2011 - %3, January

Photos: Cops Take Baby Doc Away

| Tue Jan. 18, 2011 4:20 PM EST

Earlier today, Haitian police led former strongman Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier out of his hotel in Port-au-Prince. They wouldn't say if he was under arrest, but took him to the city courthouse, where he's currently still inside. MoJo photo editor Mark Murrmann was there as Duvalier (in suit and tie) arrived at the courthouse and sent these photos. Check back here for updates or follow Mac McClelland on Twitter, where she's reporting live from the scene as protesters set tire fires and a crowd waits to find out what's happening: "We're all waiting for Baby Doc to come out the courthouse door he went in."

Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier being lead into the Port-au-Prince courthouse. Photo by Mark MurrmannJean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier being led into the Port-au-Prince courthouse. Photos by Mark Murrmann

Masked police officers outside the courthouse.Masked police officers outside the hotel where Duvalier was staying.

Duvalier waves from the balcony of his hotel before being taken into custody.Duvalier waves from the balcony of his hotel before being taken into custody.

Duvalier supporters react as police take him from his hotel to the courthouse.Duvalier supporters react as police take him from his hotel to the courthouse.

As a motorcade takes Baby Doc away, supporters run alongside.As a motorcade takes Baby Doc away, supporters run alongside.A supporter holds a photo of a younger, more powerful Baby Doc.A photo of Baby Doc in happier times.

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WATCH: 10 Music Videos for Martin Luther King Jr.'s B-Day

| Mon Jan. 17, 2011 7:30 AM EST

Happy Birthday, Dr. King...

1. U2, "Pride (In The Name of Love)

2. And John Legend's version of the U2 song…

3. Public Enemy, "By The Time I Get To Arizona"

4. Nina Simone, "Why (The King of Love is Dead)"

5. Ben Harper, "Like a King"

6. Queen, "One Vision"

7. UB40 "King"

8. Eddie Velez, "Let Freedom Ring"

9. Common and will.i.am. "I Have a Dream"

10. Patty Griffin, "Up To The Mountain"

And can't forget this old favorite... Pete Seeger, "We Shall Overcome"

Education Roundup: Huck Finn, Textbook Errors, and Resegregation

| Fri Jan. 14, 2011 5:00 PM EST

Click here to see all of MoJo's recent education coverage, or follow The Miss K Files on Twitter or with this RSS Feed.

What if alleged Arizona gunman Jared Loughner had sought mental health help when he first started to spiral down? MoJo education blogger Kristina Rizga explains how bureaucratic red tape and budget woes get in a troubled high-schooler's way.

Meanwhile, it could take Washington state 105 years to close the gap between black and white students in fourth grade reading, according to a 40-state report by the Center on Education Policy cited Tuesday by Education Week. On Tuesday, Education Week also posted a report by the US Government Accountability Office: Family job loss, foreclosure, and homelessness may be why 13 percent of American students transfer schools four or more times. Worse, the same transfer students frequently have lower standardized reading and math test scores and higher dropout rates. According to the GAO report, these students are also disproportionately poor and African-American.

Why are Black and Latino kids in Texas performing one to two grade levels higher than their peers in California? Washington Post columnist Kevin Huffman argues that California has a systems problem; schools and social safety nets are behind the success in Texas.

In North Carolina, a tea party-backed, largely Republican school board has voted to abolish school integration policies, WaPo reports. Daily Kos has the details on the school board's new superintendent, Brig. General Anthony Tata—a former FOX news commentator whose Facebook "likes" include Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. In an effort to stop the reassignment of thousands of black and Latino students, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has filed a civil rights complaint. 

Speaking of institutional problems, this week Tom Horne, Arizona's newly elected attorney general, officially declared that Mexican-American studies programs violate state law, The New York Times reports. Other ethnic studies courses remain untouched.

Also this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he wants to eliminate tenure for public school teachers and install a system of five-year teacher contracts instead. Districts can then renew these contracts based on merit, reports the Wall Street Journal. Now also clamoring to join the anti-teacher tenure camp: Idaho, Ohio, and New York.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes broadcast the news that there were 140 errors in a fourth grade history book used in Virginia public schools. One example is the assertion that a number of African-Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Read The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates for a primer on why that's false.

