Join Us on June 20

For Development ... for Good

Join The Philadelphia Citizen at the Fitler Club on Tuesday, June 20 from 5 to 7pm for Development … for Good: Placemaking and Economic Growth, where we explore how the design of public space connects communities and can lead to economic growth.

Special guest panelists are Jerry Sweeney, Brandywine Realty Trust CEO; Connor Barwin, founder, Make the World Better Foundation; Jerome Shabazz, Executive Director of Overbrook Environmental Education Center; and Tya Winn, Executive Director of the Community Design Collaborative. Guidehouse Associate Director Laura Slutsky will moderate. Tickets are $5, and are free to members of The Philadelphia Citizen members and Fitler Club!


Be a Better Philadelphia Citizen

Here's how

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about better civic education for our youth, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses

Participate in the process

Support civic education

The first duty of every citizen is to vote, but that isn’t your only duty. You must stay informed on the issues, and ensure each subsequent generation of citizens is prepared to participate in our democracy, or else, we lose it.

The Committee of Seventy has a handy-dandy online tool that allows you to view every elected official that represents you (and your neighborhood) in the City of Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania General Assembly has a similar online tool, to find your elected state reps. Stay in touch, they represent you and your interests!

Find out who represents you on the City Council and reach out to let them know education is a priority. Philadelphia youth should be the critical thinkers that innovate us into the future.

The New Normal is Scary

The widespread resistance to evidence — facts! — and the undermining of educated responses alarms a long-time university president

The New Normal is Scary

The widespread resistance to evidence — facts! — and the undermining of educated responses alarms a long-time university president

After two days of being afraid to breathe Philadelphia’s air, I finally saw a decent air quality ranking on my iPhone weather app. With a feeling of deep gratitude, I opened all the windows.

Breathing had always seemed to be a right — an entitlement — not really something that suddenly a healthy person had to be cautious about. But there on the local news were warnings about miniscule particles, thinner than a hair, that could lodge in your lungs and cause strokes and heart attacks. Canadian winds brought threatening smoke to much of the Eastern United States, causing New York City on June 7 to be the unhealthiest city in the world. West Coast residents wondered at the mid-Atlantic shock, since they had been experiencing dangerous local wildfire smoke off and on for years.

Scientists agree that climate change is the basic culprit, leading to weather extremes. It’s drought in Canada now, but we can simply shift our perspective in time and geography to witness dangerous floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Nonetheless, we cannot seem to do enough to moderate these calamities. Scientific observations indicating that Canada and the U.S. should rethink forest management techniques are also pertinent, but there is no reasonable way to downplay climate change.

In a reasonable world, this issue would not be political, not a question of left or right. But the new normal allows the far right to undermine educated responses.

And yet on June 8 on Fox and Friends, Representative Marc Molinaro (R, NY) said, “This isn’t the moment to start lecturing people about the science of climate change.” Please note Molinaro’s hostile use of the word “lecturing,” indicating disdain for an educated response to the climate catastrophe in his own state. Unfortunately, Molinaro’s comments are representative of the far right response to last week’s unbreathable air.

In a reasonable world, this issue would not be political, not a question of left or right. But the new normal allows the far right to undermine educated responses. As a life-long educator, I find this deeply depressing. When education and reason are demeaned, we open the door to autocrats telling us what to see, hear, think, and do.

The new normal: Not just for climate change

Beyond questioning science, millions of our fellow citizens ignore the evidence available to their own eyes and ears on a number of issues. It’s become normal for many to ignore the facts indicating that President Biden was fairly elected in 2020. Even though Fox News had to pay $787 million to Dominion Voting Systems for lying about malfunction and treachery there, millions of people disbelieve the results of the election. Money usually talks, but not in this instance.

Many also assert that the January 6 insurrection was an example of protected free expression. Even with clear visual evidence of violence and degradation of the nation’s Capitol building, some still absurdly describe the event as sightseers getting “over-enthusiastic.” Those who choose blindness over clear vision demonstrate the characteristics of benighted members of a cult sorely in need of expert intervention in breaking free of programming. (I wish that Republican primary candidates would consult cult specialists as they try to communicate with the party base.)

Even more disturbing, we have Republican leaders — Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, and many others — encouraging party members to defy reason and the evidence of their own eyes. They assert that the Justice Department’s indictment of Donald Trump under the Espionage Act is a “witch-hunt.”

As a life-long educator, I continue to see education as the antidote. In fact, that’s why education is under serious attack in many MAGA-run states.

I’m not talking here about guilt or innocence. Everyone has a right to a fair trial. But it’s another thing to avow that the evidence is insufficient for an indictment. The deniers ignore the fact that a Florida Grand Jury carefully reviewed witness testimony, emails, recordings and photographs indicating adequate reason to indict the former president for placing national security secrets in jeopardy, lying about his possession of the documents, and trying to derail the investigation. Some of the documents stored by Trump in bathrooms and ballrooms involved the nation’s nuclear programs and our vulnerability to attack.

Come on, MAGA-world, you don’t have to be convinced of Trump’s guilt, but any reasonable person should recognize that the indictment was necessary to the rule of law.

Where are the reasonable and courageous people on the right side of the aisle? Well, there are a few in the U.S. Senate. Mitt Romney (R, Utah) issued the following statement:

Mr. Trump brought these charges upon himself by not only taking classified documents, but by refusing to simply return them when given numerous opportunities to do so. These allegations are serious and if proven, would be consistent with his other actions offensive to the national interest, such as withholding defensive weapons from Ukraine for political reasons and failing to defend the Capitol from violent attack and insurrection.

It comes down fundamentally to support for clear-eyed observation, logic, and reasoning overriding fear of a political base that has every mark of a cult.

A plea to return to evidence-based debate

As a life-long educator, I continue to see education as the antidote. In fact, that’s why education is under serious attack in many MAGA-run states.

I see some hope in the increased political activity of the Millennials, those now in their late 20s and 30s. According to David Leonhardt in the New York Times:

Many younger voters have become more politically active because they fear for the country’s future. Those on the left — who are a majority of younger voters worry about climate change, abortion access, the extremism of the Republican Party and more. Those on the right worry about secularization, political correctness, illegal immigration and more.

There’s plenty of evidence that the Millennials — on the right and the left — have chosen important things to worry about — and, let us hope, do something about.

On a personal note, I feel some relief that this age group was educated during a time of active educational reform. My hope is that these citizens — and they continue to be an increasing percentage of the voting population — will bring reason and educated opinions back to political debate. Attacks on education and reason cannot continue to be the new normal. The air we breathe and the democracy we cherish depend upon it.

Things we can do:

    • Promote evidence-based debate in private and public conversations.
    • Vote for political candidates who support reason, logic, and science and who don’t promote “alternative facts.”

Elaine Maimon, Ph.D., is an Advisor at the American Council on Education. She is the author of Leading Academic Change: Vision, Strategy, Transformation. Her long career in higher education has encompassed top executive positions at public universities as well as distinction as a scholar in rhetoric/composition. Her co-authored book, Writing In The Arts and Sciences, has been designated as a landmark text. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the Association for Writing Across the Curriculum. Follow @epmaimon on Twitter.


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