In a year of virtual orientations, I made a video to help inform Tufts undergraduates who may be thinking about what disciplines to explore as they choose courses and–later on–majors. I addressed “civically engaged” students: those who want to improve their communities, nations, and the world and are trying to decide what academic disciplines might help them to do that.
My presentation is not argumentative or judgmental in the sense that I advocate some disciplines over others. But I do impose an organizational scheme with classifications and generalizations that would probably be controversial. For example, I say what I think a “science” is and why the social sciences are scientific. I acknowledge that these definitions are personal and contentious, but they might make the video interesting for some people beyond Tufts.
This is the video from today’s session of a series for the Tufts Community (but open to the public.) The guests were Eboo Patel from Interfaith Youth Corps, Prof. Keith Maddox (Director of the Tufts University Social Cognition Lab, Prof. Sam Sommers (Director of the Tufts University Diversity and Intergroup Relations Lab) and Jessica Somogie with a meditation exercise. Deborah Donahue-Keegan and I moderated.
Thanks to the Former Members of Congress Association, I joined Former Member Dennis Ross (R-FL) and mayors Nan Whaley (D-Dayton), Francis Suarez (R-Miami) and Marty Walsh (D-Boston), for a discussion of civic engagement during the pandemic.
I particularly appreciated Mayor Walsh’s eloquence about respecting poorly-paid work. His point expanded into a broader discussion of how to get everyone involved in the “public work” of rebuilding our community and country. On that topic, see “War Is a Poor Metaphor for This Pandemic” by Harry Boyte and Trygve Throntveit in Yes!.
I learned a lot from the mayors. I ended up thinking that the attitudinal effects of the pandemic may well be positive. We may care more about each other and feel more motivated to work together on public goals. The fact that the crisis is widely (although inequitably) shared will provide an opportunity to bring Americans together. However, the economic impact on civic life is very worrying.
To that last point, the Federal Reserve system recently surveyed a mix of local organizational leaders (two thirds of them from nonprofits) about the impact of the pandemic. “Nearly 2 out of 3 respondents (66%) indicated demand for their services has increased or is anticipated to increase, and more than half of the respondents (55%) noted a corresponding decrease or anticipated decrease in their ability to provide services.”
This chart from the Fed. paper is particularly significant:
This is the video of me presenting our study entitled MassForward: Advancing Democratic Innovation and Electoral Reform in Massachusetts at the Boston Foundation in November, with discussion by Jay Kaufman, a former state representative and Founder and President of the Beacon Leadership Collaborative; Beth Lindstrom, former Executive Director of the Massachusetts Republican Party; Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Interim Director of the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at UMass Boston; and Pavel Payano, an at-large city councilor in Lawrence.
I was on Mindy Todd’s show The Point yesterday, for a program on “Strengthening our Representative Democracy.” The other two guests were David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy,” and Judy Zaunbrecher, co-president of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters. The audio is here. If you start at 42:00, you can hear Mindy ask Judy whether Massachusetts has been gerrymandered; Judy accurately summarizes the research by my colleagues at Tisch College. (Spoiler alert: not really, although it would still be better to use a nonpartisan districting commission.) I join shortly after that to discuss why our state government is so dominated by white men.