Saturday, May 29, 2004

This week's agenda: attack the NEA

Certainly looks like this week's corporate/rightwing plan is to attack the NEA, teachers, and teacher's unions. See here and here.An example of one rant:

    I find it ironic, and quite frankly disturbing that groups whose charters expressly define them as bargaining units for a labor force are now mandating education policies for our children. Did any of the parents of these children, any of the school boards who oversee the educational communities accept this mandate? Is it appropriate for a political action group to have more say in what is taught in our classrooms and how our teachers interact with our children than the local school boards charged with overseeing our children's education?
Ahem, like school boards in Westminster who want to change state laws because they don't agree with them? Take a look at some to the things this guy dislikes:
    Consider this, at the 2003 NEA convention in New Orleans the NEA passed resolutions on abortion rights, gun control, homosexuality, terrorism, affirmative action, multi-culturalism, national health care, international relations and immigration; and believes that "efforts to legislate English as the official language disregard cultural pluralism; deprive those in need of education, social services, and employment; and must be challenged." They have championed all of these issues and routinely integrate their positions on these issues into the classroom. It's no wonder that it takes eighth-graders a number of attempts to pass the US Constitution test. They are too busy learning about the rights of gay foreign terrorists who are petitioning the UN to condemn the United States for not embracing an entitlement program for illegal immigrants that want abortions performed by non-English speaking graduates of colleges that favored affirmative action (before anyone writes that there is no such subject matter offered in the California school system like that I will point out that was sarcasm). Isn't it amazing that an organization charged with dealing with teacher's contracts would even have positions on these matters? The phrase "over-stepping their bounds" comes to mind.
As a reminder, the NEA is one of the few groups sponsoring legislative changes to NCLB.


NYT discusses the connection between small class sizes and quality education. The most important point: the disconnect between providing small class sizes and the education bill, NCLB.

Yes, regarding the famed education bill brought to us by the DLC and the Bushies on reducing class sizes, the bill has nothing, nada, zip.

And for the education war? All the rhetoric and data are in place for the education war: high standards, tough accountability, disaggregated data by the truckload. But financing?

No Child Left Behind is superb at finding fault. It has labeled a third of America's schools failing. It has labeled over half of New York City's middle schools failing. Within a few years, almost all city middle schools are expected to carry that label. Fine, fail them all. But where is the money from the states and the federal government to arm city schools with small classes and more good teachers?

Blaming public schools, their principals and teachers for losing the education war feels a lot like blaming the ground troops for losing the Vietnam War. Are we committed to an education war? Do we have the will? I fear that the late Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo, had it right: We have met the enemy and he is us.
There is no money for reducing class sizes. There is not enough money to cover the costs of implementing NCLB. There is a whole lot of talk about improving education especially for low income minority kids. But I'm afraid the bottom line is that the rhetoric is disconnected with true intent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Faux sovereignty

More evidence it's not the real thing:

    British and American troops are to be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have 'full sovereignty' over the state.

    Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any legal action.

    They will only be subject to the domestic law of their home countries. Military sources have told The Observer that the question of immunity was central to obtaining military agreement on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq to be published by the middle of next month.
The troops will be given diplomatic immunity. What kind of deal is that? The creepy thing is that this "immunity was central".

More details emerge in the article. Under "Order 17", the military and contractors already had immunity and this will be a continuation of this immunity.

This may sound innocuous. However, the recent report put out by Amnesty International properly puts this development under a worrisome frame, considering they find the 'human rights climate worst in 50 years'