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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 12/24/2010

Suspicious package

By Tom Toles

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Exception to the rule

The GOP strategists must be out of ideas. Big surprise there. Their latest zinger to try to trip up Obama with is American Exceptionalism. They apparently think it is another masterstroke in the now familiar pattern they have employed to paint Democrats as un-American (see also: the birth-certificate "issue").

At first glance, it must have struck them as another winner in this vicious, tedious genre. American Exceptionalism! So WHO gets to strut the world stage with chin out and fists sweeping rhythmically back and forth across the chest region? WE DO! Who is just plain better, not for anything that needs to be quantified or examined, but just because? WE ARE! Say it, Obama! We DARE YOU not too! If you won't say it, you hate America just like we always knew!

But they are miscalculating this time. If the Democrats can't jujitsu this one by making the term their central platform plank, defining it in a sensible way, and being even MORE fervent about it than the GOP, maybe they aren't very good at politics after all. --Tom Toles

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By Tom Toles  | December 24, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  DC, Metro, National Security  
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Comments

Thank you, Sweet Jesus. And that bit-o-gratitude would be for inspiring Insightinc to share his/her thoughts and recommendations for improving public education; an especially valuable perspective given his/her newcomer standing in the field. I would go one step beyond his idea of removing disruptive kids from the classroom: assign each one a behavioral aide and assess the parents for the extra costs. I’m convinced we’d see a radical nosedive in the number of “bad actors” in our classrooms. The stigma among the other kids would be serious enough to affect most recalcitrance, plus the price tag for the aide would have a powerful tendency to create attentive and remediation-based parenting. And you’re right, Insightinc, about tenure and teacher unions; in my view that’s one of those “red herrings.” It’s a stew-pot of allegations which gets the potentially responsible and the totally capable off the hook -- as you also point out – those who have the financial wherewithal and the power of personal/political clout to advocate for public school changes. The No Child Left Behind debacle was a Congressional coalition of the wealthy right wingers and the liberal private-school types: it placated the former while liberating the latter – from their guilt. At one time not all that long ago, effective teachers ran their classrooms and created the learning communities that nostalgia tells us worked out so well for America. Let’s try that again; it could work quite nicely using the caliber of ideas that Insightinc suggests.

Posted by: dudeupnorth | December 26, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

insightinc

Amen brother!!!

Where I live some suburbs embrace your solutions and the people support facility spending with excellent results. The twin cities though are spending appx 3500 more per pupil than some suburbs and having declining results. Mpls had an excellent respected interim superintendant but they couldn't appoint him because he was too white(TRUE). The permanent hire lasted less than 2 years and cost 250,000 to get rid of her. Plus 50,000 for her search and more than 50,000 for her replacement. This is NOT a conservative\repub city or school board. true blue dems. These children here are the ones to suffer. I had to move when my children got into this system because it is so broken.

Posted by: dalyplanet | December 25, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

insightinc

Amen brother!!!

Where I live some suburbs embrace your solutions and the people support facility spending with excellent results. The twin cities though are spending appx 3500 more per pupil than some suburbs and having declining results. Mpls had an excellent respected interim superintendant but they couldn't appoint him because he was too white(TRUE). The permanent hire lasted less than 2 years and cost 250,000 to get rid of her. Plus 50,000 for her search and more than 50,000 for her replacement. This is NOT a conservative\repub city or school board. true blue dems. These children here are the ones to suffer. I had to move when my children got into this system because it is so broken.

Posted by: dalyplanet | December 25, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

It is most certainly the fact, as some bloggers have pointed out, that the countries people immigrate to the United States FROM, is a good indication of the relative benefits of staying vs. moving. Immigration patterns, and their ebb and flow, are SUCH a good illustration of this.

As are the relative strengths of various natinal economic systems, along with the percentage of their populations who are homeless or live in poverty or have decent health care available to them or whose children can obtain education based on the merits of the students getting the education rather than the amount their parents spend. Or the superficiality (or not) of the things each society values the most.

In America, for many of us, it just isn't necessarily about who graduates the most engineers or scientists or teachers or doctors or about some crumbling infrastructure. We can't always be bothered by those things.
It is possible, depending on your value system, that the really, really important thing is who has the best football or basketball team and who has the most first round draft picks. We KNOW what makes us Number One!!

Keep up the good work, Toles. It encourages people to think critically, which sooner or later results in Enlightenment. It really can't be helped; the delicious irony is that EVERYONE who thinks critically is eventually doomed to this very same end. ; )

Best wishes for the season to you and yours, all of you! And enjoy the (finally!) longer days!!

