Teachable Moment

I’d guess that just about every candidate for public office in this country has established a web site to support his or her campaign.

But should we allow a 5th grader running for president of the student association to do the same thing?

It’s a question that came up this week and, while I haven’t heard whether the principal will allow the young man to use his URL on campaign posters, this situation sounds like a wonderful teachable moment.

A terrific opportunity for teachers to help not only that student but the rest of the school, learn some lessons about how to constructively use the web.

Getting Attached to the World

My skills as a “futurist” are pretty poor but I’m pretty confident with this one.

Cuba lifting the ban on personal ownership of computers this week will have a much bigger influence on changing that country’s government than the idiotic embargo supported by generations of American politicians.

The cost of getting one is still beyond the income of most people and internet access is still severely restricted, so it won’t happen immediately.

But this is a big first step.

Something Completely Different

Maybe if people in our government did this more often, we’d have many fewer problems in this country.

[Alfonso] Aguilar, chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship, met with 30 teenage immigrants yesterday at Gaithersburg High School for a 90-minute civics lesson and question-and-answer session in which the students took full advantage of their right to hold their government officials accountable.

Aguilar’s appearance in Gaithersburg is part of the government’s push to reach out to the immigrant community and encourage its members to learn English and embrace American political culture. The effort comes as record numbers are applying for citizenship.

Unfortunately, too many of our “leaders” (and the talking heads who support them) want us to believe that every major issue we face, including immigration, has a simple solution.

A Very Low Summit

I’ve been invited to a summit!

Specifically a group called EDin08, whose stated goal is to generate some discussion about education issues among candidates for office (and push other agendas), has asked me to attend their Education Blogger Summit.

During this meeting, the email says, I will “have an opportunity to meet and network with fellow education bloggers, participate in panels, attend workshops, and help tackle tough questions on the state of education in America”.

Disregarding such a compelling invitation and the fact that the summit site is just a short Metro ride away, I’m going to pass on this “opportunity”.

One reason is the speakers list, which includes a long roster of representatives from education policy think tanks and journalists who write about education for a living.

And only one working educator who “guest blogs” for the New York Times.

Sorry, but I have this small bias that you can’t seriously discuss education reform without involving teachers and students.

The agenda also shows very little time to “meet and network” but plenty of time to sit and listen: speaker, panel, speaker, panel, speaker… awards ceremony?

I’m developing a low tolerance for this kind of “conference”.

Another little annoyance, you would think an important session like this would be web cast, but it’s not. Also, the program says nothing about wifi being available in the meeting rooms to allow live blogging.

But the final straw was the fact that I’d have to listen to Newt Gingrich while trying to eat lunch.

In the end, this sounds more like just one more political meeting in DC rather than any kind of “blogger summit”.

[Doug got an invitation. Anyone else?]

In The Name of Security

I wouldn’t consider myself a tree hugger or an eco-radical but this seems like one more good reason to not build the border fence.

Wildlife researchers in Southern Arizona are concerned that the high-tech fence the anti-immigration crowd wants to build along the border with Mexico will cause major disruptions to the ecology of the region.

While many who’ve never visited the Sonoran Desert believe it’s just one vast expanse of nothing, in reality this region “includes some of the world’s most diverse terrain”.

However, as is usual with these issues of man vs. nature, our president has a response to the issue: tough luck, nature!

Earlier this month, however, the Bush administration waived more than 30 environmental and land-management laws to meet its deadline for building at least 360 miles of the border fence. Two advocacy groups, the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, have gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of the authority that Congress gave the administration to set aside federally required environmental reviews.

Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said that despite the waivers, the agency has prepared draft environmental assessments or impact statements for much of the fence — which will be composed of metal, concrete or wire along different stretches — and that officials will continue to explore ways to mitigate its effect on vulnerable wildlife.

“Just because we’re using this waiver authority doesn’t mean we’ve not been mindful of our obligation to be stewards of the environment,” she said in an interview. “For a number of miles, we’ve determined that it would have only insignificant impact.”

Why do we have environmental and land-management laws if the people running this government can just waive them?

Does anyone believe a member of this administration who says they are “mindful of our obligation” to anything?

Or are those just stupid questions?