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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Students cannot be assigned to public schools because of their race, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a significant civil rights decision that casts doubt on integration efforts adopted across the country.
By a 5-4 vote on the last day of its term, the court’s conservative majority struck down voluntary programs adopted in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, to attain racial diversity in public school classrooms.
The ruling added to a string of decisions this term in which President George W. Bush’s two appointees — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — have shifted the court sharply to the right on divisive social issues like abortion.
It also fueled vows by Democratic presidential candidates to change the court’s direction and reduce racial inequality in schools.

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I used to live in a country in which a handful of men and women, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, had the courage to stand up in order to protect the interests of those for whom the promise of America was being undermined by public policy. In Brown v Board of Education the court held that public policy that separated young people on the basis of the color of their skin could no longer stand in the United States. Legal segregation based on Plessy v Ferguson, the decision that created the “separate but equal” standard, was no longer acceptable in the land of the free and the home of the brave.Effectively, the court is returning to Plessy. Reuters reports, “Roberts said in writing for the court majority that racial balancing was not permitted. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said.” Roberts’ logic is flawed. By eliminating policy designed to attain racial diversity from the mix, the court is opening to door to an implied standard of “separate but equal” found in Plessy.

This court is not about courage, justice, or equity. This court is about forcing a radical return to a period in our history that many Americans are pleased to have behind us. As the court undercuts the decisions of the past 50 years I am fearful that the America I have known will rapidly disappear and we will return to a society in which racial. religious, gender, and sexual orientation will not only be “legally” acceptable, it will become an ugly reality. We will return to segregated schools, religious persecution, back alley abortions, and homophobic discrimination. What kind of an example for the world will America be then?

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The Supremes led by Justice Alito writing for the majority found in favor of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company on a narrow interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 disallowing years of gender discrimination in which the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company underpaid one Lilly Ledbetter on average around $6000 per year less than her male counterparts doing the same work.The fascist majority on the court (fascism being defined as the seamless merging of government and corporate interests) ignore the human consequences of their actions as they support the corporate ethics that seem to say screw the workers just line my pockets with silver and gold.

The Supremes had an opportunity to do the right thing, to send the right message to corporate greed mongers that they let slip right through their fingers.

Even more egregious was the joining of this decision by Justice Thomas, the least ethical of the fascist majority and one who allegedly engaged in sexual harassment himself, as he flip flopped on his own decision to support the employee position when the discrimination lasted for periods of months or years as it did in this case. I guess Mr. Justice Thomas finally found a place where harassment and abuse have found a home. Bully for you Mr. Justice. Or should I say Mr. Injustice?

This decision, while not unexpected given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, is ugly. By supporting greed over people, narrow interpretation over ethical concerns, I fear for the future of this nation.

Just as an aside, and I am only speculating on this one, but it is highly possible that Ms. Ledbetter, a southerner, has been voting Republican (if she votes at all) and, by doing so, simply dug her own grave in this case. Wouldn’t that be ironic. Since 1980 the electorate has made it a practice to vote against its own economic interests–another proof for the fact that there is no intelligent design in the universe or, perhaps just no intelligence.

So now we can live with the consequences of the influence of the far right wing, the perfect marriage of government and corporate interests, for some time to come.

clipped from news.findlaw.com
(AP) – WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday limited workers’ ability to sue employers for pay discrimination that results from decisions made years earlier.
The court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that employers would otherwise find it difficult to defend against claims “arising from employment decisions that are long past.”
The case concerned how to apply a 180-day deadline for complaining about discriminatory pay decisions under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming that after 19 years at a company plant, she was making $6,000 (�‚�4,440) a year less than the lowest-paid man doing the same work.
Ledbetter claimed the disparity existed for years and was primarily a result of her gender. A jury agreed, but an appeals court overturned the verdict because she had waited too long to begin her lawsuit.
The decision broke along ideological lines, with the court’s four liberal justices dissenting.

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Clipped from Atlantic Online, this story references Alberto Gonzales’ sinister involvement in the March 2004 warrantless eavesdropping program even after the program was declared unlawful by then AG John Ashcroft, himself no constitutional bargain.The whole article is worth the time to read as it outlines the hubris of the Bush administration as they flaunt the law and the constitution for their own gain.

The bonus is that this administration has a mere 606 days left to spread its brand of authority. Of course, what I fear most, given the recent saber rattling at Iran, including sending a large Navy task force to the Persian Gulf to intimidate the Iranians into giving up their nuclear program. As Bush readies for one more military incursion in the Middle East we must ask how much more war can we take before we lose all that makes America the envy of the world? We are rapidly sliding down the path to isolation from the rest of the world, and to what purpose? The mythical enemy is not Osama Bin Laden, although I have no doubts that he is a really bad guy, rather, the enemy, as Pogo (the comic strip character central to the old Walt Kelly daily strip) once remarked “is us!”

clipped from www.theatlantic.com

E very day that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is allowed to remain in office is corrosive to constitutional governance and an invitation to further politicization of the Justice Department.

That is the main lesson of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s astonishing revelations on May 15 about Gonzales’s sinister involvement in a March 2004 effort to continue a then-secret warrantless eavesdropping program after it had been declared unlawful by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his subordinates.
Meanwhile, the May 14 resignation of Paul McNulty, Comey’s successor as deputy attorney general, further depleted the ranks of principled professionals in the demoralized department, which Gonzales has been filling with inexperienced political hacks. In the words of Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, as long as Gonzales is in charge, “it’s embarrassing for a professional to work for the Department of Justice.”

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Originally posted by Eric Kleefeld | bio at TPC’s Election Central I thought it deserved re-presentation on my blog. Hope I don’t offend you Eric.

Wow, what a guy! Mitt Romney is going up on the air tomorrow in Iowa and New Hampshire with a new attack ad. The target? The state of Massachusetts, whose citizens extended him the honor of choosing him to to be their Governor for one term. “In the most liberal state in the country,” a sinister-sounding narrator intones over the obligatory backdrop over the obligatory backdrop of photos of John Kerry and Mike Dukakis, “one Republican stood up, and cut spending instead of raising taxes. He enforced immigration laws, stood up for traditional marriage and the sanctity of human life.

Just as an additional thought: Aside from being far brighter than George II, Romney (or any other Republican for that matter) will merely be a continuation of the failed politics of the radical right and we don’t need that anymore.

read more | digg story

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clipped from harpers.org
The leading newspaper in the Spanish-speaking world, Madrid’s El Pa’s, puts the blame squarely on the National Rifle Association and reproduces a photograph of Charlton Heston brandishing a rifle. “[C]ontrol measures,“ writes that paper, ”are systematically challenged by an abusive interpretation of the Second Amendment—which was written before there was a National Army or National Guard—says that, ‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep
and bear arms shall not be infringed.’”
In France, Le Monde calls the event a typically American tragedy, highlighting President Bush’s condolence message which incorporated a defense of firearms. “There is no reason to be shocked, since the American chief executive is supported by a party that in 2004 wentas far as refusing to re-approve the prohibition on sales of assault rifles put into place in 1994 by a Congress with a Democratic majority under Bill Clinton.”

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Read these couple of clips from the foreign press is a difficult task. The critique of our national response to the VT shootings, to the gun culture in general is disturbing. And these are our friends. Imagine what the enemies of the United States must think?I think it is shameful that in times of great tragedy our nation becomes the laughing stock for the rest of the world. My dear old grandmother used to mumble the following ethical pronouncement whenever she decided one had done something of which one ought not be proud, “What you did you did yourself and what you did yourself you are responsible for.” This was her translation from Polish and her grasp of English was not so hot, but the meaning was clear even to my ten year old ears when I first heard her speak these words. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTS, FOR YOUR ACTIONS. In my personal life I have honored those sentiments and granny has been gone nearly 30 years. When I read the international response to America as a Cowboy nation obsessed with guns I am ashamed to say that my country’s leaders fail to follow my grandmother’s advice.

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This is an annotation of Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen? – News Bloggers

Dinesh D’Souza exposes his bigotry and, frankly, his stupidity as he slams atheists in this posting. In part he states: “Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning….”

read the annotated post here | digg story

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Yesterday the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the national ban on a midterm method of ending pregnancies sometimes referred to as partial birth abortion. The decision clears the way for states to pass new laws designed to discourage women from having abortions.

Of course President Bush could not keep silent on this one. In a statement issued by the White House, Bush welcomed the decision. “The Supreme Court’s decision is an affirmation of the progress we have made over the past six years in protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life,” he said. “Today’s decision affirms that the Constitution does not stand in the way of the people’s representatives enacting laws reflecting the compassion and humanity of America.”

