Archive for January 2008

[Journalism] What Do You Want in an Industry?

January 30, 2008

Found at Notes From a Teacher, this…

I don’t want to work for an industry that is content with the status quo.

I don’t want to work for an industry that is afraid of innovation.

I don’t want to work for an industry that blames its readers when things go bad.

I don’t want to work for an industry that is scared of risk — and success.

I don’t want to work for an industry that is scared of change.

I don’t want to work for an industry that is afraid to have a conversation with its users.

I don’t want to work for an industry that is content to die.

I want to work for an industry that believes in its audience.

I want to work for an industry that can admit it was wrong.

I want to work for an industry that has the audacity to innovate.

I want to work for an industry that always wants to improve, even when it’s on top.

I want to work for an industry that always strives to be the best.

I want to work for an industry that believes there is no such thing as good enough.

I want to work for an industry that puts innovation first.

If this is the last stand for the American Newspaper, I don’t want to go out without a fight. I want to shatter paradigms, destroy cherished icons and push the envelop of innovation. And if all those efforts fail, I want try again.

I don’t want to admit defeat without at least trying. If I lose, I want it to be because I had nothing left to give. I don’t want to lose because I decided it was too hard to win.

I want the audacity of ambition — and innovation.

What do you want?

As Mark at Notes says, this is a great basis for an exercise.

Also, I like destroying cherished icons. What can I say? I’m a bad person like that.


[Old Media] Since When is Open Sexism Acceptable in the Pages of the Democrat-Herald?

January 30, 2008

A letter to the editor in the DH:

Flying in style

I have a suggestion on how we could save the taxpayers of this great country money on jet fuel costs for Air Force One.

Vote for Hillary; she could travel on her broom.

Donald A. Parker, Albany

Let’s be clear: The fact that this is a letter in no way excuses the fact that sexist content appeared in the pages of the DH. The DH would have been perfectly within reason not to run this letter.

I know Hering’s old and cranky, but this should be unacceptable to his (significantly younger) staff, at least – and enough so to raise a ruckus.

What gives?

I guess we can expect jokes about Barack Obama eating fried chicken and/or being lazy next.

I mean, what the hell, it’s all just white people in the valley anyway, right?


[LCSD] Interesting Letter to the Editor

January 27, 2008

From Sunday’s DH:

I am writing in response to all of the articles that are currently in the paper regarding PIE and the Lebanon School District.

As an employee of Sand Ridge Charter School (which is operated by PIE) in the Lebanon School District (I hold a valid Oregon teaching license and have a master’s degree in education from Willamette University), I find all of this wrangling confusing. Somewhere we got lost in the stuff and forgot that really what schools are about is educating our children.

Why isn’t anyone asking how Sand Ridge is doing on this front? Are we getting the job done? Are we doing an adequate job, or are we doing an exceptional job?

The point I hope to make here is there are problems that are being fought out in the media amongst the higher powers, but down here in the trenches there are some very qualified teachers doing an exceptional job of educating tomorrow’s leaders. Isn’t that what schools are supposed to be about?

Naomi Villmann


But it also misses the point: If the contract PIE is operating under is being violated, if PIE is mixing funds it shouldn’t, if PIE is failing to complete the administrative tasks it needs to, then PIE is putting all that good work being done at Sand Ridge at risk.

I don’t think anyone (especially Robinson, frankly) is losing sight of the classroom here, and while Ms. Villman’s letter seems sincere, when I see the “what about the children?” claim thrown out as an argument for ignoring what PIE (not to be confused with Sand Ridge) is doing, I have to wonder: Does the person advancing the argument really think that no one is thinking about the classroom, or is the person advancing the argument in order to draw attention away from the problems created by Jay Jackson or Rick Alexander?

[Hegemony] The U.S.’s Slow-Motion Swan Dive

January 27, 2008

From the New York Times, some good Sunday reading:

Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It’s as if the first decade of the 21st century didn’t happen — and almost as if history itself doesn’t happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth.

I’ve been predicting a long, slow decline in US power along these lines for some time. Parag Khanna, the author, doesn’t get at resource scarcity (which makes US military interventions more likely, which could change the equation), but I think Khanna is essentially correct: The US is a lumbering behemoth in the slow, painful process of crashing to the ground due to its own ignorance. (The epistemology of the Master-Slave dialectic seems ripe for application here.)

