What do poor, minority kids need least? How about a public high school that will teach them to resist mainstream culture, feel sorry for themselves and write ransom notes to the president?

Oakland's new School for Social Justice and Community Development is like a throwback to the '60s. And not the part with good music.

The Contra Costa Times’ story opens with a class taught by rapper Boots Riley, author of Five Million Ways to Kill a CEO.

In culture and resistance class, the assignment is to compose a rap about an important issue in the city of Oakland, a proposal to add 100 police to the city's force.

"I can't rap," says Antoine Henderson, surveying the lyrics on his paper: "Why they want to bring more police in the town / Just for them to attack the black and brown."

Actually, black and brown Oaklanders could use more police protection from street criminals: Twenty people were murdered within a mile of the school in 2002; Oakland’s murder toll skyrocketed to 113. But the proposal to add police came from Mayor Jerry Brown; his opponent in the mayoral race, Wilson Riles, Jr., is the school's principal. (Just to complicate matters, Riles’ dad was state superintendent during Brown’s tenure as governor.)

School leaders say the protest theme will engage students because it will be "relevant" to their lives. I remember "relevance." It doesn't work.

On a recent school day, Sarah Fuchs' English and social studies class talked about patriarchy and sexism, and discussed an essay assignment on how colonialism affected Africa.

It was part of a lesson plan covering "systems of oppression" including capitalism and white supremacy. Another section of the plan called for discussing "tools for liberation."

Biology teacher Omar Hunter taught his class about the periodic table, then gave them an assignment: Write a ransom letter to President Bush. Students were to pretend they were holding an element for ransom, listing its physical and chemical properties and why it is crucial, along with their demands, he said.

How is this relevant? Because the teacher thinks they're all gangstas? Real relevance would involve teaching students how they can use their knowledge of elements in the periodic table in the world that they might have a chance of entering if they get a decent education.

Gut Rumbles thinks teaching children to read would serve them better than teaching them to protest a world that has no use for sub-literate whiners.

Once again, I refer you to the schools run by the Islamofascist mullahs. The philosophy is the same: Get 'em young, fill their heads full of garbage, and send them out to take flying lessons.

The Oakland school board, which created Social Justice as a semi-independent public school within the district, refused to charter Jerry Brown's proposed Oakland Military Institute affiliated with the California National Guard. Social Justice's principal, Riles, led the opposition, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Riles complained "this school, if not promotes, at least legitimizes violence." The state board of education chartered the military school for grades 7-12; it opened in August, 2001.

Anti-war, Anti-indoctrination

You don't have to like war with Iraq to hate the San Francisco school board's proposed anti-war teach-in, which passed a committee on Dec. 17 and will go to a full board vote in January. Even doves think the idea crosses the line from education to indoctrination.

Parents Advocating School Accountability which I know for its fierce opposition to Frisco's Edison charter school, quotes Margaret Brodkin:

Parents and students have a right to go to a public school that does not impose a one-sided political point of view. It’s a civil rights issue.

School Board President Jill Wynns, another dove, tried unsuccessfully to modify the resolution, which lists only anti-war groups as participants in a day of public education.

The San Francisco Chronicle also editorialized against propagandizing students.

I predict the war will be over before the "day of public education" can be approved, scheduled, organized and implemented. And that the anti-war teach-in will happen anyhow. Why should irrelevance stop them?

Miss Count

A scoring mistake made Ashley Bryant the beauty queen of Beach High School in Savannah, Ga. Now the real "Miss Beach High" has taken the crown, and Ashley's parents are threatening to sue.

On competition night, the nine judges met to tally their scores but somehow mixed up Bryant's score and that of Courtney Middleton, whom school officials say is the true winner.

Beach High's principal, Roy Davenport, soon heard rumblings there was a problem with the pageant, and called the head of the math department in for a recount.

Middleton had the most votes of the 12 finalists; Bryant hadn't even made runner-up.

Bryant's family has contacted an attorney and is considering legal action to get the crown and trophy back.

"Why should I have to give back something that I earned?" Bryant told the Savannah Morning News.

I see an easy compromise: Give Bryant the title of Miss Count, Miss Take or possibly Miss Definition of "Earned."

Interacting in Print With Parents

New York City's 12-page jargon-filled report card will be simplified, so parents can understand it.

In one example, (Chancellor Joel) Klein said, the old report card measured whether students "interact with print daily for a variety of purposes."

"Maybe that has meaning to people," he said, "but to me, I had this feeling like I was reading a newspaper and getting it on my fingers. That's the only interaction with print that I have on a daily basis."

The old card used letter grades to measure overall "interest and effort" in each subject. Confusingly, though, A (for "area of concern") was the lowest grade and C ("consistently demonstrates") was the highest.

The new report card is down to four pages.

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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