Steve Haycox

It may be a new day for oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska’s North Slope. Despite President Obama’s announcement two weeks ago that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort off the Slope will be off limits to drilling, it seems increasingly likely that offshore drilling there will pick up soon. Just this week, following a federal court ruling against environmental challenges, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began the validation process for leases it sold in 2008, leases Shell Oil attempted to drill with its drill vessel Kuluk. The bureau estimates there are 4.3 billion barrels of oil and 2.2 trillion feet of natural gas in those leases....

Steve Haycox

President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he endorses renewal of the Interior Department’s management plans for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve, and that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are off-limits for oil drilling, generated a political firestorm in Alaska. Our political leaders cried foul. They argued that the federal government doesn’t have the right to do whatever it wants in Alaska, that Alaska has a sovereignty that empowers it to limit what the federal government can do here. Their anger is misplaced.

Where might such empowerment come from? Some say from the "compact theory" of federal governance. Others say from promises the federal government made...

Steve Haycox

The respected Southern Education Foundation recently released the results of a study showing that for the first time in more than half a century, over 50 percent of public school students nationwide are considered low income, i.e. poor. Those who have been fleeing the public schools and advocating public funding for alternative schools must consider this a significant victory: The prospects of sending their children to school with “those people” diminish as the number of charter schools grows and the voucher movement succeeds in more and more communities....

Steve Haycox

Dan Sullivan was sworn in as Alaska’s junior U.S. senator last Tuesday, and there’s an unprecedented aspect to his upcoming service: A direct connection to the 1 percent who run the country. It comes through the remarkable fortune of his family business, RPM International. RPM’s annual net sales top $11 billion; its net income is over $101 million. Sullivan’s grandfather started the company; its current chair and chief executive officer is his brother. RPM owns companies that make and market coatings, sealants and building materials; think RustOleum and DAP, but the industrial manufacturing sector is where the real money is....

Steve Haycox

The Christmas holiday is mostly over, and with it the persistent refrain of “Jingle Bells,” the overeating of irresistible cookies and treats, the patience of department-store Santa Clauses and the orgy we call Christmas shopping. The usual complaints about the “commercialization” of Christmas have again fallen on the closed ears of the American consumer, especially those with children, for whom this holiday seems especially designed. Christmas is a secular celebration, like it or not; it’s a cultural and commercial icon that a great many Americans would have trouble relating somehow to the birth of the baby Jesus...

Steve Haycox

“The times they are a changin’,” and you can feel the wind without a weatherman. If ever Bob Dylan’s lyrics were apropos, they surely are now.

But some folks can’t resist resisting the sweep of history. Respect for cultural differences notwithstanding, history is sweeping new definitions of family and women deep into mainstream culture...

Steve Haycox

Standing with tens of thousands of others on Bernauer Strasse in Berlin last Sunday evening, as 7,000 large, illuminated, helium-filled balloons were set free into the dark sky and the crowds cheered and clapped for joy, one could be pardoned for being overwhelmed. News outlets reported that a million people were out in Berlin that night, taking part in what Berliners called “25th Mauerfall,” the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The balloons were spaced about 10 feet apart all along the 14-kilometer path of the wall through central Berlin; people had been walking the route all weekend, and various displays recounted the sad history of the DDR, the East German state, and the euphoria of Nov. 9, 1989, when one of every four East Germans crossed into the West...

Steve Haycox

We have a problem with education today, and it’s not that our students don’t score high enough on standardized tests. Rather, it’s that beyond the lower grades, we don’t know its purpose. Once children can read and do simple math and are reasonably socialized, i.e., know the behaviors society expects of them, all bets are off. Is the purpose of high school to develop independent thinkers, to make good citizens, prepare for college, or to get kids ready for reliable employment? All of these, naturally, but where’s the emphasis?...

Steve Haycox

Speaking in an interview recently, the brilliant conservative essayist and novelist Marilynne Robinson, nominated this week for a national book award, lamented that fear has become the default posture of human beings in today’s culture. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ ” Fear is a negative power that eliminates options. It’s a habit that colors and constrains. And it’s not just an individual phenomenon; it’s often collective, for individuals mimic the ideas and behaviors they see around them...

Steve Haycox

In the small town of Bradner, Ohio, some months before World War II, enraged citizens gathered in the town square for a book burning. The target of their fury was an American history text, "Man and His Changing Society," used in the town’s schools. It’s author, Harold Rugg, a professor of social studies at Columbia University Teachers College, championed progressive education, the notion that education should be seen as an agent of social change, awakening students to the complexities of society and the forces responsible for its character. It was the end of the Great Depression, and progressive curricula explored such topics as the locus of economic and political power in society, and democratic access for people of differing financial and social circumstances...

Steve Haycox

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