- Created on 07 November 2013
SEATTLE (AP) — Melinda Gates, one of the most influential women in American education, said this week she gives the U.S. public school system a C-plus, but adds there are spots of improvement that give her optimism for the future.
Gates said she bases her assessment on international comparisons of student achievement and on the fact that only a fraction of American high school students are ready for college when they complete their studies.
"I see pockets of improvements. The neat thing about the pockets of improvements is they're getting larger all the time and they're across the nation," she told The Associated Press during an interview this week in her Seattle office overlooking the Space Needle at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Those pockets are growing in places like New Orleans and in Florida, New York, New Orleans and Colorado, Gates added, because districts are talking to each other and sharing their best practices.
For the past decade, the Gates Foundation has studied education, influenced public policy and spent billions of dollars toward improving student outcomes by supporting education reform and demanding better results. Since 2000, the foundation has spent about $5 billion on education grants and scholarships.
Their focus has influenced the national agenda, as the U.S. Department of Education has pushed for similar reforms such as adoption of the national academic standards known as the common core, as well as insisting on improvement in state teacher-evaluation systems.
The foundation has given some states money and assistance to prepare their applications for federal grant programs and some top officials in Washington, D.C., are former employees at the foundation in Washington state.
Some see the foundation as a critic of American teachers because of their emphasis on teacher evaluations, but Gates said that impression is wrong. She hopes teachers see the foundation as partners in figuring out how to help them do their jobs.
- Created on 04 November 2013
In this Oct. 31, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the "SelectUSA Investment Summit" conference in Washington. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — For years, President Barack Obama's personal favorability ratings served as a political firewall that sustained him through an economic recession, grueling fights with congressional Republicans, and the grind of a re-election campaign.
But after a rough start to Obama's second term, Americans increasingly view the president unfavorably. And perhaps most concerning for the White House: an Associated Press analysis of public polling shows it has become more difficult over time for Obama to fully rebound from dents in his favorability ratings.
"It's a slow cumulative effect," Republican pollster David Winston said, adding that personal favorability "is a much harder number to move if it starts to go south."
The public's increasingly negative view of Obama may be less of a concern for his future given that he is barred from running for re-election. But the president still needs a strong connection with the public in order to rally Americans around his policy proposals and, in turn, to show Congress he remains politically relevant at a time when lame duck status is lurking.
The president's advisers need only look at Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, to see the impact of a crumbling relationship with the public. Positive impressions of the Republican trailed off in the beginning of 2005 amid public frustration with the Iraq war and the government's flawed response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush's favorability rating never recovered and he struggled to fulfill significant policy goals throughout the rest of his presidency.
A series of recent polls show Obama's personal favorability now leaning negative, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll released last week that found positive views of Obama at the lowest point of his presidency and down 6 points from earlier in October. The drop follows the 16-day government shutdown, the cascade of problems during his health care law's rollout, and another flood of revelations about U.S. government spying.
White House officials blame the shutdown in particular for Obama's falling favorability, given that it resulted in shuttering many federal services and furloughs for hundreds of thousands of Americans, while again highlighting the troubled ties between the president and Capitol Hill. But Obama aides note that the impact of the shutdown on congressional Republicans has been even worse, with both their personal and job performance ratings at record lows.
"Everybody gets hurt when there's dysfunction in Washington," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Throughout Obama's presidency, his job approval and personal favorability ratings have generally risen and fallen in tandem. But his favorability numbers, which often reflect the public's gut-level reaction to a politician, generally remained the more positive of the two measures.
That, the president's supporters argue, made the public more likely to give him a chance even when they disagreed with his policies or the direction the country was headed. His strong likability was seen as a particular asset during his 2012 re-election campaign when most polls showed that voters saw him in a more favorable light than his Republican rival Mitt Romney.
"For the president, it's meant that people have cared about what he had to say because they liked him," said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster.
The question for the White House now is whether that dynamic will hold if the public's personal opinions of the president continue to sour. An Associated Press-GfK poll from early October found that 52 percent of Americans didn't think Obama was very honest and were split on whether he was even likable.
The president's favorability has taken hits during other points in his presidency. Most polling found the public's impression soured in late summer 2011 around the first round of debt ceiling negotiations and again last summer in the midst of his presidential campaign.
Although Obama's favorability improved somewhat after each hit, he never fully recovered, with each rating rebound peaking below earlier average favorability ratings.
For example, Obama began 2011 with majority favorable ratings in most polling. When the debt ceiling fight pushed his favorability below 50 percent in late 2011, he came back to an average right around 50 rather than above it. This latest battle has led to average ratings in the mid-40s, worse than he's seen at any point previously.
Past presidents have also struggled to recover from dips in their favorability ratings.
Bush left office with majorities saying they had both a negative impression of him personally and disapproved of his job performance. And former President Bill Clinton's favorability numbers never recovered after a fall in 1998 as the Monica Lewinsky story unfolded, though his job approval remained strong through his last days at the White House.
Republican President Ronald Reagan evoked the warmest reaction from the American public, leaving office with high job approval numbers, 63 percent according to Gallup polling in December 1988, and a majority holding a favorable impression of him personally.
