” it to them in a paternalistic way, the goal should be to help them live into their fullest potential and make decisions for themselves.
Our guest Shawnda Chapman notds that we don’t have great answers or solutions for many youth who are survivors of sexual violence--when she was growing up, there wasn’t even language for talking about it, only stigma. Many get sent into the foster care system which too often devastates their lives even further. Others get punished, for ex, being sent into the juvenile detention center, which doesn’t help either. If anything, it solidifies one’s identity as “troubled” or “bad,” which one then tends to live into. A lot of behavior that gets criminalized is really, at root, resistance to unfair treatment in schools, violence in communities, family life that doesn’t honor identity. Shawnda notes that what many young women of color most need is someone to believe in them and ask them what they need.
In response to a question from Divya about the distinct problems girls of color face, Shawnda noted how seeds are planted in childhood that have the potential to lead to healthy or unhealthy growth. She cited the degree to which girls of color often don’t get to control their environment--their family context, their economic well being --yet are expected in adulthood to perform as if they’d had equal opportunities. So Shawnda’s desire is to empower girls early and to try to counteract some of the negative thinking and internalization of stereotypes before they can take root in a diminished sense of self.
Our guest Shawnda Chapman called attention to the dance of progress and regress at play in our country. She noted that today’s youth are not wedded to fixed concepts of gender and sexuality--even she gets checked on binary thinking by younger thinking--and she loves the expansion of inclusivity. Unfortunately, simultaneously she cites how racial progress has moved in the wrong direction as a result of the current administration giving people license to be their worst selves. Although Shawnda experienced racism all her life growing up in the South, now people are authorized to be racist and sexist in public, which is shocking and frightening. Her hope is that it’s the last dying breath of racism creating space for young people to lead in a very different direction
Our guest Shawnda Chapman shared some of the challenges of supporting girls of color, noting that too often false hierarchies around whose needs are greater get created, and how anytime people speak up for girls of color, they get pegged as being hostile and asked “what about the boys?” when the same question doesn’t get asked to those supporting boys of color. TThese narratives are counterproductive and complicate getting support for either boys or girls. Shawnda recommends shedding such binaries--particularly since many youth being served don’t identify with gender binaries overall!
Our guest, Shawnda Chapman, Director of the Girls Fund Initiative at the Ms Foundation, shared that she once hit her biographical details, fearing that they would make people take her less seriously at the decision-making table. Over time, she recognized that her lived experiences are part of her superpowers--that our experiences, even the toughest ones, need not be viewed as weaknesses as they are often our strengths and that those closest to the problems are also closest to the solutions
At this week's Round Table, Divya, Eliza, Madeline and Olivia spoke with the stellar Shawnda Chapman, Director of the Girls Fund Initiative at the Ms Foundation. This is the second episode in our series on national identity, inclusion, and belonging. We talked about how the intersection of racism and sexism cooperate to keep the experiences of girls and women of color silenced and “invisibilized”--and why they are important to include in public narratives. We talked about ways in which our national identity and the image of who we are as a people is simultaneously expanding and contracting. We talked about the depression to prison pipeline, and how what gets characterized as “bad” is often resistance. And, importantly, we talked about what it means to build power within social justice movements. Shawnda reminded us that the people closest to problems are closest to solutions, and that our vulnerabilities can be our strength. Thank you for joining us!
Inica underscored the sheer gravity of this country’s current political climate--“Now we’re in a fight over democracy, with the very fabric of America that is at stake. She underscored that we need to be able to sew the fabric back together and repair what was once considered a melting pot of a country. She spoke about how precarious our current situation is if we continue in the direction we’re going, because there won’t be anything to bind us together. She shared her belief that unity is achievable if we make it so, but we need to be able to look beyond the labels that are tearing us apart as a country and connect with the humans beneath the labels.
Isaiah noted that he doesn’t really see how we could have one holiday that truly speaks to everyone. He wondered about how close we can get to a holiday that speaks to everybody--he once thought maybe it was the Fourth of July but then read Frederick Douglass’ What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July. Madeline proposed that perhaps we need to start a new holiday, noting that a holiday about unity, combining the joyful spirit of Christmas with the patriotism of the Fourth of July and the coming-togetherness of Thanksgiving--along with a day off from school--would be epic
“As kids we’ve been manipulated into believing we have a sweet sugar-coated history only to grow up and find out the sugar is rotten," Inica noted in this week's podcast, underscoring the “loss of innocence” that comes with trying to figure out an appropriate response to recognition of the stained history of Thanksgiving and so many other holidays. Should we stop celebrating Thanksgiving? Should we even acknowledge it as a holiday?
Isaiah shared a striking analogy about the distinction between the shining surface of American holidays and the more complex and confusing narratives underlying them, which often run at odds with values that America prides itself on.
Eliza pointed out that if she were an Indigenous person, her feelings about the Thanksgiving holiday would likely be radically different. She also underscored how marginalization gets carried forward to today, for example, in the heightened rates of coronavirus on reservations and lack of access to health care. So while some communities can celebrate the holiday with no baggage, for others, it carries a different weight that needs to be acknowledged.
Inica underscored that the falsified tale of Thanksgiving is part of a pattern throughout American history and many of our holidays. Too often there seems to be a dark truth that has been sugarcoated for children for the sake of portraying America as a nice, happy narrative with everyone getting along and without any kind of racist or sexist past. She pointed to how important it is to recognize the foundation that America was built upon; otherwise we’re going to keep living a falsified reality. She shared the rebranding of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day by many as an important example of recognizing history and its implications. If we continue to call it Columbus Day, then we’re living in a world in which Columbus HAS a day and on which we celebrate his so-called discovery of the Americas, whereas if we call it Indigenous People’s Day, we’re celebrating the people who lived and thrived on the land AND who were compromised by Columbus’ “discovery”
Madeline shared her thoughts that Thanksgiving in a modern sense is less about the original event that occurred (or didn’t occur…) and more about the idea about gratitude and family and belonging. Although the idea of the holiday may have STARTED with the idea of Native Americans and Europeans meeting and exchanging cultures, whether in a positive or negative sense, in the larger sense, that’s not what we’re celebrating anymore--if it ever was. It’s now about American culture rather than about the act of finding a new land and interacting with new people. And she doesn’t think we NEED to have a struggle between these two ideas because it comes to point at which the two alternate universes collide into one
Eliza spoke about the challenges of the factual inaccuracies underlying Thanksgiving, and the ways many of our families have handled this holiday since we were young, as being about practicing gratitude, visiting our grandparents and cousins, and really warm family traditions. Eliza proposes that we capitalize on the holiday to value competing narratives and to understand that there are multiple perspectives that reflect our experiences. Because of the “falsified foundation” Inica characterized, many have very positive family experiences associated with Thanksgiving and at the same time, if you look at the real history behind the holiday, it’s really about settler colonialism. So how do we best grapple with and makes sense of the competing truths about this holiday and so many others?
Inica shared her growing up reflections of Thanksgiving always being framed as a holiday about putting aside our differences and Squanto the good Indian; however, that was NOT the reality the first holiday was built on. So we have an unstable and falsified foundation that is starting to crumble now that reality is being shown
Our conversation led Madeline to reflect on Columbus. On elementary school, it was a patriotic holiday about celebrating our differences. We weren’t taught the things I learned about in middle school, when my social studies teacher started talking about the violence that occurred as a result of Columbus’ exploration to the new world. she had never previously heard about violence and war between the native people and Europeans. It led to multiple classes and conversations over the years about whether we should frame Columbus as a hero or a villain. Initially, she was really excited to frame him as a villain, to challenge everything she’d previously learned. Now in high school, she’s come to see value in finding middle ground around Columbus and other dark chapters of our country’s past.
We’re excited to launch our series on national identity, inclusion, and belonging! We’ll be exploring this through many perspectives , starting with this episode on holidays and how what we celebrate does or doesn’t reflect our values. We all know the American mythology of a melting pot doesn’t reflect the complexity of reality and what we’ve seen, both recently and historically, is that not everyone is included in that reality. In this week’s episode, our stellar podcasters grapple with holidays vs reality, and how we might broaden the narratives that inform our holidays, starting with (surprise!) Thanksgiving.
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, and Madeline reflect on Thanksgiving and, more broadly, how to grapple with competing narratives about our national holidays. We discuss the ways in which our own understanding of holidays and national identity has shifted through the stages of our lives. We talked about the importance of understanding history so we can shape a more just and inclusive future. We interrogated whether and how we can #RedefineThankgiving--not by erasing the past, but by thinking critically about the America we want to help build--which feels more necessary than ever this year. This marks the first in a series about national identity and belonging, and we look forward to continuing to explore these themes from various angles with you over the coming weeks. Thank you for joining us!
