All posts by Kris Amundson

Happy Punctuation Day!

Today is National Punctuation Day. That means it’s pretty much a Holy Day of Obligation here at 7 West. (Bob and I, after all, were both English majors.)

We particularly like the fact that the Punctuation Day folks support the serial comma (the one that goes before the and in a list: “The cookies had pink, blue, and yellow icing.”)

Our belief is that the elimination of the serial comma in the AP Stylebook is just another sign that the apocalypse is near.

Harry Golden Goes to School

The Harry Golden Rule (from Calvin Trillin by way of Barnie Day) holds that “In present-day America it’s very difficult, when commenting on events of the day, to invent something so bizarre that it might not actually come to pass while your piece is still on the presses.”

So it is with the President’s planned speech at Wakefield High School next Tuesday. In case you have been in an isolation chamber, the news that the President of the United States was going to address students on (gasp) the notion of studying hard and doing well in school has suddenly got the Right Wing in a lather.

“Unprecedented,” they rail.

Well, not exactly. The last three Republican presidents have all made national, televised speeches to students. President George H.W. Bush addressed students on the issue of drug abuse. The New York Times reported that more than 15,000 superintendents were notified of the speech by the Education Department.

When some Democrats criticized the President, Newt Gingrich wondered, “Why is it political for the President of the United States to discuss education?”

It’s not often that you’ll find me agreeing with Newt Gingrich. But he was right. Adult role models, and the President of the United States is certainly one, should tell kids not to do drugs. And they should also tell them to stay in school and study hard.

UPDATE: Now the Wall Street Journal agrees with this position. “Obama is not ‘incoctrinating’ children,” they opine.

One vote I don’t regret

Proponents of vouchers know that they are not very popular with the general public. So they have come up with a different approach: a tax-credits-for-scholarships plan.

Except, according to a recent expose in the East Valley Tribune, Arizona’s tax credit scholarship plan has become a national scandal. “It has fostered a rigged system that keeps private education a privilege for the already privileged.”

Everyone–from wealthy parents who took illegal tax deductions to the legislators who set up the program and ended up earning huge salaries–seems to have been in it for the wrong reasons. And the poor kids who were supposed to benefit from this program? They got nothing at all.

Over the years, I had plenty of opportunities to vote for a tax-credits-for-scholarships plan. I never did. I wasn’t sorry then. And I’m even less sorry now.

Lessons Learned

Over the last few days, we heard many eulogies for Sen. Edward Kennedy. I found that the comments of Sen. Orrin Hatch were among the most fascinating. Here are a few of my take-aways:

– There are elected officialswho belong in the Executive Branch and those who belong in the Legislative Branch. There is no question that Sen. Kennedy truly came into his own once he realized he would never be President. That was when his not-inconsiderable gifts were focused on the nuts and bolts of legislation. He mastered the arcane. He built relationships. And he certainly affected the course of the nation’s history far more than many presidents.

– Niceties matter. I was struck by the number of times Sen. Hatch described small, personal gestures that cemented the friendship of these two men. He went to the funeral of Sen. Kennedy’s mother. Sen. Kennedy came to his mother’s funeral. By themselves, these gestures may not have seemed important. But they helped create a relationship in which the two men could disagree but still keep the communication lines open.

– Bipartisanship doesn’t mean everyone agrees all the time. Hatch and Kennedy had some donneybrooks over the years. Each cared passionately about the issues. They often disagreed. Tempers occasionally flared. But they kept talking and eventually reached a compromise.

The Millennial Mindset

Bob and I have always admitted that this whole blogging thing does not come naturally to us. So we’re grateful for anything that helps us stay even vaguely au courant.

Which is why the Beloit Mindset List is so valuable. Each year, Beloit College in Wisconsin publishes a list of things their entering freshmen have always known. Here are just a few. Today’s entering freshmen, most of them born in 1991, have these things in common:

Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.

Salsa has always outsold ketchup.

They have never used a card catalog to look up a book.

Women have always outnumbered men in college.

Babies have always had a Social Security number.

The European Union has always existed.

They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
Disney’s Fantasia has always been available on video, and It’s a Wonderful Life has always been on Moscow television.

And my personal favorite: Britney Spears has always been heard on classic rock stations.

Back to school

Well, not exactly. But one week from today, I am starting a new job at Education Sector, an education think tank in Washington, DC. I’ll be their communications manager, helping them get the word out about their thoughtful reports and analysis. Their motto, “Independent Analysis, Innovative Ideas,” tells you a lot about why I was attracted to the organization.

It is a great fit. I think the next two years are going to be very exciting in education, and Education Sector will clearly be in the middle of those policy discussions. My knowledge of how policy gets made at the state and local level will, I hope, help move the conversation along.

So I am, in a sense, headed back to school. I’ve spent time looking longingly at office supplies. (So far no Mylie Cyrus lunch box, but I’ve been tempted.) The job brings together pretty much everything I’ve ever done (and yes, there will be blogging in my future). I can’t wait!

It’s not just about choice

There’s a lot of talk about how Creigh Deeds has “raised the issue of abortion” in this year’s race for Governor.

But, as I told the Women for Deeds rally this morning, concerns go well beyond the often divisive issue of abortion. Here are some other issues:

In 2004, Delegate James Dillard patroned HB 1015, a bill to teach public school students how to avoid sexual assault and what actions to take if they did become victims.  It was passed into law, but Bob McDonnell voted against it.

In 2005, I carried a bill that was designed to help reduce some of the controversy over abortion. The goal of HB 2855 was to say simply that contraception was not the same as abortion. That’s it. That’s all it did.

It was sent to the House Courts of Justice Committee, chaired by then-Delegate McDonnell. And there it languished. Until the very last day, when it was re-referred to another committee—one that would not meet again. Voting to kill the bill was Chairman McDonnell. I learned that Bob McDonnell had killed the bill once before—when Senator Whipple’s SB 1104 came before the Courts committee in 2003. His, by the way, was the deciding vote.

So you see, it’s not just abortion. It’s birth control. It’s access to information and to contraception.