About Drew Tatusko

Andrew Tatusko is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (1999, 2000) from which he earned an M.Div. and Th.M. There he focused on philosophical theology, philosophy of education, and postmodern theory. From there he was a senior instructional designer at Seton Hall University where he worked on initiatives to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Currently he is the program activity director for a Title III grant to integrate technology into teaching, learning, retention and advising at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. He currently lives in Duncansville, PA with wife Brenna, sons Alexander and Evan, Stella (Rhodesian Ridgeback mix) and Sophie (Rhodesian Ridgeback) and two cats Digit and Kit Kat. Drew has published articles on postmodern theory, theology, and education. He is working on his dissertation in an effort to complete the Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership, Management and Policy at Seton Hall University. The focus of the dissertation in on the influence of theological tradition on policy development in religiously-affiliated higher education since the 1970’s. He also played drums with a band called Green Marie which put out its first CD before Drew left in the summer of 2006. Drew is now taking a break from playing music to work on healing from Lyme disease which he contracted from a tick while planting trees in the backyard in July 2007. He also needs to finish that dreaded dissertation project at some point while still eligible. Drew went to Colonel Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville, MD and went to Westiminster College in New Wilimington PA with B.A. in Religious Studies.

the middle way to education reform

This proposal makes a lot of sense and should appeal to those who favor standardized variables to measure student performance as well as those who favor local control of all school activities.

Provide flexible dollars targeted at disadvantaged children. Principals and superintendents, facing the sunshine of transparency around their schools’ results, should be free to spend Washington’s dollars as they see fit.

Foster common standards and tests. While asking federal bureaucrats or politicians themselves to set standards and create tests would be perilous, the President could bring governors together and task them with agreeing on what students should know and be able to do in core subjects at various stages of their K-12 schooling.

Offer cash incentives to states or districts to embark upon promising but politically treacherous reforms. The cleanest way to do this is to enhance the Title I payments to jurisdictions that are pushing hard on important innovations such as performance-linked pay for teachers and quality school choices for families.

Produce high-quality data and solid research on what does and doesn’t work. Today, education research and statistics is the caboose of federal education policy when it should be the engine.

Protect the civil rights of individual students and educators. This is a traditional and needed element of the federal role, both at the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and in other agencies.

It offers reward incentive for good teaching and good student progress as well as removes federal mandates for failed projects like No Child Left Behind which will only be a glutton for more spending to make it even plausible.

This also looks like something that newly named, soon to be appointed Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might buy as an alternative to rigid local control versus rigid federal oversight. Moreover, Lisa Snell gives us a couple of good reasons to think Duncan will consider this strategy moving forward.

Chicago’s model does not distinguish between the type of school: charter, contract, traditional public, instead this pilot project attaches dollars to students and lets students vote with their feet by choosing a school. This is the vision of school finance we need to make school funding more transparent and attached to the backs of kids. We need the funding to follow the child and not fund programs, staff, or certain types of schools.

For the purposes of the discussion as it pertains here, what do you judge as a plausible liberaltarian management of education reform? If the liberal idea is to find ways to “bring up the bottom” does this kind of proposal seem to offer a fair way to do it?

Originally posted at Notes From Off Center.

New Conservativism, or Social Conservativism Part II

The debate about what conservativism will look like in the wake of G.W. Bush is not going to cool off anytime soon. Reason magazine interviewed Richard Viguerie,  chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, over the phone and one comment stands out.

I think Palin was a brilliant choice. I was with 300 conservative movement figures the morning that she was announced, and our feet didn’t touch the floor all day long. I was with [Phyllis] Schlafly, [James] Dobson, and for the most part serious conservatives had been on the sidelines or not doing a whole lot [for McCain], unenthusiastic. Palin got the conservatives energized in a way I can’t think anything else would have done. We take the attitude that she has been so vilified by the mainstream media for only one reason: She’s effective. People don’t kick sleeping dogs. They see her as a serious threat so they are trying to destroy her.

