Daily Archives: September 8, 2010

Robert Samuelson–Why school 'reform' fails

Standard theories don’t explain this meager progress. Too few teachers? Not really. From 1970 to 2008, the student population increased 8 percent and the number of teachers 61 percent. The student-teacher ratio has fallen sharply, from 27-to-1 in 1955 to 15-to-1 in 2007. Are teachers paid too little? Perhaps, but that’s not obvious. In 2008, the average teacher earned $53,230; two full-time teachers married to each other and making average pay would belong in the richest 20 percent of households (2008 qualifying income: $100,240). Maybe more preschool would help. Yet, the share of 3- and 4-year-olds in preschool has rocketed from 11 percent in 1965 to 53 percent in 2008.

“Reforms” have disappointed for two reasons. First, no one has yet discovered transformative changes in curriculum or pedagogy, especially for inner-city schools, that are (in business lingo) “scalable” — easily transferable to other schools, where they would predictably produce achievement gains. Efforts in New York City and Washington, D.C., to raise educational standards involve contentious and precarious school-by-school campaigns to purge “ineffective” teachers and principals. Charter schools might break this pattern, though there are grounds for skepticism. In 2009, the 4,700 charter schools enrolled about 3 percent of students and did not uniformly show achievement gains.

The larger cause of failure is almost unmentionable: shrunken student motivation. Students, after all, have to do the work. If they aren’t motivated, even capable teachers may fail.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Education, Politics in General

In Central Florida Episcopal church, conference center team up to ward off recession's ravages

When it comes to economics, there is no separation between church and state.

The same problems ”” fewer conferences and less money for travel ”” are saddling both the county convention center and church-owned conference centers.

“The downturn in the economy has made a challenging situation more difficult,” said Bob Kobielush, former president of the Christian Camp and Conference Association. “In the past three years, the number of people going to camps and conference centers has gone down.”

But at least one area church and a conference center have found a solution.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, City Government, Economy, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, Politics in General, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Michael Morgan–The Legend of Leonidas Polk

Leonidas Polk was one of the most unusual generals of the Civil War. An Episcopal bishop and Confederate general, Polk was denounced by northern newspapers for leaving the pulpit to take up the sword. On the battlefield, Polk’s divinely inspired confidence bordered on arrogance. He sometimes ignored the orders of his superiors and the results were predictably flawed. Criticized by contemporaries and historians, it has been a long-held tradition that Polk’s life was molded, in part, by the year that he attended school in Seaford.

Polk was born in 1806 in Raleigh, N.C., where his father and grandfather had been heroes during the American Revolution. The Polk family was blessed with military and political connections, and Polk appeared to be headed for a career in the United States until he found a “higher calling….”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

WSJ–Health Insurers Plan Hikes Based on Health-Care Overhaul; White House Questions the Logic

Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections.

Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.

These and other insurers say Congress’s landmark refashioning of U.S. health coverage, which passed in March after a brutal fight, is causing them to pass on more costs to consumers than Democrats predicted.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

(Guardian) Anglican clergywoman to greet Pope Benedict during visit to Britain

Pope Benedict’s arrival in Britain breaks new ground on many levels, with a state welcome from the Queen and the beatification of Cardinal Henry Newman. But buried in the itinerary is another and, some would say, more piquant landmark.

Next Friday, the pope will meet the Rev Jane Hedges, canon steward of Westminster Abbey and a campaigner for women bishops in the Church of England. It will be the first time the head of the Vatican, which earlier this year declared female ordination a “crime against the faith”, shakes hands with a clergywoman.

Their meeting will act as a reminder of the differences and difficulties between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic church. The abbey team is aware of the many historic aspects to the visit.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Ecumenical Relations, Ministry of the Ordained, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Pope Benedict XVI, Roman Catholic, Women

Kenyan Anglican prelate Wabukala's wife dies suddenly

The wife of Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Eliud Wabukala has died in Nairobi.

Mama Caren Nakhumicha Wabukala collapsed in her house on Sunday at 8pm. She was rushed to Nairobi Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival.

A statement from the Anglican church headquarters in Kenya said news of Caren’s collapse reached the Archbishop as he checked in at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on a scheduled trip out of the country.

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Update: There is more there also.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Provinces, Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Parish Ministry

(WSJ) Pope Will Meet Abuse Victims in U.K.

Pope Benedict XVI plans to meet with victims of clerical abuse during his visit to the U.K., according to a church group helping to arrange the session, but the Vatican faces criticism from victims’ supporters about the secrecy surrounding such gatherings.

The first papal visit to the U.K. since 1982 comes amid a wave of sex-abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. The matter has shed a spotlight on how the pope, in an earlier post in his native Germany, handled the case of a priest who was a sexual offender.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Other Churches, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

U.K. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks–Religion and science are different and we need them both

Religion and science are different things and we need them both.

