November 28, 2011
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.
The Prussian reforms of 1808 to 1812 granted all citizens freedom of trade, and put an end to serfdom and what until then had been utterly unchecked arbitrariness towards the Jews. The Jews were still only allowed to become public servants in exceptional cases and certainly never officers in the military, but unlike the Christian majority, they made the most of the new opportunities. They emancipated themselves and at high speed. Germany, with its halfhearted reformism, sluggish economic development (until 1870), and strong legal security provided a fertile ground. To top it all, Germany had some of the best Gymnasiums and universities in Europe, as well as some of the worst primary education.
Unlike the majority of their Christian and still largely illiterate peers, Jewish boys as a rule had always been taught to read and write Hebrew. Their parents did not put silver spoons in their cradles, but all manner of educational nourishment. Jewish parents knew exactly how much cultural skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic would improve their children’s chances, whereas Christian parents and clerics were still claiming, right up into the 20th century, that “reading is bad for the eyes!”
This constellation led to huge differences in levels of education and rates of social advancement. In 1869, 14.8 of pupils in Berlin’s Gymnasium schools came from Jewish families, although only four percent of the population was Mosaic by confession. In 1886, 46.5 percent of Jewish pupils in Prussia continued their education beyond primary school, and by 1901, this number had risen to 56.3 percent. During the same period of time the Christian interest in higher education crept up from 6.3 to 7.3 percent. Eight times more Jewish schoolchildren completed middle school and high school than their Christian counterparts. Likewise in Berlin 1901, in terms of population percentages, 11.5 times more Jewish girls attended girls’ high schools than Christians.
Of course the successes in Gymnasium educations then translated to the universities. In Prussia, Jewish students made up just short of ten percent of university students in 1886/1887, and Jews constituted just short of one percent of the population. As a rule Jews went to university significantly earlier and completed their studies faster than their Christian peers, and as the Prussian statisticians confirmed: “On average Jewish students seem to possess more ability and to develop more diligence than the Christians.”
In the school year of 1913/14 the Viennese commercial college teacher Dr. Ottokar Nemecek looked into the educational successes of Christian and Jewish commercial college students. He did not try to establish what percentage of the two groups attended such institutions of higher eduction in the first place (the differences were evident), but how to measure average performance levels. To this end he analysed the school reports of 1539 schoolboys and girls and carried out a variety of additional tests to determine articulacy, memory, and speeds of association and writing.
The tests weighed overwhelmingly in favour of the Jewish pupils, except when it came to marks for comportment and diligence. Nemecek ascribed this to “the greater liveliness of the Jews who as chatterboxes and disturbers of the peace as every teacher will confirm stand head and shoulders above the Christian pupils.” Despite their lack of discipline and diligence, the Jewish children clearly emerged on top (26:16 percent) in the category of “very good” and “good” marks for overall performance, whereas they hardly featured at all (4:23 percent) in the “average” performance group. In German, French, English and History they achieved consistently better results. The same picture emerged from marks in Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics as well as in Business and Law studies. The reasons Nemecek listed were “the greater maturity of the Jewish pupils in the areas of abstract thinking”, mental agility, writing speed, width of vocabulary and emotional alertness. Only in drawing, calligraphy and gymnastics did the Christian children perform better.
Whatever reasons experts gave for the educational advantage of the Jews, the nonJews felt the difference and reacted violently. In 1880 the liberal member of parliament Ludwig Bambeger talked about the “unusual learning drives” of the Jews, of “the visible haste” with which they were catching up on everything they had been denied for so long, and concluded: “Undoubtedly the recrudescence of illfeeling is closely linked to these things.”
The Social Democrat August Bebel described in a similar way the differing levels of educational zeal among Jews and Christians; in 1912 the difference between stubborn perseverance and quickwitted elasticity became the focal point of Werner Sombart’s sociological analysis because he held this to be the principle contributor to the intellectual divide between Jews and Christians, and thus to the modern form of social and envy driven anti Semitism. Sombart found that the influence of the Jews was greater “the heavier, the more viscous and the less businessoriented” the conduct of the surrounding population, and he concluded that on average the Jews “are so much brighter and more bustling than us”. With these words Sombart justified their widespread exclusion from university teaching positions. In the interest of science, he wrote, it was unfortunate that of two applicants the all round “more stupid party” would almost always be chosen over the Jewish one. Nevertheless, he believed such protective measures were necessary because otherwise “all lectureships and professorships would be occupied by Jews” whether baptised or unbaptised, it remains the same.” In Sombart’s comments “baptised and unbaptised” Jews “the fact remains the same” it becomes obvious where the racial antiSemitism begins. He based his conclusions on the simple experience that the intellectual superiority of the Jews was no way eradicated by conversion to Christianity.
The “Jewish ingenuity’s sanguine, bold humour that borders on the frivolous” and its “wonderfully agile, sarcastic, skeptical spirit that is impossible to discipline” incensed the placidly obedient Christian popular majority, as the Social Democrat Karl Kautsky commented and concluded: “The mental qualities of the Jews are the bone of contention.” The British historian John Foster Fraser scoffed in 1915 that German academics were falling over themselves to keep the Jews out because the competition “between the sons of the North with their blonde hair and sluggish intellect and the sons of the Orient with their black eyes and alert minds” was so unequal.
In other words, the extent to which the latecomers were catching up reflected their own shortcomings in education and dexterity. These shortcomings were becoming embarrassing and could easily be concealed behind racial theory. A good example stems from the Leipzig student Curt Mueller who in 1890 wrote a pamphlet on “Judaism among German students.” There were two things he didn’t like about his fellow students: they would do anything “to the point of selfsacrifice” for their fellow believers and that in terms of percentages there were “not nearly as many failed Jewish students as there were Germanic.” And why? Mueller of course had the answer. The Jews are “more hard working and assiduous” you have to give them that”, they “swot like mad at home”: “like all moneyloving tribes” the Jews eat modestly. Over a glass of beer the Jewish law student speaks about his studies far more than is necessary! He doesn’t stop chattering and that impresses people. He understands rapidly but with no depth. Why should he? Like this he gets through his exams in the prescribed time, and Germany is blessed with another Jewish referendarius.” Later on they earn fast money as doctors, lawyers and chemists! This is the sort of language that informs every second sentence in Mueller’s pamphlet, until he finally chimes in: “Stand up to the Jewish students with superiority and pride!” German racial pride fed exclusively on feelings of inferiority…
November 28, 2011
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the United States has vacillated between engagement and confrontation with the Islamic Republic, with sanctions filling the gap. As Iran has moved closer to achieving its nuclear ambitions in recent years, tensions are rising once again. The latest round of U.S. sanctions, signed into law in 2010, has hurt the Iranian government by restricting finance for oil refineries and discouraging foreign companies from conducting business with it. Yet sanctions have not delayed Iran’s nuclear drive, foiled its support for terrorism abroad, or kept it from meddling in its neighbors’ affairs.
In the wake of revelations about an Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Abdel al-Jubeir, some in Congress are making the case for another round of sanctions, ostensibly to ramp up the pressure even more. But such a strategy leaves much to be desired. Over the past year, for example, Iran has enacted economic reforms and reduced the price of subsidies, riding out and adapting to sanctions.
Washington will only neutralize Iran by exploiting the regime’s main vulnerability: its false claim to legitimacy. The ayatollahs’ hold on power is inherently unstable because they have no popular mandate. Since staging a rigged election in 2009 to keep Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, they have relied on repression and brutality to silence opposition, jailing journalists, torturing detainees, and executing critics (both real and imagined). By highlighting these crimes on the world stage and actively supporting Iran’s dissidents, the United States can place a new, more effective kind of pressure on Tehran and support the movement for democratic change from within. Focusing on human rights violations will allow the United States to expose the hypocrisy of the regime and remind Iran of its domestic troubles as it tries to expand its power and influence.
The current state of affairs in Iran began with the Green Movement uprising in 2009. As hundreds of thousands flowed into the streets to protest the sham victory of Ahmadinejad in the nation’s presidential election, security forces cracked down, worsening the country’s already severe level of oppression. The Iranian authorities admit to having arrested more than 4,500 protesters during the crackdown. Opposition groups report that there are at least 1,000 political prisoners still in jail, reflecting Iran’s long-practiced tactics of attempting to break dissidents with prolonged imprisonment and isolation and by harassing their families.
Iran has the highest per-capita execution rate in the world, with 252 confirmed executions in 2010 and reports of 300 more (out of a population of over 70 million). In absolute numbers, that is second only to China. And there has been no reprieve in 2011. Official Iranian media and human rights groups report 450 executions this year, many conducted in secret, unannounced to the lawyers and relatives of the accused. There have been 33 public executions so far this year; three men have been hanged for being homosexuals, a capital crime in Iran. In September alone, the state executed more than 100 of its citizens.
Those who fight back often end up arrested, too. One such case is Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer who has represented juveniles on death row for over a decade and, more recently, defended several prominent human rights activists. She was arrested in September 2010 for “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime” and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. When Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, and their two small children visited her in jail recently, they were detained for five hours because Khandan would not hand over his notebook to the authorities before the visit.
Some may argue that exposing Iran’s human rights record is a poor means of undermining its regime. But it is actually sound statecraft. At little cost, the United States can mobilize international condemnation of Iran’s oppression more effectively than it can unite countries against Iran’s nuclear program, which is a far more contentious issue.
Consider the left-wing parties in Europe, such as Germany’s Green and Britain’s Labour, whose mantra before the 2009 elections was, in effect, “no war against Iran.” After the Iranian regime beat its own people in the streets, major European parties joined in condemning the regime, becoming advocates for jailed human rights activists, students, and labor leaders. This public effort spurred diplomatic action. Although European countries have been slow to enforce economic measures against Iran, they have sanctioned more Iranian officials for human rights violations than has the United States, implementing travel bans and freezing their European assets. Domestic pressure also changed policy in Brazil, where the government went from congratulating Ahmadinejad on his reelection in 2009 to offering asylum to Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be stoned for alleged adultery, in July 2010.
The Iranian government takes such campaigns seriously. Last year, for example, Iran announced that it would apply for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. An international outcry ensued, with human rights organizations and governments loudly opposing its candidacy. Once Tehran realized that it could not secure enough votes to win a place on the council, it withdrew its bid rather than suffer the embarrassment of defeat…
A Virginia company leading a national movement to replace classrooms with computers — in which children as young as 5 can learn at home at taxpayer expense — is facing a backlash from critics who are questioning its funding, quality and oversight.
K12 Inc. of Herndon has become the country’s largest provider of full-time public virtual schools, upending the traditional American notion that learning occurs in a schoolhouse where students share the experience. In K12’s virtual schools, learning is largely solitary, with lessons delivered online to a child who progresses at her own pace.
Conceived as a way to teach a small segment of the home-schooled and others who need flexible schooling, virtual education has evolved into an alternative to traditional public schools for an increasingly wide range of students — high achievers, strugglers, dropouts, teenage parents and victims of bullying among them.
“For many kids, the local school doesn’t work,” said Ronald J. Packard, chief executive and founder of K12. “And now, technology allows us to give that child a choice. It’s about educational liberty.”
Packard and other education entrepreneurs say they are harnessing technology to deliver quality education to any child, regardless of Zip code.
It’s an appealing proposition, and one that has attracted support in state legislatures, including Virginia’s. But in one of the most hard-fought quarters of public policy, a rising chorus of critics argues that full-time virtual learning doesn’t effectively educate children.
“Kindergarten kids learning in front of a monitor — that’s just wrong,” said Maryelen Calderwood, an elected school committee member in Greenfield, Mass., who unsuccessfully tried to stop K12 from contracting with her community to create New England’s first virtual public school last year. “It’s absolutely astounding how people can accept this so easily.”
People on both sides agree that the structure providing public education is not designed to handle virtual schools. How, for example, do you pay for a school that floats in cyberspace when education funding formulas are rooted in the geography of property taxes? How do you oversee the quality of a virtual education?
“There’s a total mismatch,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, who served on K12’s board of directors until 2007. “We’ve got a 19th-century edifice trying to house a 21st-century system.”
Despite questions, full-time virtual schools are proliferating.
In the past two years, more than a dozen states have passed laws and removed obstacles to encourage virtual schools. And providers of virtual education have been making their case in statehouses around the country.
K12 has hired lobbyists from Boise to Boston and backed political candidates who support school choice in general and virtual education in particular. From 2004 to 2010, K12 gave about $500,000 in direct contributions to state politicians across the country, with three-quarters going to Republicans, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
“We understand the politics of education pretty well,” Packard told investors recently.
K12’s push into New England illustrates its skill. In 2009, the company began exploring the potential for opening a virtual school in Massachusetts in partnership with the rural Greenfield school district.
But Massachusetts education officials halted the plan, saying Greenfield had no legal authority to create a statewide school. So Greenfield and K12 turned to legislators, with the company spending about $200,000 on Beacon Hill lobbyists…