The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

Drew Phillips

Drew Phillips has 8 articles published.

mm
Drew Phillips is a Political Science / Economics double major and a member of the Goucher men's soccer team. He writes for the Q in an attempt to provide as reasonable a perspective as possible in regards to issues that affect the Goucher Community.

Goucher Poll Results Released

by

On February 20th and 21st, the Goucher Poll released the highly anticipated results from its latest round of questioning across Maryland. The poll, which is conducted out of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center by Dr. Mileah Kromer, asked Maryland residents for their opinions on a variety of statewide and national issues, from September 12th-17th. The poll surveyed 800 adults from all areas of the state and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

The Maryland governor’s race, named one of POLITICO’s 10 to watch, is heating up, and many are looking to the Goucher Poll to see where things in the state currently stand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Governor Larry Hogan still has a very high approval rating in the state, with 61% of residents approving of the job he is doing. While this is a good sign for Hogan supporters, only 47% of respondents indicated that they were leaning toward or definitely voting to re-elect the Governor. On the Democratic side of the race, Rushern Baker leads a crowded field, with 19% of Democratic likely voters saying he would have their vote if the election were held today. 12% of those same voters say that they will be voting for Kevin Kamenetz, while Ben Jealous is slightly behind at 10%. However, it is important to note that 47% of likely Democratic voters are still undecided on their primary vote.

When asked to identify the most important issue facing the state, Marylanders are mostly concerned with economic issues (22%), education (19%), and crime/criminal justice (12%). While noting these issues as most important to them, respondents have an overall favorable view of things in the state—55% say Maryland is headed in the right direction, and 60% hold a mostly positive view of the economy.

Maryland residents may think things are going well in their state, however they do not feel as optimistic about things on the national stage. Only 27% of respondents approve of the job President Trump is doing—down two percent from this time last year—and 11% approve of the job Congress is doing. Even Maryland’s two Senators, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin are struggling to stay above water, earning approval ratings of 37 and 44%, respectively.

Respondents were also asked their opinions on a range of statewide issues, including opioids, youth football, and women in state government. About half of respondents suggested that they personally know someone who has been addicted to opioids and 82% believe that opioid addiction is a major problem in the state; an almost identical 81% say that it is something requiring medical treatment to address. A recent bill introduced in the Maryland general assembly proposes to ban tackle football for children under the age of 14 and state residents are split on this issue—45 percent of respondents support the bill and 49 percent oppose it. Additionally, 47 percent of the state believes that Maryland would be governed better if more women served in elected office, 47 percent believe it would make no difference, and only 3 percent think the state would be governed worse.

If you would like to view the full results of the poll, all three press releases can be found on Goucher’s website under the Hughes Center subheading.

 

 

 

America’s Math Problem

by
” The budget will increase federal spending by close to $300 billion over the course of the next two years, with military spending set to increase by $165 billion and non-defense spending by $130 billion. This is bad news for Americans, in particular young Americans who will have to foot the bill for the future costs of these decisions.” Photo Credit: Committee for a Responsible Budget