Somehow, Bush relates the notion of life to the sacred. But has Bush analyzed with any precision what sacred really means? We can look to the work of Giorgio Agamben (1998) as he writes about Homo Sacer (Sacred Life) in the following terms. The sacred is found in a double state of exception between the unpunishability of killing and the exclusion from sacrifice. Agamben’s analysis rests on a snippet from Pompeius Festus from the treatise On the Significance of Words in which Festus writes: The sacred man is the one whom the people have judged on account of a crime (this man has been excluded from the community). It is not permitted to sacrifice this man (to offer him up to the gods), yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide (he may be executed by the state without subjecting the executioner to the crime of murder). Agamben understands the sacred (sacer) then to take the form of this double exception both from the human and the divine sphere of influence, from the profane and the ‘religious’ spheres. The fact that sacrifice is taboo for homo sacer is another way of saying that what already belongs to the gods cannot be offered up to those very same gods and so is excluded from sacrificial consideration. At the same time, the homo sacer is included within the community as he/she takes the form of being able to be officially killed. “Life that cannot be sacrificed and yet may be killed is sacred life (Agamben. 1998, p. 82). Sovereignty lies at the crossroads of this double exception.

The sovereign sphere is the sphere in which it is permitted to kill without committing homicide and without celebrating a sacrifice, and sacred life–that is, life that may be killed but not sacrificed–is the life that has been captured in this sphere (Agamben, 1998, p. 83).

Bush trivializes the sacred when he speaks about upholding human dignity and the sanctity of life. What is really happening here is that the sovereign makes the choice to create an exception for women, to exclude women that opt for termination of pregnancy, to cause those women to become homo sacer. In the case of abortion, this amounts to a minority of religious zealots dictating policy while the rest of us stand by watching. What is being sacrificed here is precisely the sacred, that very quality Bush is so ready to protect. The Bush/Roberts court, by creating the exception that creates homo sacer effectively perpetrates a violence at the crossroads of the profane and the divine that is subtractive of both the profane and the divine.

Justice Ginsburg called the decision alarming. She argued as follows:

It “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away
at a right declared again and again by this court,” she said.

She said this dispute was about how, not whether, abortions would be
performed during the second trimester. Despite Kennedy’s talk of
“promoting fetal life,” the ban on the procedure “targets only a method
of abortion,” she said. “The woman may abort the fetus, so long as her
doctor uses another method, one her doctor judges less safe for her.”

She also called the decision demeaning to women. It “pretends” to protect
them “by denying them any choice in the matter,” she said.

Justice Ginsburg, in referencing the court’s desire to “chip away” at Roe v. Wade scolds the majority for ignoring precedent of over 40 years. If we are a nation of laws, then precedent must rule. I seem to recall that the conservatives yell most loudly about activist courts that simply rewrite the law to suit their needs. It seems that the Bush/Roberts court is turning down the road of activism…but, of course, it is activism that the radical right agrees with so no hue and cry from them now.

Justice Ginsburg’s remarks could also be considered in the light of Agamben’s view of homo sacer. By denying women choice the court excludes women from the process, creating an exception that stands at the crossroads and, therefore, falls within the power of the sovereign to dictate. This is a disturbing development in the democratic experiment called the United States.

References

Agamben, G. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Žižek (2001) makes the claim that in order to break the liberal-democratic hegemony in order to reclaim an authentic radical posture, one must endorse a position that refuses to compromise (in the pragmatic political sense) and be willing to accept both the positive and negative effects of one’s position. To do otherwise is to fall embarrassingly short of the “unconditional ethical demand.” In order to accomplish this goal Žižek suggests that one cannot turn to foundational theorists. He argues that Christ does not become Christian until he encounters St. Paul and later Augustine, bishop of Hippo; that Marx does not become a Marxist until he is interpreted by Lenin; that Freud does not make sense until he is seen first through the eyes of Jung and, finally, through a Lacanian lens. The point made by Žižek is simply this: the revisionists, those that first put into practice that which the foundationalists offer reject the “irresponsibility” of the foundational thinkers. Žižek argues that the foundationalists advocate grand projects, but, when the chips are down, they are unwilling to pay the price for implementing their positions with concrete and often cruel political acts. “Like an authentic conservative,” Žižek writes, “a true Leninist is not afraid to pass to the act, to assume all the consequences, unpleasant as they may be, or realizing his political project.” Žižek goes on to write, “[A] Leninist, like a Conservative, is authentic in the sense of fully assuming the consequences of his choice, i.e. of being fully aware of what it actually means to take power and to exert it.” (emphasis in original)

In brief, what Žižek suggests is that in order to break the strangle-hold of any established institution, in this case perhaps global-liberal-capitalism it is not enough to simply fixate on adjusting the old program to new conditions. To do so is something like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. Change, in Žižek’s terms, is not nostalgia, not more of the same, not a return to the good old days. Change, rather, is brought about by radical acts that are bound up by in but are significantly different than their theoretical origins. Žižek sums up this way: “What Christianity did with regard to the Roman Empire, this global “multiculturalist” polity, we should do with regard to today’s Empire.” This clear reference to Gibbon’s argument that the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of Rome was the root cause of the decline and fall of the once great Empire is arresting. What does Žižek see as the uncompromising force of the 21st Century that will prove to be the underlying action that will bring about the decline and fall of the West?

