Water Wars or Water Peace?

Each month Inside Government will examine an important national issue in depth. The topic for February is Water Wars. Ismail Serageldin, former Vice President for Special Programs of the World Bank warned in 1995: "If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water." The challenge of freshwater scarcity and ecosystem depletion is rapidly emerging as one of the defining fulcrums of world politics and human civilization. A century of unprecedented freshwater abundance is being eclipsed by a new age characterized by acute disparities in water wealth, chronic insufficiencies, and deteriorating environmental sustainability across many of the most heavily populated parts of the planet. Inside Government explores the history of conflict over water and suggests what we can expect in the future in this two-part article Water Wars or Water Peace? Part I and Water Wars or Water Peace? Part II

Abstract

Articulating a uniform purpose with specific outcomes through standards-based accountability is just one small step in instituting successful high school reform. In this article, Matthew S. Urdan examines prominent research on the topic and finds that when different aspects of issues that persist are examined and looked at from a holistic perspective, patterns emerge that indicate that the adoption of a coherent core curriculum, a reduction in school size, and the use of varying subject specific instruction methods would synergistically improve academic achievement across the socioeconomic status spectrum. To be effective, however, these reform initiatives would need to be components of a very specific, three-layered, detailed plan of implementation to overcome fragmented policies and the greatest impediment to reform: teacher inertia and a reluctance to embrace change and proven instructional techniques. This is a two-part article. Please continue reading High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part II after reading Part I below.

The Purpose of High School

As high school attendance has become nearly universal since the beginning of the 20th century, two major schools of thought regarding what the primary purpose of high school should be have emerged: to prepare students for a college education, as articulated by Charles Eliot and his Committee of Ten; and the National Education Association’s Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education’s idea that coursework should prepare students for their future occupational needs. The existence of these two competing major schools of thought as to what the purpose of high school should be has resulted in seemingly endless reform attempts to improve education and the rise of the comprehensive high school which tries to be all things to all students. (Lee and Ready, 2009). Up until 1970, the comprehensive high school had achieved a steady increase in graduation rates; but since 1970, graduate rates have remained static at seventy-five percent. (Stern, 2009). With the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, which slammed high schools for their poor results and which sparked a flurry of calls for reform, much debate and research has taken place regarding what is broken in the educational system. Many solutions have been suggested, some have even been implemented and achieved moderate success. A major result has been the standards-based reform movement, perhaps capped by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and an increasing trend towards the reinstitution of original Committee of Ten core curriculums designed to prepare students for college. However results within and between states have been fragmented and it is clear that a standards-based approach alone is not enough. While independent researchers at the nation’s top academic institutions address many component parts of the educational system, not a lot of synthesis is taking place, nor is a comprehensive plan being offered by any school district, state, or the federal government as to what and how school reform can be implemented that would result in an increase in standards, equity, and performance of all. Clash, debate and research continue, but in all the literature, very few are asking what may be the most important question: what is the purpose of high school?

Click to continue reading “High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part I”

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Abstract

Articulating a uniform purpose with specific outcomes through standards-based accountability is just one small step in instituting successful high school reform. In this article, Matthew S. Urdan examines prominent research on the topic and finds that when different aspects of issues that persist are examined and looked at from a holistic perspective, patterns emerge that indicate that the adoption of a coherent core curriculum, a reduction in school size, and the use of varying subject specific instruction methods would synergistically improve academic achievement across the socioeconomic status spectrum. To be effective, however, these reform initiatives would need to be components of a very specific, three-layered, detailed plan of implementation to overcome fragmented policies and the greatest impediment to reform: teacher inertia and a reluctance to embrace change and proven instructional techniques. This is a two-part article. Please read High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part I before continuing with Part II below.

Conditions of Successful High School Reform

While any one student can succeed admirably in any given school setting in any location in the country, three conditions for success have emerged as critical in the literature for achieving educational success. These three conditions, or components, should be incorporated into any new high school reform. They are the adoption of a standardized and coherent core knowledge curriculum, a reduction in size of high schools, and the utilization of proven and evidenced-based instructional practices.

Click to continue reading “High School Reform: The Three “R”s Part II”

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America is at a major crossroads and it is time to decide what we want for our society. Do we want to work together to solve our issues and contribute to the positive growth of our nation or do we want to live in a society of hate where the left and the right are always at odds, where bullying and scapegoating is accepted? Do we want to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and democracy, or do we want to be the bully imposing our will on sovereign nations for our own benefit, even if our actions conflict with our most cherished ideals?

In many ways, our response to gay marriage is a microcosm of these larger questions. Paradoxically, while we condemn nations like China for their human rights violations, we still embrace racist practices here at home and give hate a forum. The Obama administration’s decision to no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a step in the right direction to end one of our nation’s last great frontiers of hate and denial of dignity and respect to a significant segment of our nation’s citizens. It is probably the best decision of Obama’s presidency to date, no matter what your politics and views regarding gay marriage are if for no other reason than the decision recognizes the humanity of gay men and women and that they are entitled to equal protection under our laws as citizens of the United States.

At the end of the day, gay marriage is not about you or me or what we think is right and wrong. Gay marriage is about the dignity and respect our fellow Americans deserve as citizens of the United States and equality under the law exactly like the way we have extended dignity and respect, under the law at least, to African Americans, Jewish Americans, Asian Americans, women and the disabled.

In terms of gay marriage issues, the United States is behind other nations of the world. “At a time when the legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships has been proceeding apace in advanced industrial nations around the world (most notably, in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Canada, Germany, and Hungary and partially or locally in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), the efforts of U.S. legislators to prohibit legal recognition demand explanation.” (Adam, 2003).

Click to continue reading “Gay Marriage: Our Choice Between Hate and Civil Society”

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As the threatened United States government shutdown continues to be avoided and the controversial collective bargaining bill passes the Wisconsin State Senate, the dire situation of crippling budget deficits at both the national and state levels is emerging as potentially the number one issue in the upcoming 2012 election season as we count down to New Hampshire and Iowa.

The Wisconsin State Assembly will take up the issue tomorrow morning at 11:00 am CST, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. Should Governor Walker’s collective bargaining bill pass, adjustments of the citizenry will be painful and most likely herald more to come in other areas, but Wisconsin will achieve a major success in learning how to live within its means—something our federal government hasn’t yet figured out how to do or realize the impending necessity.

Last Saturday, President Obama stated in his weekly address that: “We need to come together around a budget that cuts spending without slowing our economic momentum. We need a government that lives within its means without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. The budget I sent to Congress makes these investments, but it also includes a 5-year spending freeze, and it will reduce our deficits by $1 trillion over the next decade. In fact, the cuts I’ve proposed would bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy under any president in more than 50 years. Over the last few weeks, members of Congress have been debating their own proposals. And I was pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together a few days ago and passed a plan to cut spending and keep the government running for two more weeks. Still, we can’t do business two weeks at a time. It’s not responsible, and it threatens the progress our economy has been making. We’ve got to keep that momentum going. We need to come together, Democrats and Republicans, around a long-term budget that sacrifices wasteful spending without sacrificing the job-creating investment in our future.”

Click to continue reading “Will “Downsizing” Be the Buzzword of the 2012 Election Season?”

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Representative Chris Lee from New York has resigned from Congress over his misrepresentation about his age and marriage status while apparently attempting to date a woman from Craigslist.

Anyone has the right to date and to enter into a relationship and to meet people by whatever manner they choose. However, we expect people to conduct themselves and live their lives with integrity, and most especially our elected officials.

Be who you are, be authentic, do what you say and have some self respect. If you are going to represent Americans, act in the best interests of the American people. If you are elected to Congress and you lie about your marriage status and age online to have an affair, how can the American people trust you to act in our best interests? Especially when your decisions affect our lives in countless ways and you control how our tax dollars are spent?

More importantly, when our elected leaders act such as Representative Lee, they send the message to all of us, young and old alike, that lying, cheating, misrepresentation in any form is acceptable conduct. If our country is to continue to be great, our elected leaders must demonstrate behaviors that are above reproach. They have to set the example. If they are not willing to do so, they should not run for office. Plain and simple.

Representative Lee is not the first elected official to have an affair. He will not be the last. But one would hope his resignation and the internet publicity he has already received will serve as a lesson for all of us on the importance of integrity.

Thanks for reading.

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