Last Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year budget deal in the early hours of the morning, which was subsequently signed by President Donald Trump. The budget will increase federal spending by close to $300 billion over the course of the next two years, with military spending set to increase by $165 billion and non-defense spending by $130 billion. This is bad news for Americans, in particular young Americans who will have to foot the bill for the future costs of these decisions. Unfortunately, it is also young Americans who pay the least attention to these sorts of issues. Here’s why it matters.
In the simplest terms, we spend more than we have the money to pay for. Many believe that the Federal deficit—the amount by which our government’s expenditures exceed its tax revenues—does not matter. The argument is that we can just make up for this deficit by borrowing money; generally speaking we do not have an issue borrowing at favorable rates because we are trusted to pay back our debts. We have the largest economy in the world, so this is not a crazy assumption. I generally agree that it is okay to run a deficit, but within reason. We start running into problems when the deficit-to-GDP ratio gets too high, or the trend continues in the wrong direction. This is exactly what will happen when we combine this spending deal with the latest round of Republican tax cuts. As things stand, by 2021, we will be facing budget shortfalls above 1 trillion dollars. With entitlement—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid—reform unlikely in this political climate and being as close to the midterm elections as we are, this means there is very little hope of reigning in federal spending any time soon. While we may not face the worst consequences in the near term, we are extending an already dangerous standard for fiscal irresponsibility.
Don’t worry, it’s not just the federal government. Many state governments are coming to the realization that they are on the hook to pay for things they can’t afford either. Connecticut’s most recent state budget positions the state to run a deficit of $3.5 billion over the next two fiscal years. New Jersey has a debt per capita of $4,937, nearly three times the national average. Illinois and Kentucky are in the same boat. There are two huge problems for these fiscally imploding states that the federal government does not deal with: they cannot print money, and their richest residents and businesses—the ones that states raise crucial revenue from in the form of tax dollars—can just move if taxes get too high. They are beginning to do so.
If we continue on this track, relatively soon we are going to have a Federal government in fiscal crisis and state governments, already struggling to fund their liabilities, that will receive less state aid. This is a math problem, and it is a problem for all of us — Republicans, Democrats, people of all ideological affiliations and walks of life. It will be our responsibility to pay for this, just as soon as we’re done paying our student loans. If you think Bernie Sanders is going to relieve us of our college and healthcare payments, that’s fine, just stack it on top of the national debt. We’ll pay for it eventually.
The only way out is if we start electing politicians who are fiscally responsible. I suppose the reason that this problem doesn’t have more purchase amongst our age cohort or even the general U.S. electorate is because it’s not directly related to the culture wars. Whatever your stance on all of these issues we love to debate, you should put them to the side for a second, or at least also demand fiscal responsibility from your elected officials—regardless of whether it says (R) or (D) next to their name. If young voters do not begin to care about spending issues and turnout on election day, this problem will get worse. Elected officials will continue to appease the aging generations ahead of us and pass the burden right on down.

An Alternative Solution

by

It probably had something to do with all the ideological softballs thrown his way during his speaking event at our school a few weeks ago, but by the end of the night, Charles Blow’s comfort with a friendly audience steered him to say something intriguing. Towards the end of the lecture, Mr. Blow fielded a question that led him to declare what he considers to be one of the constitutional crises of our time: the fact that less than a majority of our voting populace can vote for a presidential candidate, and that he or she can still be elected as the leader of the free world. Of course, what Mr. Blow was referring to is the fact that Hillary Clinton received over two million more votes than Donald Trump and was not rewarded the presidency. While I believe Mr. Blow would be singing a different tune had Mrs. Clinton won the electoral college with less than a majority of the popular vote, this is not what piques my interest.

“Towards the end of the lecture, Mr. Blow fielded a question that led him to declare what he considers to be one of the constitutional crises of our time: the fact that less than a majority of our voting populace can vote for a presidential candidate, and that he or she can still be elected as the leader of the free world.” Photo Credit: The New York Times

