Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Arundhati Roy on Democracy Now

Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. Since then she has written numerous essays on war, climate change and the dangers of free market development in India. Her new book, published today by Haymarket Books, is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is also posted on Tomdispatch.com._

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a woman the New York Times calls India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence, Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. She has a new book; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is posted at tomdispatch.com, called “What Have We Done to Democracy?” Arundhati Roy joins us now from New Delhi, India, on the country’s biggest national holiday of the year.


Arundhati, we welcome you to Democracy Now! And as you listen to this report from the streets of G-20 by our producer Steve Martinez, talk about globalization and what has happened to democracy.


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, that’s a huge subject, Amy. And I think my book—in my book, I discuss it in some detail in terms of what’s happening to India. But as we know now, because of the way the global economy is linked, countries are not—you know, the political systems in countries are also linked, so democracies are linked to dictatorships and military occupations and so on. We know that. We now that some of the main military occupations in the world today are actually administered by democracies: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir.


But what I think is beginning to be very clear now is that we see now that democracy is sort of fused to the free market, or to the idea of the free market. And so, its imagination has been limited to the idea of profit. And democracy, a few years ago, maybe, you know, even twenty-five years ago, was something that, let’s say, a country like America feared, which was why democracies were being toppled all over the place, like in Chile and so on. But now wars are being waged to restore—to place democracy, because democracy serves the free market, and each of the institutions in democracy, like you look at India, you know, whether it’s the Supreme—whether it’s the courts or whether it’s the media or whether it’s all the other institutions of democracy, they’ve been sort of hollowed out, and just their shells have been replaced, and we play out this charade. And it’s much more complicated for people to understand what’s going on, because there’s so much shadow play.


But really we are facing a crisis. And that’s what I ask. You know, is there life after democracy? And what kind of life will it be? Because democracy has been hollowed out and made meaningless. And when I say “democracy,” I’m not talking about the ideal. You know, I’m not saying that countries that live in dictatorships and under military occupation should not fight for democracy, because the early years of democracy are important and heady. And then we see a strange metastasis taking over.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Arundhati Roy. She’s joining us from New Delhi, India, the world-renowned author, global justice activist. Her book The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, well known all over the world. Now she has written a new book. Today we will talk about it for the first time in the United States in a national broadcast, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. We’ll be back with her for the rest of the hour in a minute.


[break]


AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Arundhati Roy, speaking to us from New Delhi, India, talking about India, war and globalization. I’m here with co-host Anjali Kamat. Anjali?


ANJALI KAMAT: The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met in New York Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting but failed to agree on a timetable for negotiations. Talks continue to be stalled by the fallout of the November 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 163 people. India blames Pakistani militants for the attack and has emphasized the need for Pakistan to prosecute those responsible. The Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters he raised these concerns with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.


S.M. KRISHNA: As you are aware, we do have serious and continuing concerns about terrorist and extremist groups in Pakistan, which are—which are a national security risk for us and for our people. Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed to me the seriousness of his government in bringing to book, through their legal process, those responsible for the terrorist outrage in Mumbai ten months ago.



ANJALI KAMAT: Meanwhile, inside India, the focus has shifted to a different adversary. The stage is set for a major domestic military offensive against an armed group that the Indian prime minister has repeatedly called the country’s, quote, “gravest internal security threat.”


Operation Green Hunt will reportedly send between 75,000 and 100,000 troops to areas seen as Maoist strongholds in central and eastern India. In June, India labeled the Naxalite group, the Communist Party of India—Maoist—a terrorist organization, and earlier this month India’s home minister came to the United States to share counterterror strategies.


The Indian government blames the deaths of nearly 600 people this year on Maoist violence and claims that Maoist rebels are active in twenty out of the twenty-eight states in the country. The Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh outlined the threat to a conference of state police chiefs earlier this month.


PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH: In many ways, the left-wing extremism poses perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces. We have discussed this in the last five years. And I would like to state, frankly, that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.



AMY GOODMAN: Well, to help make sense of what’s unfolding inside the world’s largest democracy, we continue with the Booker Prize award-winning novelist, political essayist, global justice activist Arundhati Roy. She won the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize in 2002. She’s the author of a number of collection of essays and the novel The God of Small Things. Her latest book is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.


Can you make sense, Arundhati, of what is happening inside India for an audience around the world?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, let me just pick up on what Anjali was talking about just now, about the assault that’s planned on the so-called Maoists in central India. You know, when September 11th happened, I think some of us had already said that a time would come when poverty would be sort of collapsed and converge into terrorism. And this is exactly what’s happened. The poorest people in this country today are being called terrorists.


And what you have is a huge swath of forest in eastern and central India, spreading from West Bengal through the states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. And in these forests live indigenous people. And also in these forests are the biggest deposits of bauxite and iron ore and so on, which huge multinational companies now want to get their hands on. So there’s an MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] on every mountain, on every forest and river in this area.


