Weekly Roundup 6/6/2011

"A Second Look at America’s Economic Reality"
Rachel Martin, All Things Considered, NPR, June 4, 2011

"Average Length of Unemployment at All-Time High"
Catherine Rampell, Economix, NYTimes.com, June 3, 2011

Synopsis: Two downbeat looks at employment and unemployment in the United States follow the government’s monthly job report that shows unemployment ticked up to 9.1 percent in May with a meager 54,000 jobs created. Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon tells NPR’s Rachel Martin that he cannot foresee the unemployment rate falling below 7 percent. Catherine Rampell, founding editor of The New York Times’ Economix blog, shows that the average length of unemployment – 39 weeks – is now the highest since the government began tracking the figure in 1948.

Takeaway: Despite the downbeat assessments, NPR’s White House correspondent Scott Horsley says not to expect a jobs stimulus from the federal government. “There's really no appetite now in Washington, even among Democrats, for a repeat of that kind of big aggressive government intervention in the economy,” he says.

For background, see these CQ Researcher reports (subscription required): Peter Katel, “Jobs Outlook,” June 4, 2010; Peter Katel, “Vanishing Jobs,” March 13, 2009.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Watching the Murder of an Innocent Man
Barry Bearak, The New York Times Magazine, June 2, 2011

The Times’ co-bureau chief in South Africa was shown a video of members of a shantytown mob killing a man. Some of the mob members believed that their victim had been part of a criminal gang that had marauded through the settlement, killing two people. Bearak’s exhaustive investigation of the event showed conclusively that the man was innocent. The account of that investigation illuminates not only the horrifying event, but the society in which it occurred. Bearak doesn’t hide his outrage, but doesn’t let it stop him from interviewing two of the mob’s key members to try to understand what impelled them to act as they did. The must-read piece is also a model of journalistic inquiry.

--Peter Katel, Staff Writer


"The International Education Divide"
John Merrow, Huffington Post, May 26, 2011

Synopsis: A new paper from standards-based-schooling advocate Marc Tucker argues that no country whose K-12 schools are top scorers on international-comparison tests uses any of the “silver bullets” that current U.S. school reformers advocate, such as charter schools, certification of teachers without professional education training or pay for performance. Instead, they focus on drawing their teacher corps from the top ranks of college classes, boosting the status of teaching as a profession and making sure students with the most hurdles to overcome get the best teachers.

Takeaway: “Reporters like me weren't allowed to attend the deliberations” at a May meeting in Washington where the paper was discussed, reports PBS education journalist John Merrow. “But I have been told by several people who were on hand that it was a wake-up call for [Obama Education Secretary Arne] Duncan and his staff to learn that no other country was doing what we are betting on.”

For a related story, see my recent CQ Researcher report, “School Reform,” April 29, 2011.

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer