The Harvard Law Forum, Fall 2017 Roundup

The Harvard Law Forum, the speakers I have been running for two years now, just closed its Fall season.  Here’s a round-up of talks from the past semester:

Race, Class and the Future of Solidarity with R.L. Stephens — November 16, 2017

R.L. Stephens is an elected member of the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America and the former A. Philip Randolph Fellow at Jacobin Magazine. His writing on race, class and social movements has appeared in The Guardian, Gawker, and Jacobin. He was a campaign strategist at labor union Unite Here in Chicago and previously participated in a campaign to end unfair scheduling practices in the retail sector while working at Gap. He graduated from George Washington Law in 2014.

On November 16, 2017, he came to the Harvard Law Forum to share his thoughts on class, race, and the future of solidarity.

The Case for Medicare for All with Tim Faust — November 9, 2017

On November 9, 2017, health care expert, Jacobin writer and HEAVYxMEDICAL co-host Timothy Faust came to Harvard Law School and made the case for a single payer, Medicare for All health insurance system.

Ralph Nader — November 8, 2017:

On November 8, 2017, Ralph Nader — consumer advocate, public citizen, Harvard Law alumnus, and one of The Atlantic’s 100 most influential figures in American history — came to Harvard Law to inspire students to deploy their education for justice, democracy and the public interest.

Fighting for Access to Justice in the Halls of Congress with Rep. Susan W. Brooks and Rep. Joe Kennedy III — November 6, 2017

On November 6, 2017, the co-founders of the bipartisan Congressional Access to Legal Services Caucus, Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Susan W. Brooks (R-IN), came to Harvard Law School to talk about the importance of funding for civil legal aid for impoverished Americans.

Racism and Climate Change: Putting Racial Justice at the Center of Systemic Transformation with Jacqui Patterson — October 30, 2017

Jacqueline Patterson is the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. She has worked as a researcher, advocate and activist for women‘s rights, violence against women prevention, HIV & AIDS treatment, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice.

On October 30, 2017, Patterson came to Harvard Law to discuss the intersection of racism and climate change— to show the Harvard community how to “put racial justice at the center of systemic transformation.”

Lawyers, Monopoly Power and Breaking up Amazon and Google with Matt Stoller — October 19, 2017

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Open Markets program, where he researches the history of the relationship between concentrated financial power and the Democratic Party in the 20th century. Prior to joining the Open Markets program, he was senior policy advisory to the Senate Budget Committee on trade, competition policy, and financial services. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York TimesThe New Republic and The Nation.

On October 19, 2017, he came to Harvard Law School to share insights on the relationship between the legal profession and monopoly capitalism… and let students and faculty know what they can do to protect open markets from the distortions of monopoly power.

All Rise! roundup, Season 2

At Harvard Law, I co-produce All Rise!, a podcast of longform interviews with HLS professors and other figures in the law.  We just finished Season 2:

Here’s episode 6 with Constitution expert Michael Klarman:

Here’s episode 7 with municipal broadband expert Susan Crawford:

Episode 8 with HLS student organizations coordinator Tracey-Ann Daley:

A special episode 9 with prison education advocates Max Kenner and Vince Greco:

Episode 10 with Critical Race Theory expert Khiara Bridges:

Episode 11 with death penalty expert Carol Steiker:

Episode 12 with HLS’s negotiation and mediation sage Bob Bordone:

Episode 13 with Demos President Heather McGhee:

And Episode 14 with federal judge Nancy Gertner:

You can subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here.

The Harvard Law Forum, Spring 2017 Roundup

I have been running the Harvard Law Forum, Harvard Law’s speaker series, for a year now.  Here’s a round-up of talks from the past year:

Beyond Resistance with Heather McGhee – April 10, 2017

Demos President Heather McGhee is a national leader in the fight for working families. Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where “we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.” McGhee’s opinions, writing and research have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Hill, Meet the Press, among other publications. She is one of The Root’s 23 Black Political Pundits You Should Know and one of Grist’s 50 People You’ll Be Talking about in 2016.

On April 10, 2017, she came to the Harvard Law Forum to show how students can help progressive organizations earn and deserve the trust of the majority of Americans who reject Trumpism by moving beyond resistance and towards helping restore working families to power.

