June 28th, 2010
10:09 AM ET

Is it time for national education standards?

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

While the kids, most of them anyway, are on summer vacation, here’s an issue to consider: Has the time passed when it makes sense for each state to have its own standards for what children are taught in grades K-12?

The kids may not be thinking about school, but state education officials across the country face an August due date (some no doubt will ask for an extension) on whether to accept a proposed set of national standards for core subjects – English language arts, history, social studies, science and math, with goals specified by grade and subject. You can read them here.

Growing up in Illinois, we studied Abraham Lincoln. It makes sense to learn your state’s history. But shouldn’t students from Maine to California, from Washington to Florida, be at par with each other on the core subjects?


Filed under: David Schechter • Education
June 22nd, 2010
11:05 PM ET

"That's so gay" and Gen. McChrystal

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

There is another problematic issue – unrelated to the war in Afghanistan or the chain of command – in the Rolling Stone article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

The writer is privy to a conversation between McChrystal and his aides as the general prepares to attend a dinner in Paris, a dinner the general clearly does not want to attend. McChrystal leaves the room and the writer asks one of the aides with whom the general is having dinner. “Some French minister,” the aide answers. “It’s f***ing gay.”

“That’s so gay” has become a popular phrase (I hear it most often from teenage boys) to express distaste for an activity, to put down another person or just to convey a negative impression of almost anything.

The aides around Gen. McChrystal are anything but teenagers. Presumably these are senior military officers or their civilian equivalent.

If the aide had made derogatory reference to a race, a religion or an ethnicity, there would be public outcry. I’ll wait to see if that happens with use of a homophobic slur.

Often, the person saying “that’s so gay” doesn’t think of the phrase as being insulting. But, as with all such remarks, it is hurtful. And unless you call out the person using it, they’ll use it again.

To the end, there is a movement to persuade middle- and high school students not to say “that’s so gay,” offering them alternatives.

Perhaps President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates or Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mullen should order Gen. McChrystal and his aides to check it out.

Filed under: David Schechter
June 18th, 2010
10:54 PM ET

Movies about Education

Editor's Note: Dave Schechter is CNN's Senior National Editor and will be doing a series of blogs on education in the coming weeks.

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

There’s a lot important happening in education – ranging from school districts coping with budget shortfalls to the creation of a national set of curriculum standards to new ways of teaching math – and I plan to write about these developments in the weeks before most children resume school in August and September.

But while researching the serious stuff my mind detoured to movies with education themes. So, let’s have some fun. Here are a dozen of my favorites:

Blackboard Jungle: (1955) Glenn Ford struggles to maintain control as a new teacher in a difficult urban school.
Teacher’s Pet: (1958) I started in newspapers, so I’m a sucker for Clark Gable as the grizzled editor and Doris Day as the journalism teacher he tries to show up and then charm.
To Sir With Love: (1967) Sidney Poitier as a teacher determined that his students become more than just bricks in a wall.
The Paper Chase: (1973) John Houseman as the intimidating Professor Kingsfield, who insists that his students study law the old fashioned way.
The Breakfast Club: (1985) A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal learn the others are more than they appear.
Pleasantville: (1988) When you view the world in black-and-white, there may be blank pages in your education.
Stand and Deliver: (1988) Edward James Olmos’ portrayal of math teacher Jaime Escalante’s efforts to win respect for the achievement of his Latino students.
Dead Poets Society: (1989) Robin Williams as a boarding school teacher struggling to break through conformity by seizing the day.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: (1989) History doesn’t have to be boring, especially if you have a phone booth time machine.
Matilda: (1996) If you have children, you’ve watched the tale of the smart little girl . . . more than once.
October Sky: (1999) The “based on a real story” tale of a teacher who helped launch a boy’s dream skyward instead of it being buried in a mine.
Finding Forrester: (2000) In and out of the classroom, the lesson is not to judge books by their covers.

I’ve left off a lot of popular films so chime in with your choices.

Filed under: David Schechter • Education
June 10th, 2010
10:05 AM ET

The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans... except when it isn’t.

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/2010/images/06/09/landon-donovan.jpg caption="The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans . . . except when it isn’t." width=300 height=169]

I often wear football jerseys to my kids’ games. The shirt might be from a professional club – perhaps Reading FC in England, the Chicago Fire from Major League Soccer, Maccabi Haifa from Israel or maybe Real Madrid or Barcelona in Spain. It might represent a country – such as Mexico or Jordan or Belarus or France.

Looking around the fields I’m hardly alone. I see jerseys representing a myriad of national and professional teams from around the world. Their variety is testimony to the mosaic that is the American population.

The United States may be a melting-pot; becoming even more so in this century, as marriages between people of differing races and ethnicities increase. But when it comes to football (aka soccer) the pieces of the mosaic have defined edges. The U.S. national team is the national team of Americans... except when it isn’t.

The primary case in point is the Mexican national team. The roughly 31 million Americans of Mexican descent make up 12.5 percent of the total U.S. population and two-thirds of the Latino population. Fans of El Tri, as the Mexican side is known, are passionate about their football.


Filed under: David Schechter
June 7th, 2010
06:07 PM ET

The Helen Thomas I've known

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/06/07/pol.helen.thomas/story.helen.thomas.cnn.jpg caption="Hearst correspondent Helen Thomas was the longest-serving White House journalist." width=300 height=169]

It was the spilled lamb juice that endeared Helen Thomas to me.

We had a mutual friend, Fran Lewine, who I knew as an assignment editor and field producer in our Washington bureau. For many years before joining CNN Fran was a White House correspondent for the Associated Press. Her chief competition often was Thomas, who reported for United Press International. They traveled the world together and were two of the women who broke down barriers that discriminated against women journalists in the nation’s capitol.

Fran honored me for several years with invitations to the next-day performance (casual dress for the audience, as opposed to formal wear the night before) of the annual show by the Gridiron Club, a costumed song-and-dance send-up of Washington politics and personages by many of the leading print journalists. Helen often was a featured performer while Fran sang in the chorus.

The treat afterwards was being Fran’s guest at a dinner hosted by Helen at her favored D.C. restaurant, the Calvert Café, perhaps better known as Mama Ayesha’s.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Schechter • Opinion
March 5th, 2010
05:54 PM ET

History made at an Iowa college during Black History Month

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/05/rskresize.jpg caption="Raynard S. Kington, Grinnell College's new president / Courtesy Grinnell College. " width=292 height=320]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Black History Month may be over but it is worth noting the history made during February at a small liberal arts college in Iowa.

During its 164 years, Grinnell College has developed a reputation for involvement in social justice issues, dating back to founders active in the movement to abolish slavery.

But knowledge of that history could not prepare Raynard S. Kington for the reception he received when introduced as the college's 13th president.

The reaction from hundreds of students, faculty and staff packed into Herrick Chapel on campus as Kington emerged from behind a college banner might be described as a rock star-in-the-making moment.

Kington was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation, loud cheers and not a small amount of surprise on the faces before him.

Grinnell’s previous presidents (only one a woman) all were white. Kington is African-American. And gay, with his partner the fathers of two young boys.


January 29th, 2010
10:34 PM ET

In their boots

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/10/26/afghanistan.chopper.crashes/story.afghan.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Every so often, I’ll be looking online for one thing when something else grabs my attention.
It happened again this week.
While researching topics that ranged from the federal stimulus program to food banks to the Census, I came across www.intheirboots.com.

I defy anyone to watch the videos on this website without feeling pangs of emotion.
They are heartfelt, touching, poignant, wrenching, sad and joyous.

For many (most?) Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Unless you have a relative or friend in harm’s way, it’s easy not to think about those conflicts.
The pace U.S. casualties in Iraq has slowed (now at 4,374, with another 31,616 wounded, per www.icasualties.org while the toll in Afghanistan accelerates (now at 972, with 9,496 wounded).


January 19th, 2010
12:38 PM ET

A handout for the homeless

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/19/art.homeless.line.backs.jpg]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

It was my wife's doing.

We were on our way home from a Thanksgiving visit to family in the Chicago suburbs. Somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee, we got off the interstate to fill the van's gas tank, get food and stretch our legs.

The man was standing at the top of the ramp.

He held a sign identifying himself as a homeless veteran in need of help. What caught my attention was the emblem on his black ball cap, the colors of the South Vietnam flag. From his gray hair and beard and the lines on his face, I guessed him to be in his early- to mid-60s. His fatigue jacket showed years of age.

Now, I've always been conflicted about giving money to people panhandling. Advocates for the homeless have told me that giving money does not help the homeless improve their long-term situation. Others tell me that such generosity more often than not is used for food, not alcohol as some stereotypes would have you believe.


Filed under: David Schechter • Economy
October 14th, 2009
12:59 PM ET

Those lost table manners

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/09/15/kanye.west.apology/art.kanye.gi.jpg caption="Kanye West created a rant when he hijacked Taylor Swift's speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards."]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

“We’ve forgotten our table manners.”

I heard that a couple of weeks ago, during a discussion that was supposed to focus on art but devolved into politics. The woman who made the comment was referring not to anything in particular, but everything in general - from this summer’s rancorous town hall meetings on health care to shouts from the floor when the President addressed Congress, from anger at center court of the U.S. Open tennis championships to a rant at the MTV Video Music Awards.

A couple of days later, I read a column by Elizabeth Bernstein in The Wall Street Journal. Bernstein was looking forward to a friend’s visit, until the friend said she was eager to discuss health care reform. “But now the ruckus is spilling over into our private lives. Alarmingly, people who know and even love one another are taking off the gloves and duking it out around dinner tables and water coolers, through phones calls and emails and even on the Web,” she wrote.

“Not so long ago, people tried to be polite in conversation. But that was when they actually listened to each other. These days, there's more shouting than informed discourse, as politicians, pundits and partisans attack each other on television and the Internet. . . The Internet is only making matters worse, as people feel emboldened to say things they would never dare utter to someone's face.” FULL POST

Filed under: 360° Radar • David Schechter • Health Care
September 23rd, 2009
05:27 PM ET

"The Boss" is 60

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/01/27/ew.review.springsteen/art.springsteen.gi.jpg caption="Bruce Springsteen turns 60-years-old today."]

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Happy Birthday to Bruce Springsteen, 60-years-young today.

I bought two tickets when Springsteen came to Atlanta back in April.

Having rocked at one of his shows here several months earlier, I gave these tickets to my teenagers, so that my daughter and son could experience “The Boss” and the E Street Band in concert.

I’ve had that pleasure several times, dating back to September 20, 1975 in Darby Gym at Grinnell College.

That was less than a month after release of the album “Born to Run” and five weeks before Springsteen simultaneously landed on the covers of TIME and Newsweek, back when that was a big deal.

So what was he doing in a small town in Iowa when rock-and-roll stardom beckoned?


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