Monday, November 9, 2009

Mark Schmitt: Progressive Thoughts on Title IX

Mark Schmitt is going to be at Progressivism on Tap tonight at Busboys and Poets, a happy hour here in Washington, D.C., where a smart progressive sits and talks about some interesting stuff. But Schmitt (who now edits a publication where I used to work) also wrote a really adorable column about how his daughter, an 8-year-old Little League player, is a symbol of hope for progressive change in America. After all, half a century ago, before Title IX was enacted, his daughter would have been banned from the sport.
Her routine participation in Little League still seems something of a miracle. It's certainly more than was imagined by the authors of Title IX, the 1972 amendment that did not even mention athletics in its requirement that federally funded education programs not discriminate by gender (with extensive exceptions for single-sex colleges, fraternities, sororities, and beauty pageants). A year later, the National Organization for Women launched a case that would ultimately lead Congress to change the Little League's congressional charter to refer to "young people" instead of "boys" and to eliminate its reference to promoting "manhood."

As one watches these kids round the bases and cheer one another on, it's also obvious that there's a lot more to it than just athletics. This generation of children is unfailingly decent to one another, respectful of one another's different personalities, and attentive to and proud of one another's successes. The petty cruelties of childhood are rare. Political scientists have marveled at the distinctive attitudes of "millennials," born roughly between 1982 and 2003. (Thus, a single generation seems to encompass both my daughter and many of my co-workers!) They are characterized above all by tolerance but also by cooperation, liberal political views, and respect for public institutions. They form the basis not just for the Obama Democratic coalition but for the hope of a progressive politics in the future. And the kind of equality promoted by Title IX surely has had something to do with that.

Schmitt is pointing out something important. There's a study that shows fathers of daughters tend to be more progressive on social issues. It's the same with families of someone who is openly gay – they tend to be more likely to support gay rights. Schmitt's daughter, and many others in the Millennial generation (that's us!) are lucky to have the opportunities we do. Here's hoping that translates into a more progressive tomorrow. Who knows, maybe one day, Schmitt's daughter will be president.

Cross posted

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