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So Much for the Information Age

Posted By: SP Daily

So Much for the Information Age - 04/11/08 07:32 PM

Today's college students have tuned out the world, and it's partly our fault.
By TED GUP

I teach a seminar called "Secrecy: Forbidden Knowledge." I recently asked my class of 16 freshmen and sophomores, many of whom had graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes and had dazzling SAT scores, how many had heard the word "rendition."

Not one hand went up.

This is after four years of the word appearing on the front pages of the nation's newspapers, on network and cable news, and online. This is after years of highly publicized lawsuits, Congressional inquiries, and international controversy and condemnation. This is after the release of a Hollywood film of that title, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.

I was dumbstruck. Finally one hand went up, and the student sheepishly asked if rendition had anything to do with a version of a movie or a play.

I nodded charitably, then attempted to define the word in its more public context. I described specific accounts of U.S. abductions of foreign citizens, of the likely treatment accorded such prisoners when placed in the hands of countries like Syria and Egypt, of the months and years of detention. I spoke of the lack of formal charges, of some prisoners' eventual release and how their subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. government were stymied in the name of national security and secrecy.

The students were visibly disturbed. They expressed astonishment, then revulsion. They asked how such practices could go on.

I told them to look around the room at one another's faces; they were seated next to the answer. I suggested that they were, in part, the reason that rendition, waterboarding, Guantánamo detention, warrantless searches and intercepts, and a host of other such practices have not been more roundly discredited. I admit it was harsh.

That instance was no aberration. In recent years I have administered a dumbed-down quiz on current events and history early in each semester to get a sense of what my students know and don't know. Initially I worried that its simplicity would insult them, but my fears were unfounded. The results have been, well, horrifying.

Nearly half of a recent class could not name a single country that bordered Israel. In an introductory journalism class, 11 of 18 students could not name what country Kabul was in, although we have been at war there for half a decade. Last fall only one in 21 students could name the U.S. secretary of defense. Given a list of four countries — China, Cuba, India, and Japan — not one of those same 21 students could identify India and Japan as democracies. Their grasp of history was little better. The question of when the Civil War was fought invited an array of responses — half a dozen were off by a decade or more. Some students thought that Islam was the principal religion of South America, that Roe v. Wade was about slavery, that 50 justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, that the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1975. You get the picture, and it isn't pretty.

As a journalist, professor, and citizen, I find it profoundly discouraging to encounter such ignorance of critical issues. But it would be both unfair and inaccurate to hold those young people accountable for the moral and legal morass we now find ourselves in as a nation. They are earnest, readily educable, and, when informed, impassioned.

I make it clear to my students that it is not only their right but their duty to arrive at their own conclusions. They are free to defend rendition, waterboarding, or any other aspect of America's post-9/11 armamentarium. But I challenge their right to tune out the world, and I question any system or society that can produce such students and call them educated. I am concerned for the nation when a cohort of students so talented and bright is oblivious to all such matters. If they are failing us, it is because we have failed them.

Still, it is hard to reconcile the students' lack of knowledge with the notion that they are a part of the celebrated information age, creatures of the Internet who arguably have at their disposal more information than all the preceding generations combined. Despite their BlackBerrys, cellphones, and Wi-Fi, they are, in their own way, as isolated as the remote tribes of New Guinea. They disprove the notion that technology fosters engagement, that connectivity and community are synonymous. I despair to think that this is the generation brought up under the banner of "No Child Left Behind." What I see is the specter of an entire generation left behind and left out.

It is not easy to explain how we got into this sad state, or to separate symptoms from causes. Newspaper readership is in steep decline. My students simply do not read newspapers, online or otherwise, and many grew up in households that did not subscribe to a paper. Those who tune in to television "news" are subjected to a barrage of opinions from talking heads like CNN's demagogic Lou Dobbs and MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Fox's Bill O'Reilly and his dizzying "No Spin Zone." In today's journalistic world, opinion trumps fact (the former being cheaper to produce), and rank partisanship and virulent culture wars make the middle ground uninhabitable. Small wonder, then, that my students shrink from it.

Then, too, there is the explosion of citizen journalism. An army of average Joes, equipped with cellphones, laptops, and video cameras, has commandeered our news media. The mantra of "We want to hear from you!" is all the rage, from CNN to NPR; but, although invigorating and democratizing, it has failed to supplant the provision of essential facts, generating more heat than light. Many of my students can report on the latest travails of celebrities or the sexual follies of politicos, and can be forgiven for thinking that such matters dominate the news — they do. Even those students whose home pages open onto news sites have tailored them to parochial interests — sports, entertainment, weather — that are a pale substitute for the scope and sweep of a good front page or the PBS NewsHour With Jim Lehrer (which many students seem ready to pickle in formaldehyde).

Civics is decidedly out of fashion in the high-school classroom, a quaint throwback superseded by courses in technology. As teachers scramble to "teach to the test," civics is increasingly relegated to after-school clubs and geeky graduation prizes. Somehow my students sailed through high-school courses in government and social studies without acquiring the habit of keeping abreast of national and international events. What little they know of such matters they have absorbed through popular culture — song lyrics, parody, and comedy. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart is as close as many dare get to actual news.