As Mr. Blow told it, politically and culturally like-minded individuals are increasingly moving into areas together; Democrats and liberals to urban/suburban areas, Republicans and conservatives to rural ones. He went on to suggest that this meant Democrats are getting a raw deal when it comes to electoral politics, because they are concentrating all of their votes in small geographic areas and essentially watering down their vote. He is hardly the first person to subscribe to this “Big Sort” idea, and while I think it is an oversimplification, I agree with the general premise of the argument. His remedy to this, which a sizable chunk of the left—and surely the right if they had been on the losing end of last year’s presidential campaign—believes to be the proper diagnosis, is to change our electoral system. While he did not explicitly say that we should get rid of the electoral college, this seemed to be the insinuation. However, perhaps changing how we elect our officials is not the proper remedy; maybe we should change our relationship with the government and how we view it, instead of fundamentally altering the Constitution.
Like a significant number of Americans, I am very concerned about what a Trump Presidency might still bring. However, when I think about why I have this concern, it has less to do with the man than the immense power that comes with leading the federal government. Anybody who paid attention to Barack Obama’s Presidency and to a lesser extent, his predecessor’s, saw just how much power they wielded. Now, a man who should never be anywhere near this kind of power is in control. The state of hysteria that the media and the left have been in for a year concerning Republican control over the Presidency and Congress is due to the power that the Federal government holds. The right would be in a similar state of hysteria if Mrs. Clinton had been elected, and/or if the Democrats had control over Congress.
Perhaps rather than drive ourselves crazy about who controls the government, maybe we should focus on what the government is allowed to control. One of the easiest ways to alleviate the growing state of tribalism and dysfunction that currently exists in our political system and culture, is to reduce the size of government. This way, every time the presidency, house, or senate flips—as they seem to do with increasing frequency—we are not losing our minds when our tribe isn’t in control. The answer is not to change the Constitution, but to lean on it more heavily, and reduce the arbitrary power in Washington that has consistently grown each decade since the early 1900’s.
While many will consider this argument to be “conservative” in nature, it is actually one that would suit many liberals at this point in time. You don’t like how undemocratic it seems that Mr. Trump got elected? Consider subscribing to the limited government point of view, because the larger government becomes the less democratic and accountable it becomes. Furthermore, if the right is as crazy as the left suggests, they should be extremely interested in reducing the power of government, given the right’s choke-hold on Gubernatorial offices and state legislatures across the country.
This idea should work for people of all ideological backgrounds, aside from socialists. When we remove the government from places that it does not obviously need to be, the market and mediating institutions (voluntary organizations, churches, the media, etc) take over. The beautiful thing about the market is that it provides multiple choices and is unbiased when it picks winners and losers. Furthermore, unlike the government, mediating institutions allow citizens to pick what best suits them. Any market—be it the marketplace for ideas, kept alive by the First Amendment, the market for environmental sustainability, or the traditional market for products—will ultimately find an equilibrium as long as it is not interfered with. While there are places where the government must involve itself, such as with the regulation of the environment, or with business trusts, there are other places that it simply does not belong. Currently, any time there is an inefficiency in a market, many Americans want to turn to the government to solve the problem. However, when there is a government inefficiency, we don’t apply the same scrutiny, and often just double down on the overreach, instead of trying to reverse the trend.
We will all be much more comfortable with members of ideological affiliations unlike ours, in power, if we rely on the rules, laws, and amendments that have successfully governed us for so long, rather than expanding the reach of government to assist our ideological affiliations each time we find ourselves in power.

Goucher Poll Fall 2017

by
According to the poll, 75 percent of Maryland Republicans approve of President Trump’s work in office. Photo Credit: WBalTV 11

The first iteration of the bi-annual Goucher Poll concluded last week and the results were released over the course of the last several days. The poll, which is conducted out of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center by Dr. Mileah Kromer, asked Maryland residents for their opinions on a variety of statewide and national issues, from September 14th-18th. As the poll of record in Maryland, the results were picked up by most local news outlets, as well as national ones, including the Washington Post.

This rendition of the poll asked many of its typical questions, such as the approval ratings of President Trump, Governor Hogan as well as other elected officials in the state, and inquiring about resident’s opinions on the direction of the state. Unsurprisingly, President Trump still has an extremely poor approval rating in the heavily Democratic state; only twenty-five percent of residents approve of the job he is doing, while 71 percent disapprove. This is not to suggest that the President does not still have the support of his base, which appears immune to most if not all of the controversy surrounding him; 73 percent of Republicans in the state approve of how the President is handling the job. Governor Larry Hogan still enjoys a great deal of support from Marylanders across the political spectrum with his 62 percent approval rating, which breaks down into 82 percent approval from Republicans and 59 percent among Democrats. His continued support from all areas of the state, combined with the fact that 47 percent of Marylanders see him has a moderate and 57 percent currently hold a positive view of the economic situation in the state, suggest that Governor Hogan has a strong chance of re-election in next year’s gubernatorial race.