Professor Hajnal noted that one of the great problems with today’s media is echo chambers. If we’re a conservative, we’re very likely to be tuning into Fox and online we’re likely to be looking at sites where our own views are being reflected back at us. And when it comes to social media, they’re trying to get more clicks by putting forward more and more extreme and salacious content which may be making us more extreme than we would otherwise be. He underscored how important it is to get cross-information going, and for liberals to hear what conservatives are hearing and for conservatives to hear what liberals are hearing.
Isaiah asked Professor Hajnal what role he thinks the media could play in voter education. Prof Hajnal noted that there are any number of roles. He shared his concern that so much of media coverage is akin to covering a horse race rather than really delving into issues and policies, which of course SHOULD be driving our voting choices. Providing more real information about candidates and their stances, as well as addressing the MISinformation going haywire, is vital and the media is still playing catch up.
Understanding the political implications surrounding COVID is the first step in understanding the challenges that will still face us after a vaccine is distributed. 2020 saw the largest number of voters in a U.S. presidential election in history partly due to the unprecedented events occurring in this country related to the pandemic, but also due to outrage at inequality and to the drastic levels of partisan polarization permeating American politics.
In discussing whether America’s rise in political participation to endure in the years ahead, our guest Zoli Hajnal, professor of political science at the UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, underscored his feelings that despite Biden’s best efforts, polarization is likely to remain a big challenge--which actually drives voter turnout but with consequences.
What issues are most on your mind about what we’ll have to deal with after we can get beyond the pandemic?
Prof Hajnal is skeptical that this year’s high turnout will last. All the barriers there BEFORE the election are still there--the process is complicated and convoluted, there are only two choices, we vote on a Tuesday instead of a holiday--and they affect some populations disproportionately. Professor Hajnal explained how this works against young Americans--we’re more mobile so we have to re-register each time we move, we might not know where our polling place is--so our enthusiasm has to be great enough to overcome the barriers. Further, we’ve got a lot going on in our lives--we’ve got school, we’re thinking about all kinds of things in addition to politics--and all of these factors contribute to why young people turn out at lower rates than other groups, even in 2020. Given all this, Professor Hajnal noted that he is hopeful but skeptical that increased turnout will be sustained. In local elections, the trend from the 1980s until well into the 2000s has been for turnout to decline.
Our guest Professor Zoli Hajnal noted that we know, based on amazing experiments, that mobilization works, and that good door to door outreach increases the odds of turnout quite significantly. Conversely, we DON’T have any evidence that the billions that we spend on advertising make a difference or persuade anyone. So in his view, we’re wasting billions of dollars on advertising that could be redirected to the mobilization that we know works.
In this week’s conversation with professor Zoli Hajnal, we discussed the measures our nation needs to bring forth to ensure that this year’s high levels of political participation and involvement transcend a single election cycle, with an emphasis on less enfranchised voters.
Towards the closing of our podcast, Laura Wolk turned the (round) table on our podcasters to learn more about our responses. Isaiah shared his avoidance of the media circus. Olivia shared her disappointment in how performative the hearings were, with Democratic senators posturing with their questions.
At this week's Round Table, Divya, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Zoli Hajnal professor of political science at the UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy. Professor Hajnal is the author of multiple award-winning books and a respected scholar on U.S. politics and policy, with a special focus on how disadvantaged populations are represented in American politics and what can be done to ensure better representation of these groups. Our conversation touched upon why people vote in such low numbers in municipal elections--and what can be done to counteract that, what reforms can lead to more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, the record high youth voter and overall voter turnout this election--and how and whether it can be sustained, and what voter reforms we’d all like to see in the future. Thanks for listening!
When asked about her thoughts on judicial reforms such as the recent talks about court packing and eliminating life tenure, Laura Wolk provided podcast listeners with her take on what are becoming fiercely contested conversations about judicial reforms. She shared her feelings about the importance of maintaining nine Judges and the continuity of the Supreme Court through its policy of life tenure,
Laura Wolk expressed concerns about the media’s bent in Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings. She felt there was a deep undercurrent that seemed to suggest that Judge Barrett, or Originalists in general, really want to take people’s rights away--for ex, they want to overturn the ACA. She feels this includes three presumptions about Conservative judges:
1) that they are pre-committed to certain policy goals, which she feels is unjustified,
2) that they would be disingenuously trying to sneak their policies in through the backdoor,
3) that their policy preferences and the answers they come to by analyzing the statutes are always the same.
She disagrees with all of these and shared a frame of reference from her personal experience, noting that she personally is uncomfortable with the death penalty but since the Constitution allows it, she wouldn’t allow her own personal biases to override it
Laura Wolk shared a glowing assessment of Justice Barrett’s skills as an educator, addressing pros and cons of every legal question and taking the opposite side to whatever a student is arguing about a case in order to push their thinking
“It’s disappointing to see the media going along with that (character assassinations).” This week’s guest on the Roundtable Podcast, Laura Wolk, senior associate at Kirkland & Ellis, who was most recently a clerk for Clarence Thomas in the U.S. Supreme Court and mentored by Amy Coney Barret at the University of Notre Dame Law School, addressed the undeniable influence the media has on the way people generate their positions on certain political matters and how it consequently distracts from the relevant information needed to make an accurate conclusion on the issue at hand. Most recently shown in the media’s interpretation and selective coverage of ACB’s confirmation hearings, Laura stressed the value of having the ability to see clearly past the narratives crafted by the media that seem to be simply for the purpose of gaining widespread attention. As we attempt to navigate the sometimes complicated landscape of American politics, we encourage you to dive deeper whenever you can.
With the Senate’s recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, it is particularly important to understand the different philosophies of these two women. Justice Barrett, like her mentor Antonin Scalia, is an Originalist in how she interprets the Constitution and the law that governs the nation’s entirety. Originalism was explained to us by our recent podcast guest Laura Wolk, senior associate at Kirkland & Ellis, who clerked last year for Clarence Thomas in the U.S. Supreme Court--where she was only the second blind clerk in the Court’s history. Laura was mentored at the University of Notre Dame Law School by now Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for whom Laura testified at her recent hearings. While many consider Originalism exclusive, leaving out people who were not originally included in the Constitution, or as so narrow as to be useless, because there are so many questions that are not explicitly addressed in the text of the Constitution. Laura, who considers herself an Originalist, notes that Originalism is not ideal and doesn’t give us the best and most just solutions to all questions. But she feels Originalism “is the philosophy that is most faithful to the structure of the government that we set up.”
At this week's Round Table, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Laura Wolk, senior associate at Kirkland & Ellis, who was most recently a clerk for Clarence Thomas in the U.S. Supreme Court--where she was only the second blind clerk in the Court’s history. Laura was mentored at the University of Notre Dame Law School by now Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, for whom Laura testified at her recent hearings. In the course of the hearings, originalism--the doctrine embraced by Coney Barrett and HER mentor Justice Scalia-- was referenced, but Laura was troubled that no time was given to what originalism really is, so she was eager to provide us with a deep dive into it. We delved into what judicial reforms Laura would and wouldn’t like to see, what it’s like to work for the Supreme Court, and why her training as a singer and a psychologist was the best prep she could have hoped for. Thank you for joining us!
The pandemic has fundamentally altered the way we do things and the election is no different. As a beacon for democracy and unity (these UNITED States) foreign powers have long looked at America as an example for what to do in adverse situations. In 2020, however, we currently have an incumbent president who refuses to officially acknowledge the election’s results in the midst of a nation who is eager to move forward and address the devastating pandemic and the lives that have been lost as a result. In our most recent podcast, Olivia and Inica gained an entirely different perspective as they spoke with Yasmeen Serhan, a staff writer from The Atlantic, and someone who has been covering the election and other political matters from the U.K.
We will always be a country that other democracies look to as an example. In one of our most recent conversations, Olivia and Inica had the opportunity to speak with Yasmeen Serhan, a staff writer from The Atlantic, and someone who has been covering the election and political matters from the UK. As we now find ourselves in a post-election world, it is particularly crucial for us as young people to help bridge the gap in our nation and come together as one as we move forward in taking on the issues at hand. As Yasmeen duly noted, the whole world is watching us.
As we all attempt to collectively move forward with the 2020 election and look towards combating the nation’s pressing issues at hand, it is nearly impossible to do so without taking into account what Donald Trump will do now that he has effectively lost the election. Steve Friess, a reporter from Michigan who is the News & Features Editor at Hour Detroit and writes about the election for @newsweek, paints our podcast listeners a picture of what the nation and the status of the presidency could potentially look like knowing that Trump will attempt to do anything in his power to stay in the White House and spare himself and his administration from suffering the legal consequences of his actions over the past four years.
“I just hope you folks do a much better job than we have.” With a palpable touch of optimism in his closing words, Steve Friess addressed our podcast team and young people as a whole in hopes of encouraging collective change now that we find ourselves heading into a new era with a new leader.
