Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Professor Danielle Allen on 'A More Resilient Union' (VIDEO)

I assigned Ms. Allen's piece in my introduction to American government classes just last week, and it's interesting to see her now interviewed with Judy Woodruff at the PBS News Hour.

Ms Allen's article is here, "A More Resilient Union: How Federalism Can Protect Democracy From Pandemics."

The main thing that struck me about the piece is that she doesn't rag on former President Trump, except to argue that he failed to educate the public on the full nature of the virus, not to mention his failure to better delineate the respective roles of the federal government vis-a-vis the states. 

What I did appreciate is her discussion on the American public's widespread ignorance on how the U.S. governmental system operates. That was a key theme I wanted students to discuss, and she make a pretty shocking case to abolish school football programs, even though she apparently loves football: 

If the country’s constitutional democracy is to have a healthy future, Americans should finish this crisis intending not only to invest in health infrastructure but also to revive civics education. Schools need more time for history, civics, and social studies. What should go to make room? Sports, for one thing. Compared with other countries, the United States invests a disproportionate amount of time and money in sports. Americans appear to prefer football to democracy. It’s time to cut back—and I say this as someone whose first professional ambition in life was to be a running back. The United States has made such sacrifices before. World War II saw the suspension of football and soccer seasons the world over. Sporting events may be the last things Americans get back as they reopen their economy. They should use the extra time to double down on civics education.

This crisis has laid bare just how fragile and unsteady the United States’ constitutional democracy is. Now, the country must get its house in order and prioritize its farthest-reaching hopes and aspirations. Americans had all the tools needed to respond to this crisis, except for the very thing that would have given them reason to use them: a common purpose. Let the search for one begin.

Most students weren't thrilled with the idea, but some thought it not a bad notion. As a professor, I just like Ms. Allen's focus on improving civic education, especially for young people, which, as a professor of political science, and I can attest first hand, is dismal.