Oct 19, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
At this point The Scrapbook has become somewhat inured to tales of woe regarding the American educational system. Generally such wails are merely preludes to a call to arms on the part of teachers’ unions and bureaucrats who want to expand government control over local schools and throw more money at the supposed problem.
Still, we were surprised to read that a team of Harvard debaters had been bested by three violent criminals. No, it wasn’t a mugging, and it isn’t the setup to a bad joke. Rather, it was an exhibition debate to highlight a program run by Bard College that aims to give motivated inmates a liberal arts education.
The six debaters spent just over an hour on the topic: Resolved: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”
The inmates were tasked with defending the resolution, a position with which many of them disagreed. The Wall Street Journal reported that the inmates argued “that the schools attended by many undocumented children were failing so badly that students were simply being warehoused. The team proposed that if ‘dropout factories’ with overcrowded classrooms and insufficient funding could deny these children admission, then nonprofits and wealthier schools would step in and teach them better.”
At the end of the round, the panel of three judges deemed that the Harvard team had failed to respond adequately to the arguments.
One of Harvard’s debaters told the Journal that the team was surprised by their opponents’ preparation. “They caught us off guard,” said Anais Carell, a 20-year-old junior from Chicago.
Adding insult to injury, the inmates competed at something of a disadvantage. Unlike the Harvard debaters, they could not use the Internet to research their arguments and had to submit any requests for books and articles to the prison administration for approval.
The Scrapbook applauds the initiative of the inmates, who, in the words of one team member, “might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but . . . work really hard.” Their success demonstrates that education is as much a matter of intellectual curiosity and self-discipline as classes and diplomas.
And in fairness to Harvard’s debaters, they aren’t the only ones with egg on their faces. The inmates also beat West Point’s debate team in the spring of 2014, but lost a rematch this April.
Sep 7, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 48 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
There was a memorable instance of multiculturalism last week that The Scrapbook heartily commends to readers. Google for the touching video of the ceremony at the Elysée Palace in which the president of France, François Hollande, pins the Legion of Honor ribbons on Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos—the three young Americans who risked their lives to disarm and subdue a terrorist gunman on the high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris—while giving each of them a very formal French bisou on both cheeks.
Aug 24, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 47 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Needless to say, The Scrapbook is strictly neutral on the results of last week’s Republican presidential debate on Fox News. So neutral, in fact, that we won’t even mention any of the highlights—or lowlights, if you prefer—and certainly won’t weigh in on who swept the floor with whom, who embarrassed him/herself, or who should have been invited to this particular gathering but was not.
Jun 15, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Back in February, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., wrote menacing letters to various universities, wanting all sorts of details about the funding received by professors who are allegedly out of step with the prevailing opinions on climate change, as well as demanding copies of official communications and information on university policies that could be used to bring pressure to bear on these out-of-step scientists.
Jun 15, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The media have no problem concocting scandals almost out of thin air when it comes to GOP candidates, so The Scrapbook continues to be agape at the journalistic treatment of this season’s Democratic field.
Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The film Selma, which chronicles the pivotal battle in the civil rights movement, is currently in theaters and has even garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The film has an unlikely critic, however—PBS host and former White House aide to Lyndon Johnson Bill Moyers.
Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Obama administration’s recently announced Clean Air Act power-plant rules, advertised as helping to control the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, have almost nothing to recommend them. Complex, clunky, and burdensome, they’re likely to spike energy bills while doing almost nothing to control pollution or stop global warming.
Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
You’ve probably seen it before—text on a city’s welcome sign that boasts a sister-city relationship, with somewhere you likely haven’t heard of. For example, in The Scrapbook’s backyard, Rockville, Md., has a sibling relationship with Pinneburg, Germany, and Arlington, Va., with San Miguel, El Salvador (among others).
May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
There was a lot to lament on Twitter last week, as always, but perhaps nothing more appalling than the spectacle of our diplomats beclowning themselves, as they unleashed their vaunted soft power on Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
As part of the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea, State launched a new hashtag, #UnitedForUkraine.
Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
CVS, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain, recently decided to stop selling tobacco products. That was all well and good: There’s nothing objectionable about a corporation making the decision to stop selling a product that is well-known to be harmful. (Though we could have done without the theatrics from President Obama, who felt the need to issue a statement “congratulating” the chain.)
Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook has devoted plenty of column inches over the years to detailing the incestuous relationship between public employers and public employee unions. Every election cycle, union dues—paid with taxpayer dollars—go to Democratic politicians, who, when in office, thank their donors with immutable contracts containing generous wages and benefits. It’s truly a vicious circle. But even we were surprised when we found out just how directly money was being funneled from public coffers to private pockets through union contracts.
Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In our November 25, 2013, issue, Jonathan V. Last chronicled the story of Ocean Grove, the New Jersey shore town which was being denied FEMA relief funds to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. The problem was that Ocean Grove was originally settled as a Methodist campsite and that the town remains nominally Christian—which is to say that it is governed by a “Camp Meeting Association,” which has roughly the power of a garden-variety homeowner’s association. But which also happens to own all of the land.