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Furthermore …

Barbie
Lammily

Robinson’s passionate defense steals show

Don’t suggest to Fort Wayne Community Schools Superintendent Wendy Robinson that public education has anything in common with welfare. One school choice promoter made that mistake recently and isn’t likely to do it again.

Robinson was one of five panelists invited to discuss education issues following the Indianapolis premiere of “Rise Above the Mark,” a documentary about public education produced by West Lafayette Community Schools. The film, which questions the effects of school vouchers, charters and other so-called reform measures, prompted a heated discussion at the Butler University event on Feb. 28.

Panelist Robert Enlow, director of the pro-voucher Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, defended voucher use as comparable to food-stamp recipients choosing where to use their public assistance.

“I agree we have a civic obligation for public education,” Enlow said. “Again, like we have a civic obligation for food stamps, right? We have to help those who earn less.”

FWCS’ Robinson grew angry.

“It’s insulting to equate public education with food stamps,” she said as many in the audience jumped to their feet in applause. “Public education was created for the public good. Food stamps and welfare are created for people who are in need. When you say they are the same, you are assuming all kids in public school are in need.”

Robinson went on to complain about language that equates public and, particularly, urban schools as failing. She also discussed the disproportionate effect vouchers have had on FWCS and its budget.

The panel included Diane Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education during the George H.W. Bush administration and outspoken critic of the current reform movement. But it was Robinson’s passionate defense of public education that filmgoers were talking about after the event.

In the interest of full disclosure, Editorial Page Editor Karen Francisco is among those featured in the documentary.

Getting it right in black, white

How many corrections have you seen on a web-only journalism site? On TV news shows? How many have you heard on your favorite radio station?

Answers usually range from “not many” to “none.” That’s not because web-only journalists and TV and radio reporters don’t make mistakes. It’s because their mistakes generally fade into the ether, as evanescent and seemingly inconsequential as a sudden gust of midwinter snow.

But newspaper errors ... now, those are different. For one thing, when we know about them, we make a point of correcting them. For another, uncorrected mistakes in newspapers burrow their way into the files. There, they lie dormant unless the subject of the story they’re in emerges again down the road – and the original error may crawl up on the screen like a sleepy-eyed locust, either to be caught and put out of its misery, or, heaven forfend, replicated, thus to burrow away for another 17 years, or 161.

This week, the New York Times provided a dramatic example of this phenomenon when it published this correction:

“An article on Jan. 20, 1853, recounting the story of Solomon Northup, whose memoir ‘12 Years a Slave’ became a movie 160 years later that won the best picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, misspelled his surname as Northrop. And the headline misspelled it as Northrup. The errors came to light on Monday after a Twitter user pointed out the article in The Times archives ...”

A more realistic role model

Nickolay Lamm is trying to do what some parents wished had happened a long time ago. He is seeking funding so he can produce a doll that will accurately represent what young women really look like.

He is aiming at Barbie, the doll whose proportions are unlike those of almost all American women. Lamm reportedly took statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and used them to print a 3D toy doll. He came up with a doll that – with the average measurements of a woman 19 years old – is shorter than Barbie and equally attractive in a non-anorexic sort of way. He’s calling her Lammily.

Lamm is seeking money through crowdsourcing. According to his website, lammily.com, he wanted to raise $95,000 and has already surpassed that, with almost a month left to go.

Barbie, bless her heart, is still going strong. She made a no-apologies appearance in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. And a Ukrainian model, Valeria Lukyanova, has gained some publicity by appearing as a real-life Barbie: skinny, top heavy, wide-eyed, immodest.

And finally, two consumer advocacy groups often critical of corporate advertising tactics – the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for a New American Dream – criticized Barbie as a flawed role model for little girls.

They started a petition drive urging the Girl Scouts of the USA to end their Barbie partnership. The Girls Scouts said they would not do so.

The scouts’ partnership with Mattel, the maker of the doll, includes a Barbie-themed activity book, a website and a Barbie participation patch, the first Girl Scout patch with corporate sponsorship.

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type, and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence and character,’ ” said Susan Linn, director of the Boston-based commercial-free childhood organization.

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