Are Families Bad for Democracy?
*Banner image by Suzanne Heintz. Design by Louise Bova.

Our Democracies, Not Our Children, Should Go to Boot Camp

Family Is Less a Barrier to Democracy Than Governance Itself

Imagine this heart-breaking scene in the Greek city-state of Sparta in the 6th century BC: a 7-year-old boy from the best of homes, loving and intelligent, was torn from his mother by authorities and transferred to an inhuman government-run institution. He was made to sleep on a thin mat, scarcely protected from the cold, and was forced to steal food to survive. His days were spent on a regimen of athletic-military and academic drills, and he was subjected to frequent beatings. …


PTAs Are the Opposite of Community

How the Former Champions for All Kids Devolved Into Self-Serving Fundraising Machines

Here’s a quick quiz for anyone who has ever had kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews in school: Can you name all of the fundraising items you’ve purchased from the PTA (or whatever acronym represents your committee of ruling parents)?

I can. Over the years, for the sake of my children’s enrichment, I have ordered gold-standard wrapping paper, reusable polyurethane bags, various types of overpriced produce, several mugs embossed with childhood art of …


From Samuel Adams to JFK, American Political Dynasties Have Floundered

Democracy’s Power Resides With the People, Not Elected Leaders’ Heirs

It’s been a dozen years since the publication of my friend and former colleague Seth Mnookin’s book Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media. But one quote from that book’s discussion of the Ochs-Sulzberger family that controls that newspaper has stayed with me:

“At some point you have to wonder if the bloodline thins,” James Goodale, a former Times senior executive, memorably told Mnookin. …


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