Daniel Judt in The Nation starts off well with the idea of Rethinking Politics in the Classroom, but the title is as good as it gets.
“We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.” —Tony Judt
We need not ask any of these questions. We should only ask the law is in accordance with The Constitution. If it is, it meets the criteria of being "good", "fair", "just" and "right". There is no need to look elsewhere. Those four items are defined by the Bill of Rights. If a law is good, it protects the Natural Rights of people. If it is fair, it treats all equally. If just, it adhere's to the principle that people are secure in their property. If it is right, there is no question.
Liberty is now commonly defined—especially in the United States—as the right to be free of restriction from a repressive state. If that state makes you act in a certain way, makes you spend your money in a certain way, makes you subscribe to a certain program—even if it benefits you and your community—your liberty is being infringed upon. As Dworkin put it, “With today’s popular definition of liberty…you get the song of the Tea Party. This is nonsense.” Government is designed to provide safety, security and prosperity to citizens; it needs to ask things of us in return. As my dad put it inIll Fares the Land, “Government can play an enhanced role in our lives without threatening our liberties.” This is nothing new. Citizenship entails both rights and obligations, and those obligations to the state do not infringe upon our liberty—in fact, they help ensure it.
This is not "today's popular definition of liberty". It is the definition provided us by the founders and the Constitution. Money earned is "property". It is our Natural Right to be secure in our property, to have say in how our money is taxed and used. Contrary to Dworkin, it does not matter if I benefit nor does it matter if my community benefits. What is required is my permission. Indeed there are Rights and Obligations, but if those obligations infringe upon our God-give liberties, they are no longer "obligations". What is argued here is that there is no limit to what government can do if it benefits the community. That is patently false. In the words of the Leftists from 40 years ago, "who decides"? The government has decided it is beneficial to the community to require everyone to purchase healthcare insurance. Again, patently false. It is in the best interest of my community to have everyone pay for their own healthcare.
I am 16, the age at which Dworkin proposed the course be aimed. At Dalton (my school), political debate is one-sided (everyone claims to be a Democrat) and no one brings up or contests the “bad ideas” because, as Dad said, “We are intuitively familiar with issues of injustice, unfairness, inequality and immorality—we have just forgotten how to talk about them.” Furthermore, most intelligent kids have trained themselves to focus solely—sometimes excessively—on schoolwork. This is what they are told will lead to good grades, a good college and more opportunities to succeed, make money and “be happy.” They do not look carefully at political issues because, cynically put, they do not see that they have anything to gain from it.
The author doesn't believe we should look at political issues from the standpoint of “Will this provide us with more wealth and money-making opportunities?” or “Is this a smart political move?” or “Is this stance cost-effective?,” but rather from the standpoint of social justice and someones idea of "fairness". He seems to believe if it is put that way to students, they would "see" the absolute truth of the policies of social democrats.
He is making the argument for politics in the classroom?
The author is the son of Tony Judt, quoted at the outset of the article and this post. Judt died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's) in 2010. That said, I suspect the author's belief that money doesn't make one happy exists because he has plenty. Attending a $36,000 per year high school apparently makes one an expert on "money isn't everything".