Weekly Roundup 12/13/2010

Class Struggle
Jay Mathews/Valerie Strauss, Washington Post blogs, Dec. 10, 2010

Synopsis: Does funding the KIPP charter schools and the Teach for America program -- which sends recent graduates of elite colleges out for a teaching stint, often of only a few years' duration -- help improve American schools? In this debate between two Post education bloggers -- plus the excellent readers' comment section that follows -- the implications of TFA, and, to a lesser extent, KIPP are pretty thoroughly explored. I'd call this blog ands accompanying comments a must-read if you're interested in the fate of U.S. education.

Takeaway: As Strauss writes: "Can you get a great teacher by plopping anybody -- from Teach for America, or similar programs -- into a classroom after five or so weeks of training? Sure, but outliers don’t make good policy. I won’t mention how insulting it is to professional teachers with traditional training. Look, Jay, there’s no guarantee anybody will be a great teacher. The key is to get rid of the lousy teachers -- and yes, there are way too many -- and help the teachers we do have to improve while attracting people with real commitments to teaching."

Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama
Ishmael Reed

Synopsis: Novelist Reed’s short, readable and thought-provoking essay offers a surprising explanation for why President Obama is “the coolest man in the room.”

Takeaway: If Obama listened to the progressives and those who say he should “man up” and be tougher, he’d be committing political suicide, Reed says.

Tom Colin, Managing Editor, CQ Researcher


Dirty Coal, Clean Future
James Fallows, The Atlantic, Dec. 2010

One of the country’s most influential journalists, who has a bent for science- and engineering-related themes, argues in a long, detailed piece that hopes for replacing coal as a major fuel source are futile. Wind power? He cites a calculation that if wind turbines occupied the windiest 10 percent of Britain, their daily output would equal only one-half the power that Britons consume simply by driving their cars. Some environmentalists already are reacting angrily to Fallows’ reasoning. But he writes that if any hope exists for reducing the global-warming effects of coal consumption, it lies in clean-coal technology. The pioneer in this field? China.

Peter Katel, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


Bin Laden’s Lonely Crusade
Peter Bergen, Vanity Fair, Jan. 2011

Synopsis: Terrorism expert Peter Bergen, who conducted the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, says the 9/11 attacks on the United States amounted to “a strategic blunder” for bin Laden and that al Qaeda has actually weakened in the decade since.

Takeaway: “Keeping the threat in perspective,” Bergen says, “is the best way to prevail.”

Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor, CQ Researcher