About Critical Mass [dot] Writing [dot] Reviews [dot] Contact
December 31, 2009 [feather]
Happy New Year

Erin O'Connor, 7:47 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




December 30, 2009 [feather]
Weird science

Berkeley High School has come up with an ingenious approach to eliminating its racial achievement gap: it's going to get rid of science courses (and science teachers) that are responsible for making that gap visible:


Berkeley High School is considering a controversial proposal to eliminate science labs and the five science teachers who teach them to free up more resources to help struggling students.

The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.

Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.

Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. "The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing," said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School's science department, at last week's school board meeting.

Sincular-Mertens, who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and that her four environmental science classes are 17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino. "As teachers, we are greatly saddened at the thought of losing the opportunity to help all of our students master the skills they need to find satisfaction and success in their education," she told the board.


The plan will come before the school board on January 13. The school board, the paper reports, usually rubberstamps such items. So much for the Obama agenda to improve science and math education.

Erin O'Connor, 7:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)




December 28, 2009 [feather]
Say thank you

Send a free e-card to U.S. troops, courtesy of Xerox.

Erin O'Connor, 7:50 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




December 23, 2009 [feather]
Quotations side by side

From MichaelBerube.com, December 14, 2009:


I also managed to squeak by two considerably more accomplished and distinguished scholars to win the presidential election of the Modern Language Association. I become second veep in 2010, first veep in 2011, and president in 2012, just as the world ends.

From MichaelBerube.com, December 21, 2009:

From what I've been reading over the past week, everyone and her brother agrees that single-payer would be the way to go; the differences seem to be between those who (a) think the whole thing is so compromised and Liebermanized and Nelsonized that it's better to scrap it and start over, and (b) think that the whole thing is compromised and Liebermanized and Nelsonized but who don't believe it's possible to start over and get any better outcome, either in terms of politics or policy. And then there are the dire predictions from both sides, that (a) bad health care reform will demoralize the base, alienate the swing voters, and fire up the Teabaggers, giving us Speaker Cantor in 2010 and President Palin two years later, or (b) failure to treat this version of HCR as a success and insist that Republicans are the obstructionist Party of Lousy Insurance and ER Deaths will give us Speaker Boehner in 2010 and President Romney two years later.

Wikipedia definition of "teabagging":

Teabagging is a slang term for the act of a man placing his scrotum in the mouth or on or around the face (including the top of the head) of another person, often in a repeated in-and-out motion as in irrumatio. The practice resembles dipping a tea bag into a cup of tea.

Erin O'Connor, 8:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)




December 22, 2009 [feather]
In the mail

... Harvard law professor Richard Fallon's first novel, Stubborn as a Mule.

Erin O'Connor, 8:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




December 20, 2009 [feather]
Blue devil, sitting duck

Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson performed a national service a couple of years ago with the magisterial Until Proven Innocent, the definitive and very damning account of the Duke lacrosse scandal. Some of the most devastating parts of the book had to do with how Duke professors and administrators acted in concert to demonize, defame, and nearly destroy the futures of the accused lacrosse players--regardless of due process, fair procedure, or, as it turned out, the truth. None of the 88 professors who went after the students has ever apologized for their role in leading a mob attack on innocent young men. Duke never held them accountable--and, as the university's new policy on sexual misconduct reveals, Duke is still stuck on finding ways to implement the ideological agenda that created the lacrosse scandal in the first place.

Here is Taylor in National Journal:


You might think that a university whose students were victims of the most notorious fraudulent rape claim in recent history, and whose professors -- 88 of them -- signed an ad implicitly presuming guilt, and whose president came close to doing the same would have learned some lessons.

The facts are otherwise. They also suggest that Duke University's ugly abuse in 2006 and 2007 of its now-exonerated lacrosse players -- white males accused by a black stripper and hounded by a mob hewing to political correctness -- reflects a disregard of due process and a bias against white males that infect much of academia.

In September, far from taking pains to protect its students from false rape charges, Duke adopted a revised "sexual misconduct" policy that makes a mockery of due process and may well foster more false rape charges by rigging the disciplinary rules against the accused.

Meanwhile, none of the 88 guilt-presuming professors has publicly apologized. (Duke's president, Richard Brodhead, did -- but too little and too late.) Many of the faculty signers -- a majority of whom are white -- have expressed pride in their rush to judgment. None was dismissed, demoted, or publicly rebuked. Two were glorified this month in Duke's in-house organ as pioneers of "diversity," with no reference to their roles in signing the ad. Three others have won prestigious positions at Cornell, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago.

[...]

The two stated reasons for the revised sexual-misconduct rules, as reported in the student newspaper, The Chronicle, almost advertise that they were driven by politically correct ideology more than by any surge in sexual assaults.

"The first was... fear of litigation, as expressed by Duke General Counsel Pamela Bernard," as Johnson wrote in his blog, Durham-in-Wonderland. "Yet the policy Duke has developed seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. The second factor was a development that those in the reality-based community might consider to be a good thing: Over a three-year period, reported cases of sexual misconduct on college campuses as a whole and at Duke specifically (slightly) declined."

But for many in academia, Johnson explains, "these figures must mean something else -- that a plethora of rapes are going unreported." Indeed, Sheila Broderick, a Duke Women's Center staff member, told The Chronicle without evidence that Duke had a "rape culture." And Ada Gregory, director of the Duke Women's Center, said that "higher IQ" males, such as those at Duke, could be "highly manipulative and coercive."

The revised policy requires involving the Women's Center in the disciplinary process for all known allegations of sexual misconduct and empowers the Office of Student Conduct to investigate even if the accuser does not want to proceed.

Duke's rules define sexual misconduct so broadly and vaguely as to include any sexual activity without explicit "verbal or nonverbal" consent, which must be so "clear" as to dispel "real or perceived power differentials between individuals [that] may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion" (emphasis added).

The disciplinary rules deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her -- but not him -- the right to be treated with "sensitivity"; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.