And about in 2005, let’s say, in central India, the day after the MoU was signed with the biggest sort of corporation in India, Tatas, the government also announced the formation of the Salwa Judum, which is a sort of people’s militia, which is armed and is meant to fight the Maoists in the forest. But the thing is, all this, the Salwa Judum as well as the Maoists, they’re all indigenous people. And in, let’s say, Chhattisgarh, something like the Salwa Judum has been a very cruel militia, you know, burning villages, raping women, burning food crops. I was there recently. Something like 640 villages have been burned. Out of the 350,000, first about 50,000 people moved into roadside police camps, from where this militia was raised by the government. And the rest are simply missing. You know, some are living in cities, you know, eking out a living. Others are just hiding in the forest, coming out, trying to sow their crops, and yet getting, you know, those crops burnt down, their villages burnt down. So there is a sort of civil war raging.


And now, I remember traveling in Orissa a few years ago, when there were not any Maoists, but there were huge sort of mining companies coming in to mine the bauxite. And yet, they kept—all the newspapers kept saying the Maoists are here, the Maoists are here, because it was a way of allowing the government to do a kind of military-style repression. Of course, now they’re openly saying that they want to call out the paramilitary.


And if you look at—for example, if you look at the trajectory of somebody like Chidambaram, who’s India’s home minister, he—you know, he’s a lawyer from Harvard. He was the lawyer for Enron, which pulled off the biggest scam in the history of—corporate scam in the history of India. We’re still suffering from that deal. After that, he was on the board of governors of what is today the biggest mining corporation in the world, called Vedanta, which is mining in Orissa. The day he became finance minister, he resigned from Vedanta. When he was the finance minister, in an interview he said that he would like 85 percent of India to live in cities, which means moving something like 500 million people. That’s the kind of vision that he has.


And now he’s the home minister, calling out the paramilitary, calling out the police, and really forcibly trying to move people out of their lands and homes. And anyone who resisted, whether they’re a Maoist or not a Maoist, are being labeled Maoist. People are being picked up, tortured. There are some laws that have been passed which should not exist in any democracy, laws which make somebody like me saying what I’m saying now to you a criminal offense, for which I could just be jailed. Even sort of thinking an anti-government thought has become illegal. And we’re talking about, you know, as you said, 75,000 to 100,000 security personnel going to war against people who, since independence, which was more than sixty years ago, have no schools, no hospitals, no running water, nothing. And now, now they’re being—now they’re being killed or imprisoned or just criminalized. You know, it’s like if you’re not in the Salwa Judum camp, then you’re a Maoist, and we can kill you. And they are openly celebrating the Sri Lanka solution to terrorism, to terrorism.


ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati Roy, can you explain a little bit more about how India has so successfully hidden this side of it, this underbelly of democracy that you bring out in your book—murder, disappearances, torture, rapes, thousands—millions of people displaced, whether it’s for development projects or in the process of fighting wars, tens of thousands disappeared in Kashmir, the insurgency that’s being fought, the military that’s fighting the insurgency in the northeast? How is India, on a global stage, continues to be seen as this successful democracy, a place where investors are flooding to?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, precisely because it is a democracy for some of its citizens, you know? And so, in a way, it has—this whole system has somehow created an elite that is now suddenly enriched in the last, you know, twenty years since the advent of the corporate free market. We have a huge middle class that is hugely invested in this sort of a police—or, you know, a police state that isn’t acknowledged as one. So you have—it’s not just a small sort of coterie of generals, like in Burma, or a kind of military dictatorship that’s supported by the US in America. You have a huge constituency in this country that completely supports this whole enterprise, and you have a free media where 90 percent of the turnover of those media houses comes from corporate advertisements and so on. So they’re also free, but free to also embrace this particular model, in which, you know, a small section of people—well, not a small section; there are millions and millions of people, but they are not the majority of the people of this country. The light shines upon this rising middle class, which is, as I said, such a huge number that it’s a very, very attractive market for the whole world.


So, when India opens its markets, you know, because it has opened its markets, and because it’s—you know, international finance is flooding in, and all of that is so attractive, it is allowed to commit genocide in Gujarat; it’s allowed to commit civil war in the center; it’s allowed to have a military occupation in Kashmir, where you have 700,000 soldiers, you know, patrolling that little valley; it’s allowed to have laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the northeast, which allows the army to just kill on suspicion. And yet, it’s celebrated. It’s allowed to displace millions of people, but yet it’s celebrated as this real success story, because it has all these institutions in place, even though they’ve been hollowed out.