Yes, the post-9/11 world is a scary place, and plenty of diversions can absorb young people's attention and energies, as well as distract them from the anxieties of preparing for a career in an increasingly uncertain economy. But that respite comes at a cost.

As a journalist, I have spent my career promoting transparency and accountability. But my experiences in the classroom humble and chasten me. They remind me that challenges to secrecy and opacity are moot if society does not avail itself of information that is readily accessible. Indeed, our very failure to digest the accessible helps to create an environment in which secrecy can run rampant.

It is time to once again make current events an essential part of the curriculum. Families and schools must instill in students the habit of following what is happening in the world. A global economy will have little use for a country whose people are so self-absorbed that they know nothing of their own nation's present or past, much less the world's. There is a fundamental difference between shouldering the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship — engagement, participation, debate — and merely inhabiting the land.

As a nation, we spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about illegal immigration and painfully little on what it means to be a citizen, beyond the legal status conferred by accident of birth or public processing. We are too busy building a wall around us to notice that we are shutting ourselves in. Intent on exporting democracy — spending blood and billions in pursuit of it abroad — we have shown a decided lack of interest in exercising or promoting democracy at home.

The noted American scholar Robert M. Hutchins said, decades ago: "The object of the educational system, taken as a whole, is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens." He warned that "the death of a democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." I fear he was right.

I tell the students in my secrecy class that they are required to attend. After all, we count on one another; without student participation, it just doesn't work. The same might be said of democracy. Attendance is mandatory.

Ted Gup is a professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University and author of Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life (Doubleday, 2007).
Posted By: Rykat

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/11/08 08:28 PM

and the beat goes on! sick

The most dangerous threat to Democracy and the American way of Life is Socialism because that is what is crawling up our a**es right now in our Universities. Our next President may well be a Socialist. We know he is, We hope he does not succeed.
The Founding Fathers are doing more than rolling over in their graves.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/11/08 10:23 PM

Ry, don't be so cynical on this one buddy.

Taking this editorial on its face -- it is very true and Americans tend to be very ignorant of the world.

Some of the "smartest" people I know have no clue about world politics, sociology, deomography, and geography.
Posted By: Bobber

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 12:37 AM

Public schools? Maybe they don't have enough time for such trivia after they schedule their indoctrination and propaganda courses. smile
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 12:47 AM

In what I found to be an otherwise interesting and well written article, the author frequently referred to “my students” and yet at no time seemed inclined to lay any blame on himself, or academia as a whole, which holds a monopoly greater than anything found in commerce or industry on the “teaching” of our youth.

When discipline is non existent, parents (I use the plural out of habit?) are irresponsible or uninvolved, and trial lawyers are only too happy to throw a suit at anyone who even considers punishment of any sort (there is no “looser pays” and school districts tend to settle rather than incur bad press (bait)), how can we expect any change of habits?

While the author points at the students and suggests that their lack of awareness is the reason that practices such as rendition are allowed to continue, I would suggest that it is the voting public which allows the public education system to remain so chronically broken and fails to challenge the absolute power of the teachers unions that is far more culpable. If answering correctly the questions posed in the piece were pre requisites to advancement from 8th to 9th grade, we would be starting to get on track, but we were talking College Freshmen !

Is it reasonable to expect that a child should be passed from grade to grade based not on their ability to learn, absorb and collate knowledge, but rather because “they tried, and felt good about themselves doing it” right up to the point where they enter the workforce with barley the skills to ask “would you like fry’s with that?”

If I were a cynic, I might just wonder if growing a generation who are dependent on entitlements and government programs from cradle to grave were part of a bigger scheme?

Even someone who can’t find Uzbekistan on a map will feel inclined to take a few minutes away from American Idol to vote for free stuff every 4 years (as long as someone gives them a ride to the polling station and shows them how the machines work!)
Posted By: Bobber

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 12:53 AM

Apparently there are a number of alternative courses and subject matter. To the point where the subjects that they were the alternative to no longer exist. Hmmmm.
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 01:58 AM

The American education system should not and cannot be expected to do it all - yet that does seem to be the expectation. When material things became more important to people than their children, such that families insisted both parents had to work in order to afford all the necessary "stuff," children began to suffer. It's catching up with us. America spends more per capita on education than almost any developed country in the world and is woefully behind the vast majority of them in terms of the quality of that education. I deal with parents everyday who want me to do in 20 minutes what they never got around to doing for the last 15 years. I'm sure it must be the lawyers' fault.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 02:01 AM

I don't know if it's still the case, but in my experience of living in the US (mostly California) newspapers in the US tend to be parochial and concern themselves only with what is going on in the US, and to an extent Canada. International news rarely features unless it's very major. Obviously there are exceptions such as the NYT. How are people then to learn about other countries in the world? The US is an enormous country and evidently very powerful, but there's a lot more out there.

