An Originalist Reading of Public Schools

Let’s say you went to a restaurant and ordered a big ol’ meat sandwich only to find nothing but straw between two pieces of bread.

“Waiter!” You say, calling over a server.

“What’s wrong, Sir?”

“There’s no meat in my sandwich.”

“Oh, Sir?” He says smiling, examining your plate. “Here at Scalia’s Bar and Grill we adhere to a strict originalist interpretation of language.”

“What does that have to do with my sandwich?”

“Well, Sir, in Old English ‘meat’ meant any solid food, anything other than drink. As in ‘A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland’ (1775), Samuel Johnson noted, ‘Our guides told us, that the horses could not travel all day without rest or meat.’”

“But that’s not what I ordered!”

“Oh yes it is, Sir. You ordered the meat sandwich. Enjoy your fresh hay and oats.”

In everyday life, you wouldn’t put up with that kind of nonsense.

But for some reason, far right ideologues think it’s exactly the right way to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

The meanings of words change over time.

But ignoring that fact allows disingenuous crackpots to sweep over centuries of judicial precedent in favor of what they pretend to THINK the words meant at the time the law was written.

It’s not even about what the writers of the law SAID it meant. It’s about what today’s justices decide some hypothetical average Joe of the distant past would take certain words to mean.

The most obvious example, according to Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph Ellis, is District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), which reversed 200 years of precedent on gun regulations.

Before this ruling, the Second Amendment was interpreted to be referring only to service in the militia. The Militia Act of 1792 required each able-bodied male citizen to obtain a firearm (“a good musket or firelock”) so he can participate in the “well regulated militia” the Amendment describes.

It was about the obligation to serve your country, not the right to own a gun. However, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – the most infamous proponent of judicial originalism – orchestrated the majority opinion in this case changing all that. By doing a thought experiment about what words might have meant in the 1700s, he papered over two centuries of established law. He was so proud of it that he even described it as “my masterpiece.”

THAT’S judicial originalism.

And now that Scalia fanboy and federal judge for not even three whole years, Amy Coney Barrett, is being rammed through Senate Confirmation Hearings, that preposterous ideology is about to have another proponent on the highest court in the land.

Just imagine if we interpreted everything like people living in the 18th Century!

Black people would lose any semblance of equal rights even being forced back into slavery.

Women couldn’t get checking accounts, their own healthcare, make decisions about their own bodies, even vote (least of all hold positions on the Supreme Court).

And our public schools wouldn’t even exist!

After all, there was no widespread, comprehensive system of public education in the country before John Dewey championed it in the 1930s.

Sure, Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison all spoke at length about the importance of education to a free and just democratic society.

But remember, originalists don’t care about the writer’s intent. They only care about what regular people would understand by the terms. And regular people wouldn’t even understand the words “public” and “school” used together as a single concept at the time.

The first school that opened in what would become the United States was The Boston Latin School in 1635.

Its mission, and that of other colonial schools, was not to teach academics like math and literacy. It taught religion, family values and community spirit kind of like many parochial schools today.

Moreover, most schools were for boys only. If they deigned to teach girls at all, they taught them how to read but not write. No reason to give people a voice who weren’t seen as worthy of being heard.

Academics didn’t become something schools were responsible for until the mid-1800s. And even then, how they went about achieving it differed greatly from region to region of the country.

In the South, education rarely had anything to do with anything we’d call a school today. Rich families paid private tutors for their children. Everyone else was expected to work as soon as they were able.

In fact, it wasn’t until the Civil War ended and the Reconstruction era began when public schooling really became a thing in the South.

And even when it did, it didn’t look much like our schools of today. These were often one-room schoolhouses where a single teacher tried to educate children of various ages, grades and abilities.

Moreover, these schools weren’t solely supported by taxes – if at all. These Common Schools were more like private or parochial schools of today. Parents paid tuition, provided housing for the teacher, or contributed other commodities in exchange for their children’s education.

Even then, the learning students received wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as our kids routinely expect in even the most under-funded urban public schools today. And special education services was non-existent. Kids with special needs were routinely left out of education altogether.

