Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Happiness Gap? Advice for Campaigns.

by David Brooks

Some elections are defined by the gap between the rich and the poor. Others are defined by the gap between the left and the right. But this election will be shaped by the gap within individual voters themselves — the gap between their private optimism and their public gloom.
American voters are generally happy with their own lives. Eighty-six percent of Americans say they are content with their jobs, according to the General Social Survey. Seventy-six percent of Americans say they are satisfied with their family income, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Sixty-two percent of Americans expect their personal situation to get better over the next five years, according to a Harris Poll, compared with only 7 percent who expect it to get worse.
Researchers from Pew found that 65 percent of Americans are satisfied over all with their own lives — one of the highest rates of personal satisfaction in the world today.
On the other hand, Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about their public institutions. That same Pew survey found that only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the state of their nation. That 40-point gap between private and public happiness is the fourth-largest gap in the world — behind only Israel, Mexico and Brazil.
Americans are disillusioned with the president and Congress. Eighty percent of Americans think this Congress has accomplished nothing.
Sixty-eight percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Sixty-two percent think that when government runs something, it is usually inefficient and wasteful. Sixty percent think the next generation will be worse off than the current one. Americans today are more pessimistic about government’s ability to solve problems than they were in 1974 at the height of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.
This happiness gap between the private and the public creates a treacherous political vortex. On the one hand, it means voters are desperate for change. On the other hand, they don’t want a change that will upset the lives they have built for themselves.
On the one hand, they want the country’s political leaders to take bold action. On the other hand, they are extremely cynical about those leaders and are unwilling to trust them with anything that seems risky.
More than that, the happiness gap provides a lesson in what people want from their government in 2007. The polling — and I, for one, believe people are pretty sensible when it comes to evaluating their own lives — suggests that people are not personally miserable or downtrodden.
Their homes are bigger. They own more cars. They feel more affluent. In a segmented nation, they have built lifestyle niches for themselves where they feel optimistic and fulfilled.
But they also feel that their neighborhood happiness is threatened by global problems that are beyond their power to control: terrorism, rising health care costs, looming public debt, illegal immigration, global warming and the rise of China and India. They regard these looming problems the way people used to think about crime — as alien intrusions into their private tranquility. And government seems to be doing nothing about them.
These voters don’t believe government can lift their standard of living or lead a moral revival. They want a federal government that will focus on a few macro threats — terrorism, health care costs, energy, entitlement debt and immigration — and stay out of the intimate realms of life. They want a night watchman government that patrols the neighborhood without entering their homes.
This is not liberalism, which inserts itself into the crannies of life. It’s not conservatism, suspicious of federal power. It’s a gimlet-eyed federalism — strong government with sharply defined tasks.
If one were to advise a candidate about the happiness gap, you’d say: first, don’t try to be inspiring or rely on the pure power of authenticity. In these cynical days, voters are not interested in uplift.
Second, don’t propose any program that will interfere with the way voters are currently organizing their lives. They don’t want you there.
Third, don’t expect people to cast votes according to their income. Democrats do as well among top earners as Republicans. People are more interested in repairing the nation’s health than in boosting their personal bottom line.
Fourth, offer voters a few big proposals (and strategies to implement them) that respond to global threats. Repeat those proposals at every event and forget about everything else.
In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt could launch the New Deal because voters wanted to change the country and their own lives. But today, people want the government to change so their own lives can stay the same. Voters don’t want to be transformed; they want to be defended.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Remember Iraq?

