by Max Brantley
I'm turning it over to you.
* Can the poultry industry buy its way out of a pollution lawsuit by pumping money into campaigns of Republicans elected in Oklahoma? Looking that way.
* A reading recommendation, first posted in a comment earlier by Silverback:
If you are interested in public education and the debate on school reform, read this article by Diane Ravitch on the "myth of the charter school." I've mentioned the work of this former school reformer before. If the charter school advocates like Jim Walton were really serious about true competition in the marketplace of ideas, they'd fly Diane Ravitch down to testify when they trot out shills for their proposition to take the lid off charter schools in Arkansas. Their numbers just don't bear up under scrutiny — not in achievement by charter schools, not in the supposed dire state of conventional public education, not in what factors are most critical in shaping student performance. Ravitch also makes the broader point that America's great leveler — the public schools — are in peril. Charter schools are a surrogate means, since vouchers were unpopular, to privatize schools with public dollars — often by for-profit entities.
Public education is one of the cornerstones of American democracy. The public schools must accept everyone who appears at their doors, no matter their race, language, economic status, or disability. Like the huddled masses who arrived from Europe in years gone by, immigrants from across the world today turn to the public schools to learn what they need to know to become part of this society. The schools should be far better than they are now, but privatizing them is no solution.
In the final moments of "Waiting for Superman,” the children and their parents assemble in auditoriums in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley, waiting nervously to see if they will win the lottery. As the camera pans the room, you see tears rolling down the cheeks of children and adults alike, all their hopes focused on a listing of numbers or names. Many people react to the scene with their own tears, sad for the children who lose. I had a different reaction. First, I thought to myself that the charter operators were cynically using children as political pawns in their own campaign to promote their cause. (Gail Collins in The New York Times had a similar reaction and wondered why they couldn’t just send the families a letter in the mail instead of subjecting them to public rejection.) Second, I felt an immense sense of gratitude to the much-maligned American public education system, where no one has to win a lottery to gain admission.