On a related topic, I was astonished when I first discovered what proportion of Americans held passports. I forget now what the numbers were, but it was pretty small. I didn't realize then that passports weren't then needed for travel to nearby countries such as the Caribbean, but even so it suggests that at any rate back then most Americans never saw outside their immediate environment.

I was pretty surprised when teaching some teenagers to dive two or three years ago that they had virtually no experience of the 24 hour clock and none at all of the metric system. In today's global village it helps to have some idea how the guy next door is thinking.

I'm sure 9-11 has changed a lot of this, but that was quite recent. It isn't really very surprising that many young Americans don't have much of a clue what's going on in Europe, or Australia, or Africa, etc. It's not a criticism of them, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Posted By: Bobber

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 02:17 AM

Simply put, there are things that should be taught at home, and things that should be taught in school. Morals, work ethic, responsibility should be taught in the home and by example. Schools should give children the tools they need to survive and hopefully prosper in their lives. Unfortunately, the schools (my opinion) are not giving what they should, and many families are not providing what they need to, the ability to use those tools effectively. Everybody does not get a trophy in the real world.
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 03:18 AM

The U.S. political worldview explained -- at least from the Otter point of view...

http://www.purplethink.com/epinion/Worldview.asp
Posted By: Rykat

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 03:31 AM

Close, O reeeeeeeaaaaaallllll close! smile wink
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 03:48 AM

So maybe if American 5 year olds were to dress in the national costumes of other countries, and sing their national anthems at ball games, we could fix two posts at once?
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 03:51 AM

While it may seem contradictory, push comes to shove, ignorance is taught . . . we cannot expect our children to learn what we are unconcerned with. I learned more about geography from my grandfather's stamp collection than I ever learned from a teacher. Curiosity is not inbred . .it has to be fed and nurtured. Otheriwse, we will have a next generation who truly believes that Katie Couric is a journalist and Bill O'Reilly is a political scientist. Either way, we're hosed.
Posted By: klcman

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 05:06 AM

Hijack - Recent news reports of KC (no, not "our" KC) replacing the relic Larry King surfaced this week. Despite official denials from all parties, friends at both CBS and CNN indicate this is very likely. Hmmm.... wonder if she will keep up the suspender tradition.

We now return you to your regular programming.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 06:22 AM

Originally Posted by klcman
Hmmm.... wonder if she will keep up the suspender tradition.


How will we tell if she's sitting behind a desk?
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 07:26 AM

If our own SJ was in the anchor chair, we would never know (unless she was sitting on phone books)!! And she would still make more sense than the rest of them!! grin
Posted By: reaper

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 08:02 AM

American newspapers ALL have a World News section. It just doesn't get read very much.
Americans never needed a passport, because where were we going to use it? You could go to Mexico or Canada without one. When people say Americans don't travel much, it is untrue. Just look at the motorhomes and campers on the road. Ask Americans how many states have they seen. It used to be only wealthy folks could travel abroad. Most parents, like mine, never thought about going to Europe or Asia. But I saw 45 of the 50 states and lots of Canada growing up.
Americans are a product of our environment. You can spend 100 lifetimes just seeing North America by driving, we don't have other languages surrounding us except for Spanish and French, and our schools don't focus on other lands like they should.
In Europe you would need a passport to get around to very close neighbors, which all spoke different languages, and had politics that directly affected other neighbors.
More Americans are getting passports and traveling abroad, finally. And P2, yes, I agree with you on this one. Most young Americans only know how to text their friends and get to the mall. They don't know their own country and it's geography. Sad.
Posted By: LaurieMar

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 10:07 AM

Whoa, back to Pug's comment about trial lawyers above. I am not entirely sure of the relevance to this thread, but need to point out some misconceptions.

Lawyers rarely enter into a fray unless there is a problem. We are trained problem solvers. We don't file lawsuits on our own behalf. We file lawsuits when we are retained by a client to do so. But, there has to be a viable cause of action and there is a finite number of causes of action under which one can file a complaint. Whether the allegations are good, bad, ugly, true or false, a plaintiff must prove them up(i.e the burden of proof).

Although you may hear of large settlements because those are such things that make the news, there are dozens of cases you don't hear about. As a civil defense lawyer, I have used numerous legal tactics to gain dismissal for my client, if the court agrees the allegations are not founded on law and/or fact. Motions for judgment on the pleadings, motions for summary judgment, dismissal with waiver of costs, offer to compromise are just a few. A lot of these are quite technical and sometimes difficult to win, depending on the facts of the case, the law as applied to the particular facts and of course, the almighty man/woman on the bench (and even the law clerk who reviews the law cited in the briefs submitted to the court).

