Courtney Martin

Courtney E. Martin is a Prospect senior correspondent. She is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press). You can read more about her work at

Recent Articles

A Space for Democracy

What becomes of the democratic commons when citizens don't feel safe?

President Barack Obama arrives in Tucson, Arizona, to attend a memorial service for victims of last Saturday's shooting rampage. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The losses suffered Saturday at a Tucson, Arizona, Safeway Supermarket are numerous and nefarious. As our ravenous news cycle has already reported in devastating detail, suspected gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire on a small crowd gathered for a meet and greet, wounding 14 people and killing six -- including federal Judge John M. Roll. As of this writing, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- who was shot at point-blank range in the head and appears to be the primary target of the attack -- remains in stable but critical condition. We are a nation in mourning -- grieving innocent lives, civility, and lapsed gun-control legislation. This tragic shooting is yet another wake-up call about the importance of mental-health services and community responsiveness; why weren't concerns about Loughner's stability taken seriously? It's hard not to hear eerie echoes of reports about the noticeably unhinged young men involved in the 2007 Virginia Tech and 1999 Columbine shootings. But one...

Making Good on the Girl Effect

Now that we've established that promoting the advancement of
women is good policy, we have to stay vigilant as ideas turn into

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses a panel on women's health and security at the U.N. Women's Conference in Beijing, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1995. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
In 1995, then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stood before the U.N. Women's Conference and declared, "Women's rights are human rights." It was a profoundly radical assertion. A little over 15 years later, it's accepted wisdom. (And, not to be overlooked, that first lady in a cotton-candy-pink suit and a long blond flip is now the secretary of state who tells reporters to keep their questions to themselves when they ask her who her favorite designer is.) We've seen an unprecedented growth in public awareness and acceptance of the notion that the most effective way to change the world is by investing in its most overlooked and oppressed people: girls and women. From the first TED conference devoted to women, (they have been around for 26 years) in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, to The New York Times Magazine 's recent "Saving the World's Women" issue, to the Novo and Nike Foundation's wildly popular viral video, "The Girl Effect," and its follow up, "The Clock is Ticking" --...

Why Class Matters in Campus Activism

When students from privileged backgrounds look abroad -- rather than in their own dormitories -- to be inspired to action, they perpetuate inequality.

Students and police at protests over tuition hikes in London last month (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
As 50,000 students in the United Kingdom took to the streets last week in protest of pending budget cuts for school tuition, it was hard not to wonder: Where is the student movement here in the U.S.? There is one, to be sure. It's fueled, in large part, by the frustration of first-generation college students who are eager to make good on their parents' and grandparents' efforts to get the next generation to the promised land of higher education. And what a promised land it is -- high school graduates are three times more likely to live in poverty than college graduates, and eight times more likely to depend on public-assistance programs. Last March, a national day of college-student demonstrations against tuition hikes and program cuts brought out crowds, sometimes nearly 1,000 strong, on many campuses across the United States. Eighty students took to the streets at the University of California, Berkeley, earlier this month to protest an 8 percent tuition hike. For years there has...

The Long Arc of the Youth Vote

Instead of drawing inspiration from political candidates, young people must be motivated by the promise of a country that reflects our deeply held values.

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama speaks to an MTV studio audience in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Expectations weren't high for young-voter turnout in the midterm election. Indeed, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reports that youth turnout was pretty paltry -- only about 20 percent of voters were under 30 years old. The news that only 9 million young people cast a ballot sobered youth organizers and inflamed middle-aged columnists. In his "Letter to a whiny young Democrat," Mark Moford of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don't, we all lose. Your choice, kiddo." Moford's patronizing approach seemed designed to alienate rather than motivate, but underneath his tantrum (ironic, indeed) lie a couple of very sophisticated questions that we must consider as we reflect on this month's election results. How can young people reimagine engaged citizenship in a way...

The Rally to Restore Journalism

In both our media and our politics, style over substance has become the status quo.

A participant of the Oct. 30 "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" holding a sign in front of a Fox News satellite truck (Flickr/Andrew Bossi)
The mood at last weekend's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, co-hosted by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report , was undeniably self-congratulatory -- the clever signs, the funny costumes, the motley sing-alongs. After such a long, dark season of economic depression, legislative disappointments, and overexposed "mama grizzlies," it's understandable that people want to laugh away the blues. But if we really want to claim the label of engaged citizens, our laughing must be accompanied by some good ol' self-examination of where and how we get our news. National Journal 's Ben Terris questioned if this weekend's festivities might more aptly have been named the "Rally to Restore Journalism." Indeed, the mainstream media took a deserved whooping during the crisp, sun-dappled day on the National Mall. Interestingly, this was also a major theme of Glenn Beck's rally back in August. For Saturday's rally, a debate between Colbert and Stewart included montages of fevered...