Daily Archives: February 17, 2008

Susan Jacoby: A president who wants to be a leader must first be a teacher

Who will be ready for the presidency on Day One? Who is best qualified to be commander in chief? Who is tough enough, charismatic enough and competent enough to do the job?

These are all important questions, of course, but they ignore a crucial element of presidential leadership — the ability to educate the public about the preeminent issues of the day.

Our greatest presidents, in the judgment of historians and in popular memory — including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt — would never have succeeded as commanders in chief had they not first succeeded as teachers in chief. And two of the most conspicuous presidential failures in recent history — Bill Clinton’s healthcare reform plan and George W. Bush’s open-ended war in Iraq — can be traced, in part, to the inability or unwillingness of both men to educate the public about complex, long-term issues.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Consumers' pullback worries Wall Street

U.S. stocks edged down Friday on concerns about consumer spending after an index of consumer sentiment fell to a 16-year low and Best Buy warned that shopper traffic dropped after the year-end holidays.

A Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment for February dropped to 69.6 in early February from a reading of 78.4 in January. That is the lowest since February 1992, leaving the index at a level that has characterized past recessions.

Consumer spending, an important driver of economic growth, faces headwinds from the decline in home prices and workers’ fears about layoffs, economists say.

And the New York Federal Reserve’s Empire State index tracking general business conditions in the region tumbled nearly 21 points to a negative 11.7 reading, falling below zero for the first time since May 2005.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Stock Market

The Catholic Herald: Cardinal says multiculturalism has weakened British society

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has signalled a change of direction for the Church in England and Wales with an outspoken attack on the ideology of multiculturalism.
The Cardinal said efforts to create a multicultural society had led to a “lessening of the kinds of unity that a country needs”.

He made his comments after Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that Britain needed to accommodate religious legal codes, such as Islamic Sharia law, in order to achieve community cohesion.

The Anglican leader told the BBC that the adoption of some aspects of the Sharia in Britain “seems unavoidable”. He faced a storm of protest after the remark and was forced to fight off calls for his resignation from several members of the General Synod.

The Cardinal intervened in the debate to say that migrants should embrace the idea of equality under the law rather than live by other legal codes.

“I don’t believe in a multicultural society,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land. There are going to be certain things which might clash in the overall culture of the country. That’s where one has to make a judgment.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Question and answer session after his recent Lecture on Sharia Law

LP: Here is a robust question. “Must we accommodate Islam or not, as Christians?”

RW: Must we accommodate Islam or not as Christians? Must I love my Muslim neighbour? Yes, without qualification or hesitation. Must I pretend to my Muslim neighbour that I don’t believe my own faith? No, without hesitation or qualification. Must I as a citizen in a plural society work for ways of living constructively, rather than tensely or suspiciously with my Muslim neighbour? Yes, without qualification or hesitation.

LP: This is, again, a question on a premise but it might be interesting to know whether you agree the premise. “Why are Muslims so scared to debate and question sharia law?”

AB: Well, I can’t speak for Muslims. There are quite a lot of them in the world and I’m not one of them. But I think that precisely because of the convergence of faith and custom in so many contexts, the way in which people construct and pin down their identities becomes very much allied to these issues about how disputes are resolved and what protocols are observed. And I think therefore there is an understandable sense, often confused and I would say misguided, that touching any bit of the cultural complex, undermines your whole identity. That has to do with the perceived political and social insecurity of many Muslim communities in our world. And I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the paradox is that from the Western perspective we frequently see the Muslim world as powerful, aggressive, coherent and threatening. From the other side of the world, the Muslim world, or a great deal of it sees us as powerful, coherent and threatening in very much the same way. Now, when those are the perceptions, you don’t have a very fertile ground for critical, relaxed, long-term discussions of some legal and cultural issues, and I think that’s a question that can’t really be answered without looking at those larger, global, political questions.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, England / UK, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Time Magazine Cover Story: How to Make Great Teachers

It would be wonderful if we knew more about teachers such as these and how to multiply their number. How do they come by their craft? What qualities and capacities do they possess? Can these abilities be measured? Can they be taught? Perhaps above all: How should excellent teaching be rewarded so that the best teachers””the most competent, caring and compelling””remain in a profession known for low pay, low status and soul-crushing bureaucracy?

Such questions have become critical to the future of public education in the U.S. Even as politicians push to hold schools and their faculty members accountable as never before for student learning, the nation faces a shortage of teaching talent. About 3.2 million people teach in U.S. public schools, but, according to projections by economist William Hussar at the National Center for Education Statistics, the nation will need to recruit an additional 2.8 million over the next eight years owing to baby-boomer retirement, growing student enrollment and staff turnover””which is especially rapid among new teachers. Finding and keeping high-quality teachers are key to America’s competitiveness as a nation. Recent test results show that U.S. 10th-graders ranked just 17th in science among peers from 30 nations, while in math they placed in the bottom five. Research suggests that a good teacher is the single most important factor in boosting achievement, more important than class size, the dollars spent per student or the quality of textbooks and materials.

Across the country, hundreds of school districts are experimenting with new ways to attract, reward and keep good teachers. Many of these efforts borrow ideas from business. They include signing bonuses for hard-to-fill jobs like teaching high school chemistry, housing allowances ($15,000 in New York City) and what might be called combat pay for teachers who commit to working in the most distressed schools. But the idea gaining the most momentum””and controversy””is merit pay, which attempts to measure the quality of teachers’ work and pay teachers accordingly.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education

Defeating the 'mean girl' phenomenon

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Education, Teens / Youth

'Amazing Grace' Named 'Most Inspiring Movie'

“Amazing Grace,” the big-budget film that traced the life of abolitionist William Wilberforce, won Most Inspiring Movie of 2007 and Best Movie for Mature Audiences at the 16th annual Movieguide Faith and Values Awards on Wednesday in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The film stars Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce, a member of Parliament who fought to end the slave trade in the 18th century British Empire.

