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Learning New Things

Re: Kathy Shaidle’s Changing Her Religion:

I enjoyed the article about Irshad Manji’s struggle to stimulate debate and critical thought in the Muslim world. I thought that the author (Kathy Shaidle) gave a very sympathetic and balanced view of the controversy Manji has generated. I have been aware for some time about the release of The Trouble With Islam, but had no idea that mainstream Islamic organizations had refused to publicly debate Manji. Nor was I aware of just to what extent Manji has garnered support — even from fellow Muslims. Once again, great review!
John Palubiski
Montréal, Canada

Re: Jackie Mason & Raoul Felder’s The Wall:

Someone please tell Mr. Mason and Mr. Felder that most critics of the Israeli wall are critics because the wall CUTS INTO PALESTINIAN TERRITORY not b/because of the mere existence of the wall. Go ahead, build your wall for all anyone cares, just DON’T USE IT AS A WAY TO STEAL MORE LAND.

And your comment about the impartiality of the “Palestine Report” is absurd when you look at the flip side of so many pro-Israeli organizations who mask themselves as unbiased groups, e.g., CAMERA and MEMRI. At least the pro-Palestinian groups say who they are up front and don’t trick people.

Lastly, you absolutely can be anti-Zionist and at the same time love and respect Jews in general.
Rashad Daoudi
Chicago, IL

Re: The Washington Prowler’s The Secret Life of Howie Dean:

Didn’t you mean to write about the Secret Life of Rush Limbaugh? Who knew? What a blow to the conservatives.
Mrs. B. Smith

Re: Kevin Michael Grace’s Bathroom Breaks Only:

Kevin Michael Grace concludes, “When the entertainment industry went digital, it made not only the old technology obsolete but also the old copyright law.”

Although Mr. Grace covers a variety of interesting thoughts in the article, I fail to see how copyright law is invalidated simply by virtue of the existence of a new method of delivery. For example: In the past, if one chose to steal printed material by hand copying the content with a fountain pen, would that copyright suddenly become obsolete as more efficient methods of copying (such as photocopy machines) become available?

Hardly, it’s just the opposite. Though the copyright holder may have ignored the limited encroachment possible by hand copying a manuscript, he would be compelled to protect his interests by prosecuting blatant theft via mass-reproduction.
Mark Hessey
Belmar, NJ

Re: Reader Mail’s Neumayr and the Groper:

The differences between Arnie’s and Bill’s behavior essentially are:

(a) Arnie apologized straight away for his past behavior. Bill lied, and lied, and lied.

(b) Arnie did not hold elected public office when he misbehaved.

(c) Arnie’s accusers of his groping mostly choose to remain anonymous, unlike Bill’s accuser of rape.

Sure, groping is unacceptable behavior. But so was what Davis was doing to California, according to the electorate.
Peter Ness
Bardwell Valley
New South Wales

I was surprised (pleasantly) to see my name bandied about in the article today containing other letters from readers. I fancy myself a trouble-maker, so I was delighted to see that several of the folks who corresponded disagreed with my letter regarding the “Big Tent.” I therefore am compelled to write and defend myself.

Actually, as you obliquely surmised, I wrote the letter hoping it would be viewed as satire or “tongue in cheek.” Having now read it again in print in the letters column, I see how it could have been interpreted otherwise. Either way, I love controversy, so in that sense, I was successful. My non-satirical opinions follow:

1. I have no idea whether or not Arnold is guilty of any or all of the accusations against him. If he starts with what “is” is, à la Clinton, then he is probably guilty. My gut instinct says he probably did something crappy, and maybe worse than that. If only I weren’t forced to consider the source: the Lying A** Times. The LAT wouldn’t know fair, balanced and truthful if it hit them in the face. However, the argument by Republicans that this is different, it’s not the same as Clinton, is fallacious. Mr. Tomaselli’s argument that circumstances dictate morality sounds exactly like something Snake Carvillian would say.

2. Arnold is a RINO. Absolutely no doubt about that. I have a feeling that it will become more evident as time goes on. He is no more a Republican than, to paraphrase Mr. Crocker, Joe Lieberman is a “de facto Republican.”

3. He has absolutely no chance with the legislature in California. They will never give an inch to him. This nonsense in the press about a mandate is just bull. California is so gerrymandered no Democrat legislator worries about his job. Haven’t in years. To use a term I borrow from Jed Babbin without his permission, that idea is just a lot of SGO. Mr. Crocker’s statement that now the Republicans in the California legislature will have someone as Governor who will listen to them may be true, but so what? The Democratic majority won’t listen. Or care.

4. Regardless of 1., 2., and 3., Arnold is definitely not a conservative. I am amazed to see people like Fred Barnes practically falling over themselves trying to fit Arnold into a conservative mold.

