Guest Blogger: Janet Golden on testing and the election

This comes from my buddy Janet Golden at Rutgers.  Enjoy!

I got my lowest grade in school in Algebra class. It really wasn’t for my performance on tests and quizzes but because I annoyed the teacher by raising my hand and asking “why?” I didn’t want to learn formulas and calculations unless I understood what the entire process was really about and why it was useful knowledge. The “unsatisfactory” grade for conduct kept me out of contention for a lot of things–like membership in the honor society, but the worst thing was that my brother was punished for my sins when he took the course four years later and she recognized the shared last name. (Sorry, Richard).

Since then, I’ve avoided math classes as much as possible and when forced to take them in college and graduate school, I remained silent. I learned my lesson.

But now, I seem to be enrolled in a political science course and that urge to ask why has returned. Why is it that we are not hearing any discussion about the lives of the poor and about what grinding systemic poverty is doing to our country? (And yes, I miss John Edwards’ voice on this as well as the occasional newspaper articles that looked beyond what “middle class voters” were saying).

No, I don’t expect those running for office to, heaven forbid, alienate any middle class swing voters by suggesting that they are a lot better off than millions of other Americans. But I do expect my friends on the left to get past their obsession with the foibles of Sarah Palin and keep the discussion about economic injustice going at a time when the media seems to think we have a two-class system: Wall Street fat cats and everyone else who is, in their view, middle class. I expect people who are now in the habit of writing checks to support candidates for change to get ready to write checks for things that haven’t changed much or have changed for the worst–by supporting local food banks, for example. While we’ve been laughing about moose meat, a lot of people have been going to bed hungry. A lot of people never had homes to be foreclosed. A lot of people who managed to get jobs lost their Medicaid and their access to the health care they need. Why can’t we talk about these things?

I know I’m going to be getting another “unsatisfactory” mark for bringing up this subject. This time, I don’t mind.

Janet Golden

Professor of History

Rutgers University-Camden

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