Only 31 states passed laws requiring children to go to school by 1900, and kids only went from age 8-14. It wasn’t until 1918 that every state even required elementary school.

But let’s not forget segregation.

It was the law of the land until Brown vs. Board in 1954, and even then it took until the late 1970s to become even moderately enforced.

Subsequent rulings have weakened school integration efforts to such a degree that today many districts are as segregated – if not even more – than they were in the 1950s.

Just imagine if Barrett gets together with the wingnut Republican majority on the court to reevaluate that ruling!

Imagine how many centuries of slow progress she could overturn by appealing to the common man – of 1776.

Imagine if she and the regressive right examined free speech cases! After all, many of these laws were written during the time of the Adams Administration’s Alien and Sedition Acts which radically cracked down on free expression.

We could expect a rush to return to the mire and muck that many of our enlightenment heroes were trying to escape in the first place.

But originalists like Barrett claim only they can interpret what the language in these laws originally meant. Yet their training is in law, not literacy or antiquity. They’re not linguists or historians. They don’t have some shortcut to what people used to mean by these words. They’re just playing with the language to make it mean what they want it to mean so they can rule however they so choose.

Even if they could figure out the original meaning of the words in these laws, that doesn’t guarantee it would make sense in today’s world. How, for example, do the founding fathers views on medicine have anything to do with today’s healthcare system that didn’t exist in the 1700s and that the founders couldn’t even comprehend? How do the founders views on gun rights relate to today’s firearms when they knew only of muskets and not automatic weapons?

Finally, why should we give preference to antiquated ideas over modern concepts? The laws of yesteryear may have been suited to the days in which they were written. However, if a law cannot grow to encompass the world as it exists, it has no right to continue to exist.

Judges are not supposed to overturn precedent based on lingual folderol. They’re supposed to uphold the law based on logic, reason and sound judgement.

Any judge that disagrees has no place in our courts.

It’s ironic that such degeneration would come from the Republican Party.

After all, the GOP platform is certainly different today than it was when Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as their first President.

They used to stand for abolitionism, immigrant rights and progressive values.

Now they’re the party of plutocrat neofascist Christian fundamentalism.

If anything were to revert back to its original meaning, I wish it were the Grand Old Party, which is now neither grand, barely a party and merely old.


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R.I.P., R.B.G. – The Lesson She Lived

“I ask no favour for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

There are few people known for their whole name – first, middle and last.

Even fewer known just for their initials.

And maybe no other white, Jewish, woman in history to be christened with an honorific reminiscent of martyred rap royalty.

But Ruth Bader Ginsburg was all that and more.

R.B.G.

The Notorious R.B.G.

Let it never be said that she was given that title out of public relations or pique.

No matter where you stood, she earned the designation “notorious.” Because she WAS. In nearly everything she did.

Whether it was issuing the dissenting opinion on Bush v. Gore or lifting weights in a blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the words, “SUPER DIVA,” she was in your face and indomitable.

She was an icon, a pioneer, a living piece of “that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven,” as Tennyson might say.

And though she made her most indelible mark as a Supreme Court Justice, in a 2018 documentary about her life, RBG, she said she felt like a teacher:

“I did see myself as kind of a kindergarten teacher in those days, because the judges didn’t think sex-discrimination existed. One of the things I tried to plant in their minds was, ‘Think about how you would like the world to be for your daughters and granddaughters.’”

She did eventually teach law at Columbia University where she enumerated the changes in sexual discrimination litigation throughout her career. While in private practice, she won five cases involving women’s rights before donning the Supreme Court robes. At the time, she was quoted in Time magazine as saying her strategy was to “attack the most pervasive stereotype in the law – that men are independent and women are men’s dependents.”

To live at the same time as such a figure is not that uncommon.

We’re often surprised to read obituaries of great historical heroes we hadn’t known were still alive until their passing.

But that such a model was still WORKING, still doing that for which she had built her reputation, still holding together the fragments of our system as it threatened to crumble! That was truly amazing.

She was there. STILL there. For all of us.

Working well into her 80s through colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer.

And now she’s gone.

It’s hard to fathom.

