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Posted by on Jan 12, 2008 in Guest Contributor, Politics | 10 comments

Guest Voice: Looping, Or Just Loopy? In Defense Of Political Experience, At The Risk Of Political Entrenchment

The Moderate Voice runs Guest Voice columns by readers who don’t have their own websites or want to present their ideas to TMV’s ideologically diverse audience. Guest Voice columns do not necessarily reflect the opinion of TMV or its writers. This Guest Voice is by Jill Miller Zimon who has her own excellent site Writes Like She Talks.

Looping, or just loopy? In defense of political experience, at the risk of political entrenchment

by Jill Miller Zimon

Yesterday, I went to lunch with a near 30-year veteran of a major metropolitan newspaper who retired a little over a year ago. She’s a Barack Obama supporter and I’m a Democratic fence-sitter. Since my top three candidates are gone, baby, gone, I now will choose between the top three finishers in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But how – how will I choose? What criteria do I find to be most relevant? Which criteria are the most relevant?

My lunch date said that she prefers Obama to Clinton or John Edwards because she believes that this country needs someone who will listen and integrate multiple perspectives into a single solution, whatever issue is under the microscope.

I played devil’s advocate by bringing up the experience question – what’s he got to show, versus someone like Hillary Clinton or John Edwards? (I’m dispensing with the arguments that Clinton’s time has all been on the watch as a wife and Edwards as a trial lawyer; I don’t believe the former characterization to be accurate or fair and if being a trial lawyer doesn’t involve finding solutions, albeit through our justice system, I don’t know what profession does).

And her response, not surprisingly, was that Clinton’s experience is overshadowed by her entrenchment as a result of that experience.

That’s when I told her about looping.

If you have a child in elementary or middle school, you might know about looping. I know about it firsthand because one of my kids is a beneficiary of it.

Looping, in education, is when a teacher sticks with a class for more than one grade. The class, when it heads into its second year, is said to be “looping” with that teacher.

What’s the benefit of looping?

Again, if you’ve got kids, you can just imagine: how many weeks at the beginning of the year are spent by a classroom teacher assessing, assessing, and, you know, assessing? In my school district, anywhere from three to six weeks or more. Especially with the pressures on schools to implement inclusion, so that any one classroom has kids who function along a lengthy continuum of abilities, that assessment period – and then analysis of the results and implementation based on that analysis – can take literally months.

But, ah – with looping? That assessment period, that analysis time, that getting to implementation? Dramatically shortened.

Now, I told my friend, I understand her concern about Hillary Clinton’s entrenchment with certain people, groups and influencers that comes as a result of her experience. I feel the same concern – it is real. No question.

But imagine the opposite. Remember the class without looping, the class with brand new everyone – new classmates, new room, new teacher.

As we chatted, it became clear that the conundrum pits the benefits of looping against the detriments of entrenchment. This conundrum, when applied to making a choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (or John Edwards), makes us face the following question:

Which is the greater enemy of achieving the more or less similar goals shared by the Democratic front-runners (getting out of Iraq, re-establishing a positive global reputation for the US, keeping social security safe, reforming health care, improving education, addressing illegal immigration):

Ceding the time it will take Obama to put together a team – across the entire White House administration including all its cabinets, and then create, develop and build relationships with and between all those individuals – because we know he is bright and has a vision, when time is not something most Democrats want to have more of before change takes place;

Or risking the possibility that Clinton will be unable to disregard or otherwise dilute decades-long ties inside the Beltway and therefore be unable to answer to the American people, as a citizenry?

That choice is why I’m on the fence, although the looping analogy has me leaning toward experience.

How about you?

Also posted at Writes Like She Talks, BlogHer and RedBlueAmerica.

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