Weekly Roundup 2/27/2012

No one is ‘playing politics’ on Solyndra or birth control. This is politics.
Alec McGillis, The Washington Post, Feb. 26, 2012

Synopsis: Politics has become a dirty word, according to New Republic senior editor Alec McGillis, and that’s too bad. Politics “is the art of government, of ordering life among a people,” he writes. And it’s a necessary component of decisions on such issues as government funding of solar energy initiatives (Solyndra), teenagers’ access to contraception (Plan B) or approving job-creating, environmentally risky energy projects (Keystone XL pipeline)

Takeaway: “Americans have long professed disdain for [politics’] grubbier aspects,” McGillis writes. But “who would we rather have making these decisions – our elected representatives, acting with the input of experts . . . . but also with an ear to their constituents, or the experts alone?

For CQ Researcher coverage of recent political trends, see Peter Katel, “Occupy Movement,” Jan. 13, 2012, and “Tea Party Movement,” March 19, 2010 (updated May 23, 2011). For coverage of some of the issues mentioned, see Jennifer Weeks, “Energy Policy,” May 20, 2011; David Hosansky, “Wind Power,” April 1, 2011; and Marcia Clemmitt, “Teen Pregnancy,” March 26, 2010.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor

Cost Doesn't Spell Success for Colorado Schools Using Consultants to Improve Achievement
Jennifer Brown, The Denver Post, Feb. 19, 2012.

Synopsis: The first report in a three-part investigative series by The Denver Post finds that Colorado, like most states, has not closely tracked the approximately one-third of new federal education funding that's going to consultants. The money, intended to help rescue troubled schools, pays for services such as coaching for principals, data analysis and seminars on changing school culture. But the paper finds that achievement still lags at many schools that have paid hefty consultant fees.

Takeaway: "Pueblo City Schools has a three-year, $7.4 million contract with a New York-based school-turnaround company to fix six failing schools. After the first year, school performance scores went down at five of the six schools; the sixth school's performance score didn't change. Out of $8 million in federal turnaround funds the district has received the past two years, $4.2 million has gone to its contracted partner."

For related material, see my April 29, 2011, report, “School Reform.”

Marcia Clemmitt, staff writer

The Greatness of Ike
Ross Douthat, The New York Times, Feb. 26, 2012

Synopsis: Most students today, I fear, know precious little about Ike. But they should. Unfortunately, says columnist Douthat, they won’t learn much from the monument to President Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower planned for the National Mall. The proposed Frank Gehry design fails on a fundamental level, he says. Aside from being an aesthetic disaster, he says, the monument fails to capture the greatness of the man (Supreme Allied Commander, actually) who led the nation – and the world – to victory in World War II.

Takeaway: “Eisenhower deserves a monument that puts him where he belongs — in the very first rank of American leaders — because the nation needs to be reminded of where true presidential greatness lies,” Douthat says. “Plenty of politicians combine inspiring rhetoric with grand ambitions. Far fewer have the gifts required to steer the ship of state away from every rock and reef, and bring it, eight long years later, undamaged into port.”

For current political background, see these CQ Researcher reports: Marcia Clemmitt, “Gridlock in Washington,” April 30, 2010; and Alan Greenblatt, “Future of the GOP,” March 20, 2009. The CQ Researcher Archive contains numerous reports on Eisenhower and presidential politics in the 1950s.

Thomas J. Colin, contributing editor