Friday, May 28, 2010
Terrorism, Flying, and Preschooler Pat-Downs
6:47 am edt
Atlantic flight scheduled to take former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from Newark to London was delayed this week
"after a passenger of Middle Eastern descent bought a one-way ticket with cash," according to a Trentonian report the New Haven Register carried.
My family flew Virgin Atlantic between Newark and London in December,
including immediately after the Christmas flight bombing attempt. A January 2 post to this blog noted “Preschooler Pat-Downs”
– when “Our children, ages 4 and 2, were patted down twice each as they went through security checks at Heathrow,
in addition to having their shoes removed. The next day, back home in New Haven, the kids had incorporated these security
precautions into their play. Brother and sister spontaneously were patting each other down, blissfully unaware of the
real dangers behind the arguably absurd examination to which they had been subjected.”
Since then, U.S. policy on flight security seems
improved, according to an April 2 New York Times report:
Dec. 25, airlines were given the no-fly list of people to be barred from flights altogether and a second ‘selectee’
list of passengers to be subjected to more thorough screening. Those lists have been expanded considerably this year and now
contain about 6,000 and 20,000 names respectively, officials said. The new system will send the airlines additional names
of passengers not on either the no-fly or selectee list but identified as possible security risks because of intelligence
about threats. Only the names of the passengers selected for extra screening, not the underlying intelligence, will be shared
with airlines and foreign security personnel, officials said. . . . [According to one expert,] ‘I do think it makes
sense to look at people and not nationalities.’ He said he also thought the new plan promised to do a better job
of applying fresh intelligence to preflight screening. ‘It’s an experiment, and we’ll have to see how it
a BBC report today brings news that “More than 100 people are now known to have been killed in a train crash in eastern India. At least
145 people were injured – many critically – when two trains collided overnight in West Bengal. Police said Maoist
rebels sabotaged the track causing the Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train to derail, throwing five of its carriages into the
path of an oncoming goods train. But a spokesman for the Maoist rebels called the BBC to deny any involvement. . . . In April,
76 paramilitary troops were killed in an ambush – the single biggest attack on the Indian security forces by the rebels.
Maoist rebels have in recent months stepped up attacks in response to a government security push to flush them out of their
jungle bases. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.”
Sunday, May 23, 2010
India, China, and Education
11:47 pm edt
media including the New York Times and NPR have featured developments in India, including related to education, in recent
weeks. Selected coverage by the Times included Lydia Polgreen’s May 14 article, In India, Hitching Hopes on a Subway : “The Delhi Metro offers new hope that the nation's decrepit urban infrastructure can be
dragged into the 21st century.” This was a more favorable account than Vikas Bajaj’s March 23 article, India's Woes Reflected in Bid to Restart Old Plant , which maintained “For all the progress India has made in information technology and service-sector jobs, the country
is still unable to provide reliable power, water, roads and other basic infrastructure to most of its 1.2 billion people.”
Another economics story, reported by the BBC, was the visit to India of U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in early April, following a New York Times preview that noted “Bilateral trade has tripled in the last 10 years, to $37.6 billion. American private investment in
India is worth $16.1 billion, about 10 times what it was in the late 1990s.” But as a Times graphic shows, that
$37.6 billion figure, for 2009, ranked just 14th among U.S. trading partners, immediately behind Singapore
and ahead of Venezuela – and about one tenth of the trade with China (which ranked number two, just behind Canada and
ahead of Mexico).
earlier, the metropolitan Delhi city of Noida was featured in a March 19 Times article by Jim Yardley, For India's Newly Rich Farmers, Limos Won't Do : “Land acquisition has created pockets of instant wealth and a new economic caste in India: nouveau riche farmers.”
24 article, Indian Students Wield Tests for College Spots , asserted: “As India's middle class has steadily grown, so has the intensity of the competition for entrance
into the country's universities. . . . The mania over testing underscores a fundamental disconnect in Indian education: Even
as elite Indian students have achieved remarkable success studying overseas, the Indian educational system is widely considered
to be failing both the tens of millions of students at the bottom, who drop out before high school, and the smaller pool at
the top, who are competing for entrance into universities that are too few and too underfinanced. Education presents such
a stubborn problem, especially access to quality education, that experts warn that the future advantages of India’s
youthful population could become a disadvantage if the government cannot improve the system rapidly enough to provide more
students a chance at college. Of the 186 million students in India, only 12.4 percent are enrolled in higher education, one
of the lowest ratios in the world.”
The Times reported this month on a teacher from China working in Oklahoma who observed cultural differences between education in China and the U.S.: “My life in high school was torture, just
studying, nothing else,” said Ms. Zheng. . . . “Here students lead more interesting lives,” partly because
they are more involved in athletics, choir and other activities. “They party, they drink, they date,” she added.