The revised policy, among other things, shows that Duke is still in the grip of the same biases, indifference to evidence, and de facto presumption of guilt that led so many professors and administrators to smear innocent lacrosse players as rapists (and as racists) for many months in 2006 and 2007. The centerpiece was the full-page ad taken out by the "Group of 88" professors, as critics call them, in The Chronicle on April 6, 2006, about three weeks after the woman claimed rape.

This ad stopped just short of explicitly branding the lacrosse players as rapists. But it treated almost as a given the truth of the stripper's claims of a brutal gang rape by three team members amid a hail of racist slurs. It praised protesters who had put lacrosse players' photos on "wanted" posters. It associated "what happened to this young woman" with "racism and sexism." It suggested that the lacrosse players were getting privileged treatment because they are white -- which was the opposite of the truth.


Keep reading. Among other things, the article details how Duke and other top universities have heaped accolades and career advancement on several of the Group of 88 leaders. For what, you ask? Why, for their remarkable contributions to diversity.

Erin O'Connor, 9:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)




December 17, 2009 [feather]
More on DC schools

Writing in the Washington Times, here is Virginia Walden Ford, founder and leader of DC Parents for School Choice:


With Congress phasing out the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, D.C. parents and students are looking to President Obama and his administration to step in and save the federal initiative, which has given hope for a brighter future to thousands of families. However, Mr. Obama has been silent on the issue. And Education Secretary Arne Duncan has gone along with congressional Democrats' plans for phasing out the scholarship program.

The secretary was asked recently why he didn't support the Opportunity Scholarship Program -- given that the Department of Education's own evaluation found it was benefiting participating students. He explained that he was focusing on reforms to turn around the entire public school system, not just save a few children: "As a country, we like to save one or two children in a neighborhood and let the other 500 drown and then go home and sleep well at night. I think we have to be much more ambitious as a federal government."

To be sure, everyone recognizes the urgent need to provide a quality education for all children living in Washington and across the country. However, as Mr. Duncan certainly knows, reforming public schools takes time. D.C. families have been waiting for decades for the various reform plans to fix our broken public school system. A child in school today simply can't afford to wait a few more years to receive a quality education.

That is why we have a moral obligation to rescue as many children as we can from our broken public schools while we work overtime to turn those schools around. I am reminded of the example of Harriet Tubman -- the black abolitionist and famous "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. While she worked to abolish slavery, Tubman made 19 trips into the South and transported 300 slaves into freedom.

Tubman knew she couldn't personally rescue all of the slaves in America, but she knew she could save some, and what an amazing difference it made in each of their lives.

With the Opportunity Scholarship Program, we see the same thing happening: Children are being saved. Children are thriving in the schools their parents choose. They're safe and able to focus on academics. Parents are filled with joy that their children have a chance for a bright future.

Mr. Obama should take the time to meet children participating in the program. Students like Ronald Holassie, a junior at Archbishop Carroll High School, and Carlos Battle, a senior at Georgetown Day School. Both are thriving academically and destined to make their parents and the community proud.

Some former Opportunity Scholarship students are thriving in college. Students like Tiffany Dunston (a sophomore at Syracuse University) and Jordan White (a freshman at Oberlin College) credit their Opportunity Scholarships for their great success in school. Without this special opportunity, they might have been lost in a school that didn't nurture their talents.

D.C. families watched with interest as Mr. Duncan and his family chose to live in Northern Virginia to be able to enroll his children in a good public school system. Like the families I work with, Mr. Duncan knew he didn't want his children's education to be sacrificed while he worked to fix the nation's public schools. Of course, the Obama family also chose to bypass the District's troubled public education system when Mr. and Mrs. Obama chose a top private school for their daughters.

The bottom line is that every child's life is precious. As we tell students every day, there is no limit to what you can accomplish if you receive a quality education. Mr. Obama knows this. After all, he is our greatest school-choice success story. As a youngster, Mr. Obama received a scholarship to attend a top private school in Hawaii. He clearly took advantage of that opportunity, which led him into some of our nation's finest colleges and onto his historic path to the White House.

Mr. Obama has the chance to pass on that special opportunity to thousands of students living in the nation's capital by supporting the expansion and reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Of course, saving these children won't end the hard work of fixing our public school system to ensure that all children receive a quality education. That project will take time.

In the meantime, it's our moral obligation to save as many children as we can. It's what Harriet Tubman would do.


Take a moment to wonder how Duncan and Obama sleep at night. Work it out in your mind how nonexistent these kids are for them. That's how they do it. That's how they do a lot of things. Then take another moment to decide whether you want to be like them. And if the answer is no, get in touch with your elected representatives today. Remember that D.C. does not have elected senators and representatives in the House. These kids on the brink have no dedicated Congressmen to advocate for them--but they do have Congressmen fighting to take away their opportunities (Illinois' Dick Durbin is leading the way). What are your representatives doing about the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program? What stand are you taking to get them to do the right thing? And what's going on with the public schools and school choice in your own community? The future is wrapped up in the answer.

Erin O'Connor, 9:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)




More on the accountability problem

AAUP president Cary Nelson has just published a new book, No University Is an Island. In talking over its themes with the people at Inside Higher Ed, he offers some choice thoughts on why academics don't hold one another accountable and why that produces destructive, profession-destroying patterns (see my post yesterday). The rise of adjunct labor is his particular focus, but the patterns he notes affect far more than hiring trends, and are interesting to consider in light of the professoriate's broad problem with establishing and maintaining a professional culture centered around integrity and accountability:


Q: Many of the issues you discuss -- centralization of decision making, emphasis on non-academic values, increasing reliance on adjuncts -- aren't in fact brand new, but as you write have been growing over time. Why have so many faculty members -- even if they share your views -- not been more vocal about these trends?