Viguerie has, in the past, not been overly supportive of the combination of free-markets with social traditionalism. What is striking about this comment is that he does not give reference to the nature of how the conservative base was energized. The energizing happened with the slogan of “maverick” and that she clearly legitimated the social conservativism that the Bush administration represented.

Later in the interview Viguerie does mention that the only grass roots kinds of associations that the conservative base has managed have been focused on social conservativism as opposed to reduced government or individual liberties. I would go further to suggest that the very nature of social conservativism is what shifted political conservativism in reverse. It has made big government regulations of personal liberties protected by the Constitution necessary. The base and ideology that Palin envigorated was not political conservativism, it was ideological conservativism legitimated through assumptions of America’s religious nature and the so-called “natural law” that flows from them.

What was energized is a neo-conservative base which is selectively socialist, selectively liberal, and myopic with its application of values that ought to be applied in the social network of society that lives out the notion of the common good. The hijacked conservativism of ideological constraints that legitimate and even necessitate government bloat is what was energized. It backfired becuase people began to see how distasteful this brand of ceonservativism actually is. It’s legacy supports an anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, mythic traditionalism that demands social uniformity of everyoneat the expense of individual opportunity and equal regard for everyone. It promotes irrationalism at the expense of libery and freedom of conscience.

The hope is that while we can be sure it will persist, as many social conservatives are doing everything in their power to do, it will be relegated to a small corner of lobbying influence where it ought to be. Until then libertarians look to have work to do to convince Republicans on the one hand and Democrats on the other, that there is a better way to run a free government that is truly by the people and looks out for the interests of everyone while demanding that people work out their freedom diligently and honestly.

Are Free Markets Really Possible?

Roderick Long posts a long response here in a conversation about free markets and the relationship between the free market and the corporation. This is the gist as I see it:

“As in the structure of a national economy, so in the structure of the firm, the way an organization really operates is not always reflected in the paper flow charts of the official models. Just as supposed command economies like the Soviet Union have been kept economically afloat mainly by the unacknowledged persistence of black markets, so the success of hierarchical firms is due in large part to the unacknowledged reality, albeit hampered and stunted, of worker’ self-management. And just as the remarkable success of even hampered markets gives us reason to be optimistic about what unhampered markets would achieve, so the ability of workers’ self-management to bring about positive results even when hampered by hierarchy—a reality familiar to millions of people as part of their daily lives, even if it is largely invisible to official “theories of management”—gives us reason to expect still greater successes from workers’ self-management not so hampered.

And that is why I am relatively unmoved by Klein’s list of incentival difficulties facing worker-managed enterprises. If you see a man managing to walk, albeit with an uneven stagger, while carrying an enormous barrel of rocks strapped to his back, it seems reasonable to suppose that he would walk still better without the barrel; and a physician’s assurances that without the barrel the man actually could not walk at all will be unconvincing.”

The problem that I continue to see a sufficient lack of address is that there seems to be a continual and almost utopic assumption of human nature at play. I fully agree with the fundamental assertions by Roderick Long that in principle a free market driven by individual entrepreneurs who can compete with each other fairly and without state-based incentives and loop-holes that create inequalities sounds quite appealing. I cannot see a libertarian structure working if we simply supplant a bloated government with bloated corporate hierarchies. The question is if we can have a truly free market without such bloated corporate hierarchies developing through basic processes of natural selection. I simply do not think human nature is “good” enough to make it work in fact.

Here is an illustration that comes to mind. In the film Braveheart (1995) at the battle of Falkirk, William Wallace assumes that he has the firm support of the Scottish nobility and so, he engages the English in battle. What he did not know is that the nobles had made a back-door deal with King Edward I where their land was doubled in return for Wallace’s head. Someone, some people, in any society will always have more capital and more power than others based simply on their lot in life from the moment of conception. Here, it was King Edward I and the Scottish nobles respectively. Can the kind of market; which by the way looks like an entrepreneurial mercato of sorts, an endless street merchant fair if you will; exist where the individual entrepreneur raised in relative poverty or simply less opportunity actually compete with larger businesses?