And speaking of slavery, would you teach Mark Twain's Huck Finn in a high school level American Literature class? This week I sat down with a black English teacher at Mission High who explained why the racial epithet alone wouldn't keep the book out of his classroom.

Mother Jones' Portlandia Cameo

| Fri Jan. 14, 2011 1:53 PM EST

When I was growing up in the Portland suburbs, the city was pretty much like it is now: a bunch of hyperliterate nerds wearing flannel and Doc Martens, riding their bicycles to go read in coffeeshops because it was too freaking cold/rainy/depressing to do anything else. The city is still largely the same: when I visited for Christmas, I ate lunch in a cafe across from the city's public library, and there were more people there than at Macy's. After that I went to Powell's, the city's Jurassic Park-sized independent bookstore, which had a checkout line an hour-long. So yeah, it would be fair to say Portlanders like to read.

The new IFC television series Portlandia gets the city's reading addiction right, and a recent promo even mentioned Mother Jones. In the clip below, two Portlanders start checking each other's literary chops. It starts off easy, with the softball question: "Did you read that thing in the New Yorker last month about golf being an analogy for marriage?" Then it starts to get tougher, name-dropping McSweeney's and Mother Jones. "Did you read that thing in Mother Jones about eco-chairs and eco-ways to sit?"

I'm glad the show's writers associate Mother Jones with environmental coverage, because we do make it a priority. But eco-ways to sit? Okay, okay, we get it, you think we're a bunch of hippies. Well, I'll have you know I went to Starbucks this morning, and I felt only the briefest flash of guilt when I realized I'd forgotten my reusable ceramic travel cup. But then again, I am typing this blog post on a biodegradable corn-plastic computer powered by the sun during the day and gases from organic compost at night.

After the Mother Jones mention, the "did you read?" questions fly fast and heavy. SpinWall Street Journal? BoingBoing? Oh yeah? What about Willamette WeekSF Weekly? The Seattle Stranger? It's well worth 113 seconds. Portlandia starts January 21, but I don't know if I'll have time to watch it. I might be busy reading.

How to Handle a "Challenging" Classroom

| Fri Jan. 14, 2011 10:00 AM EST

Editors' Note: This education dispatch is part of an ongoing series reported from Mission High School, where education writer Kristina Rizga is embedded for the year. Click here to see all of MoJo's recent education coverage, or follow Kristina's writing on Twitter or with this RSS Feed.

It's 8:10am and I'm sitting in a Mission High School World History class waiting for 20 kids to trickle in. Theoretically, these are some of the more challenging kids to teach. One student near me is a "safety transfer" from another San Francisco school, where gangs invaded his world. A student I'll call Benton walks in late with a serious, apprehensive look on his face. He towers above the other kids, and is considered loud and disruptive in other classes.

Twice I've watched teachers ask this kid to leave their classrooms. I wonder if this teacher will too.

Twice I've watched teachers ask him to leave their classrooms. I wonder if this teacher will too.

World History teacher Jenn Bowman passes out an assignment while students talk about the recent shootings in Arizona. "Did you all hear about this?" she asks. "My father told me about it last night," says the safety-transfer kid. "Why do they hate immigrants in Arizona?" a Latino student wonders aloud. Ms. Bowman asks a student to summarize the latest Arizona news for the rest of the class.

The class moves on to their assignment: Completing sentences that place "capitalism" and "communism" in historic context.

"Can I have a piece of paper?" asks a student with a copy of Alan Gratz's "Samurai Shortstop" on his desk.

"What are tenements?" another student yells out. "Very cramped apartments," someone stage-whispers in response.

Ms. Bowman asks students to raise their hands if they have questions and walks around the classroom with extra supplies, responding to students in a low voice. Students hunch over their papers for 10 minutes in silence.

Next, Ms. Bowman darkens the room for "China Blue," a documentary that follows the life of 17-year-old Jasmine, a Sichuan province native who works 22 hours a day to produce jeans in exchange for a pitiful wage. This part of the film shows how some of these jeans are transported to America, across the Bay. "Oh, I can see them boats from my house!" one young woman mentions. Benton starts talking to a girl next to him during the film.