I guess the upshot of all this is that I agree with you. The Republican Party no longer holds any moral high ground after this election. But by God, we’re pragmatic, aren’t we? For the sake of being able to strut around D.C. telling the world that we now hold the governorship in the four most populated states, Texas, New York, Florida and California, we turned our backs on a true conservative Republican, Tom McClintock, and left him turning slowly in the wind. Mr. Crocker is right, conservatives don’t own the Republican Party. But we are the real difference between the two parties. The percentage of true conservatives in the Democratic Party is tiny compared to the Republican party. Show me a list of all the truly conservative major players in the Democratic Party, and I will show you a very short list.

McClintock can’t win, we were told. But then we find out he had the most favorable impression on the voters, according to the pollsters. Sure enough, he did not win. Pragmatism won. If we can’t have a real Republican, fake ones will do just fine. Come on in, the Big Tent covers everyone. Just perfect!

In West Texas, we have an old saying: “Don’t p**s on my hat and tell me its raining.” That yellow stuff falling out of the Republican sky right now ain’t rain.
Mike Webster
Dallas, TX

Re: Lawrence Henry’s “No Excuses” for Great Teachers, Great Schools:

In his book review, writer Lawrence Henry takes note of what might be termed the combat readiness posture of American public education as our children are being prepared for roll out into the cut-throat international competition of our digitally shrunken world.

Anyone who wants to see how bad it can get should visit our state. We have the only single statewide public school district in the nation … and it shows.

Our so-called state level department of “education” resolutely refuses to define any academic curriculum that would establish what each child is expected to learn in each discipline taught at each grade level. It is up to each teacher to figure that out for him or herself. Result? Chaos. There is no coherence from classroom to classroom much less from school to school or from island to island. Once the classroom door closes, each teacher is free to do as he or she wishes with zero accountability.

Not surprisingly DOE is unable — and unwilling — to establish objectively measurable performance standards aligned to curriculum. Result? It is impossible for a teacher or a parent to actually determine what a student is learning in any coherent, consistent way.

It is also impossible for a principal to evaluate teacher effectiveness by observing the result of what happens in the classroom. Result? Principals rarely visit the classroom. When they do, it is usually a quick hi-g’bye seagull-like pass through the classroom with zero feedback. I have been teaching in this state since 1994. During that interval, I have been formally observed and evaluated in writing a total of once — my first year for 25 minutes by a vice principal.

Adding to this is a personnel transfer policy in which principals move about the state like so many slabs of congealed grease on a hot skillet in furtherance of their careers. Stability, coherence, consistency, long term goals … or accountability for achieving same at any school? Get real. Even while alight on their career perch of the moment at a given school, principals are summoned by the bureaucracy off campus en masse to attend various and assorted “meetings” with mind-numbing frequency.

Add to this the fact DOE will not even promulgate a common grading scale that would quantitatively define the traditional grades of A, B, C, &c. Thus it falls to each teacher to make up his or her own grading scale. I once had a special education teacher tell me that thirty percent should be considered a passing grade. Just now we are “piloting” report cards in some schools that will do away with those pesky traditional grades altogether.

As the federal No Child Left Behind noose draws tighter around the necks of previously comfy career educrats, “new ideas” are being resorted to in desperation. One such “new idea” we teachers were asked to consider late in the Spring is to do away not merely with graded homework, but homework altogether.

None of this stops DOE from inflicting annual “assessment” tests on children — for material they may or may not have been taught — in the pretense of complying with federal No Child Left Behind requirements. Since this NCLB testing began, test scores have actually declined across the board. But who cares? Not very many.

The lavishly funded (now having flooded to the one point four billion per annum level and rising) DOE ad-hocracy can pirouette around problems with a nimbleness Nureyev would have envied. There is always the traditional excuse: more money is needed. And should one dare to ask where this money is to be spent, by whom, for what purpose and with what measurable result in terms of what children learn? Puhleeze.

President George — and I expect especially First Lady (and former school teacher) Laura — Bush have elicited blood freezing (even trouser soiling) terror from the educrats in our system who for the first time in their upwardly mobile career sweep face the prospect of being held accountable for measurable results. Panic is rampant. One example: a recent letter from one of our assistant Supes to various and assorted lesser Supe-lettes around our island state announced the need to pull experienced teachers from classrooms to fatten up the bureaucracy even further in the pretense of “supporting” schools. Like most self-licking ice cream cone bureaucracies, DOE has made it abundantly clear that adult careers count uber alles. What DOE is running is a tax supported, assisted youth living facility system guaranteed to warehouse children for so many hours each week and very little else. As for the kids trapped in the belly of this beast and what they actually learn? To hell with ’em.

At one school where I taught, a veteran 30 plus year “teacher” at that school (who had been relieved of the tedium of actually teaching any classes) had the shameless audacity to say “It’s traditional for our kids to fail in high school” by way of commenting on the fact that 56% of our intermediate school work product failed the first semester of their ninth grade. She was then — hold on to your gag reflex — the “curriculum coordinator” at this school. Welcome to the land of low expectations.

