06 September 2010

News hunger

There are two things I'm eager to know more about, but the flow of news (usually superabundant) is relatively slim.

First, I want to know more about the peace talks. Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan are all trying to hash out some peace. They have given themselves a year deadline - with Obama as intermediary - to come to some sort of agreement. And even after Palestinian radicals blew up some bombs to try to stop the peace talks, they kept meeting and disavowed them. That's probably a first, since in the past one side or the other would immediately demand amends or reparations or use the bombings as a bargaining chip, collapsing the peace talks. Similarly, at least for now Israel is gamely combating agitations by their own radicals to resume building settlements in disputed areas.

The last talks ended in 2008 after Hamas fired some rockets and Israel invaded. Before that, the 2000 talks ended because Palestine stopped negotiating. But maybe we will see some actual movement here. Please? I hope against hope.

Second, I want to know about D.C. public schools, where the schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has launched a bold campaign for reform. "Bold," though, is not in this case synonymous with "effective." Since being appointed to office four years ago, she has fired hundreds of under-performing teachers and clashed repeatedly with the local union. Instituting standards-based reform - i.e. reforms based on the goal of increasing measurable metrics like test scores - she has brushed aside mitigating factors like home life or street problems. Rhee says,

"Our responsibility is to deliver the goods, no matter what the situations our students are in. The reform is in the schoolhouse. You are here because we believe you are the right people to deliver this reform. The election is not our concern; the election is not your concern. Go hard, or go home!"

Depending on who wins the D.C. mayoralty, Rhee may be gone in a few weeks. But because she represents the beating heart of the new education reform movement, the impact she has had will be a direct test of its initiatives. No one can accuse Rhee of being too lax or too conservative in implementing standards-based reforms. If D.C. schools are measurably improved, it will be an enormous victory for education reform. They're even making a movie about it.

I need information! I want movement! I demand change!

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