Generally, 90-95% of civil cases are settled or disposed of, prior to trial. Trials are very expensive, a roll of the dice, due to juror unpredictability, or any number of unexpected scenarios. I have had some major surprises with juries and not just the outcome of the case. More importantly, almost always, the decision to settle is made by the purse holder - that is never the lawyer. It is either the client (if private or self-insured), or the insurance carrier for the client. It is simply a business decision - weighing the expensive cost to litigate and take to trial with an unpredictable outcome vs. settlement. That is the only reason settlement occurs in many instances.

Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 11:57 AM

Laurie, don't tell them that stuff! Who will they pick on now? wink
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 01:14 PM

Laurie -- I'm sorry, but please create another thread for this one -- it is so untrue. There are good lawyers (our message board bunch included) but I deal with lawyers all the friggin time that specifically search for clients to convince them they were wronged so a class action can be maufactured out of nothing. I've been deposed as a company witness to some of the most unbelieveable fishing expeditons imaginable. And Mrs. O. works for a finance company that was forced to lay-off half their workforce when a frivolous lawsuit forced a settlement. 90-95% are setlled by the party holding the pursestrings you say. Well of course! They have the most to lose. I can lose millions a year settling frivolous claims or billions fighting them in court. Both scenarios still suck.

Don't get me on this soap box. A lot of American ills can be brought back to the need for tort reform.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 01:49 PM

Originally Posted by pugwash
and trial lawyers are only too happy to throw a suit at anyone who even considers punishment of any sort (there is no “looser pays” and school districts tend to settle rather than incur bad press (bait))


Remember the moonwalking bear?..........Fishing was good last night, although it seems I initially hooked a more reasonable representative of the species than I expected, or maybe just a more nucturnal one!
Posted By: Bill Mc Ghee

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 02:09 PM

"I can lose millions a year settling frivolous claims or billions fighting them in court. Both scenarios still suck."


And of course we would not want to go into the " Workers Compensation" area of frivolity.
Posted By: LaurieMar

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 06:51 PM

Pug, lol, yeah I was hooked.

Otter, sorry every word I said is VERY true. I have never filed a lawsuit in my entire career because I am a defense attorney, so I defend claims. Maybe you guys need a better defense attorney is you are losing millions a year settling frivolous claims!
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 07:33 PM

When an individual perceives themselves to be part of a group or profession, it is natural that their perceptions and standards are then projected towards the group, and that critique of the pier group becomes viewed as a personal sleight?

The professor whose article started this post showed no recognition of academia’s role in the dumbing down of children: The response from our 2 lawyer ladies seems based on how they perceive their approach to their chosen profession, and yet Laurie-Mar’s last paragraph confirmed that its is simply an economic issue, and sometimes settlement is favorable to proceeding to trial….in other words, pay them to go away! There are without any doubt some attorneys who build their entire careers around filing suits on a contingency basis and then settling for a quick and easy profit. Had comments been directed at used car salesmen, I’m sure I would have a defensive point of view to share with anyone who would listen (read!)

My career path has had 3 distinct segments: A tour and production manager for rock bands in the 70’s and again in the early 90s, an investment banker in the 80’s and as a Chevrolet dealer more recently: in the eyes of many, my time spent with hedonistic adolescents, loose women and drugies would be considered the most honorable of my chosen professions, and would generate less vitriol than the other two!

The one fact that cannot go unacknowledged is that while bad (in the context of unskilled or inefficient) car dealers go out of business, and bad lawyers go to jail or the public defenders office, bad teachers are almost impossible to fire: When their days of polluting or otherwise abusing our children’s minds are over with, unlike the car dealers or lawyers, who have to plan for their owns futures, the teachers retire with pensions and health insurance, thank you taxpayers!
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 09:46 PM

stop making so much damn sense pug -- you are renewing my faith in humanity -- CUT IT OUT!!!

Laurie, my dear, I have not and will not disparage you personally. I must say, however, no matter how good the attorney is, if the judge grants class action status, you are left with settlement or trial except for the most unusual of cases.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 10:29 PM

Yeah, thats me Otter, the voice of reason.....
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/12/08 11:25 PM

Originally Posted by pugwash
bad lawyers go to jail or the public defenders office


The ignorance demonstrated by this statement would be simply astounding were it not for consideration of the source.

Of all the rights that an accused person has, none matters more than the right to be represented by competent counsel. This country's legal system is based on concepts of fairness and equal protection which demand equal treatment under the law irrespective of financial condition. All best evidence studies show that representation by a public defender's office yields results superior to representation by private counsel and at a significant cost savings. One recent study found that defendants represented by private counsel for felony drug possession were likely to receive 2.5 years more behind bars than similarly situated defendants served by a public defender. Unlike private counsel who, even if limiting their practice to criminal law, generally work on a wide variety of crimes, public defender's offices are large enough to allow for specialization. There is consistent oversight and public defenders are in court virtually every day, rendering them more experienced and allowing them to develop client-benficial relationships with prosecutors and judges that private counsel rarely experience. PDs have better access to investigators and other resources by virtue of the size of their offices; additionally, because PD offices tend to be larger they offer training and mentoring opportunities not available to small practices or sole practioners.
In general public defenders do what they do more for ideological reasons than for cash. I'll take an ardent, committed public defender over an attorney wearing a better suit and driving a more expensive car any day.

