Teaching writing and persuasion

September 19, 2006

I’m biased. I debated in high school, and spent four years debating at the University of Utah under Jack Rhodes, and then I coached debate for a year under Tim Browning at the University of Arizona. That training got me through journalism school, into law school and through it, and did me yeoman service in politics. The ability to survive and thrive in the heat of public policy discussion is . . . fun.

Over at The Reflective Teacher, we get a great argument for using debate to teach 8th grade English, especially the persuasive writing paper and the research paper. Looks good to me.


Progress in public schools: Boston schools win Broad prize

September 19, 2006

No, I’d not heard of the prize, either. But we should spread the good news.

Via the Sacramento Bee (subscription required), I see an Associated Press report that Boston’s public school system won $500,000, or half of the Broad Prize for Public Education. (Here’s a link to the same story in the San Jose Mercury-News which did not require a subscription.)

This year, 100 districts were eligible. The other four finalists were Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut, Jersey City School District in New Jersey, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the New York City Department of Education. They will all receive $125,000.

Boston has been a finalist for five straight years. It won this year’s top honor by posting impressive gains among poor and minority kids when compared with other Massachusetts districts.

“Boston has consistently shown that stable leadership in the school district and the city, as well as data-driven teaching, leads to strong student performance,” said Eli Broad, the philanthropist who created the Broad Foundation in 1999, with his wife, Edythe.

More information is available on this year’s prize winners and those of the previous four years at the Broad Foundation’s website (it’s pronounced “brode,” by the way).

The Broad Prize was started in 2002. The inaugural winner was Houston Independent School District, followed by Long Beach Unified School District in 2003, Garden Grove Unified School District in 2004, and Norfolk Public Schools last year.

There is also a link from the Broad Foundation to the Stand-Up Coalition, a group dedicated to improving public schools and reducing drop outs. The Coalition has an impressive provenance; go see.


Omaha segregation plan put on hold by federal courts

September 19, 2006

Via Rational Review, I see that the plan to resegregate Omaha’s schools has been put on hold, at least temporarily, by the federal courts.

Here’s the MSNBC story on the deal.


Fillmore’s bathtub — metaphor?

September 19, 2006

One of my searches turned up what appears to be a well-informed essay from 1999 by Wendy McLemore, “The Bathtub, Mencken, and War.” According to her curriculum vitae, the article originally appeared in a publication called Ideas on Liberty, “The Bathtub, Mencken, and War,” Vol. 49, No. 9 (September 1999).

While the article is available on the author’s website, I have not found a link from her blog to the article. So let me urge that you make a second foray, and check out her blog, too. A word of warning — while I haven’t found anything at the blog that is not suitable for viewing at work (NSVW), this is the subtitle the blog: “A site for individualist feminism and individualist anarchism.”

McLemore argues that Mencken was not merely fighting deadline, but was writing a close satire of the difficulties he had getting stories published during World War I that did not condemn Germans willy-nilly. She writes that Mencken was a great appreciator of German culture, and did not go along with propaganda that merely demonized Germany and Germans.

She also wrote that it was Andrew Jackson who introduced the bathtub to the White House, in 1834. This contrasts with the White House story I noted earlier, attributing the introduction of the tub to Fillmore’s wife in 1853. (Before my hard-drive crash, I wrote to the White House historian asking for a check of the veracity of that story. I’ve got nothing in response.) What is McLemore’s source for the Andrew Jackson tub?

We continue the search for the Truth about White House bathtubs. Go read McLemore’s essay.

Post script: Go see what Cecil says about Millard Fillmore, at the column archives for Straight Dope.


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