The 2020 election has undoubtedly embodied the lack of precedence in every regard imaginable. With the COVID-19 pandemic enabling a monumental surge of mail-in ballots in almost every state in the nation, a wide array of questions and concerns as to how to handle them have inevitably arised. In our recent conversation with Steve Friess, a reporter from Michigan who is the News & Features Editor at Hour Detroit and writes about the election for Newsweek and other national publications, our podcaster Eliza asked him how he believes mail-in ballots will affect the voting count and the election as a whole as we move forward from November third. “The sheer volume of absentee or mail-in ballots this year is extraordinary and there are only so many people that work in the elections department in a given place.” In the midst of all of the surrounding uncertainty looming over the election’s aftermath right now, we invite you to tune in.
As we find ourselves in midst of post-election uncertainty, we had the opportunity of analyzing the various outcomes that could arise with the current political situation through an engaging conversation with Yasmeen Serhan from the Atlantic -and now a UK resident. Yasmeen articulated that at this point, we as voters and citizens must wait patiently and see where the numbers actually land in order to move forward accordingly. If you are like most people throughout the country right now and are wondering what can arise from this uncertainty, we invite you to listen!
We’re all a bit Election obsessed, and on this week’s podcast, we were fortunate to broaden our perspective through conversation with Yasmeen Serhan from the Atlantic, who is living in the UK. Yasmeen noted that she was in DC for the last election, which she described as a “seismic moment.” She described this election as feeling similar, and noted that there is a lot of apprehension abroad as well. Yasmeen made us aware that as Americans, we sometimes fail to appreciate the degree to which this is a global moment, with truly global consequences. As a world leader, the world looks to the U.S. to see what path it’s going to take. Yasmeen shared that people stayed up all night in the U.K. to track election results. She reminded us that the world is watching and will continue to watch as things play out.
The Round Table was active this week in honor of the election. Following on the heels of our conversation with Yasmeen Serhan about international perception of the election, Eliza, Isaiah, and Madeline spoke with Steve Friess, a reporter from Michigan who is the News& Features Editor at Hour Detroit and writes about the election for Newsweek and other national publications. Contested elections aren’t new to Steve: he was a reporter in Palm Beach County during the 2000 election. We explored many of the questions on people’s minds: the unusual nature of this particular election, the challenge of how some states are handling absentee ballots, how far some of the polls seemed to be from how results are actually turning out, and the future of Trumpism beyond Trump’s time in the Presidency. This is an anxious time for many of us across the political spectrum, and we feel fortunate to engage in some civic sense-making with Steve and now with you. Thank you for joining us!
Check out Steve's recent article I Wouldn't Have My Son Without the Help of a Trump Superfan
“We have to adjust our expectations, we’re not going to know who the projected winner is at the end of Election Night this year.” In our previous episode with Susan Lerner, the inspiring Executive Director of Common Cause New York, she provided our podcast listeners with a perfectly accurate prediction of the 2020 election days before it even happened.
It is now November 5th and indeed, we still don’t know who the projected winner is. As we wait anxiously for all of the votes in key states to be fully counted in key states like Nevada and Pennsylvania, we can’t help but look back on our insightful conversation with Susan Lerner and urge you to do the same.
At this week's Round Table, the day after the election, our podcast team split up to get multiple perspectives on the political moment. Olivia and Inica spoke with Yasmeen Serhan, staff writer from The Atlantic, who has been covering the election and political matters from the UK. Yasmeen framed the U.S. election is a global moment, with global consequences. The world is looking to the U.S. to see what path it is going to take. The world is watching as the results, and the response to the results, unfold, and will continue to watch. We hope you appreciate the opportunity to stretch beyond our borders in order to put this election in a broader perspective. Thank you for joining us!
Susan Lerner, the passionate and inspiring Executive Director of Common Causes New York and our most recent guest in the Next Generation Politics Podcast, addressed our podcasters and young people as a whole on what she believes could be perceived as change from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2020.
“We are way past the time where voters should be sitting on the sidelines hoping it all comes out okay.” With the fateful night of November 3rd drawing ever closer, Susan Lerner, the inspiring Executive Director of Common Cause New York, directly addressed our podcasters and young people as a whole on the various ways to make an impact on this unprecedented election even if you aren’t able to vote just yet. Guiding our conversation with Susan, this election night will inevitably look drastically different than those in the past and we should approach our way of making an impact accordingly.
At this week's Round Table, Divya, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia speak with Susan Lerner, the passionate and inspiring Executive Director of Common Cause New York. We discussed voting rights--and wrongs. Our conversation was simultaneously sobering, acknowledging the many problems that are playing out in relation to this year’s election, AND inspiring, celebrating the power of the vote and the heroism on display by the many many millions of people who have committed to not letting the pandemic get in the way of our democratic power. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, the next week (and possibly well beyond) is likely to be nerve-wracking. We’re particularly happy to have you join us for this episode and look forward to working together to make the most of what lies ahead.
Isaiah addressed the the social and political impact that the media has as a result of biased coverage and how it can restrict voters throughout the nation from gaining greater information on the actual platforms and campaigns of each individual candidate.
Madeline Mayes shared with fellow podcasters that whether we like it or not, how a prospective candidate comes across and how we resonate with them matters a lot, which has been on her mind during the debates
At this week's Round Table, Eliza, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with MaryAnn Makosiej. MaryAnn was a Founding Fellow in our Next Generation Politics' Civic Forums way back in 2017-18. Now, she’s a third-year Biology major at the University of Vermont AND a first-year Master's in Public Health student at the Larner College of Medicine AND the Director of Policy for Kesha Ram, who is running for State Senator in Vermont, among many other things. We had a fascinating conversation about MaryAnn’s trajectory from Civic Fellow to civic superstar, her thoughts about the impact COVID has had on Burlington, VT--and what will be necessary to drive the community forward, and the importance of bringing moral courage to politics. MaryAnn exemplifies the advice she gave us, “don’t limit yourself and don’t label yourself--you can and should explore so many different facets of yourself and the world around you.” Thank you for joining us!
At this week's Round Table, Eliza (our correspondent from Real Talk), Inica, Isaiah, and Madeline spoke with...each other. That’s right, no guests this week--by design! Much as we love having amazing guests join us each week, we realized we don’t have enough opportunity to be in conversation with one another and plan to devote an episode to internal conversation every month or two. This week, we spoke about the Vice Presidential Debate between Kamala Harris and Michael Pence, transparency in politics, and what impact Donald Trump’s COVID diagnosis will have on anything and anyone. Thanks for joining us!
Anna Salvatore is HS SCOTUS makes clear that there’s a balance btw the court being too loud—aka in the spotlight taking up every hour of our lives-and being too quiet—aka out of public view such that of people don’t understand what’s going on.
Information about the Supreme Court is less widely available and understandable than what’s happening in Congress or the Oval Office so it requires a bit more of an effort to stay informed and engaged.
Anna Salvatore, founder of HS SCOTUS, explains why young people generally fail to regard the SCOTUS on the same level as other government branches but more importantly, she dives into what we can do as young people to improve on this matter. ---Send in a voice message:
Anna Salvatore, the founder of HS SCOTUS, shares why it’s crucial for teenagers and young people as a whole to grasp a greater understanding of the law and our court system as she details how it directly impacts our everyday lives on a significant level.
Anna Salvatore, founder of HS SCOTUS, shared the “founding story” of her blog. It WASN’T because she came from a long line of lawyers or wanted to be a lawyer—she actually thought law was very boring, but she WAS interested in politics. One morning in study hall she stumbled upon an article about a Supreme Court immigration case. She read through the whole article—and was hooked!
At this week's Round Table, Divya Ganesan, our correspondent from Real Talk, Isaiah Taylor, Madeline Mayes, and Olivia Becker speak with Anna Salvatore, the 18 year old founder of HS SCOTUS, a blog she founded in early 2018 with the goal of analyzing Supreme Court cases that affect high schoolers. Anna founded her blog with the recognition that the judicial branch is the least understood part of our government, yet courts are relevant to EVERY aspect of our lives. Having Anna on in the wake of RBG’s passing and just days after the announcement of Amy Coney Barrett as the nominee to replace her made the conversation all the more fascinating. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thanks for joining us!
Peter Loge reminds us that If you’re a candidate, you’re going to behave in a way that’s going to help you get elected.You’re going to seek to pass legislation, raise money, be on TV to raise your profile. So if we want change, it entails changing the incentives. That means voting for people you may not agree with 100% because you think compromise is important. We have to be willing to vote for candidates who aren’t pure. If we want the world to be a better place, we need to reward people who are making it better. We can talk all we want about why isn’t it better and why isn’t discourse more civil, but unless people get rewarded for it, it’s not likely to happen. Telling is different than rewarding.
From Peter Loge’s perspective--not as an academic or as a professor--but as someone who has had to pay the bills by advising candidates and electeds on issues, is that a lot of it comes down to incentives. Nobody gets into politics because they like yelling at each other, or because they want to meet a lobbyist, or wear loafers. They get in because they want to make the world a better place and they care about issues. The problem is that we say we want more compromise, but that really means I want more people to agree with me. Politicians behave in a way that responds to electoral incentives because if they don’t, they lose their jobs.