Science is about explanation. Religion is about meaning.

There’s a view expressed by Epicurus, Nietzsche and Nobel Prize winning physicist Steve Weinberg, that life is meaningless. I don’t mean individual lives. We each live, and dream, and pursue our dreams. But on their view, the universe is blind to our existence, indifferent to our suffering. We are born, we live, we die, and it is as if we had never been.

On Rosh Hashanah we dare to believe otherwise: that life does have meaning; that there is a Presence, vaster than the universe yet closer to us than we are to ourselves, who lifts us when we fall, and forgives us when we fail.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Judaism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

Muslims file EEOC suits against meatpacking plants

More than 160 Muslims have enlisted the federal government in two discrimination lawsuits against JBS Swift meatpacking plants, where they allege blood and bones were hurled at them, bathroom walls were covered with vile graffiti and company supervisors disrupted their efforts to worship during Ramadan, ultimately firing many Islamic employees.

The two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuits filed last week allege a pattern of religious and national origin discrimination and a hostile work environment at two plants – in Greeley, Colo., and Grand Island, Neb. The cases may rank among the largest Muslim discrimination lawsuits since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, unleashed a backlash against Muslims in the United States, government officials said. In the last five years through fiscal 2009, religious charges have grown 44 percent overall, and 58.4 percent for Muslim workers, according to EEOC data.

The JBS Swift cases, which involve mostly Somali refugees who joined the plants’ diverse and often immigrant-based workforce, stand out not only for their size but also for their details, EEOC officials said.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Islam, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Serene Jones–Would Oklahoma City have opposed Okla21?

Rancor surrounding the proposed Park51 community center in New York City is a painful indication of how little progress America has made in healing the national wound created on Sept. 11, 2001.

Immediately following these attacks, many of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims castigated the terrorists responsible. However, nearly a decade later, not only are many Americans unable or unwilling to recall this, but according to a recent Pew study, a growing number of U.S. citizens now believe ”” erroneously and prejudicially ”” that President Obama is himself a Muslim. More harmful than the ignorance behind these mistaken beliefs is that they curtail the ability of faith communities to offer much-needed guidance and healing.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, City Government, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

Local Paper Front Page–College of Charleston track athlete lost her dad, a co-pilot, during 9/11

They spoke for the last time on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. It was a quick phone call between father and daughter, with the 9-year-old lamenting that she didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to go to school.

But United Airlines co-pilot Mike Horrocks had a way of getting his daughter, Christa, going. After a few kind encouragements, she decided school wouldn’t be so bad. Then came the last words they would ever share: “I love you up to the moon and back,” he told her.

Sixty minutes later, terrorists would take over United Airlines Flight 175, diverting it off its course from Boston to Los Angeles and making it the second plane flown into the World Trade Center.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Death / Burial / Funerals, Education, Parish Ministry, Sports, Terrorism, Women, Young Adults

Gregg Easterbrook (Reuters)–It’s time for Obama to stop declaring new Economic Recovery Plans

Pundits are restless, an election looms ”“ so this week, President Barack Obama is proposing yet another round of special favors, aimed at improving the economy. Prominent columnist Paul Krugman wants the plans to be “bold” and to involve huge amounts of money. Here’s a contrasting view: government should stop declaring recovery plans, bold or otherwise.

Maybe the constant announcing of new plans ”“ especially plans backed by borrowing or tax cuts ”“ is, itself, an impediment to economic growth.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

In a New Role, Teachers Move to Run Schools

Shortly after landing at Malcolm X Shabazz High School as a Teach for America recruit, Dominique D. Lee grew disgusted with a system that produced ninth graders who could not name the seven continents or the governor of their state. He started wondering: What if I were in charge?

Three years later, Mr. Lee, at just 25, is getting a chance to find out. Today, Mr. Lee and five other teachers ”” all veterans of Teach for America, a corps of college graduates who undergo five weeks of training and make a two-year commitment to teaching ”” are running a public school here with 650 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.

As the doors opened on Thursday at Brick Avon Academy, they welcomed students not as novice teachers following orders from the central office, but as “teacher-leaders.”

“This is a fantasy,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s six passionate people who came together and said, ”˜Enough is enough.’ We’re just tired of seeing failure.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

A Prayer for the (Provisional) Feast Day of Søren Kierkegaard

Heavenly Father, whose beloved Son Jesus Christ felt sorrow and dread in the Garden of Gethsemane: Help us to remember that though we walk through the valley of the shadow, thou art always with us, that with thy philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, we may believe what we have not seen and trust where we cannot test, and so come at length to the eternal joy which thou hast prepared for those who love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Savior, who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Church History, Denmark, Europe, Philosophy, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Enlarge our hearts, O God, that we may love thee more and more; kindle our souls that we may praise thee aright; and so order our thoughts, words, and deeds that we may serve thee and glorify thee for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Spirituality/Prayer