References

Žižek, S. (2001). On belief. London, UK: Routledge

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Reported by STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer on Yahoo.com

The powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his militiamen on Sunday to redouble their battle to oust American forces and argued that Iraq’s army and police should join him in defeating “your archenemy.” The U.S. nilitary annoucned the weekend deaths of 10 American soldiers, including six killed on Sunday.

Security remained so tenuous in the capital on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the U.S. capture of Baghdad that Iraq’s military declared a 24-hour ban on all vehicles in the capital from 5 a.m. Monday.


There you have it, the surge must be working. The article goes on to report that at least 47 people were found dead on Sunday, 17 of whom were executed and dumped in Baghdad. What a strategy for winning George II seems to have.

While I don’t really want to go out on a limb, I think I will. I am sort of thinking out loud here. These ideas are in the process of forming in my own thinking but I thought it was time to share. It seems to me that the Iraq war is q 21st Century version of the 11th Century Crusades. Christians and the Christian God fighting Muslims and Allah for control over lands that both consider sacred but for very different reasons. In the 21st Century, the sacredness of the land from the Western point-of-view is the oil riches that lie beneath the ground. Nevertheless, the battle is one with deep religious undertones. Islam and the complete submission to Allah and the Western submission to greed and acquisition of great wealth as an outgrowth of Christian theology. Why does Muqtada al-Sadr refer to the United States as the archenemy? Why else, unless this was, at the core, a war for religion and religious supremacy–the control of the Middle East by the West–domination of Islam by Christians? To ignore this possibility is to ignore the historical record. To ignore this possibility is to live in denial.

Think about the fact that it took a fundamentalist Christian president of the United States, backed by NeoCons and evangelical church leaders to engage the United States in the renewal of this ancient battle. Even George I, (remember him–Saddam tried to kill my daddy), had the sense to accomplish military objectives but leave the dictator in power so as not to destabilize the region. Not George II. His goal, to insert a Western democracy in Iraq, code for lets Christianize the Middle East, demanded the destabilization of the country in order to accomplish his goals. What remains is the simple fact that to date over 3,000 American men and women have lost their lives, over 25,000 more are wounded in battle, scarred for life. This does not count the few British soldiers and even fewer coalition force troops that have been killed or seriously injured in this war effort.

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Matt Spetalnick writes in Reuters:

With George W. Bush struggling to stay relevant in his final 22
months in the White House, his administration is looking more and more
like the incredible shrinking presidency.

He finds himself increasingly hemmed in by public approval ratings
stuck in the low 30 percent range, a hostile Democratic majority in
Congress and an unpopular war that has eroded his credibility at home
and abroad.

“The real danger is that the president becomes politically irrelevant,
that he presides instead of leads,” said Terry Madonna, a political
scientist at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania.


As I see it, what Madonna fears has always already been the case. From the beginning of his presidency Bush has acted more like a monarch than an elected representative of the people of these United States. Unlike Truman, who understood the role of president was something more like a caretaker, a temporary trusteeship that, when concluded, will be returned to the hands of the people he was elected to serve, Bush’s regal triumphalism looks far more like that of a crowned head of state than an elected president. Perhaps this is, in part, due to the fact that he was not the peoples’ choice in 2000, rather he was the selection of the magistrates of the Supreme Court. As president select it is not hard to imagine how or why Bush worked all the harder to solidify his very shaky position. The problem, as nearly 70% of Americans now believe, is that he got it all wrong. His policies on education, welfare, and war have been disastrous. The Bush spending policy has turned a Clinton budget surplus into the greatest deficit this nation has ever faced. My grandchildren will be paying the price for the Bush budget for many years after I am long dead. What more harm can come to this nation while Bush retains his authority.

Last week we got a glimpse of his continued arrogance. His appointment of two ambassadorships using the recess appointment when it was clear that the Senate had clear reservations about these appointments is just another case of Bush disregard for the Constitution. Oh sure, the recess appointment is a loophole but isn’t it the Republicans that are on the warpath to close these loopholes? Oops, I forgot, only when the loopholes cause grief to Democrats. When they reward Republican friends of the president, now that must be a different story.