In honor of our One Year Anniversary, we’re revisiting our archives and sharing some clips from our early episodes last year. Here, Professor Howard Schneider, founder of the Center for News Literacy, shares his thoughts about how journalists should avoid bias in the media.
Gabe Fleisher shared that he’s always thinking about what he can write or what details he can add to make the readers really understand what’s going on and make them feel like they know what happened at momentous events and momentous places. You’re trying to represent things for people in a way that makes barriers fall away and makes them feel like they’re right there too, because he’s at places where important things are happening, as being part of a six person press conference with Bernie Sanders earlier in the day demonstrates.
Gabe talked about his excitement to bring original reporting to the newsletter now that he’s at college in DC rather than St Louis. In his few weeks in DC, he’s interviewed Senators in the Capitol, covered the vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court on the night RBG died, was one of just six reporters reporting on Bernie Sanders’ first press event since ending his campaign, and covered Nancy Pelosi’s speech by the Washington Monument about coronavirus deaths. His goal is to be everywhere he can, cover as much as possible, and make readers feel as if they are there with him, which is the goal of any journalist.
Gave Fleisher notes that he thinks How hard you are willing to work, or how much you are willing to learn, are much greater determinants. His age DOES provide a different perspective in his writing. He’s deeply committed to making politics as accessible as possible, and often adults aren’t as focused on this —a lot of politics can be complex and dense and not that easy to follow. As a young person, he asks himself “would my peers be able to follow this?” which is a litmus test for good political writing
Gabe Fleisher talked to us about the challenges of figuring out what to cover and what NOT to cover in his daily newsletter. He tries to stay focused on several specific areas—The White House, Congress, The Courts, and Elections—and DOESN’T cover things like foreign affairs or state level politics. Then there are things like coronavirus that in some ways fits into all those categories and in other ways is in its own category.
He underscores that politics runs into everything and everything comes back to politics so it can be hard to have firm filters. But for the most part, he focuses on what happened yesterday, and what’s going to happen today, in the core institutions he covers, which impacts you whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican and thus entails being as close to objective as possible.
Gabe Fleisher recognizes that criticism is inevitable. Some people think that’s sad but Gabe thinks journalists should ALWAYS be open to to receiving critical feedback. He notes that he loves hearing from readers—and doesn’t let it dictate his writing. You can’t control how people are going to respond to your journalism so it’s wisest for a writer to focus on what one sees to be the truth. Gabe emphasized that he tries to be subjective, while recognizing that we all have biases. He takes pride in the fact that he receives criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
We were so fortunate to speak with Gabe Fleisher, the 18 year old founder of the Wake Up To Politics daily newsletter, this week. Gabe talked about how all encompassing the impact of politics is, for young people even more than older ones, given that politics affects the air we breathe, the water we drink, the schools we go to. Everything is a political decision.
WE are able to influence those political decisions w our vote, and it’s so important bc the decisions being made today, whether for President, or Congress, or when it comes to judicial appointments on the courts, will be affecting us for decades and decades and our entire adult lives. Really big decisions about our climate, our health care, any issue you’re can think of, are being made right now and it’s important for us to have voice in them.
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, Olivia, and our new correspondent from Real Talk, Eliza Goler, spoke with Gabe Fleisher, the 18 year old founder of the Wake Up to Politics newsletter. Every morning, 50,000 readers wake up to Gabe’s newsletter, which he started as an email to his mom when he was 10. Gabe has been interviewed by the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Samantha Bee, and now The Round Table :) Given all that’s been happening politically, we were thrilled to speak with Gabe about how he decides what to cover and what not to cover each day, how he’s grown his readership, and how he strives to be cross-partisan in such polarized times. His enthusiasm about politics is infectious and we think you too will want to wake up to politics (subscribe here) Thanks for joining us!
Pat Joseph underscored that the Census is the civil rights fight of our lifetime. We don’t have freedom of privacy. Journalists are potentially being restricted in acting in the American Way that we know—to be informers. When he sees people being exiled or imprisoned for revealing heinous things the government has done, and the climb towards totalitarianism with our current president, he sees the Census as a way of fighting these things. While that may sound grandiose, it really is. If you’re not counted, you don’t really exist in the eyes of the government. It’s a relatively easy way to demonstrate that you are here and that you matter.
Pat Joseph emphasized that getting community groups involved was key to marketing the Census in a way that never could have happened at the city level. They represented a lot of those historically underrepresented community groups and reached out to them in a more personal way. The winning forum was multiple languages, leveraging grants team, and casting—actively
looking for representatives from the communities that really needed to be counted. And (surprise!) they found them. The Census team leveraged all the connections they’d made in communities, and the diversity in their office, which led to their communications team casting people who represented a wide range of New Yorkers for a refreshing change
Olivia noted that she wouldn’t necessarily associate Pat Joseph—as a young man of color—with the Census, bc the Census conjures images of an old white man with a pencil for her. She asked him how he and his team worked to “rebrand” the Census.
Pat noted that part of it is that the Census office is the most diverse he’s ever worked in, which led to the generation of lots of fresh ideas, since people had so many lived experiences and diverse understandings of the world. They also had tons of opportunities for cross-pollination with different parts of the organization to produce the most impactful products. He’s also talked about the offices huge emphasis on language, given how many languages are spoken in nY. They produced things in 13-20 languages and leveraged grants to 150 orgs to further communicate with their communities.
Pat Joseph approaches things from a humanist standpoint, noting that he doesn’t think he’s any different than someone who emigrated here, like his parents did, particularly given that most people in the U.S. originally came from somewhere else if you go back far enough. He underscores that the benefit of counting immigrants—and fully including them in all ways—is to society at large. The higher the count of people in one’s state, the more dollars the state receives. So pragmatically, why would you want to exclude anyone? But politically, he recognizes that there is intentional exclusion of certain groups for political reasons, both from the Census and from voting. Political representation gets allocated alongside money, so the issue is inherently political and, unfortunately, politicized.
Pat Joseph notes that he didn’t have a lot at stake in the 2016 election btw Trump and Clinton, because he felt that both candidates were going to do things that he would find absolutely appalling when they came to power. Neither one of them was interested in ending the industrial war complex, or peace in the Middle East, or legalizing marijuana, or making college free, or providing universal healthcare to all Americans, or ending police brutality. These issues were not going to be touched by either candidate so as a voter, he felt he’d only be voting for the lesser of two evils. Conversely, he feels the Census gives people much more direct power in the sense that the numbers do the talking. If one’s community shows up, the data’s there, it’s public, and can’t be interfered with, the government can’t deny funds without being taken to task by advocates.
Pat Joseph describes how he and his team treated getting people to fill out the Census like a multi-faceted social justice campaign. One of his colleagues referred to the Census as “the great civil rights battle of our time.” Because when you think about the communities that aren’t counted, it’s pretty predictably black and brown. Who are the people who don’t fill out the Census? It’s immigrants, it’s people who don’t have trust in the government, it’s people who think their communities will suffer regardless of whether or not they’re counted.
Pat Joseph notes that when people think of the census, they think about being counted—of someone knocking on the door and asking how many people are in your home. Some people, erroneously, think of it as being about citizenship, which it’s not—ALL people are meant to be counted. But it also serves a much larger purpose. The Census determines our representation in Congress, through the apportionment clause of The Constitution. It also represents the federal funding that goes to states. States are actually in competition during the Census. The more people you get counted, the more money you get—percentage wise. You want to ensure that you get money equivalent to the people you need to support through services. The Census also provides vitally important data about the ethnic backgrounds of people, the languages they speak, where they are concentrated, etc. This is a critical piece of determining the needs of different communities and channeling resources accordingly.
Much though Pat loved his work for the Manhattan Borough President, he saw there was quite a lot of harm being done around him. His big learn was there was that it isn’t just a classroom or school based issue causing inequities; there are quite a lot of problematic behaviors and policy making in the political arena causing inequity in schools. He didn’t feel elected officials were necessarily doing what he thought should be done to address those evils. So he decided to head back to pursue his PhD, but took a pit stop doing something else connected to the funding side of education: working on the 2020 Census through the Mayor’s Office
Pat Joseph comes at things from an educational perspective. He taught HS special ed for 4 years and experienced educational inequity first hand, teaching in predominantly white schools on the Upper West Side and in schools serving predominantly students of color in the South Bronx —resource disparities, treatment of students, presence of police. He saw education policy as a route to correct some of the evils he experienced as a teacher (which he hadn’t been aware of as a student growing up in the Bronx). Things panned out for him when he got a job working for the Manhattan Borough President coming out of grad school as a senior advisor of education policy issues.
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Patrick Joseph, PhD student at Teachers College and Graduate Research Assistant for the Center for Educational Equity, where he works on civic diversity. Patrick’s commitment to educational and political transformation has played out through his work as a classroom teacher, as the Senior Education Policy Advisor for the Manhattan Borough President, and most recently, as Grants and Policy Manager for the NYC Census. You’ve probably heard a lot about why the Census is important, the implications of undercounting, and how far behind we are in the count given COVID-19. Pat takes conventional thinking about the Census to a different and deeper dimension, coupling it with deep analysis of representation, power, and what is necessary to create the political and civic change we need. Thank you for joining us!
