Saturday, May 18, 2002

When is "E. Nough" (a regular poster at Little Green Footballs) going to start his own blog? He has another devastating take, this time on the "Bush knew about 9/11" crowd. Check it out, in the comments section of this post.

Link courtesy of Daily Pundit, by way of Transterrestrial Musings.

Yesterday, The American Prospect's "Tapped" column said this:

Still no rebuke from a national Republican to Wayne LaPierre over LaPierre's atrocious comparison of Andy McKelvey and Osama bin Laden, as Chatterbox reports.

To which I replied (via e-mail):

In yesterday's edition of Tapped, you write that you are still waiting for a rebuke of Wayne LaPierre for his comparison of Andy McKelvey and Osama bin Laden from GOP bigwigs. I'm sure that it will be issued as soon as Julian Bond apologizes for his comments about the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party" and various "progressive" groups retract their incessant swipes at Richard Mellon Scaife for his financial support of the investigation of Whitewater. LaPierre's comment was hyperbolic, but the media get a case of the vapors whenever one of their favorite causes, gun control, is attacked by the NRA or any other group. If such a comparison had been made by a pro-choice figure, in reference to a pro-life supporter, I doubt it would have received *any* coverage (in Tapped, or anywhere else). This double standard is one of the reasons why many conservatives decry the bias in the media--not so much the overt bias, but the (perhaps subconscious) selection of what stories to run, and how they are to be framed.


At least I can read The American Prospect without screaming. I can't handle The Nation or Mother Jones; I do have some standards.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Seattle schools react to 9th circuit decision

Today's Seattle Times contained two articles concerning a court decision that banned race as a consideration for determining student placement. The first is a news story reporting on the numerical and percentage compositions of the entering classes for the 2001 and 2002 school years, with quotes from both supporters and detractors of the decision. The news piece appears to be relatively balanced, although I might quibble with occasional word choice or phrasing.

Glancing over the article, it is apparent that the "education establishment" in Seattle is upset by the ruling. The superintendent, Joseph Olchefske, commenting on Ballard High (32.3% nonwhite, down from last year's 44.9%) and Franklin High (88.1% nonwhite, compared with last year's 79.7% nonwhite), remarked that students are losing "the kind of richness culturally and socially that I think we could have." An assistant principal at Nathan Hale High School (39% nonwhite, last year 45.3%) groused, "That's going in the wrong direction. We want to increase the number of students of color at Hale, not decrease it." Both are obvioiusly operating from the assumption that diversity is always good. However, the leader of the group that sued the district, Kathleen Brose, pointed out that neighborhood schools are important as well, a view echoed by James Kelly, the president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.

The second article is an op-ed piece jointly written by all of the high school principals in the Seattle School District. It is long on trendy theories on why diversity in schools is important, and short on hard facts. There is a lengthy quote from Cornell West (big surprise) that fulminates against "maldistribution of wealth and power" and condemns the "weighty forces of racism, patriarchy, economic inequality, homophobia, and ecological abuse". The fact that these educators chose such a comment to support their position speaks volumes of their outlook on education. Later, they state that they are "grateful for the opportunity to make public the long-standing need for discourse about institutionalized racism, white privilege and their effect on student learning," and they remark about embracing "standards of equity and social justice as well". If I had children attending a school led by one of these people, I would look for a private school that I could afford, or take a serious look at homeschooling. I do not agree with what they are pushing, and I would not want any children of mine subjected to an agenda such as they propose, one that appears to emphasize diversity over teaching. Diversity is not bad or wrong, but it should not have any bearing on educational policy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Los Angeles Times carries this Reuters report on the Dutch elections which has a few barbs that need to be highlighted.

The projected outcome was a surprisingly strong victory for the right-wing Christian Democrats

Only in Europe, Hollywood, or the fevered imagination of a reporter's mind could the Christian Democrats (especially in the Netherlands) be considered right-wing. They are centrist, perhaps a bit on the liberal side. The fact that they differ a bit from the Socialists and Labor parties does not make them "right-wing".