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Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

Read the whole story at Scientific American. Maybe, just maybe, the science will outweigh the mythology.

What is important to remember in this entire non-debate is that scientific investigation is something quite different that belief or faith. In fact, in St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, Aquinas sets forth the a priori that in order to be persuaded by his arguments one must first be a believer, have faith that the word of the Bible is true. If all one intends is to persuade the already persuaded then it seems to me that the argument of intelligent design fails. It persuades only those who believe the literal truth of the Christian bible. For this group of fundamentalists perhaps there is a debate, one that, if evolution is correct, undermines their very belief structure. But for the rest of us, intelligent design is so badly flawed that it is hardly worth the time. Nowhere else but in the United States is there a debate. Nowhere else do people believe that watching The Flintstones is like watching a documentary film. So read on, look at the science; you should find that there is no debate between Darwinian evolutionary science and intelligent design–except among those already persuaded that evolution is the work of Satan himself.

Read the Whole Article | digg story

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From Time.com

The first three months of the new Democratic Congress have been neither terrible nor transcendent. A Pew poll had it about right: a substantial majority of the public remains happy the Democrats won in 2006, but neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid has dominated the public consciousness as Newt Gingrich did when the Republicans came to power in 1995. There is a reason for that. A much bigger story is unfolding: the epic collapse of the Bush Administration.

The three big Bush stories of 2007–the decision to “surge” in Iraq, the scandalous treatment of wounded veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys for tawdry political reasons–precisely illuminate the three qualities that make this Administration one of the worst in American history: arrogance (the surge), incompetence (Walter Reed) and cynicism (the U.S. Attorneys).

I want to comment on the arrogance, incompetence, and cynicism of the Bush administration from a slightly different point of view. While Time focuses arrogance on the Bush insistence on the surge strategy, incompetence on the Walter Reed scandal, and cynicism on the Gonzalez flap over the sacking of US Prosecutors, I want to suggest that all three attributes are contained within the Bush policy on education.

Bush and his appointees at the Department of Education (both Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings) are all three–arrogant, incompetent, and cynical–all rolled up into one neat package. At the core of the issue is the impact on the next generation of Americans.

I begin with arrogance. The Bush administration marches forward with the zeal of reform that is (and never could be) bothered by the facts. I suggest that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation is fatally flawed because of the arrogance of the policy. For example, it is statistically impossible to have all children reading at grade level simply because grade level is an expression of the mean, the arithmetic average, for any given assessment. To obtain a mean score means that there must be at least half of the tested population performing below the mean score. It is arrogant to suggest that test scores can be improved so that all children perform above a mean score. Of course, it is very appealing to the uninitiated.

Incompetence at the DoED is most apparent in the case of incentives offered by student loan companies in order to be placed on a college or university’s “preferred” lender list. Examples cited in the New York Times article included an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean for university officials and their spouses, gifts such as iPods, and bonuses that are based on how much students borrow. Bush’s lack of control over those that work in his administration whether at Walter Reed Hospital or the DoED is striking. This incompetence was tolerated by the Republican Congress that refused to exercise any oversight over the Bush administration.

Finally, the Bush policy on education is cynical at its core. The failure to pay attention to critical research done by respected members of the field, while arrogant to be sure, demonstrates a degree of cynicism in that the leadership is focused only on their ideas and will push them, right or wrong, to the end. If, by cynical we mean believing the worst of human nature and motives; having a sneering disbelief in the actions and thoughts of others, then this failure to address issues raised by others critical of the administration head on is a fine example of cynicism.

The problem with the Bush education policy is that it relegates an entire generation of American children to second-rate experiences in the classroom. The Bush policies destroy curiosity, the desire to know school based knowledge. This is not to suggest that children do not learn things. Just that what they learn comes from outside the schoolhouse. So much research points to the dangerous effects of NCLB and the Bush policies on education, but there he is giving his marching orders to Secretary Spellings to oversee the reauthorization of this flawed act. Arrogance, incompetence, and cynicism all rolled up into a single package…654 more days to go for this, the worst president this country has ever had.