A: I address this more-than-vexing question repeatedly in No University is an Island. There are several reasons. Two generations of faculty members have been socialized to concentrate on their careers and ignore their community responsibilities. Those who feel differently often feel their colleagues are indifferent and the cause hopeless. In the absence of effective local organizations, activism can seem futile, whereas individual teaching and research are often immensely gratifying. So people concentrate on what works. But a slew of familiar human capacities for hiding from reality play a role as well, from rationalization and denial to simple avoidance and fear.


Nelson predicts that passivity can only last so long -- that eventually "faculty members, graduate students, and academic professionals alike will discover the pleasures and rewards of solidarity and group action," and suggests that at this point academic work will be made "whole."

But that's a strangely juvenile fantasy, locked in a time warp circa 40 years ago. The reality is that such group action--if it ever does happen, and it's far from certain that it will--will only represent a deepening of the real problem. As Neil Hamilton observes,


At a significant swath of institutions, the academic profession's defense of the social contract has focused on rights and job security. As Eliot Freidson in Professionalism: The Third Logic (University of Chicago Press, 2001) has observed, when the peer-review professions defend their social contracts, they typically rely on a rhetoric of rights, job security, and "good intentions, which [are] belied by the patently self-interested character of many of their activities. What they almost never do is spell out the principles underlying the institutions that organize and support the way they do their work and take active responsibility for [the realization of the principles]." They do not undertake responsibility for assuring the quality of their members' work. The academic profession's anemic defense of its social contract confirms Freidson's observation.

[...]

The academic profession must not resign itself to the current trend toward contingent faculty, but it cannot reverse the trends toward a higher proportion of contingent faculty and less occupational control over professional work by employing a rhetoric of rights, job security, and good intentions. ... professors cannot defend the social contract without both having the knowledge necessary to make the defense and actively meeting their duties under the social contract.

[...]

If the academic profession at many institutions does not undertake these responsibilities, then this crisis of ethic proportion will continue, and the trajectory for the academic profession for the next twenty years will, in all likelihood, look like the trajectory for the last thirty years. Members of the profession will continue a slow transformation toward employment as technical experts subject to the dominant market model of employer control over work.


Looked at this way, Nelson's labor-organizer vision of rescuing academia reads like a recipe for disaster. Who's right? Only time will tell, but my money is on Hamilton.

Erin O'Connor, 7:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




December 16, 2009 [feather]
You don't need a weatherman...

Neil Hamilton has rightly pointed to one of the uglier elephants in academe's living room, observing that amid all the faculty-led ruckus about threats to academic freedom, the decline of tenure, and so on, there is a huge, unpleasant, salient fact that professors do not generally acknowledge: professors aren't keeping their end of the bargain. All the freedom and security professors declare they want and need to do their jobs is predicated on the expectation that faculty will self-police, within disciplines and also within institutions--but they just don't do it.

As Hamilton notes,


... members of a peer-review profession cannot aggressively justify and defend their control over professional work when they do not both understand the profession's social contract and internalize their responsibilities under the social contract. The social contract of each peer-review profession is the tacit agreement between society and members of a profession that regulates their relationship with each other, in particular the profession's control over professional work. Essentially, in order for the public to grant a peer-review profession more autonomy and control over the work different from the control that society and employers exercise over other occupations, the public must trust that the profession and its members will use the autonomy at least to some degree to benefit the public in the area of the profession's responsibility, not abuse occupational control over the work merely to serve self-interest.

The simple fact is that all the data available indicate that a substantial proportion of graduate students and faculty members do not clearly understand the profession's social contract, academic freedom, shared governance, and each professor's and the faculty's specific duties that justify the profession's claims to autonomy. Osmosis-like diffusion of these concepts and duties does not work.


Hamilton notes that a lot of the feelings of endangerment that plague faculty culture are self-created and self-fulfilling: "The predictable result of an anemic defense of a profession's social contract during a time of market change is that the society and employers will restructure control of the profession's work toward the regulatory and employer control typical for other occupations -- essentially the default employment arrangements in a market economy."

Hamilton has good general ideas about how to remedy the problem. Education in professional norms, standards, and ethics should be a standard part of grad school, he notes. Continuing education for faculty is needed, too. Ditto for strong leadership at the administrative and governance level. But what about the specifics?

Thinking about ClimateGate and what it may tell us how academia should define professional ethics and enforce those definitions, Northwestern law professor Jim Lindgren argues against the traditional academic model of internal investigation as a mechanism of accountability:


According to press reports, Penn State University is conducting an inquiry to determine whether it should institute a formal ethical investigation of Michael Mann, the Penn State professor who was the lead author of the paper that invented the "Hockey Stick." At issue are CRU emails and his role in ClimateGate.

Frankly, I am not a big fan of academic investigations.

First, academic investigations are not how science – or social science – is supposed to operate. They are a hard type of official coercion, which ought to be reserved for only the most egregious cases.

Second, sometimes the investigations are half-hearted, conducted by colleagues who understandably would much rather see no evil.

Third, even when the investigators are diligent and unbiased, academic investigations are often conducted in secret, which makes it easy for the researcher to mislead the investigators with specious arguments that would be unlikely to hold up in the light of day.

For one or more of these reasons, I fully expect Penn State not to bring formal charges against Professor Mann – and if it does, I expect him to be cleared by his colleagues. Though I have read only a few dozen CRU emails, in my opinion Mann's errors should be corrected in the usual way, not by organized groups telling people what to think.

But if I were Professor Mann's dean at Penn State, I would try to determine whether he has fully shared his data, metadata, and computer code. To the extent that he hasn't already, I would try to make him do so – at least for his most important or most controversial articles in recent years. And, for reason #3 above, I wouldn't take Mann's word for it. I'd call his critics and ask them to name the few most important Mann papers for which the data and computer code are needed for replication.

If Mann is still withholding the data and code necessary for replication, I'd ask him to replicate his most important or most controversial recent work (certainly not everything) and to release the data and code so that others might do so. If Mann couldn't replicate his own work, I would ask him to announce that fact to the scientific community, so that serious scientists would know whether his work is replicable.

