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98 hours, 56 minutes…

October 29, 2010

Ed Suslovic for City Council

Since late March, I have served as the campaign manager of the Ed Suslovic for Portland City Council, District 3 campaign. The experience has been incredibly rewarding, and a truly unique opportunity. In four days, the final ballots will be cast and I’ll learn if months of hard work has paid off.

This blog post, as you’ve probably already realized, is a bit different from a normal post. Instead of writing about a political issue to which I am a bystander, this post contains a great deal of personal relevance.

There will be time following November 2 for reflection and analysis of the campaign we have run. Right now, however, my focus is on winning. Ed, a former City Councilor, mayor, and state legislator, is exactly what Portland’s District 3 needs in this time of political tumult. Times are rough, people are down on their luck, and a strong, experienced representative is needed for District 3.

Ed has lengthy plans to better the education in Portland Schools, balance the budget and establish fiscal responsibility, and increase our city’s energy efficiency and overall sustainability. What’s more, Ed has been working on all of these issues for over a decade. And, unlike other politicians, Ed is willing to work with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, to develop a solution. Ed, a Democrat, knows that the substance of an idea is more important than the political party with which it might be linked.

This doesn’t always make Ed popular. But it makes him truly independent, and the perfect voice for the people. He doesn’t cater to special interests, he doesn’t cater to political parties, he caters to the people.

I am under no illusion that this election won’t be close. Although Ed and I have confidence that he’ll be the victor on November 3, we need your help. If you live in District 3, please consider voting for Ed. If you know voters in District 3, please tell them why they should vote for Ed. If you want to help get Ed’s message out, please consider making a nominal donation on our website. You’d be surprised how well we can spend five dollars.

For the sake of Portland and its residents, please vote for Ed Suslovic for Portland City Council, District 3, on November 2.

Questions for me? Email me at: simonthompson@college.harvard.edu.

Questions for Ed? Email him directly at edsuslovic@yahoo.com.

For recent press clippings, check out our website.

Thanks everyone – and please pass this post around to anyone and everyone!

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Joke’s up.

October 20, 2010

Christine O'Donnell

When Sarah Palin’s first interview with Katie Couric aired, I laughed along with everyone else. I remember marveling at how inept a decision the McCain camp made in selecting Palin as his running mate. How could anyone take this woman seriously?

Then when the Tea Party first emerged in early 2009, I thought, alright: there are some “punny” radicals out there who aren’t very fond of Obama. As unsubstantiated as their claims are, good for them. They’ll make fools of themselves and only dig the Republican Party’s grave deeper.

The Tea Party gained more traction than I expected, but I guess I can understand its attractiveness to out-of-work and frustrated Americans (of which there are many). As John Kerry explained to a group of Organizing for America supporters in May, 2010, the Tea Party had successfully harnessed this anger and frustration and used it to the political advantage of Obama-denouncing, tax-decrying political candidates.

I regarded the Tea Party up until a couple months ago as likely a passing trend. Sure, the movement had gained momentum and had widespread support from Americans, but I still didn’t see any feasibility in such candidates as Sharron Angle or Rand Paul winning public office.

Clearly, that was short-sighted of me. Luckily, many of the most extreme Tea Party candidates, like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle are seeing their leads quickly lessening as election day nears.

But… wait. How does someone like Paul, who called Obama’s criticism of BP “un-American” back in May, even stand a chance? How is someone like Angle, who called the separation of church and state an “unconstitutional doctrine,” towing half of Nevadans’ support?

I’ll cut to the chase and be brutally honest. The reason why I’m writing this article is Christine O’Donnell. While everyone has been laughing at her utter and unequivocal stupidity about everything political, I’ve been shuddering in fear. Folks, I’m going to quote Matt Damon and say this is totally absurd. I am terrified about the future of my nation when forty precent of the voters in Delaware, traditionally one of the more rational states, say they plan to vote for this lunatic.

Coons is likely going to win this election, I know this. But the year is 2010. Are you seriously telling me that the oldest, most renowned, democracy in the world is, in the first state nonetheless, entertaining the idea of electing someone who doesn’t even know that the Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state? Someone who would prohibit abortion, even in cases of rape and incest? Someone who isn’t coherent in the most vital amendments to the Constitution?

I’m not bringing these points up to continue the constant barrage of criticism aimed at O’Donnell by the liberal media. I’m mentioning these deficiencies in her fundamental understanding of our Constitution and individual rights to express my anxiety about the future political discourse of this nation. It scares me that this Tea Party extremism is a field day for the media. It scares me when real issues are not being discussed and, instead, large portions of news broadcasts and articles are being devoted to wackos like Christine O’Donnell. I pity Chris Coons for having to run in such a childish election (however, he looks to be capitalizing on it).

We obviously can’t simply ignore the Tea Party phenomenon, but we’re giving them exactly what they want and thrive on: ridiculous amounts of attention.

Let’s shift the tide. Let’s stop laughing at these people, stop giving them attention, stop giving them exactly what they want.

We have plenty of problems larger than nonsensical, ignorant radicals. Let’s talk about them.

Photo credit: Reuters

Two weeks.

October 19, 2010

As originally seen on the HPRgument.President Obama and Deval Patrick

Massachusetts voters will, in fourteen days, express their satisfaction, or lack thereof, with the state’s leadership over the past four years. In a state where Democrats have learned no elections can be taken for granted, especially during the current tumultuous political climate, incumbent governor Deval Patrick ‘78 has conducted a skillful ground game in the final weeks. This past weekend saw President Obama rally for Patrick in Boston, and the Patrick-Murray team has courted hundreds of volunteers in anticipation of a massive get-out-the-vote effort.