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Appearing in the Peninusla Clarion. The writer demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of both the point of the first amendment and the history of ‘In God We Trust’ as a jingoistic slogan. Now I suppose it is okay for a citizen to be ignorant but for an editor to actually choose this letter for publication is simply unconscionable. See for yourself. I am deeply offended by Shannon’s bigotry, intolerance and anti-intellectualism. Her lack of knowledge and understanding regarding alternatives to faith suggests a world view that excludes cognition and rational thought rather than working toward acceptance and clarity. I am tempted to ask Alice Shannon to stay in Alaska and not wander into the lower 48 but that would be falling into her trap. How about an old fashioned face-to-face debate. Maybe that would be enlightening (pun intended).

Believe or else!

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The issue is important enough to simply present FAIR TEST’s plea for action on the part of all concerned citizens. So here it is. PLEASE TAKE ACTION on this one. Save the children, save the entire next generation from a life of basic skills ignorance.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies are trying to push through fast-track renewal of the fundamentally flawed “No Child Left Behind” law without the public debate it requires. Now is the time for assessment reformers like you to act. Contact your U.S. Senators and Representative today. Tell them NCLB should not be reauthorized unless all these issues are addressed. Ask them to contact the Education Committee and press for adoption of the reforms listed here.

End arbitrary and unrealistic “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) requirements used to punish schools not on track to having all students score “proficient” by 2014. AYP should be replaced by expectations based on real-world rates of improved student achievement. Academic progress should be measured by multiple sources of evidence, not just standardized test scores.

Reduce excessive top-down testing mandates. The requirement that states assess each student every year in grades three through eight (and once in high school) should be reduced to once each in elementary, middle and high school. Over-testing takes time away from real teaching and learning.

Remove counter-productive sanctions. Escalating punitive consequences, which lack evidence of success, should be eliminated. These include requirements to spend money on school transfers and tutoring, as well as provisions calling for the replacement of teachers or privatizing control over schools.

Replace NCLB’s test-and-punish approach with support for improving educational quality. This includes holding schools accountable for making systemic changes through locally controlled professional development and family involvement programs. Federal funding should be more than doubled so that all eligible children receive support.

The thrust of this approach is outlined in the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB with details in Redefining Accountability: Improving Student Learning by Building Capacity. http://www.fairtest.org/FEA_Home.html.

Members of Congress are in their home districts during the first half of April. Take advantage of this opportunity to make your views heard. Personal calls, letters, faxes and visits are much more effective than email. Addresses and phone numbers are available at http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov.

Please take action today. The U.S. will continue to leave many children behind unless your voice is heard.

FairTest Home

FEA Website

FairTest’s FEA Page

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I don’t generally comment on conservative sites, not because they get it wrong but because there is little room for discourse between us. That being said, I thought I would raise a few issues contained in the Townhall.com diatribe regarding higher education.

Townhall.com::The Shame of Higher Education::By Walter E. Williams

Williams writes, in part, An ethnic studies
professor, at Cal State Northridge and Pasadena City College, teaches
that “the role of students and teachers in ethnic studies is to comfort
the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
So my question is simply this. In the Tanach, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, the admonition to care for the widow, orphan, and stranger occurs numerous times. Does Williams suggest that this bit of ethical wisdom is useless, that one has no obligation to take care of the afflicted. When one afflicts the comfortable does that not simply mean that one should make others aware of their ethical obligation deeply embedded in the monotheistic traditions of the West? Maybe I am missing something here.

He goes on to report: UC Santa Barbara’s
School of Education e-mailed its faculty asking them to consider
classroom options concerning the Iraq War, suggesting they excuse
students from class to attend anti-war events and give them extra
credit to write about it.

When Williams references the “School of Education” what or who exactly is he referencing? The school does not send out e-mails. That is sort of like receiving a memo From the Desk Of… I don’t know about you, but I never knew of a desk that could write a memo. By not revealing the author of the memo, Williams is committing the cardinal sin of concealment of factual information that is important to his point. Furthermore, it is important for students to attend events, anti-war or otherwise, and to think critically about those events. Apparently Williams could benefit from that kind of critical thinking himself.

Further, Williams reports: An English professor at
Montclair State University in New Jersey tells his students,
“Conservatism champions racism, exploitation and imperialist war.”
Here the quote is taken out of context. The context is important here. For example, I can envision the quote in the following context: Given the above quote, critically respond to the charge made by the author in light of…and so on. By not revealing the context of the quote Williams fails to give his reader adequate information from which to form a reasoned judgment.

But, isn’t this the tactic of the radical right? To shout out charges without substantiation with the intent of persuading an audience that there is no other approach, no other way of thinking. No need to go into depth when a sound bite will suffice. No need to pursue the facts when charges are what stick in the reader’s mind.

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