Thus, if I were Professor Mann's dean, probably the only power I'd use would be to further the scientific enterprise. And even that would not be necessary if ethical standards were higher in the subfield of paleoclimatology.

(For those who might be wondering, I did not call for a formal investigation of Michael Bellesiles back in 2000–2002. It was Bellesiles’s supporters who most frequently called for an investigation, though some of his critics did as well. Emory's investigation was triggered by prominent members of its faculty pushing privately for a formal inquiry. Apparently, Bellesiles's public supporters, being too lazy or too biased to bother checking the evidence that could be found in an hour or two in any major academic research library, miscalculated that Bellesiles would be vindicated. He wasn't.)


Fascinating points in themselves -- and even more so when one considers what a costly debacle Colorado's investigation of Ward Churchill turned out to be. Lindgren makes good points about why "investigating" concerns about research misconduct don't work--but he also begs the question of what ought to happen when / if someone like Mann doesn't jump through all the hoops he thinks deans should make him jump through. I can see the argument right now: "I have a research program to keep on track. I have grants to keep on schedule. I don't have the time or the resources to just sit around and replicate work that I assert is just fine as is. You have no call to require me to jump through these hoops. You are targeting me because you have been influenced by the right-wing machine that is hostile to my research results. My academic freedom is at stake--and by implication, that of my colleagues!" That's stonewalling--but it's also stonewalling with a point.

I'd love to hear readers' thoughts on what academia can do to make integrity and accountability a stronger professional value--and to enforce that value effectively.

Erin O'Connor, 8:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)




December 15, 2009 [feather]
No opportunity in D.C.

A Washington Post staff editorial says it all:


It is distressingly clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District's federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?

Deep in the folds of the thousand-page 2010 spending bill, which wraps together six bills, is language that (thankfully) would continue funding for students currently in the program but close it down for new students. Also included are onerous requirements about testing and site visits.

Contrary to claims of this being a compromise, the measure is really slow death for a program that provides $7,500 annually to low-income students to attend private schools. The number of students participating in the program has already shrunk from more than 1,700 to 1,319, and the nonprofit that administers the scholarships has said that it may have to pull out because the conditions would be untenable. It's also possible that some schools that now enroll voucher students could be forced to shut down.

Key lawmakers in the appropriation process have been, at best, disingenuous about their intentions, thus placing the program's advocates in their current no-win situation. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) made encouraging comments about allowing new students but, despite his clout as majority whip, did nothing to make that happen. Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) said that he didn't want to usurp local control, even as the mayor, the schools chancellor and a majority of the D.C. Council lobbied for the acceptance of new students.

If Congress, no doubt egged on by its allies in the teachers unions, is so intent on killing this program, it should be upfront in accepting the responsibility. Accordingly, we would urge Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to press for a vote on their bipartisan measure for a reauthorization of this program.


Killing the program means killing kids' futures. The kids who benefit from the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program don't have other options if they want to attend a school that is safe and where they can learn. I shouldn't have to point out that these are minimal preconditions for having a shot at things like literacy, numeracy, college, a life not defined by poverty.

Also worth registering: The DC Opportunity Scholarship is a win-win for everyone involved. Kids who get $7,500 a year to attend a private school are no longer costing the public school district $14K a year. Meanwhile, the program is structured so that the public schools get additional funding alongside the scholarships. Still, the unions think it's fine to throw away kids' lives in order to shore up their power. If you think that's an overstatement, read Clint Bolick's Voucher Wars and then get back to me.

Erin O'Connor, 7:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)




December 14, 2009 [feather]
Poetry slam

Cornell law professor William Jacobson sees Sarah Palin's recent appearance on Conan O'Brien as a turning point for her -- and, perhaps, for the MSM:


The segment started out with Palin being mocked, mildly, by William Shatner, in the manner of making sentences from Going Rogue seem so silly when presented in Shatner's signature style. If that's all there was to the segment, it would have been par for the course.

By bringing Palin onto the stage with Shatner, and having Palin mock sentences from Shatner's own book, the show sent an enormous subliminal message: Perhaps some of the mocking of Palin that goes on in the entertainment media was not justified since anyone could be the subject of such mockery.

Palin thus took on the pervasive liberal and Democratic caricature of Palin, and did so in a humorous and sympathetic way. Palin was allowed to fight mockery with mockery. Touche.

Palin's appearance on the Conan show may mark a turning point. The mainstream media, very begrudgingly and in small steps, is shifting its approach to Palin as polls show Palin's popularity rising. Palin's appearance on Oprah brought the show ratings it had not seen in years.

Obama used his appearance on Oprah, and other entertainment media love, to establish his popularity. Which is why it damages Obama's image so badly when SNL mocks Obama. At this point, Obama needs the media more than the media needs Obama.

Palin, by contrast, established her popularity independent of, and despite, the entertainment media. When it comes to Palin, the entertainment media is following not leading. We have reached the point where the mainstream entertainment media needs Palin more than Palin needs the media.


It's going to take a lot more than the Conan skit to get me to believe the MSM is cleaning up its act. Among other things, a night-time variety show isn't exactly a proxy for the (deplorable) state of journalism in this country. But it was endlessly refreshing to see a skit that refused tired, unfunny cliches--think Letterman's "jokes" about Palin--in favor of something more fresh, spontaneous, surprising, fun, and, yes, fair. Humor doesn't have to be mean, mocking, snarky, and nasty, not even humor with a political edge.

One of the things I liked so much about the Conan skit is that it explodes our own expectations about what we are being asked to find funny. When I first saw the clip, I was annoyed watching Shatner mock Palin. I said to myself, "This is so lame. More stupid, unfunny gratuitous Palin-bashing masquerading as humor." But as the skit continued, and Palin came on stage--and clearly came as a surprise to Shatner--I was delighted. And much of it had to do with Palin's affect. She kept it light, and actually quite gentle. She gave Shatner his due for poking fun at her using her own words--and then just blithely returned the favor, all in good fun. It was funny--and it had class. Conan O'Brien has, in this sense, done something quite remarkable: he is not only proposing a new standard for political humor, but has also given Palin the opportunity to be an ambassador for a friendlier, more down to earth, and altogether more likable public culture. Coming at a moment of intense, seemingly unbridgeable partisan division, that's a huge and important and potentially radical thing.

