The largely completed victory over ISIS merits a victory lap by President Trump and his administration. Candidate Trump made this a key plank of his election campaign.
As an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal notes, “This humanitarian and military success wouldn’t have been possible without U.S. air power, intelligence and special forces assisting the Kurdish and free Syrian troops. Russia, Iran and China did virtually nothing….If not for U.S. planes and the [Kurdish] Peshmerga, Kirkuk in Iraq would have fallen to ISIS — and maybe Baghdad too.”
Did the anti-Trump press corps concede Trump credit for this achievement? The question almost answers itself.
But one victory lap only, please! Already the beer bottles, rotten tomatoes, and shoes are flying from the spectator stands — as this publication, Founders Broadsheet, seems to have been the first U.S. publication to note and highlight.
The details of the U.S. foreign policy debacle in the Mideast are spelled out in the most recent Jerusalem Post column by Caroline Glick, titled “Iran’s Very Good Week.” Her lead paragraph:
You have to hand it to the Iranians. They don’t play around. Just hours after President Donald Trump gave his speech outlining the contours of a new US policy toward Iran, senior Iranian officials were on the ground in Iraq and Syria not only humiliating the US, but altering the strategic balance in Iran’s favor.
According to Kurdish and US commentators…Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wouldn’t have dared to order the strike on Kirkuk without US agreement.
It’s true that the US has never gone out on a limb for its Kurdish allies. Despite the fact that 1,700 Peshmerga fighters were killed fighting – and defeating ISIS – over the past three years, and despite the fact that an independent Kurdistan would constitute a severe blow to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the region, the US vocally opposed last month’s [Kurdish independence] referendum. Following the vote, US officials told reporters that since [Kurdish President] Barzani ignored their position, they feel they owe him no loyalty.
And indeed, the US couldn’t be more disloyal than it is today – siding with Iran against America’s only dependable ally in Iraq.
The implications of Iran’s successful strategic offensive against the Kurds are disastrous for the US.
We urge readers interested in the details of this Mideastern foreign policy disaster to read the entire Glick column.
To her grim analysis, two additional remarks should be added:
- First, the debacle also damaged U.S. energy investments in Kurdistan (paywall) and Russia’s Rosneft. The shared U.S.-Russian interest in Kurdish independence would have given the U.S. a lever to weaken Russia’s support for Mideast dominance by Iran;
- Second, by humiliating the Western-oriented Barzani Kurds in Iraq, the U.S. has strengthened its Kurdish rivals: the pro-Iranian PUK in Iraq and the Marxist PKK in Syria.
U.S. strategy vis-a-vis terrorism in Africa and the Pakistan-Afghanistan region is equally “unsettled” — to use a euphemism for what might properly be called “muddled” and “incoherent.” We leave that discussion for another day.
What can’t be left for another day is evidence that collusion with Russia has been a Clinton family specialty rather than a yet-to-be-proven feature of the Trump campaign. Bill and Hillary helped Russia to a generous grab of strategic U.S. uranium ore in return for millions of dollars shoveled to the Clintons’ slush fund, the Clinton Foundation, The Daily Caller reports.
ZeroHedge provides further incriminating details and a photo of what looks to us like a sheepishly smiling Bill and Vladimir with their hands in each other’s pockets. Pocket pool, anyone?
Russian penetration of the two Clintons’ circle of friends and associates was so though-going that, together with Secretary of State Hillary’s come-one-come-all home email server for top-secret government business, the pair should have qualified for honorary distinguished service medals from the KGB.
Yesterday we reported on then-FBI director Comey’s role in all this. (Not to mention his exoneration of Hillary’s home email server) But what is former FBI director Robert Mueller now doing as Special Counsel to investigate alleged Trump campaign wrongdoings with Russia, given his conflicts of interest, both as regards his friend Comey and his over-protectiveness of all things FBI? This is underlined by the revelations of an attorney with long experience with Mueller, including details of Mueller’s unscrupulous ‘s prosecutorial behavior.
E.D. Hirsch’s Why Knowledge Matters overturns many commonly-held notions of how to educate (book review)
A little over a year ago, at age 88, E.D. Hirsch—author of the best-selling Cultural Literacy (1987) and founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation—published his fifth and possibly most compelling book on education: Why Knowledge Matters, Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Policies (Harvard Education Press, 2016). While focused on K-8 education, this timely book might justifiably have been subtitled Rescuing our Nation from Failed Educational Policies because it explains so much about the educational stagnation and inequality that threaten the nation’s readiness to face future challenges.