Op-Ed Columnist
Remember Iraq

Published: October 24, 2007
Boy, am I glad we finally got out of Iraq. It was so painful waking up every morning and reading the news from there. It’s just such a relief to have it out of mind and behind us.
Huh? Say what? You say we’re still there? But how could that be — nobody in Washington is talking about it anymore?
I don’t know whether it was the sheer agony of the debate over Gen. David Petraeus’s testimony, or the fact that the surge really has dampened casualties, or the failure by Democrats to force an Iraq withdrawal through Congress, or the fact that all the leading Democratic presidential contenders have signaled that they will not precipitously withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, but the air has gone out of the Iraq debate.
That is too bad. Neglect is not benign when it comes to Iraq — because Iraq is not healthy. Iraq is like a cancer patient who was also running a high fever from an infection (Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia). The military surge has brought down the fever, but the patient still has cancer (civil war). And we still don’t know how to treat it. Surgery? Chemotherapy? Natural healers? Euthanasia?
To the extent that the surge has worked militarily, it is largely because of what Iraqis have done by themselves for themselves — Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders rising up against pro-Qaeda Sunni elements, taking back control of their villages and towns, and aligning themselves with U.S. forces to do so. Some Shiites are now doing the same.
There has been no equivalent surprise, though, in Iraqi politics, yet. If you see that — if you see Iraqi politicians surprising you by doing things they’ve never done before, like forging a self-sustaining political compromise and building the fabric of a unified country, then you can allow yourself some optimism.
So far, though, too many of Iraq’s leaders continue to act their part — looking out for themselves, their clans, their hometowns, their militias and their sects, and using the Iraqi treasury and ministries as looting grounds for personal or sectarian gains.
As a result, what you have today is more of a spotty truce, with U.S. soldiers still caught in the middle. That is a quiet strategy, not an exit strategy.
Study the travel itineraries of Iraq’s principal factional leaders after the Petraeus hearings. Did they all rush to Baghdad to try to work out their differences? No. Many of them took off for abroad.
As one U.S. official in Baghdad pointed out to me last week, “at no point” since the testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker “have you had the four key Iraqi leaders in the same country at the same time.” They saw the hearings as buying them more time, and so they took it.
“We have created a real case of moral hazard in Iraq,” said Marc Lynch, a Middle East specialist at George Washington University. “Because all the key players think the Americans are going to bail them out, they have no incentive to make any real concessions to one another.”
Indeed, I continue to believe that everyone has us where they want us in Iraq: We’re holding up the floor for Iraqi politicians to do their endless tribal dance; we are bogged down and within missile range of Iran, so if we try to use any military force to disrupt Tehran’s nuclear program we will pay a huge price; and as long as we are trapped in Iraq, we will never even think about promoting reform elsewhere in the Arab world — to the relief of all Arab autocrats.
No question, there has been more local cross-sectarian dialogue lately, particularly between Shiite and Sunni elders. But that seems to be the limit of Iraqi politics.
People there can act as tribes, sects and clans, but not as a unified government — so there is no one systematically consolidating whatever gains the surge has made.
It still feels to me as if we’ve made Iraq just safe enough for its politicians to be obstinate, corrupt or reckless on our dime. Even the moderate Kurds must have developed some kind of death wish, allowing their radicals to simultaneously provoke both Turkey and Iran and risking the island of real decency the Kurds have built in the north.
General Petraeus’s strategy is to keep trying to knit the different militias and tribal fragments in Iraq together into a national army and government so we can shrink our presence. I truly wish him well. But I don’t see it happening without two things: some shock therapy — like a firm U.S. withdrawal signal — to spur Iraqi leaders, and a regional settlement. That is, without resolving the cold war in the Middle East that now pits America on one side and Iran and Syria on the other, I’m not sure you can stabilize Iraq, Lebanon or Israel-Palestine.
Letting everyone know that we’re not staying there forever would be the best way to catalyze both local and regional negotiations and give us something we don’t now have: leverage. Just letting Iraq recede into the back pages does not serve our interests.
If we’re going to just forget about Iraq, let’s do it when we’re gone — not when we’re still there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Global-Warming Debate Isn't Over

By John Stossel

First he won the Oscar -- then the Nobel Peace Prize. He's being called a "prophet."
Impressive, considering that one of former Vice President Al Gore's chief contributions has been to call the debate over global warming "over" and to marginalize anyone who disagrees. Although he favors major government intervention to stop global warming, he says, "the climate crisis is not a political issue. It is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity".
Give me a break.

