Monthly Archives: October 2010

WSJ profiles Hartzler’s bid in MO-4

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Vicky Hartzler‘s (R) bid to replace Rep. Ike Skelton (D) as the representative from Missouri’s fourth congressional district.

With a byline from Warsaw, Kevin Helliker reports on the tightening race, taking note of Hartzler’s likeable personality. I believe this morning’s WSJ print version had a different headline from this online version – something along the lines of her “farm girl charm” covering a gritty determination. The book she wrote, Running God’s Way, is also mentioned in the article.

Whatever the outcome of next Tuesday’s election, Vicky Hartzler rightly has a bright future ahead of her in Missouri politics.

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Losing the language

Michael Brenner tackles a tough topic at the Huffington Post, the decay and distortion of the language within a society and its politics. He gets it abysmally wrong on a few points, but the general topic is an important one (and a fascinating one, if you’re a word person). A few of the highlights:

“Language has become a victim of our debased public discourse. It is cause and reinforced effect of speech being used for self-affirmation rather than communication. Public personalities emote more than they express viewpoints.”

“The radical right in the United States effectively took control of the term liberal and all its variants so as to tar it with strongly negative connotations.”

I’ll agree in part with Brenner on this one. I don’t know who or what he means by “radical” right (perhaps anybody or thing on the right is “radical” to him), but I will lament that we have lost the ability to use the words “liberal” and “conservative” with much clarity these days. In terms of being open to new experiences, accepting of others, and being generally forward-looking, I have long been liberal and in some ways am even increasingly so. I’ll call that attitudinal liberalism. Politically, I’m staunchly conservative. But it’s a label that’s hard to wear, because we’ve confused the terms so much.

“There is nothing conservative about modern day Republicans … They are at once reactionaries … and radicals… Their socio-economic thinking in rooted in 19th century social Darwinism, their reference point the ‘Gilded Age’ of the 1890s. Rolling back the New Deal and everything associated with it is objective number one. So-called ‘conservatives,’ once in power, also aim to fortify the arbitrary powers of the Executive, at the expense of the principle of ‘checks and balances’ etched in the Constitution, in a manner never before experienced in the United States. Internationally, they are dedicated to building a world according to American specifications through generous application of American military power. This package is diametrically different from all that has been meant by conservatism.”

I agree that “conservatism,” both the term itself and the modern political agenda as such, has been too rigidly defined to necessarily include a more aggressively engaged/or even interventionist mindset when it comes to foreign policy. I don’t think the true test of “conservatism” ought to be whether one supports military intervention in the next country, or next country, or next country, etc. Though, of course, a valid test of conservatism might be whether one believes America has an exceptional and constructive role to play and can be a great political force for good in the world.

“Nowadays, the promotion of any social change is labeled reform — whether or not its objects will find their situation improved.”

Agreed. And both sides do this. It’s way too easy, and the media needs to start calling people on it.

Unfortunately, Brenner himself tortures language in this screed against tortured language. For example, he continually refers to an understanding of human behavior and acceptance of economic freedom as “fundamentalism.” His attempt – and we’re seeing this increasingly from the left (I suspect they love the aesthetic appeal of cleverly insulting free market types and religious people in the same breath) – is to assert that free market capitalism is founded more on faith than fact, and is utterly irrational.

Anyway, like I said, good topic, and some decent points of analysis here, despite its many other flaws. Worthy reading.

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Fighting cancer

My piano teacher, Debi Hake, has been battling breast cancer since May of this year. The Columbia Missourian presented her story in a sideshow on its website. We hope and pray the best for Debi and her family.

While on this topic of dealing with serious illness, I also want to point to the story of Colleen Kelly. A couple weeks ago at Every Square Inch, I read some words she had to share about her own battle with cancer, and the ways in which her relationship with God was shaped in the process.

Death scares me, though if I had great faith, it would not. I’m inspired by those who can look it in the face and see God, not only in the next life but in this one, as well.

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Feelings on race take turn for worse

Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Rasmussen Reports finds that public optimism about race relations has fallen during Barack Obama‘s presidency. There are probably a variety of factors at work here, including a poor economy. Quips about white police officers acting “stupidly,” and the country being a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race, haven’t helped.

The president’s pollsters and political advisers are faced with the challenge of mobilizing a disenergized base, including black voters, for next month’s elections.On the campaign trail, the president has recently invoked the fight against slavery in describing the political battles he has waged in Washington.

While this is tempting as easy rhetoric, any political reward reaped by its continued usage comes not without risk. Casting proponents and opponents of a modern day domestic policy debate with the moral lightness and darkness of the slavery issue of 150 years ago….well, something tells me that’s not likely to inspire the type of harmony worthy of the better angels of our nature.

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Waiting for Superman…in St. Louis

State Rep. Tishaura Jones (D-St. Louis) will join education reform groups in hosting a free weekend screening of the movie, “Waiting for Superman.” The event takes place this Saturday, October 9 at the Landmark Theatres in the Plaza Frontenac Shopping Center. The trailer is worth checking out.

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KCMO, Hogan Prep, get grant money

Joe Robertson of The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City, Missouri school district has received $13.6 million in federal grant money through a program designed to place high-performing teachers in low-performing schools. Hogan Preparatory Academy also received a grant, totaling $607,000.

With the obvious qualification that it would be better if this money had never gone to Washington, D.C. in the first place, incentive programs like this one would seem to be a sensible part of broader education reform efforts. Obviously, it’s a boon to the LEAs (local education agency) involved.

It’s an interesting thing, though. Is the KC school district acknowledging that there is such a thing as a difference between teachers? That not all teachers are equal, and what’s more, that the district can distinguish between them?

By accepting this grant, it would seem they are saying exactly that. Presumably everyone would agree that good teaching matters. Now, the district acknowledges that some teachers are more effective than others, and that the difference is discernible. Together, these facts beg the question: why not a broader system of performance pay?

I’d be interested to see what the union position on these Teacher Incentive Fund grants are. It seems like they are the only actor within the system who will not acknowledge, let alone point to, more effective and less effective teaching whenever that contrast may exist.

Side note: I remember when “Hogan Preparatory Academy” was “Bishop Hogan Preparatory Academy, but I did not see any mention of that on the school website. It is now a charter school operated with oversight from the University of Central Missouri.  Its mission statement does retain a reference to a “values-based” education.

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