Podcaster Madeline shared her concerns about social media being a wormhole that she doesn’t want to get sucked into. Simultaneously, she feels a need to stay updated about what’s going on amongst GenZers, so she forces herself to go on a bit. She also gets “ambient news” from her mom listening to WNYC in the background, as well as notifications from her school’s subscription to the NYTimes. Overall, she feels news and information is circulating in so many different ways today that you don’t get it from one spot but from a larger swirl.
Olivia asked about whether one group or party would be more negatively affected than others by media policy decisions. Robyn noted that the implications are much more equal than people tend to think. If you look at the top media that’s shared on FB, it always tends to be conservative. Robyn and colleagues studied demonetization across a range of genres and found it happening at every single level of the ecosystem.
Media analyst Robyn Caplan talked about how politicians are engaging in debate as to whether platforms will follow rules and norms of the US or elsewhere, given that they operate globally. There’s concerns about whether this could lead to tech companies playing to the lowest common denominators rather than American values—for ex, Europe has more of an investment in freedom FROM speech than we do and, since the First Amendment is not a protected right for private companies, conservative politicians have expressed concerns about free speech being undercut.
Robyn Caplan notes that she has every belief that Facebook will change its political ad policy before the election. She agreed that it could definitely backfire. There are Concerns that essential voter information won’t be able to get out in a timely fashion, and that grassroots false information could dominate the platforms w/o campaigns being able to contradict misinformation. The intention is to mirror media blackouts in different countries, but that’s very different than blacking out political ads. There’s research that political ads actually do little to change voters’ intentions that close to an election, but they DO help get necessary information out to the public.
Robyn Caplan discussed the distinction btw mediation and moderation as strategies used by platforms to increase trustworthiness of information online. Users tend to engage in moderation but a lot of platforms use a system of mediation to determine what is a trustworthy source and to then highlight that and bring it to the top. She noted that one isn’t necessarily better than the other—both need to be critiqued and examined, as do all media decisions, from what they publish to the composition of the team making the decisions
Robyn Caplan underscored the importance of policies that prioritize a protected class. She explained the distinction between freedom from speech and freedom of speech. In the U.S., they are collapsed and freedom TO speak is prioritized over freedom from speech.
Robyn Caplan contextualized that the U.S., unlike many other countries, doesn’t have the notion of protected class. As such, a lot of platforms have policies against hate speech that don’t take power relationships into account and instead paint with a broad brush.
Robyn Caplan shared that since 2016, tech companies that had once been heralded as models of innovation and where the American economy needed to be headed, have been much more critiqued, both as monopolies and for the impact of their dominance on that election and on so many facets of life. In response, companies are taking on a lot of different strategies to try to change the narrative about the impact they’re having. But they are trying to deal with a problem that’s constantly unfolding. In come cases, they’re making different policy choices now, but we won’t know the impact of those choices for years to come.
Robyn Caplan started off pursuing psychology but sort of “fell into” writing about the business of media because she was seeing a lot of fascinating things behind the scenes. Early in her career she looked at things like how l metrics influence the things that get published and how different audiences—“old” media and new media—come into conflict with each other. Through this, she started doing global media policy because there were a lot of questions coming up that she became interested in—for ex, jurisdictional issues around cloud storage and how you hold people responsible based on where information is stored vs where it’s accessed. Before she knew it, she was a media analyst and writer and she hasn’t looked back
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Robyn Kaplan about Facebook’s recent decision to ban political ads in the week leading up to the election. As a technology researcher at Data & Society and a doctoral student in Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information Studies, Robyn helped us think through the potential implications of this decision as well as think more deeply about the intersection of politics, policy, media, and social media. Thank you for joining us!
Karin most wants students to know that although NYC Schools is putting health and safety first, they still want to keep student voice at the center. She urges students to not let the challenges of school structures silence you, bc you know better than anyone else what is and isn’t working in education and the drive forward can only come when young peoples voices are in the dialogue.
What does Karin hope the lasting legacy of Covid will be, good bad or ugly? Given that Covid has laid bare all of the existing inequities that were already there, one legacy Karin hopes will be sustained is the willingness of people to have really tough conversations with one another and to push on the public institutions that do or do not serve them well
She also hopes that the way we use time in school will change. When schools shut down in the spring and we were all locked down in our apartments, she noticed how much time we waste in schools doing stuff that is dumb and useless, like lining up in the halls.
It turns out there IS time to do really cool stuff of you don’t have to do the annoying logistical
Nor does 6 hours and 20 min on a Zoom call with the same adult. Karin Goldmark talked about finding the right balance between structure and flexibility. What does seem to work is a mix of interactive sessions AND time when you do all see each other AND time working on your own. Ideally, students will be learning with teachers from their own school BUT that won’t always be possible because of the staffing challenge of supporting both in person and remote learning students simultaneously.
It’s hard to make decisions that will work well for the many different kinds of school buildings and contexts in NYC and the disparate conditions and constraints they face.
Like many things, these struggles predate the pandemic but the pandemic highlighted and exacerbated them and puts them in a life and death context in which the school system has to get the answers right.
One of the biggest challenges has been around scheduling because there’s the need for some uniformity—for example, of bus schedules for elementary schools— along with the need for flexibility.
Karin Goldmark notes that mask mandates can be adhered to without violating one’s democratic right to protest or to exercise or to go about one’s life. People have found ways to adapt without bringing the case count up. Public health officials are clear that keeping the mask on or keeping 6 feet of distance is usually an either-or but the DOE is doing a both-and approach recognizing sometimes people will need to be closer than 6 feet, or will need to take their masks down to take a sip of water. This is a doing all of these activities to the greatest extent possible model. The Department of Ed has consulted with the Department of Health every step of the way and DOH agrees that voluntary compliance is the way to go; you can’t punish your way into compliance at the level that is needed
Karin Goldmark underscores the importance of teaching people about the science—why its important to wear a mask, why it’s important to wash our hands frequently, why it’s important to maintain six feet of distance. People are much more willing to respect the rules when they understand them. The Department of Education has drawn a firm line around the wearing of masks—if a student or adult refuses to wear one then they cannot attention in-person school. There is no way to keep one’s self safe and keep everyone else safe if not wearing a mask and anyone not adhering to this mandate will need to do remote learning.
Karin Goldmark, Deputy Chancellor of the country’s biggest, most diverse school system, shared her concerns, both as a school leader and as a parent, that safety and health precautions would not only be complicated and hard to do, they would make school joyless. But the Regional Enrichment Centers the city established for emergency child care back in March have demonstrated that it doesn’t have to be so. They’ve created new spins on games that respect safety precautions yet are still fun, and ways for kids to be in community with one another and to be athletic, or artistic, or musical.
At this week's The Round Table, we welcome in two new podcasters--Madeline Mayes and Isaiah Taylor--as Julianna, Riya, and Sara have headed to college. Inica, Isaiah, Madeline, and Olivia interviewed Karin Goldmark, Deputy Chancellor for School Planning & Development at the NYC Department of Education. We spoke about the challenges of opening schools safely and equitably. With 130,930 schools in the US serving approximately 56.6 million students, this is a really, really big question. Karin walked us through some of the complex decision-making she and her colleagues have undertaken. There is NO way to make everybody happy or satisfied during a time like the one we’re living and learning through, especially in the country’s biggest school system--New York City. We appreciated this window into what’s going on behind the scenes--we don’t envy the decision makers but we DO strive to understand them… Thanks for joining us!
Cyrus talks about parallels and differences btw strategies for social justice undertaken by Muslim vs Black Lives Matter activists. He notes that there’s tremendous overlap btw black and Muslim communities since over half of Muslims in America are blacks from the African diaspora. What that means in thinking about American Islam in the BLM moment and this chapter in activism for black rights is a very divided community. Many like Cyrus are products of black radical politics and consider Malcolm their Imam and without him, Islam in America would be very different if it would exist at all
Cyrus McGoldrick’s worldview is very influenced by his being half Iranian and half Irish. He looks to the Irish freedom struggle —part of Ireland (Northern Ireland) is still partially occupied by England through their two estate solution. The Irish still remember all of their political prisoners and support their families from Dublin to Belfast. Cyrus hoped to see the same kind of response within the Muslim community, but the War on Terror is a comprehensive effort, and a bipartisan one that has been supported by both parties, making it even more important to maintain a human rights framework focused on the dignity of all human beings
Cyrus McGoldrick shared how disheartened he was seeing young people going into prison and losing every appeal , fighting cases that were clearly political. When every court in the land declares someone guilty, within a civil work framework, organizations generally have to wash their hands of the case and say the checks and balances have left us in this position and their hands are tied. This led to to his radicalization and thinking more deeply about the law and the system, and to what degree do and don’t such checks and balances protect us from government oppression and tyranny. It also led to him moving to a national coalition to focus more on protecting political prisoners.