“In China, we study and study and study.” . . . Ms. Zheng said she believed that teachers got little respect in
America. “This country doesn’t value teachers, and that upsets me,” she said. “Teachers don’t
earn much, and this country worships making money. In China, teachers don’t earn a lot either, but it’s a very
1 a new education law (enacted in 2009 after a 2002 constitutional amendment) took effect, providing for a free and compulsory
education for all Indians ages 6 to 14. The Voice of America and the Times of India provide information almost entirely absent from major U.S. media. Implementation of the new law is uncertain with the
extreme range of quality among Indian schools, in particular the corruption that infects many government schools.
from along the Grand Trunk Road asked, "In India, Can Schools Offer Path Out of Poverty?" A city in which my wife lived for several years as a child was examined; the story was evocative for her in its statement
that “Muslim girls almost never stay [in school] beyond the onset of puberty.”
My wife’s family is Muslim, and her impoverished
great-grandmother departed from this common pattern when she (herself with little schooling) insisted that her daughter –
my wife’s grandmother – pursue education. The daughter went on to become a school principal, and her daughter
(my mother-in-law) and granddaughters adopted academic careers. The rarity of that in India’s Muslim community
is suggested by my wife’s recollection that in the early 1990s, she was one of only two Muslims in her high-school cohort
of fifty – substantial underrepresentation given a Muslim minority population in India (some 13 percent) so large that
only Indonesia has a greater number of Muslims.
This blog’s early January 2010 and late December 2009 posts addressed aspects of India (including the Delhi Metro and a Noida mall), during and after a recent trip there, as did
a September 2009 post.
Experiences with education
in India and in China can be glimpsed in a film – on how academically oriented high-school students often spend
their time in those countries versus most of their counterparts in the U.S. – mentioned in a June 2009 post and again
in a December 3 post: "Two Million Minutes."
Friday, May 14, 2010
Violence from Virginia to Connecticut
7:55 am edt
Sunday, May 9, 2010
On Mother's Day, a Father-Daughter Moment
9:03 pm edt
my daughter and I enjoyed a moment that evoked a March 21 New York Times article by Michael Winerip, " Generation B: A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page ."
In our family, as Mother’s Day turned to night, my wife and I were dividing pleasant
responsibilities; she put our son to bed, while I read to our daughter.
We’ve been reading E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the
Swan after having finished Stuart Little. These were two of my favorites as a kid, as was
Charlotte’s Web, which we will turn to next. Re-reading these books to my nearly five-year-old
has been a treat, especially the sharing of a story and intermittent conversation with her but also the rediscovery of White’s
writing. In addition, my daughter and I recently have been enjoying several of the Laura Ingalls Wilder
books together. For his earlier children’s classics, White won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in
1970, the year The Trumpet of the Swan was published.
My daughter has gradually been gaining confidence and facility in letter
recognition, but not until tonight had she read, or at least successfully guessed, a phrase. That first
happened when we came to an illustration of Louis the (mute but accomplished) swan holding a slate around his neck, with the
following words proclaimed in chalk to his intended sweetheart swan, Serena: “I LOVE YOU.” Without
prompting, my daughter said what those letters meant. What more could a smitten dad ask than to have his
little girl – entirely unscripted – make those words the first she had ever read?!
Thanks to the New Haven Public Library for its
role in what promises to have been a memorable family experience, assisted by this blog as a recording device. . . .
A Family Literacy Forum was held in Fair Haven earlier in the spring.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Charlotte and New Haven
7:18 am edt
According to a May 3 New York Times Editorial: The New Haven Model "A new teacher training and evaluation system in New Haven shows what can go right when school districts and unions
work together." The editorial notes, "The city of New Haven and the American Federation of Teachers deserve
high praise for the new teacher training and evaluation system they unveiled."
An April 26 Times Editorial: When the System Works contends "The Education Department has vowed to fix failing schools. It will need comprehensive, district-wide
programs, like an innovative one that is working in North Carolina."
That April 26 editorial urges paying "close attention to what is happening in North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. Two years ago, district administrators adopted an innovative staffing system intended to put the best principals in
the most troubled schools and give them the autonomy they need to succeed. While Charlotte was already one of the highest-performing
urban systems in the country, it has made progress since then. Under the Strategic Staffing Initiative, principals who have
improved student performance at their current school are given bonuses and allowed to recruit new leadership teams in exchange
for moving to chronically low-performing schools."
. . .
In 2009, the Charlotte Teachers Institute was launched, joining the school district in a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Davidson
College. Teachers from Charlotte, among other districts including New Haven,
will be on the Yale campus as National Fellows this week for a session beginning this year's national seminars, led by six Yale faculty members.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Teacher Appreciation Week
7:36 am edt
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Domestic Violence: A Public Challenge
7:52 am edt