The Great Debate

America still needs to engage the world

This is a response to Nader Mousavizadeh’s latest Reuters column,  “A smaller America could be a stronger America.”

By David Miliband
The opinions expressed are his own.

Nader’s statistics pointedly and appropriately speak to a dysfunctional political dynamic of short term promises without long term responsibilities in the U.S.  It is also striking (and worrying) that both sides of American political debate are determined to persuade voters that they won’t be too concerned by the rest of the world.

But the U.S. is doomed NOT to become the Netherlands!  U.S. GDP per head is ten times the Chinese level.   Its universities still dominate in key areas.  Its conventional military might is overwhelming.  Its entanglement with the global system – notably in economics, but today that is inseparable from politics – means that it needs a “global posture.”  So does every country, large or small.

I would say the strategic choice for the U.S. is rather different.  It is whether to try to lead the reshaping of the multilateral system, not just the UN but economic institutions like WTO, conscious that such efforts are burdensome and rarely bring quick wins; or whether to hunker down around the current system, and try to address domestic problems, from K-12 education to business innovation.

Every campaign consultant will say there are no votes in the former course.  But the truth is America has far more to lose from its neglect of global responsibilities.  It cannot bring the world to heel on its own.  But it needs to be part of a new global compact – not at the expense of jobs and housing and crime at home, but to address them.

Where does Libya go from here?

By Daniel Serwer
The opinions expressed are his own.

With the press focused on scenes of joy in Tripoli and Benghazi, continued skirmishes with regime loyalists, and speculation about where Gaddafi might turn up, it is time to lift our sights and focus on the really difficult transition ahead. If another autocrat succeeds Gaddafi, the transition could be over soon. But if Libya embarks on an effort to create a more democratic state, unified and inclusive in many dimensions, we’ll need to wait the better part of a decade to know whether it has succeeded or not.

There are no magic formulas for how to go about this. Each contingency has its own requirements. We have seen many more partial failures than full successes: think Iraq and Afghanistan.

Certainly in Libya security will be job one. The immediate goal is public order, so that people can move freely without fear of large-scale violence. But there was public order of a non-democratic sort in Gaddafi’s Libya. What the rebels have done in areas liberated in recent months is as clever as it is remarkable: they have organized local councils to try to ensure security and other immediate requirements. This does not always happen in civil wars but it suggests a way forward. There were at least four councils in Tripoli before Gaddafi fell. Can they step in to organize local communities to protect themselves from the inevitable aftershocks of Gaddafi’s fall?

America must break the machine of industrial-era education

By Shantanu Sinha
The opinions expressed are his own.

Reuters invited leaders in education to reply to Steven Brill’s op-ed on the school reform deniers. Below is Sinha’s reply. Here are responses from Joel KleinRandi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch and others.

Steve Brill makes a compelling case that many issues in the educational debate are not actually debatable, but rather easily known facts.  Too many people are simply denying the obvious.

Clearly, public education in America is failing.  While the vitriolic debate rages on, millions of children are the undeniable victims.  Steve pointedly demonstrates how common sense is not sufficiently applied in many hotly contested topics like rubber rooms, teacher merit pay, or tenure rules.  However, while these are all issues worthy of discussion, solving them still won’t necessarily move the dial in a meaningful way.

Put kids first: Get rid of LIFO

By Michelle Rhee
The opinions expressed are her own.

Reuters invited leading educators to reply to Steven Brill’s op-ed on the school reform deniers. Below is Rhee’s reply. Here are responses from Joel Klein, Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch and others.

In his opinion piece for Reuters, “School Reform Deniers,” Steven Brill accurately describes last-in, first-out seniority rules as making no sense in our schools today.

LIFO, as the policy is known, requires that when budget shortfalls lead to teacher layoffs, the last teacher hired should be the first one to go. This happens completely without regard to how teachers are actually doing in their classrooms. There is no question teacher layoffs are awful, but going about them this way makes the problem even worse.