Meg Mott

Can civics save us from ourselves?

Vermont is one of 11 states that do not require students to study civics before graduation. Without a civics education, we are more easily seduced by the beliefs of the majority — and we are at risk of believing that the majority speaks for everyone.

Meg Mott, a longtime Marlboro College professor of political science, serves as Putney's town moderator and describes herself as a "Constitution wrangler."...

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A rich ecosystem of arguments can keep democracy alive

When victors write their opponents out of the political process, then losers are left with nothing but the tragic option of burning down the house

Fragile as a moth's wing and vibrant as a sunset, democracy is a wonder of nature. When a nation is alive to its mysterious forces, when it allows various approaches to human flourishing and happiness, democracy feels as elemental as gravity. But when we stop believing in our capacity...

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Power, control, and the politics of advocacy

Too many of us who worked as advocates in the battered women’s movement came to believe that women would be safer if more men were put in jail

In 1994, at the Women's Crisis Center in Brattleboro, we were very careful about how we spoke. We did not speak on behalf of battered women, for that would be to rob them of their voices. Nor did we call them “battered women,” for that imposed an identity of...

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The case for restorative justice in campus sexual assault discipline

Sometime between freshman orientation and Thanksgiving break, a female undergraduate on a campus somewhere in the United States will be sexually assaulted by a peer. A panel will convene to deal with the situation and will inevitably handle things poorly. Just as rape predictably occurs in the fall on some college campuses, campus disciplinary panels are also predictably ill-prepared to properly adjudicate. Why is it that colleges can't respond to such a predictable problem? One explanation is that members of...

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Making the leap from traitor to hero

In the last three weeks, reactions to Edward Snowden's leaks to the American and British press have shifted from shock at the contents of the leak to whether the leaker has the credibility of Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. Snowden's supporters, who include Ellsberg himself, point to the similarities between the two men: the risks they took and the love they have for democracy. Snowden's detractors point to Snowden's lack of academic and patriotic credentials. He's not Ellsberg, they say, because...

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Raising chickens as spiritual practice

Meat birds begin their life in transit, inside the arteries of the United States Postal Service, crossing state lines with bestsellers from Amazon and stretch jeans from Lands' End. But unlike those other packages, chick boxes contain a surplus, a couple of extra baby birds to make up for the wear and tear of travel. It's an inexpensive way to console the customer when a pile of feathers arrives without any peeps. Chicken farmers, however, are a peculiar type of...

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The hunted

At the end of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck considers his options: stay with Aunt Sally and be “sivilized” or “light out for the territory.” Readers often see this dilemma as a choice between the status quo and a life of freedom. If Huck stays with Aunt Sally, he'll have to take baths and go to school. If he heads out for the territories, he'll get to continue his wild adventures. But that reading ignores the political conditions of...

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Taboo topic (or, humanure happens)

Before the excavators came, before the house was built, before the septic system was installed, there was a yurt and an outhouse and a Loveable Loo. Instead of a hole under the outhouse, my partner Alison set up a humanure system with sawdust, five-gallon plastic buckets, and an above-ground structure built out of wooden palettes and insulated with hay bales. The sawdust didn't just temper the smell in the outhouse; it contributed carbon-rich material to balance the nutrient-rich humanure. The...

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