This is the horror story we’d been warned about every election season for as long as I can remember. This is the nightmare scenario used to shepherd the Democratic flock together, to keep us all under one big tent while lightning flashed and thunder raged.

And it is here. Now. Today.

I never met Justice Ginsburg. Never talked with her. Never had the honor.

But I don’t think she accepted being used in this way. After all, if her biggest concern was the Chief Executive or even Congressional politics, she could have stepped down near the end of President Barack Obama’s first term and been replaced.

Or could she?

Perhaps she had to rethink her own retirement plans after the whole Merrick Garland affair when Senate Republicans refused to even discuss Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death a full nine months before the election.

There’s no way to know for sure.

But given Ginsburg’s record of tenacious dissent in the face of injustice, I can’t imagine her counseling moderation as solidarity.

She stood for justice when no one else would.

That’s what she did!

In 2007, her dissent in a case involving Lilly Ledbetter – a supervisor for Goodyear Tires – was so compelling it sparked the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She literally explained why the court was wrong and that this was a case of discriminating against women in employment, and that led to a change in the law two years later!

In 2013, when the court all but struck down the 1965 Voting Rights Act, her dissent was equal parts logic, prophecy and prescription. The majority of the justices made the bizarre argument that the Voting Right Act – and one of its features, known as “preclearance” – had already solved voter suppression.

Ginsburg responded:

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

When she read the dissent aloud in court, she went beyond her written remarks quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Then she added that it only bends that way, “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”

Her remarks about what would happen in the wake of this decision have largely proven true with waves of voter suppression sweeping the country – especially in areas where this would have been impossible had the court ruled differently.

There’s a lesson here for all of us.

Dissent should not be dismissed as divisive.

In the presence of injustice, it is the only proper response.

When refugee children are being locked away in cages at the border, there is no other viable response than dissent.

When police are being militarized and used as thugs to violently put down largely nonviolent protests, there is no appropriate response other than dissent.

When the President is lying to us, flouting our laws, and Congress refuses to hold him accountable, there is no other response than dissent.

We must all have the courage of the Notorious R.B.G. to stand up against injustice and call it by its true name – even to its face.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that doing so will somehow be enough to dismantle that injustice.

But we have to try.

And even if we don’t succeed today, we will have saved ourselves from becoming a part of the injustice around us.

Just days before her death, Ginsberg told her granddaughter, Clara Spera:

“My most fervent wish is, that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

If Republicans retreat from their own precedent and push through a new justice 47 days or less before the election, there are still things we can do.

We can fight like Hell to get rid of the worst President in American history, Donald J. Trump, and elect Joe Biden. We can vote like our lives depend on it to get a progressive majority in Congress.

And when we win, we increase the number of justices in the Supreme Court and pack them full of progressives.

We undo all the chicanery Republicans have done for decades – end the filibuster, make Puerto Rico and DC states, end gerrymandering and pass a new Voting Rights Act that actually protects the most important principle of our system of government – the one without which our system is nominal at best.

This and more is the dissent we must wage.

They give us injustice, we respond with its opposite.

We must look this fetid, decaying nation in the eye and say with all the ferociousness of our fallen Supreme Court Justice:

I dissent!

I dissent!

I dissent!


 


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Goodbye, 2016, and Good Riddance – Top 10 Blog Post by Me From a Crappy Year

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Is it just me or did 2016 really stink?

Both personally and publicly, it was a year I’d rather not revisit. I lost family. I lost idols (RIP, David Bowie and Prince). And we lost a horrible, protracted Presidential election.

But as has become a tradition, I find myself in front of the computer compelled to compile this list of the best of my own writings.

It would be easy to just say nothing much of value happened in 2016 so let’s just move on. But that wouldn’t be true.

There were good things. I’m just stumped to remember many of them right now. Perhaps as time goes on we’ll look back fondly on a smattering of events from this year that was. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. That was kinda cool. There were some decent movies and a heck of a lot of good TV shows. The Arrival, Star Trek Beyond, Deadpool… Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, two excellent series about O. J. Simpson. We got a Harry Potter sequel of sorts – and another movie! I thought “Underground Airlines” by Ben H. Winters was quite good. We got an amazing musical in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton.” Technically it opened in 2015, but it swept the Tonys this year. And hey! We stopped the Dakota Access Pipeline – for now.

