Columns I Didn't Write This Week
Here's this week's list of columns I did not get around to writing:
1. Honesty in government: Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall told the Leesburg Today newspaper that he would pay no attention to a letter-writing campaign launched by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce in support of new state funding for transportation improvements. Why ignore the chamber in his own home county? Easy: Because "the Loudoun Chamber didn't give me a dime for my reelection," Marshall said. "They didn't help me get elected so I have no obligation to them." Gotta love that kind of frank statement from an elected official.
2. Honesty in government, part 2. D.C. Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey made the following remarkable statement to Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt this week: Janey said the biggest surprise he's found in his first year in office is "The way lying has reached an art form. They [his very own employees] lie effortlessly. They just look you in the face and lie. I've come to accept that as standard."
Wow. How many levels of wow are there in that quote? First, that Janey would say this publicly about his own staff. Second, that he has come to see this as standard. Third, that he has not sacked the lot of them, or at least a representative group to send the message that this won't be tolerated. Fourth, that no huge public storm resulted from publication of these quotes. Fifth, that I'm sitting here blogging about this instead of writing a dozen columns about it. Think of it this way: Had any other superintendent of schools in the D.C. area said this, it would have been huge, probably Page One news. But our expectations of the D.C. schools are so low that it made hardly a ripple.
3. Montgomery County school system bans myspace.com from school computers, and bully for the MoCo schools for taking a stand against a phenomenon that cannot be quashed, but that far too many schools and parents are choosing to do nothing about. The level of sexually inappropriate and personally destructive behavior that kids are loading onto myspace and Facebook is off the charts, yet parents and schools have been slow to take action, mainly on two grounds: The adults are largely ignorant of what's on those sites, and too many adults believe that they cannot reliably restrain kids' online behavior. And while it's true that the web is an unwieldy animal and kids will find ways to hide their communications--and more power to them for being innovative about that--it's also true that parents have responsibilities, and one of them is to try to educate their kids about the dangers of revealing all your sexual and other behaviors to the entire world, and another is to curb some of the excesses. Some schools have taken the good step of banning facebook--an easy move because Facebook's structure depends on school web domains. MoCo won't halt abusive behavior on myspace, but the system is sending an important message.
4. How is it that the District's candidates for mayor and council chairman have had no problem finding prominent storefronts for their campaign headquarters, but the D.C. government cannot manage to locate four storefronts for the temporary neighborhood libraries that are supposed to serve areas where the full branch libraries were closed a year ago? Oh, we'd love to get those temporary libraries up and running, the city keeps saying, but we just can't find retail space! Yeah, right.
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