Commentary Magazine


Topic: Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch’s Sexist and Tendentious Attack on an Education Reformer

In the past I’ve had my differences with Jonathan Chait, but he does a splendid job of eviscerating Diane Ravitch, an education historian who has become among the most prominent defenders of teacher unions.

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In the past I’ve had my differences with Jonathan Chait, but he does a splendid job of eviscerating Diane Ravitch, an education historian who has become among the most prominent defenders of teacher unions.

Ms. Ravitch has undergone a radical change in her views. She was once a vocal advocate for reforms; she’s now among the fiercest public critics of reform. More on that in a moment, but let me begin by setting the context.

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi did a profile of Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor turned education-reform activist. One of Ms. Brown’s concerns is teacher tenure, which she (rightly) believes protects terrible teachers from accountability and creates the wrong metric by which to judge teachers. Apparently this was too much for Ms. Ravitch, who said this:

“I have trouble with this issue because it’s so totally illogical,” says Diane Ravitch, an education historian. “It’s hard to understand why anyone thinks taking away teachers’ due-process rights will lead to great teachers in every classroom.”

As for Brown, Ravitch is dismissive: “She is a good media figure because of her looks, but she doesn’t seem to know or understand anything about teaching and why tenure matters. . . . I know it sounds sexist to say that she is pretty, but that makes her telegenic, even if what she has to say is total nonsense.”

To which Chait responds, “Why, yes, that does sound rather sexist.” He goes on to explain why the elimination of our current system of teacher tenure would help attract better teachers, including pointing out that last-in, first-out hiring rules lead to teachers being let go regardless of quality. “The basic problem is that some proportion of American teachers is terrible at their job and immune to improvement, yet removing them is a practical impossibility,” Chait writes. (He supplies an overview of the research here.)

“In most fields,” Chait adds, “your pay is based on your perceived value rather than on the number of years you have spent on the job.” He goes on to say of various reforms, “nearly all of them work better than paying people on the basis of how long they’ve held a job and making it functionally impossible to fire them for being terrible at their job.”

Some final thoughts, the first of which is that it’s a shame that Ravitch has become such an angry and embittered critic of those arguing for many of the reforms she once favored. In a devastating COMMENTARY magazine review of Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Liam Julian of the Hoover Institution wrote her book was “nothing less than an act of emotional and ideological capitulation to those who fought her tooth and nail all along the way.” Changing one’s mind is not in principle wrong, of course, but in Ms. Ravitch’s case her complete shift on education reminds me of the words of Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons: “Listen, Roper. Two years ago you were a passionate Churchman; now you’re a passionate — Lutheran. We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning, your face is to the front again.”

In the course of her volte-face, Ms. Ravitch hasn’t simply shifted her views; she’s gone from being a serious scholar to an intemperate polemicist. (See Sol Stern’s Autumn 2013 essay in City Journal, “The Closing of Diane Ravitch’s Mind,” for more.) Her sexist attack on Campbell Brown, while ludicrous, was entirely in keeping with her corrosive and dyspeptic rhetoric these days.

As for Ms. Brown, she put things rather well in the profile by Farhi:

I’m a mom, and my view of public education begins and ends with the fundamental question: Is this good for children? In a situation where it’s the child or the adult, I’m going with the child…. Tenure is permanent lifetime employment. There’s no reason why anyone’s job should become untouchable for the rest of their life.

To be an advocate for the education and wellbeing of children is a rather high calling, even if the advocate happens to be attractive as well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

Jim Geraghty observes: “Very few of the most memorable moments from Obama’s successful campaign involve him and another person, one-on-one or in a small group; generally it was he, alone, standing before the masses and keeping them enthralled.” Maybe one-on-one he just doesn’t have anything interesting to say.