Residents were also asked other more controversial questions pertaining to their views on several hot-button issues. Marylanders tend to believe that there is racial discrimination against minorities on the job or at work; 64 percent of respondents said they agree with this claim. However, when broken down along racial lines, the numbers tell a somewhat different story. Only 55 percent of whites agree with this statement, while a more substantial 79 percent of African-Americans said they agreed. When asked about the most recent polarizing topic, removal of Confederate statues and monuments, 49 percent of the state thought they should be removed from public spaces. When answers were examined across race however, the difference was stark; 70 percent of African-Americans believe they should be removed, compared to only 38 percent of whites who feel the same way. One of the more surprising and perhaps unfortunate statewide developments, is that only 38 percent of Marylanders believe people of all races in their communities receive equal treatment by police. This is an 11-point drop in the belief that everyone is treated equally by police since the question was last asked on the poll in February of 2016.

Additionally, Marylanders were surveyed on their opinions about DACA and climate change, issues which they find themselves in strong agreement on. 75 percent of residents support DACA as a policy, and 94 percent believe that climate change is real—59 percent think that it is the result of human activity.

The Goucher Poll, which is administered by student callers and operates using only funding from Goucher College, continues to do the vital work of representing public opinion in Maryland and brings a great deal of positive publicity to our school. The full results of the poll, as well as previous polls can all be found on Goucher’s main website.

In Defense of Moderation

by

Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

March 5th, 2017

This past general election highlighted a disregard of rules, laws, and norms from both major party candidates. The greatest violation however, was that of an institutional electoral principle: the moderating effect of the general election.

Pundits and politicos speculated, that following the primaries, both candidates would move from their fringier primary positions on issues and realign to centrist positions that tend to attract more moderate voters—as they usually do. Perhaps this did not occur because Americans are too disillusioned by our political system to make the candidates pay for their polarized positions. Or, maybe this principle didn’t kick in because of the cannibalistic nature of both parties these days. Mrs. Clinton was perceived to be forced left on her platform to pick up Sanders voters necessary for a general election win. At the same time, Mr. Trump was forced to stick to some particularly unsavory and unorthodox policy prescriptions he laid out during the Republican primaries to re-energize a majority white, male coalition, which needed to turn out in full force for him to have a chance at winning. It could be that this principle didn’t kick in simply because this was an oddity of an election year, which was highly unpredictable on multiple fronts—a notion which is certainly possible, but one I don’t find probable; this year’s anomalies seem to be indicative of a larger trend away from moderation.

To consider what moderation truly is, I looked back to a New York Times opinion piece written by David Brooks leading up to the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama. In the piece, Brooks notes that a moderate does not commit herself to “an abstract idea,” but instead holds dear her country’s way of living “and the animating principle behind that way of life.” In America, Brooks suggests, this animating principle is that “we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream—committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.”

I cannot think of a more relevant quote for the way our current political dialogue operates. The two ideas within this sentence should be read in concert, but in our newly anointed tradition of cherry-picking points to fit our current political narrative, it seems all too easy to envision a liberal using the “nation of immigrants” section to oppose President Trump’s policies, and equally simple to picture a conservative backing the “work hard and rise” portion to oppose some social justice initiative. This is problematic because we are creating an environment in political dialogue where one must pick sides; something that looks a lot like how a conversation would go between two followers of different religions trying to convince each other of their view’s legitimacy. In the simplest sense, this environment is tribal, it creates false choices and politicizes otherwise apolitical topics.

Our representatives then come to embody these tribal allegiances. As we saw in the general election, when we stick to our tribes, regardless of circumstance—which Brooks warns against—a slippery slope can develop. You may then encounter situations where even though Mr. Trump is the personal antithesis of nearly everything you stand for, he’s allegedly a Republican, your party picked him as their nominee, and it would be political suicide for you as a representative to disavow him. Or on the other side of the spectrum, Mr. Trump ends up winning on a platform of nothing less than the equivalent to a slap in the face for progressives everywhere, and you, the good Democrat you are, decide to oppose everything he puts his name on over the course of the next four years. Neither of these scenarios, both of which have occurred over the last few months, reveal a healthy political climate.