So you have, for example, a Supreme Court in which there are very erudite judges, and there are some very erudite judgments, but if you look at how it’s actually functioning, it has hollowed out. To criticize the court is a criminal offense. And yet, you have judgments where a judge openly says something like—you know, that—I’ve forgotten the exact words, but how corporate—you know, a corporate company cannot basically commit anything illegal, cannot commit an illegal act, you know? Or you have a judge in court openly talking about, let’s say, Vedanta, which is mining in Orissa for bauxite. And the Norwegian government had pulled out of that project because of the human rights violations and so on; and, you know, for a whole lot of ethical reasons, they pulled out. And in India, you know, the company was taken to court, and a judge openly, in an open court, says that, “OK, we won’t give this contract to Vedanta. We’ll give it to Sterlite, because Sterlite is a very good company. I have shares in it,” omitting to mention that Sterlite is a subsidiary of Vedanta.


You know, but there’s so much fancy footwork. If it was a military dictator, they have would have just said, “Shut up” and “Vedanta will get the project.” But here, there are affidavits and counter-affidavits and a little bit of delay and everything; everyone thinks it’s democracy. You know, you have the Supreme Court hearing on, let’s say, the Parliament attack, where openly the Supreme Court of the world’s greatest democracy says, you know, on the one hand, “We don’t have evidence to prove that the person who was charged is—belongs to a terrorist group,” and a few paras later says, “but the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if we sentence him to death.” And it’s just said so, blatantly, out there, you know? And you can’t criticize it, because it’s a criminal offense.


AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, talk about Kashmir. I think it’s something, certainly here in the United States, a conflict people understand very little.


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, Kashmir—Kashmir was an independent sort of kingdom in 1947 at the time of independence and partition. And when—I mean, just to cut a very complicated story short, when partition happened, both India and Pakistan fought over it and hived off parts of it, and both now have military presence in this divided Kashmir. But to give you some idea of the military presence, it’s—you know, let’s say the US has 165,000 troops in Iraq. India has 700,000 troops in Kashmir.


Kashmir used to have a Hindu king and a largely Muslim population, which was very, very backward and so on at the time, because at the time, you know, Muslims were discriminated against by that princely—in that princely state.


But now, for—I mean, in 1990, after a whole series of events, which culminated in a sort of fake election, a rigged election in 1987, there was an armed uprising in Kashmir. And really, since then, it’s been convulsed by militancy and military occupation, encounters, disappearances and so on. Last year, there was a—you know, last year, they began to say everything is normal, you know, tourists are going back to the valley. But, of course, that was just wishful thinking, because there was a huge nonviolent uprising in which hundreds of thousands of people, you know, flocked the streets, day and night, demanding independence. It was put down with military force.


And now, once again, you have a situation where you can hardly walk from, you know, twenty meters without someone with an AK-47 in your face. Sometimes in places like Srinagar, which is the capital, it’s well hidden. But it’s a place where every action, every breath that people, you know, breathe in and breathe out, is kind of controlled by military force. And this is how—you know, people are just being asphyxiated; they cannot breathe.


And, of course, there’s a huge publicity machine. You know, I mean, I’d say that the only difference between what’s happening in Palestine and Kashmir is that, so far, India has not used air power on the people of Kashmir, as they are threatening to do, by the way, in Chhattisgarh, you know, to its own poorest. It has not—you know, the people, technically, they are able to move around, unlike the people of Gaza and the West Bank. Kashmiris are able to move around in the rest of India, though it isn’t really safe, because their young get picked up and disappeared and tortured and so on. So, you know, it’s not something that they easily will do. And there has not been this kind of system of settlements, you know, where you’re trying to sort of take over by pushing in people from the mainland. So, other than those three, I think we’re talking about an outright occupation.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking with the great writer Arundhati Roy, social justice activist. She’s speaking to us from New Delhi, India. When we come back, we’ll talk about India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the view of President Obama from India. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.


[break]


AMY GOODMAN: We continue with our exclusive global broadcast with Arundhati Roy in New Delhi, India, the world-renowned author, social justice activist. Her first book, The God of Small Things, translated all over the world, won the Booker Prize in 1997. Her new book, just out: Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.


I’m Amy Goodman with Anjali Kamat. Anjali?


ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, years ago, under the Bush administration, you called yourself a “subject of empire.” Today, can you talk about what Obama’s America looks like from India, from New Delhi, as the Obama administration expands the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think, you know, when people would ask me what I thought of Obama, I said I hope that he would land the American empire gently, like the pilot who landed the—who crash-landed the plane in the Hudson.


Yes, he’s expanding the war in Afghanistan. I think, basically, people, including Obama, just don’t know what to do in Afghanistan, and expanding the war is certainly not going to end that war or create any kind of just peace in that region. It’s, in fact, going to exacerbate the situation, draw Pakistan into it, and when Pakistan is drawn into it, so will India, and so on. So it goes.