The only thing that prevents me from saying “it’s about time” is the prospect that the US won’t go quietly, and instead we’re going to see lots more Iraq-style resource appropriation adventures/attempts at maintaining control in the near- to medium-future. You know, the kind that cause hundreds of thousands or millions of civilians to be killed or displaced. Blech.

[LCSD] Numb From The Shock

January 24, 2008

No one said running a school was easy:

In an interview after the meeting, Alexander said, “What we need to do is give the charter school more money so they can hire more office help. They’re trying to do too much with too little of funds.”

Welcome to public education, jackass. Now let me find something shiny to distract you before you break anything else…

I wonder if Rick voted for Measure 5?

Hey… is Rick advocating spending more money on central support? It sure sounds like it to me!

Ooohhhh… here’s a good one:

Alexander said the superintendent is presenting “hypothetical” concerns as being real problems.

Asked if any of the issues raised in the 95-page document presented to the board on Dec. 3 concerned him, Alexander said he had not yet read the entire presentation.

Uh, Rick? Just because you don’t know about them doesn’t make them hypothetical. It makes you irresponsible.

He’s had, what, 50+ days to read 100 pages? I was reading that much every night for a bit there…. and the Sand Ridge report is much, much easier than Habermas, though they both made me want to cry.

Rick gets all blue-collar on us:

Robinson told PIE leaders that he does not believe they are maintaining written policies required by state and federal laws. Asked which ones, he said it was PIE’s responsibility to know what laws they need to follow.

“It bothered me that statement was even made,” Alexander said. “PIE is the subcontractor to the district. Just like on a construction site, the contractor is liable for the subs. To stay out of trouble you want to make sure the subcontractors are aware of all of the rules.”

“It’s not the same kind of contract,” Robinson said. “It’s between two separate entities. I don’t know why they would want us doing that. They’ve always wanted to stay at arm’s length.”

I get that Mr. Alexander was (is?) in construction, so that’s where he’s going to draw his analogy. But his analogy bombs here: The implication he makes is clearly that the LCSD – the “contractor” – is responsible for the behavior of the charter school – the “subcontractor.”

That might be true, to an extent. Certainly the LCSD is liable to suffer along with the PIE schools if the DoE comes down hard. But Rick also implies that following the law is not the responsibility of PIE, and I have a huge problem with that. Parents with children in PIE schools should too.

Alexander, incidentally, also spends a lot of time and energy keeping the LCSD away from PIE’s records and internal processes – which, if Alexander is to be believed, the LCSD somehow doesn’t need access to in order to ensure (remember, it’s the LCSD’s responsibility) that PIE is following the law.

He’s trying to have his cake and eat it too: All the money, none of the responsibility and none of the blame.

I wouldn’t want him working on my house. Let’s leave it at that.

[MLK Jr.] Quotes From MLK

January 24, 2008

Found via Feministe.

I really liked #10.

[Higher Education] An Article From The Nation: "Repress U"

January 24, 2008

I would’ve gone with “Repression State” myself, but hey….

Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus.

From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to “violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention”–as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name–have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.

Building a homeland security campus and bringing the university to heel is a seven-step mission:

1. Target dissidents. As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the campus has attracted increasing scrutiny–with student protesters in the cross hairs. The government’s number-one target? Peace and justice organizations.

2. Lock and load. Many campus police departments are morphing into heavily armed garrisons, equipped with a wide array of weaponry, from Taser stun guns and pepper guns to shotguns and semiautomatic rifles.

3. Keep an eye (or hundreds of them) focused on campus. Surveillance has become a boom industry nationally–one that now reaches deep into the heart of campuses.

4. Mine student records. Student records have in recent years been opened up to all manner of data mining for purposes of investigation, recruitment or just all-purpose tracking.

And so on…. click the link for the whole article; I’ve omitted a fairly large amount.

One of the things that makes this possible is the corporatization of the university structure. Fight that, and it becomes harder to make, say, Oregon State into Police State.

If I were faculty, I’d be fighting a lot of this under the purview of academic freedom and/or working conditions – how is free inquiry supposed to happen in such an environment?

Hint: It’s not. A large part of this is really about reining in anything remotely resembling free inquiry. It has little, if anything, to do with terrorism, and a lot to do with ideology.