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Conservatives are lagging behind in recruiting young talent. Here’s how to fix that.

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Conservatives are lagging behind in recruiting young talent Heres how to fix that

Social media is brimming with opinionated conservatives and Republicans of all ages; there is no shortage of young conservative and young republican organizations across the nation; campus activism is vibrant thanks to groups like Turning Point. Yet, we see few new conservative faces in the public arena. There’s approximately a dozen or so well known young journalists, pundits, and activists who appear at various events and various fora time after time; most conservatives stick to being busy with jobs or attending political meetings and working as campaign managers or running for elections.

Young conservative movement appears to be splintered or non-existent; there is little drive for registering new voters, for aggressive recruitment of staffer placement, or the kind of cultivation of talent that the Democrats have become known for. Part of the reason, of course, is that Republicans and conservatives gravitate towards the business world and professions, which leaves them with little time for consistent publications, TV appearances, intellectual salons and other such activities that do not necessarily lead to immediate outcome (winning races, for instance). Nevertheless, few seem to be available even for part-time commitments; fewer still are those who do not already come from politically connected families. There is no shortage of conservative writing, but a striking dearth of innovative ideas coming from rising voices. Finally, the Republican party is shrinking – and it’s unclear what’s happening to younger voters.

To some extent, the left-wing extremist attitudes on campus are creating a counterreaction. Conservative-leaning college students, in response to pressure, tend to vote more Republican. This represents a perfect opportunity for identifying, recruiting, and training promising future thinkers and doers. Yet conservatives as a whole are failing in this endeavor. The litany of the way talent hunting is being mishandled is mile-long.  Some of these failures are easily fixable. They include the failure to encourage and elicit creative ideas on promoting conservatism or interpreting conservative values and thought in an informed way.

There are, perhaps, essay contests and debates, but the names of the winners never make the news, not even in the conservative outlets. Similarly, few young thinkers and planners, who are not involved in political races, are seen speaking out at conservative conferences or other significant events. On the contrary, established figures, members of administration, and high level think tank employees share their views. The desire for acclaim is understandable; yet, what is the attraction to someone in their twenties or early thirties to be involved in “extracurricular” conservatism, beyond serving in an administration if there is no opportunity to contribute to bigger ideas and broader discourse in any significant way?

Besides cultivating the next generation of thinkers, however, there is also another strategic reason for stepping up the recruitment game. Progressives manage to insert their pundits in just about every publication, TV channel, or other public appearance opportunity possible. They are overwhelming the discourse with their plants. Conservatives, by contrast, may occasionally recognize some brave young conservative academics or journalists at some internal event – yet fail to encourage integration within the mainstream community. Thus we see that the idea of “conservatism”, as such, is becoming increasingly dominated by poorly educated, unthinking, and confused polemicists, who may be quick to respond with a succession of talking points, but contribute nothing to winning the larger cultural battles, whether though ideas, or presentation.

There is likewise little to no funding for young conservative-led initiatives that are not traditional outreach organizations, which are focused on every stereotypical conservative activity or type of discussion we think of. Where is the backing and patronage of media aimed at millenials? Where’s the encouragement of originality, creativity, humor, and paradigm shifting? At best, many young conservatives who undergo any sort of training strive to imitate the failing Hannity, Limbaugh, and other conservative models, who have been good at riling up anger, not so great on promoting internal diversity of ideas and the break out from comfort zones and groupthink within the conservative movement. Likewise, there is a general patronizing sense that younger or rising conservatives have not done anything important, and therefore they are not worth the effort. They are left on their own to break out in whatever way they will – and quite often, the people who most succeed in that effort are those who already come from politically active familial backgrounds. Continuation of family traditions is not in itself bad; what’s worse is that conservatism by rote kills motivation, effort, and enthusiasm.

There are currently  no organized efforts to recruit new members to the movement, not just for the sake of voting in the next elections. Conservatives appear to have given up completely on winning hearts and minds in blue states. Their focus is almost entirely on strengthening the base; there is little outreach to purple communities, unless the election day is around the corner.  Trumpian backlash against the progressive version of identity politics appears to have killed much of the growing momentum in finding and building up allies in diverse communities beyond Trump’s base. Indeed, it is possible to reach out to new immigrants from assorted state, minority communities, seemingly apolitical or  mixed church groups, and disaffected individuals without losing sight of core values, or compromising integrity.

Yet none of that is really on the agenda. Republican party has become a clique welcoming largely only to the like-minded on a visceral level that has little to do with ideology or experience. It has become a self-congratulatory club, where little is being accomplished beyond echoing the chorus surrounding the assorted politicians and commenting on every move they  make or don’t make. This obsession with politicians (of any sort) as symbols of conservatism and centers of life has served us a poor turn. We have come to relly on their judgment on what conservatism is or should be; rather than developing a thoughtful approach that our elected officials could rely on to promote ideas in the legislatures or executive branches.

Finally, informational and educational efforts have failed. We are crying out about the crisis on college campuses, while forgetting that the crisis actually starts in high schools or earlier. Where are our conservative book clubs? Gathering of constitutionalists? The funding for conservative artists of all stripes? THere is no shortage of Republican political donors; yet their main concern – campaigns – is short-sighted. And ideological conservatives, in their disgust about the party and movement takeover by crude populists, have failed to provide a vibrant, appealing, accessible, and viable alternative. Engagement of the young people should be a top priority. There is something to be said for allowing conservatives to find their own voices, rather than steering them in a particular direction. Yet, left to their own advices, those of us who have not yet fully formed our views, are easy bait for demagogues and reactionaries. Discernment comes with mentorship and investment.

None of what I outlined above is fatal. Developing conferences aimed at bringing together young conservative intellectuals, creators, and community builders, that go beyond the Ra-Rah speeches by shallow pundits is not difficult to develop. We have successful models of hackathons and workshops from the savy young tech community; and progressives have led by example with a proliferation of creative outlets, fun and engaging gallery openings, and evenings of mentorship for the uninvolved  with appealing celebrities. While conservatism may not offer the equivalent of Hollywood stars to come bond with the youngsters, there is no shortage of exciting scientists, tech innovators, professionals with non-traditional twists and specialties in their careers, and others who can become brand ambassadors for conservatism, and serve as models for the rising stars.

The battle we wage is not just a battle of ideas, but quite as much a battle of branding, bonding, and breaking stereotypes and ceilings. That means that we should be attracting new followers with humor and satire, theatrics, emotional connections, the power of life-affirming and thought-provoking narratives, and a sense of passion coupled with commitment, openness, and determination. Dry lectures, moralizing, and shallow conservative virtue signaling will only repel the skeptics, and annoy the growing minds, eager for involvement, input, and impact. I suggest starting with something simple – perhaps, with sponsorship of low key discussion/book clubs around campuses, religious institutions, and other social gatherings, which are not aimed at propagandizing or “selling” conservative ideals – but rather at a thoughtful examination of different perspectives and experiences. Wars are won with both passion and preparation. We have fallen far behind on both counts – but knowing what’s missing will help us rise again.

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security lawyer, based in New York. I can send something longer, but then it would go into all the other things I've been involved in and might be too long!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Joel Kurtinitis

    February 7, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Great piece, and important points. Federalism can help fix this – it’s the branding that the right needs and it fits with millennial culture.

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Democrats

Educational Malpractice, Pt 2: Failure of identity politics on display

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“What a snake pit.” Those were the words of one teacher, commenting on Twitter in response to my February 6th article (detailing the malfeasance uncovered after a local principle blew the whistle in a fiery letter released to the public), to describe the Shelby County Schools system (SCS).

Another person commented, “I would wager there are more instances of this sort of behavior going on across the country in similarly-positioned school systems.”

Neither comment brought me any joy, but I suspect both are correct.

For this, I continue in my examination into my local school system, an examination of issues which are often diluted in reports published by our compliant, local press. Perhaps removing the veil can bring positive change to other school systems.

What hasn’t been said in the press, I intend to say.

The Death of a Successful School System

Shelby County Schools, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, has not always been embroiled in scandal and failure. In fact, Shelby County Schools has a record of proven success, earning high ratings year after year.

That all ended, just 5 years ago, with the largest school system consolidation in American history: the Memphis City Schools (MCS) system was completely dissolved and then merged with the Shelby County Schools (SCS) system.

Historical Corruption and White Flight

In Memphis, history repeats itself: politicians who have been convicted of criminal corruption are routinely re-elected.

