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SLOWLY WE TURN! What could be wrong with this hot new plan—a plan to spend more dough in classrooms? // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4, 2006

SLOWLY WE TURN: Man, are we slow on organizational matters! We now hope to launch our new education site on February 1. In fact, if we don’t have the site ready then, we’ll just rename the current site and proceed from there.

In the meantime, we plan to focus on low-income education all this month. We had planned to launch a series of posts today, but we’re postponing the series until next week as we change a few old procedures. Very slowly we turn. But in our view, the world has waited forty years for the helpful discussions which follow. So really, what’s a week or three more?

Tomorrow, though, we’ll take a look at this report in today’s New York Times. Synopsis: A new advocacy group—First Class Education—wants “to compel school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on classroom instruction.” Alan Finder lists the pros and the cons—but to our taste, he omits one perspective.

So here’s our question: Suppose classroom teachers (or principals) in under-achieving, low-income schools were given extra money to spend in the classroom. What might be the problem with that? After forty years of pretending to care about what happens in these schools, we think such schools’ specific needs should be part of every discussion.

So there you have your assignment, readers. You’re teaching a class of fifth-graders who come from low-income, low-literacy backgrounds—and you’re given extra money to spend. Why might that money be hard to spend well? If you already know what we’re going to say, you’ve grasped an angle we’ll slowly explore all through this hopeful new annum.

FOERWARD MARCH: Yep! In the new year, we plan to focus on low-income ed, leaving much of our hallowed old ground to our successor, Franklin Foer. Kidding aside, we’ve been puzzled by a few points in Foer’s recent posts, in which he slams the “Mainstream Blogosphere.” For example, why is it wrong to refer to the mainstream media by the troubling term, “mainstream media?” We’ll admit that we’re totally baffled by that. And must Atrios report major stories himself before he can criticize news orgs which do? (Must Roger Ebert make movies himself before he can discuss King Kong?) But in our view, Foer is essentially right about the New Clowning which came to define major parts of the liberal web in 2005. It’s sad to observe the rube-running standards which now help define the web’s liberal discussion. Writing of Atrios, Foer says this, after giving some recent examples: His “splenetic rhetoric about the press is so sweeping, so over-the-top that it does ‘undercut’ the media's credibility—and his own intellectual bona fides.” We wish we didn’t, but we largely agree—although we’re most concerned by the damage done to the hope for a smarter liberal discourse. In our view, the liberal discourse is getting as dumb as its pseudo-con counterpart.

We’ll be discussing these issues much less. Frankly, we’ve abandoned the hope for a saner discussion, and yes, conditions have greatly changed since the days when THE HOWLER began. The press corps is no longer simply inventing stories about Major Dems and reciting them in a vast chorale, as it was doing as of March 99—and many folk are now ready to pounce when the corps is unfair to Democrats. Indeed, many folk are now ready to pounce even when the press isn’t unfair to Dems! Alas! Many folk seem ready to pounce just because they’re tribal true believers. (As we semi-exit this discussion, we may post an example tomorrow.)

Atrios is smart—a perfesser feller. Franklin Foer’s a smart feller too. As a general matter, they should be on one side. We hope we’ll see them wind up there. Gentlemen! Please! Where are standards? As Athene, daughter of Zeus of the aegis, cries out at the end of The Odyssey: “Hold back, men of Ithaka, from the weariness of fighting/So that most soon, and without fighting, you can settle everything.” We think Professor Lattimore has it just about right in that savvy mid-sixties translation.