"Benton, could move a few seats to your right please?" Ms. Bowman asks him.

Tea Party Backed School Board Kills School Integration in Raleigh, North Carolina

| Thu Jan. 13, 2011 7:34 PM EST

Editors' Note: Click here to see all of MoJo's recent education coverage, or follow Kristina Rizga on Twitter or with this RSS Feed.

The Washington Post reports that a tea party-backed, largely Republican school board in North Carolina has vowed to "say no to the social engineers" and voted to abolish its policy of socioeconomic integration. (Raleigh's inner-city schools, which are essentially magnet schools filled with economically and racially diverse student enrollments, often have waiting lists and are some of the best in the city.) Reports WaPo's Stephanie McCrummen: 

"Critics accuse the new board of pursuing an ideological agenda aimed at nothing less than sounding the official death knell of government-sponsored integration in one of the last places to promote it. Without a diversity policy in place, they say, the county will inevitably slip into the pattern that defines most districts across the country, where schools in well-off neighborhoods are decent and those in poor, usually minority neighborhoods struggle."

 The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint and federal education officials have visited the county, first steps toward a possible investigation.

Unfortunately for students in Raleigh, socioeconomic integration was one of the policies that actually seemed to work. As Gerald Grant wrote in his book Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh, this approach "reduced the gap between rich and poor, black and white, more than any other large urban educational system in America." Besides, it's cheaper than charters and better-tested, argues Richard Kahlenberg, a leading voice on this topic and a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

Despite the data, even progressives are deeply divided on whether socioeconomic integration is practical. As Andrew Rotherham, one of the most influential voices in school reform, argued in a recent column, "The glaring problem from a policy perspective is that low-income families tend to live in the same neighborhoods, and dramatically changing housing patterns—or school-zoning boundaries—as a large-scale reform measure is impractical." Affluent parents are usually against socioeconomic integration, argues Rotherham.

Stay tuned to Raleigh. As McCrummen notes:

"The situation unfolding here in some ways represents a first foray of tea party conservatives into the business of shaping a public school system, and it has made Wake County the center of a fierce debate over the principle first enshrined in the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education: that diversity and quality education go hand in hand."

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Black Writers and English Teachers on Huck Finn

| Thu Jan. 13, 2011 1:00 PM EST

Should a bowdlerized version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn be taught in high school English classes? As the only African-American student in my English class when this book was assigned, I can assure you that 219 repetitions of the word "nigger" were discomforting at best. But I don't entirely agree with MoJo blogger Kevin Drum's take on NewSouth Books' forthcoming censored Huck, which replaces "nigger" with "slave." Writes Kevin:

The problem with Huckleberry Finn is that, like it or not, most high school teachers only have two choices these days: teach a bowdlerized version or don't teach it at all. It's simply no longer possible to assign a book to American high school kids that assaults them with the word nigger so relentlessly.

I sat down with Mission High School English teacher Tadd Scott this week to see what he—an African-American teacher in a primarily non-white high school—had to say about teaching Huck Finn. (He assigned it when he taught American Literature to high school juniors and seniors.)

How did he deal with the text? Well, students weren't allowed to say the word "nigger" in his classroom anyway, he explains. Instead they skipped over it or used the "N-word" phrase instead when talking about the book.

But how did they feel about the word itself in the text? Students were offended by it. "It's like 'faggot' and other horrible, demeaning words," he says. Still, he doesn't think the text should be rewritten. "I'm an artist," he says. "I don't believe in changing someone's art. Leave it as it is." If the goal is to introduce students before college to Mark Twain's writing, he advises teaching Tom Sawyer excerpts or The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. If it's to introduce high school students to the realities of slavery, assigning slave narratives like this one would be a better choice.

"America right now is not white, it's multicultural. So 'American literature' should probably reflect that."

