Monday, February 10, 2014

ACLU of Washington Abandons Community for Coalition: Some Reflections for our Upcoming Issue

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State had a long tradition of community chapters throughout the state that were deeply embedded in each of our local communities. Several years ago, the state office in Seattle chose to dissolve the chapters in a move to centralize control from Seattle and work with other organizations to form coalitions around specific topics. The move makes for more efficiency and control but loses in its community building and educational functions. As a longtime ACLU supporter, one-time state board director, and chapter leader for several decades, I felt the loss most profoundly recently. At our community’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference, there was a conspicuous absence of the ACLU from both the program and the community tables of literature. The upcoming Human Rights Film Festival no longer has an ACLU film or discussion that follows that was often lead by our chapter. Incidences that would have spurred a community forum under ACLU leadership like a local school censoring of a student’s poem no longer occur. Focusing on local issues like the border control issues that brought members of our immigrant community and members of the local militia together for a discussion are now missing opportunities. The clipping of newspaper accounts of civil liberty violations in the local newspapers to forward to the state office in Seattle are now a thing in the past. And the student essay contest that motivated the teachers and students in the local schools to think about civil liberty issues is only a memory.

I’ve been thinking about my former chapter with sad remembrances as I was preparing our upcoming issue of the journal on the nature of a public because it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. It actually goes beyond our institutions like public schools that are beginning to move to a more corporate model of governance and social organizations like the ACLU that abandons community for coalitions, and touches the bedrock core of our thinking about democratic living. Many of the articles in our next issue of the journal raise questions about the nature of democratic community. As one of our authors points out, there are a number of defining views of democracy from democracy as “simple majority” to democracy as “competing ideas and shifting coalitions of temporary majorities,” but none of them rely “so strongly on the existence of a public” as a community deliberating together about its common problems. Given the growing dysfunction of our Congress and the relentless move to privatize and corporatize the one institution whose historical, albeit ambivalent and conflicting, function was to create that public, one wonders if that vision of democracy that Dewey and others promoted can any longer grip the social imagination and current realities. We hope the authors in our upcoming issue will be able to shed some light on the “public and its problems” for us. We invite our readers to join in the conversation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preview of "Talking With the Authors," featuring Justice Bridge of the Center for Children and Youth Justice

video

Former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, founder of the Center for Children and Youth Justice, was interviewed recently for our "Talking with the Authors" series in connection with her article for The Journal of Educational Controversy's issue on the School-to-Prison Pipeline.


Find the full interview with Justice Bridge here.

Our current issue on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, including Justice Bridge's article, can be found here.