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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.

By Marc Fisher |  March 10, 2006; 7:44 AM ET
Previous: Touched by a Judge | Next: You Be the Reporter: A Settlement in the Works?

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In Tenleytown, the old site of the Dancing Crab/Malt Shop is sitting vacant, and would be a perfect site for the shuttered Tenly-Friendship Library. It is just off Wisconsin, a couple of blocks from the closed library, has two floors and a large protected outdoor area. Why can't the city move on this right away?

Posted by: adamr | March 10, 2006 8:51 AM

Uh, yeah, why hasn't Janey fired his entire staff? Lying has been proven to make it difficult for the person to whom the lies are told to make good decisions. That's a pretty jaw-dropping quote. I would think it is column-worthy.

Posted by: Lindemann | March 10, 2006 11:03 AM

I don't know the first thing about raising children but I feel like you're perceptions regarding facebook & myspace border on paranoid. It's a delicate balance, yes, but parents need to find a way to address the websites that does not turn their rule in totalitarian state. I think you will find the majority of kids continue to communicate in inane banter ("I'm in luv with Billy" or "Did you see the new Family Guy.") rather than share details (faux or otherwise) about sexual experiences. Generation x was considered too sexually liberal and surely the first step towards a self-destructive society; however I've had people from the 60s and 70s tell me that we are so much more conservative and controlled than the products of their respective decades.

It makes more sense to approach these "phenomenoms that cannot be squashed" realistically. It's naive to think that children don't know about sex and we should continue to shield their eyes. Parents have a responsibility to address these issues with their children.

That being said, myspace and facebook should be banned in schools. Not because they are supposed breeding grounds for immoral behavior and destroyed futures, but because they are not school related educational tools and are distractions to students who should be focused on learning. That's a much stronger and logical argument.

Posted by: DJ | March 10, 2006 11:49 AM

Re: Truth, part 2 --

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Janey's comments sound like the words of a man who is preparing for a big change. He is either going to quit, or clean house. Let's see whether he steps up or steps out.

Posted by: DC Parent | March 10, 2006 12:57 PM

Wait, so because a handful of kids are posting "sexually inappropriate and personally destructive" information on myspace.com, that's justification for shutting down access to everyone?

How is that different from removing a book like Huckleberry Finn from the school library because a handful of kids will be offended at the 'n' word?

Posted by: A.B. | March 10, 2006 4:59 PM

To A.B.

Are you honestly asserting that a social networking website like myspace.com has educational value similar to Huckleberry Finn? I disagree with that premise, and wonder why anyone would encourage school districts to allow their (limited and expensive) resources to be tied up with kids engaging in leisure activities like talking to their friends on the internet. If you want to buy kids computers to have playtime with, that's very noble of you, but use your own money--because my tax dollars would be well spent elsewhere!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2006 5:23 PM

There's a Vincent Orange for Mayor office (let me emphasize I'm not that Vincent) just north of the Verizon Center, near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro entrance. As soon as your race is over, Mr. Orange, whether it be September or November, please turn over the space for a library.

Posted by: Vincent | March 11, 2006 2:27 AM

Yes, that's right, A.B. Marc Fisher is just your run-of-the-mill, dim-wittedly reactionary, authoritarian, conservative straight white male, who has no problem shutting down, erasing, discontinuing, or otherwise eliminating anything from which he doesn't personally benefit. He's unreconstructed and still thinks the entire world is supposed to revolve around and cater to him.

Posted by: Steve | March 12, 2006 3:29 PM

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