Erin O'Connor, 8:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)




Pressing colleges harder

Here's ACTA president Anne Neal in the Washington Examiner:


With the unemployment rate in double digits, the nation's attention is squarely focused on jobs. Recently, the White House hosted a jobs forum at which President Obama called on the country to "get to work" to make this another "American century."

The president specifically called on our universities to see what they "can do to better support and prepare our workers -- not just for the jobs of today, but for the jobs five years from now and 10 years from now and 50 years from now."

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the jobs of the future will look like. But we do know a few things.

One is that people are changing jobs more and more often -- 10.8 times between the ages of 18 and 42, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This suggests the need for a firm grounding in the foundational skills and knowledge that cut across jobs.

The same can be said for the jobs of the future. We know that whatever they may be, these jobs, like those of today, will demand certain basic aptitudes. These include writing a coherent paragraph, making sense of a written document and performing basic mathematical operations.

We also know, and have known for quite some time now, that universities are not doing their part in this regard. A staggering number of college graduates lack these basic skills: According to the latest National Assessment of Adult Literacy, merely 31 percent of college graduates can read and understand a complex book. Sixty-nine percent can't compute and compare the per-ounce cost of different food items.

If our college graduates can't find their way around a supermarket, how are they to compete in the globalized economy?

And if this is to be another American century, we don't just need excellent workers. We also need an educated body of citizens.

Here, too, our universities are failing us. According to one recent survey, more than a third of our college graduates cannot name the three branches of government, and barely half can identify the underlying principle of free-market economies.

The truth is, we shouldn't be surprised that our college graduates know so little. At our leading universities, students can graduate without having taken a single class in such crucial subjects as mathematics, American government or economics. As a recent report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni showed, less than 5 percent of our top colleges require economics, only 11 percent require U.S. government or history, and nearly half allow students to graduate without having taken college-level mathematics.


An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed this morning echoes Neal's message:

Colleges have never been very good at demonstrating how their education programs prepare their graduates for jobs, or how their research might create new jobs.

That's partly because the connection is not so easy to quantify—and partly because many of the people who run colleges and who teach there are still a tad uncomfortable thinking of themselves as cogs in America's work-force-training and economic-development machine.

But with high unemployment levels still dominating the nation's political and business discourse--even President Obama, at this month's White House jobs summit, exhorted American universities to better prepare workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow—college leaders are realizing that they need to do more to measure and document their impact on the economy as well as actually help it along.

A lot of this recent measuring activity is voluntary, although no doubt it's inspired by a hearty dose of political realism.


I'm alive to the argument that the last thing higher ed needs is more bureaucracy, more middle managers, more paperwork, and more expense. Outcomes assessment promises all those things. At the same time, colleges and universities have a real responsibility to prepare students for life after graduation--and to ensure that their diplomas are actually meaningful documents. The way you do that is by proving that the people you graduate have the core skills and knowledge that they need for work, for citizenship, and for life. The challenge is for faculties to step forward and take the lead here -- to take seriously the need for real information about what students are learning and for real curricular reform in line with students' needs, and to find ways to ensure that they give students the education they need, with a minimum of external fuss, forms, and bother. Any takers?

Erin O'Connor, 7:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)




December 11, 2009 [feather]
Stand up

Obama milked the community organizing angle so hard when he was campaigning. But his heart isn't really in it--if it ever was. And so he's standing by while Congress kills one of this country's crowning examples of what community organizing can really do: the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

I got this press release last night from Virginia Walden Ford, founder and tireless leader of D.C. Parents for School Choice:


Just an hour ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the omnibus bill that kills the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). This is devastating news, and it means that if this bill makes it through the U.S. Senate and is signed into law by President Obama, the OSP will slowly die, with no new students permitted to access great schools through this groundbreaking program.

When we began the fight to save this program more than a year ago, we pledged that we would fight hard and fight long and fight to the finish. We said we wouldn't give up--regardless of the odds. Tonight is no exception. The House passed the voucher-killing omnibus by a tiny margin. The Senate must still act. So, we have not yet been defeated in our effort.

Over the last 16 months, countless low-income families have sacrificed mightily to protect the educational futures of their children. They've come to events early in the morning, at lunchtime, late at night. They've sat with their children and written letters and filmed videos to the president and Congress. They've joined me in visits to Capitol Hill. They've taken time off of work, investing themselves fully in this fight in every sense of the word. This isn't typical Washington lobbying. This is real-life, person-to-person advocacy. And it won't stop tonight. We will continue to fight until the last vote in the U.S. Senate is cast and President Obama makes his final decision.

The U.S. Senate still must vote on this bill, and we've heard that the Senate might vote on the bill as early as tomorrow or this weekend.

I am urging you tonight to please contact your home state's U.S. Senator and ask your Senator to stand up and demand that additional students be included in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Ask your Senator not to support any budget that doesn't allow for the addition of new students to the OSP. You can find your Senator's contact information at www.senate.gov. Please, take action tomorrow morning. Do it not for me, but for the families that have sacrificed so much to save their children's educational options.


See that last paragraph? That's for you. Remember that D.C. representation does not work the same way that it works for states--that your elected Congressmen have a substantial say in what happens to kids in our capital city. Please take a moment today to register your support for what should really be a no-brainer--children's right to learn in a safe, educationally sound environment. The D.C. public schools are very far from that.

Erin O'Connor, 8:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)




December 9, 2009 [feather]
Beyond the heckler's veto

Oklahoma State University president Burns Hargis has pulled the plug on a scientific study involving baboons. He says the decision has nothing to do with the animal rights movement--but then other admins say it does.


...despite the university president's statement that animal rights groups didn't influence the decision, Gary Shutt, director of communications, confirmed in an interview Tuesday that the decision was based in part on what other universities -- particularly in California -- have experienced when their researchers have become the targets of animal rights groups.

"There are various factors -- there are some confidential things that the president learned as he discussed this with presidents of other universities, and people outside the university that raised some concern and also the factor that this is controversial research," Shutt said.

He stressed that no threats had been received against Oklahoma State, and that the concern came from what has happened at other campuses.

Asked whether canceling a research project because it is controversial and could lead to threats might undermine academic freedom, Shutt said "we're not going to get into all of that."

President Hargis attended a faculty meeting Tuesday where he heard complaints that he hadn't in fact consulted with professors on the matter. Some faculty members are particularly concerned because the research in question had undergone (and received approval from) the faculty committee charged with overseeing research involving animals. Shutt said that the president acknowledged that he had made the decision "without consulting the faculty and said that wouldn't happen again." Shutt said that while the president was committed to working on "the process" for future consultation, he would not reconsider this decision.


Other issues at OSU have to do with the role major donors have been able to play with the structure of animal research. Earlier this year, Madeleine Pickens (wife of T. Boone) threatened to withdraw a $5 million donation to the vet school if the animals used in a particular experiment were euthanized afterward. The vet school changed its research plan to accommodate Pickens and get the money.

The AAUP gets this one right -- as it also got right Yale University Press' decision not to publish the notorious Mohammed cartoons in a scholarly book issued earlier this year. Here's AAUP president Cary Nelson:


"I expect that Oklahoma State has procedures for reviewing and approving grants before they are submitted. Such orderly due process is fundamental to academic freedom," he said, noting that the NIH would also have reviewed the project. "It is the duty of the university to make certain that faculty members can carry out research that has been locally approved and federally funded. Fear of consequences gives us a telling example of administrative cowardice at Oklahoma State but not a satisfactory reason for canceling a research project. Once again, a university has caved in to imagined threats."

Meanwhile, the Animal Liberation Front, a domestic terror organization, is praising OSU to the skies.

Erin O'Connor, 7:26 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




December 8, 2009 [feather]
NEA as Grinch

You know you live in an upside-down world when teachers actively fight against the interests of kids.

From the Weekly Standard:


As Christmas grows closer, the hopes of thousands of D.C. schoolchildren and their families are appearing dimmer and dimmer, and no one is celebrating more than the teachers' unions.

Congress's failure to reauthorize the federally-funded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), which has provided more than 3,300 schoolchildren scholarships to attend private schools of their choice in the District of Columbia, has proven fatal. The program could end even earlier than expected.

Last week the Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF), the nonprofit organization that administers the program, announced that Congress's failure to act and the Obama administration's unwillingness to let new students participate, means that the WSF will be forced to end its oversight of the program this summer, when the school year ends.

"[E]xisting children and families in the OSP do not know whether they will have access to an Opportunity Scholarship next year, and children and families not now in the program do not know whether they will have the opportunity to participate next year," the organization's board of directors and president wrote in a December 3 letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "This makes it virtually impossible for children, families, schools, and WSF to prepare for the time-intensive application and renewal processes so critical to the OSP's sound administration for the 2010-2011 school year. Moreover, it denies these families any educational choice because more often than not, charters are not an option."

Board members predict that the likely fallout will be private school closures that will force many scholarship recipients and other students back into the city's troubled public schools next fall, "requiring the District to absorb the additional fiscal costs of educating both groups of students."

"Effectively, Congress's failure to act to reauthorize this program will send well over 1,000 children to failing and, too often, unsafe schools," the letter states. "That result would, in our view, constitute a moral failing of the highest order on all of our parts."

With less than a month left before Congress adjourns for its holiday recess, supporters of the program had hoped that their latest ad campaign and lobby effort would convince the Obama administration and key Congressmen like Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), that the voucher program needs to continue.

"This is the best opportunity kids can have," said Patricia William, whose 12-year-old son Fransoir has used a scholarship to attend a private school in the District since the program's inception in 2004. "Congress has the power to make it happen."

Originally from El Salvador, William became a U.S. citizen in 1996. She said an opportunity scholarship has given her and Fransoir what she hoped to find in America. "This country is about options and education, so give us options as parents," she said. "Don't take away our right to help our kids, especially when this program is working."

[...]

One group that won't be bemoaning the voucher programs' end is the teachers' unions. This spring National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel bluntly reminded Senators that "opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA," and warned them that the NEA would be paying keen attention to how they vote on vouchers.

"The National Education Association strongly opposes any extension of the District of Columbia private school voucher ('DC Opportunity Scholarship') program," Van Roekel wrote in a March 5, 2009 letter. "We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the


pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress."
The Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics recently released data showing that the NEA topped the chart as the number one national donor during the 2007-08 election cycle, shelling out $57.6 million in combined federal and state contributions. The American Federation of Teachers was number 25, with more than $13 million in contributions.

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency put this in perspective, writing that the NEA's and AFT's 2007-08 contributions meant that "America's two teachers' unions outspent AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined."

[...]

One group that won't be bemoaning the voucher programs' end is the teachers' unions. This spring National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel bluntly reminded Senators that "opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA," and warned them that the NEA would be paying keen attention to how they vote on vouchers.

"The National Education Association strongly opposes any extension of the District of Columbia private school voucher ('DC Opportunity Scholarship') program," Van Roekel wrote in a March 5, 2009 letter. "We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress."

The Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics recently released data showing that the NEA topped the chart as the number one national donor during the 2007-08 election cycle, shelling out $57.6 million in combined federal and state contributions. The American Federation of Teachers was number 25, with more than $13 million in contributions.

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency put this in perspective, writing that the NEA's and AFT's 2007-08 contributions meant that "America's two teachers' unions outspent AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined."


I met Ms. William, and many parents like her, last week. This program's power to open doors for kids who have no other option is very real. Congress is failing us all when it fails the underprivileged children of D.C. And the unions--there is no language to describe their bad faith.

Erin O'Connor, 1:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)




Stanley Fish goes rogue

It was a delight to see Stanley Fish's review of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue. Why? First, he read it rather than fast forwarding to reviling it. Second, he brought with him a clear sense of what makes autobiography autobiographical, specifically its special relationship to truth-telling (you shouldn't lie about facts, as many memoirists have done of late--but neither is it possible for you to lie about your own personal truth, as long as you are being sincere in your assessment of what the events in your life have meant to you). Third, he takes Palin's appeal--and power--seriously, connects those things to the form and style of the book, and evaluates Going Rogue accordingly.

Excerpt:


I find the voice undeniably authentic (yes, I know the book was written "with the help" of Lynn Vincent, but many books, including my most recent one, are put together by an editor). It is the voice of small-town America, with its folk wisdom, regional pride, common sense, distrust of rhetoric (itself a rhetorical trope), love of country and instinctive (not doctrinal) piety. It says, here are some of the great things that have happened to me, but they are not what makes my life great and American. ("An American life is an extraordinary life.") It says, don't you agree with me that family, freedom and the beauties of nature are what sustain us? And it also says, vote for me next time. For it is the voice of a politician, of the little girl who thought she could fly, tried it, scraped her knees, dusted herself off and "kept walking."

In the end, perseverance, the ability to absorb defeat without falling into defeatism, is the key to Palin's character. It's what makes her run in both senses of the word and it is no accident that the physical act of running is throughout the book the metaphor for joy and real life. Her handlers in the McCain campaign wouldn't let her run (a mistake, I think, even at the level of photo-op), no doubt because they feared another opportunity to go "off script," to "go rogue."

But run she does (and falls, but so what?), and when it is all over and she has lost the vice presidency and resigned the governorship, she goes on a long run and rehearses in her mind the eventful year she has chronicled. And as she runs, she achieves equilibrium and hope: "We've been through amazing days, and really, there wasn't one thing to complain about. I feel such freedom, such hope, such thankfulness for our country, a place where nothing is hopeless."

The message is clear. America can't be stopped. I can't be stopped. I've stumbled and fallen, but I always get up and run again. Her political opponents, especially those who dismissed Ronald Reagan before he was elected, should take note. Wherever you are, you better watch out. Sarah Palin is coming to town.


Good stuff.

Erin O'Connor, 1:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)




December 7, 2009 [feather]
We the Living

Traveling last week for work, I burned through several books on innumerable airplanes: Clint Bolick's Voucher Wars (a strikingly human and accessible account of his landmark work on behalf of school choice), Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (read only if you want to wind up feeling spectacularly defeated and hopeless about love and trust), and, as antidote to latter, Rhoda Janzen's hilarious memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Aside from the feelings of spectacular hopelessness and defeat occasioned by my McEwan interlude, it was a grand reading marathon. But when it was all over, I was at loose ends. I had read too many books too fast, and I didn't have any in reserve--which is not to say that I've read every book in the house, but is to say that I read methodically, and like my books to help me carry on my current trains of thought. That takes some planning, and traveling threw me off. Minor crisis situation over weekend as I cast about, staring at shelves, roaming around Amazon, picking up this and that, putting this and that down. Nothing seemed right.

Eventually I realized that this might be my opportunity to spend some time with Ayn Rand. Readers will remember that I re-read The Fountainhead earlier this year. But I've never read Atlas Shrugged, despite owning multiple copies over the years, nor have I read We the Living. I looked at them both, assessed the situation, and decided to save the magnum opus for the future. So We the Living it is.

Last December, New American Library issued a 60th anniversary edition of the novel, along with a new introduction by philosopher Leonard Peikoff, who is Rand's self-appointed intellectual and material heir, and founder of the Ayn Rand Institute. It's a striking document, grounded as it is in the difficult specifics of America a year ago--and one that remains remarkably timely, given how far we have managed not to come, despite our plans for hope and change, during that year.

Here it is:


As Ayn Rand says in her Foreword, We the Living is not a novel about Soviet Russia, which is only the backdrop of the story. The novel's events, characters, and outcome are selected not by their relation to history, but to philosophy, which means that the book's theme is universal. The theme is the evil of totalitarianism, a species of depravity not restricted to any country or century.

The basic cause of totalitarianism is two ideas: men's rejection of reason in favor of faith, and of self-interest in favor of self-sacrifice. If this is a society's philosophical consensus, it will not be long before an all-powerful Leader rises up to direct the faith and sacrifice that everyone has been extolling. His subjects cannot resist his takeover, neither by exercising their faculty of thought nor their passion for values, because these are the two priceless possessions they have given up. The end result is thought control, starvation, and mass slaughter.

Because of the Greeks' commitment to reason, worldly happiness, and (relative) freedom, the above causal sequence was absent for centuries from the West. Then Christianity took over, demanding of men--with full consistency for the first time-- life of faith and sacrifice. Although delayed by primitive technology, the result came soon enough: the infallible Pope, the plummeting life span, and the elimination of unapproved thought by the Inquisition.

The highest-ranking Christians in Europe were the first practitioners of Western totalitarianism. It was they who discovered the essence of a new kind of State, and offered it to the future as a possibility to consider.

At last, there was a Renaissance, and then the West's long struggle toward the Enlightenment with its commitment to reason and the pursuit of happiness, and its ridicule of Christianity. The result was the freest country in history, America. It did not last, however, because nineteenth-century intellectuals, followers of Kant, rejected the idea of the Enlightenment in favor of new forms of unreason and unselfishness. Within only a few generations, cause led to effect: totalitarians of every stripe sprang up, each claiming this time to be secular and scientific even as all worked diligently to reproduce the medieval model.