Cyrus McGoldrick talks about his hero, Malcolm X. Malcolm was a product of, and one of the great producers of, a black internationalism and a radical black politics that lives on and is very much alive anywhere people are protesting the state.
Malcolm tried to move people beyond the conversation of civic rights, which limited them to the courts, to the law, to an American identity. Malcolm’s feeling was that law is not the determinant of right and wrongs, that human beings are born with inalienable rights and dignity and anything less than that should be resisted until we achieve it, for ourselves and others.
Cyrus McGoldrick talks about the importance of knowing who you are and who your community is in building a successful campaign. The word community is too often used cavalierly as an ideal or an imagined backdrop to the work we are doing. We talk about cities as a community but that doesn’t really exist. New York City, as an example, is a collection of villages. Can 12 million people share a community? Not really. Even one neighborhood of Brooklyn or the Bronx isn’t necessarily one community in a real way. When Cyrus thinks about building campaigns, he tries to focus small, on the things that are immediately around him and the people he’s in community with.
Cyrus McGoldrick, doctoral student currently living in Turkey, shared his evolution as a human rights activist. He tried to plug into the anti war and anti Bush efforts, but notes that he and his peers didn’t have a practical idea of how politics and power worked and how decisions were made. It wasn’t until going through university and, even more, connecting with real activists —people on the ground—that he was really able to wrap his mind around strategy and do meaningful hands-on work. He’s since collaborated with folks committed to similar causes around the world—in New York, in Turkey, in Iran, in Norway.
At this week's Round Table, Inica and Olivia--along with Julianna, Sara, and Riya in their last episode before heading to college!--spoke with Cyrus McGoldrick, a lyrical artist of Iranian and Irish descent and an American Muslim activist who has worked for and with civil and human rights organizations for the last 10 years. Living in Istanbul, Turkey for the last five years doing doctoral work has given him a great vantage point to watch our United States from a distance. We talk about the generative possibilities of this moment in which, more than ever, space is not a barrier, we can build relationships across divides, and people have woken up to injustice because of our ability to SEE and connect and coordinate communities around the world. We talk about Cyrus' role model Malcolm X and the need to move, as Malcolm did, from a civil rights to a human rights perspective that foregrounds common good and common dreams globally. Thanks for joining us!
Mark Hanis remembers when Hillary Clinton was running for president, a lot of people talked about the need for their to be more women in government. This made him curious about how many women worked for Clinton when she was Secretary of State. He found there was initially a 2:1 ratio of men to women (it got better over time) EVEN WITH someone who was a champion for women. This influenced his founding of Inclusive America—he wanted to know who was working on this and what the solution was And, when he found out that no one was working on diversifying appointed positions, Inclusive America was born.
Mark Hanis notes that too often when we focus on diversity and inclusion, we just focus on one aspect like gender or race. It’s important to be conscious and vigilant about who’s not in the room. Intersectionality plays an important role in this—asking not just “is there a woman in the room?” but “is there a woman of color?” or “is there a woman of color with disabilities or veteran status?” It can be a lot of work but it’s important to start a meeting not just by saying what are we going to do but acknowledging who’s missing, why, and what can we do to get them at the table so that their voice can be part of the debate. This is vital to truly representative democracy
Mark Hanis shares his concerns that people who are younger tend not to be taken as seriously in government. At Inclusive America, when they look at categories of diversity in order to ensure a more level playing field , age is one of them along with gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and veteran status. They also plan to go beyond this to look at first generation college, first generation American, gender identity, geographic and socioeconomic criteria. People like Bill Clinton and Al Gore were often seen as too young by earlier generations. Folks in the Obama administration were often very young, in part as a result of the Office of Technology bringing in younger folks.
Mark Hanis talks about how much he enjoyed his time working for the Office of Vice President Joe Biden. He notes that too often we focus on the individual and not enough on the team or on movements, yet rarely is any social change possible without large groups of people. We do a disservice by just talking about the person who has their name or their face on the top of the ticket. He characterizes Biden’s team in the White House as some of the smartest, kindest, most well meaning people he’s worked with. He’s excited by the idea that if Biden wins the presidency, many of those veterans will return ALONG with bringing in many new and fresh faces, which was a hallmark of the Obama Administration
Given this, Mark Hanis shares his feelings that when Biden says he’s going to only select from a very qualified pool of women candidates, you could argue that it’s tokenism or affirmative action or you could say it’s almost impossible for a woman to make it to the very end. Hillary Clinton got the closest and she was one of the most highly qualified, well known candidates ever and didn’t have to pay for a lot of ads to get her name out there. Someone like Kamala Harris, however, needs to spend LOTS of money on ads. There are some countries like Rwanda where 50% of the Parliament needs to be female, and many of the countries in Scandinavia have quotas. What Inclusive America is saying let’s look at the data and if there are problems, let’s tackle them
Mark Hanis notes that Inclusive America looks at the feeders for positions and notice there are strong “tracks” to getting jobs in government. A really troubling thing about the 5000 appointments the Executive Branch makes is that they violate all hiring practices. Very few have formal job descriptions, very few are publicly posted. A lot of them are acquired through who you know, which perpetuates biases. If a lot of white men from Yale Law School hold these positions, they often will hire other white men from Yale to be their colleagues. So Inclusive America works a lot with existing feeders and encourage them to do better in terms of engaging a more representative base.
Mark Hanis shared troubling trends about demographic makeup in the Executive Branch. We’ve never had a woman ambassador in the US for many countries like Germany, Israel, Spain, Russia, China, and Turkey although there have always been very talented women to serve in these positions. We’ve never had an African American serve as Under Secretary of State, which is third highest position in the State Dept. We’ve never had an openly gay person serve on the Federal Reserve Board. The theory of Inclusive America is if we have more diversity at the table, the policies that come out of these positions will be more sensitive and inclusive to better serve our public
As a White House Fellow working for the National Security Council as part of Vice President Biden’s team, Mark Hanis couldn’t help but notice that most of the people around him were white men. He inquired about who was trying to make government representative of our populace. There were some great examples— but they were almost all focused on Congress. There weren’t as many efforts or resources focused on the Executive Branch but that is actually the largest employer in our country, and hires more than 2 million people! The President can appoint almost 5,000 of those—every ambassador, every cabinet member, and many levels below. Yet no one seems to know how many of those are women, people of color, older or younger, people with disabilities, veterans. That’s what Inclusive America is trying to do—first to diagnose and then to figure out whether we’re giving the best people in our country a fair shot to serve our people.
At this week's Round Table, Inica Kotasthane, Madeline Mayes, and Olivia Becker spoke with Mark Hanis, serial social entrepreneur and most recently co-founder of Inclusive America AND Progressive Shopper. Did you know that the Executive Branch is the largest employer in government, employing over four million people inclusive of those in the military? Having worked as a White House Fellow in the Office of the Vice President under Joe Biden, Mark has a keen understanding of the context he seeks to influence--and of what a prospective Biden administration might be like. We spoke with Mark about what diversity means and how to achieve it in government without being tokenistic, including tackling one of the kinds of diversity that is most lacking in government: age diversity. Thanks for joining us!
Sarah Hurwitz underscores how much wisdom there is to be mined in our religious traditions, especially about dealing with hard times. So she wanted to write a book that both covered the basics of Judaism and unearthed Judaism’s deepest, most transformative, most helpful wisdom for dealing with the daily challenges of our lives—how we treat each other, how we lead moving, spiritual lives—and that did it in a way that was fun and conversational.
Sarah Hurwitz shared how the Obamas riffed and wrote for weeks in advance of giving a speech out of respect to the audience, so that by the time they were in front of an audience it was well structured and presented coherently. There’s a myth that the greatest speeches happen when you get up to the podium and abandon your script to speak spontaneously from the heart, yet that is only true maybe 5-10% of the time if you’re an MLK kind of orator.
Revisiting Judaism as an adult, Sarah Hurwitz found that it had thousands of years of wisdom for millions of humans on what it means to be human: what it means to be a good person, what it means to lead a truly worthy life, and how to find spiritual connection.
Sarah Hurwitz shared the degree to which authenticity resonates with audiences, from Michelle Obama to Donald Trump. With Trump, people feel that nothing about him is hidden, which appeals to many people, even those who don’t like him. Sarah thinks it’s a response to the kind of speaking and speechwriting that has been overly polished and scripted, which is very insulting to the American people. Trump is the counterbalance to that, which works for a lot of Americans.
Sarah Hurwitz underscores how much context matters in remembering a great line—and the degree to which there’s an element of randomness. Michelle Obama had used the line “when they go low, you go high” in previous speeches but it was in the context of the 2016 convention—that moment in time, that magical speech—that the phrase struck and stuck.