Besides the "n-word," NewSouth Books is also changing the word "Injun Joe" to "Indian Joe" and "half-breed" to "half-blood," which this Native American blog discusses. But there are plenty of reasons—other than the book's inclusion of historic slurs—why English teachers could choose to teach other texts in American Literature classes, Scott explains. "Who was Huck Finn written for? At the time, it was written for a largely white male population, maybe a few women got it. But America right now is not white, it's multicultural," he says. "So 'American literature' should probably reflect that." One American Lit option he recommends is Langston Hughes' Mulatto: A Play of the Deep South, the first black play performed on Broadway. Another choice: Black Boy, by Richard Wright. Both have been well-loved by his students, he says.

Scott remembers reading Huck Finn when he was 15 as a black student in a mostly white class. "All my teachers of English were white men and white women, and maybe they didn't have the background to understand. But I never saw great black women or men writers during my high school experience, and I do know that I want my people to see themselves in literature in a wonderful way."

What If Loughner Sought Mental Health Help in High School?

| Wed Jan. 12, 2011 6:30 PM EST

Editors' Note: Click here to see all of MoJo's recent education coverage, or follow Kristina Rizga on Twitter or with this RSS Feed.

Before 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner first got suspended from his community college, exhibited signs of schizophrenia, and purchased a gun, he was just another troubled high school kid. So what if Loughner tried to seek help as a teenager? Would he have been able to get it?

In 2008, when I ran Wiretap, we published a series of stories related to mental illness in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. During the reporting process we discovered that of the nearly 15 million young people diagnosed with a mental disorder, only one-quarter receive the treatment they need, even when resources exist to help them. Why?

It turns out that budget cuts are just one piece of a complicated puzzle. Confronting mental illness stigma on high school campuses remains an issue for both students and administrators, and the media that reaches teens—MTV, VH1, BET—tends to shy away from real discussions about mental health. There are decent mental health care services out there for young people, especially in urban areas, but to get help teens are usually forced to first navigate a maze of disconnected school and community-based programs. It's nearly impossible to do this successfully without a strong adult advocate. Meanwhile, some doctors prescribe meds hastily, without providing adequate long-term mental health care and follow-up.

Parents, of course, also play a role. "Every time we lie and say we're fine, we're teaching [kids] that that's what you do. You pretend, you wear the mask," says Terrie Williams, a mental health advocate with the Stay Strong Foundation.

One more thing came up frequently in Wiretap's research. Possibly the most important factor impacting a young person's long-term mental health state? The presence of a trusted adult or peer with whom they could be open about their feelings. We don't always have to wait for the government or an expert to provide a little bit of that.

Sarah Palin Retreats (Editorial Cartoon)

| Tue Jan. 11, 2011 7:37 PM EST

Mother Jones illustrator Zina Saunders creates editorial cartoons and animations riffing on the political news and current events of the week. This week, she questions the wisdom of Sarah Palin's now-infamous "target map." (Here's what a Palin aide says about the controversy.) In light of the recent shootings in Arizona, will politicians and talk show hosts dial down the rhetoric a notch? Read MoJo's exclusive interview with alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner's longtime friend, or see MoJo's related coverage—The Editors

With Red Baraat, Always a Dhol Moment

| Mon Jan. 10, 2011 7:34 AM EST

Enter tribal dhol beats on amphetamine followed by a race of trumpets, all percolating with the wanton energy of a two-year-old after a tray of Diwali sweets. That's Red Baraat (baraat is the Hindi word for wedding procession). The nine-piece New York City-based dhol-n-brass band claims it's the first of its kind in the United States, melding bhangra (see our recent interview with Panjabi MC) with brass-infused funk and jazz. Front and center is the dhol, a huge barrel drum that's slung over the shoulder, using sticks to strike both heads, and the wooden sides, too.

Red Baraat's 2010 debut CD, Chaal Baby, earned praise from music critics, and the band is headed back into the studio next month to record a second album, pretitled Shruggy Ji. The musicians also won bragging rights when one of their songs was selected as theme song for the closing credits to the recent movie The Yes Men Fix The World. I asked front man Sunny Jain for the lowdown on Red Baraat's cultural and musical influences, and his social-justice side project, entitled Taboo.