Oh, and for the record, I do not work for a public defender's office, although that is the type of work I do. The county in which I live contracts out the entire PD office. I work for the firm that presently holds that contract, and I am also occassionally privately retained to represent clients in other counties, generally in my area of expertise.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 01:20 AM

So jail it is then? Maybe the DA's Office? how would they survive in private practice?

I cant imagine even you would represent that there are no bad lawyers? Where should we look for them, other than the congress and the senate......
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 01:30 AM

They survive the way incompetent people in every profession survive - generally people don't know what to look for when hiring an attorney any more than they know what to look for when they approach a used car salesman!

Of course there are bad lawyers - there are downright horrible lawyers, just not in the proportion people would like to think. Why would you want to look for them?
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 02:23 AM

I am not downright horrible . . . . What exactly does downright mean?
Posted By: LaurieMar

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 02:24 AM

Okay Otter, dear (wink). Touche. Class action suits are quite a different animal, a specialized area of practice and not within my realm of expertise. I was only referring to the garden variety civil lawsuits I handle on a daily basis, which generally involve a plaintiff or 2 and a defendant or several defendants, for personal injury, property damage and the like.

What LA? No Gerry Spence or Johnnie Cochran types for you? LOL - coming into court with snakeskin cowboy boots, diamond cufflinks?
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 02:45 AM

KC - it means the same as right-down, only different! wink You know: thoroughly, completely, absolutly, all the way and you are correct, you are only partially horrible! laugh

LM, you know I could never give up my boots!!!! laugh

I have to say, I don't believe I can think of a single action where plaintiffs would have been better served as individuals than as a class, with the exception of construction defect suits, which I don't really consider the practice of law. Class action suits have their place and serve a valid purpose, but are subject to abuse like most anything else. A loser pays system is one of the most frightening concepts out there and I sleep better knowing it's not ever going to be utilized in the American justice system.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 06:03 AM

Originally Posted by Leah-Ann
A loser pays system is one of the most frightening concepts out there and I sleep better knowing it's not ever going to be utilized in the American justice system.


How strange: I lay awake at night wondering how we can get the Velcro wall changed to a Teflon one, thus lessening the incentive to throw things at it to see what sticks!

After months of discussion, we finally seem to have found a subject upon which we are on opposite sides!

The original point I was making was that while there may well be many fine teachers, it is all but impossible to rid ourselves of the bad ones: I only threw in the lawyer comment to wind you up as with all the new men in your life, you have not been paying me enough attention lately!

It was not that I was searching for a bad attorney, but now that Genie is out of the bottle, perhaps you could share with me the ideal career path for a freshly minted lawyer?

I know in my music career, I wanted to be touring with stadium acts, not local bar bands: in investments, with Merrill Lynch, not a penny stock house, and with a New Car Dealership, not Pugs Used Cars-we take food stamps and cash payroll checks…what is the hierarchy of legal careers?

I have yet to hear of anyone graduating top of their class at Harvard Law and announcing a critical path culminating with a final 20 years as a Public Defender?

As always, I’m sure you will be only too happy to tell me why, how, when and where I’m wrong?
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 07:43 AM

Ah pug, you never disappoint; and, I've missed you too, indeed I've been so miserable it was almost like you were here.

It is extremely difficult to have a matter certified as a class action. I hear lots of complaints, but never specific reasons to disfavor a class action suit or examples of misuse or abuse of the system.

"The ideal career path for a freshly minted lawyer" depends on the lawyer. If you've never heard of someone at the top of their class foregoing the big bucks and opting for a carreer in public service, you might want to think about broadening your circle a bit. Of course, given your apparent views on what constitutes success, it probably wouldn't change your opinion. As for your personal choice to be at the "top" of any given carreer choice, I suppose that depends on how you define "top." And that, my friend, is something I am sure we will never agree upon.
Posted By: Bobber

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 11:43 AM

Pug, don't be so quick to label Leah Ann as a common public defender. Personally, I don't think she is pursuing the big bucks (he he he) that the position entails. She is driven by something else that is more honorable than it appears on the surface. We have our differences (he he he) but I do admire some of her ideology immensely. Just a thought.
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 04:47 PM

So now we’re arguing about being on top? This really is like having another wife!

Jane was wondering if you’d like to come over and help with the cooking and cleaning, as she has a barn to paint and fences to mend: lucky for me, NASCAR was last night and so I can watch the Masters this afternoon.

At least we are not discussing what the meaning of “is” is!

Originally Posted by pugwash
critique of the pier group becomes viewed as a personal sleight?