What is so interesting about Robert Gibbs’s insistence that the Iraq War is one of the Obami’s greatest achievements is the new-found incredulity of the Washington press corps. The reporter asks, “Given that the Vice President was in favor of a partial partition of the country and the President opposed the surge that helped stabilize it, how is that one of the President’s great achievements?” and then follows up, “But the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the President took office.” It’s almost as if the romance is over.

Diane Ravitch cracks: “I am happy to see that President Obama is taking charge of the decision about where to site the KSM trial. I hope he will put it in Chicago, his own home town. After all, Chicago missed put on the Olympics. Why not let it have what is sure to be the trial of the century? A great place to test Eric Holder’s theory about giving these terrorists civilian trials.”

James Taranto smells a “climb down” on civilian terrorist trials: “According to Holder, the location and forum for the trial are not very important. According to the [Washington] Post, they are so important that the president of the United States is actually getting involved with policy decisions (although come to think of it, isn’t that supposed to be part of his job?). This circle is easily enough squared. The administration’s actions suggest that it not view the matter as substantively important. It is now clear that Obama and Holder didn’t even take it seriously enough to bother thinking through such obvious questions as whether a New York trial was logistically feasible or what to do in the event of an acquittal or an overturned conviction.”

Lenny Ben-David spots the J Street connection to the letter signed by 54 Democrats, which seeks a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. He also says: “The ‘word on the street’ now is that several members of Congress are disassociating themselves from their letter, much the same way members pulled out of J Street’s national conference in October 2009.”

Another at-risk Democrat: “North Dakota may be shaping up to be dangerous territory for the state’s other longtime Democratic incumbent, too. Senator Byron Dorgan has already decided not to seek reelection, and now a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Congressman Earl Pomeroy in close match-ups with two of his three likeliest Republican challengers.”

I’m not sure slamming George W. Bush is the way for Tim Pawlenty to get in the graces of the conservative base. For one thing, many of those voters remain very loyal to Bush. And even to those who were critical of him, in retrospect, he looks pretty darn good. But Pawlenty sure has been “frenetic.”

Charles Krauthammer observes: “When President [Obama] spoke earlier in the week about [uranium] enrichment, he made a point of calling the regime ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran.’ There were demonstrators in the streets today shouting ‘Republic of Iran,’ leaving out ‘Islamic’ as a way of saying: We don’t want clerical rule. Why the president insists on this gratuitous giving of legitimacy by using the preferred term of the mullahs is beyond me.” Well, the one explanation that makes sense: Obama thinks that the protesters, not the mullahs, are on the losing side, and wants to keep up the ingratiation gambit with the regime.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not content to lose just Massachusetts, key Democrats want to keep at ObamaCare negotiations: “There is a still sizable contingent of Democrats who continue to believe failure is not an option, even though their voices have been softer since the Senate loss in Massachusetts. Obama, Pelosi and Reid, by all accounts, still agree with this thinking and remain sincerely committed to pushing ahead. Most Democrats have already voted for the bill, making them more invested in finishing the job than their counterparts were in 1994.”

No, honest: “President Obama’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system is officially on the back burner as Democrats turn to the task of stimulating job growth, but behind the scenes party leaders have nearly settled on a strategy to salvage the massive legislation. They are meeting almost daily to plot legislative moves while gently persuading skittish rank-and-file lawmakers to back a sweeping bill.” They would be skittish, of course, because  two-thirds of the country hates the legislation.

But you can understand that Democrats want to run on something other than failure: “The $700 billion bailout program for the financial industry has so far done little to boost bank lending, aid small businesses or reduce home foreclosures, a top government watchdog said in a report. Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general over the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a report that while the bailout has helped stabilize the financial system, many of the program’s original goals have not been met.”

And they probably don’t want to run on their fiscal management because: “the White House expects the annual gap between spending and revenue to approach a record $1.6 trillion this year as the government continues to dig out from the worst recession in more than a generation, according to congressional sources. The red ink would recede to $1.3 trillion in 2011, but remain persistently high for years to come under Obama’s policies.” Yes, the spending “freeze” is really just for show.

And their good-government pledges are nothing to brag about: “The recent awarding of a lucrative federal contract to a company owned by a financial contributor to the Obama presidential campaign — without competitive bidding — ‘violated’ President Obama’s many campaign pledges to crack down on the practice, a top State Department official told Fox News.”

Seems the voters don’t think Obama gets a B+: “Just 19% of voters nationwide believe that President Obama achieved most of his goals during his first year in office. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% hold the opposite view and say he did not accomplish those goals.”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden has convinced Diane Ravitch of Brookings: “I realized that Eric Holder has misplaced priorities. He Mirandizes suspected terrorists (alleged terrorists, that is), and vigorously pursues CIA agents. Holder should go.”

Conservatives should give the president some credit: “It took a year, but one bright spot in President Obama’s State of the Union was that he bothered to say nice things about trade. ‘We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are,’ he said. ‘If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.’” Now let’s see if Obama’s party will move trade deals through Congress.

Not content to lose just Massachusetts, key Democrats want to keep at ObamaCare negotiations: “There is a still sizable contingent of Democrats who continue to believe failure is not an option, even though their voices have been softer since the Senate loss in Massachusetts. Obama, Pelosi and Reid, by all accounts, still agree with this thinking and remain sincerely committed to pushing ahead. Most Democrats have already voted for the bill, making them more invested in finishing the job than their counterparts were in 1994.”

No, honest: “President Obama’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system is officially on the back burner as Democrats turn to the task of stimulating job growth, but behind the scenes party leaders have nearly settled on a strategy to salvage the massive legislation. They are meeting almost daily to plot legislative moves while gently persuading skittish rank-and-file lawmakers to back a sweeping bill.” They would be skittish, of course, because  two-thirds of the country hates the legislation.

But you can understand that Democrats want to run on something other than failure: “The $700 billion bailout program for the financial industry has so far done little to boost bank lending, aid small businesses or reduce home foreclosures, a top government watchdog said in a report. Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general over the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), said in a report that while the bailout has helped stabilize the financial system, many of the program’s original goals have not been met.”

And they probably don’t want to run on their fiscal management because: “the White House expects the annual gap between spending and revenue to approach a record $1.6 trillion this year as the government continues to dig out from the worst recession in more than a generation, according to congressional sources. The red ink would recede to $1.3 trillion in 2011, but remain persistently high for years to come under Obama’s policies.” Yes, the spending “freeze” is really just for show.

And their good-government pledges are nothing to brag about: “The recent awarding of a lucrative federal contract to a company owned by a financial contributor to the Obama presidential campaign — without competitive bidding — ‘violated’ President Obama’s many campaign pledges to crack down on the practice, a top State Department official told Fox News.”

Seems the voters don’t think Obama gets a B+: “Just 19% of voters nationwide believe that President Obama achieved most of his goals during his first year in office. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% hold the opposite view and say he did not accomplish those goals.”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden has convinced Diane Ravitch of Brookings: “I realized that Eric Holder has misplaced priorities. He Mirandizes suspected terrorists (alleged terrorists, that is), and vigorously pursues CIA agents. Holder should go.”

Conservatives should give the president some credit: “It took a year, but one bright spot in President Obama’s State of the Union was that he bothered to say nice things about trade. ‘We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are,’ he said. ‘If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores.’” Now let’s see if Obama’s party will move trade deals through Congress.

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The Best We Are Going to Do?

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example – that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

Diane Ravitch observes:

Our president must somehow wake up to the idea that he can’t “engage” people who strap suicide belts to their bodies or who drive cars loaded with explosives into crowded areas. No amount of outreach, no concessions, no sweet talk will persuade them to abandon their jihadist ideals. They are not persuadable. They are fanatics. They don’t care if we close Gitmo or give their brethren Miranda rights. They live to die, preferably by causing the deaths of many others, be they Christians, Muslims, Jews, Americans, or Europeans. They kill indiscriminately. That’s the nature of terrorism. Panetta knows this. When will Obama figure it out?

