Monday, November 12, 2007

Coffee & Cake & Schools & Politics

An interesting evening.

On the promise of coffee and cake, I went with Kelly to a book reading/political rally in the neighborhood that flanks Cameron Village.

The cake was fantastic. The rest of the program wasn’t too shabby either.

First up: a talk by Linda Perlstein, a former Washington Post education reporter who’s just written her second book, “Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade.” The book is a case study of a Maryland elementary school “once deemed a chaotic failure but now held up as an example of reform done right.”

Perlstein had nothing good to say about the standardized testing that is the current rage among American public schools. She said the emphasis on measurable progress has created a “culture of fear” among teachers and administrators, and that positive tests results are masking a wide chasm between the poorer and more affluent schools. Oh, yeah. She said the kids are learning how to pass the test, but they ain’t learning some basic stuff. Like how a poem works.

Not a very encouraging assessment.

Next up was Josh Stein, who is running for election next year to the state Senate in the 16th Senate District, which includes our neighborhood. He is running for the seat of Janet Cowell, who in turn is running for state treasurer. I’ll miss Janet as my senator. She won my heart forever when she inserted a provision in the Senate budget to get rid of reserved spots for most state employees in downtown Raleigh. For a brief moment, I envisioned a fleet of state employees astride bikes and heading to downtown. Not surprisingly, the state employees went ballistic. They mailed lots of nasty letters about the idea to the local newspapers. They called Janet some ugly words. I wish her the best in her treasurer campaign.

But back to Josh. Tonight was his first campaign talk and there were a few flashes of nervousness, but the guy is the real deal. And he locked up my vote when the words “we need more alternative transportation” rolled off his tongue.

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