Irreverent, charismatic and a dapper dresser, Fortuyn attracted a huge following with his brash but ill-defined policies.

I really have trouble seeing a reporter applying labeling such as this to a left-of-center candidate, if his platform has been the subject of discussions for quite some time in the Netherlands and elsewhere. It wasn't ill-defined, it was ill-received in some quarters.

Although he was seen abroad as a something of a copy of France's Jean-Marie Le Pen, Fortuyn never fit conveniently into the image of "extreme right-winger."

Yet the media insist on applying that label to him, and invite comparison to somebody whose only real resemblance is his dislike of immigrants. Even that is a stretch, as the root cause of their animosity is totally different--Fortuyn feared that unassimilated immigrants will destroy a tolerant multicultural society, while Le Pen rails against immigrants because they are different.

Fortuyn was shot dead in the parking lot of a radio station after an interview on May 6. Police have arrested a 32-year-old animal rights activist whose motive remains unclear.

Hmmmm, maybe because Fortuyn advocated a resumption of the fur trade, and because of his clashes with environmental groups? This appears (at least to me) to be a pretty obvious case of intense dislike for Fortuyn's politics.

Borrowing a page from the playbook of the Daily Pundit, I have a beef about one of the letters to the editor in today's Seattle Times. Here is the letter, in its entirety:

Dustbin of history
The Mundane Doctrine

The National Assessment of Educational Progress results showed that 60 percent of high-school seniors could not explain the Monroe Doctrine. I would be willing to wager that if you did a random sample of 1,000 American adults, they would do no better, in fact probably much worse ("Don't know much about history... " editorial, May 13).

The tests are designed by academic scholars, those people who spend years and years in college studying history. The average person memorizes this stuff in school only to pass a history test, and then forgets it because it has no day-to-day real-life application.

This is the problem with the current high-stakes testing bandwagon. Too much of what it tests for is irrelevant to the real world of working, dealing with people, and making a good life. Becoming a history teacher is the only job you will ever apply for that requires knowing about the Monroe Doctrine.

I agree that 100 percent of history teachers should know about the Monroe Doctrine. For the rest of us, I think it would be much (more) beneficial to America to test our students for more practical knowledge, like how to do taxes, get along with people who are different than you, or how to spot political propaganda techniques.

Rob Sandelin, Monroe

I will agree that some of what we learn in school is a bit arcane and has little real-world application for the general public (Geometry, Chemistry), history is not one of them. George Satayana once noted "Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it," a truism that still applies today. While studying specific dates may seem to be a bit much for some, it is necessary to establish a chronology in order to understand the conseqences of actions taken. As to the specific example of the Monroe Doctrine, its application had a very strong effect on the actions of the European powers and their attitudes towards the new world, effects that are still being felt today, and politicians and sociologists (as well as history teachers) would do well to understand its ramifications.

Mr. Sandelin then goes on to cite examples of subjects he feels the schools should be teaching. The first--how to do taxes--is something that is ostensibly already taught in school; we call it mathematics. To cover all the tiny loopholes and exemptions and schedules is something that no high school teacher is (or should be) equipped to do. Perhaps a simplification of the tax system would make this wish a reality. His other two suggestions are apparently a product of a left-wing mindset--they are social engineering dreams. They are not something that should be part of a core curriculum, or even taught as seperate subjects, although some of their salient points could be covered in other courses. (While his last statement might be value-neutral, its positioning after the "getting along" request suggests to me that he is thinking primarily about countering conservative propaganda, not liberal. I could be wrong on this point, however.)

Monday, May 13, 2002

Regular posting will set in tomorrow, as I have a suite of my own, a phone line of my own, and free time on my hands. Stay tuned for some late-night posts (after 10pm Pacific time).

It's good to be back. (big grin)