Over the past few weeks, my wife Deb and I have been reporting on Mississippi’s efforts to move itself up from the bottom in rankings of educational achievement, and similarly to move itself up from being overall the poorest state in the nation.
Question for the day, from readers: whether any success it achieves will necessarily come at the expense of other places, especially in the North. Of course movement in rankings is by definition zero-sum. The real question is whether greater prosperity for Mississippi has to mean less somewhere else.
No sooner had the yellow ribbons started to come down from the trees than the backlash started up. Not everyone is delighted about the Obama administration’s deal to free American POW Bowe Bergdahl by exchanging him for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
It’s pretty easy to view this cynically, as a sign that in these times, everything is political and the country can’t come together over anything. And to a certain extent that’s true: If dueling, pro-forma charges of politicization from official Democratic and Republican spokesmen don’t instill pessimism, what will? But while there are plenty of controversies that seem far from producing any meaningful revelations, despite extensive inquiry—Benghazi comes to mind—there are important constitutional and policy issues at stake in this case.
The students were randomly chosen to try out the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test. That meant spending 150 minutes in March and 180 minutes in May taking a trial test rather than being taught math. After hearing another teacher joke that they should be paid for that time, students approached their math teacher, Alan Laroche:
“I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything,” said [student Brett] Beaulieu. “It was as if we said, ‘Oh we can do it for free.’”
WHENEVER Abraham Lincoln felt the urge to tell someone off, he would compose what he called a “hot letter.” He’d pile all of his anger into a note, “put it aside until his emotions cooled down,” Doris Kearns Goodwin once explained on NPR, “and then write: ‘Never sent. Never signed.’ ” Which meant that Gen. George G. Meade, for one, would never hear from his commander in chief that Lincoln blamed him for letting Robert E. Lee escape after Gettysburg.
Lincoln was hardly unique. Among public figures who need to think twice about their choice of words, the unsent angry letter has a venerable tradition. Its purpose is twofold. It serves as a type of emotional catharsis, a way to let it all out without the repercussions of true engagement. And it acts as a strategic catharsis, an exercise in saying what you really think, which Mark Twain (himself a notable non-sender of correspondence) believed provided “unallowable frankness & freedom.”