If you must declare a debate over, then maybe it's not. And if you have to gussy up your agenda as "our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level," then it deserves some skeptical examination.
Everyone has heard that Earth's atmosphere is heating up, it's our fault, and it's a crisis. No wonder 86 percent of Americans think global warming is a serious problem and 70 percent want the government to do something now.
But is it a crisis? The globe is warming, but will it be catastrophic? Probably not.
In "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore says that "sea levels worldwide would go up 20 feet."
But the group that shared last week's Nobel Prize, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says in a hundred years, the oceans might rise 7 to 24 inches.
Gore also talks about drowning polar bears. He doesn't mention that the World Conservation Union and the U.S. Geological Survey say that today most populations of polar bears are stable or increasing.
And while man's greenhouse gasses may increase warming, it's not certain that man caused it. The most impressive demonstration in Gore's movie is the big graph of carbon-dioxide levels, which suggests that carbon levels control temperature. But the movie doesn't tell you that the carbon increases came after temperatures rose, hundreds of years later.
There's much more. A British court ruled that U.K. teachers could show Gore's documentary to students only if they also explain nine errors in the movie.
I wanted to ask Gore about that and other things, but he wouldn't talk to me. Why should he? He says "the debate is over."
"It's absurd for people to say that sort of thing," says Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute.
John Christy and Roy Spencer, who won NASA's Medal for Exceptional Achievement for figuring out how to get temperature data from satellites, agree that Earth has warmed. "The thing that we dispute is, is it because of mankind?" Spencer says.
Some scientists say the warming may be caused by changes in the sun, or ocean currents, or changes in cloud cover, or other things we don't understand. If it's all man's fault, why did the Arctic go through a warm period early last century? Why did Greenland's temperatures rise 50 percent faster in the 1920s than they are rising now?
The media rarely ask such questions.
The media also treat the IPCC as impartial scientists, but Reiter and Christy, who were members of the IPCC, say it is not what the public thinks it is. Many of the people involved in writing its report "are not scientists at all," Reiter says. "They were essentially activists." Members of groups like Greenpeace were involved. Skeptics were often ignored.
Christy says, "We were not asked to look at a particular statement and sign our names to it."
Adds Reiter, "I resigned."
But the IPCC still listed him as part of the so-called consensus of scientists. He says he had to threaten to sue to get his name removed from the report, although the IPCC denies that.
Skeptics like Reiter, Christy, Spencer and Tim Ball, who studies the history of climate change and heads the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, are often smeared as "deniers," lumped in with Holocaust deniers and accused of being "on the take" from energy businesses." Gore impugns skeptical scientists by saying "the illusion of a debate has been purchased."
But the scientists I interviewed don't get money from business.
Some get threatened. Ball received an e-mail that said: "You will not live long enough to see global warming!"
Is this what the global-warming debate has come to?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Issue of the Week: Capital Punishment

Click on the Map for an Interactive Lesson
(If you want to access to the linked articles, and you are not at school, then you will need to enter a username (NE79445H) and password (68046)
Capital punishment, or the death penalty, was first used in the United States in colonial times. After facing many legal challenges, the Supreme Court in Furman v. Georgia declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972, ruling it violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Four years later, the Court reversed its decision in Gregg v. Georgia. In recent years, the issue of capital punishment has again been taken up by the Supreme Court as justices consider the constitutionality of executing the mentally ill and juvenile offenders. Opponents to capital punishment argue it is immoral and an execution is still a killing. They also cite statistics showing that one in seven Death Row inmates is innocent. Proponents argue the death penalty serves as a deterrent to crime and claim some crimes are so heinous they deserve the ultimate punishment. Thirty-eight states currently employ some method of capital punishment including lethal injection, gas chamber, electrocution, hanging and firing squad. Lethal injection is the most common method of execution. Over 900 executions have been carried out since 1976, with the state of Texas leading the nation.