I am unaware of evidence that would support this assumption even if it looks fantastic in principle. What the reality seems to show is that such merchants will have the freedom to conduct their business, but only on the steps of the corporations that view them as but dust to be either ignored, or trampled underfoot when the time is nigh. Competition and growth seem to imply each other by necessity. Growth means that you can beat others and hopefully eliminate the competition. What individual entrepreneur does not want to get too big here? The fundamental nature of capitalism is the classic horror flick The Blob that goes about town swallowing up what it will, or the odd eel-like aliens in the more recent Slither that exist only to consume.

One counter-example might be something like professional sports. There, individuals control the flow of capital through free agency. Players are more likely to switch team loyalties if another opportunity will give them a) a better chance to win a championship or b) a lot more money. But even then, to be a successful free-agent, you need to be better than other players in order to get offers from franchises who are wiling to shell-out for your market value. Even in free agency, it is a function of the survival of the fittest. Sometimes that has nothing to do with how hard you work, but the genes with which you were born and the coaches you had at a young age to teach you the right way to do things. It is also a function of personality which is largely hard-wired from birth as infant studies show.

As with any rule, there are clear exceptions. However, we cannot let outliers to a trend govern the direction of a society in as much as we should not let outlier data in a study of the toxicity of a new medication govern the chemical structure of that medication.

So where is the balance here? How can we have equality of competition between big business and small business in Long’s somewhat utopic vision of the free market? The second question, it seems to me, is not the extent of regulation, but what kind of regulation needed if we concede that equal opportunity is not feasible without regulation from a neutral source (which should be government)?

(N.B. Just to let you, dear reader, in on my general thought process and disposition: I am a pragmatist before everything else. I like theory, a lot. However, one of my mentors told me something that has stuck with me ever since, “Every good theory is practical”. That’s how I tend to read just about everything which tends to piss off both liberals and conservatives as I have found. This issue is no exception to that rule.)

Can Liberals and Libertarians Unite?

Todd Seavey asks the question here.

“I don’t know if a “liberaltarian” alliance will work, but it does seem more productive, intelligent, and civil than the site RedState’s reaction to Democratic dominance: the creation of Operation: Leper, their plan to spend the next few years reminding the conservative base which specific operatives from the McCain campaign badmouthed Sarah Palin to the media — and even working against any candidates who hire said operatives.  Yeah, that sounds…healthy…much like Salieri’s reaction to Mozart in Amadeus.”

Read his full article in Reason magazine here. The rift with right conservatism reinforced by election results as they have continued to come in seems to impact the notion of liberaltarianism. It also clearly reveals that the connections are palpable and substantive rather than simply a reactionary position. Hopefully the dialogue here can foster a constructionist position uniquely situated to support a large swathe of the voter populace that are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

See Michelle Malkin’s blog for more on Operation: Leper. If this is the direction that the GOP and its base chooses to go, I would argue that it is counter-productive, destructive, and will continue to lose appeal to both right and left libertarians who would rather focus on actually reforming government rather than giving reform empty lip-service while chasing failed presidential campaign runs. There are other destructive paths the GOP can take if the base continues to be defined by the Religious Right agenda as I argue elsewhere here.

Two Problems with Left-Libertarianism

Neal Locke invited me to post here. I have had the chance to read other posts here and I understand why. After reading Brink Lindsey’s article it appears that my own political dispositions, which have always seemed a tad hermetic, have a more stable environment within this sort of discourse. The following is a re-post from a few conclusions and questions at which I arrived this election season. I hope to be an active participant here as I begin dialogue with all of you.

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There are consistent libertarian objections to both Democrat and Republican philosophies of governance. The primary objection is the notion in principle that autonomous individuals have universal self-ownership of property and rights. It is the idea that if I earn the right to possess something, I am the sole owner of that property. This also includes social behaviors such as gambling, marriage, smoking pot, religion, education, etc.

It is not to be confused with the typical understanding of conservatism which masks self-ownership of property (contra socialism) with often severe constraints on social behavior such as marriage, recreational drug use, sexual behavior, etc. Republicanism fails to provide libertarian principles in terms of social behavior, while Democratism, albeit its more limiting role in social behaviors, follows more socialist principles in terms of how wealth is distributed according to how ownership is defined. There, the state and not the individual owner, has the responsibility to distribute wealth acquired by the masses.

