A Better State

After a year of conversations and polling, the Center for Michigan paints a grim picture of the confidence of citizens in the state government. The conversation is pitched toward the upper middle class, the traditional good-government folk. Phil Powers wrestles with the survey’s impact:

Lurking behind these surface attitudes, as disturbing as they might be, lies a far more worrisome and pervasive attitude: Michiganders are losing confidence in the very workings of their political and governmental apparatus, the very basic things that enable a civil society and help generate a thriving state. Peter Pratt, CEO of Public Sector Consultants (of which the Center for Michigan is a client), which helped administer the data collection for this study, put it this way: “If this level of distrust continues or worsens, how are we going to have democratic government?”

There is no easy way out. At best it requires regions like the Grand Rapids metro area to engage in more in-depth conversations across partisan lines. The growing region will need to shape a common understanding about what is best for the state, however to do so will require putting aside the conventional small business, and too-small conservative solutions. The best that can be hoped for is that representatives begin to share in a common framework. We certainly need that for our schools and roads. And Michigan definitely needs it for its future.

 

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In for the long haul

The problem is less choice, than the quality of that choice. What Michigan has is a highly lenient oversight system for the charter schools and their authorizers. So “choice” then betrays itself as a sort of excuse-making, a sweeping under the rug. It is far more important to think of charter schools as communities rather than as institutions: as communities they represent the desires of parents for something better for their children. This desire is the fundamental reason that charters are here for the long haul.

Desiring community off the grid

Jim Heynen had a very distinguished, even illustrious career in guiding institutional change. Now he’s living off the grid in the depths of Manistee National Forest  and wondering about community

I wanted isolation and, just beyond my isolation, I wanted community. The Bitely Tavern, with its world-class olive burger and falling-down back wall, is a start. But I came for more: the bonding of neighbors who have differences, but share a common need for one another.
The forest has made good on its promise. We have serenity. But this “community” thing has proven elusive. I’ve wondered if there’s any such thing; it feels like snipe hunting.

His conclusion is that community is something he must create. This leaves a sort of an urbanist question: how do we live together if we insist on our privately living apart?

There are all sorts of analogs here, perhaps the best being that of the old monastics: do they leave separate as hermits (per Desert Fathers) or in a monastery, in community?  Here, Benedict is as good a help as any: community takes enclosure, stability. It’s sticking to it where you are. To the extent I create community at all it is through the door of service.