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Seed Newsvine

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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Seed Newsvine

ANYONE who follows an election campaign too closely will sometimes get the feeling that politicians think voters are idiots. But voters may not be idiots just irrational thinkers. This article presents a nice breakdown of voter biases with economic lessons integrated. The American voter biases are anti-market, anti-foreign, make-work, and pessimism…

THIS IS A FANTASTIC PIECE. Click on the link below to read the whole article.

Read the Whole Article –Click Here | digg story

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Seed Newsvine

Yesterday Education Week reported the results of a study by the National Center for Education Statistics that calls into question the efficacy of state educational assessments required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. In part, Education Week wrote:

Many of the states that claim to have large shares of their students
reaching proficiency in reading and mathematics under the No Child Left
Behind Act have set less stringent standards for meeting that threshold than lower-performing states, a new federal study finds.

The
study drew an immediate and strong reaction from many public officials
and education advocates, who said it laid bare states’ vastly divergent
standards for testing students.

The report judges states’ reading and math tests against a common yardstick: the proficiency standards used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.”

Released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics,
the analysis appears to back up the suspicions of those who have cast a
skeptical eye on state data showing high percentages of students
reaching the “proficient” level in reading and math.

But researchers who were asked by the Council of Chief State School Officers
to review the study’s methodology cited what they see as flaws in
comparing two dissimilar sets of exams: NAEP and those administered by
states.

Even so, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings called it “sobering news” as the nation seeks to raise
academic demands on students.

States “must do their part by
setting high standards and expectations,” she said in a statement. “I
hope this report will be a catalyst for positive change.”

The
study was issued June 7, two days after a separate report by an
education policy group showing that student scores on state tests have
risen since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, which
President Bush signed into law in January 2002. (“State Tests Show Gains Since NCLB,” June 6, 2007.)

There are many reasons that state testing shows greater gains than that of the NAEP scores, not the least is mentioned above, that the tests are dissimilar and therefore do not measure similar things. That, however, is a straw man when it comes to practical significance. Policy makers and both liberal and conservative think tanks have used comparisons of state testing and NAEP over and over to make their case that NCLB is flawed or is working just fine (it all depends on one’s political lens). What is clear, however, is that there is a discrepancy between NAEP scores, which remain flat and state tests, which show an increase in student performance since 2002, the year NCLB went into effect.

The emphasis in NCLB policy on annual performance growth has altered the face of educational practice in the United States. School children and their teachers now spend more time in preparation for testing where they learn formulas for appropriate performance on testing instruments designed by state boards of education. In some estimations, in a 180 day school year, students and teachers spend between 80 and 100 full days preparing for testing. This amounts to fully half of the school year spent in preparing for the state tests. Even of this estimate is on the high side (let’s reduce it by 1/2) the fact still remains that children are spending 25% of their academic year learning formulas for passing the test so the school’s AYP passes the muster of NCLB.

Because schools spend so much of their time engaged in test preparation, little time is left for rigorous academic inquiry. Students no longer study the arts, engage in social studies education and science instruction is somewhere on or near the back burner. What counts is reading and mathematics. But, reading about what? Math in relationship to what? Teaching reading and math (by the way it is not really mathematics that is being taught rather it is arithmetic) in isolation does nothing to provide a context for either reading or math. These subjects become tasks to do, something like doing the laundry. They get done because one must do them but one does not necessarily have to like doing them.

High-stakes testing provides a climate in which students and teachers must focus on the testing and not on instruction or learning. In a recent conversation with a focus group of high school juniors that I recorded as part of a study I am currently working on, I asked the students about their recent performance on a written take-home exam. The results of the papers that the students turned in was disappointing. The writing was formulaic, showing no creative thinking but sticking closely to conventions and structural components that are appropriate on state mandated tests. One of the students said, “I really don’t know how to write any other way. That’s all I’ve ever been taught. All my life I learned the 5 paragraph essay and now, sadly, i have to learn a whole new way to write.” Another member of the focus group wondered, “Why do you teach us this style for so long and then tell us we have to go beyond. I’m confused.” My point is simply that these students clearly can and, when given a chance, do articulate significant problems with high-stakes testing and NCLB.

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Seed Newsvine

Reuters reports this afternoon that:

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday responded to the deadliest shooting rampage in modern American history by passing legislation to help keep guns out of hands of the mentally ill.On a voice vote, the House sent the measure — which would be the first major gun control bill enacted since 1994 and bolster background checks for gun buyers — to the Democratic-led Senate for needed concurrence.

The bill was drafted in consultation with the 4 million-member National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun-rights group, after a deranged gunman killed himself and 32 others in April at Virginia Tech university.

“I think the chances are very strong that we can get this passed in the Senate,” said Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, provided the legislation is not laden with amendments that gun rights backers find objectionable.