Sarah Hurwitz underscores that what people remember is stories and images, not adjectives. Think about how Michelle Obama started her 2016 Convention speech. She didn’t say, “on my daughters’ first day of school at the White House, I was anxious and scared and worried.” She said, “on my daughters’ first day of school, they climbed into those big SUVs with all those men with fins and I saw their little faces pressed up against the window and I asked myself, what have we done?” That image conveys sooo much more.
Sarah Hurwitz shared that tbe second great truth of effective speechwriting is say something true. Often people will try to think what will make me sound smart or funny or powerful or what does the audience want to hear but your first question should be what is the deepest and most helpful and most important truth that I can tell right now. I think about then Senator Barack Obama’s first line in the DNC in 2004 : “Llet’s face it. My presence on this stage tonight is pretty unlikely.” And then he went on to talk about his Kenyan grandfather. NO consultant would have advised him to do this. But he got up there and shared who he truly was and people were electrified by that. They felt he respected them enough to tell them the truth.
Sarah Hurwitz shared the key truths of really good writing The first is writing that sounds like a human being would actually say it. You have NEVER turned to a friend and said, “hey, do you want to leverage our platform to catalyze a zoom call tonight?” or turn to a family member and say, “I just think hardworking American family values are the heart of our country”. That’s not how people talk. She underscored that if you wouldn’t say something to one person, don’t say it to many people. It actually doesn’t get better.
Sarah Hurwitz shared that people often ask her how she nailed Michelle Obama’s voice in speeches she’d write for her. Sarah notes that what she thinks people are REALLY asking is how did you, a white Jewish woman “get” the voice of a black woman when you have very different backgrounds? Sarah notes that while it’s true that they have very different backgrounds, they have a very similar sensibility about what makes good writing and good speaking. It comes down to touching people and moving them emotionally. Spending a lot of time with MO to get her voice also helped
Sarah Hurwitz LOVED working w Michelle Obama. Michelle stayed true to herself rather than saying or doing things for political expediency. She never wanted to give some boring, weedy, wonky speech—she wanted to tell people stories, and touch their hearts, and honor their struggles, and make people feel seen and heard and respected and admired. Sarah considers MO her speechwriting soulmate and feels she won the lottery working with her.
Sarah Hurwitz shared her journey to becoming an (ace) speechwriter. After a bumpy start—and a number of campaign losses—she was hired by then-Senator Barack Obama’s campaign. She ended up being “loaned” to Mrs Obama to write her convention speech in ‘08. She was so compelled by MO’s warmth, smarts, and “relentless authenticity” that she took a “demotion” to work for the First Lady instead of the First Man
At this week’s Round Table, Inica, graduating podcaster Julianna, incoming podcaster Madeline, and Olivia spoke with Sarah Hurwitz, author of “Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life — In Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)” Sarah Hurwitz was a White House speechwriter from 2009 to 2017, starting out as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then serving as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. No, she didn’t write the iconic “when they go low, we go high” line but she did write a lot of other great ones! She provided us with incredible insights about how she became a speechwriter, what it takes to write and deliver an effective speech, why she went from speechwriting to writing a book about Judaism--something she found super boring as a kid, and, yes, what it was like to work so closely with Michelle Obama (spoiler alert: we should all be so lucky…) Thank you for joining us!
Riya Mehta shared her views that there isn’t l anything wrong with having “anyone but Trump” be the Democratic Party’s unifying call right now. She noted that ultimately, the focus of America is the middle class, the working class, and that’s what Trump and Biden are battling for. While she doesn’t feel Biden was the best choice for the Democratic Party in terms of its future goals she noted that if there was ever a time for Biden to be a nominee, now is it because as more people from GenZ vote, she finds it hard to see a future in which America does not become more progressive. As such, she doesn’t see this nomination as as much of a setback as it may seem.
Inica shares her concern that defeating Trump is the only thing the Democratic Party is worrying about and standing for right now. She expresses concerns about Biden staying silent and not talking about the issues he plans on focusing on when in office. Once we get closer to Nov, voters are going to want more clarity on what specifically Biden is going to do to reverse the past four years and to allow for a better next four years. She shares her concern that the campaign isn’t ready to answer those questions because they can’t satisfy everyone.
One of the biggest things the primary was focused on was electability. Calvin Cullen shares his strong beliefs that the establishment part of the Democratic Party was wrong to feel the party couldn’t nominate a Bernie Sanders or an Andrew Yang because they’d be called radical leftists and that would kill the ticket. The reality is that attack ads are inevitable—Biden and Harris are getting them and will continue to. ANYONE will be called a radical leftist because that’s just a buzzword the right uses these days.
Calvin Cullen, creator of the podcast CC’s World based in Birmingham Alabama, notes that when it comes to electoral strategy, he feels Biden boxed himself into a corner when he committed to picking a woman. He feels Biden should have focused on policies more than identity, and that this pick in fact signifies an avoidance of focusing on policy. Overall, he anticipates this being a verrrry close election.
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Olivia, Riya, and Sara spoke with Calvin Cullen, college student, Birmingham Coordinator for Take Back Our Republic, and creator of CC’s Word, a weekly opinion podcast about current events and the politics of the day. We spoke about, wait for it, Joe Biden’s newly announced vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, and the implications of the choice. Yes, everyone is talking about this but we dig a bit deeper, as usual. We talk about the value of detaching from individuals and attaching to policies, being skeptical of mainstream news--which serves the establishment of both sides, and doing independent research. Thanks for joining us!
Divya and Eliza of Real Talk note that where they as students come in is in helping teachers know what exactly students are going to be most receptive to in civil discourse. They underscore that they don’t have all the expertise—they’re still students themselves. What they DO know is how to engage high schoolers in a space that is student led, how to do things that are relevant to them, and how to create a space that people feel is truly open to discussion, which is something that many classrooms lacking. Many teachers ARE trying to do these things in their classroom, and are aware of the need for civil discourse, they just don’t know how to do it well.
Divya and Eliza use REAL TALK as an acronym to explain their core principles for productive discussions, like E for Embrace Discomfort and K for Know Yourself. This is coupled with a core curriculum of seven lessons that cover core skills that connect what happens in rue classroom with what is really applicable for learning about civic engagement. Too often, there’s not a connection btw classroom content and what students really want and use.
Real Talk cofounders Divya and Eliza find that there are elements of debate that are really effective—and some that are less so. One really valuable aspect is the ability to take on perspectives that you don’t necessarily agree with and go through logical reasoning and learn to listen really well so you can point out logical fallacies. A lot of what they are trying to do through Real Talk is create opportunities to apply really core skills of debate, argumentation, listening, thinking critically about sources of evidence into conversations that are really productive and that have the purpose of understanding, not winning.
Real Talk cofounders Divya and Eliza found that living in a liberal area, people were focusing on one side of the debate and were scared of bringing up other perspectives, even ones they didn’t believe in. Although the point of the discussion was to learn from multiple perspectives, that wasn’t what they were getting in the classroom. They recognized the need for additional instruction about how to facilitate and hold space for challenging conversations. They founded Real Talk to meet this need, working with fellow students and teachers to bring more instruction and structure to what NGP calls deliberation.
Frances Lee noted that conflict leads, conflict is the story, conflict is exciting. so the issues that generate conflict get attention. When legislation gets worked out in a bipartisan way, it gets little attention. Do most Americans know much about the legislative response to the pandemic in the spring and the bipartisan agreement around it (as opposed to the conflict around current negotiations)? When bipartisanship happens, it often doesn’t connect w people so they don’t even know it occurred.
Frances Lee of Princeton shared with us that in her class on Political Ambition, she teaches about how politics takes patience and perseverance and you have to be armed against the failure of your fondest hopes. So you push and push and yet you achieve less than you’d hope—that’s the norm in politics —BUT if you reflect on the course of U.S. history, you can see that a great deal of change has been made in many areas. As such, one can take some comfort from the successes achieved, while recognizing they were all hard fought for and difficult to achieve
At this week’s Round Table, Julianna, Olivia, and Riya spoke with Divya Ganesan and Eliza Goler, co-founders of Real Talk. Divya and Eliza, now rising high school seniors, first began thinking about “Real Talk” as middle school debate partners because they recognized the value of the critical thinking skills and diverse perspectives represented in debate, but often absent from other settings (you know, like classrooms and our everyday lives.) They recognized the need for training and support in creating and holding space if this kind of “real talk” is going to thrive--so they created it. We discussed the difference between debate, discussion, and deliberation; the power of peer-to-peer models; the importance of resisting binaries and othering; and the value of cross partisanship and engagement across identities. We also share tips for civil dialogue and dig into some of the methodologies and tools they’ve created so that you too can engage in real talk. Thanks for joining us!
Frances Lee underscored that even under circumstances where a party has its best opportunity to legislate a partisan agenda, it struggles and most of the time it’s not even possible. So despite polarization and the difficulties acquiring bipartisan support, our system requires it. And that’s just on the federal level! Given federalism, implementing national policy requires broad buy-in from states, which also includes a high level of bipartisanship. It’s a reality of our system and very frustrating for activists of all kinds.