Just in case actual facts would be up for consideration,I did not use the word "Top" nor have I ever mentioned Class Action (in this thread), and have not suggested that good attorneys do not seek careers in public service, but rather have questioned whether of not the Public Defenders office of some cities, not unlike the Public Schools or the Public anything (i.e. Taxpayer Funded, and with Benefits!) become repositories for those unable to compete in the world that many of us have to try to survive in: This kind of ties in with the original idea that we are not producing kids in our education system that are able to compete for jobs in a global economy ?
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 05:39 PM

Dear pug,

It is with deep regret I must decline your most generous proposal. For you see, as much as you might want another wife, I have absolutely no desire to have another husband! Still, give Jane my regards and, once again, my condolences. wink

And of course, as always, you are absolutely correct: you only used the word "top" once, in reference to class ranking. However, you did reference concepts such as "ideal career path" and your preferences in terms of your own various jobs, and "hierarchy." Did I misunderstand you yet again? Do you actually prefer the bottom? (in your case I would have guessed middle might be the preference.) Of course there are bad PD's, and bad teachers and bad car salesmen (that would include new and/or used cars), just as there are good in all professions. But if you are asking me if I think government work attracts a disproportionate number of people who are poor performers, the answer is, "no, I do not."

You do appear to have a bias against public school teachers; I'll leave that to be addressed by someone who knows more about the topic than I, other than to say that all in all the teachers I have encountered have very little to do with the problems which have been discussed here, I view that more as an administrative issue. In the meantime we can all only hope that the next generation of American students will grow up to be fine car-selling, nascar-watching, spelling- and punctuation-challanged citizens.

Finally, please accept my apologies for referencing class action suits, an item not on your agenda here. How silly of me to stray from your chosen topic! I'll try to do better.

Ok, it's back to the races - have a fun Sunday!
xoxo

~LA



P.S. Bobber, it is my honor to be viewed by you as an uncommon anything. smile
Posted By: Danny2

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 06:28 PM

Leah-Ann, why do you think construction defects suites is not practicing law?
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 06:29 PM

Always dangerous to paint an entire group in any light -- positive or negative
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 06:58 PM

Originally Posted by Leah-Ann
But if you are asking me if I think government work attracts a disproportionate number of people who are poor performers, the answer is, "no, I do not."


What better reminder to us all that we should remember the source when evaluating a post!

I can’t tell you how many times I have been bitterly disappointed when no one from the County Drivers License department applied for the post of Office Manager at my dealership, or that no one from the Vehicle Registration department at the Treasurers Office sought a position with performance bonus pay!

I cannot however let the rare occurrence of your being correct about something pass by unacknowledged: I fully concur that it is the administrators that I fault for the standard of education in our public schools today, as I do the teachers unions in their constant attempts to defend any member from dismissal, regardless of competence or morality.

As for the races…that was yesterday, today is the Masters (Golf)
Posted By: Bobber

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/13/08 07:05 PM

I don't think it "attracts" them as such, just retains them when in the real world they would have been out on their butts. Opinion only smile
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 04:06 AM

bump. Not because I have anything cogent to contribute (as a recovering attorney) but because I enjoy pug abuse. I know, that's cruel, but I can't help it!! whistle
Posted By: reaper

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 05:49 AM

If a town is too small for one lawyer, two lawyers will thrive.
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 11:33 AM

Originally Posted by pugwash
Originally Posted by Leah-Ann
But if you are asking me if I think government work attracts a disproportionate number of people who are poor performers, the answer is, "no, I do not."

What better reminder to us all that we should remember the source when evaluating a post!


What is it that makes me a suspect source? It can't be that I work for the government, because I don't. I work for a private law firm which happens to hold a government contract. How is that different from a government agency contracting to purchase its fleet from your car dealership? Or park its retirement holdings with your Merrill Lynch-like investment firm? Would that make you a government employee?

No former government employees have sought a position in any of your businesses? Gee, couldn't have anything to do with the management, could it?

So, you're anti-union? Would that be all unions or just the teacher's union? Has any union ever done anything good in your opinion? As for thinking that government employees are immune to termination: honestly, pug, where do you come up with this stuff? Government attorneys, at least in the California and Federal systems, serve as at-will employees and can be dismissed for any or no reason, union or employee group membership notwithstanding. It's not unusual; I've watched very competent attorneys loose their jobs (and significant portions of their retirement plans) when the incoming elected boss was of the opposite political party. As for other categories of government employees, I've been involved in the firing of a few. If they are contracted employees things must be thoroughly documented and just cause must be found; but again, it is not a rare occurrence and is absolutely indistinguishable from any contracted employee working with any private sector employer. Please be so kind as to explain to me how government employees are not required to "compete in the world that many of us have to try to survive in." Could it be that any difficulty you personally have experienced surviving in that world might be attributed to your winsome ways and charming personality? And if you've had no such difficulties in the job market, exactly what is it that makes it such a tough place to compete?

