Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let the Facts Clear the Fallacies....

Listening to Romney and the likes criticizing Obama's foreign policy approach is baffling. For anyone who has followed world events and America's response in the last couple years can say that there has been plenty accomplished since George Jr. left the Oval Office in 2009. Here are just a few that come to mind:

-Improvement and in some cases creation of Arab League relations during the Middle East civil unrest movements including the Libyan civil crisis. Through constructive and pragmatic dialogue, President Obama and his foreign diplomacy team were able to protect 'humanitarian rights' (or oil-rich political interest) in Libya until the fall of Ghaddafi - leading to a relatively short climactic shift of power in the region and one without notable US military involvement.

- An upfront, brutally honest relationship with Pakistan which has led to a step-child but child nonetheless, kind of relationship in which truth is expected, conveyed and evaluated openly. For the first time in eight years, US has formally acknowledged instability in Pakistan and its vulnerability to fall prey to terrorist organizations.

-Transformed Egyptian leadership without long term goals to be present in the region

-A stern and solid yet relatively calm approach with Iran which has led to diplomatic restlessness within the Iranian regime now cracking under sanctions. Hostility between Israel and Iran continues to rise though, which means a detoured approach will now be demanded.

-Renewed relations in Asia with China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan including hosting the VP of China, Xi Jinping in the US. This trip was strategically planned to collaborate expectations from American/Chinese leadership as well as the importance of fairness in the global marketplace when he takes over as the leader in the PRC in the next couple years.

-Ended the war in Iraq as and when promised during his election campaign.

Just the regions I mentioned above account for more than half of the world's population..I think that's a modestly aggressive approach to foreign policy for a 3 year old president. Just saying.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Get 'em CPS..

Debate has been raging in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) between parents, teachers and the school organization on length of school days. CPS argues that their school district lags behind nationally in their instructional time and given consistent poor performances by students is adding to the list of reasons why this is a good idea. So what is the debate about?

Parents, teachers and students each have their own set of concerns about this. Parents complain that their kids are too tired, along with students who say that they are 'swamped' and 'tired' already with the amount of work they currently have. Teachers are puzzled on how to accommodate another 40 minutes of lesson planning.

But the issue is a lot bigger than what appears. It is ridiculous for parents or students to complain about the amount of work in any American high school, let alone ones in an under-performing school district. Granted that quality and not quantity of education is what we should be concerned about, but this is an effort to fix something that is broken by the school district and the gesture should be welcomed and supported.

An average high school student has plenty of options to engage in co and extra-curricular activities. Some of these activities are time consuming and tiring, leaving them little to no time for academics. Between athletics, music, drama, speech and other dozens of extra-curricular options available, a student can't be blamed for not wanting to do geometry practice. With both parents working, going home isn't necessarily a much better option - given socially polluting television shows that are often used as soothers. Aren't we better off having these kids be in school another hour every day either engaging in their activities of choice or spending more time on academics?

Whether or not to add the extra time to each day is a senseless debate. How to spend the extra 40 minutes is a legitimate one. Perhaps these schools need to take a look at their after-school offerings and incorporate them in the school day or use this time as extra prep time for college exams, advanced classes, or adding a basic course in Finance 101. I'm not talking about stock market analysis or financial portfolio management. How many 17 year olds know what it means to have a credit card, not pay your bill on time or at all, the consequences of accumulating a debt and paying higher interest rates in turn ruining your credit score? I think the safe assumption would be less than 20%. Why don't we invest in common sense courses so we can strive for smarter civilians?

I hope the city school district wins this one.