Saturday, June 11, 2005

Will Warner run?

As I speculated last year, Gov. Mark Warner will probably run for President in '08:

Gov. Mark Warner is taking another step toward a possible presidential run by establishing a federal campaign committee and hiring a top political aide to Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, two advisers said Friday.

Monica Dixon will begin working for the Democratic governor next month and will be paid through a federal leadership PAC Warner is setting up, said Mame Reiley of Alexandria, director of a state political action committee the governor controls.

As the head of the National Governors Association, Warner has made education reform one of his top priorities with the Redesigning High School initiative. If he does run (and he will) and if he makes some headway with the electorate (and he will) then education -- particularly high schools -- will be front and center as a major issue in '07 as the candidates gear up for the Presidential primaries.

KIPPin' it real

I need to visit the KIPP Academy in Austin.

The wildly successful chain of charter schools -- and by successful I mean graduation rates, college placement, etc. -- was featured in the Houston Chronicle yesterday.

The Knowledge Is Power Program has [grown] to 38 schools in 15 states [since its beginning in 1994] and the District of Columbia, preparing what it calls historically underserved students to excel in school and life.

...KIPP students attend school for more than nine hours each weekday, as well as two Saturdays each month and a month during summer. That's about 65 percent more learning time than students receive in traditional public schools, according to KIPP spokesman Stephen Mancini.

...Started by two former Teach for America teachers, Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg, KIPP is spreading exponentially and is being considered for a role in rescuing some Houston high schools from academic decline.

Ten KIPP schools will open in the fall and two more are slated to open in Washington, D.C., the following year, said Susan Shaeffler, principal at KIPP DC: KEY (Knowledge Empowers You) Academy.

Much has been made of the charters that have failed. But here's a network of charters that seems to be succeeding in every conceivable measure. Is there something I'm missing? If not, why aren't we empowering KIPP folks to help outsome of the consistently least successful schools?

No Recruit Left Behind

An editorial appears in the Washington Post today about the recruitment efforts of the US military in public high schools.

This is tough. Anyone who has followed the developments of our various wars knows that the lack of recruits is now causing previously unimaginable challenges to the military. Whatever you think of the wars -- and I think, as more Americans do now than ever before that the Iraqi war was a terrible mistake -- you must acknowledge that we can't just leave. Not until the social and political institutions in Iraq are significantly more developed than they are currently. If we leave, it'll be worse than it was before we came.

So how is the military to find new soldiers? I don't have an answer. But I think it's perfectly reasonable -- as does Diane Paul in the WaPo editorial -- to assert that military recruiting should have nothing to do with No Child Left Behind. When NCLB's reauthorization comes up in two years the section that requires public schools to provide directory information to military recruiters should be removed.

To quote Paul:

What does this have to do with educational reform, what No Child Left Behind is supposed to be about? A letter sent to educators in October 2002 by then-Education Secretary Rod Paige and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is revealing. It states: "Sustaining that heritage [defending freedom] requires the active support of public institutions in presenting military opportunities to our young people for their consideration. Recognizing the challenges faced by military recruiters, Congress recently passed legislation that requires high schools to provide to recruiters, upon request, access to secondary school students and directory information on those students. Both the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 reflect these requirements." It seems obvious that recruitment drives in schools have nothing to with educational reform. This is about our government solving its recruitment problem.

If there are recruiting problems -- and there clearly are -- Congress should pass a law particularly to address that problem. And there should be a debate about their solution. Attaching a requirement for recruiting to an education reform bill is devious and prevents a debate from happening.

The recruiting section of NCLB needs to be removed.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Gays taking over schools!!!

A must read today from the NYT examines the spreading battlefield of the culture wars. Apparently, conservatives now want public school teachers to refrain from even mentioning homosexuals. Perhaps they think that by not acknowledging them they'll just disappear. Seems like a very reasonable, pragmatic course of action, doesn't it?

The whole article is stunning, but I particularly enjoyed this bit of hysteria:

Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of another conservative group, Liberty Counsel, said: "We're concerned about the effort to capture youth through indoctrination into the homosexual lifestyle. Students are a captive audience, and they are being targeted by groups with that as an agenda."

Does Mr. Staver really believe that progressive groups are trying to create homosexuals? Does he really believe that health classes are nothing more than recruitment drives for gays?

Said one student who led a gay-straight alliance group at her school in Columbus, Georgia:

"They're just scared of change," said Kerry Pacer, 17, ... "We live in the Bible Belt. Anything that threatens change, people here don't want that."

Amen, sister. And you know what, Kerry? Things are changing. And that's why the reactionaries are so scared. In the political realm, there have been many highly publicized setbacks for gay rights, but in the social realm, acceptance of homosexuals is at an all-time high and that trend will continue.

President Bush often says that there is a general movement among humanity towards freedom and liberty. Much to the chagrin of his base, he might just be right.
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