War Talk at School

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Egged on by teacher-activists, hundreds of Oakland students walked out of class Thursday to attend an anti-war rally -- or hang out with friends. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson calls it "The Mother of All Pointless Demonstrations."

While students elsewhere in the Bay Area attended school forums to discuss the war in between math, English and history classes, as many as 1,000 Oakland high school students stood on the sidewalks at 14th Street and Broadway and filled Frank Ogawa Plaza outside Oakland City Hall.

They had no agenda, no list of speakers and no activities.

Kids hung out on all four corners until a group got up the energy to march around the block and chant general obscenities aimed at police officers.

Students have plenty of chances to attend anti-war protests outside of school hours, Johnson writes. He closes with this:

"There's a war in Iraq and here at home in Oakland, where budget cuts and police brutality are part of the same kind of oppression," said Aimara, a spokeswoman for Not in Our Name. "The same hand suppressing them (Oakland students) is also oppressing the people in Iraq," she added.

Blaming Saddam Hussein for Oakland's problems seems excessive to me. Sure, he's evil, but he doesn't get around that much.

Brainwashing tomorrow's leaders

The greatest weapon of mass destruction is stupidity, writes Thomas Sowell. He's a little ticked after getting a bunch of letters from students in Flat Rock, Mich., in response to a politically incorrect column.

The first of these letters was from a girl who informed me, from her vast store of teenage wisdom, of things that I knew 30 years ago, and closed by telling me that I needed to find out about poverty. Since I spent more years in poverty than she has spent in the world, this would be funny if it were not so sad.

. . . Flat Rock High School's envelopes, in which the students wrote their assigned letters, have the motto: "Where Tomorrow's Leaders Learn!" Sadly, they are learning not to be leaders but to be sheep-like followers, repeating politically correct notions and reacting with snotty remarks to anyone who contradicts them.

Young people know "how to vent their emotions" but "not how to weigh opposing arguments through logic and evidence," Sowell writes.

Students for war

Nearly two-thirds of American high school seniors polled the week before the war started said they support U.S. military action, reports Education Week. That's very similar to the position of American adults.

Learning English in English

California students who are learning English are much more likely to achieve proficiency if they're taught in English rather than their native language. Duh, you say. But it's news in education circles. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Five years after voters approved English-only classrooms across California, the popular ballot measure seems to be working.

The number of students who speak English well despite having learned a different language at home tripled last year.

Thirty-two percent of California students learning English -- more than 862, 000 -- were able to speak it "proficiently" as measured by the California English Language Development test in the fall of 2002.

The rate was just 11 percent in fall 2001. About 1.8 million students took the test for the first time that year.

Despite Proposition 227, which called for students to learn in English, some children receive waivers to attend bilingual programs. English proficiency for bilingual students rose from 3 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2002. Students in one English-language program increased from 9 percent in 2001 to 30 percent a year later; in another English program, proficiency rose from 13 percent to 37 percent.

Go to the principal's office and come right back

Teachers can't enforce discipline if administrators don't back them up for fear of lawsuits. The Baltimore Sun reports:

In a dozen interviews, teachers said they left the Baltimore County school system -- or thought about leaving -- because they grew frustrated with superiors who wouldn't discipline students who cursed in class, cheated on research projects and hit classmates.

While school administrators must consider the ever-growing threat of litigation resulting from disciplinary actions, current and retired teachers said the failure to punish can destroy their ability to create a safe, orderly classroom where they can teach all students.

Tired of documenting every infraction and reprimand, undercut by weak administrators and belligerent parents, some teachers leave the profession.

Mild-mannered criticism of misguided youth

Not really. If you can handle strong language, read Acidman's analysis of the Michigan kid who's now suing because he wasn't allowed to wear a t-shirt in school proclaiming that the president is a terrorist.

Defining dangerous

Virginia's board of education plans to let students transfer from schools listed as dangerous for three years in a row. But only felonies count, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Under the proposed criteria, the most serious offenses, Category I, are homicide, rape and use of a bomb. Category II offenses are robbery, assault with a weapon, kidnapping and abduction. Category III offenses are illegal possession of various firearms.

Any Category I offense would qualify a school as dangerous. The other offenses count against a school in a point system -- two points for Category II, one point for Category III. A school would be allowed one point per 100 students in a school year before it would be considered dangerous.

A school where bullies beat up weaker kids would get no danger points at all.

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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