The historical drama from Samuel Goldwyn Films beat out other nominees including “Bella,” “I Am Legend” and “Spider-Man 3” among others.

It was awarded the $50,000 Epiphany Prize, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, which provides $100,000 annually to films and television shows that reflect a “dramatic increase in either man’s love of God or man’s understanding of God,” according to the Web site for Epiphany Prizes.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

Questions, concerns over AME pastor's divorce

Samuels said the pastor seemed to be continuing his good work, recently announcing a new program that will enable single women to take a financial literacy course and receive help on buying a new car.

Others, like Mark Clark, 40, of Ashburton, disagreed. “I love Jamal Bryant. He is a wonderful person,” said Clark of the man he calls an old friend. “Unfortunately, I feel that he is a victim of [being] someone that got a whole lot too fast and too soon and truly did not know how to deal with the fame, power and prestige that came his way,” he said.

“Any pastor in that position needs to be removed from that position,” he added. “I don’t think it should be permanent, but I think it should be long enough so that his personal situations are resolved.”

There is no punishment for pastors who get divorced, Richardson said, though the conference might require a pastor to apologize to the congregation or not preach for a period of time.

“None of us are exempt from exposure to temptation but we would hope that we would find enough discipline in our own behavior to overcome and to move on and to encourage other people through our example,” Richardson said. “So that’s what I’m hoping for Dr. Bryant. In the meantime, my plan is to pray for him.”

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry

Central Gulf Coast Bishop sees unity among area Episcopal churches

Since the election of an openly gay bishop in 2003 and a female presiding bishop in 2006, reports of dissension and division within the Episcopal Church and its parent body, the Anglican Communion, has been prevalent.

Such unrest isn’t unfamiliar to Episcopalians along the Gulf Coast.

Several years ago, parishioners of a handful of congregations in the Pensacola, Fla.-based Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast — including what’s now Christ Church Cathedral in Mobile — left the Episcopal Church. In 2006, Daphne’s Church of the Apostles, started as an Episcopal mission congregation, dissolved its ties to the area diocese.

But on the cusp of the diocesan convention next week, Bishop Philip M. Duncan II indicated that the diocese’s days of division and departure may be done.

“I think that many of the people who wanted to leave have left,” Duncan said. “I’ve had people tell me that they may not agree with everything that the Episcopal Church is doing or the Anglican Communion is doing or that the diocese is doing or even that their own church is doing. But it really is about keeping the family together and not entering into a new schism. Because what some have said to me is that when churches divide, and this is probably true historically, they divide and then they keep dividing.”

And so we have another version of the current TEC leadership seeking to defend the status quo. News flash–Christianity is not about stagnation, it is about abundant life (John 10:10). The diocese of the Central Gulf Coast has declined .5% in membership from 2001-2006 according to the Episcopal Church’s own office of statistics. From 1996 to 2006 the baptized membership there went from 20,434 to 20,723. From 2003 to 2006 the Average Sunday Attendance in this diocese went from 7,646 to 7,099 (a decline of over 7%). I am confident that during this period the overall population in this diocese grew (Florida and Alabama as entire states certainly did from 2000-2007) so in economic terms this is a real decline.

I am sorry but these are portraits of stagnation and, yes, decline. Stagnant waters are calm, but that is not necessarily a good thing (Jesus certainly flunks by that criterion). The gospel is not about being “calm.”

In any event read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Episcopal Church (TEC), Parish Ministry, TEC Bishops, TEC Data

Bangladesh bank offers loans to US poor

Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank has made its first loans in New York in an attempt to bring its pioneering microfinance techniques to the tens of millions of people in the world’s richest country who have no bank account.

The bank’s entry into the US, its first in a developed market, comes as mainstream banks’ credibility has been hit by the mortgage meltdown and many people are turning to fringe financial institutions offering loans at exorbitant interest rates.

Grameen has lent $50,000 in the past month to groups of immigrant women in Jackson Heights in New York’s borough of Queens. During the next five years, it plans to offer $176m in loans within New York city, and then expand to the rest of the US.

Ok, a quiz first. How big was the first loan Muhammad Yunus made in 1976? Once you have guessed go and read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Asia, Economy, India

Huckabee's Strength Spotlights New Generation of Evangelical Christians

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s unexpected resilience has influenced this election in myriad ways. But one of the most intriguing side effects of the Baptist minister’s tour in the spotlight has been the attention it has brought to an evolution occurring inside the white Christian evangelical movement.

Huckabee has pulled back the curtain on a long-churning generational struggle over the movement’s priorities and tone. For many, he is the first national political iteration of a new crop of leaders challenging the old guard’s script, which focuses almost exclusively on banning abortion and same-sex marriage and confronting those issues in the courts.

The former Arkansas governor, only belatedly supported by long-time leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Moral Majority cofounder Paul Weyrich who were alarmed by John McCain’s momentum, has shown that the movement is not a monolith. New-generation leaders, including author and pastor Rick Warren and environmentalist Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, are now competing mightily for influence among a younger generation of born-again Christians.

“The evangelical community is in flux,” says John Green of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. “And it’s about priorities.” Most in the new wave remain strongly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage but are advocating a broader moral agenda and a way to tackle life and gay issues outside the Supreme Court. That agenda includes a focus beyond the traditional issues to those ranging from global poverty and the environment to battling HIV-AIDS in Africa.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008