Although their logo/slogan EDin’08 seems poorly chosen, billionaire philanthropists Eli Broad and Bill Gates get an A for Effort and Commitment for creating the new Strong American Schools project, and donating $60 million dollars to put education high onto the agenda of the 2008 presidential race (press release, April 25, 2007). You may have already seen their Histery of IRAK newspaper ad, which says — under the chalky mispelled words — “Debating Iraq is tough. Spelling it shouldn’t be. America’s schools are falling behind. It’s a crisis that takes leadership to solve. So to all presidential candidates we say, ‘What’s your plan to fix our schools?’ ”
Before writing a few serious paragraphs, I must do a school-masterly tsk-tsk over the choice [by education (and good-spelling) advocates!] of “ED in’08” as the Project’s logo. In 2007, virtually everybody from Bob Dole to Jay Leno, and from Merriam-Webster or the OneLook Dictionary‘s Quick Look, to Wikipedia and the acronym experts at Stammtisch Beau Fleuve, knows that “ed” as a word or an abbreviation means “education,” while ED is an initialism that stands for Erectile Dysfunction. You don’t have to be a stickler for linguistic precision, or even a too-quickly-aging Baby Boomer (and his significant other), to be turned off by a campaign promising more ED in ’08. Of course, certain pharmaceutical companies, and hordes of email spammers, might feel differently, but they don’t get a vote here at f/k/a. We prefer “ed in ’08” or “educate in ’08.”
on the meaning of life the crunch
of a student’s apple
………….. by George Swede from Almost Unseen (Brooks Books, 2000)
Logo logos aside, citizens (and aliens) who want to see much more done to improve the education of America’s youth can readily agree with Bill Gates that “The lack of political and public will is a significant barrier to making dramatic improvements in school and student performance.” (New York Times, “Billionaires Start $60 Million Schools Effort,” April 25, 2007) A campaign backed with scores of millions of dollars for publicity, organization and follow-through should go a long way to assure that presidential candidates (and the public) take education seriously enough to make it a top priority and construct (or demand) specific proposals. As project director Roy Romer, former Colorado governor and recent school superintendent of Los Angeles, noted at his related weblog, they want the next President of the United States, on his or her first day in office, to “make a Kennedyesque or Reaganesque call to get this done.” (Roy Romer’s Blog on Schools, “Why involve the presidential candidates in Education?“). Romer continues:
“The next president will pick one issue on that first day in office … and we want it to be education, because people will listen, they will pay attention and they will start acting.”
In their press release and public statements, the leaders of Strong American Schools make it clear that they will not be endorsing any candidates, but will instead focus on creating conversation, brainstorming and debate on three main areas (as outlined and expanded by Romer):
- American standards (agreed upon by the states not forced down their throats by the federal government). That means a fourth-grader is learning what she needs to be successful no matter where she lives, whether Iowa or South Carolina or California. All youngsters need to prepare for college and compete for good jobs, so they should have the educational foundation. That’s number one.
- [E]ffective teachers in every classroom. A lot of people would like to interpret this to mean that we are knocking teachers. That’s just wrong. We are trying to identify the best ways – notice I say ways, not one single federal way – to attract and support and reward the most effective teachers for every subject and every classroom. And that means compensating teachers based on performance and willingness to take tougher jobs. But again, there are many ways to do that, and we will be highlighting lots of different ways over the next few months.
- [M]ore time and support for learning. Again, there are a lot of ways to get this done. We want to explore the many possible ways to do that with people.
first day of term
her new school uniform
bright in the mist
……………………… by Matt Morden from A New Resonance 2
It looks like Roy Romer’s Blog on Schools will not be a mere trend-conscious afterthought. Romer seems to enjoy the weblog format and has already used the platform to “clarify” issues. For example, in “It’s Not About Specifics … Yet,” he tells those who want specific proposals that the Project wants to start a conversation, providing “some hard information and statistics and direction,” but listening to the ideas of others. Additionally, in “Great Launch … But Let’s Be Clear About ED in 08,” he says that “a couple of misperceptions have arisen, and I want to address them right now.” He worries that “Some of the news coverage used loaded terminology that we don’t use and we don’t agree with. When that happens, it’s easy for anyone to read and get the wrong idea about our positions,” and says “Let me give you two examples”:
- “National curriculum” – Somebody wrote that we are calling for that. Let’s be clear: Strong American Schools and the ED in 08 campaign are not calling for a national curriculum, period.
- “Merit pay” – Somebody said we want that. That’s wrong. We are not pushing some narrow merit pay scheme. The bottom line is … good teaching, effective teaching. What we want is to find a way to focus on good teaching. That is the outcome that matters. Good teaching … how do we value it … how do we support it … and how we reward it so we can get more of it.