It was certainly a productive year for blogging.

There was so much to write about.

This little education and civil rights blog went into overtime. I almost doubled traffic to the Website and got 2,145 more followers for a total of 11,335.

Gadflyonthewallblog, or if you prefer Gadfly on the Wall Blog, has been going strong since July 2014. In those two and a half years, I’ve gotten 849,000 hits – 363,000 just this year, alone. I also increased the number of posts I write a year. Last year, I only managed about 90 posts. This year it was 120 posts – a full 30 additional articles.

I hope you’ve enjoyed them. I hope you’ve found them valuable.

Sometimes readers send me a note saying that they’re going to share this post or that post with their school board or their representative in the House or Senate. I’m always very flattered to hear that something I wrote is helping someone else fight for what’s right. Of course, I do get a lot of hate mail, too. No death threats yet, but it’s getting awfully close. Readers have wished I was dead, but no one has offered to give me that little push to the other side.

I hope that no matter what your reaction, you’ll remember these are just the writings of a humble public school teacher and father. No one pays me, though sometimes I do get donations for the right to reprint something elsewhere. I write all this stuff because I have to. So few people seem to care what people like me have to say – even in my own profession. Like many others, I’ve stopped waiting to be asked.

So for your end of the year amusement, I offer this top ten list of my most popular writing from 2016. And here’s to a better 2017.


10) F is for Friedrichs… and Freeloader: A Supreme Court NightmareScreen shot 2016-01-11 at 9.50.07 PM

Published: January

Views: 5,550

Description: Some crazy lady didn’t want to pay the union for benefits that she got as a member and didn’t want to give them up. And rich folks everywhere had her back. They slobbered all over and pushed forward a bull crap case through the Supreme Court that probably would have made it much more difficult for labor unions everywhere had not Justice Antonin Scalia died deadlocking the vote. This article was my attempt to show how absolutely absurd the argument was against being forced to pay for something that benefits you.

Fun Fact: Now that Congress blocked President Obama’s Constitutional right to appoint a replacement for Scalia, and Donald Trump will probably get to pick a replacement, look for a similar case to come down the pike and win! Oh, 2016, will you ever truly leave?


9) The Charter School Swindle – Selling Segregation to Blacks and LatinosScreen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.22.46 PM

Published: June

Views: 6,489

Description: Charter school promoters often sell these institutions to minorities as being “Separate but Equal.” Hm. Didn’t Brown v. Board outlaw that kind of practice because if schools were separate, they usually were anything but equal? This article is my attempt to explain how charter marketers are really selling minorities on segregation and trying to talk them out of their own civil rights.

Fun Fact: During the Obama years, it was common practice to sell corporate education reform as a way of increasing civil rights while it actually violated them. It will be interesting to see if that rhetoric gets left behind in the Trump years when lawmakers already seem to have little interest in them at all.


8) ‘We’re Sorry Teachers are Unfairly Blamed’ says John King – Man Responsible for Unfairly Blaming Teachers

Published: February John King AP

Views: 6,832

Description: When John King became temporary Secretary of Education, he went on an apology tour telling educators that the federal government was sorry for how terribly it had treated teachers. In particular, he was sorry the department had blamed educators for societal problems that our schools need to fix without giving them the resources necessary to actually correct them. However, King was personally guilty of many of these same practices in his old job in New York. It was typical disingenuousness from the Obama administration and the Democrats – ignore and abuse their key constituents until election time and then make positive noises in their general direction hoping we’d support them at the polls.

Fun Fact: It didn’t work.


7) Bernie Sanders is Right: We Should Federalize Public School FundingBernie_Sanders_by_Gage_Skidmore

Published: January

Views: 6,947

Description: The way we fund public schools in this country is messed up. In many states, we rely heavily on local property taxes which result in poor communities being substantially underfunded and rich ones having more than enough of everything. In most of the world, funding is done much differently – the burden is handled mostly by the federal government who then distributes it equitably from place-to-place. Bernie Sanders proved he was the real deal by suggesting we do the same thing here in the US, a suggestion that no one in either party was ready for.