I have come to the conclusion that my own political disposition comes closest to equal-opportunity left-libertarianism which maintains a limited role in social behaviors and customs, while it balances limited state interference in the distribution of property and wealth and social responsibility to uphold the common good through equal opportunity to acquire resources for all. What problematizes all forms of libertarianism, however, is how natural resources that are not the property of any agent are fairly distributed.

Equal-opportunity left-libertarianism argues “that one leave enough for others to have an opportunity for well-being that is at least as good as the opportunity for well-being that one obtained in using or appropriating natural resources”. Thus it makes the most sense since it is a disposition that specifically targets those who are resource poor in order to give them a fair opportunity to compete for resources. Not to be confused with a socialist distribution of wealth, however, the question is how can we govern ourselves and maintain the balance between equal opportunity and equal competition to acquire resources among those whose lot in life is not something chosen. That is to say, some are born into environments that are resource rich and others are born into environments that are not as rich or resource poor. How can libertarianism, even left-libertarianism, ensure equal opportunity in the midst of such clear inequities that autonomous choice has nothing to do with? This is where I shall list a couple of key problems.

  1. In order for equal-opportunity left-libertarianism to work, it requires altruistic voluntary behavior from everyone involved. If one is unwilling to donate an un-equal share of natural resources and property to those who cannot possibly attain even a close share of property, there will always be inequity where the greedy suck up resources, and the resource poor are left with no property of their own.
  2. A general position of pacifism is needed from all participants in the system. The key is to support constant cooperation of all members of the society where benefits are maximized to everyone. This means that the resource rich are willing to share and resource poor are willing to do the same in order to achieve equilibrium. While the resource rich can balance the field of competition through altruism, the resource poor can donate a certain amount of “sweat-equity” to maintain that property and begin to earn their own share equally.

Therefore, bargains and negotiations need to follow game theory in which cooperation requires self-imposed limits on wealth in order to maximize wealth for everyone. The goal is for all to compete fairly for wealth through cooperation in order to earn fair shares of wealth as autonomous agents rather than enable inequity through government handouts and distributions of wealth. But is this possible without external agents of enforcement (e.g. the state)?

This is an ideal world that I think is quite counter-factual to human behavior in general where resources are rich and some people will, by their lot in life, aggrandize wealth to sustain their own well being at the expense of others. This is why a progressive tax system, not typically supported in principle by any form of libertarianism, is necessary in order to equilibrate competition on some scale. The question is what happens to that funding. Does it go back into the distribution of natural resources so that those with less competitive advantage can now earn their share of property? Or is that wealth put in programs that enable people not to compete fairly through cooperation and thus enable them to acquire an unfair share of wealth?

This is where I argue that the former option is better and welfare is, by its nature a bad thing. A flat tax should stimulate people to take pride in constructing environments where all persons cooperate with each other to maximize benefits and distribution of good and property. What needs to be enforced, however, is a limit on the self-aggrandizement of wealth when people who were once resource poor now suck up as much as they can perpetuating inequity and mitigating the opportunity of others to succeed.

So how can a society enforce equilibrium through cooperation without the state assuming ownership of the property? This is another way of saying that we cannot assume that autonomous agents will give a damn about their moral obligation to their neighbor even though a recognition of moral obligations to others is precisely what is needed for equal-opportunity left-libertarianism to work. That’s where the real debate should be and neither Obama, nor McCain directly asks that question or provides an answer for it.

However, Obama’s idea of equal opportunity maintained through progressive taxes in principle arguably comes closer to it in the end. The current financial situation should be proof enough that we cannot blindly trust the wealthy to donate resources in order to equilibrate the opportunity for the resource poor to compete. Even if this is in dispute, and it should be for obvious reasons, all can agree that the G.W. Bush presidency has been the greatest affront to autonomous liberty, rights, and reason that we should hope never to see again in the history of this nation.