Wednesday, April 23, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Backs Michigan on Affirmative Action State Ban

In a 6-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state constitutional ban on affirmative action in public institutions in the state of Michigan. This is a loss for the future of racial equality in American higher education.

WASHINGTON — In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities.

The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity.

States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities. Continue reading the main story Related in Opinion

In five separate opinions spanning more than 100 pages, the justices set out starkly conflicting views. The justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.
For more extensive coverage on this ruling, please browse the links below:

NYTimes: American Middle Class No Longer World's Most Affluent

According to the New York Times, the American middle class is no longer the most affluent in the world.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time. They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Nation: The Fifty Most Influential Progressives of the Twentieth Century

In 2010, The Nation published a ranking of the 50 most influential progressive activists of the 20th century. This list includes famous and unsung heroes who were utopians, radicals, and social reformers who were passionate about their issues and as a result left a lasting legacy on American society.

This list includes fifty people—listed chronologically in terms of their early important accomplishments—who helped change America in a more progressive direction during the twentieth century by organizing movements, pushing for radical reforms and popularizing progressive ideas. They are not equally famous, but they are all leaders who spurred others to action. Most were not single-issue activists but were involved in broad crusades for economic and social justice, revealing the many connections among different movements across generations. Most were organizers and activists, but the list includes academics, lawyers and Supreme Court justices, artists and musicians who also played important roles in key movements.

Some of the progressives on the list included educators and social workers: Jane Addams (2), Florence Kelley (4), John Dewey (5), W.E.B. Du Bois (7), and Frances Perkins (12).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CRISP: Nancy Humphreys Urges Political Activism for Social Workers

Many students and alumni of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work gathered to pay tribute to Nancy A. Humphreys, who is retiring from her tenure as founder and director of the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. During the celebration, she reminded students on why political social work is essential to the field.

Her message: social workers need to be involved in all phases of the political process. She gives three reasons. One, political activity is part of the profession’s mission to be both about helping people to change and working to change society. Second, she believes social workers are uniquely trained to serve in the political arena. And third, because federal, state and local policy-making and legislation increasingly has to do with social services issues, social workers’ knowledge, experience, and understanding of the social welfare system are essential to effective policy making. The bottom line is that if social workers are not willing to participate in politics we forfeit our right to complain about the fairness of the system.

Related Article [October 2015]: Legislative Field Placements & Social Work's Impact on Policy

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: Careers in Politics, Government, and Activism (2008)

Careers in Politics, Government, and Activism - Second Edition (2008) by Joan Axelrod-Contrada is a comprehensive employment guidebook (~300 pages) for persons seeking employment in public service in the United States. It includes over 75 career profiles in politics, government and activism. It also includes a wonderful foreword written by Congressman Richard E. Neal. It will leave you truly motivated to pursue this carer path!

The book aims to introduce readers to the depth and complexity of pursuing a public service career. It starts with an industry outlook to bring awareness about advantages and drawbacks in this type of work. The most common response is that people want to make a difference. The author scanned sources from industry professionals, association and employment websites, college carer centers, and books and newspaper articles. Overall, this book is very easy to read and left a positive impression on the types of job positions that exist in public and nonprofit sectors. In this world, networking (who you know) is very important to move up the career ladder.

The book is divided into three parts: politics, activism, and and government. Each job description contains a career profile with duties, similar titles, and career ladder (promotions). In addition, each career profile includes salary range, employment prospects, advancement prospects, sample of skills and experience, education and training, and tips for entry. There is an expansive appendices section containing frequently asked questions about civil service and federal employment, federal pay scale, graduate school programs in public service, advocacy groups, how to run for political office, and much more. This is a great resource if you're a recent college graduate or career changer who wants in public service.

  • Political campaigns
  • Political office
  • Local/state government - general positions
  • Local government
  • Local/state specialists
  • State/federal legislative staff
  • Other state/federal positions
  • International affairs
  • Nonprofit advocacy administration
  • Public interest law
  • Community, social and international issues
  • Lobbies, unions, and associations
  • Service programs

Friday, April 4, 2014

AP: More Americans See Middle Class Status Slipping

This is depressing news. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who say they were middle- or upper-middle class dropped after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. This provides further evidence that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Has the American Dream become a myth? Decent-paying jobs are disappearing. Educational attainment is also no longer a stable path to upward mobility. Income inequality must become a national priority.

A sense of belonging to the middle class occupies a cherished place in America. It conjures images of self-sufficient people with stable jobs and pleasant homes working toward prosperity.

Yet nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, more people are coming to the painful realization that they're no longer part of it.

They are former professionals now stocking shelves at grocery stores, retirees struggling with rising costs and people working part-time jobs but desperate for full-time pay. Such setbacks have emerged in economic statistics for several years. Now they're affecting how Americans think of themselves.

Since 2008, the number of people who call themselves middle class has fallen by nearly a fifth, according to a survey in January by the Pew Research Center, from 53 percent to 44 percent. Forty percent now identify as either lower-middle or lower class compared with just 25 percent in February 2008.

According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they're middle or upper-middle class fell 8 points between 2008 and 2012, to 55 percent.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Watch Obama's Speech on Raising the Minimum Wage at the University of Michigan

President Obama arrived today at the University of Michigan to promote his plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and to criticize the Republican's opposition to the minimum wage issue. Watch the full speech below:

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