Take Rickey Peete, for example. Beginning in the 1980’s, Rickey Peete served on the Memphis City Schools Board, and was then elected to the Memphis City Council.

  • In 1989, Peete was convicted of taking bribes and extortion, and served a 2 ½ year prison sentence.
  • In 1995, Rickey Peete was again elected to the Memphis City Council, and was later re-elected 2 more times!
  • In 2007, Peete was, once again, convicted for extortion and accepting bribes, earning himself a 4-year prison sentence. “He and fellow council member Edmund Ford were charged in late 2006 with taking bribes from former County Commissioner Joe Cooper, who was recording their conversations for the FBI,” (Memphis Flyer).

Then there are the Fords; a family of politicians that could be described as a criminal enterprise. And, lest we forget, the FBI’s Operation Tennessee Waltz offers a sobering reminder of the corruption that has haunted the area.

Thus, plagued by decades of political woes and poor policies, more and more people moved out of Memphis – often incurring debt in order to do so – and into the surrounding cities hoping to escape the rising crime rates and the downward decent in quality and safety of the city’s troubled schools.

Although the areas of Shelby County which are outside of the City of Memphis are just slightly over 50% white, the departure of city residents away from Memphis is pejoratively called “white flight.”

The Funding Structure  –

All county residents’ county-wide property taxes were divided between the Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools based on the number of students. This structure allocated more funds to the City of Memphis since the city’s schools had a higher number of students than the county’s school system.

The Memphis City Schools operated as a special school district. Residents of Memphis paid additional property taxes that were allocated to the city’s schools. As such, Memphis City Schools operated with a larger budget; funded by county and city residents, allowing for significantly higher per-student spending than that of Shelby County Schools.

In addition to various special programs, Memphis City Schools students’ athletics were publicly funded, while Shelby County students’ athletics were funded entirely by their parents.

Yet, Memphis City Schools were constantly facing funding difficulties, and threatening to dissolve the school system entirely became a norm.

In an act of desperation, hoping to keep the crooked fingers of Memphis corruption from taking over the county’s high-functioning, successful school district, the Shelby County Schools board began exploring legal ways of obtaining special district status for the county system, the same special district status that Memphis City Schools enjoyed.

A Hostile Takeover

By 2010, due to mismanagement and corruption, the City of Memphis had defaulted on tens of millions of dollars designated for the city’s schools. In a rushed vote brought on by funding woes and by the efforts of SCS to obtain special district status, the MCS school board hastily threw in the towel, voting to dissolve the charter of Memphis City Schools altogether.

A referendum vote was then scheduled for Memphis residents to approve the council’s choice for system dissolution. County residents did not have any voice in what was to happen to their school system should MCS merge into it.

If the referendum passed, Memphis representatives, based on population, would then secure the majority of SCS school board seats.

It passed, and the Memphis City Schools system officially ceased to exist.

Those Rich, Racist Bastards!

Leading up to the referendum vote, “journalists” and education “advocates” and politicians repeatedly put forth the premise that education in Shelby County was unequal, despite the higher public spending per pupil and the public funding of various support programs in Memphis City schools which would disappear should the city schools be dissolved.

The residents of the suburbs and of unincorporated Shelby County were labeled racists and their genuine concern for their children was painted as an attempt to maintain boundaries of segregation. County residents were framed as rich white people who hate black people and who are inexcusably greedy, selfishly hoarding their riches in hopes of keeping black children in poverty.

In the county schools, technology such as Promethean Boards and learning programs such as Accelerated reader were entirely funded by parents. This technology was absent from Memphis City Schools. The stark contrast in parental involvement the positive effects of high levels of parental involvement on student achievement was brushed aside, as if invalid.

With complete disregard for the studies highlighting the negative effects of system mergers on students, especially low-income minority students, the “advocates” persisted.

The gross failures of the Memphis City Schools system which had persisted because of systemic corruption, a climate of mediocrity, and vast ineptitude was simply re-framed as “separate and unequal education.” 

City residents swallowed this racist, classist, shamefully dishonest ploy hook, line, and sinker.

Memphis City Schools system officially merged into Shelby County Schools in 2013; representatives from Memphis secured majority rule of the SCS board, effecting every single public school-attending child in the county.

Shelby County Schools became the largest school system in the country.

Curiously, and reeking of Memphis politics, the attorney representing the Memphis City Schools during the years-long merger process then became the superintendent for the new, unified Shelby County Schools system.

