Never Say DieUpdate: The title of this post was an attempt at understatement. I posted Hertzberg's piece because it illustrates just how horrible the death penalty is. As a friend put it: "The death penalty doesn't kind of suck, it is absolutely wrong." I couldn't agree more.
Another botched execution, this one in Ohio. They tried for two hours to find a vein and finally gave up. They want to try again next week. The man’s lawyers argue that this would be “cruel and unusual punishment” and is therefore unconstitutional.
Cruel, certainly. Unusual? Well, this was the first time since “lethal injection” became the norm that executioners failed to kill a condemned person during the course of a single execution session, however lengthy. But there was nothing unusual about the cruelty.
In our country, if a death sentence were pronounced honestly, it would sound like this:
You are hereby sentenced to death. Before you are killed, you will be taken a maximum security prison, there to be held in isolation for twenty-three hours of every day in conditions of solitary confinement. The length of this imprisonment is indeterminate but unlikely to be less than ten years. Though it may be as few as two or three years, it is more likely to be twenty or more. At intervals you will be told that you will be put to death on a certain date. Neither you nor your jailers nor anyone else will know which of these dates will prove to be the correct one. You will suffer depression, extreme anxiety, and, most probably, severe mental deterioration. On one of these dates, you will be strapped to a gurney and poisoned by intravenous injection of lethal chemicals. Your execution may take an hour or more. Your death is likely to be accompanied by unbearable pain, though this will not be apparent to witnesses because one of the chemicals will have paralyzed you, preventing you from crying out or moving.For the Ohio prisoner, a fifty-three-year-old man who committed his crime a quarter-century ago, there is an added fillip: he has been subjected to an elaborate mock execution, to be followed in due course by a “successful” one.
Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and lived in Redding, Conn.
From my cousin:
The healthcare "reform" bill released by Max Baucus' Senate committee was so bad, was such a gift to the insurance industry that the backlash could result in real reform, including a public option. But only if we keep up the pressure. Please join me in doing that, starting with the quick action below. Thanks much. -- AlanClick on the picture to sign the petition.
This poem was written by a fourth-grade blogger friend. I love it.
Friends in Room 304
By Nory Klop-Packel
No one has ever heard
The song of wind whistling through the labyrinth of branches
No one has ever seen
The black bird cutting through the cold night air
No one has ever felt
The soft touch of a warm blanket
No one cried
When the snail room 101 kept as a class pet was washed away by the river currents
No one helped out
When the art supplies spilled all over the hallway
And into the open door of the classroom
And out the window
And into the night air
And that is why
Paint splattered all over the sidewalk
And only the students of room 304 cleaned it up
There is no room 304
And no one has ever tasted
Robin’s hot fudge cake
When the recipe was spreading over America
Only room 304 went on the computer to print out the recipe
Along with rooms 405, 333, 567, and 888
The school building only goes up to 209
And no one visited Lisa when she was in the hospital
Except that room 405 made a class trip of it
And when the science teacher quit
(because of disrespectful kids)
No one cried
No one made a card for her
But in art
Room 304 did just that
And everyone never studied
Never shopped for school supplies
And got very low grades on tests
And they were actually ranked the least smart students in the district
In the state
In the country
Compliments were for other schools
And rooms 304, 405, 333, 567, and 888
And the school closed
And opened again
And the teachers never got praise
But for homework
Room 304 got assigned the creation of a compliment blog
But no one other than that
And no one else changed
And no one has ever found out
Why room 304 does everything they’re supposed to
But they don’t deserve it
The other students do
No one has ever felt
What it is like to be friends
And hear the unhearable
And see the unseeable
And feel the unfeelable
And cry when someone has suffered a loss
And help when help is needed
And taste famous recipes
And build room 304
Links added. Oops!
The Need for a Moratorium on High-stakes Testingh/t Ken Libby
by David C. Berliner on September 14, 2009
There is a growing movement in the U.S. to abandon high-stakes tests because they don’t work as anticipated and are costly. I agree, but hope that we don’t throw out the need for accountability along with the high-stakes bathwater.
Before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) became law, Audrey Amrein and I discussed the dangers of high-stakes testing. We found that high-stakes high school exit exams did not improve scores on other tests such as the SAT or NAEP tests, and contributed to higher drop out rates. We also described the corruption that invariably occurs when an indicator of any kind takes on too much value. Both the indicator (test scores, stock prices, return on investment) and those who work with it are frequently corrupted. The 1200+ years of the Chinese civil service exams, and final exams at all three US Military academies are high-stakes examinations. Yet cheating by candidates was common despite the penalties of death and dishonor associated with such cheating. When indictors take on undue value people too often engage in morally questionable or reprehensible activities. States, schools, and teachers act similarly when faced with high-stakes exit exams.
Then came NCLB with mandatory high-stakes tests for all states and schools. With my colleagues Sharon Nichols and Gene Glass we showed that even though scores on state high-stakes tests were going up, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were not rising as expected. We also found that the pressure within each state for achievement was correlated zero with gains in NAEP reading and mathematics test scores. Thus we negated a basic premise of NCLB, namely, that if pressure were exerted so that teachers and students would work harder, achievement would rise.
Then Sharon Nichols and I, in the book Collateral Damage, showed why NCLB is not working and why it cannot work. We documented how schools, under pressure to achieve, dump low performing children from the schools; or arrange for absences and suspensions on test days; or move children around from school to school so their scores will not count; or they drill, and drill yet again, on items suspiciously like those that are on the tests; and so forth. We found it hard to blame educators for a little loose record keeping, a little fudging of the data, a little more practice on items close to those that are on the tests, and for designing tests with easier items when their professionalism is undermined, their jobs are at stake, and they are forced to engage in a fruitless attempt to meet unreasonable expectations about student improvement. The Bush administration designed an accountability system perfectly suitable for corrupting the educators of our nation.