Frances Lee, Professor of Politics at Princeton U and a top scholar of partisanship, spike with us about how legislation gets enacted in American politics, which has not changed despite the rise in polarization. Bipartisanship is still necessary. Legislation that successfully navigates the legislative process IS bipartisan, as the reality of our government necessitates it.
Blanca and Rachel is OneFiveTen share that they don’t think all millennials and GenZ all think the same way but they do think we tend to support specific policies and specific ideas about society and what kind of country we want to live in. That has tended to be Democrats but they would love to hear about Republican candidates who uphold these values. Values, along with getting young voices heard, is at the center of what they do.
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Olivia, and Sara spoke with Frances Lee, Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and one of our country’s most instrumental scholars of partisan politics. Professor Lee has a new book coming out in the fall with co-author Jim Curry called The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era, looking at how legislation does--and doesn’t--get enacted, the degree to which our system requires bipartisanship, and how federalism requires broad buy-in by states to enact anything. As she puts it, our political system is a set of handcuffs for those who envision broad change. As you can imagine, we dug in to discuss the implications for GenZers committed to achieving real social, political, and economic change. Thanks for joining us!
Rachel Kastner of OneFiveTen notes that the word “donor” feels scary to a millennial on a limited budget and juggling college loans. She noted that if someone like her who is politically aware and engaged isn’t giving, it’s hard to imagine how many millennials are. Yet If if want political change, we have to get our candidates into office and one of the ways to do so is to donate. You don’t have to be a high dollar donor to matter; a donation of one, five, or ten dollars CAN make a difference.
Blanca Andrew and Rachel Kastner of OneFiveTen talk about the degree to which young people are left out of political power—despite comprising 138 million people. If we can each chip in small amounts, we can make the same impact as large donors. Further, when young people are invested, they’re gonna act, they’re gonna vote, and they’re gonna pay attention.
Michael Thorning discusses how divided Congress has become. Fortunately, I a crisis, people are more likely to put aside political differences because they’re comparing the consequences of not acting with potential electoral consequences. We have to be honest that electeds are going to make decisions that benefit their constituency AND their future electability.
At this week's Round Table, Riya and Sara spoke with Blanca Andrei and Rachel Kastner, co-founders of OneFiveTen. OneFiveTen is committed to making Millennials and Gen-Zers the political powerhouse they can be by empowering the generation with information on progressive campaigns, and encouraging and equipping activists to become donors. With Gen Z and Millennials comprising 37% of the electorate, OneFiveTen is committed to helping the nearly 100 million members of the generation create a tidal wave of campaign finance reform. You’ll learn how and be inspired by their vision in this episode. Thank you for joining us!
Michael Thorning underscores that our elections are the foundation of how we decide who is going to represent us. Unfortunately the parties increasingly believe that the other side is stacking the deck and changing the rules to work against them. This country and every country with free or fair elections has a history of people doing things that are illegal or bending the rules to try to get ahead. AR BPC they trying to build strong institutions and better election systems that can be more representative, towards the ultimate goal that having more people who participate in democracy will have a modifying effect on these trends.
Michael Thorning broke down the challenges of our time: People are more and more attracted to extreme views in politics—extreme views have become how people distinguish themselves from one another—AND we have been living through a period of extreme partisanship. These are two different things but play off of one another. Further, they build off really deep rooted trends that go back for many decades.
Michael Thorning from the Bipartisan Policy Center shares some of the fascinating programs he works on like BPC’s American Congressional Exchange, a first of its kind program in which bipartisan pairs of congress members visit each other in their home districts for a few days to build authentic relationships, and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which is poised to make once in a generation changes to how Congress works, from the tech and social media they use to how much staff get paid and whether members should live in Washington through a number of critical rules and procedures.
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Olivia, and Riya spoke with Michael Thorning, Associate Director for Governance at the Bipartisan Policy Center which, as the name implies, actively fosters bipartisanship by combining the best ideas from both parties to promote health, security, and opportunity for all Americans. Michael spoke with us about BPC’s strategy of strengthening institutions and fostering broader participation in democracy in order to diminish the most extreme manifestations of partisanship and polarization. Michael helps us understand that bipartisanship is not an ideology unto itself but rather it’s a value, and a norm. If people want stability in our laws and government, you don’t want to be overthrown when your party is out of power. Government programs like social security endure because there were bipartisan compromises to start and sustain them, and the public has become dependent upon them. During these hyper-polarized times, speaking with Michael filled us with hope. Thanks for joining us!
In response to a question from Inica about whether there is value in establishing facts and enabling people to figure out their own opinions, Julian Zelizer notes that this is a debate historians have been having for a loooong time. His shared his belief that we are ALWAYS interpreting, which entails brings values. As such, he endorses acknowledging that there is no pure objectivity while still striving to provide as balanced a view as possible, presenting evidence and different ways to think about the question so that students can ultimately decide for themselves.
Professor Zelizer debunks the idea of college campuses being environments where professors are scared to speak and everything is fraught. He underscores that he’s found students engaged in the issues and wanting to debate them, and that he uses that energy to animate his classroom.
Professor Julian Zelizer’s tells us about his newest book, which focuses on Newt Gingrich who helped bring down the Speaker of the House for the first time in history as he rose to power, introducing a new kind of partisanship called “smashmouth partisanship” where you can take down people and destroy institutions. The book also helps explain what came of the Republican Party and why we see the kind of politics that’s common today.
At this week's Round Table, Inica Kotosthane and Riya Mehta interviewed Julian E. Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University and author of 19 books on American History and politics and over nine hundred op-eds, including a weekly column on CNN.Com. He's just published a book called “Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party, ” which builds upon his last book "Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974," in helping us understand how the U.S. got to our current state of government. As you can imagine, Professor Zelizer had a lot to say about the state of polarization and divisiveness in our country, how things got this way, the role of the media, and what it will take to create change. Thank you for joining us!
When Politics Turned Toxic (New York Times Book Review of Burning Down the House, July 7, 2020)
‘Burning Down the House,’ by Julian E. Zelizer: An Excerpt (New York Times, July 7, 2020)
How Newt Gingrich Laid the Groundwork for Trump's Republican Party (Time Magazine, July 7, 2020)
Johanna Lacoe of the California Policy Lab shared how in studying important issues related to education, school discipline and school safety, housing and foreclosures, neighborhood crime and criminal justice, she became increasingly aware of how linked all of these policy issues are, as is particularly evident in what’s going on right now with COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matters movement. We have all these systems set up and none of them are working in the ways we want them to, and they’re all related. It’s most obvious in criminal justice but it’s really about failures in all of the other systems.
Michael Jackson talks about the age-old tensions between uniformity at the top and local power. He underscores that a lot of the discourse around policing is because there is no uniform Use of Force law in America, there is no uniform training of cops in America. Criteria differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In order to address this, we as Americans have to decide how much uniformity we think is advisable.
At this week's Round Table, Julianna, Riya, and Sara spoke with Johanna Lacoe of the California Policy Lab. Dr Lacoe is a policy scholar with expertise in criminal and juvenile justice, education, employment, and housing. Her work includes evaluations of policies and programs aimed to prevent neighborhood violence, improve school safety and discipline, and prepare individuals reentering society after incarceration for employment. Dr. Lacoe has great analysis and reflection about this moment in criminal justice reform, the #DefundPolice movement, and the implications of inequality and injustice more broadly. Thanks for joining us!
Michael Jackson talks about how policing has become so militaristic that it’s bled outside poor black urban communities and become ingrained in the culture of policing, affecting people it didn’t use to affect. Once a culture of authoritarianism and unaccountability becomes the culture of policing, it starts w poor and marginalized people and it keeps on going. The wider spread recognition of this is what brings us to a moment ripe for long overdue change and transformation.
While police brutality and anti-black institutional racism have been with us for a long long time, Michael Jackson reflects on differences of the current moment, noting the very different composition of the current protests and the degree to which media marginalized protesters in the past and made them look like radicals whereas today the media is finally acknowledging there’s a very real problem.
Michael Jackson of the Center for Community reflected with us this week about the Black Lives Matter movement and this particular moment. He underscored that issues we’re dealing with are not new. Today we’re STILL dealing with police brutality, power, anti-black racism, institutional anti-blackness—the same things that sparked the race riots in Watts back in 1964
At this week's Round Table, Inica, Julianna, Olivia, Riya, and Sara spoke with Michael Jackson, political analyst and researcher with the Center for Community Change. Four months ago, we spoke to him about why the Black Lives Matter movement matters. This week, we wanted to revisit and deepen our conversation with him in light of recent issues of police brutality and racial inequality-- and protests around the world in response to them. As always, Michael helped put this moment into historical perspective and shared great wisdom and insight about the swirl of recent events and their implications. Thank you for joining us!
Karen Sherman, president of Akilah Institute, talks about the importance of giving women voice and choice through economic empowerment and education —the two things that help women around the world to make change in their lives, families, and communities.