Not surprisingly we have some top notch private schools. A former colleague not only taught school but worked at two other jobs so she could pay the tuition for her son to attend an elite private school. She is by no means the only public school teacher in this state who will not let a child of his or her own attend public school. They see first hand, day in, day out what is done to kids by an uncaring remote bureaucracy interested ONLY in perpetuating its own career-oriented cadre of team players.

During her first months in office, our comparatively new (female, Jewish, mainland born, haole [white], former outer island mayor, REPUBLICAN!) governor introduced legislation that would have put the fate of this wretched hide bound dinosaur into the hands of voters for a decision on whether or not to herd it into the tar pit of oblivion to be replaced by local/county school boards. Our good-old-boy-all-change-is bad state legislators promptly killed that off in committee. Real power is at stake and, after all, kids don’t vote. Besides if future adults were to get a competent education in public schools and master critical thinking skills, many of these political quacks would be given their walking papers in a New York Minute … and well they know it. For those with a vested interest in a lucrative (e.g., non bid/sole source contract modus operandi) status quo, the prospect of an educated citizenry is every bit as terrifying as that of an outraged citizenry. Fortunately for the good old boys, the prospect of either one in the near term is negligible.

The real outrage as far as I am concerned is that our classrooms are populated with bright, enthusiastic, eager children of a tremendously diverse ethnic background; and we have a great many very fine teachers who go the distance for their children because of their love and devotion. Learning does take place, such is the resilience of the human spirit. It does so not because of the DOE hierarchy, but in spite of it. Considering the working conditions and the meager pay given our forty percent cost of living bump here in paradise — especially for new teachers who must be aggressively recruited each year to replace those who bail out — it is my considered opinion that teaching public school in this state is prima facia evidence of a compulsive obsessive personality disorder. No rational person would do it. It is truly a labor of love.

There was once a time when the Kingdom of Hawai’i led the world in literacy. That distinction, like the monarchy itself, is long gone. My surmise? If there is not a determined effort by a heretofore disengaged American public to rescue children from the fangs of an increasingly dysfunctional public education system, what we have here in the middle of the Pacific may be the leading edge of what is about to swamp our mainland brethren. Like the planet itself, change is a wave that rolls eastward.
Thomas E. Stuart
Kapa’au, HI

Re: Hunter Baker’s ESPN and the End of Rational Discourse:

Limbaugh said today that one member of the broadcast team was “uncomfortable” working with him. Based on my observance of Jackson’s sneering rebuttals to Limbaugh’s opinions it’s pretty obvious who was “uncomfortable”. One could argue that Rush was not a player so he shouldn’t have been hired, but Berman never played in the NFL either. The real question is of the players working on the show who doesn’t have a Super Bowl ring? Rush is the best there is at his job. Steve Young has a few rings (one as the starter), Michael Irvin has three rings. Where is Tom Jackson’s ring? Perhaps he’s uncomfortable about that too. We should ask Michael and Steve to leave the show. They’ve been to the top of the mountain but not the sneering Tom Jackson. Romanowski (assuming he’s done) has several rings, he should knock the ringless Tom out of his seat. History is nice, but let’s put a ring winner in the seat.

Re: Roger Ross’s letter (“Where There’s Smoke”) in Reader Mail’s Their Claws Are Out:

Mr. Ross carps about Arnold’s win in a manner similar to all the Mac and LINUX computer nerds who put down Microsoft by calling it “Micro$oft” or just plain M$ for short. (R)nold indeed! If you can’t attack the results, attack the man who attained them. (Can you spell ad hominem?) As far as my two cents regarding George Neumayr’s ongoing plaint about the decline and fall of the Republican party in California, consider this: History is replete with examples of an oppressed people rising up against the repressors upon the appearance of someone charismatic enough to lead them to victory. Consider Castro, Hitler, Lenin, Robespierre, George Washington, Gandhi, the list goes on. Each of them had their own peculiar techniques, and Arnold has his. He has obviously studied the techniques of each — Hitler being only one — with an eye to absorbing what he can use regardless of how he might feel about each’s ultimate philosophies. Think of West Point Cadets studying von Clausewitz to learn military tactics rather than Prussian politics.

The Republicans in California have been sorely beaten up by the lack of good candidates for governor, five years ago and one year ago. But this month they got someone who could win, to whom failure was not an option, who has set his sights on goals in the past and achieved them with, as Disraeli said, “Constancy to purpose.”

Like it or not, if the Democrats in Sacramento block Arnold, unlike Gray Davis he will raise such a media stink about it that they will start thinking twice about derailing the Republican Express, and that will mean more Republicans elected next year, and an inexorable movement toward fiscal responsibility in The Golden State. Then perhaps I can afford to move back to the land that I love.
Bob Johnson
Bedford, TX

Re: Stephen Powelson’s letter (“Patriot Acts”) in Reader Mail’s Their Claws Are Out:

As I read Stephen Powelson’s DNC talking points screed, all I could respond with was “YAWN”!
Greg Barnard
Franklin, TN

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