Obama’s spinners and wishful observers contend that Obama has figured this out. Or he will. Or there are hopeful signs that he will. And yet, if the light had dawned, one would expect some telling sign of a revelation — a shift in policy on Guantanamo or a short-circuiting to the KSM trial, for example – that Obama is convinced that our enemies must be defeated with every tool at our disposal, not talked out of their grievances. We have seen no such sign. Likewise on Iran, after many got their hopes up, we aren’t yet hearing about the prospect of those crippling sanctions. If anything, Obama has been consistent — some would say bull-headed — in his refusal to adjust his policies despite a plethora of evidence that engagement only works with those who wish to be engaged.

Among Obama’s advisers (including his chief of staff and secretary of state) as well as his most dutiful pundit cheerleaders, the talk is still engagement-happy. Clinton says we are leaving the door open for the mullahs — just in case they want to give up their nukes and stop murdering their citizens. Rahm Emanuel speaks fondly of the Cairo speech as a great achievement,  as if we are expected to avert our eyes from the results of their shockingly counterproductive Middle East policy. You would think those working for Obama would be brandishing new talking points if in fact we were in for a course correction.

Some of Obama’s media enablers swear that Obama turned a corner. Eleanor Clift reports that she spotted the president’s “inner outrage” over the Christmas Day attack. Really? Hard to spot it amid all that deadening bureaucratic talk. And hard to believe it, given that no one is to be fired and no fundamental policy assumptions are to be re-examined. It would be nice to think that Obama will “grow in office” — what conservatives are always urged to do (otherwise known as accommodating liberals). Unfortunately, he appears rather stuck in his ways. Unless Congress seizes the reins on some of these issues or the voters deliver a blow that cannot be ignored in the 2010 elections, I suspect we’re going to see more of the same. So, to answer Ravitch’s question, I don’t think Obama will figure it out any time soon, perhaps ever.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Let’s hope it’s not true: “Sen. John Kerry has filed a formal request to visit Iran, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday — news made public in the middle of the government’s bloody crackdown on dissidents that has left more than a dozen dead.” It would be frightful if the Obami foreign policy toward Iran were this incoherent.

Meanwhile, outside the Obami cocoon: “Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Diplomats said the assessment was heightening international concern about Tehran’s nuclear activities.”

MSNBC going into rehab? It is redoing its daytime lineup. “MSNBC may need to prove its news commitment to viewers. With news of the attempted terrorist attack on a plane bound for Detroit breaking late on Christmas, the network stuck with pre-taped programming. CNN and Fox covered the story much more extensively.” The solution? “MSNBC will pair Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie for one hour at 9 a.m. in a newsy, nonpartisan look at the day’s upcoming events.” In MSNBC parlance, “nonpartisan” means no “Bush=Hilter” comments.

Hannah Rosenthal denies that slamming the Israeli Ambassador was out of bounds. Or it was taken out of context. (The “system worked”? No, that’s another gaffe-prone Obama flack.) In any event, she, as Shmuel Rosner points out, is picking up friends with the Israel-bashing crowd and is “on the way to becoming their new martyr.”

Second time is the charm? “Mr. Obama has been seeking to counter criticism that he was out of touch in the aftermath of the foiled plot, which took place Friday. For the first three days, he delegated public statements to subordinates before giving a statement Monday.” It would  be nice if he got it right the first time. (One wonders what the White House’s internal polling must show about the public reaction to its handling of the terror attack.)

And it certainly doesn’t look as though Abdulmutallab was an “isolated extremist”: “The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner had his suicide mission personally blessed in Yemen by Anwar al-Awlaki, the same Muslim imam suspected of radicalizing the Fort Hood shooting suspect, a U.S. intelligence source has told the Washington Times.”

