Weekly Roundup 11/29/2010

On the Death Sentence
John Paul Stevens, The New York Review of Books, Dec. 23, 2010 (post-dated)

Synposis: The former Supreme Court justice favorably reviews the new book, Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition by David Garland, a professor of law and sociology at New York University. Without taking a position on capital punishment himself, Garland says the death penalty no longer serves either of the two legitimate legal purposes: deterrence or retribution. Instead, he says the death penalty, where imposed, largely amounts to a political and cultural statement: a rejection of liberal humanism and the Supreme Court’s briefly imposed moratorium on the practice.

Takeaway: Stevens believes Garland’s exposition dictates the conclusion that the justice himself reached two years ago: the death penalty represents “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes.”

For background, see Kenneth Jost, “Death Penalty Controversies,” CQ Researcher, Nov. 19, 2010.

Posted by Kenneth Jost, Supreme Court Editor, CQ Press; Associate Editor, CQ Researcher


Take This 1931 8th Grade Test (You Will Probably Flunk)
Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet blog, The Washington Post, Nov. 23, 2010

Synopsis: In 1931, when 8th grade was the final year of schooling for many Americans, getting yourself certified as a bona fide 8th grade graduate must have been pretty hard, based on a geography test from West Virginia. Teachers didn't "teach the test," and students had to rely on the general knowledge they'd accumulated over the course of their schooling to answer questions about topics like how the United States had managed to rise so quickly to become a wealthy world power, what are the principal industries of my home county, and why it rains!

Takeaway: I'd feel a great sense of satisfaction if I could compose cogent answers to each of the questions on this test! Does it suggest that we're teaching and learning in a more superficial way today, or not?

Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher