California Educator

April 2013

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> PROFILE I know that guy! He���s been on TV! In Gerston���s words: Media favorite, political pundit, CFA member BY SHERRY POSNICK-GOODWIN PHOTO BY SCOTT BUSCHMAN Being a TV political analyst means��� Communicating the issues to people in their voice, not coming up with the heaviest jargon. It���s talking to people like I���m sitting across the table from them and explaining, ���Here���s what I know.��� You have to tell the story without tilting it one way or another, which separates a political analyst from being a political commentator. I���ve worked hard to maintain my political objectivity. It���s an honor when people can���t tell if I���m a Democrat or a Republican. So your own politics are��� Personal. [Smiles.] Can���t place him? Perhaps you���ve seen him on TV talking about a hot political race, the state or national budget crisis, payroll taxes, ranked-choice voting, immigration reform, or high speed rail in California. Meet Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University. A political pundit and media favorite, this California Faculty Association member recently published his 11th book titled Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California. Other books include California Politics and Government: A Practical Approach, now in its 12th edition and the best-selling text in its category, and Recall! California���s Political Earthquake, about the election that transformed Arnold Schwarzenegger from movie star to governor. Both books were co-written with Terry Christensen. Gerston���s astute observations, historical perspective and dry wit landed him a gig as a political analyst at ���NBC Bay Area��� on Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings in Northern California. He also appeared on ���NBC Nightly News,��� CNN, PBS and BBC. When he���s not being interviewed, teaching or writing books, he consults in media training, crisis management and strategic thinking. We caught up with Gerston in his Los Gatos home to chat about television, teaching and where he really stands on the political issues. 28 California Educator April 2013 When people recognize you��� I always ask them their name and want to know what they think. My job is about mining data and research; I want to know what people on the street are thinking. If they recognize me, I want to engage them. In your new book, Not So Golden, you claim California���s dysfunction is caused by��� changing demographics that cause racial tensions; special-interest groups ���ghting over scarce resources; a crumbling infrastructure; and a political system that protects the status quo. There are many reasons why California is so dysfunctional. Yet you feel hopeful because��� I���m always optimistic that people will understand each other better. It begins with ���xing our education system, which is terribly underfunded. People refuse to see education as the best and most important investment they can make in our social infrastructure. They can see the value of dams and roads, but sometimes fail to see the value of education. You continue teaching��� because the classroom is such an exciting place to be. Many in my classes are bursting with pride because they are the ���rst ones in their family graduating from college. I enjoy listening to students��� thoughts and observations. And I love having an opportunity to pass on a body of knowledge that one day will help them to become better informed citizens. When a student I���ve had 30 years ago comes up to me and says ���You may not remember me, but your class made a difference in my life,��� it���s a supreme gift.

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