Defenders of capital punishment argue that it deters crime, saves taxpayer dollars for prison expenses and gives closure and justice to the families of victims. In Why the Death Penalty Works, author William Tucker contends that murder rates go down when executions increase. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney argues that the science of DNA fingerprinting may actually make capital punishment more effective in Can You Build a Foolproof Death Penalty? Public reaction to the Timothy McVeigh case showed strong public support for the death penalty, particularly as it applies to notorious convicts. The demographics of capital punishment support are explored in Even for Death Penalty Foes, McVeigh Is the Exception
Those who oppose activists capital punishment argue that it is as much a murder as the crime committed by the offender, that a life sentence is a greater punishment, that capital punishment does not deter crime, that it is socioeconomically and racially biased and that innocent people are at risk. The many facets of the argument against the death penalty are explored in Reasonable Doubts: The Growing Movement Against the Death Penalty. Sister Helen Prejean, portrayed in the film Dead Man Walking, has been a high-profile opponent of the death penalty. She presents her case in Choose Life! While conservatives are often outspoken supporters of the death penalty, the conservative argument against the death penalty is outlined in The Problem with the Chair.

Information Provided by SIRS Researcher

Friday, October 12, 2007

Issue of the Week: Global Warming

What do you think?

One Viewpoint:
Some scientists say there is no doubt that human activity is accelerating climate change. They argue industrial emissions including carbon dioxide have been the dominant cause of climate change, outpacing natural forces. They warn that natural disasters, such as droughts, flooding, hurricanes and the like, will become fiercer as the climate heats up. James Hanson, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, asserts in Earth’s Climate Is Near Tipping Point that “‘Business-as-usual’ scenarios, with fossil fuel CO2 emissions continuing to increase at 2 percent per year as in the past decade, will yield additional warming of 2 degrees Celsius or 3 degrees Celsius this century. Such a drastic increase would imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.” In We Must End Our Profligate Use of Fossil Fuel to Ensure We Survive This Doomsday Threat, Brooks Yeager, vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, stresses that “The science of global warming may be complex, but the solution is pretty simple: reduce the amount of carbon pollution we pump into the air.” In the article Lawsuits, Regulations the Only Effective Way to Curb Pollution, executive director of Greenpeace USA John Passacantando relates the need for lawsuits against violators such as electric companies. He states that “Global warming lawsuits, like the infamous tobacco suits brought by the states, are necessary due to the lack of leadership in Washington. It boils down to corporate responsibility and liability. Unfortunately, it seems as hard for Big Coal to admit that it causes global warming as it was for Big Tobacco to admit smoking kills.”

Opposite Viewpoint:
Other scientists say that while global warming is occurring, it’s happening at such a slow rate that there isn’t cause for alarm. They cite figures showing a temperature increase of 0.75 degrees Celsius over fifty years. They claim global warming and climate change is due to natural climate fluctuation. Dennis T. Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, disputes the theory that carbon-dioxide emissions are responsible for global warming in the article Alarmists Would Wreck Economy to Combat a Global-Warming Threat. He ponders that “A slew of new studies provide convincing evidence that the current warming is part of an unstoppable, moderate and solar-driven 1,500-year climate cycle that has been going on for a million years. Yet persistent voices continue to insist that Earth is warming dangerously due to human emissions of carbon dioxide. If that's true, why did virtually all of the warming we've had occur before 1940 when the world had comparatively few factories and automobiles--and, of course, few carbon-dioxide emissions?” In The Heat Is On, astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas contents that “Evidence of any substantial human-induced warming is, at best, weak.” Multidisciplinary scientist Zbigniew Jaworowski debunks the myth of global warming in The Global Warming Folly. He asserts that “The man-made global warming hypothesis is far from being confirmed by observations, many of which suggest that it is false. Environmental daydreamers try to make it seem axiomatic that imaginary dangers of this warming should be remedied without waiting for proof.”
Sirs Researcher provided information for both viewpoints.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Pt.3 Women in Combat: Two Opposing Views

Pt .2 Women in Combat: On the Ground in Iraq

Part 1: Women in Combat: Roles in U.S. Army Expand

Modern Heroes Our soldiers like what they do. They want our respect, not pity.

BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN Thursday, October 4, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

I'm weary of seeing news stories about wounded soldiers and assertions of "support" for the troops mixed with suggestions of the futility of our military efforts in Iraq. Why aren't there more accounts of what the troops actually do? How about narrations of individual battles and skirmishes, of their ever-evolving interactions with Iraqi troops and locals in Baghdad and Anbar province, and of increasingly resourceful "patterning" of terrorist networks that goes on daily in tactical operations centers?
The sad and often unspoken truth of the matter is this: Americans have been conditioned less to understand Iraq's complex military reality than to feel sorry for those who are part of it.
The media struggles in good faith to respect our troops, but too often it merely pities them. I am generalizing, of course. Indeed, there are regular, stellar exceptions, quite often in the most prominent liberal publications, from our best military correspondents. But exceptions don't quite cut it amidst the barrage of "news," which too often descends into therapy for those who are not fighting, rather than matter-of-fact stories related by those who are.
As one battalion commander complained to me, in words repeated by other soldiers and marines: "Has anyone noticed that we now have a volunteer Army? I'm a warrior. It's my job to fight." Every journalist has a different network of military contacts. Mine come at me with the following theme: We want to be admired for our technical proficiency--for what we do, not for what we suffer. We are not victims. We are privileged.

The cult of victimhood in American history first flourished in the aftermath of the 1960s youth rebellion, in which, as University of Chicago Prof. Peter Novick writes, women, blacks, Jews, Native Americans and others fortified their identities with public references to past oppressions. The process was tied to Vietnam, a war in which the photographs of civilian victims "displaced traditional images of heroism." It appears that our troops have been made into the latest victims.
Heroes, according to the ancients, are those who do great deeds that have a lasting claim to our respect. To suffer is not necessarily to be heroic. Obviously, we have such heroes, who are too often ignored. Witness the low-key coverage accorded to winners of the Medal of Honor and of lesser decorations.
The first Medal of Honor in the global war on terror was awarded posthumously to Army Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith of Tampa, Fla., who was killed under withering gunfire protecting his wounded comrades outside Baghdad airport in April 2003.
According to LexisNexis, by June 2005, two months after his posthumous award, his stirring story had drawn only 90 media mentions, compared with 4,677 for the supposed Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay, and 5,159 for the court-martialed Abu Ghraib guard Lynndie England. While the exposure of wrongdoing by American troops is of the highest importance, it can become a tyranny of its own when taken to an extreme.
Media frenzies are ignited when American troops are either the perpetrators of acts resulting in victimhood, or are victims themselves. Meanwhile, individual soldiers daily performing complicated and heroic deeds barely fit within the strictures of news stories as they are presently defined. This is why the sporadic network and cable news features on heroic soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan comes across as so hokey. After all, the last time such reports were considered "news" was during World War II and the Korean War.
In particular, there is Fox News's occasional series on war heroes, whose apparent strangeness is a manifestation of the distance the media has traveled away from the nation-state in the intervening decades. Fox's war coverage is less right-wing than it is simply old-fashioned, antediluvian almost. Fox's commercial success may be less a factor of its ideological base than of something more primal: a yearning among a large segment of the public for a real national media once again--as opposed to an international one. Nationalism means patriotism, and patriotism requires heroes, not victims.

Let's review some recent history. From Sept. 11, 2001, until the middle of 2003, when events in Afghanistan and Iraq appeared to be going well, the media portrayed the troops in an uncomplicated, positive light. Young reporters who embedded early on became acquainted with men and women in uniform, by whom they were frankly impressed. But their older editors, children of the '60s often, were skeptical. Once these wars started going badly, skepticism turned to a feeling of having been duped, a sentiment amplified by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
That led to a different news cycle, this time with the troops as war criminals. But that cycle could not be sustained by the facts beyond the specific scandal. So by the end of 2004, yet another news cycle set in, the one that is still with us: the troops as victims of an incompetent and evil administration. The irony is that the daily actions of the troops now, living among Iraqis, applying the doctrines of counterinsurgency, and engaged regularly in close-quarters combat, are likely more heroic than in the period immediately following 9/11.
Objectively speaking, the troops can be both victims and heroes--that is, if the current phase of the war does indeed turn out to be futile. My point is only to note how the media has embraced the former theme and downplayed the latter. The LexisNexis statistics reveal the extent to which the media is uncomfortable with traditional heroism, of the kind celebrated from Herodotus through World War II. If that's not the case, then why don't we read more accounts about the battlefield actions of Silver Star winners, Bronze Star winners and the like?
Feeling comfortable with heroes requires a lack of cynicism toward the cause for which they fight. In the 1990s, when exporting democracy and militarily responding to ethnic and religious carnage were looked up upon, U.S. Army engineering units in Bosnia were lionized merely for laying bridges across rivers. Those soldiers did not need to risk their lives or win medals in order to be glorified by the media. Indeed, the media afforded them more stature than it does today's Medal of Honor winners. When a war becomes unpopular, the troops are in a sense deserted. In the eyes of professional warriors, pity can be a form of debasement.