Fun Fact: Even some of my readers were uncomfortable with this one. They feared that if the federal government took responsibility for funding, it would increase their ability to micromanage local school districts. This is a fair concern, but there is a way to do this without increasing federal control of education policy, just funding. In any case, funding disparity is an issue that hardly ever even gets acknowledged less than discussed. Thank you, Bernie!


6) Summer Break – the Least Understood and Most Maligned Aspect of a Teacher’s Life

Published: June Screen shot 2016-06-20 at 4.18.07 PM

Views: 7,429

Description: Just about every teacher gets crap from non-educators about summer break. Everyone thinks they know what it’s like to be a teacher and how easy we’ve got it. This post was my way of shutting up the ignorant. It explains why educators aren’t teaching in summer, what they’re actually doing and how the public benefits from giving teachers this time. Share it with someone you love.

Fun Fact: Or just shut someone up with it.


5) Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Manager is a Longtime Corporate Education Reformer

Clinton Gives Speech On American Global Leadership At Washington Conference

Published: March

Views: 9,268

Description: Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, is not a nice man. I unearthed a speech he gave to corporate school reformers including Jeb Bush in 2012 where he pledges his allegiance to conservative, market-driven school policies. And THIS is the guy who was influencing Hillary’s approach just like he influenced Obama’s when he worked on that campaign. Legend has it, Podesta is responsible for giving us Arne Duncan. He suggested Duncan over Obama’s campaign education advisor Linda Darling Hammond, a critic of high stakes testing. These were truths that needed to be told and tell them I did.

Fun Fact: That this came out was a huge embarrassment to the Clinton campaign. All they could do was suppress it. Even dedicated supporters who read the article had to admit that she would probably not be very good for education – but she’d be better than Trump. It’s these kinds of Faustian bargains that derailed her campaign. How much better off we would have been had we had a real progressive to vote for than just another Democrat in Name Only!


4) What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Loveantonin-scalia-26

Published: February

Views: 14,001

Description: Scalia was a terrible Supreme Court judge who used his position to justify hurting a lot of people. While others tried to hide their excitement at his passing, I let mine show. It might not be nice to say, but the world is a better place without him in it. I had hoped my honesty would make it harder for anyone like him to ever reach that office again. Unfortunately, weak Democrats and an incoming Republican President mean his replacement will probably be just as bad as he was.

Fun Fact: Originally my title was much more provocative – something like “Antonin Scalia was a Terrible Person and I’m Glad He is Dead.” It got over 10,000 hits in a few hours, but then I reconsidered and changed the title. People almost immediately stopped reading it.


3) Without Black Culture There Would Be No American CultureScreen shot 2016-06-28 at 12.10.37 AM

Published: June

Views: 15,519

Description: We often talk about black people as victims. Police brutality, civil rights violations, economic disparities – but this is only half of the story. There is a buried history of success that rarely gets mentioned. Think of what American culture would look like without black people. It would be something completely different. This was my attempt to tip my hat at the incredible ways black Americans have made their mark on our society especially in the field of music.

Fun Fact: Black Twitter really liked this article. It was especially gratifying to see how appreciative people were. Of course, at the same time, some folks’ white fragility couldn’t handle it, either. Some readers tried to bully me into making changes here or there for no reason other than that it made black people look too good. Sorry, folks, no one determines what I put on this blog but me.


2) The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Published: November img_5992

Views: 40,268

Description: School choice is less an education policy than a propaganda effort. Most people don’t understand what it really is. They don’t understand how essentially selfish it is like cutting a piece of pie from the middle of the dish so no one else can get a whole slice. I tried here in the most simple, direct language I could to explain why.

Fun Fact: With the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary and Trumps’ promise to spread school choice across the land like a Trump University franchise, the article remains popular. A lot of readers told me that it helped make sense of the issue for them for the first time. No doubt it’s been sent to policymakers across the nation. And it all started when I saw that picture of a ruined pumpkin pie on Reddit. I started to think – isn’t that a lot like school choice?


1) Top 10 Reasons School Choice is No Choice

Published: JanuaryLittleKidThumbsDown

Views: 77,139

Description: Both Democrats and Republicans love school choice. So I thought that real education advocates needed a quick list of the main reasons why it is bad policy. There’s nothing really new or amazing here. We’ve known this for decades, but this keeps getting brought up again and again like zombie legislation. The wealthy will push this forward whether we want it or not. There’s just too much money they can make if it passes. That’s why it’s good to know why what they’re peddling is so harmful to students, parents and communities. Consider it ammunition for quick come backs.

Fun Fact: I wrote this long before the Trump administration was a prospect to be taken seriously. This was long before DeVos or the Donald pledged to bring this to the national stage. It has continuously gotten a steady flow of hits since it was published. If my goal as a blogger is to be useful, I think this post more than any other written this year fits the bill. You can quibble with one or two points here, but all ten are enough to show any rational person why school choice is no choice.

Judging the Judge: What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love

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I am not sad Antonin Scalia is dead.

Wow! It feels so good to say that out loud!

Come on. Admit it. You probably feel the same way.

I know. I know. Everywhere you turn, people are going out of their way to talk about the ramifications of the 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s death without passing judgement on him.

“Let’s keep it classy,” they say.

Oh. Stop it.

In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people. And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.

The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it. And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.

So please curb any shock you may feel at my thesis. And spare me the false praise of a truly reprehensible human being.

He was against women controlling their own bodies, efforts to desegregate our schools, an individual’s right to love whomever they choose, refraining from executing mentally disabled or teenage prisoners. Heck! He was even against police reading suspects their Miranda Rights!

This was a person who said black people should go to “slower” colleges, homosexuality was the same as murder or bestiality, sex discrimination is constitutional, and maybe we have a right to all carry around rocket launchers in public.

If it is outrageous to feel relief at the death of this man, you may call me outrageous.

I’m not usually the kind of person who celebrates someone else’s death. Not even a famous person.

But you have to admit that the people we love are a lot better off without Scalia in the world.

It’s not like he kept all this to himself. He wasn’t some lone drunkard in the back of the bar mumbling sexist, racist views. He wasn’t your ancient uncle who you only see twice a year making people uncomfortable at the dinner table. He was a judge in the highest court in the land, and his demented and warped world view drove public policy impacting… well… everyone.

He was the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions that – if they had gone differently – would have greatly benefited every person in this country.

You can thank him for the Presidency of George W. Bush and Citizens United. Let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine all the horrific blunders of the Bush Presidency – easily the worst administration in my lifetime. If the Supreme Court hadn’t given the highest office in the land to Dubya, arguably we wouldn’t have had the Irag War, the Great Recession, No Child Left Behind, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina – maybe even 9-11.

And if you hate what our elections have become, imagine if we didn’t have the Citizens United verdict. Campaign donations would have to be made in public with some limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute.

How much better the world would have been without these terrible decisions!

I’m not saying Scalia wasn’t a good man in his personal life. I have no idea what he was like to the people he loved. For all I know he may have been a good friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He probably had people he cared about and who cared about him. And to those people I send my condolences.

However, he did great harm to just about everyone else. And for that I feel nothing but relief at his death.

Who am I to bask in such schadenfreude?

I am a father and public school teacher.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and several classes full of mostly impoverished and minority students.

And Scalia’s death is good for everyone I care about.

If he were still alive, there was so much more damage he could have done. Take the Friedrichs case, an important one for teachers like me.

The case is an attempt to strip teachers unions of the right to charge members for their services. If the court rules in favor of Friedrichs, it would overturn decades of established law against free riders. People would be allowed to be in a union, enjoy higher salary and benefits negotiated by that union, but not pay dues. It would be absurd. Yet with Scalia still on the bench, most court watchers seem to think we would have had another terrible 5-4 decision.

