Monday, November 17, 2008

Work and Certain Progressive Bloggers

For as awesome as the progressive blogosphere is, many of its leading writers have positions that are questionable at best.

Part of the problem is that these youngsters who rose to the top of the blogosphere at the age of 23 came from privileged backgrounds and haven't worked a day in their lives. This can mean that for all their progressivism on some issues, when it comes to class and especially unions, they don't have a clue.

Stephen Suh points us to this Ezra Klein post. Klein approvingly links to this e-mail he received on tenure.

So I read this article about Michelle Rhee and the end of tenure in DC, and I have some serious misgivings...As a grad student studying to be a math teacher, I am all for reform. Who needs tenure? I should only get better at my job as I get older. That's how most jobs work. If I need a guarantee not to be fired...well I just don't.

Never mind that this person doesn't really understand tenure. I question whether Ezra does either. The real issue here is the idea that tenure should not exist. This guy is approving of "merit-based" work arrangements. While that sounds great, in reality it means that management gets to do whatever they want since they are the people who judge the supposed "merit." This is what teacher unions are fighting against. They understand what the working world is like. They know what management prerogative means. They have worked.

I don't know this math graduate student. And I don't know Ezra either. I could certainly be wrong about their backgrounds; in fact, I am loathe to speculate for fear of making someone angry. But I do know that this is one of many examples of the lack of class analysis within the leading lights of the progressive blogosphers. I suspect that these writers (and many others) would be speaking differently if they understood job insecurity, low wages, and working-class lives. It's real easy to talk about progressive economics from a distance. It's a whole lot different if you've lived it.