Rather than hated, like during Vietnam, now the troops are "loved." But the best units don't want love; they want respect. The dilemma is that the safer the administration keeps us at home, the more disconnected the citizenry is from its own military posted abroad. An army at war and a nation at the mall do not encounter each other except through the refractive medium of news and entertainment.
That medium is refractive because while the U.S. still has a national military, it no longer has a national media to quite the same extent. The media is increasingly representative of an international society, whose loyalty to a particular territory is more and more diluted. That international society has ideas to defend--ideas of universal justice--but little actual ground. And without ground to defend, it has little need of heroes. Thus, future news cycles will also be dominated by victims.
The media is but one example of the slow crumbling of the nation-state at the upper layers of the social crust--a process that because it is so gradual, is also deniable by those in the midst of it. It will take another event on the order of 9/11 or greater to change the direction we are headed. Contrary to popular belief, the events of 9/11--which are perceived as an isolated incident--did not fundamentally change our nation. They merely interrupted an ongoing trend toward the decay of nationalism and the devaluation of heroism.
Mr. Kaplan, a correspondent for The Atlantic and a visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, is the author of "Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground," just published by Random House.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Can You Pass the New Test?

By Cal Thomas
Tribune Media Services

"If you can read this, thank a teacher," says the bumper sticker on the
car in front of me. But literacy is more than the ability to read a
bumper sticker. It also includes the accumulation of basic knowledge
combined with a way of thinking that allows an individual to lead a life
that is personally productive and contributes to America's health and
For the second year in a row, America's elite universities and colleges
have failed to rise above a "D plus" on tests of basic knowledge about
civics and American history, maintains a study commissioned by the
Intercollegiate Studies Institute's (ISI). In 2005, ISI contracted with
the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy (UConnDPP)
to administer tests of basic historical and civic knowledge to 14,000
students at 50 top schools, including Yale, Harvard, Cornell, the
University of Virginia, Brown and Duke. The survey found that students
"were no better off than when they arrived in terms of acquiring the
knowledge necessary for informed engagement in a democratic republic and
global economy." Since an education at top colleges can cost as much as
$40,000 a year, it would appear that those paying the bill are being
ISI's final report entitled "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher
Education's Failure to Teach America's History and Institutions,"
presented four pivotal findings:

1. The average college senior knows very little about America's history,
government, international relations and market economy. Their average
score on the civic literacy test was 53.2 percent. "No class of seniors
scored higher than 69 percent, or D plus."

2. Prestige doesn't pay off. "An Ivy League education contributes
nothing to a student's civic learning. ... There is no relationship
between the cost of attending college and the mastery of America's
history, politics, and economy."

3. Students don't learn what colleges don't teach. "Schools where
students took or were required to take more courses related to America's
history and institutions," says the ISI, "outperformed those schools
where fewer courses were completed. The absence of required courses in
American history, political science, philosophy and economics suggests a
negative impact on students' civic literacy."
America's most prestigious colleges had the worst scores. Many of the
schools that typically rank the highest in popularity score among the
lowest in advancing civic knowledge. Generally, the ISI study found, the
higher the ranking by U.S. News and World Report in its annual survey of
institutions of higher education, the lower the rank in civic learning.
"Even when controlling for numerous variables that influence learning,
seniors at schools with reasonably strong core curricula - for example,
Rhodes, Calvin and Wheaton - had double the gain in civic learning
compared with those seniors at schools without a coherent core
curriculum - for example, Brown, Cornell and Stanford."

