San Francisco and Oakland public schools will conduct "teach-ins" in January on the potential war with Iraq, reports Asian Week.

Oakland Unified, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, will provide an optional program for 50,000 students; San Francisco will focus on counseling about the (non-existent) draft and persuading parents to request their children's names not be provided to military recruiters.

"If our government starts bombing Iraq, there can easily be tens of thousands of casualties as American citizens," (Oakland board member Dan) Siegel comments. "U.S. troops who will disproportionately represent poor communities like Oakland and working class, poor people and people of color will end up in the military."

...Board members will encourage teachers to lead students in a more lengthy conversation about poverty, systems of violence and the funding of the military/industrial complex.

But it's not mean to indoctrinate, says Siegel, a former anti-Vietnam War activist. Gosh, that's a relief.

Oakland kiddies already are educated on the issues, according to the Oakland Tribune.

Fifth-graders from Sequoia Elementary School spoke in favor of the teach-in at Wednesday's board meeting and read letters they had written to Bush opposing an Iraq war.

"When you go to war, you are setting a bad example for all the kids in the U.S.A.," one letter stated. "Wars and fights are not right, and bombing beautiful things is not right either."

The teacher said the students came up with the idea on their own.

The San Francisco school board's resolution was "inspired by community and grassroots groups such as International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), Not in Our Name, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Against the War and United for Peace/Global Exchange."

No indoctrination here. No sirree.

Not a Lott for Civil Rights

The number one civil rights issue is the racial gap in academic achievement, argues Abigail Thernstrom, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in the New York Times. Desperate to save his job, Trent Lott is signing to the Democrats' failed agenda.

...the political left talks almost entirely of "re-segregated" and underfunded schools, and pushes for more busing and more spending, a strategy that has failed for decades. Democrats also believe in collective bargaining rules that allow dreadful teachers to retain their jobs. Their emphasis on "self-esteem" results in the dumbing-down of educational standards, what President Bush has rightly called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

After an era of liberal leadership, the typical black or Hispanic student graduates from high school today with junior high skills, according to the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Lott says he's going to help blacks from now on. Resigning as Senate majority leader would be a great first step.

In a Wall Street Journal essay, Shelby Steele eloquently describes what's wrong with Old Lott and New Lott, and what the consequences are (dreadful) for conservative social reformers.

Drowning in Excuses

Black parents can't end racism, says William Raspberry. Parents can raise their children with the values that lead to success in school and in life. Raspberry's been reading John Ogbu's book, which primarily blames middle-class black parents for their children's lagging performance in school.

There is this picture in my head that won't go away: Thousands of black children are drifting downstream toward a deadly waterfall. And we black adults are standing along the bank reassuring ourselves: "Well, at least it's not our fault."

I have no interest in disputing the assertion. It really isn't our fault -- or at any rate not only our fault. My question is much simpler: What can we do to save the children?

Nobody -- except possibly Trent Lott -- wants to return to the days of Raspberry's youth, when blacks knew it was self-help or nothing. But, in any era, self-helpers do a lot better than blame-passers.

David Robinston, the San Antonio Spurs center, decided to throw a lifeline to those drowning kids. Robinson gave $9 million to start a private school to educate disadvantaged students on San Antonio’s East Side.

Carver Academy students -- almost all black and Hispanic kids on scholarship -- beat the national average in all subjects on the Stanford Achievement Test, and even outscored other private school students. Carver boasts that children start learning foreign languages -- Spanish, German and Japanese -- in pre-kindergarten and start on algorithms and negative numbers in first grade. Classes are limited to 15 students.

It all costs about $8,000 per student. Parents must pay at least $500 a year; 99 percent get full or partial scholarships. The rest comes from donations.

The March (in circles) of Knowledge

Today's college seniors display no more general knowledge than high school graduates surveyed by Gallup in 1955, according to a Zogby survey for the National Association of Scholars. College seniors in 2002 answered 53.5 percent of general knowledge questions correctly; in 1955, high school graduates scored 55.4 percent while a small sample of college graduates got 77.3 percent.

Zogby re-used the Gallup questions, or made slight modifications to deal with historical changes. Most questions were identical: What's the largest lake in North America? What profession is associated with Florence Nightingale?

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at JoanneJacobs.com while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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