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May 02, 2011

Russia and Ukraine get into pissing match over birthplaces of imaginary animals

Russia and Ukraine squabble over fairytale characters - Telegraph
The dispute erupted after a Russian organisation keen to cash in on the link between certain places and popular fairytale characters published "a fairytale map of Russia" with a view to marketing themed tours to the places it listed. The map identified 17 Russian towns which its authors described as the homes of more than twenty fairytale characters, all of whom are well known and loved by Russian speakers across the former Soviet Union. However, a Ukrainian tour agency which earlier this year published its own fairytale map of Ukraine for the same reasons said that at least three of the "Russian" fairytale characters were in fact Ukrainian and accused the Russians of stealing part of Ukraine's heritage. "Unfortunately, folkloric heritage is not regulated by international norms or by intellectual property rights," Marina Primenko, the creator of the Ukrainian map, said. "Therefore we can only express our regret that our Russian colleagues consider Ukrainian fairytale heroes to be their own. We will not be deleting them from our own map." The disputed characters include a medieval knight called Ilya Muromets known for his superhuman strength, 'Speckled Hen,' a creature which miraculously lays golden eggs, and Kolobok, a cheerful talking cake who flees animals eager to eat him. . . .

April 28, 2011

Gov. Snyder reveals awful new plan for Michigan schools

Anyone who has ever taught knows that you only have so much control over how well your students do. You could be the best teacher ever, but if the parents aren't involved and if the kids are in a toxic environment then it's unlikely the students will succeed. Snyder's plan totally ignores any of that. It's a blanket solution that suggests that all schools are alike and all kids are alike. By giving more money and job security to teachers at schools that perform well and by punishing teachers at schools that perform poorly, he has created a system that will scare teachers away from under-performing schools. Which is exactly the opposite of what we should be trying for. He also wants to throw bright teenagers into college as early as possible, with seemingly little regard for the social problems that brings. Snyder reveals details of plan to reform K-12 education system - Crain's Detroit Business - Detroit News and Information
Speaking in front of members of the State Board of Education and state Superintendent Mike Flanagan at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan office in Detroit, Snyder said Michigan's school system must become performance-based. Such a system would evaluate districts and schools on whether students move up a year in ability for each year's worth of teaching. . . . Snyder also urged the introduction of legislation to base teacher tenure on performance. In his system, teachers would achieve tenure only after a five-year probationary period during which they showed three years of effective teaching in the classroom. One poor performance year would initiate the tenure removal process. After two consecutive years of poor performance reviews, the district would be urged to fire the educator. . . .

April 25, 2011

"Questions from a Worker Who Reads" by Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht: Questions from a Worker Who Reads - Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality with Both Hands Who built Thebes of the seven gates? In the books you will find the name of kings. Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock? And Babylon, many times demolished. Who raised it up so many times? In what houses Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live? Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished Did the masons go? Great Rome Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song, Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis The night the ocean engulfed it The drowning still bawled for their slaves. The young Alexander conquered India. Was he alone? Caesar beat the Gauls. Did he not have even a cook with him? Philip of Spain wept when his armada Went down. Was he the only one to weep? Frederick the Second won the Seven Years' War. Who Else won it? Every page a victory. Who cooked the feast for the victors? Every ten years a great man. Who paid the bill? So many reports. So many questions.