ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Scholar as Citizen / Tea Party / Astroturf

April 7th, 2011 by Dave · No Comments

Scholar as Citizen is a new blog launched by UW-Madison professor William Cronon exploring the public practice of history. One of his first posts was about ALEC, a “nonpartisan” group for state legislators working to promote “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty”. Two of their current objectives are exposing the “trainwreck” of the EPA’s regulation of the coal industry and protecting “freedom of choice” in health care. Needless to say, corporations are their primary source of funding.

For the last 40 years, ALEC has helped legislators draft conservative legislation and they claim that 18% of their bills end up as law. One recent victory was the controversial anti-immigration bill in Arizona. Cronon was curious to see if this group was also behind the recent anti-public-worker and anti-teacher legislation that has been cropping up throughout the country. Judging by the reaction of the GOP of Wisconsin, he seems to be on to something.

Following his post on ALEC, the Republican Party of Wisconsin made a request for access to Cronon’s emails, listing a number of politically-charged topics. Prof. Cronon explains it in this post, which is long but well worth the read. As a union-dues-paying faculty member at a public university in a state that also has strong Freedom of Information laws, I find this attempt by the Republican Party of Wisconsin to intimidate Prof. Cronon despicable. The anti-academic-freedom bias is troubling and quite hypocritical, coming from a group purportedly supporting individual liberty.

I’m not sure exactly how I would use this with students, but Prof. Cronon’s initial post on ALEC is presented as a study guide. It’s pretty high-level, but I would absolutely consider introducing these topics to a unit on politics or democracy. International students sometimes come to America with an idealized understanding of our democracy, without having considered the profound influence of corporate money. This would fit well with a look at the Tea Party and other astroturf organizations. It would also work alongside the video Corporations vs. Democracy.

Thanks USF-UFF

Tags: blog · global issues activities · history · politics · poverty & wealth · reading · video

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