Diane Ravitch nails it: “So the crotch-bomber will be tried for a felony in a federal court, with all the rights and privileges of American citizens. So Khalid Sheik-Mohammed and his associates will be able to enlist an army of pro bono lawyers to defend their ‘constitutional rights,’ the same ones they tried to destroy, along with some 3,000 lives. So KSM and pals will get discovery proceedings, will demand a new venue, will insist that the U.S. produce witnesses to their alleged crimes, will inflict millions of dollars of unnecessary security costs on NYC (or any other host city) that might better be spent on schools. In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real.”

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports: “Former detainees of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have led and fueled the growing assertiveness of the al-Qaeda branch that claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner, potentially complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to shut down the facility.” It almost as though releasing dangerous terrorists is only enabling a network of fanatical murderers, huh? Must the Obami insist that closing Guantanamo is still a “national security imperative”? I think we have found the “systematic failure.”

This seems right: “By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?”

Let’s hope it’s not true: “Sen. John Kerry has filed a formal request to visit Iran, Iranian news agencies reported Tuesday — news made public in the middle of the government’s bloody crackdown on dissidents that has left more than a dozen dead.” It would be frightful if the Obami foreign policy toward Iran were this incoherent.

Meanwhile, outside the Obami cocoon: “Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Diplomats said the assessment was heightening international concern about Tehran’s nuclear activities.”

MSNBC going into rehab? It is redoing its daytime lineup. “MSNBC may need to prove its news commitment to viewers. With news of the attempted terrorist attack on a plane bound for Detroit breaking late on Christmas, the network stuck with pre-taped programming. CNN and Fox covered the story much more extensively.” The solution? “MSNBC will pair Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie for one hour at 9 a.m. in a newsy, nonpartisan look at the day’s upcoming events.” In MSNBC parlance, “nonpartisan” means no “Bush=Hilter” comments.

Hannah Rosenthal denies that slamming the Israeli Ambassador was out of bounds. Or it was taken out of context. (The “system worked”? No, that’s another gaffe-prone Obama flack.) In any event, she, as Shmuel Rosner points out, is picking up friends with the Israel-bashing crowd and is “on the way to becoming their new martyr.”

Second time is the charm? “Mr. Obama has been seeking to counter criticism that he was out of touch in the aftermath of the foiled plot, which took place Friday. For the first three days, he delegated public statements to subordinates before giving a statement Monday.” It would  be nice if he got it right the first time. (One wonders what the White House’s internal polling must show about the public reaction to its handling of the terror attack.)

And it certainly doesn’t look as though Abdulmutallab was an “isolated extremist”: “The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner had his suicide mission personally blessed in Yemen by Anwar al-Awlaki, the same Muslim imam suspected of radicalizing the Fort Hood shooting suspect, a U.S. intelligence source has told the Washington Times.”

Diane Ravitch nails it: “So the crotch-bomber will be tried for a felony in a federal court, with all the rights and privileges of American citizens. So Khalid Sheik-Mohammed and his associates will be able to enlist an army of pro bono lawyers to defend their ‘constitutional rights,’ the same ones they tried to destroy, along with some 3,000 lives. So KSM and pals will get discovery proceedings, will demand a new venue, will insist that the U.S. produce witnesses to their alleged crimes, will inflict millions of dollars of unnecessary security costs on NYC (or any other host city) that might better be spent on schools. In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real.”

Meanwhile the Washington Post reports: “Former detainees of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have led and fueled the growing assertiveness of the al-Qaeda branch that claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner, potentially complicating the Obama administration’s efforts to shut down the facility.” It almost as though releasing dangerous terrorists is only enabling a network of fanatical murderers, huh? Must the Obami insist that closing Guantanamo is still a “national security imperative”? I think we have found the “systematic failure.”

This seems right: “By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?”

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Forget the Democracy, They Have a Planet to Save

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

Diane Ravitch of NYU and Brookings writes that she is bothered by “the idea that President Obama has pledged to join the other advanced nations in paying billions to corrupt and despotic regimes to help them become green. Will he borrow billions from China so we can afford to pay China to become green? Will we finance the kleptocrats in Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan and other regimes? How much of the billions will go for greenness and how much for Mercedes, BMWs, and other baubles for the despots?”

Well, that’s unfortunately what the Green agenda looks like — a racket for the third world, which now uses questionable science to advance its money-grabbing schemes. And with the $100 billion in funding the Obama team was willing to pony up in Copenhagen, it seems as though they have a friend in the White House amenable to this sort of thing. It also is likely to further turn off the American public, which already was not too keen on the hysterical Green agenda.

But watch out: the Green racket is about to get serious. The trial lawyers are now moving in to get their share of the scam. No, really. This is no joke:

Across the country, trial lawyers and green pressure groups—if that’s not redundant—are teaming up to sue electric utilities for carbon emissions under “nuisance” laws. A group of 12 Gulf Coast residents whose homes were damaged by Katrina are suing 33 energy companies for greenhouse gas emissions that allegedly contributed to the global warming that allegedly made the hurricane worse. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and seven state AG allies plus New York City are suing American Electric Power and other utilities for a host of supposed eco-maladies. A native village in Alaska is suing Exxon and 23 oil and energy companies for coastal erosion.

At least the states’ lawyers are candidly revealing that they are in the hold-up game, seeking to “compel measures that will stem global warming regardless of what happens in the legislature.” Just in case you thought that important policy decisions had to be passed by elected leaders. (“The nuisance suits ask the courts to make such fundamentally political decisions themselves, with judges substituting their views for those of the elected branches.”)

All of this is refreshing, in a sense, to those who have been skeptical all along as to the motives and tactics of the environmental busybodies. Cold hard cash seems to be a big objective here — moving it from the private to public sector and from developed to third-world countries. And as the public’s resistance mounts, those peddling the agenda are showing their true, quite anti-democratic tendencies. International deals (which the president hoped would box in the U.S. Congress), an EPA edict on carbon emissions, and a barrage of lawsuits all aim to one degree or another to evade the normal process of lawmaking and the sticky business of gaining popular consent for radical policy initiatives. Makes one miss the days when the Green hysterics felt compelled to scare the public into supporting their agenda.

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RE: They’ve Got a Friend

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

Free Mara and Juan! That seems to be the consensus among some politically diverse voices in Politico’s forum discussing NPR’s me-too effort to delegitimize Fox News.

Liberals who appear on Fox don’t like NPR’s gambit and warn that Fox has a pretty big audience: “I don’t always agree with FOX’s reporting, and I certainly don’t ever agree with the ideological rantings of some of the network’s commentary hosts. Having said that, however, FOX has become a permanent part of the cable news landscape. Those of us on the left should continue to challenge the network’s reporting when we find it unfair, but we all need to recognize that FOX is here to stay.” (Well, not if David Axelrod and Obama’s wish comes true, but grown-ups generally agree that Fox will remain a dominant force in TV news for a long time to come.)

To their delight, conservatives think NPR has goofed by letting its biases hang out. (“It’s a playpen for the left, subsidized by the American taxpayer, exceeded in its biases only by Pacifica Radio, another tax subsidized playpen straight out of the late ’60s.”) They are only too happy to point out that the Left is never so unappealing as when their revulsion at true diversity — the diversity of opinion — is showing. (Bradley Smith: “This episode is also part of the disturbing pattern of intolerance on the left to any differing views.”)

But Diane Ravitch of Brookings and NYU (not exactly a card-carrying member of the vast right-wing conspiracy) puts her finger on why the story is really so amusing and quite relevant: it confirms just how absurd was the White House’s anti-Fox crusade, which kicked this all off:

The efforts by NPR to persuade Mara Liasson and Juan Williams to stay away from Fox News is as ridiculous as the White House’s campaign to delegitimate the network as the propaganda wing of the Republican party. … These efforts to castigate, isolate, and stigmatize Fox News must surely have a chilling effect on the free flow of information and opinion. The American public does not need either the White House or NPR to censor what it hears.