Posted by: jonroesler | December 25, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

don
Your comments do not reflect reality but only some myth created by libs.
Posted by: dalyplanet

It is the conservatives who are by definition anal retentive and warts on the tail of progress. The conservatives have been caught in so many lies; it is self-evident that the truth is not in them.
Republicans are finally beginning to take responsibility for the Bush disaster and are getting behind meaningful change that will save our ship of state and put it back on course. I recommend that you read Plato's Republic so that you know what a Republic should be. What works best is an efficient Republic that is based on democratic principles. Conservative should mean the best possible use of resources and liberal should mean the responsibility to maintain a society based on people's needs and desires.
Then the possibility of peace on earth becomes a possible reality instead of a wishful thinking myth.

Dave


Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 25, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I was a corporate and government training consultant and seminar leader for 25 years before becoming a school teacher. What we need in the schools are centralized curriculum development that includes games, hands-on learning experiences, usable materials (as opposed to huge confusing texts) and e-learning programs that draw upon the best instruction. We rely too much on each individual teacher to create each individual class. This is too redundant and wastes money and talent, not to mention creates a situation where we cannot take advantage of technology in the classroom and economies of scale. We need to run the schools the way productive corporations run their training programs.

Second, we need to get disruptive kids out of the regular classes so teachers can teach and kids can learn. 25 kids suffer when 3 are disruptive, and existing discipline programs are ineffective.

Third, we need to look at the workload of teaching and adjust. Most teachers leave because they are burned out. I never worked harder for smaller pay in my entire career than when I became a teacher. Too much is expected, especially in challenging schools.

Fourth, we need more focus on gifted kids and gifted programs. The dropout rate is the same for the top 5% as it is for the bottom 20%, but the impact to society is much greater. Bright kids need more challenge, and they will contribute more to society if we give them what they need. We are all but ignoring gifted kids, and we assume since they can pass the SOLs, we don't need to invest in them.

Last, we need families to focus more on their children--less divorce, more fairness in support for the mothers when there is a divorce, more time and more discipline with our kids. We need to worry about them less than we worry about our gardens, aerobic classes, new living room furniture, etc. Too many kids go hungry and are ignored by their parents--and I'm talking about the wealthy self-absorbed ones, too.

More money would help many of these problems, but not all. Unfortunately, wealthy people send their kids to private schools so they don't get behind public school funding and demand change. They can sidestep the problem, like they do so many others (special high-toll traffic lanes, private healthcare, substance abuse programs, mental health care, etc.)

The problems are much bigger than teacher unions and tenure. We need visionary thinking and a total redesign of how we educate our children. Corporations and government take advantage of centralized curriculum design, standardized materials, and technology like e-learning. They don't tolerate disruptive and disrespectful employees in training programs. We need to run the schools the same way.

Posted by: insightinc | December 25, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

> If the Democrats can't jujitsu this one ... maybe they aren't very good at politics after all.

You haven't been paying attention, have you?

Posted by: ideeotSavant | December 25, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

don

Your comments do not reflect reality but only some myth created by libs.

America spends more per pupil than anytime in the past and gets poorer results because big education resists making nessesary change. Look at DC for example.

While some American cities are transit friendly and have good systems in place, the vast majority of the US is too spread out to work transitwise. Zoning laws across the land work against mass transit and these planners decisions have nothing to do with conservative or liberal thought. We have been reducing per capita consumption but expanding our population. It will take a lot more than bike lanes and buses to reduce our petroleum needs. You need to look at where transportation consumption occurs before you make your silly statements. Only a major shift in how we move will reduce oil consumption.

America is still the worlds inventor. Your comments about corporate investment is generally flat out false. While a lot of manufacture is moving away the brains and development remain here.

I am confident that new technology will reduce our need for oil and hope this development comes from America, but the biggest savings will come from a complete rethink of our need for daily driving and overnight delivery. This change will not be easy.

Posted by: dalyplanet | December 25, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

America was truly exceptional when eduction and people were a priority. But since the idiotic Reagan policies began the shift of dollars away from public projects and the public well being into the pockets of the the rich, we have not really done much.

Most American corporations are not investing in the future with research or product development, they are putting any and all profits straight into their pockets while continually fighting any sensible safety or environmental or ethical regulations. The increasingly right-leaning government is not far behind. Money is diverted from roads and schools towards an unnecessary war intended to profit a select few.

This is not how we invented the assembly line, the transistor or ICs, nor how we built the Brooklyn Bridge, won two world wars or went to the moon.

Invest in public transportation, high-speed rail and bike lanes to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil that funnels money to terrorists. Only a traitor could disagree! If we reduced our consumption only a few percent, we could take Iran out of the oil equation.

If you truly love America, then you should love Americans. Invest in all your people, and you will prosper. Give them good education and health care, and let them concentrate on making America exceptional. Who knows? They may invent the clean energy we need to tell the Arabs to keep their black muck and leave a breathable planet to our grandchildren.