Perhaps instead, as a principled Democrat or Republican, but most of all, a principled American, you would realize that there is a more productive middle ground. As Brooks puts it: “There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.”

The way to foster moderation is to reward it in Congress and statehouses everywhere. Moderates need to organize and become a political bloc, and then most importantly, turn out in primaries and general elections — just like so many other interest groups have done throughout electoral history. As it stands now, moderates are the most underrepresented group of people in American politics.

The best solutions our society has found to problems over time have usually been those that form under the pressure of opposing interests. They have checks and balances built into them and they are connected to our country’s “animating principles,” rather than whatever flavor of the month ideology happens to be in charge in D.C. These are the solutions that keep the most citizens satisfied and they come from the citizens themselves, exercising moderation. Solutions that advertise deviations away from our American foundations tend to not be fixes at all, but instead, increases in arbitrary power–part of what got us in this mess in the first place.

Goucher Poll Results Are In

by

Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

March 5th, 2017

This academic year’s second rendition of the semi-annual Goucher Poll released its full results Monday. The poll, which operates out of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center, surveys a random sample of Maryland residents about their political opinions by having trained Goucher students call landlines and cell phones in the state, over the course of five days. Dr. Mileah Kromer has directed the poll since its conception five years ago, and in that time has taken it from non-existent to the most highly regarded poll in Maryland. She describes the goal of the poll as attempting to continue to be a very solid statewide poll, while also “asking questions of a national interest.”

The poll was scheduled to be conducted from February 18th—22nd, but higher response levels than anticipated allowed calling to conclude on the 21st, having surveyed 776 Maryland adults. The results were not particularly shocking. President Donald Trump is exceedingly unpopular, with a 29 percent approval rating in heavily Democratic Maryland, however it should not go unnoted that he has a 71 percent approval rating among Republicans in the state. Republican Governor Larry Hogan remains popular with Marylanders, boasting a 63 percent approval rating; a 7 percent drop in support from last September, but a number which is still quite impressive. Additionally, Maryland’s congressional representatives Benjamin Cardin (D) and newly elected Chris Van Hollen (D) hold approval ratings of 45 and 44 percent, respectively. Congress continues to sit in the approval ratings cellar, only 21 percent of Maryland residents approve of the job they are doing.

Among questions about their representatives, Marylanders were also asked about a range of political topics facing the state. Among the most interesting and relevant topics, 60 percent of Maryland residents support raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, 58 percent support legalizing recreational marijuana, and 70 percent of the residents in the heavily gerrymandered state support having their congressional and legislative districts drawn by an independent commission rather than by the state’s elected officials. As usual, the poll has garnered a large deal of attention in the state, and even some national outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post and reporting the results. Fortunately, I was able to talk to Dr. Kromer for a bit so she could give The Q some insight into the Goucher Poll.

DP: First, I want to ask about polling in general. There was a lot of backlash against polling on the right and left following Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the general election this fall—do critics of polls have a point, or was there more of a misreading of the polls than the polls themselves being inaccurate?

MK: I think it was certainly more of a misreading of polls. The issue is, we have all these different individuals giving predictions and they all assign their own probability of an outcome—people really focused on the idea that Hillary Clinton had a 75 or 80, sometimes even 90 percent chance of winning. When you start to break it down and look at individual polls, what you see is that a lot of them were within the margin of error. For example, polls that were tracking Hillary Clinton nationally were correct, she did win the national popular vote. There were some polls that were off in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, they were a little bit outside the margin of error—Florida had issues with this as well. However, by and large most of these polls were within the margin of error. Keep in mind that there’s a plus or minus [with each poll] and if it’s at three percent or four percent and the poll has somebody up 49-48 over the other, that person is not up, they’re statistically indistinguishable from each other.

DP: And the Goucher Poll margin of error is usually at about 3.5, right?

MK: Right, we usually end up with between 600 and 700 or so interviews which puts us around a 3.5 percent margin of error.

