One of the perks of editing this magazine is the opportunity it affords to be exposed to a vast range of ideas. The U is something of a candy store in that regard: ideas are here for the taking, for a quick injection of energy or for a long, slow savoring that beckons you back for more.
One of the more memorable ideas I have encountered in my 11 years with the magazine comes from University of Minnesota political scientist Joan Tronto. In 2015 she received the prestigious Brown Democracy Medal, presented annually by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State to someone who has made exceptional innovations to advance democracy in the United States or around the world. Tronto has spent her 30-plus-year career exploring a simple and revolutionary idea: a robust democracy has caring, not market economics, at its center. She calls for rethinking our own fundamental values and commitments as well as our political structures from a caring perspective. “Usually we think of the worlds of care and of politics as far apart. This is partly because we wrongly think that care is all about compassion and kindness, and that politics is all about one-upmanship,” she writes.
"What ails our democracy is not (or not only) that there is too much money in politics, or that elections aren’t meaningful or deliberative enough, or that there are myriad other concerns about how we conduct our democratic politics . . . what we currently call ‘politics’ is wrong. Our obsession with economics distorts what should be the most fundamental concern: care.” Her work offers rigorous economic and structural analyses as a road map for revitalization.
To put care at the center of our politics is a stunning idea that seems almost quaint in our current toxic and, may I say, distressing political environment. Yet it resonates. For example, as readers of this magazine well know, many states, including Minnesota, have become downright miserly when it comes to funding education. At root, education is a caring activity. That sustaining it has taken a back seat to a narrow and transactional notion of economics is Tronto’s theory writ large.
Tronto’s work is one of many influences that have prompted me to rethink my own fundamental values and commitments. One of the reasons I went into journalism is because I consider it a noble enterprise. As much as I have cherished the opportunity to do journalism at this publication, I have decided after a great deal of reflection that it is time for me to devote myself to different “care-full” endeavors outside of the University.
And so this is my last issue as editor of Minnesota Alumni. It has been the privilege of my professional life to serve this venerable magazine, the UMAA, and the U. I leave with a lump in my throat at the thought of no longer working with my colleagues here and across campus. They have taught me so much about professionalism and dedication, cared for me so well in a million ways, and simply been great friends. I thank them from the bottom of my heart, and I thank you, our readers. Take care.
Cynthia Scott (M.A. ’89) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.