Romer might have been concerned about coverage such as found in the NYT article cited above, which stated, for example: “While the effort is shying away from some of the most polarizing topics in education, like vouchers, charter schools and racial integration, there is still room for it to spark vigorous debate.” It went on to point to the dislike of usually-Democratic teachers unions for “merit pay,” and the disdain for a “national curriculum” by state’s-rights conservatives.
the blank look
same as last term
the ivy covered building
has a new name
……………………….. by Yu Chang from Upstate Dim Sum
I’m looking forward to watching the conversation — and the dance of the candidates — unfold over the next year. Even beyond the crucial importance of the subject, it should be fascinating and instructive to see how so much money from a nonpartisan, nonprofit issue-group impacts a presidential election. I hope Roy Romer’s weblog will be a good place to find out what issues and controversies are bubbling to the top of the presidential stew, now that education has been taken off the backburner.
school’s out —
on the child’s forehead
a blue reward star
two rows of harps
bow to applause
after school meeting
collage clouds turn
round and round
first day of term
a mother pushes scooters
away from the school
in the eraser trough
a new term
clear water tumbles
…………………………………. by Peggy Lyles
“chalk dust” – To Hear the Rain (Brooks Books, 2002)
“a new term” – Snapshots Haiku Magazine #9 (2001)
q.s. quickies ……………
Less Stress In Deed: A couple days ago, Phillip L. Clay, chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was quoted saying “In the future, we will take a big lesson from this experience.” (New York Times, “Dean at M.I.T. Resigns, Ending a 28-Year Lie,” April 27, 2007) Chancellor Clay was referring, of course, to the tale of Marilee Jones, M.I.T.’s dean of admissions, who has become well known nationally for urging stressed-out students competing for elite colleges to calm down and stop trying to be perfect. As the Times, reports, Jones admitted this week that “she had fabricated her own educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at M.I.T. Officials of the institute said she did not have even an undergraduate degree.” The article explained further:
“Ms. Jones, 55, originally from Albany [NY], had on various occasions represented herself as having degrees from three upstate New York institutions: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees from any of those places, or anywhere else, M.I.T. officials said.”
I’m not sure how much coverage Ms. Jones’ scandal got elsewhere in the nation. Here in the Albany area (and, in my town of Schenectady, home of Union College), the papers gave it a lot of space. Is this a tale of irony or simply hypocrisy? NYT tells us Jones was considered “a kind of guru of the movement to tame the college admissions frenzy.” She’s been touring the nation as co-author of the book “Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond. If the book tour continues, a lot of people might show up to see a prime example of getting through the higher education machine with about as little stress and as much success as possible. As a good weblogger should, I must caution my readers: Don’t Try This At Home.
botches a death scene
………… tom painting – frogpond XVII:3 (2004)
Pentacle Spectacle: Did you see that the “Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans’ Headstones Is Approved” (New York Times, April 25, 2007). Yep, it took them years, but the VA settled a lawsuit — to save the taxpayers the cost of litigation — agreeing, according to the Times, “to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.” I’m pleased to see that Americans United for the Separation of Church and State represented the plaintiffs in the case. In a country with religious freedom at its cornerstone, it seems to me that the VA has no place banning a requested symbol from the headstone of a deceased veteran — no matter that it is paid for with taxpayer dollars. They say there are no atheists in a foxhole, but I hope an agnostic or two will be suing soon for the right to have their symbol of choice engraved on their headstones, too.
FYI: Per NYT: “Though it has many forms, Wicca is a type of pre-Christian belief that reveres nature and its cycles. Its symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star, inside a circle.” An “Altreligion” website tells us that: “The pentacle, a pentagram within a circle, is the most recognizable symbol of Wicca. The pentacle represents the integration of body and spirit, and the spiritual mastery of the four elements.”
flunk a spelling test
………………. by dagosan
p.s. Update (April 30, 2007): Thanks to Brett Trout at Blawg IT for including f/k/a‘s post on Florida’s capricious Dignity Police in this week’s Blawg Review # 106. As I haven’t had time to cover the story, I was pleased to see in BR#106 that both Ted Frank at Overlawyered.com and Carolyn Elefant at LegalBlogWatch skewered D.C. Adminsistrative Law Judge Roy L. Pearson, Jr. for the abusive lawsuit he has been prosecuting against a neighborhood cleaner shop, in which he is seeking $65 million in damages for a pair of misplaced suit pants. The beleaguered mom-and-pop defendants offered $12,000 in settlement, but were rebuffed (see Washington Post article). Carolyn seems to have it about right, when she says
“As for Pearson, I can imagine the appropriate remedy for a lawyer who persists in pursuing $65 million for a pair of lost pants: How about a lost license to practice law? That seems like a fair trade.”
At the very least, a large dose of e-shaming for pro se plaintiff Pearson seems in order.