DP: So in terms of the Goucher Poll, do you have any big takeaways from this round?

MK: Sure, so what I think is really interesting is that Governor Hogan’s approval ratings are back to what they were last year, exactly. In September of 2016, they reached a really high level—I think in a lot of ways an unsustainable level. It’s impossible for any politician, much less a Republican in a blue state to maintain a 70 percent approval rating. Now they’re back down to 63 percent, which is still really good.

DP: And that kind of has to do with my next question. Having read the press release I know that you don’t really think this dip in approval rating has to do with any sort of “Trump Effect,” so I guess your take on it is that this is sort of a regression to the mean?

MK: I guess my take on it is this: I think if there was a “Trump Effect” in the numbers, one, when we asked about whether Hogan is spending too much, too little, or the right amount of time addressing Trump related issues, if there was a true Trump effect you would see in the responses more people saying “too little time,” that number would have been very elevated. Secondly, when you actually run an analysis looking at Hogan’s approval ratings crosstabbed against Trump’s, 51 percent of those who disapprove of the way Trump is handling his job as President, approve of the way Larry Hogan is handling his job. So there isn’t a natural overlap of one pulling the other one down. Finally, when we asked people who disapproved of the job Larry Hogan was doing, we asked people why, and only 12 percent of those individuals said they disapproved of Hogan because of Donald Trump. So we’re talking about a very small percentage of people within a very small percentage, and to me that just does not show a significant “Trump effect.”

DP: So when you started the poll five years ago, what were your aspirations for it?

MK: I think five years ago, my aspirations were to just get it off the ground. Then, I would have told you I would be completely satisfied to produce two methodologically rigorous and appropriate polls a year. Now, we’re starting to enter into a stage where we’re looking to the future. The Goucher Poll is certainly interested in expanding our offerings to maybe doing focus groups, and perhaps increasing the number of polls we do per year. Those are all things we’re thinking about for the future. We’ve really established ourselves as a poll of record in Maryland; we’re the go to poll, and so I think it’s really important that we start to now build on that reputation. I spent the first five years trying to build a very solid reputation for the poll, now it’s time to advance on that.

School Choice & Betsy DeVos

by

Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

February 25th, 2017

The phenomenon we have been witnessing over the course of the last several months surrounding the U.S. Department of Education and newly appointed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been an enlightening microcosm of what’s been happening on the political left of late. The ordeal has been a controversy since the beginning, when President Trump chose DeVos as his selection for the position, and came to a peak Tuesday, February 7th when she was confirmed by the Senate with Vice President Pence’s tie breaking vote. These last few months have illuminated several things.

First, Mrs. DeVos’ fierce opposition in the Senate showed that Democratic politicians appear to be more beholden to the wishes of the teacher’s unions—generally one of their largest benefactors—than any other interest group in the country (it turns out money talks for Democrats too). Second, this opposition unsurprisingly showed what the Democrat’s political tactics will be like during the Trump presidency, and that much of the left has not learned their lesson following Trump’s election. Many continue to see their way of conceptualizing and solving issues—in this case the education system—as the only way to look at things; anyone who deviates from their perspective is on the other team and is subject to ridicule. Lastly, and most importantly, the outcry against Mrs. DeVos shows how little people at Goucher and across the country know about school choice. Mrs. DeVos and school choice should be exactly what members of the Goucher community were looking for in this fresh Department of Education if they are as committed to the task of social justice as they say they are.