Hirsch has for decades been a strong advocate—often a lonely one—for what he calls a content-rich, cumulative, communal curriculum at all levels of education for reasons of both equity and effective pedagogical theory. The simple idea is that children learn best when led through an interesting, knowledge-rich core curriculum in which each grade builds on the previous one and exposes students to increasingly more challenging material. (This model takes its cue from the well-researched “Matthew Effect” in vocabulary development whereby students who know, say, 90% of the vocabulary in a given passage will learn new words from context clues whereas those students who are unfamiliar with too many of the words in a passage will not learn any of the new ones. In other words, background knowledge is key to further knowledge—the rich get richer, the poor get poorer (Matthew 25:29).
This may seem like a no-brainer to people outside the education establishment; however, on the inside the belief is that education should focus on imparting “critical thinking” and other skills, not facts; instruction should be “differentiated,” or adapted to the interests, cognitive abilities, and even ethnicities of a diverse student body; and, especially in the early grades, the curriculum should be child-centered (stories about the family and neighborhood, not the imagination-expanding legends and geography of far-off lands).
In Why Knowledge Matters Hirsch has strengthened his previous arguments in favor of a knowledge-rich curriculum for all students in two principal ways: He references recent research in cognitive science that savages the idea upon which most recent English Language Arts (ELA) standards are based—namely, that there exist teachable, abstract skills such as “a main-idea-finding skill” or “a close-reading-skill.” No, there’s “an overwhelming body of evidence,” writes Hirsch, that thinking skills are domain specific— they depend on deep knowledge of a given field. Let students practice, say, finding the main idea in sample passages for a couple of weeks, but to base the ELA curriculum around such skills is pointless and detrimental, depriving students of the steady, cumulative exposure to knowledge of new domains upon which their thinking skills actually depend [and boring them to death!].
Second, in a blockbuster chapter entitled “The French Connection,” Hirsch discusses at length, with the support of statistics and graphs, the educational debacle that ensued in France following the implementation of the 1989 Loi Jospin [following the 1968 student uprising] when a knowledge-rich, communal, cumulative curriculum was replaced nationwide by a skills-oriented, child-centered, individualistic curriculum. National test scores plunged. Hirsch calls it an unprecedented “natural experiment.”
Here are just a few of the other Hirsch highlights:
Whereas No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and other educational reform efforts may have contributed to students’ improved decoding skills in the early grades by encouraging a return to phonics, in general “high-stakes testing” has hurt rather than helped older students by emphasizing skills training and test preparation at the expense of art, literature, science, history, and other content-heavy subjects that would have promoted vocabulary building, reading comprehension, and cultural literacy.
Hirsch is favorable to the “isolated paragraphs” in which the Common Core ELA standards acknowledge the importance of a content-rich curriculum; however, he notes the lack of specifics and predicts that the high-stakes reading tests that accompany the standards will have the same depressing effect as NCLB on the reading competence of 17-year-olds. Controversially, Hirsch believes the most criticized element of the ELA standards—that about half of the texts read across the curriculum should be “informational texts”—is one of the best. “Informational” may be an infelicitous name, but this guideline will reduce the number of vacuous stories about picnics at the beach with the Beaver family in favor of texts that convey knowledge and vocabulary in many domains.
Hirsch also has new and suggestive points to make about the “fadeout” problem, the well-documented phenomenon that IQ and academic gains made by disadvantaged children in Head Start and similar preschool programs fade out by second grade. [This is often cited by budget hawks as a reason to cut Head Start programs]. But the problem isn’t with the preschool programs, writes Hirsch, but with what comes after. Without a content-rich, cumulative curriculum in early elementary school, the gains are not solidified and are lost, i.e., they fade out.
Predictably, the main criticism of Why Knowledge Matters when it appeared was, in Publishers Weekly’s words, that “Hirsch sidesteps the question of who gets to decide what is communal knowledge.” For decades Hirsch has been maligned by the Left as an elitist, a defender of a curriculum featuring Dead White Males, and by Conservatives, for trying to impose a top-down national curriculum. In fact, both charges are spurious. Hirsch has always recognized that it is disadvantaged students—those who come to school without the background knowledge and vocabulary gained from being read to by parents, listening to adult conversations, having access to books in the home, etc.—who are most dependent on the quality of our schools. Hirsch concludes Why Knowledge Matters by proposing a traditional curriculum with “new elements” added in and devised and implemented at the local level: “At the present time, setting forth and teaching a well-articulated local core curriculum is the only politically viable way to foster coherent knowledge buildup and curriculum-based tests, the only kind that can be productive and fair.”
As a parent, which model would you choose for your children: what Hirsch proposes or a curriculum devoid of challenging content and featuring skills training and test preparation?
For further details, see the review author’s web page for high school English teachers.