2016

The Lost Language of Integration

In a recent This American Life episode, investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the perils of America’s segregated school system. She points out that there has been only one proven way to narrow the performance gap between African-American and white schoolchildren, and it has nothing to do with magnet schools, or Teach for America, or any of… Continue reading The Lost Language of Integration

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2015

The Three Mistakes of Transition

Start with a failing economy. Throw in a team of inexperienced politicians, people in fact who had spent their careers deliberately avoiding official politics. Add a population with the highest possible expectations. And, as a wild card, introduce an international community that was not offering very much in the way of financial assistance. This was… Continue reading The Three Mistakes of Transition

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2014

A Commitment to Children

They are called the decret generation. During the Communist era in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu issued Decree 770 in 1967 making abortion and contraception illegal except under certain circumstances. The Communist leader wanted to radically increase the population of the country. People with money or political influence found a way around the regulations. But those who… Continue reading A Commitment to Children

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Rescuing Rural Schools

In the early 1990s, Poland began an overhaul of its political system that transferred considerable authority to local authorities, including ownership and management of the public schools. Local governments were suddenly responsible for paying for education from local funds. In many of the smaller, less densely populated areas, there wasn’t enough money to keep the… Continue reading Rescuing Rural Schools

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Fighting for Equal Opportunity

Revolutions elevate a new and unexpected group of people to power. In East-Central Europe in 1990, an electrician became the president of Poland, a playwright the president of Czechoslovakia, and a philosopher the president of Bulgaria. After this brief period of the world turned upside down, the professional politicians took over again (or in the… Continue reading Fighting for Equal Opportunity

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Game of (Nationalist) Cards

Homogeneous countries can be nationalist. Think of Korea, either North or South. Their nationalism is generally expressed toward other countries that threaten their presumed purity in some way. Heterogeneous countries engage in that strategy as well. But nationalism in these ethnically mixed countries also functions domestically – as a card to be played in the… Continue reading Game of (Nationalist) Cards

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More Malcolm X

In many discussions on the Roma issue in East-Central Europe, someone will inevitably say, with a mixture of wistfulness and bewilderment, “Where is the Martin Luther King of the Roma?” There are indeed some parallels between the experience of Roma and African-Americans. But a galvanizing civil rights leader with broad appeal like Martin Luther King… Continue reading More Malcolm X

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