School choice is in many circles a dirty term and Goucher College seems to be one of those circles. What is interesting about that, is the level of “school choice” a sizeable chunk of those who attend this school were likely afforded in their education before Goucher. This in part has to do with the relative socioeconomic status of many Goucher students, but generally speaking, school choice is exercised more than people think. 43 percent of American children (23.8 million K-12 students) already exercise school choice in several ways. According to the74million.org, 8.2 million moved their homes to attend a more desired school, 5.9 million chose a traditional district school other than their assigned school, 5.3 million enrolled in a private school, 2.7 million enrolled in a public charter school, and 1.8 million were homeschooled The only free school choice options here are public charter schools and traditional district options—not a large piece of the pie. While yes, anyone is free to move where they live, nobody should have to in order to obtain a decent education, and aside from that, moving to a better school district is a luxury that more well off families may have, but poorer families often do not. Countless studies and experiments have shown time and time again that charter schools improve educational outcomes for poor children, and yet there is such an odd amount of negative press surrounding them, particularly in liberal dialogue. Expanded school choice does not mean the privatization of American schools. It means offering more options to those who need them, so their future is not bleak just because of their socioeconomic status.

The proponents of expanded school choice understand that many children have adequate existing public school options available to them, and they celebrate this, because the idea that drives school choice is providing the best educational options to kids, regardless of the type. Nobody knows the dynamics of specific school districts better than the local school boards looking over them and the states that these school districts exist in. This is why Mrs. DeVos is so adamant in her plans to shrink the Federal government’s role in America’s school system. She has voiced a desire to give power back to the parents, educators, and administrators in their districts, power which has been flowing in the direction of the Federal government since the Bush administration, a trend which has only increased in the past eight years.

Additionally, there are two very common complaints about Mrs. DeVos, particularly with teachers and at Goucher. The first is that she has no experience as an employee of the public education system and is, therefore, unfit for the job. Suggesting that she must know all the ins and outs of education specifics like designing curriculums or writing lesson plans for this position is ludicrous. What Betsy DeVos has experience in is politics, and the job which she has been selected for is inherently a political one. The second claim goes along the lines of the idea that her spending millions of dollars to exert influence over school systems during her lifetime somehow disqualifies her for the job. To address this, I would like to direct attention to the massive national teachers unions which annually spend over $30 million on political causes. They can do this because of the dues most teachers have to pay them and watch them spend with little to no input from the actual teachers themselves.

I got the chance to meet Secretary DeVos last Friday in Washington D.C. and she was nice enough to talk to me for a few minutes. Our conversation was certainly not consequential, however it did highlight a few things about her. She is clearly a strong, powerful woman, who despite her vast fortune and life accomplishments, does not consider herself above taking a salary of one dollar to serve the public. She is someone who would spend four hours on a Friday afternoon meeting people she doesn’t have to, after spending a second straight week getting attacked (worse than usual) by people on the right and left who do not share her views on education reform. These characteristics suggest to me that perhaps instead of selling Mrs. DeVos and her ideas short, we should give them a chance. She is one of the few people in the Trump administration who has a truly clear, positive view for the future; the left should give her the same benefit of the doubt they often afforded the Obama administration.

Free Speech, Free Expression

by
Image courtesy of Google Images.

Drew Phillips, Staff Writer

February 15th, 2017

These are uncertain times for both the Goucher community and the country. As such, it is important to remember our fundamental ideals more than ever. For this reason, I think it is important to address the state of free expression on our campus.

To do this, it is worth going back to an essay in the Washington Post that President Bowen referenced on Facebook earlier this month. Titled “Why pragmatic liberal education matters now more than ever,” the article is a defense of a liberal arts education by Michael S. Roth, President of Wesleyan University. It lists some of the most important facets of a liberal education: Enhancing student’s abilities to translate across ideas and assumptions, providing students a vehicle to share knowledge, empowering individuals to take productive risks, and my personal favorite, the promotion of intellectual diversity “in such ways that students are inspired to grapple with ideas that they never would have considered on their own.” These attributes are of critical importance, especially in the hyper-partisan, ambivalent-to-the-facts world we currently find ourselves in, and the article says as much.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more difficult to experience the benefits of a liberal arts education at Goucher. Yes, I encounter diverse perspectives and ideas at this school that I may not have, had I studied elsewhere. However, I increasingly fear that the hunger for knowledge and debate outside of student’s preconceived opinions is taking a backseat to the desire for security in beliefs and inclusiveness in discussion. These things are undoubtedly significant; Yale’s Woodward Report and the University of Chicago’s Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression–two campus speech policies held in high esteem–both highlight mutual respect and civility to discussion and inquiry as important to campus life. Yet, both establish them as far removed in importance from unobstructed freedom of expression that does not come into conflict with the law.