We said in our book that NCLB would not work as planned and that one of its terrible side effects would be to narrow the curriculum. We were right. Now, in fall 2009, school accountability systems based on high-stakes have proven to have no or negative effects on the achievement and the attitudes of children, and they have proven costly. Thus there is every reason to call for a moratorium on high-stakes testing in America. That’s what we asked for at the conclusion of our book and the case for a moratorium is even stronger now.
I hope that the Obama administration learns that there are alternative accountability systems that could work and are cheaper to administer. It is time to admit our nation got it wrong and must start over.
About the Author: David C. Berliner is the Regents' Professor of Education at Arizona State University in Tempe. He is a past president of the American Educational Research Association and a member of the National Academy of Education. He is the author, with Sharon L. Nichols, of Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools.
English-only test leaves some Oregon children behindh/t Fred Klonsky
by Wendy Owen, The Oregonian
Sunday September 13, 2009, 5:44 PM
Forest Grove teacher Lourdes Medina watched two of her third-grade students break into tears of frustration as they tried to complete the state assessment test in reading last spring.
They were excellent readers, but they couldn't comprehend the test, which for the first time in three years was offered only in English.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act allows students to be tested in their native languages, but the U.S. Department of Education decided the commercial Spanish test that Oregon used -- Aprenda -- did not meet federal requirements. So the state cut it last winter.
As a result, the number of third-graders meeting or exceeding state benchmarks for reading dipped at some schools in Forest Grove, Woodburn and Beaverton, making it appear as if fewer students met "adequate yearly progress." The results were released in August. (For all Oregon school ratings and test scores, visit schools.oregonlive.com.)
"It is a disadvantage for our children whose first language is Spanish," said Yvonne Curtis, Forest Grove superintendent.
No Child Left Behind requires schools to make adequate yearly progress on statewide assessments in math and reading and breaks students down by categories, including race/ethnicity, special needs, language and poverty. Students in each category must meet 60 percent.
Cornelius Elementary School in Forest Grove was particularly hard hit. Its third-grader reading scores dropped from 73 percent meeting or exceeding the benchmark to 51 percent in the past year. About 70 percent of the K-4 school's 400 students struggle with English.
"It was devastating," said Cornelius Principal Perla Rodriguez. She added, however, that there were technical complications at her school that contributed to the drop in scores.
-I now have some FinderFox code on the page for those interested.
-You may notice my Google ads are gone, and there are a couple non-Google ads up now. Google decided there was some hanky-panky going on with clicks (I assume) so they banned my AdSense. This isn't a huge deal because over the years I have made a grand total of about $75. I never got a check from Google, and now that I am banned, and I never made it to $100, I think they keep my money. Have you been clicking my ads for no reason? I hope not!
-I am getting some push-back on my Obama's Foes post. Folks don't like the idea of arresting people for displaying Nazi insignia. I was half joking and finished the idea by suggesting that maybe an ass-whooping from a gay progressive would be better. At this point, I am torn. Given that we have a not insignificant white supremacist faction in this country that responds to hate with killing (doctors who perform abortions get killed by these assholes, as do innocent people in buildings blown up by these assholes), giving them "hate-fodder" seems to me to be encouraging and condoning such hate against a class of people--progeny of those murdered by Hitler (there's lots of us). I suppose you lawyers out there will tell me why I am wrong, and I welcome you to.
-I have also put a link to my wishlist on Amazon. Since I will never make any money on this blog (thanks Google), and since you appreciate me doing all this work for nothing except my own enjoyment, and especially since you want to find a way to express your thanks, the wishlist is a great way to do it! It's in the sidebar (or the links in this post. Don't all rush at once!).
Thanks for reading and commenting and emailing. I read all the comments, there is no moderation, and I only delete spam. Trolls are welcome! For now.
$5 billion per month. Seriously. We spend that much for war, every month.
Editor's note: Lewis & Clark College professor Zaher Wahab is a native of Afghanistan who has been returning every year since 2002 to help rebuild the country's higher education system. Below, in a handwritten letter composed Thursday and edited for clarity, he describes life in Afghanistan following the Aug. 20 election. Read more of his experiences at his blog, called "Dispatches From Afghanistan."
...The American-installed Karzai regime has zero credibility. It is corrupt, ineffective, indifferent, autocratic and American-made. No matter what is done with the election, no government will have any legitimacy or credibility. And Americans and Europeans who support this bankrupt system have little place here, either. It is too simple and ignorant to blame everything on extremist Taliban or al-Qaida. This is a multifaceted insurgency ranging from the drug mafia to nationalists to fundamentalists. There are no al-Qaida or terrorists here. And the insurgency are not a threat to the west.
This is part civil war between Pashtuns (60 percent of the population) and others in the north. It is also a multidimensional anti-imperialist struggle by people who don't like being invaded, searched, arrested, tortured, killed and bombed. Knowing the Afghans, there is no way they can be subdued. It is best to:
-Withdraw U.S.-NATO [troops] soon and replace them with peacekeeping forces from neutral Muslim countries.
-Commit to developing the country's education, agriculture, health care, energy resources, transportation, mining.
-Build state apparatus.
-Reconcile ethnic, religious conflicts, restore proportional power structure. Have Loya Girga [the grand council of tribes] develop a new constitution.
-Let the Afghans develop their own polity, economy, culture, etc., in their own way.
Ensure the country's independence and neutrality.
-Stop spending $5 billion per month on death and destruction. [emphasis mine]