Jewish World Review March 24, 2003 / 20 Adar II, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Watching the war


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Code of the Warrior

Shannon French, who teaches ethics at the Naval Academy, specializes in teaching the code of the warrior.

My students and I study the warrior's codes associated (in fiction or in fact) with the ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Vikings, the Celts, medieval knights, Zulus, Native Americans, Chinese monks, and Japanese samurai. We talk about how the purpose of a code is to restrain warriors, for their own good as much as for the good of others. The essential element of a warrior's code is that it must set definite limits on what warriors can and cannot do if they want to continue to be regarded as warriors, not murderers or cowards. For the warrior who has such a code, certain actions remain unthinkable, even in the most dire or extreme circumstances.

When warriors fight murderers, it's hard to hang on to the code, French writes.

A Range of Anti-war Views

Lone Dissenter reports on her private high school's teach-in Wednesday (scheduled two weeks earlier) on whether we should go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power. "Dean Wormer" told her the teach-in would feature different viewpoints.

We had the woman who was against the war because everyone in Iraq loves Saddam Hussein, we had the pacifist Quaker who is against all war, we had the Veteran For Peace, we had the academic who was against the war because it wasn't just, and we had the token pro-war guy.

So, depending on how you looked at it, we had either two viewpoints or five. The administration obviously thought we had five. The first speaker was a bit off. She insisted that Saddam had done wonders for women's rights — although in a country where nobody has any rights it isn't very impressive that men and women have the same — and that there were pictures of him all over Iraq. Everyone loves him!

The next three speakers were pretty predictable; Oh, we didn't join Kyoto. Oh, we didn't join the ICC. Oh, we're evil capitalists. I hate us so much, and Iraq is so much better, which of course is why I live there.

One speaker defended the war.

Hot Cross Buns Get Cold Shoulder

Hot cross buns have been banned from some British school menus, because local councils think the Easter tradition might offend non-Christians. A Muslim group called the move "very, very bizarre."

Officials in one London borough said there'd been complaints about pancakes served on Shrove Tuesday. So Tower Hamlets will go with naan bread instead. Liverpool, which organizes menus to celebrate Chinese New Year, Italian National Day and Russian Independence Day, also is banning hot cross buns.

Wakefield students also will be bun-free for Easter.

"Each term we try to come up with a menu which encourages children to think about different issues. This Easter term we chose information technology and did not even consider putting hot cross buns on the menu."

So what are they serving to fit the infotech theme? Chips, writes Andrew Stuttaford in The Corner.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said, "I wish they would leave us alone. We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us.

"British Muslims have been quite happily eating and digesting hot cross buns for many years and I don't think they are suddenly going to be offended."

Easter falls during the Passover season this year, so Jewish students won't be eating leavened bread in any case. I wonder if local councils will order schools to serve matzoh?

In 1999, a supermarket produced hot star buns for Jewish customers in North London. The buns weren't kosher.

Big Spenders

Education Intelligence Agency ranks 14,000 districts on per-pupil spending and labor costs, using Census data.

New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia spend the most — close to $11,000 per student — while low-spending Utah got by with $4,625 per student. The national average was $7,248.

At $11,000, a class of eight students would pay a teacher's salary and benefits, cover books and supplies and have money left over for extras. You wouldn't need a lot of aides or specialists if one teacher only had eight students. How are they spending all that money? By California standards, it's a fortune.

Dusty Computers

More than 90 percent of public school classrooms are linked to the Internet; there's a computer for every five students. Yet most schools get little value from all the money invested in technology, writes James Guthrie, a Vanderbilt education professor, in USA Today. He suggests denying E-Rate money — $2 billion a year — to "all but the most needy schools," and spending the money instead on "competitive endeavors."

*Make it easier for high school students to take Advance Placement and college courses online.

*Encourage innovations such as Florida's online high school, where students can qualify for graduation without attending a conventional school.

*Use E-Rate funds as venture capital for instructional software research and development, and provide fiscal incentives for charter schools that take advantage of technological innovations.

*Offer subsidies to home-schooling parents to lease or buy software for their children's instruction.

"Free" money and faddishness encouraged school managers to acquire technology without thinking about how it could be used. An awful lot of school technology is gathering dust.

Miss Leading Soft Wear

Relying on editing software leads to more errors, according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Some students proofread a business letter using Microsoft Word, which underlines possible grammar and spelling errors, while others did it without software aid.

Without grammar or spelling software, students with higher SAT verbal scores made, on average, five errors, compared with 12.3 errors for students with lower scores.

Using the software, students with higher verbal scores reading the same page made, on average, 16 errors, compared with 17 errors for students with lower scores.

The software helped students catch some errors but induced them to change correct phrases that were flagged as suspicious. Note that Word nearly eliminated the gap between weak and strong students — by tripling the strong students' error rate.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at ReadJacobs.com. She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs