There are some advantages to teaching online. Often instructors complain that the online format robs them of give-and-take moments with students. But given the current size of many history survey sections—50, 90, 300, even 500 people—how realistic is it to expect those real-time opportunities for conversation? Online threaded discussions are often more substantive, inclusive, and productive than the traditional classroom format.
social safety net
The money in the farm bill is dominated by food stamps. The debate over it is dominated by everything else. But debate or no debate, the Senate wants to cut food stamps a little, the House wants to cut them a lot more, and now GOP Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas wants to bring House Democrats around to the farm bill by making sure food stamps will get slashed regardless.
The sequester cuts are a supreme case of Washington dysfunction. Yet Congress is actually quite capable of getting some things done.
Politicians in Washington invariably use the term “entitlements” to refer to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. On the face of it, it’s a neutral term: citizens are entitled to certain benefits if they fit a certain category of need, hence the benefits might reasonably be called “entitlements.” Yet the word carries ideological freight—an implication that people are lazy or self-indulgent to expect these things.
Public and private efforts to meet human need aren't squared off in a zero-sum game. And there's more than enough work to go around.
E. J. Dionne—probably my favorite big-daily columnist—thinks liberals need to make a direct, full-throated defense of government: If progressives do not speak out plainly on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate. Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election owed to many factors, including his overwhelming financial edge. But he was also helped by the continuing power of the conservative anti-government idea in our discourse. An energetic argument on one side will be defeated only by an energetic argument on the other. Hmm. I share Dionne's frustration with the success of anti-government conservatism in recent years, as well as the positive view he goes on to present of government's singular role in stimulating the economy and creating jobs (the main policy focus of his column). But more generally, I'm not convinced that the answer is to match anti-government attacks with equally fierce pro-government rebuttals.