Building a Moral Economy with Elizabeth & Matt Bruenig – April 5, 2017

Elizabeth Bruenig and Matt Bruenig are considered by some to be the moral politics dream team of the Millennial generation. Elizabeth is an assistant editor at the Washington Post, whose writing focuses on ethics, politics, and culture from a Catholic social justice perspective. Matt is an incisive poverty analyst and Twitter sage who has written for Jacobin, Demos, The Atlantic, Dissent and The Washington Post.

They came to the Harvard Law Forum on April 5 to give a one-two punch of moral vision and economic analysis to wake up Harvard Law students to the imperative of working towards a moral economy.

The Fight for Prison Education with Vince Greco – March 30, 2017

Vince Greco is one of the leading formerly incarcerated prison reform advocates in Maryland. He is member of the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform and Out for Justice. He is a beneficiary of prison education and during his three decade incarceration was a leader on the inside in expanding college programs to Maryland prisons.

On March 30, 2017, he spoke at the Harvard Law Forum on the importance of prison education.

Hope, Change and Community with Sr. Simone Campbell – March 22, 2017

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, has served as Executive Director of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice since 2004. She is a religious leader, attorney and poet with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. In Washington, she lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare.

On March 22, 2017, Sr. Campbell came to Harvard Law School to speak about moral vocation building and advancing Catholic social justice values in the Trump era.

Why Trump? What Now? with Michael Sandel – March 22, 2017

Two decades ago, in his book Democracy’s Discontent, Michael Sandel warned that, absent a stronger civic republican spirit, liberalism would collapse, giving way to “those who would shore up borders, harden the distinction between insiders and outsiders, and promise a politics to ‘take back our culture and take back our county.’”

On February 22, 2017, the Harvard Law School Forum hosted Sandel to give his take on politics in the age of Trump.

Latest All Rise! episodes

I have a long-form interview podcast over at the Harvard Law Record called All Rise!  We just released our 4th and 5th episodes to complete the first season.

In the 4th episode, we interview former ICC Prosecutor Alex Whiting:

In the 5th episode, we interview legal historian Tomiko Brown-Nagin:

Subscribe to All Rise! on iTunes here.

“All Rise!” – our long-form interview podcast for the Harvard Law Record

This past month, Brady Bender and I launched All Rise!, a long-form interview podcast for The Harvard Law Record. Each week or two, Brady and I interview members of the Harvard community.

Our first episode is with Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law professor and author of multiple books on race and the law:

Our second episode is with Jeannie Suk, Harvard Law professor, New Yorker writer, and feminist legal scholar:

Subscribe to “All Rise!” on iTunes here.

Civic Creativity talk featured in the Falls Church News-Press

I recently gave a talk to the Falls Church League of Women Voters entitled “Civic Creativity: Beyond Civic Engagement Finger Wagging.”  Here’s the original News-Press feature plugging it:

The League of Women Voters is hosting a forum called “Civic Creativity: Beyond Civic Engagement Finger-Wagging,” next Sunday, April 19, from 3 – 4:30 p.m. at the Falls Church Community Center. Pete Davis, co-founder of Our Common Place of Falls Church, will start the program with a presentation, which will be followed by a discussion about how civic engagement can be improved in response to the realities of contemporary life.

Davis’ organization, Our Common Place of Falls Church, is “a community web platform that is designed to make it easier for Falls Church residents to share and connect with each other,” according to a press release from the League of Women Voters about the forum. “American civic life is in crisis,” the press release said.

“Our civic infrastructure—from civic education in schools to our organizational structures, from our way of talking about politics to our local government’s methods of engaging citizens—is due for an upgrade. This event is designed to move beyond complaining about the decline in civic life to laying the groundwork for its revitalization.” For more information, visit lwvfallschurch.org.

And here’s the follow up:

Peter Davis, a 2008 George Mason High School graduate who will be entering Harvard Law School this fall, made a stimulating presentation to a gathering hosted by the Falls Church League of Women Voters at the Community Center Sunday that argued for a new “Progressive Era” like the one the U.S. experienced in reaction to its first “Gilded Age” in the late 19th century.

The nation is suffering a “new gilded age” now he said, and a form of civic engagement and activism is called for that goes beyond “flipswitch” politics – where a single issue is agitated for and then changed – to a more organic, community-based efforts at reform. Politics are now run by managers as mass spectacles, he said, where the public is alienated from its government that becomes more like an impersonal vending machine. “Wagging fingers doesn’t work” to fix this, he said. But instead “successful alternatives are the best protest,” achieved through the systematic public learning of civic creativity through new institutions dedicated to that purpose.

