Balance Is Airing One Side
Governor Lincoln Chafee may be the archetype of the presumptuous wealthy liberal. We’ve seen him tell representatives of his ideological opposition that he’s already done all of the broad listening that he’s going to do on particular issues. Now, we’re seeing his method of consideration:
“He strongly believes Rhode Island needs a deep and healthy debate on the issue of charter schools because it represents to him a significant determinant in the future of our public school system,” Trainor said. “To help spur that healthy debate and discussion, he is going to bring Diane Ravitch to Rhode Island between now and the beginning of spring.”
Ravitch, an assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, was once an outspoken supporter of charter schools, standardized testing and No Child Left Behind. Today, she has done a remarkable about-face, emerging as an outspoken critic of all of those things. “School reform today is like a freight train, and I’m out on the tracks saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way!'” she told The New York Times.
Anchor Rising readers may recall a couple of references to Ravitch last year. More relevant at this time, though, is the governor’s apparent definition of “deep and healthy debate”: He’ll bring in a speaker with whom he agrees, thus sparking discussion among the rest of us, at which point, one suspects he’ll close the door on his opposition with a shake of the head. “Sorry, we’ve already considered it all.”
A similar window into Chafee’s thought processes emerged at a recent Economic Development Corp. meeting:
Plus, he spoke of lessons learned from a book, “The Flight of the Creative Class,” in which Richard Florida explains how the three Ts — technology, talent and tolerance — are what lead to economic growth.
Florida’s theory asserts that metropolitan regions with high concentrations of technology workers, artists, musicians, lesbians and gay men, and a group he describes as “high bohemians”, exhibit a higher level of economic development. Florida refers to these groups collectively as the “creative class.” He posits that the creative class fosters an open, dynamic, personal and professional urban environment. This environment, in turn, attracts more creative people, as well as businesses and capital. He suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality talent versus a singular focus on projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, would be a better primary use of a city’s regeneration of resources for long-term prosperity. He has devised his own ranking systems that rate cities by a “Bohemian index,” a “Gay index,” a “diversity index” and similar criteria.
Whatever one’s ideology, suspicion is in order when new indexes conform too closely with preconceptions. Presenting tolerance and diversity as core economic development principles, rather than social principles that might guide economic development, is a bit too convenient. I’ll place Florida’s writings on my list should I ever get out from under my workload, but on first blush, I’d suggest that economically vibrant locations, particularly high-population cities, tend to generate more opportunities for people who prioritize creativity. The ability to find work as a theater actor or to find galleries in which to hang one’s work strikes me as more likely to attract creative types than policy on same-sex marriage and immigration.
But I’m sure the Chafee administration will encourage plenty of non-debate on the topic moving forward.