The Results

Predictably, the endemic dysfunction that characterized Memphis City Schools now characterizes the Shelby County Schools system. The same failing schools are still failing. The same inept leadership keeps on leading.

Even rumors of school board corruption still persist.

The worst result, which was completely predictable I must add, was the phenomenon of once high-performing schools across the county subsequently dropping precipitously in quality.

For example, what was once a top-performing elementary school around the corner from my house is now a level 1 school (at the bottom of the rankings).

The problems that plagued Memphis City Schools were never addressed.

 It was far easier to feign virtuous, employing the abhorrent politics of identity, than it was to seek genuine solutions. So, it should be absolutely no surprise that the results have been, in a nutshell, the spread of failure.

Thankfully, for at least some of Shelby County’s children, the story doesn’t end here. There was a great divorce that took place, benefitting thousands of students.

Yet, it is because of this “divorce” that the residents of Shelby County are once again being plastered as racists and classists, rich whites, on a national scale; and residents have become the target of well-funded, Marxist proponents of the “sustainability” movement.

This, I will discuss in Part 3 (the final part).

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Culture and Religion

Video: You’re Not A Liberal!

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A Truth Revolt Original from Bill Whittle that succinctly explains why Leftists aren’t Liberal.

Published on Oct 10, 2014

The 4:20 minute mark in the 6 minute video has its most important point:

The founding fathers were the True Liberals because they believed in Liberty – with both words having the same origins.

They believed in individual Liberty, private property, limited government and the common sense civil rights of free-speech and armed self-defence. They believed in the freedom to be left alone.

The point of the video is that the collectivists of the nation’s Socialist-Left do not meet the definition of the word Liberal. They believe in collective rights, Collective ownership of property, unlimited government, limitations on speech and gun confiscation.

Those of that mindset (Leftists) are not Liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

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Education

Educational malpractice Pt. 1: fraud, sex and football in Memphis, TN

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“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that covers up gross negligence among multiple Principals and Senior and Junior District Level supervisors who participate in sexual relationships with teachers/employees/support staff whom they supervise, which directly violates Tennessee law and requires revocation of their license and termination from supervisory positions. This is a common and accepted practice.”

With its headquarters located in The Home of the Blues, the Shelby County Schools system has been singing the blues lately, and for good reason.

It was back in June of 2017, when the trouble really kick-started.  Trezevant High School principal, Ronnie Mackin, released a head-turning, six-page resignation letter in which he outlined a series of complaints against Shelby County Schools, including, among other things:

  • grade-changing (which a three-lawyer panel investigation proved to be systemic);
  • sexual improprieties between faculty, staff, and district supervisors (an issue reported in another area high school as well);
  • breaches in security at the school (one incident was later uncovered on surveillance footage);
  • racist conduct by school system administrators, supervisors, and other district officials;
  • financial mishandlings and possible theft of school funds (SCS later opened a separate investigation into this matter);
  • kickbacks;
  • and pay-to-play for certain athletes.

Mackin closed his resignation letter with a series of powerful declarations, several of which I have included throughout this article in italicized form.

Back in August of 2016, Principal Mackin –  brand new to Trezevant High School – approached Shelby County Schools (SCS) district leadership after uncovering wide-spread grade-changes. Students’ report cards did not align with their official transcripts.

Some students’ grades were changed from failing to passing, while others received credit for courses not taken. This, according to Mackin, put 121 out of 145 seniors at risk of not graduating.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where it is common knowledge that certain schools have cheated to attain “other than normal” achievement gains.”

Trezevant High School’s 2015-2016 graduation rate was 49%, which improved 16% in the 2014-15 school year which remains well-under district, state, and national averages.

As Mackin later elucidated, “Changing grades from failing to passing, artificially raising graduation rates, and falsifying college transcripts have become part of a big business,” noting the compensation structure within the school system which are “based on a mythical system of accountability,” and which ultimately encourage unethical behavior.

An internal district investigation by Shelby County Schools was begun.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that promotes dishonesty, fraud, and misrepresentations of academic progress in order to promote athletic success.”

Because a large number of the grade-changes effected football players, Trezevant’s football team was forced to forfeit all games until the investigation had been completed, which prompted protests from students.

The Trezevant High School football team won the state championship the prior school year.