There is nothing so farcical as “open-minded” liberals trying to squelch opposing views, and frankly nothing quite so unhelpful to their own cause. Really, what better proof is there of Fox’s journalistic bona fides and NPR’s lack of the same than this episode? (Without Roger Ailes, how many people would even know who Mara Liasson is?) And once again, Fox — thanks to the White House and the liberal shushers over at NPR – gets another round of free publicity. Remarkable.

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A Muslim Magnet School?

Two weeks ago the New York City Board of Education announced that it would be establishing a new magnet high school to teach Arabic culture and language. A week later, the BOE revealed plans to place the school within an existing elementary school; the resulting hue and cry from concerned parents put an end to that. But the city is set to go ahead with the project as soon as it finds a physical space.

One goal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (for such is the school’s name) is to recruit enough native Arabic speakers to comprise 50 percent of the student body. It seems perverse to take immigrant students, who most need immersion in the language, culture, and values of the United States, and teach them more about the culture from which they came. As leading education historian Diane Ravitch told the New York Sun, “It is not the job of public schools to teach each ethnic group about its history.”

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Two weeks ago the New York City Board of Education announced that it would be establishing a new magnet high school to teach Arabic culture and language. A week later, the BOE revealed plans to place the school within an existing elementary school; the resulting hue and cry from concerned parents put an end to that. But the city is set to go ahead with the project as soon as it finds a physical space.

One goal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy (for such is the school’s name) is to recruit enough native Arabic speakers to comprise 50 percent of the student body. It seems perverse to take immigrant students, who most need immersion in the language, culture, and values of the United States, and teach them more about the culture from which they came. As leading education historian Diane Ravitch told the New York Sun, “It is not the job of public schools to teach each ethnic group about its history.”

There is no intrinsic reason that Arabic language and culture should not be taught in city schools, as long as the curriculum can be kept free of political or ideological bias. But there is very little reason to believe that politics and ideology can be kept out of Middle Eastern studies, especially in an educational establishment in love with the ideology of multiculturalism, an establishment to which American cultural unity is a myth. And especially when one looks at the lineup of organizations responsible for the school’s design: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Salaam Club of New York, and the Arab American Family Support Center of Brooklyn, all committed advocates for their own culture. The leading candidate for principal is a former teacher named Debbie Almontaser, an emigrant from Yemen, who routinely wears a hijab.

As much as supporters claim that there is no politics involved, that has rarely been the case when American curricula have dealt with Middle Eastern or Islamic matters. As the Family Security Foundation recently documented, the educrats tasked with creating these curricula have frequently inserted biased and partisan explanations of the region’s conflicts, out-and-out anti-Semitic slurs, and an uncritical portrayal of Islam into textbooks and approved curricula. (As a practical matter, the people most involved in writing these textbooks, as well as in reviewing them for state Boards of Education, are quite often advocates themselves of militant versions of Islam.)

While this essay cites numerous examples of Islam encroaching on education in the U.S., its assessment of how far this phenomenon has progressed in England (which has no equivalent of a constitutional Establishment Clause, and which has a number of state-subsidized Islamic schools) is truly chilling. Adrian Morgan, the author, points out that many such schools have graduated young men who have had short, inglorious careers as Islamic terrorists, at home and abroad. That fact alone should be a testament to the difficulty of proper oversight in these matters, and it should give the New York City Board of Education pause. The way to prevent the spread of Islamism in the U.S. isn’t to segregate Muslim children socially, but to encourage them to enter the broader cultural conversation that makes up American life. Whatever benefits the Khalil Gibran International Academy may provide, it will leave its students severely deficient in that respect.

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