However, with Scalia’s death, the best anti-union forces would probably receive is a 4-4 decision – not enough to overturn established law. True the case has already been heard by the justices, but a ruling has not yet been handed down. According to the Supreme Court blog, even if Scalia had already written a ruling on this matter, it would be void. Any rulings he wrote that have not yet been made public don’t count.

So the most likely outcome now is that millions of people will continue to be protected from unfair labor practices. And you expect me not to have a big ‘ol smile on my face!?

So where do we go from here?

President Barack Obama will select who is to succeed Scalia. Numerous excellent choices have been floated. If Obama chooses any one of them, he would probably tilt the court fractionally to the left.

Before the body was even cold, Republicans vowed to block any nominee Obama makes until the next President is sworn in. Some are trying out the talking point that Supreme Court Justices have never been sworn in during an election year. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have Justice Anthony Kennedy who was confirmed during the last year of Reagan’s presidency.

Funny. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the President has the right to nominate Supreme Court Justices with the advice of Congress. Yet so many of these right leaning partisans who considered themselves Constitutionalists last week suddenly find themselves against that revered document today.

I wonder how Scalia would have argued such a situation.

Not really. He was the one who taught the rest of his party how to twist the words of the founding fathers to mean whatever the far right favors this week.

Obama still has more than 300 days in office. If Republicans try to block his nomination until a new face tops the Executive, it would be the longest such obstruction in a century. Of sitting justices, the longest confirmation period was for Clarence Thomas who took 106 days to be approved by Congress.

And that brings us to the 2016 Presidential race.

Scalia’s death is likely to have a huge impact on whom becomes our next President.

If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, it would probably increase voter turnout. Whenever that happens, it favors Democrats since they have more registered members than the GOP.

Either way, Scalia’s death is probably beneficial to whomever the Democratic nominee will be. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders get the nomination, supporters of the defeated candidate are more likely to support the reigning Democrat.

Even if voters don’t like the winner’s policies as much as their preferred candidate, they’re likely to support the nominee in order to continue tipping the Supreme Court to the left. After all, three additional justices are 70 or older. Stephen Breyer is 77, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82.

We have had a long haul these last 15 years. Much social progress has been stalled.

But now that Scalia is out of the picture, the future looks bright.

Maybe things really will turn out alright. Maybe we’ll actually have a chance to build that better world we’ve all been dreaming about.

Rest in Peace, Scalia. The nation can’t wait to move on without you.

What Antonin Scalia’s Death Means to the People I Love

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I’m not sad Antonin Scalia is dead.

Wow! It feels so good to say that aloud!

Come on. Admit it. You feel exactly the same way.

I know. I know. Everywhere you turn, people are going out of their way to talk about the ramifications of the 79-year-old Supreme Court Justice’s death without passing judgement on him.

“Let’s keep it classy,” they say.

Oh. Stop it.

In his 30 years on the bench, Scalia hurt an awful lot of people. And I mean real, live people – not ideological constructs, not hypotheticals – but moms, dads, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons.

The aggregate amount of misery in the world was drastically increased by his being in it. And now that he’s gone, much of that misery may be relieved.

So spare me any shock at my thesis. Spare me the false praise of a truly reprehensible human being.

He was against women controlling their own bodies, efforts to desegregate our schools, an individual’s right to love whomever they choose, refraining from executing mentally disabled or teenage prisoners. Heck! He was even against police reading suspects their Miranda Rights!

This was a person who said black people should go to “slower” colleges, homosexuality was the same as murder or bestiality, sex discrimination is constitutional, and maybe we have a right to all carry around rocket launchers in public.

If it is outrageous to feel relief at the death of this man, you may call me outrageous.

I’m not usually the kind of person who celebrates someone else’s death. Not even a famous person.

But you have to admit that the people we love are a lot better off without Scalia in the world.

It’s not like he kept all this to himself. He wasn’t some lone drunkard in the back of the bar mumbling sexist, racist views. He wasn’t your ancient uncle who you only see twice a year making people uncomfortable at the dinner table. He was a judge in the highest court in the land, and his demented and warped world view drove public policy impacting… well… everyone.

He was the deciding vote in several 5-4 decisions that – if they had gone differently – would have greatly benefited every person in this country.