The goal is to achieve projects, not just back candidates: that was the model operative in the first “Progressive Era,” he said.

I will be posting a version of this speech on this site in the not-so-distant future.

Harvard Thinks Big 5 & 6

Harvard Thinks Big, the Harvard event we founded that brings together all-star professors for one night to share their big ideas, has reached its sixth year. The Crimson had a good rundown.  Open Culture had a piece on Harvard Thinks Big 5 with each video from the event.  Here’s the Harvard Thinks Big youtube playlist:

Plus, here’s the link if you’re interested in following Harvard Thinks Big on iTunes.

The Imperative of Civic Education Reform

I just had a new guest commentary in the Falls Church News-Press regarding civic education:

Last year marked the 30th anniversary of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform, the bombshell Reagan administration report that helped define today’s conventional wisdom about American schools. Thanks to the report – which implied that America’s “preeminence in commerce, industry, science and technology” was “being overtaken by competitors” due to a “rising tide of mediocrity” abetted by public schools – one cannot talk about schools today without hearing that classes are not “rigorous” enough, that American children are “falling behind” Chinese, Indian and Korean children in “competitive skills,” and that the answer is evermore “tougher standards.”

Three decades later, educators are standing up to call “hogwash!” on the report’s themes. When you adjust for poverty, American scores are not ‘falling behind’: non-impoverished school districts lead the world on recent PISA tests. Even more, there is no connection between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores: Americans have had low-ranking scores for decades and yet still lead the world in economic productivity. Factories have moved to other countries not because they have better-educated citizens, but because they have lower labor standards than Americans find just. In fact, the largest recent economic threat to America – the financial crisis – was caused by the reckless corporate policies of the well-educated. Indeed, we are not A Nation at Risk of falling behind economically and, if we are, don’t blame our public schools.

America’s outlook isn’t exactly rosy, though: We are failing to stem climate change, reign in the corporate crime wave in the financial industry, roll back mass incarceration, and stop the corruption of Congress by monied interests. But these are not failures in economic competitiveness. Rather, they are civic failures: failures by us citizens to address shared problems.

When Ben Franklin was asked what governmental system America was going to end up with, he responded: “a Republic, if you can keep it.” To keep our Republic – the system that places the power to govern in the hands of the People, ourselves – we need civic education: schooling in the democratic values, civic skills, and public-minded determination needed to address today’s civic failures. Perhaps it’s time for a report entitled A Republic at Risk: The Imperative of Civic Education Revitalization.

Falls Church schools should lead the way in revitalizing American civic education. Only providing vague encouragement of ‘service hours’ and a single course on formal Government is a disservice to our high schoolers: Packing kits for the homeless is not the same as pairing such service with responsive political action against the structures that create homelessness; reading about how a bill becomes a law is not the same as developing the hands-on experience that is needed for legislative change.
Fortunately, there are signs of hope for a civic education revival in town: (1) Star teacher Rory Dippold has turned his 7th grade classroom into a home for dynamic, project-based civic engagement, leaving Huskies excited to actively participate in their communities. His Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher nominations illustrate how our community values vigorous civic education. (2) When I proposed a GMHS Public Project Program (www.tinyurl.com/GMHSPPP), dozens of neighbors reached out, excited to discuss how we can get more project-based civics in the schools. To quote one alumni: “As someone who worked on a public project during high school, it too often felt like the work we achieved was accomplished in spite of our obligations as students instead of in conjunction with them. If we had been encouraged by a program which not only formalized civic creativity as an expectation, but also integrated a supportive framework of knowledge, time, and resources into the high school education system, there’s no telling how far we could have gone.” (3) At the FCCPS Community Visioning, the audience issued a clarion call for more adult mentorship, tighter school-community bonds, and project-based learning. When asked explicitly whether FCCPS’ current level of civic education was adequate, a near-unanimous crowd expressed that FCCPS civic education needed work.

Stakeholders may not agree on the method, but they agree on the imperative: Falls Church needs a stronger civic education program to revive our at-risk Republic. But the question remains: will Superintendent Jones and the school board listen? If the FCCPS Community Visioning process was more than just lip service, then FCCPS will appoint a civic education czar to facilitate an open forum to craft a revitalized civics program for Little City schools. If we were able to find hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to pay the Apple Corporation for controversial computers (money that could have paid for the salary of a full-time civic engagement coordinator), we assuredly can find the resources for the level of civic education for which the community is passionately calling. To join the push, email FCCPSCivicEducation@gmail.com!