Editor's Notebook

By Simpson, Michael | Social Education, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Editor's Notebook


Simpson, Michael, Social Education


As I write this Editor's Notebook, a report comes through that a major Washington, D.C. post office has been closed because an employee has found a powdery substance on the premises. Later in the day, after the FBI and hazardous materials crews arrive and investigate, the substance is determined to be sugar. Not six months have passed since September 11, but a new era has certainly befallen us when traces of a common household commodity can immediately close down a public institution.

Bioterror is a new term--as Ruth Guyer and Jonathan Moreno note, they were unable to find it in any online dictionary--but it is clearly one that is here to stay. In their article, Guyer and Moreno describe the past development and future threat of biological weapons, and make it clear that conventional views of national security need to be revised to encompass a threat that reads like a science fiction scenario become real. With pointed and incisive commentary, and suggestions for discussing the issue in the classroom, their article is one that will enhance the awareness of many.

A special two-part Looking at the Law feature deals with juridical issues that arise from the post-September 11 war against terrorism. Brace Peabody examines the implications for civil liberties of measures taken after September 11 to counter terrorism by curtailing the rights of those suspected of it. He discusses the issues raised by the monitoring of privileged conversations, and the detention without trial of aliens suspected of terrorism, as well as the rationale and dangers of trying suspected terrorists before military tribunals. Seva Johnson's teaching tips suggest ways in which teachers can bring the subject into the classroom.

The interview with Frank Moran, a former military judge, presents a comparison of the proposed military tribunals with the current court martial system (with which military tribunals are often confused), as well as with civilian courts. Moran, who is Executive Director of the Boston branch of the American Bar Association, provides a clear explanation of the basic procedures of each kind of court, as well as useful and hard-to-find information about the military justice system.

It is common to hear that the events of September 11 transformed our country, but it is not yet clear what their most profound and lasting effects will be. Kevin Pobst looks for clues in the opinion polls that have been conducted since September 11. He notes the strong backing of Americans for a broad war against terrorism, and the corresponding support for President Bush between September 11 and January 2002, but concludes that the personal lives and fundamental beliefs of Americans seem to have changed less than many people think.

Daniel Yergin examines an issue of great importance to the future of the world economy--the ideological and political battle that was waged for much of the twentieth century between advocates of state control of the economy and proponents of free markets. The victory of the latter in the final decade of the century led to an unprecedented globalization that brought benefits in the form of greater GNP per capita for many countries, but was also accompanied by problems of corruption and inequality. …

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