Totalitarian states differ in every detail, but not in their nature and cause. And in regard to details, what difference do their differences make? What does it matter to the victims if the infallible leader claims messages from the supernatural or from an unperceivable dialectic? If he demands sacrifice for Corpus Christi or for the proletariat? If the people are made to raise their hands in prayer or their feet in goose steps? If the killer troops wear black gowns or red shirts? If those out of favor are ripped open by knives in Spain ot left to freezing starvation in the gulags? States like these often pose as enemies of one another, but the pose is tactics, not truth.

An eloquent example of the truth is what happened to We the Living under Mussolini. During World War II, the novel was pirated by an Italian film company, which produced a movie version without the knowledge or consent of AR. Because of its length, the picture was released in 1942 as two separate movies, Noi Vivi (We the Living) and Addio Kira (Farewell Kira). Both were enormous popular successes. The fascist government had approved the movie on the grounds that it was anti-Communist. But the public, like the director, understood at once that the movie was just as anti-fascist as it was anti-Communist. People grasped AR's broader theme and embraced the two movies, in part as a way of protesting their oppression under Mussolini. In a takeoff on the titles, people began referring to themselves as Noi Merti (We the Dead), and the Mussolini's economic policies as Addio, Lira. Five months after its release, the government figured out what everyone else knew and banned the movie. These events alone are eloquent proof that We the Living is not merely "about Soviet Russia."

Nor is it merely about Europe or about the past. Witness the rise, in the United States today, of the Fundamentalist right aiming to outlaw ideas and values that conflict with the Bible; and the rise of the environmentalist left turning religious, invoking reverence for Nature's Creator as the moral value mandating the end of capitalism; and, in more immediately practical terms, the eight-year rule of a "born again" President, who shut down biological research he regarded as irreligious while claiming a message from beyond as a guide to foreign policy; and now his successor, of whom so far (2009) we know little, but whose campaign worked hard to prove that he is as devout as all the others. Will these developments, and many others like them, be united someday into an unstoppable religious juggernaut demanding of us the standard mind/self-emasculation, along with is standard political corollary? If it happens, its exponents are unlikely any longer to seize on economics or biology as their justification. As of now, it seems we are headed back to the source:; to the re-creation of medieval servitude--enforced by a much better-equipped secret police.

We the Living is a novel about the results of the freedom-erasing ideas you yourself probably accept. That is why it is relevant to you today. It is relevant because it tells you how to distinguish the poison the West is now greedily ingesting from the nourishment we desperately need. It is relevant because it is not about an ever-receding past, but about an ever-approaching future.

This book is not about your long-gone grandparents, but about your still-growing children.


Discuss.

Erin O'Connor, 6:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)




December 5, 2009 [feather]
Hiding the decline

It's not just that the "proof" of anthropogenic global warming has been faked--but also that the peer review process ratifying the theory has been faked, too. And that's a problem that is not at all confined to climate science--rather, it's a sign of a new, unethical academic norm in which peer review can be, and often is, a Trojan horse for ensuring that certain favored ideas acquire the status of truth, while others are suppressed. Who's going to investigate that?

Erin O'Connor, 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)




December 4, 2009 [feather]
The perfect is the enemy of the good

That's a phrase my father likes to use. And it's a very good fit for how the administration is treating the embattled but incredibly important and effective DC voucher program. From the Washington Times:


It is disgraceful the way Education Secretary Arne Duncan dodges and weaves while back-stabbing some 1,700 D.C. schoolchildren whose hopes and dreams are set on the District's school voucher program. Taking a position of moral and political cowardice, the Obama administration refuses to intervene to save the hugely popular program from congressional Democrats determined to kill it. Mr. Duncan even refuses to address the District's program except by indirection and obfuscation.

Studies of the six-year-old Opportunity Scholarship Program by Georgetown University, the Manhattan Institute and the Department of Education itself have found that vouchers foster tremendous parental satisfaction, impressive educational results and a greater degree of voluntary racial integration than in regular public schools in Washington.

At just $14 million annually for the $7,500 individual scholarships, the program is eminently affordable. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and former Mayors Anthony A. Williams and Marion Barry - all liberal Democrats - all wholeheartedly support the scholarships despite their other political differences.

Yet when Mr. Duncan is asked why the administration does not support the program, he repeatedly changes the subject to talk about broader educational policies. Our own editorial page staff member Kerry Picket asked him about it at a forum last Wednesday. Here's what he said:

"At the end of the day the goal is about fixing the system, and I think we have to be more ambitious. As a country we like to save one or two children in a neighborhood and let the other 500 drown and then go home and sleep well at night. I think we have to be much more ambitious as a federal government, as a state government, as a local district. Our goal is to save every single child. This turn-around effort that we're talking about does that. Now I can take you to schools in Chicago, I can take you to schools in Philadelphia, I can take you to schools in New York where the overwhelming majority of students were failing. And by turning those schools around, the overwhelming majority of students are succeeding - not pulling one or two out to save them, the entire community..."

Excuse us, Mr. Secretary, but how does it hurt efforts in Philadelphia and New York to keep a program alive in the District? And how does "saving" 1,700 children hamper efforts to save all of them? Mr. Duncan's mumbo jumbo is thin cover for dancing to the tune of the teacher unions. As representatives of the National Education Association told Congress in March, "Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA." And no wonder: If parents have more control of their children's education, the unions lose their own monopoly control. It is a control that apparently extends deep into the Education Department as well, and all the way to the top of the Obama administration.

President Obama's team isn't bringing any hope or change to our nation's failing urban schools. In fact, this administration is squashing the only hope some families have for getting a decent education. As usual, liberal politics is trumping principle -- and schoolchildren are the ones paying the price.


Perhaps that last sentence will be too partisan for some. So if that's true for you, just substitute this: "Too often when it comes to education reform, the perfect is the enemy of the good -- and schoolchildren are the ones paying the price."

Erin O'Connor, 6:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)