I do appreciate you clarifying for me that the "masters" refers to golf. For a moment I thought you might be doing something cultural. You did however decline to address at all several other points. As you have suggested we should consider "actual facts" - let's!

you state: "I did not use the word "Top"..." but you did. And you stated you had: "not suggested that good attorneys do not seek careers in public service." However that is precisely what you suggested when you said: "I have yet to hear of anyone graduating top of their class at Harvard Law and announcing a critical path culminating with a final 20 years as a Public Defender." You then explained your personal career choices to tour with stadium acts; work in large well-known investment firms; and, with a new, as opposed to used, car dealership, leaving the impression that you deemed the local bar bands, penny stock houses, and used car dealerships somehow inferior. The very clear implication was that a career as a public defender would be chosen only by one who had few if any other options. So, I beg to differ - you most certainly did "suggest" the career path of public defender was less than desirable and would not be chosen by those at the top of their class having other options.

As for
Originally Posted by pugwash
critique of the pier group becomes viewed as a personal sleight?
:

Let it be known - I love my "pier" group! That would be the wonderful group of people I've met on this message board and had the great good fortune to grab a Belikin and hang out with on one of the fine piers of San Pedro. wink As for my peer group - I am overall extremely impressed by them, their dedication, work ethic, wealth of knowledge and professionalism and I am honored to spend a few years working alongside them. Don't worry, pug, I never take anything you say as a personal sleight - you don't know me well enough to offend me! but if you want me to continue paying attention to you, you're gonna have to do a better job of addressing all of the debate points, not just the ones where you think you might be winning. Didn't they teach you anything about forensics in those English schools?

OK, KC - I hope that got your morning off to a good start! Although I do believe no one enjoys pug abuse more than pug. wink

reaper, I do hope you and your lawyer are thriving! please give her a hug for me! smile

Now Danny, don't get me started on construction defect suits....
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 04:31 PM

If I were to read and react to posts the way that some (?) do, my response could well look like this….

Originally Posted by Leah-Ann
As for other categories of government employees, I've been involved in the firing of a few.

Compassionate Activist reveals darker side?

But as I try and look at the entire post and not go off on a tangent that suits my conditioned response, I will try and take this somewhat in order:

When I say “consider the source” it is based on professed viewpoints, not professional allegiance….its not all about you, all of the time!

I have had former federal and municipal government employee’s work for me: the good ones last and thrive, unburdened by petty bureaucracy, and then there are others who don’t.

I tend to feel that the political agenda of most unions out weighs the good they do for their members, often at the expense of the vast majority of us who are non union members, and that when mandatory dues are confiscated and used for political contributions against any stated will of the members, that is an inherently wrong thing?

On GM production lines in Europe, 3 unions represent the entire workforce, whereas in the USA, 13 are somehow needed. This results in a production line stoppage and re start taking on average under 5 minutes as opposed to over 30 in the US, and doesn’t seem to hurt the standard of living of the workforce? Toyota plants in the US are more efficient and less cumbersome, with contract negotiated before the plants are even built, (including changes in the states class action laws in Mississippi before a plant was built there!)

Extracts from a Wall Street Journal article on Unions and Education will follow so as not to make this reply any longer than it already is!

I did not realize that Public Service and Public Defenders were he same thing? On MENSA tests, there are frequently questions that are similar to this:

If some Government Employees are Public Servants and some Public Servants are Public Defenders, are all Government Employees Public Defenders?

I guess I won’t be seeing you at any meetings…….

Public Service Legal work would seem to include The DA’s Office, Planning and Zoning, Environmental Law, Water, Mineral and Land Use and many, many more areas: While there may well be fine Attorneys in some Public Defenders offices, it is my contention that these same offices not only offer homes to the less able in the legal world, but also gives them the availability of a safe haven.

The issue of “firing” was relevant to Teachers Union Members: In an excellent book several years ago, then chairman of GE, Jack Welsh (before Jeffrey Immelt ran the company into the ground!) suggested that for any entity to remain competitive, 10% of the workforce should be terminated each year and a further 10% should be on the “bubble”, to ensure performance standards were maintained: In one fiscal year in the early part of this decade, out of almost 70,000 members of the NY City Teachers Union, only 2 were terminated, and both were incarcerated at the time of their dismissal, which was contested by their union! (I have spent over an hour searching for source documentation on this, which I know I have somewhere, and as I’m sure this will be the one part of this post that is deemed worthy of a response, If anyone else is aware of this …help?)

As someone who has been lambasted many times by Leah-Ann for stereo typing and generalizations, (which admittedly were usually just to annoy her) I find it somewhat amusing to hear that the view of the legal world from on top of her shining white horse is not quite the same as mine from down here in the dirt!