- Created on 01 November 2013
In a petition circulated online, change.org minced no words, "NAACP: Hire the First Woman President in the NAACP's 104-year History." Seventy percent of the respondents agreed that it was time that the NAACP elected its first permanent woman president in its history to lead the organization. The petition and the clamor for a woman president of the NAACP came virtually within moments after current NAACP President Ben Jealous announced that he was stepping down at the end of the year. This is hardly the first time that there's been a loud clamor and an even louder criticism of the dearth of female leaders at the top of the major civil rights organizations.
The litany of civil rights organizations past and present has been earmarked by two things. One is that throughout the history of the best known major major civil rights organizations, the Urban League, SCLC, CORE, SNCC, and of course the NAACP, there have been no women at the top spot in these organizations. The sole exception was the SCLC which in its markedly declining years finally elected the first woman head, Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King's daughter in 2009. But that breakthrough was short-lived when King could not reach agreement with the SCLC's male-dominated board regarding the terms of her presidency.
The second thing that has been an earmark of civil rights organizations has been the number of prominent women who played pivotal roles in the fight for justice and equality. They are well-known: Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Gloria Richardson, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Dorothy Height, to name a few. They had to wage two fights. One was for civil rights and one was against the blatant sexism and male dominance among the rank and file and leadership in the civil rights organizations. The men frequently denigrated and minimized women's role and importance, or pigeon holed them into so called women's roles -- typists, phone answerers, general gofers, and just plain flunkies for the men. In some cases, they sexually exploited and abused women. The Achilles Heel of the civil rights organizations remained the quiet and destructive sexism within its ranks. This history burst into public in the run-up to the 50th anniversary commemoration celebration events of the March on Washington this past August. A number of women took dead aim at the 1963 MOW organizers for what they considered the deliberate exclusion of women from a major role in the planning, organizing, and deliverance of any of the keynote speeches at the March. They didn't stop with a nostalgic glance over the shoulder critique of the events fifty years ago but openly wondered how much had really changed within the major civil rights organizations today.
Apart from the towering roles that women played in past civil rights battles as activists and organizers, women still had to struggle against marginalization by male leaders. Despite their prominence and name recognition, they constantly bumped up against the intrinsic and galling reality that when it came to leadership and decision making in organizations, the hard edge of traditional and ingrained male domination and female marginalization continued to be the order of the day. While many applauded an Angela Davis and rallied to her defense, she was still seen by many men as a woman first, second, and often last, and not a black leader. Yet, just as in the past, there were powerful examples of women as activists and leaders in the civil rights movement, there are even more women today who are fully capable of being not only the visible face of a major civil rights organization, but one of its leading decision and policy makers as well.
The NAACP has legions of women in local decision and policy making roles in their various chapters any one of whom could step into the top presidential spot. There are also prominent women outside the organization that BlackAmericaweb.com named who could assume the president's mantle. They include: Stefanie James Brown, former NAACP youth and college director, Aisha Moodie-Mills, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Sherrilyn Ifill, President and counsel-director NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The appointment of any one of them to head the organization would signal that the NAACP has shattered the glass ceiling at the top within this organization, and would send a powerful message that the fight for gender equality and against sexism is seen as just as potent and compelling as the historic and continuing fight for racial justice and equality. The NAACP has a golden opportunity to open the door of its male only room at the top to women. It's an opportunity that it and no other civil rights organization that purports to call itself a champion of civil rights should blow.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
- Created on 31 October 2013
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 29: Don Lemon attends the 17th Annual National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association New York benefit at the Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams SoHo Store on March 29, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images) | Getty
Don Lemon is at it again.
The CNN anchor is dished out more advice with his thoughts on young people in the black community, and this time the subject was Chris Brown. Lemon took on a big brother role, sending a message to the troubled singer who is now headed to rehab.
In the past, Lemon's been harshly criticized for singling out black teenagers as the "cause of their own demise" but in Lemon's latest segment on the Tom Joyner morning show, he says he feels sad for Chris Brown and is conflicted on the situation as a whole.
"Conflicted because he's a celebrity, and I know it's easy to make him out to be the poster child for bad behavior, especially for bad behavior among young black men because he's a young black man," the 47-year-old journalist explains at the beginning of his segment.
Lemon pointed out the fact that Brown is not the only celebrity making headlines for the wrong reasons "Justin Bieber, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen" are also known for their trouble with the law. However, Lemon points out the key distinction with Brown is the severity of the incident with Rihanna.
Although the public may have been willing to give him another chance, Lemon listed the string of other violent incidents affecting Brown's redemption since then: "the Good Morning America dressing room incident; the Drake entourage altercation; the Frank Ocean altercation; the hit and run in Los Angeles and now this latest arrest in Washington, DC."
Even still, he didn't place the full blame on Brown -- instead he pointed to the people the singer has around him.
"Okay Chris and I mean this with all honesty and with the best of intentions. I've been 24-years-old before and felt invincible; that fades over time and with age comes wisdom and you realize that not everyone talking in your ear has your best interest at heart.
Most of the people you think are your closest friends or closest to you: your boys, your fellas; they don't give a damn about you.
When you go to jail, you go to jail alone. You don't know me from Adam but if I can offer you a bit of advice from one man to another, one black man to another."
Listen to the full segment here.