Seyward Darby

Schoolyard Risks

In her well-intentioned but flawed book, Jessie Klein, a professor of sociology and criminal justice, seeks to explain why school shootings happen and

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I’ve been trying for years to figure out why I don’t like Zooey Deschanel. I’ve always known I’m not alone: A quick Google search will reveal plenty of female writers who take issue with the indie actress, known for her roles in hit movies and—perhaps even more—for her long dark hair, wide blue eyes, and flirty, flouncy style. Their beefs tend to be feminist ones. There’s the acting critique: that she plays hollow characters whose chief characteristics are their beauty and ability to attract men. Critics in this camp often point to the film (500) Days of Summer.

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“A spectacle like nothing else … their lifestyle will blow your mind,” proclaims the commercial for TLC’s newest show, “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” which debuted in a “sneak peek” Sunday night. (The official premiere is June 3.) A re-broadcast of the British Channel 4 show of the same name that has attracted millions of viewers and widespread media attention, the series documents the lavish weddings, as well as engagements, first communions, and other milestone events, of Irish Traveller and Roma communities.

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From day one, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to make Hearst executive Cathleen Black the new chancellor of New York City’s public schools, despite her complete lack of education experience, was appalling. Her selection was an affront to students, parents, teachers, and others deeply invested in improving public schools. Still, it would have been hard to imagine that Black’s tenure, which ended on Thursday when she abruptly resigned after only three months on the job, would go as terribly as it did.

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As an experiment, two mornings in a row this week, I got up early, turned on the television in my apartment, and flipped through every news show on air. (Well, every show except one; I couldn’t bring myself to watch “Fox & Friends” lest I bump into Sarah Palin.) Almost every channel was covering Charlie Sheen. Each show was either interviewing Sheen, or talking to someone who had recently interviewed Sheen, or discussing Sheen with a medical or Hollywood expert.

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Rheeconsideration

The mantra goes, “You either love or hate Michelle Rhee.” In the education world, there is no figure as polarizing as the former chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, who famously warred with the city’s teachers’ union and left abruptly when her boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, lost reelection last year. Since then, she has started an organization called StudentsFirst to push for education reform nationwide. She announced the group in a Newsweek cover story, and it raised more than $700,000 in its first week.

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[Guest post by Seyward Darby:] On Wednesday, Slate ran an article defending several media outlets in New York that want to publish, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg’s education department, value-added assessment data of the city’s teachers. The outlets would be following the lead of the Los Angeles Times, which published such data last year.

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In our latest issue, TNR’s editors vehemently criticize New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for selecting Cathleen Black, best-known as the head of Hearst Magazines, to run his city’s schools because Black has exactly no experience in education. We argue that the ideal leader of a school district should have business and educational experience—and suggest that Bloomberg could have chosen from an impressive list of education reformers who have both qualifications.

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After months of speculation, former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee today is unveiling her next move. On this afternoon’s episode of “Oprah” and in this week’s Newsweek, Rhee is announcing the launch of an education advocacy organization called StudentsFirst. (The group’s website also went live this morning). Rhee is dubbing it a “national movement,” with headquarters online, but a source tells me she will be working out of Sacramento, where her new husband Kevin Johnson is mayor. Her office for the time being, I’m told, will be at conservative-leaning Mercury, a p.r.

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This is the fourth in an occasional series examining how Republican control of Congress might affect policy debates in the next two years. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Could education be the one policy area where Republicans and Democrats find common ground in a new conservative Congress? Many people, including officials in the White House, think so.

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