Monthly Archives: March 2002

Race and Class in Public Schools

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Diversity isn’t what it used to be – not in public schools, not since courts started striking down racial quotas. So just this week, the city of San Francisco announced that – after years of trying to integrate its public schools by race, it will assign students based instead on family income.

Supporters say that the switch is both principled and pragmatic, that academic success has more to do with economics than ethnic background.

And if a by product is a more diverse student body, so much the better.

Bonus: the courts can’t touch it, or at least they haven’t yet. Opponents say desegregation, whether achieved by race or class, still amounts to rearranging deck chairs, yet again, while public schools drown.


Chester Finn, President, Thomas Fordham Foundation

Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, Century Foundation

Dick Swantz, former Superintendent of Schools, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Mirroring Evil

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You can build anything with LEGO. Even a concentration camp. And it’s that one piece of art that set off one curator’s imagination at New York’s Jewish Museum. The sculpture is now part of a new and controversial exhibition that opened this week. “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art” asks the viewer to identify not with the victims, but with the villains, the Nazis. It suggests that the building blocks, those plastic, interchangeable Lego bricks, can just as easily be used, by any of us, for evil or for good.

Taking ownership of horror is unnerving, and the show has set off a furious debate over Holocaust imagery, over how far you can stretch an artistic representation of this history before it becomes evil itself.


James Young, advisor to the exhibition and professor of English and Judaic Studies at UMass Amherst

Alan Schechner, artist whose work is featured in “Mirroring Evil”

Yael Danieli, psychologist and founder of the Group Project for Holocaust Survivors and Their Children.

Opposing Saddam Hussein

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They should have gotten him 11 years ago. Everyone agrees that Saddam Hussein could have been ousted from power at the end of the Gulf War. The fact that he wasn’t then has led to years of sanctions, years of squabbling over weapons inspection, and today’s debate over the notion of “regime change” in Iraq.

While American leaders ponder their options and court their allies, Arab states point to Palestine, saying “first things first.” And a group of Iraqi expatriates, former generals and the like, makes its case for the movement that could overthrow and succeed Saddam Hussein. Neighbors and long-time enemies are wondering about Washington’s next move. Iraq, allies and the options, another storm in the desert.


Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein, member, Iraqi National Congress Leadership Council

Judith Yaphe, senior research professor, National Defense University

Henri Barkey, professor of international relations, Lehigh University.

Mark Doty

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The poet Mark Doty discovered an old mirror in Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel. The heavy glass and its aging silver weren’t reflecting very well, anymore, “This mirror resists what it can, too weary for generosity. As if each coming and going, each visitor turned, one night or weeks, to check a collar or the angle of a hat, left some residue, a bit of leave-taking preserved in mercury. And now, filled up with all that regard, there is hardly any room for regarding, and a silvered fog fills nearly all – the space, like rain: the city’s lovely, crowded dream, which closes you into itself like a folding screen.”

Mark Doty, to many the poetic chronicler of the AIDS plague, turns his glass outward in a new collection, called “Source.”


Poet Mark Doty

The White House in Stealth Mode

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One year in office, more than six months since the tragedy, and the Bush Administration roars along, retaining an 80 percent approval rating on its governmental report card. But in the teacher’s comments column, a familiar refrain: “Does not play well with others, Reluctant to share.”

Increasingly, members of Congress are asking for more information, for the chance to question presidential advisors, for the chance, as they put it, to see how the taxpayer’s money is being spent.

There are questions about the “War on Terror,” about homeland security. But the Bush axiom that “you’re either with us or against us” seems to extend to elected officials who ask the wrong questions. The legislators, the executive, and the great gulf of silence in between.


John McGinnis, professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, and former deputy assistant attorney general during the Reagan and Bush administrations

The Promises Film Project

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A Palestinian boy sits on a couch in a home in a West Bank refugee camp and says, “I believe all children are innocent.” That’s the sentiment tested in the new documentary film, Promises. We meet seven Israeli and Palestinian children, linked by youth and separated by war. They can talk as passionately about sports as they can about politics. And some find the desire to connect just as strong as the inclination to hate.

Promises, nominated this year for an Academy Award, does not attempt to keep track of daily events or politics. It just follows the way in which the children form their ideas about life and neighbors and peace in a world where the checkpoint becomes symbol and deterrent to an afternoon of play. Close, yet disconnected, are the children of the Holy Land.


B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro, co-writers, producers and directors of “Promises.”

Celibacy in the Catholic Church

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The scandal in the Catholic Church continues to expand beyond the Boston archdiocese. From Florida to Maine to California, bishops, pastors and priests are being removed from positions of authority. The Boston Catholic newspaper now says part of addressing the crisis is talking about issues like celibacy and homosexuality in the church. Cardinal Law himself is less enthusiastic, saying the policy of clerical celibacy stands, and should.

Whether the Cardinal likes it or not, many of the faithful are questioning a range of church policies, and the scandals are cutting directly to the moral credibility of the church. Some Catholics are wondering whether the church even recognizes the depth of the crisis in America and beyond.


David Willey, BBC Vatican Correspondent

Lisa Sowle Cahill, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Boston College

and Mary Ann Ronan, Women’s Ordination Conference

The Temple of Dispute

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In those awful blood soaked days of Partition 55 years ago, a million Hindus and Muslims were killed fleeing between India and Pakistan. They died on the roads, in their homes and on the trains. And ever since, the worst threat to India’s young democracy is a return to just that kind of violence. Two weeks ago it started again, when angry Muslims set fire to a train filled mostly with Hindu devotees. Hindus struck back, and by the time the fighting in nearby streets and neighborhoods stopped, over 700 people had been killed.

A court injunction, 14,000 troops and a last-minute deal averted more bloodshed today, but tensions remain high, in the holy city of Ayodhya, across North India, and in Parliament.


Sir Mark Tully, former BBC India correspondent, author of No Full Stops in India, and currently a freelance journalist based in Delhi

Ashutosh Varshney, Director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michighan, and author of “Ethnic Conflict & Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India”

Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa

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If landscapes are a language, a way of understanding a country, then mountains are exclamation points. And Kilimanjaro is as bold a mark as exists anywhere on earth. It rises in solitary majesty from the savannah of East Africa through rainforest, heath, and alpine desert to the white snows, mists and clouds it helps to manufacture in its soaring height. It was a natural choice for the IMAX savvy eye of climber and filmmaker David Breashears.

He’s best known for his work and heroism on Mount Everest, documenting the danger and the drama of the world’s tallest peak, but he specifically chose friendlier Kilimanjaro for his new film, for the unique challenges of Africa’s great mountain, and for its kaleidoscope of climates and vistas.


Filmmaker David Breashears

Audrey Salkeld, author of companion book, “Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of the World”

A New Resolution for Middle East Peace

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At a time when Middle East carnage is reminiscent of the death tolls in the War of 1967, it is hard to imagine there is anything, any bit of news that’s encouraging. But there is. It happened early yesterday morning at the United Nations Security Council, when the US, for the first time in 25 years, sponsored a Middle East resolution that, for the first time in history, endorses a Palestinian state. Remarkably, the resolution was unanimously passed. More to the point, both Israelis and Palestinians approved it.

The resolution calls for both sides to stop fighting, to end the terror and provocation, the incitement and destruction. And it came on the same day when UN Secretary General Kofi Annan unloaded his anger on both sides. The resolution, and reading between the lines.


Hasan Abdel Rahman, Chief Representative of the P.L.O. in the United States

Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations