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Montgomery County school curriculum to train K-12 students to “understand and resist systems of oppression.”

As noted by National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar on Twitter, Montgomery County Public Schools has charged a team with drafting a K-12 curricular overhaul that “strengthens students’ sense of racial, ethnic, and tribal identities, helps students understand and resist systems of oppression, and empowers students to see themselves as change agents.”

Commentator Damon Linker responds:

“I’ll speak up: I wouldn’t want my kids’ sense of racial, tribal, or ethnic identity to be strengthened. I don’t want them to be trained to “resist” anything in particular. And most of all I don’t want them turned into “change agents,” which is corporatized activist-speak.”

I’d add, speaking for myself, that while families of varying political colorations might all agree that there are “systems of oppression” existing in the world, we are likely to disagree strongly on what those might be and where their definitional boundaries might be. For example, it’s routine for one or another consultant in the world of “anti-racist” training to label capitalism as a system of oppression, while others, like me, consider capitalism a system of liberation and compulsory state socialism a system of oppression. Whose view is going to prevail? Likewise, there are countless views of what does and does not constitute sexism, ableism, imperialism, ageism, racism, colonialism. When views diverge, whose will prevail? And even if agreement were reached on identifying some societal evil, who decides whether the appropriate response is to “resist” it in some visible and performative way, to set a better example by one’s personal conduct, to use one’s powers of persuasion and exhortation, or to withdraw from contact with and participation in the evil? Each approach has had philosophically serious advocates.

Some might even deem it an emergent system of oppression to employ the machinery of compulsory public education to remove children forcibly to a classroom where they will be indoctrinated into ideologies that may vilify or demonize beliefs held by members of their families, or even demonize those family members themselves, in a process to which members of their families would never willingly have subjected them.

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Talking Maryland podcasts

Here’s a partial list of the times I’ve been interviewed as a podcast guest on Maryland-based shows and Maryland issues (redistricting in particular). Radio generally excluded.

New Jan. 14, 2022: I talk gerrymandering and redistricting reform with host Sunil Dasgupta of Montgomery County at his I Hate Politics podcast.

In March 2021 I joined Dan Sally, who makes a practice of getting past “red versus blue” narratives, at his You Don’t Have to Yell podcast.

In March 2020 I joined hosts Michael Sanderson and Kevin Kinnally at the Maryland Association of Counties’ Conduit Street Podcast. We ranged across all sorts of topics including how libertarians fit into politics and the role of emergency powers in the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March 2019, with the District 6 court challenge at its highest pitch, host Ryan Miner at A Miner Detail interviewed me and (no relation) Ashley Oleson, 2/3rds of the chairs of Gov. Hogan’s Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering.

In December 2018 I joined Emma Kerr and Colin McGuire at the Frederick News Post’s Frederick Uncut, also on the District 6 battle. And there was a followup interview in June 2019 when the Supreme Court ruled.

In fact I think I was the first guest “Frederick Uncut” ever had back for a repeat interview. In 2016 I had discussed the role of third party candidates in politics.

In August 2018 I joined hosts Candace Dodson Reed and Tom Coale on the Elevate Maryland podcast to talk — what else? — gerrymandering.

In November 2017 Patrick Hanes at Frederick-based WFRE interviewed me on what it’s like to work at a think tank. It’s a completely different interview than others I’ve done, because the questions are different, and I recommend it.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some (as well as generally omitting the many radio and TV hits that weren’t in podcast format). So many good podcasts out there for those of us who follow Maryland issues. Check these shows out!

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Absent with a good reason

I’ve been absent from blogging here since the summer in order to concentrate on my duties concerning the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, the nine-member panel charged with recommending maps for Gov. Hogan to propose for redrawing Congressional and legislative lines. That job will continue for a while, but the commission has now proposed to the public all three of its maps — Congressional, state senate, and delegate — and you can check them out here or use a viewer that allows zooming down to the street level. Public comment continues for a couple more weeks and the commission will consider altering lines to reflect public reaction and comments, as it has already done in several areas.

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In miniature, June 8

  • [Some] Republicans against employers’ rights? Notion of forbidding employers from asking for proof of vaccination has at least one backer in the General Assembly [Laura Olson, Maryland Matters]
  • Councilmember Hans Riemer is now running for Montgomery County Executive. MDGEO county employee union has used hardball tactics against him in past [Seventh State]
  • I joined Yuripzy Morgan’s WBAL show to discuss guaranteed-income programs that discriminate by race;
  • “Research shows, time and again, however, that bans on single‐use plastic bags can have unintended consequences, not least by inducing substitution towards alternatives with potentially worse environmental impacts.” [Ryan Bourne and Erin_Partin, Cato; earlier here, etc.]
  • As of six months ago, 35 states followed the stand-your-ground doctrine in self-defense cases, while 15 followed duty-to-retreat. Maryland is in the minority, prescribing duty to retreat with a sole exception of the home [Eugene Volokh]
  • Renowned New Haven pizzeria Frank Pepe’s still plans 2021 Bethesda opening [Washingtonian]