You can thank him for the Presidency of George W. Bush and Citizens United. Let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine all the horrific blunders of the Bush Presidency – easily the worst administration in my lifetime. If the Supreme Court hadn’t given the highest office in the land to Dubya, arguably we wouldn’t have had the Iraq War, the Great Recession, No Child Left Behind, the slow response to Hurricane Katrina – maybe even 9-11.

And if you hate what our elections have become, imagine if we didn’t have the Citizens United verdict. Campaign donations would have to be made in public with some limits on how much individuals and corporations can contribute.

How much better the world would have been without these terrible decisions!

I’m not saying Scalia wasn’t a good man in his personal life. I have no idea what he was like to the people he loved. For all I know he may have been a good friend, a loving husband, father and grandfather. He probably had people he cared about and who cared about him. And to those people I send my condolences.

However, he royally screwed just about everyone else. And for that I feel nothing but relief at his death. If only it had come sooner.

Who am I to bask in such schadenfreude?

I am a father and public school teacher.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and several classes full of mostly impoverished and minority students.

And Scalia’s death is good for everyone I care about.

If he were still alive, there was so much more damage he could have done. Take the Friedrichs case, an important one for teachers like me.

The case is an attempt to strip teachers unions of the right to charge members for their services. If the court rules in favor of Friedrichs, it would overturn decades of established law against free riders. People would be allowed to be in a union, enjoy higher salary and benefits negotiated by that union, but not pay dues. It would be absurd. Yet with Scalia still on the bench, most court watchers seem to think we would have had another terrible 5-4 decision.

However, with Scalia’s death, the best anti-union forces would probably receive is a 4-4 decision – not enough to overturn established law. True the case has already been heard by the justices, but a ruling has not yet been handed down. According to the Supreme Court blog, even if Scalia had already written a ruling on this matter, it would be void. Any rulings he wrote that have not yet been made public don’t count.

So the most likely outcome now is that millions of people will continue to be protected from unfair labor practices. And you expect me not to have a big ‘ol smile on my face!?

So where do we go from here?

President Barack Obama will select who is to succeed Scalia. Numerous excellent choices have been floated. If Obama chooses any one of them, he would probably tilt the court fractionally to the left.

Before the body was even cold, Republicans vowed to block any nominee Obama makes until the next President is sworn in. Some are trying out the talking point that Supreme Court Justices have never been sworn in during an election year. But if that were true, we wouldn’t have Justice Anthony Kennedy who was confirmed during the last year of Reagan’s presidency.

Funny. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that the President has the right to nominate Supreme Court Justices with the advice of Congress. Yet so many of these right leaning partisans who considered themselves Constitutionalists last week suddenly find themselves against that revered document today.

I wonder how Scalia would have argued such a situation.

Not really. He was the one who taught the rest of his party how to twist the words of the founding fathers to mean whatever the far right favors this week.

Obama still has more than 300 days in office. If Republicans try to block his nomination until a new face tops the Executive, it would be the longest such obstruction in a century. Of sitting justices, the longest confirmation period was for Clarence Thomas who took 106 days to be approved by Congress.

And that brings us to the 2016 Presidential race.

Scalia’s death is likely to have a huge impact on whom becomes our next President.

If Republicans block Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, it would probably increase voter turnout. Whenever that happens, it favors Democrats since they have more registered members than the GOP.

Either way, Scalia’s death is probably beneficial to whomever the Democratic nominee will be. If either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders get the nomination, supporters of the defeated candidate are more likely to support the reigning Democrat.

Even if voters don’t like the winner’s policies as much as their preferred candidate, they’re likely to support the nominee in order to continue tipping the Supreme Court to the left. After all, three additional justices are 70 or older. Stephen Breyer is 77, Anthony Kennedy is 79, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 82.

We have had a long haul these last 15 years. Much social progress has been stalled.

But now that Scalia is out of the picture, the future looks bright.

Maybe things really will turn out alright. Maybe we’ll actually have a chance to build that better world we’ve all been dreaming about.

Rest in Peace, Scalia. The nation can’t wait to move on without you.