Your hosts in the Hall of Super Justice:

Conservator: The Red-Blooded, Blue-Collared American Hero
Captain Capitalism: Valiant Protector of a Free Market
Libertaria: With her Bureaucratic Shrink Ray
The Dynamic Uno: A Lone Force Against Idiotarian Evil
Senator Stupendous: Mild-Mannered Page by Day

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Captain: Michelle Malkin points out what the school board in Worcester, Mass. has assigned for summer reading:

Have you checked your child's summer reading list? Beware: Some lame-brained school officials have decided to ditch the sonnets of Shakespeare for the tripe of Tupac.

That's slain gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur -- the drug-dealing, baseball bat-wielding, cop-hating, Black Panthers-worshiping, convicted sexual abuser who made a fortune extolling the "thug life" before he was gunned down in Las Vegas eight years ago.

Teachers in Worcester, Mass., have embraced Shakur's posthumously published book of poems as a way to get middle school students' attention. "We wanted to include books that kids would want to read," Michael O'Sullivan, a member of the summer reading list selection committee, explained to the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester last month before school let out. ''Reading counterculture in schools, and to get kids to read anything that is not completely objectionable, is the goal,'' Deputy Superintendent Stephen E. Mills echoed.

Frances Arena, manager of curriculum and professional development of the Worcester Public Schools, told me this week that Shakur's book will remain on the list for the foreseeable future because it "heightens awareness of character education" and, more importantly, because it's "popular with the kids."

Helen Rittelmeyer: Rich Lowry's article "Where's the Misery?" is probably the most accurate piece on higher education I've read so far this year, as someone who just finished ten months deep inside the college admissions process.

Tuition hikes and increased availability of financial aid form a vicious circle in which students pay only a fraction of official tuition price, various aid programs (federal, state, and private) pay the difference, and colleges keep the profits. The money from higher tuition, for the most part, doesn't go towards improvement in the quality of education provided at the college. Colleges are simply seeing this opportunity to multiply profits, and are taking it. There's no reason why they shouldn't.

It doesn't mean that Kerry should play into their hands with this new college aid initiative. Lowry explains:
The game for universities is obvious — hike official tuition rates ever higher. Then everyone thinks students cannot afford college and plies them with more aid, which ends up lining the pockets of the schools. It's one of the great scams of our time, and Kerry has been happy to play along by hyping nominal tuition increases and promising yet more aid. He is the dream candidate of greedy college administrators.

The problem isn't that students hungry for knowledge are being frozen out from college, but the opposite. Marginal students take their generous aid and go to colleges that don't teach them. Eighty percent of universities aren't selective, e.g. more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check. Only 37 percent of first-time freshmen graduate in four years, and only 60 percent graduate in six years. Universities are happy to take money from unprepared students and fail them right back out, or dumb down their standards to stay on the government-aid gravy train.

Something Lowry doesn't mention, but which makes his argument even stronger, is that most of the aid available is based on financial need and not academic merit, which means that universities not considered selective (those which, as he put it, are "more or less happy to accept anyone who shows up with a check") have no incentive to accept outstanding applicants that would make their schools more competitive. Instead, they accept students likely to receive large amounts of need-based scholarships, students who are not necessarily the most qualified ones, all while raising tuition further.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: Even if the facts in David Brooks' column this morning ("Age of Political Segregation") are right, and Betsy Newmark seems to doubt they are, Brooks is still drawing the wrong conclusions.
To a large degree, polarization in America is a cultural consequence of the information age. This sort of economy demands and encourages education, and an educated electorate is a polarized electorate.

In theory, of course, education is supposed to help us think independently, to weigh evidence and make up our own minds. But that's not how it works in the real world. Highly educated people may call themselves independents, but when it comes to voting they tend to pick a partisan side and stick with it. College-educated voters are more likely than high-school-educated voters to vote for candidates from the same party again and again. . .

Once you've joined a side, the information age makes it easier for you to surround yourself with people like yourself. And if there is one thing we have learned over the past generation, it's that we are really into self-validation.

Educated voters are more likely to vote consistently not because education turns people into ideologues, but because educated voters actually vote based on parties' positions on the issues (which stay essentially the same from election to election), whereas less educated people vote for the candidate with the coolest name.

Well, that may be overstating it. Still, the reason why politicians care about silly things like their hairstyles is that those are the things that influence the votes of of most Americans.

It is appropriate that on the same day the Time published Brooks' editorial, it reported that only 27.2% of Americans even have bachelor's degrees.

Helen Rittelmeyer: There has been much discussion of whether the Iraqi government can have sovereignty if they still answer to the United States. This article from Sunday's Washington Post ("U.S. Edicts Curb Power of Iraq's Leadership"):
Some of the orders signed by Bremer, which will remain in effect unless overturned by Iraq's interim government, restrict the power of the interim government, and impose U.S.-crafted rules for the country's democratic transition.

It's like allowing the Supreme Court to rule a constitutional amendment unconstitutional. (Which, in India, it can. Go figure.)

Also, the idea that a seven-member commission has "the power to disqualify political parties and any of the candidates they support" (CPA Order No. 97) has been widely criticized, and for good reason.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Helen Rittelmeyer: I always enjoy stories about the Reverend Sun Myung Moon because he's such an absurd character, but I think the recent "having himself crowned Messiah at a bipartisan gathering of Congressmen" story is particularly delicious, and not just because it involves a grown man playing dress-up.

What makes this story noteworthy is the tone of recent statements by the Congressmen in attendance, especially Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.). Representative Davis was the one holding the purple pillow on which Rev. Moon's crown rested during the ceremony.

It's my understanding that what they were doing was recognizing Mr. and Mrs. Moon as parents. They call it true parents, as parents who provide parental guidance or parental direction. That's what it meant to me. It meant nothing more and nothing less.

I'm not one to demand that every organization vocally denounce its fringes every time those fringes act up (especially not during this season of Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11), but I don't think it's naive of me to expect a stronger denial.

Also, I'm worried that if "providing parental guidance" gets you a crown now, my mom's gonna want one.

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