Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Summer Travel 2001," May 12, 2001

2+2 = SELF-ESTEEM: New Math 2.0 is hitting the public schools, says Fox News' Tony Snow, and parents in New York City are hitting back. Mr. Snow reported on parents' complaints about the latest educational fad, "constructivist mathematics" curriculum-or, as he puts it, "ebonics with an equals sign." It substitutes theory and self-esteem for computation and right answers. In lieu of the usual long sets of problems, students work on math projects in groups. "Teachers encourage kids to estimate, not calculate," he writes, "and to feel a sense of intellectual hauteur even though they cannot add, subtract, multiply, or divide." Mr. Snow points out the paradox that a scheme concocted to improve performance by girls and minorities winds up throwing educational standards to the wind. MATERNITY FRATERNITY: America's kids may trail other countries in education, but they lead the world in teen pregnancy. Four out of 10 girls become pregnant before age 20, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, an organization that boasts political and cultural commentator Linda Chavez on its board. Eight out of 10 teens said they have felt pressure to have sex, according to the survey of 2,000 conducted earlier this year. Three of four adults and 56 percent of teens agree that "teens should not be sexually active, but teens who are should have access to birth control." Mrs. Chavez writes in her column that the problem would diminish if parents talked with their children about these issues. "Parents have believed that kids would have sex no matter what adults said," she says, so they avoid trying to convince them to be abstinent. MOVING ON: Matt Drudge is crowing over former Clinton administration hack Sidney Blumenthal's decision to drop his libel suit against the Internet gadfly journalist. Instead of being forced to pay $30 million, Mr. Drudge will collect $2,500 for travel costs. The Drudge Report wrongly carried a story back in 1997 after he heard rumors that suggested the former White House aide beat his wife. It turned out to have no solid basis in fact, and Mr. Drudge promptly pulled the story and apologized. But Mr. Blumenthal sued. Now, four years later, he has abandoned the fight because, he said, "Drudge has placed enough burden on our family for four years and we're moving on with our lives." HONESTY TRANSFUSION: Fox's tough talking head Bill O'Reilly says the Democratic Party is still hurting badly from the Bill Clinton backlash. He says spinmeisters now want to use environmentalist rhetoric to win back an American Heartland that still laughs about "Slick Willie, but it won't work. The Democratic Party needs new blood much worse than any Anne Rice character," he writes in his column. "The party is now a coalition of organized labor, minorities and left-leaning white collars." Mr. O'Reilly says Democratic leaders must face up to the last administration's scandals and turn a new, more honest leaf. AVANT-GAUCHE: For decades, the Left has used avant-garde art as a battering ram to force its way onto the public square. Those days are over, writes Robert Locke in the David Horowitz-sponsored FrontPage Magazine, and "the old artistic avant-garde, the heirs of Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky, and others from the early 20th Century, is now the institutionalized establishment." He says this establishment is showing signs of weakness: "They've had it coming for a long, long time." Mr. Locke points to the revival of Norman Rockwell and photorealism (the use of painting to create a picture more vivid than that from a camera) as signs that the art world may start abandoning introspection and ideology and rediscover the external world. RECESSION RECESS? What if after months of Wall Street declines, we don't get a recession after all? Thomas Bray writes on The Wall Street Journal's free website that this could be great for America-and for the Bush administration. Indeed, the promise of relief from tax and regulatory burdens may help stabilize a cooling economy: "Pressure on profits remains intense, and highly visible layoffs are still taking place. But there are still profits to be made, and the employment picture remains relatively strong." The Detroit News columnist commends President Bush's handling of the downturn, which surprised the Democrats who underestimated him. He doesn't expect a return to the go-go period of the late 1990s, but prosperity just may continue.

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