4. Greater civic learning goes hand-in-hand with more active
citizenship. "Students who demonstrated greater learning of America's
history and its institutions were more engaged in citizenship activities
such as voting, volunteer community service and political campaigns."
The study found that "86 percent of the students at the four
highest-ranked colleges had exercised their right to vote at least once.
At Colorado State, ranked second overall, 90 percent of seniors had
voted at least once. ... Higher civic learning and greater civic
involvement are closely associated."
Here are three of the test questions. Even partially informed people who
believe American history is a better teacher than fascination and
fixation on the latest news about Britney Spears and O.J. Simpson ought
to be able to answer them correctly. The entire 60 multiple-choice
questions can be found on ISI's Web site, http://www.isi.org/.

1. Which battle brought the American Revolution to an end: (a) Saratoga
(b) Gettysburg (c) the Alamo (d) Yorktown (e) New Orleans?

2. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964) was significant because it: (a)
ended the war in Korea (b) Gave President Johnson the authority to
expand the scope of the Vietnam War (c) Was an attempt to take foreign
policy power away from the president (d) Allowed China to become a
member of the United Nations (e) Allowed for oil exploration in
Southeast Asia.

3. Which of the following is the best measure of production or output of
an economy (a) Gross Domestic Product (b) Consumer Price Index (c)
Unemployment rate (d) Prime Rate (e) Exchange rate?

Everyone should take the test. No cheating and no, I'm not going to give
you the answers. If you're interested enough to read this column, you
ought to be smart enough to know them. If not, then you paid too much
college tuition, or didn't take college seriously enough to get a real

In 1777, John Adams wrote to his son about the importance of education.
He said it was necessary to teach the next generation about America's
founding principles in order to preserve the freedom and independence so
many of his fellow countrymen sacrificed to achieve. Only when we know
and embrace those principles can we pass on to a new generation that
which we inherited from the past. The ISI study reveals severe cracks in
that foundation, which need immediate attention and repair.

Bullying and Government

By Tom PurcellSunday, September 23, 2007

Bullying isn't like it used to be. Contemporary bullies are also using technology. They're making nasty cell-phone calls, sending e-mails and text messages and posting embarrassing things on the Internet.
The anonymous cowards.
When I was a kid in the '70s, at least bullies had to put some effort into their work. They were still cowards -- they picked on kids who were small and defenseless -- but they had to do most of their work face to face.
It's not possible to give a wedgie over the Internet.
That made the bullies vulnerable. There were lots of older kids in our neighborhood who protected us. A bully who roughed us up was likely to get roughed up himself. And bullies feared nobody as they did my sister Kris.
I'm certain one guy still regrets the day he decided to bust up my go-kart. He was a big, fat kid and he laughed and taunted me as he kicked my handcrafted vehicle into pieces -- until Kris appeared out of nowhere.
She tackled him from behind and down he went. As he lay on his belly, Kris clenched her fists and pounded with abandon. He blubbered like a baby, forever humiliated in front of the other neighborhood kids. Bullies are generally not as tough as they appear to be.
But now, thanks to technology, anybody can bully.
"Traditional bullying was about boys intimidating other boys by physical force," says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist and author of "Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's." "But technology has enabled people to bully who otherwise might not have before. One of the biggest trends is a significant increase in bullying by girls."
At the same time the opportunities to bully have increased, the kids who are bullied are more isolated. Families are smaller, neighborhoods are emptier and latchkey kids often find themselves alone.
A lot of kids aren't handling the trend well.
"According to various studies, one in three kids is either bullied or a bully," says Kendrick. "And on any given day 160,000 kids are so traumatized by fear and intimidation they're afraid to go to school."
Or worse. A common thread in school shootings during the past decade -- both in high school and college -- is that the shooter or shooters had been bullied.
So what to do? There are no easy answers.
When I was a kid, the prevailing wisdom was to teach kids to fight back. If a bigger kid bullied you, your dad showed you techniques on how to handle him. Even if you lost the fight, the bully generally would earn a respect for you and back down.
But in these nutty times, that might not work. The bully could be packing heat. Or, if a bully is humiliated by the kid he was bullying, the bully's parent might have his lawyer sue.
It's no wonder numerous government and private organizations are promoting anti-bullying campaigns. It's no wonder 27 states have passed anti-bullying laws and nine more are considering them. Or that school districts across America are implementing anti-bullying measures to defuse situations before they get out of hand.
Nobody knows who or when the next teen powder keg will be set off, but we do know that bullying may be an ingredient that sets the kid off. In our rapidly changing culture, something that used to be dealt with by kids on playgrounds has blossomed into a problem with all kinds of disastrous consequences.
Though even when I was a kid the consequences were sometimes disastrous. In 1972, a great tragedy shocked our community. A kid who'd been bullied cracked. When the bully showed up at his house one afternoon, the kid opened his bedroom window and shot and killed him with a .22-caliber rifle.
"That's the difference," says Kendrick. "The landscape has changed so radically that if such a thing happened today, nobody would be that surprised."