Over the course of the remaining school year, Principal Mackin’s car was vandalized with racist language (“white boy b**** a**”), and a whisper campaign against him ensued within the community, which according to Mackin’s resignation letter, was instigated by several SCS district officials.

Such incidents included:

  • the implication the Mackin, as a white man, was culturally illiterate and ineffective at his post;
  • a voicemail on a parent’s phone by Mackin’s supervisor encouraging that parent to seek legal action against Mackin “under false pretenses”;
  • and district officials instigating parents to perform a background check on Mackin (which ultimately found nothing).

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where district level supervisors are not only allowed to bully and harass school level Principals, Teachers, and Support Staff, they are encouraged.”

The district’s internal investigation had concluded in October of 2016:

“We have identified 131 students currently enrolled in the district whose transcripts were altered by a staff member of Trezevant . . . All these students were previously enrolled at Trezevant at some point during their time in high school. 92 of these students are still enrolled at Trezevant, 44 of whom are seniors. The remaining 39 (of the 131) are now enrolled in 22 different high schools. Of these 39 students, 15 are seniors. (Other schools will be contacted as needed.)”

Shelby County Schools maintained the stance that the grading discrepancies were isolated to Trezevant High School. The school secretary was fired and the head football coach was suspended for 5 days.

The incident was settled and swept aside.

But not for Ronnie Mackin.

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment that allows District Leadership to collude, interfere, and influence DUE PROCESS in order to protect employees tied by long standing acquaintance, sexual relationships, and fraternal/sorority affiliations from being disciplined fairly and according to policy.”

After Mackin’s fiery resignation letter was made public, a full 10 months after he had first uncovered and reported the grading discrepancies to the school district, SCS appointed a panel of lawyers to investigate the incident.

Now, the panel’s findings have been released, and the picture painted by the findings is bleak.

As the Commercial Appeal reported:

“At least 53 students graduated from Trezevant without earning their diplomas, according to findings from the report released Tuesday. That increased the graduation rate 14 percent over a four-year period from 2012-2016. During that time, 461 grades at that school were changed from failing to passing.

Kirby High had 582 failing grades changed to passing grades.

After Trezevant, Raleigh-Egypt High had 429 such changes.”

The report called for even further investigations, indicating Trezevant was merely the tip of the iceberg; a recommendation which the SCS board subsequently encouraged. Eight different schools are now undergoing audits.

The state Department of Education also urged the district to investigate further, ordering expansive audits for all Shelby County Schools for the next three years.

In addition, the State has requested the names of all who were involved in altering students’ grades.

“The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office is investigating Trezevant at the request of Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. Those investigators have the freedom to expand their investigation as necessary,” the Commercial Appeal reported.

Shelby County Schools accreditation is even on the line. As Fox 13 Memphis reported, it’s the damning findings found in the panel’s report “that now has AdvancED, the agency that issues and oversees important school accreditations, wondering what’s going on inside SCS?”

The board has also moved to fire Trezevant’s head football coach, who had since been moved to a different area high school.

In a January op-ed in the Commercial Appeal, Mackin put the practice of grade-changing into full perspective:

“Students have become commodities (priced at around $11,500 per student) to some educators who are willing to promote them and get them out of school in hopes for big returns in the future.

This is child exploitation and abuse.”

“I CAN NOT and WILL NOT continue to work in an environment where students are the last priority…”

Had it not been for the actions of one brave (and royally ticked off) principal, a man who chose to sacrifice his own 19-year long career for the betterment of our community’s youths and who has continued to speak out, the improprieties within the school system would have never been uncovered, nor addressed.

We may never find out the degree of rot within the adult culture of Shelby County Schools, or just how many bad actors we have employed.

It has only been a few years since Memphis schools were rocked by a teacher licensing-exam “cheating ring” that spanned three states. The mastermind was a 23-year employee, having served as a teacher, an assistant principal and a guidance counselor for the school system. Multiples teacher were indicted.

Dorsey Hopson, who serves as the superintendent of Shelby County Schools, said at the time, “It would be unfair to let what may be 50, 60 or 100 teachers who did some wrong stain the good work of the large number of teachers and administrators who get up every day and go by the book.”

Sadly, there is one thing of which we can be certain: where there is one bad actor, there are many.

Fallen apples don’t rot far from the tree.

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