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In miniature, March 6

  • “Do-it-yourself manufacturing has always hobbled authorities’ ability to control things they don’t like, and the modern ghost gun movement specifically evolved to put personal armaments beyond the reach of the state.” [J.D. Tuccille/Reason] Nonetheless, some in Annapolis hope a legal ban will defy the technology [Hannah Gaskill, Maryland Matters
  • West Coast bills attempting to force pay raises for grocery workers backfire. A bill in the Maryland General Assembly would try the same thing [Brad Palumbo, FEE]
  • “Opinion: Lawmakers Should Oppose Bill to Retroactively Allow Old Lawsuits” [Sean Caine, Maryland Matters]
  • New report from legislative analysis office confirms that in Montgomery County, as elsewhere, legal curbs on rents can be expected to have highly damaging economic consequences [Adam Pagnucco, Seventh State; Ryan Bourne, Cato]
  • Not all the Montgomery County housing proposals are wretched, one would ease rules for constructing duplexes/triplexes/etc. [Dan Reed, Greater Greater Washington]
  • Latest proposed Annapolis imposition on business would ban plastic bags at retailers. Hope Gov. Hogan has his veto pen ready [Madison Hunt, CNS/Maryland Reporter and Elizabeth Shwe/Maryland Matters

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On Maryland Question One, Vote “Against”

The Baltimore Sun has published my letter to the editor (disagreeing with the Sun’s position) in which I argue that Maryland voters should reject Question One, expanding the General Assembly’s power over the state budget.

Contrary to The Sun’s arguments, an “against” vote on Question 1 is the right vote for fiscal responsibility (“Question 1: Vote ‘for’ constitutional amendment on state budget authority,” Sept. 28). At present under the Maryland Constitution, the legislature can only cut items from the governor’s budget, not add or shift. Although unusual among state constitutions, that’s a rule that has long proved workable in county and other local government. Question 1 would authorize the assembly to add items to the state budget as long as overall changes plus and minus do not result in a sum exceeding the governor’s own proposed budget.

Politically, the consequence would be that a lot of people would start lobbying General Assembly members or running for the state legislature themselves, with the aim of raising spending on pet programs. Supposedly, the effects would still be fiscally neutral because something else would have to be traded off (highway maintenance is one guess) to pay for the goodies. But with the legislature converted into a much more ardently pro-spending body than it is now, that constraint might later be discarded too, enabling the legislature simply to add money to the governor’s proposals.

The Sun is right that the General Assembly has resorted to artificial and inefficient dodges to get around the current rule. But the answer there is to spotlight and rein in the artificial dodges. In the mean time, vote “against” on 1.

— Walter Olson, New Market

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Frederick County health director Barbara Brookmyer discusses COVID-19

Frederick County, Md. health director Barbara Brookmyer joins host Michelle Perez Newman for a third show to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak. Questions include: Who is currently getting tested, given low test capacity? How safe is it for kids to have playdates? (Alas, not very.) How do the symptoms differ from those of the flu? What rules should you follow if someone in your household gets sick? Brookmyer is a respected figure and this 30 minute show should interest national as well as Maryland listeners. Previous shows ran on March 7 and Feb. 21. More recent Brookmyer appearances: Frederick News Post, Frederick County Public Schools.

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An ill-fated “Potomac Compact” — and some testimony from Pennsylvania

Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis have filed a “Potomac Compact for Fair Representation” bill, HB 182, the gist of which is to say that Maryland can go on gerrymandering until Virginia agrees to coordinate on reform. Sorry to break it to you, guys, but have you noticed that the Virginia reform ship is sailing all by itself?

P.S. Kind of related: a Pennsylvania lawmaker talks frankly about how the leadership in state legislatures use the gerrymandering power, with its discretion to dole out a good district or impose a bad, to arm-twist maverick lawmakers into submission:

Boscola [Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County] said that because legislative leaders control the process, they can change the shape of districts to increase or decrease an incumbent’s chances of reelection.

Boscola, a senator for 18 years, served two terms in the House. There, she said, the threat of gerrymandering was used against her.

“I was told by my leadership in the House that I better behave and toe my party line, or I’d be out of my district,” she said.

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Make room for lemonade stands: H.B. 52

Dels. Neil Parrott (R-Washington County) and Steve Johnson (D-Harford County) have introduced H.B. 52, which would bar counties and municipalities from banning or regulating “the sale of lemonade or other nonalcoholic beverages by minors from a stand on private property.” (The makers of Country Time lemonade, in a brilliant marketing stroke, have launched a campaign to defend kids busted for this activity; more at Overlawyered). WJZ has details.

Sponsors invited me to write up something about the bill and here’s what I came up with:

Today’s breaker of low-level regulations is tomorrow’s breaker of more serious regulations. The ten year old who dabbles in lemonade selling today could become tomorrow’s bringer of a church potluck casserole prepared in a home kitchen rather than an inspected commercial facility. A few years later, accustomed to the ways of regulation-breaking, that same miscreant might use that same home kitchen to bake a dozen pies, plus one for good luck, to bring to a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving.

The time to stop it is when it starts — on the June day when the first pitcher of lemonade is mixed and hawked to passersby for 50 cents, plus a tip if you get lucky. Stop them young, or they will get used to serving others and along the way learning to act and think for themselves.

Does this all sound a little crazy and upside down? Well, it is. We should make it easier, not harder, for kids to be enterprising, well organized, and friendly, all lessons of the lemonade stand. The bill can be marked up in sensible ways that limit it to the intended range of cases. But can we really disagree with the direction?

— Walter Olson, a Frederick County resident, is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and has written about small business and food safety regulation.

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P.J. O’Rourke in Frederick Mar. 19

The Cato Institute’s own H.L. Mencken Fellow P.J. O’Rourke will be at the Frederick Speaker Series at the Weinberg Center Thursday, March 19, sponsored by Flying Dog Brewery’s fabulous First Amendment Society. There’s also a separately ticketed meet and greet event afterward. See you there!

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