Posted by: donpaluh1 | December 25, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

What wonderful, thoughtful, insightful the strip is today! And, the Sketch Pad, WOW!

Posted by: quiensabe | December 24, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Be thankful you were lucky enough to be here today. Where else in the world is better?
Posted by: dalyplanet

My Reply,
Better is a relative term.
The only thing "better" about it is that we are here and not some place else.
Some where else the weather might be better and the poverty worse.
Where we are at in the world is not as important as what is going on where we are at.
Is where we are at getting better oe is it getting worse? What does the future hold?
Things are getting better for some people and things are getting worse for other people.
We depend on each other to make where we are at a better instead of a worse place to be.
Why do so many people want to cause hell on earth when heaven on earth would be such a better place?
We create most of our own reality with our choices and our actions.
Peace on earth and good will to everyone is always the place to be no matter where you are at.
Best wishes for better not worse during this holiday season.
life is a precious gift; spend it wisely.
Dave.



Posted by: OckamsRazor | December 24, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I am still needing the secret dem\lib speak to english translator as todays comments \ rant make no sense to me. You all will believe we are cooking 'the planet' with a trace gas that we all produce by breathing but deny Americas exceptionalism during the last century. There are so many proofs, Radio, TV, internet, space ,food, transistors, ic's medicine, genetics. I WILL revisit this theme in the future. Be thankful you were lucky enough to be here today. Where else in the world is better?

Posted by: dalyplanet | December 24, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

If you don't like "American Exceptionalism" try mediocrity. The Europeans seem to be generating a lot of that these days.

If America wasn't exceptional in some way then all those migrants wouldn't keep on trying to get across the border. There must be something "exceptional" that keeps them coming and not just from the third world.

Posted by: RockDoctor | December 24, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Tom: Americans love to cast terms like American Exceptualism around. Reporters report but seldom examine the assumptions underlying the assertions. Sunday morning talk show guests are seldom asked to define their assertions. I'd love to sit down with one of these guys and take the time to hone in on just how they define what they assert - the American press is unlikely to do so.

Posted by: WhiskeyJack | December 24, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

At first glance, I thought the cartoon was about Republicans having no tools in their toolbox to fix anything, but trying to look very important nonetheless.

Posted by: dabrq3 | December 24, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse


American Exceptionalism is alive and well despite that we’re not in the top ten for life expectancy or infant mortality or math scores or college graduation or healthcare or you name it….(except for fossil fuel and Chinese junk consumption.)

People around the world still want to come to America and seek their fortune. Importing the best and brightest of the world has fed American Exceptionalism and could lead us back into prosperity if Congress would let it.

We can begin by allowing foreign students that graduate from our universities the chance to stay and become Americans if they get degrees in areas where we need skilled workers but don’t have enough Americans to fill the job vacancies.

The Big Cahuna would be if we normalized relationships with Cuba. Cuba has a giant surplus of healthcare and biotech workers that we desperately need, that would flock to the U.S. if we let them. American farmers and manufacturing would benefit if they could sell directly to the Cubans. Florida tourism would get a giant stimulus. And it would cost us taxpayers nothing.

Posted by: EarlyBird1 | December 24, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Wellll, Fact is the Dems aren't very good at politics. To wit, the 2010 midterm elections, in which they ran screaming from all of their accomplishments and allowed the GOP and TP'ers to define success, shift the blame, and then basically curled up and died. They are, however, pretty good at governing, unlike the GOP who are great at politics, but suck at governance.

Please now queue the screaming, right wing, nut job trolls to decry the notion that there were, in fact, _any_ accomplishments, or successes and how the Democratic Party is responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened, including cancer, ice cream headaches and the crucifixion of Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Posted by: pete1013 | December 23, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

To Tom Toles,
Just for fun, I am going to try and comment on all three of your comments.

First, when it comes to "monkey wrenches", the Republicans are experts at throwing monkey wrenches into the attempt to survive eight years of Republirule.

Second, we barely survived eight years of exceptionally bad Republicanism. Now we hope to turn things around with exceptionally good Democratic statesmanship that serves all of the people as was intended by our constitution not just the elite.

Third, Now that President Obama has got his "sea legs"; The possibility of getting our nation on an even keel has greatly improved.

Who knows? Maybe, "He had a plan all the time".
Dave

Posted by: OchamsRazor | December 23, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Tom, if you can make "Metro Change" happen ..some thought may have to be made to give more credence to your stand on climate change. Even your rant was pretty good today and the sketch is phenomenally creative and unique. Keep up the great work.

Posted by: billybeer6 | December 23, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

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