Richard Kahlenberg

Richard D. Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy.

Recent Articles

Good Schools, Good Citizens

Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society Edited by Diane Ravitch and Joseph P. Viteritti. Yale University Press, 358 pages, $35.00 T he contentious debate over whether public funds should support private schools revolves around a central paradox: Most Americans believe that private schools do a somewhat better job of promoting academic achievement than public schools, but most Americans nevertheless like the idea of public education, as a means of improving democracy, social cohesion, and national unity. With the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule later this year on the constitutionality of a program in Cleveland, Ohio, that uses vouchers to make government funds available to private-school students, and with the Bush administration proposing tuition tax credits in its new budget, advocates of "privatizing" education are now turning their attention to the first principle of how education can and should serve democracy. Diane Ravitch and Joseph P. Viteritti, professors at New...

Radical in the Center

The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics By Ted Halstead and Michael Lind. Doubleday, 272 pages, $24.95 The Next Agenda: Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement Edited by Robert L. Borosage and Roger Hickey. Westview, 386 pages, $18.00 How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People: A Tactical Manual for Pragmatic Progressives By John K. Wilson. New York University Press, 252 pages, $15.95 A Visionary Nation: Four Centuries of American Dreams and What Lies Ahead By Zachary Karabell. HarperCollins, 246 pages, $26.00 I n the conventional wisdom, patriotism in American politics is thought to be a conservative impulse while the desire for strong, activist government is associated with liberals. But think of all those blue-collar heroes who responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September: the firefighters, police officers, and construction workers who led rescue and recovery efforts. Where do they fit in politically? Perhaps in what some...

Labor Organizing as a Civil Right

H ere is a Labor Day idea. Why not make the right to join a union a basic civil right? In theory the Wagner Act gives workers the right to freely vote in a union, but in practice the price to employers for violating the law is small. Employers who retaliate by firing workers are subject to orders to reinstate them and provide back pay. But this enforcement process takes time. According to National Labor Relations Board data for fiscal year 1998, the average back-pay award against employers for unfair labor practices was $32,509, and the median time between the filing of charges and issuance of a board decision was 658 days. A small number of firings is often enough to intimidate other workers and break a unionization drive. Employers know that wages of unionized workers are on average one-third higher than those of nonunionized workers, so they have a strong financial incentive to try to stop an organizing campaign by picking off a few ringleaders and...

The Fall and Rise of School Segregation

Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy, James T. Patterson. Oxford University Press, 285 pages, $27.50. What are we to think of Brown v. Board of Education nearly a half-century after the Supreme Court handed down the decision? On the one hand, the momentous ruling of May 17, 1954, ushered in a sweeping transformation, striking down state laws that required racially segregated public schools and helping accelerate a sea change in attitudes toward race. Consider how public opinion has shifted: In 1942 only 2 percent of southern whites (and 40 percent of northern whites) believed blacks and whites should attend the same schools. By the mid-1990s, 87 percent of Americans approved of the Brown decision. On the other hand, we have seen gradual resegregation of schools, so that 70 percent of black students today attend predominantly minority schools. One teacher in Prince George's County, Maryland, where schools have gone from being mainly white to...

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