As far as this kind of policy goes at Goucher, the closest thing I can find resembling a defense of free expression, is in the academic honor code which states in the first sentence: “At Goucher, we honor freedom of expression, inquiry, and action.” That’s not particularly robust, and puts free speech on no better footing at our school than the provision of a “safe space,” which Goucher’s mission statement sub-heading of Our Commitments to One Another; Communication suggests that we must place a “premium on maintaining.” Regardless of your opinion on the merits of safe spaces, the lack of prioritization of free expression on our campus will lead to more problems than it has already, the foremost of which is the lack of preparedness of our graduates for the outside world. Several teachers I have spoken to over the course of my three years at Goucher will not bring up certain topics in the classroom, or at least will not push these topics too far if they think it will upset our increasingly sensitive student body. While that is understandable, it is doing an absolute disservice to us as students and the blame for this lies at our feet.

Vigorous debate with few boundaries has become less and less common over my time here, only to be replaced with the reassurance that everyone’s opinion will be heard and treated with the same regard, often to go unchallenged, even if it’s clear that those opinions have no real facts behind them. This may go unnoticed by many people, because this security of opinion is comfortable and we don’t often challenge things that make us comfortable. However, the article which President Bowen shared with his Facebook community did not note fostering comfort as one of the jobs of a liberal arts education; it instead emphasized the importance of “setting a framework for inquiry and exchange that will be a resource for graduates for the rest of their lives.” Ultimately, in turbulent times like these when it is most difficult to keep open channels of debate and discussion, that is precisely what we need to do most.

With all of this in mind, I am also processing the heartfelt message the Goucher College community received from President Bowen on Monday, January 30th, concerning several of President Trump’s most recent executive actions. Putting aside all opinions of the executive policies in question, it was reassuring to see President Bowen’s genuine desire to defend and care for all members of our school, especially those who believe that their ability to attend this institution or reside in this country are at jeopardy due to these executive actions. The section of the message, which specifically grabbed my attention, was toward the conclusion:

“To our Muslim students, in particular, we will defend your right to express your religion freely and without fear…I sincerely wish that I could speak on behalf of our entire nation, but at least at Goucher we condemn policies that discriminate based on religion or country of origin and they have no place in our community. We support our government and the legal and peaceful process of passing and enforcing laws, but it is the role of academic institutions—and, indeed, our moral obligation living in a democracy—to voice our objections when we believe injustice is occurring. As an institution of higher education, we will continue to promote the free exchange of ideas among a community of students and scholars that welcomes citizens from around the world.”

I applaud this statement in its entirety and am glad our college has a leader as committed to these ideals as President Bowen is. This statement in its essence is exactly why we need a clearer free speech policy on campus. We need this not just because everyone has a basic right to express themselves however they choose, regardless of what any politician, professor, or peer thinks, but because if we don’t, uninhibited concern with the desire to protect the welfare of marginalized communities will end up having a converse effect and harming everyone—including marginalized communities. Nobody can argue for or represent these communities better than the members themselves, but this is unlikely to occur without the rigorous thinking and debate which college is supposed to be celebrated for cultivating. If Goucher provides students the four-year option of avoiding conflicting opinions in the classroom and protesting speakers they don’t agree with only to retreat to safe spaces after, they are engendering an atmosphere which comes directly into conflict with the core mission of a liberal arts education. Goucher College is doing its entire student body a disservice if it continues to advertise the promise of this school of thought, while inhibiting the catalyst of free speech, which is exactly what makes it so valuable.

Maybe it’s time for Goucher to revisit its policies on free speech and create something for students, instructors, and administrators alike, that recognizes the primacy of free speech as fundamental to intellectual development, and in doing so, simultaneously preserves and enhances the wellbeing of the entire student body.

Go to Top