- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

Obama’s mother’s academic work

From Calvin Reid at publishersweekly.com: “The American Anthropological Association is working in conjunction with Duke University Press to publish “Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia,” a revised edition of the doctoral dissertation of S. Ann Dunham, also known as Ann Dunham Soetoro, the mother of President Obama. The bookwill be published with an initial print run of 10,000 copies in a hardcover edition that will be launched with a press conference, panel discussion and reception to be held in Philadelphia on Thursday.

“While the story of Barack Obama’s childhood growing up in Indonesia is by now well-known, there is much less known about his mother’s academic work as an economic anthropologist and rural development consultant. Ken Wissoker, editorial director of Duke University Press, said Dunham’s dissertation, completed in the early 1990s, was prescient and anticipated much of the current thinking on economic development in the developing world. The new edition includes rare photographs of Dunham in Indonesia; a foreword by Maya Soetoro-Ng, Dunham’s daughter and the sister of Mr. Obama; as well as an afterword by Robert W. Hefner, president of the Association for Asian Studies, that puts her pioneering work in scholarly context.

“Wissoker said that Duke University Press’s anthropology list was focused on books about ‘how conventional foreign aid has not worked and how it should be rethought,’ and Dunham’s book is a perfect fit for its program.”

Bloomberg on teacher layoffs

School-reform eyes have been cast upon Washington ever since D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appointed Michelle A. Rhee to turn around the city’s notorious D.C. Public Schools. So when she laid off 226 teachers and other employees only 21/2 years in, the Washington Teachers’ Union labeled it an illegal mass firing and filed a court challenge. Now the chancellor’s efforts had the eyes and ears of reformers. All interested parties learned Tuesday that a D.C. Superior Court judge denied the union’s claim.

What does New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg think of doing what the D.C. chancellor did to get rid of bad teachers?

“The only thing worse than having to lay off teachers would be laying off great teachers instead of failing teachers,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a Washington speech last week. “With a transparent new evaluation system, principals would have the ability to make layoffs based on merit - but only if the State Legislature gives us the authority to do it.”

Cell phones as learning tools

Parents and teens battle over them, states and localities ban usage of them if you’re a motorist, and teachers used to fear students would use them to cheat. Now some Tampa Bay-area educators say cell phones have a role in the classroom.

This news bite comes from an Associated Press story: “Tech savvy teachers are asking students to use their phones to record foreign language assignments, take photographs for projects and do mini-Internet searches if they have a Web browser.”