It is a start. Interestingly the NRA apparently participated in the drafting of this bill–has the leadership of the NRA finally come to their senses. Gun control does not mean depriving Americans of the right to own weapons. It does not mean that Americans cannot hunt or participate in the infantile sport of shooting at paper targets. Gun control doesn’t even mean that one is deprived of the right to join the militia. As I have blogged many times before, making it more difficult to place weapons in the hands of those that are likely to to harm to themselves and others reduces the probability that another Virginia Tech is imminent. Hooray for the courage of the House. Now will the Senate follow suit? Will the lame duck sign legislation that limits placing guns in the hands of the mentally incompetent? All I know is that it is a beginning. I for one will be watching for the outcome.

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Seed Newsvine

Education Week reported on June 8th:

House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.

In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.

But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.

“This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.

Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.

“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”

This should come as no surprise given the recent questions about how the DoED administered the Reading First program. Surrounded by questions of improper ethics and outright fraud when it came to forcing DIBLES on school districts large and small, draining much needed funds away from the classroom, the bipartisan support of this spending cut makes a great deal of sense.

The DoED, like other embattled Bush administration departments, is keeping a stiff upper lip claiming no ethical violations and that the Democrats are undermining the ability of the urban poor to learn. What they forget is that this legislation will most likely leave the committee with full bipartisan support. Republicans as well as Democrats have simply had enough of this scandal ridden White House. Of course, it is easy to take a stand when those directly effected by that stand are not voters.

Where is this kind of bipartisanship when it comes to the blatantly political Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales? But that is for another post…

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Seed Newsvine

FactCheck.org summarized the latest Republican hopefuls debate writing

Pollsters will inform
us whether the third time was the charm for any of these candidates in
the eyes of potential voters. All we can do is remind you not to
believe everything you hear.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney committed the biggest factual fouls of the night, misleadingly asserting:


  • That we went to war in Iraq because Saddam Hussein refused to allow weapons inspectors to come in
  • That
    there’s an ocean of difference between his Massachusetts health plan
    and those “government takeover” plans of “every Democrat” running for
    president and
  • That Russia’s income from oil exports is vastly larger than it actually is.

Other candidates committed factual trespass, too. Sen.
John McCain of Arizona ignored the waste disposal issue when he praised
nuclear power for being green, for instance, and Kansas Sen. Sam
Brownback exaggerated the number of illegal immigrants living in the
United States.

So things are getting better. Mitt Romney needs to do more research before he opens his mouth as he works to spin his future as President of the United States–I mean, we deserve better from presidential candidates than misleading statements and exaggeration of facts that are easily checked. While the others misspoke a bit there was nothing there that cannot be attributed to bombast and zeal.

I keep making the point that the American people deserve more from those that would seek positions of extreme leadership. Both the Democratic and Republican candidates seem to think that telling any old kind of story is appropriate because the folks that will be voting for them will not care enough to dig beyond the spin. We are all at fault because we have let politicians get away with campaigning on spin rather than on ideas and truth. The press fails to call political candidates on their gross errors. The politicians feel the need to out-perform one another as if running for president was nothing more than a long running series like American Idol.

One way to eliminate the problem might be to shorten the campaign season. Two years of running for president is far too long and far too costly to produce anything more than mediocrity in the long term.

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clipped from www.factcheck.org
Amid barbs on Iraq, there were exaggerations on energy, insurance and other issues in the second debate of candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Among those we found:
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware wrongly cast Iran as a nation running out of oil.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina talked about gas price manipulation by Big Oil where investigators have found none.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd used old figures that are almost 2 million too high when stating the number of uninsured.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton lumped all the Republican Presidential candidates together when it came to their support for the war. That’s not quite right.

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FactCheck.org found no whoppers but the Democrats were not without their own version of spin. The entire article can be read by clicking on the clipped from www,factcheck.org above.While I support one of the Democrats, it is important that they be called on their own spin.

Sometimes spin arises from confusion.

FairCheck, pointing to confusion by Senator Obama, said:Did Sen. Barack Obama confuse people and cars when discussing auto insurance in California?

Obama: And, in fact, if you look at auto insurance, in California, there’s mandatory auto insurance – 25 percent of the folks don’t have it. The reason is because they can’t afford it.

The Insurance Research Council, a research firm funded by insurance companies, does indeed place the number of uninsured drivers at 25 percent. However, according to a study commissioned by the California Department of Insurance, between 25.5 and 30.9 percent of vehicles in that state don’t have insurance. The department estimates that approximately 10 percent of vehicle owners own at least one uninsured vehicle, and of those, only about 42 percent have no insured vehicles. That translates into approximately 4 percent of drivers who do not have auto insurance. Obama is correct to say that of the pure uninsured, most cite cost as their reason for not carrying auto insurance.

The simple truth is that spin and slogans ru(i)n American politics. The political process is reduced to sloganism, to a Madison Avenue mentality. It is the sincere hope of the politician that his or her message of hope through blame will convince enough voters to assure their ascension to the seat of power.

Are we that stupid? Can we not be trusted with the truth absent of all spin? Can we not make decisions based on the merit of one;s argument rather than the cleverness of one’s rhetoric? Do our leaders and potential leaders, in their lust for political power and their sanctimonious desire to define what is right for everyone, not owe us more respect? I think they do. Stop the hype and tell the truth for a change. You may like the way it fits.

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