What Fuels Cheating?

By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist September 20, 2007

WHAT'S THE most valuable message a parent can impart to a child?
That it is important to be honest? Or, that it is important to get into Princeton?
The parents of nine high school students accused of breaking into Hanover High School in New Hampshire are furious that school officials turned the case over to local police. The police prosecutor brought criminal charges against the students who allegedly broke into a teacher's filing cabinet and stole exams. Their parents are now being told that if they choose to take the case to trial, the misdemeanor charges could be raised to felonies.
Threatening a felony charge in this situation seems as extreme as the campus police decision to taser an obnoxious college student who interrupted Senator John Kerry's speech at the University of Florida. But those parents who are angry that school administrators in Hanover turned a case of breaking and entering over to police also seem extreme in their defense of their children's alleged wrongdoing.
As Superintendent of Schools Wayne Gersen told the Globe, "We have never called the police for a cheating incident. But there is never a time when we would not call the police when someone breaks into our building."
The parents are trying to get the charges reduced to violations that carry no criminal penalties. Such penalties could jeopardize their child's chances of attending college or getting hired for a job.
"What's frightening as a parent is that a 17-year-old makes one little mistake and he's going to have a potential prison sentence," said Jim Kenyon, a columnist for The Valley News based in Lebanon, N.H.
As the mother of two teenagers, I agree. The prospect of jail and a promising future derailed is frightening. But it is also scary to hear a parent equate an allegation of breaking and entering into a school for the purpose of stealing exams as "one little mistake." This is, at minimum, a very big mistake.
Today, cheating is routinely dismissed as no big deal. A stadium filled with New England Patriots fans sent that clear message to Coach Bill Belichick after he was fined $500,000 for illegally filming the signals of New York Jets coaches in the season opener.
"Do whatever it takes to win" is the accepted mantra in politics, business, and sports. Not surprisingly, that attitude spills down into high school.
A report released last year by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonpartisan and nonprofit group based in Los Angeles, found "entrenched habits of dishonesty" amongst young people.
About 28 percent of 36,122 public and private high school students who were surveyed admitted stealing from a store within the past year; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative; 82 percent said they lied to a parent about something significant; and 60 percent said they cheated on a test during the past year.
At the same time, 98 percent of the students who responded to the survey said "It's important for me to be a person with good character"; and 97 percent said it is "important that people trust me." Unfortunately, those positive values are undercut by cynicism about how things work in the real world. Of those surveyed, 59 percent agreed that "In the real world, successful people do what they must to win, even if others consider it cheating"; and 42 percent believe "A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed."
What happened at Hanover High School went beyond lying or cheating. Students allegedly entered the school building one evening after school was out. While some stood guard, others entered a classroom and used stolen keys to break into a teacher's filing cabinet and steal tests.
Breaking and entering is a crime, not just a mistake. It is fair to treat all alleged perpetrators equally, by turning the matter over to police. Participation at any level, as lookout or thief, should make a parent very angry - at the child who chose that path.
These students have the right to a presumption of innocence and due process. But parents who worry that criminal prosecution hinders college admissions and future career opportunities seem to be missing the major concerns raised by this incident.
Why did these students decide the break-in was worth the risk?
What drove their children to conclude that success via stealing and cheating is more important than basic honesty?