It is my greatest hope that these efforts prove to be successful. In a race where both the unenrolled (Tim Cahill) and Republican (Charlie Baker ‘79) candidates have seen their campaigns mired in scandal, Governor Patrick’s campaign has maintained a laudable level of decorum. Furthermore, Governor Patrick has demonstrated his commitment to the people of the Commonwealth throughout his tenure by implementing policies, and advocating for changes, that have had positive effects on the states of education, the economy, and social justice in Massachusetts.

Read the rest of the article here.

Where Miseducation Meets Tolerance

October 12, 2010

Military personnel in prayerAs originally seen on the HPRgument.

The Cambridge School Committee recently decided that, beginning in the 2011-12 school year, schools will close for one Muslim holiday each year. On the heels of two events that paint America as an increasingly Islamophobic nation, those being the controversial Ground Zero “mosque” and the lunatic antics of that pastor in Florida, the School Committee’s refreshingly tolerant decision couldn’t come at a better time.

The decision, however, has been met with considerable backlash from the greater Boston community. After all, just one month ago a Wellesley, Massachusetts middle school garnered national media attention when its students visited a local mosque, some participating in the prayer ritual. Such articles about that event claimed students were “blatantly mis-educated [sic] about Islam,” with other pundits fallaciously claiming that “the students were separated by gender and the boys were asked to join the Muslim adults in prayer.” The readers’ comments for these articles were even uglier.

Read the rest of the article here.

The Not-So-Independent Variable

October 5, 2010

As originally seen on the HPRgument.

It’s tough to be independent. Just ask Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, whose running mate recently withdrew from the race and endorsed the Republican candidate. Or ask Maine gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler, whose unnamed opponents recently launched a website attacking his professional and personal life.

Despite the strong anti-incumbent mood sweeping the nation, voters are still largely reluctant to support independents over party-affiliated candidates. Cahill’s and Cutler’s numbers have recently plummeted, dropping from 16% to 6% and 14% to 9%, respectively, in just the last two weeks. But don’t be fooled by poll numbers. Independents still have a greater influence on the outcome of an election than any other factor.

Read the rest of this article here.

Now blogging for HPRgument

October 5, 2010

Hello all:

This week I began blogging for a new website associated with Harvard, the HPRgument (HPR stands for Harvard Political Review, you get the rest). I will be blogging weekly for this site and look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions on my writing.

Whenever a blog post goes live on the HPRgument, I will post a preview of the post here with a link to the continuation of the post. Feel free to email me or comment directly on the story with your thoughts and opinions.

Best wishes for a successful autumn,

Simon Thompson

Don’t Blame Me.

September 6, 2010

This blog post is written in response to the September 6 Newsweek article “Why School ‘Reform’ Fails: Student Motivation is the Problem.” You can view the article online here.

In his September 6 article, Robert Samuelson blames lack of student motivation for the inability to reform the American educational system. He faults students as the reason educational reform has become a “disillusion,” saying that the “adolescent culture” has corroded teacher authority. I couldn’t disagree more with his analysis.

As a recent public high school graduate and now college freshman, I will be the first to admit that laziness and slacking off has become a normal routine by high school and college students alike. Heck, I know that I’ve felt unmotivated to study or do homework a myriad of times. Further, I know that I could have certainly worked harder on some assignments or projects in high school, instead exerting the minimal effort required for a passing grade.

But blaming me, the student, would be a grave mistake. Not only does Samuelson’s article end with a doomsday report that contains no real solution – he shrugs away the idea of reform as “disillusion(al)” – but it ignores the reasons students become detached from their studies in the first place, the inherent flaws in our educational system requiring our attention.

Perhaps if Robert Samuelson went back to school for a year he’d know what I’m talking about. While technology is rapidly increasing its presence in society, and while the attention span of children is diminishing, the educational system is still based on antediluvian learning tactics. These learning tactics, relying primarily on textbooks and only worsening the more inner city one goes, create a system that is cold and disengaging for most students. The system provides no, or limited, opportunities for practical application in the real world of textbook knowledge. With no tangible reason to read the same textbook that has been read thousands of times before, it’s no wonder many students are turned off by education and end up dropping out.

This problem requires real solutions, something Samuelson fails to offer in his piece. However, when you hold the system to blame for failing its clients (my parents did, after all, fund my education), one can make real progress and develop concrete solutions.

First off, we must make learning more engaging. We must not look at the shrinking attention span as a constraint but, rather, an opportunity. Knowing that students are now more engaged in technology and interpersonal interaction than ever before, we must shed the textbooks of the past and provide teachers with the opportunity to create truly captivating classes. One form of this learning is called “expeditionary learning,” and was employed by the middle school I attended that was recently recognized by Arne Duncan for its successes in education.

Secondly, we must establish programs that help students connect their classroom learning with its application in the real world. This issue can be addressed a variety of ways. For example, at the private elementary school I attended for two years, the students ran a sandwich-making business and one of my projects was building a chicken coop for a student’s family. Through both of these ventures I was able to synthesize my interdisciplinary studies and see how all of them – math, writing, gastronomy – could be employed in the real world. That creativity is a far cry from a high school math teacher’s typical response when a student asks them how their studies can be practically applied (often the answer is: “it’s good to know, just in case”).

Lastly, we must equip students with the tools needed to excel after high school. However, focusing solely on those students planning to attend college would be a misstep since these students typically need the least motivation. Instead, we should make sure that students entering the work force have essential knowledge in balancing personal finances, interviewing, and formatting résumés and cover letters.

There are many different types of learners in our country today. However, if we blame them for failed educational reform and don’t address the real underlying problems, we’ll never make any progress. And progress, in America’s increasingly competitive and internationalized economical landscape, is absolutely vital.

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