As for forensics…does adding nail polish remover to cigarette buts in the palm of your hand count?......(Its more fun if you close your eyes first TQ)

Extract for The Wall Street Journal, 2006

Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, enacted with bipartisan support in 1990, provides private school vouchers to students from families at or below 175% of the poverty line. Its constitutionality has been supported by rulings from both the Wisconsin and U.S. Supreme Courts.
Yet [Wisconsin Governor Jim] Doyle, a union-financed Democrat, has vetoed three attempts to loosen the state law that limits enrollment in the program to 15% of Milwaukee’s public school enrollment. This cap, put in place in 1995 as part of a compromise with anti-choice lawmakers backed by the unions, wasn’t an issue when only a handful of schools were participating. But the program has grown steadily to include 127 schools and more than 14,000 students today. Wisconsin officials expect the voucher program to exceed the 15% threshold next year, which means Mr. Doyle’s schoolhouse-door act is about to have real consequences.
“Had the cap been in effect this year,” says Susan Mitchell of School Choice Wisconsin, “as many as 4,000 students already in the program would have lost seats. No new students could come in, and there would be dozens of schools that have been built because of school choice in Milwaukee that would close. They’re in poor neighborhoods and would never have enough support from tuition-paying parents or donors to keep going.”
A 2004 study of high school graduation rates by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute found that students using vouchers to attend Milwaukee’s private schools had a graduation rate of 64%, versus 36% for their public school counterparts. Harvard’s Caroline Hoxby has shown that Milwaukee public schools have raised their standards in the wake of voucher competition.(emphasis added)

The unions scored a separate “victory” in Florida three weeks ago when the state supreme court there struck down the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Passed in 1999, the program currently enrolls 700 children from chronically failing state schools, letting them transfer to another public school or use state money to attend a private school. Barring some legislative damage control, the 5-2 ruling means these kids face the horrible prospect of returning to the state’s education hellholes next year.
The decision is a textbook case of results-oriented jurisprudence. The majority claimed the program violates a provision of Florida’s constitution that requires the state to provide for “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” Because “private schools that are not ‘uniform’ when compared with each other or the public system” could receive state funds under the program, the majority deemed it unconstitutional.
What the Milwaukee and Florida examples show is that unions and their allies are unwilling to let even successful voucher experiments continue to exist. If they lose one court case, they will sue again–and then again, as long as it takes. And they’ll shop their campaign cash around for years until they find a politician like Jim Doyle willing to sell out Wisconsin’s poorest kids in return for their endorsement. Is there a more destructive force in American public life?
Posted By: Rykat

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 05:22 PM

Man.........you guys have too much free time on your hands!:-)
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 08:17 PM

Amen, Rykat! sleep
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 09:50 PM

Point-counter point. I was the captain of my college debate team but this has become dizzying even for me.
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 11:45 PM

told ya pug, no one's really interested in watching this debate - with the possible exception of KC, and I don't think it's the debate he likes as much as the personal jabs - and I think we're even putting poor nova to sleep! wink We should go back to talking about the weather, perhaps with the occassional conversation about shoes thrown in. blush
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 11:48 PM

Oh yea...what was the original topic of this thread?
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/14/08 11:54 PM

OMG Leah Ann, you've hurt my feelings! shocked
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:08 AM

Nova! How so? I wouldn't want that. frown
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:16 AM

Anyone wanna talk about boobs and beer?
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:18 AM

I'm thinking of deleting my original post....
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:20 AM

How about shoes and beer Otter?

Leah Ann - it's called "joking". crazy
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:23 AM

would that include a discussion about the manzeer or the bro? eek
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:23 AM

deal nova -- and who said there's no compromise on this board?!

Jesse -- I think you were validated in your concern that led you to make the post -- the argument then came with who or what is to blame. I just think that there should be a law against bludgeoning the equine corpse any further
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:25 AM

at first i thought otter suggested talking about boots and beer, which is pretty close to shoes and beer! nova, you recognize joking, right? laugh
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:29 AM

Originally Posted by Otteralum
Anyone wanna talk about boobs and beer?


Apparantly, Nova has a prickly pair!
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:31 AM

Hahahahahaha Pug! You always make me grimace...I mean GRIN! laugh
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:33 AM

Originally Posted by Otteralum
...there should be a law....

There's THE SOLUTION!
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 12:51 AM

Originally Posted by Leah-Ann
told ya pug,


Amazing....

Basicly, everyone on the board tells us to shut up and stop squabling like kids.....

Your first reaction ..."told ya Pug!"
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:00 AM

we were squabling?
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:01 AM

I like beer -- nova likes shoes
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:04 AM

Otter - don't start with me boy....I like beer too!
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:05 AM

I like beer -- nova and Mrs. O. like beer and shoes
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:07 AM

She's a good woman! wink
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:07 AM

[Linked Image]
Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:09 AM

Now that's just what I need...a beer shoe with Ernie swimming around in the sole!
Posted By: Ernie B

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:10 AM

Yer sick
Posted By: Chloe

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:14 AM

Now that's funny Nova. smile

Gotta love that shoe......size 8 please!

Thx Leah Ann, made my evening. smile

Posted By: Nova

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:15 AM

I'm just concerned about the bubbles at the top. Now where do you think those came from??????? crazy
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:17 AM

Fish farts?
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:21 AM

Isn't all beer foamy at the top?
Can't go wrong with beer and shoes!!
Posted By: pugwash

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:25 AM

This discussion is lacking in intellect……
Posted By: Leah-Ann

Re: So Much for the Information Age - 04/15/08 01:25 AM

well, now that you're here, I believe we have that issue covered!
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