I think, you know, the real change that has taken place in the last, you know, ten years is also the rise of India and China as kind of imperial powers, you know, playing out their games in Africa and also in parts of Latin America. So it’s a very—and, of course, the rise of Russia.


So, I think the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir is very volatile. And, of course, let’s not forget that these are nuclear powers, even though a scientist recently has announced that India’s nuclear tests were a damp squib and that they were not successful, but I don’t know what that’s about and why he’s coming out with it now.


But I think we are headed for a lot of chaos. And in India, you know, as I said, while the situation in Kashmir—even now, as I speak in the studio, there’s news coming in of what they call “encounter killings,” you know, almost a few every day. So, obviously, given that nonviolent protest has been put down violently, things are going to go back to a previous era of some kind of militant violence there. And, you know, the heart of India being sort of hollowed out by this civil war and this assault on its poor.


I really don’t know what to say or what to expect, except to say that this kind of pressure can never result in an orderly submission, even if people wanted to submit. What’s going to happen and what is happening is that unpredictable kinds of battles and chaos is erupting all over the place, and, you know, the government is constantly firefighting and trying to douse those flames.


But out of this chaos, something new has to come, and will come, because it cannot go on like this. And I don’t know whether that thing will be worse or will be better, but it can’t go on like this. You know, the kind of polythene bag over our heads has to burst open at some point. You know, we have to be allowed to breathe. And this kind of surveillance and drone attacks and all this that’s being planned is not going to be able to hold down millions of people who are just getting impoverished and hungry and homeless.


ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, can you talk about the state of the media in India? You talk about the different institutions of democracy. How would you assess the Indian media, and what is its role in this landscape?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, if I had to talk about the—you know, I mean, the mainstream sort of corporate media, and if I were to have to make a kind of crude statement, I’d say that the mainstream media right now here is not a little to the right of Fox News. You know, that’s what’s going on here. There’s a kind of nationalist howl that I find pretty terrifying. Having said that, I think that, you know, now all we’re left with is to try and find some sane sort of bubbles within that. And there are those.


And, of course, the fact that India is a country where—I mean, forget the media; people don’t—you know, people don’t have access to water and food and basic healthcare. The kind of reach and that mesmeric spell that the media casts in, you know, developed countries, the media can’t in India. In fact, I was actually—you know, when I was in this place, Chhattisgarh, Dantewada, where the war is unfolding, a senior policeman told me, “You know, Arundhati, as a policeman, I can tell you that the police are not going to be able to solve the problem of these indigenous, you know, these Adivasi people”—“Adivasi” is the word for tribal people—“and I have told the government that the problem with these people is that they don’t have any greed. So, the way to solve the problem is to put a TV in every house. Then we’ll be able to win this war.”


So, you know, you have a situation where more and more people are just outside the barcode. You know, they are what you would call “illegible.” And we have a very, very serious situation here, where now they are planning, you know, once again, to make a—what do you call it—a electronic ID card. Of course, once again, to people who don’t have water, who don’t have electricity, who don’t have schools, but they will have ID cards, and people who don’t have ID cards are not going to exist.


But, sorry, I moved away from your question, which was a question about the media. I fear the media greatly here. You know, sometimes, like you see after the attacks in Mumbai, the government was more mature than the media. The media was spoiling for war. It was really—you know, the media and the elite and the urban middle class were spoiling for war. They were just pushing for a war with Pakistan. And so, I’d say highly irresponsible, with very little basis in fact. And a lot of my book is really a response to how the media has behaved over the last few years on very, very crucial issues. And it’s very troubling to live in a place where the media has actually no accountability.


ANJALI KAMAT: Arundhati, can you talk a little bit about encounter deaths? You mentioned this a little earlier in the program. What are police encounters, fake encounters? This is something that’s quite common in India. But can you explain to our audience what you mean by “encounter deaths”?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, what happens now is that, you know, one of the ways in which people—the police and the security establishment deals with, you know, dissent, resistance and terrorism, or what they call terrorism, is to just deliver summary justice: kill people and say, oh, they were killed in an encounter, in cross-firing, or so on, and so on. So, in places like Kashmir and in the northeast, in Manipur and Nagaland, it’s an old tradition. In places like Andhra Pradesh, they had, you know, many, many hundreds of encounter deaths.


And, in fact, recently, there was a photo essay of an encounter death in Manipur, where the, you know, security grid just—security forces just surrounded this young boy. And it was a photo essay, you know. He was unarmed. He was a former militant, I think, who had laid down his arms, and he was in the market. And you just saw a policeman pulling out his gun, shooting him, and then they said, oh, he was killed in crossfire, you know.


So, it’s a very—you have people—we have cops here who are given medals for being encounter specialists. You know, so the more people they’ve killed, the more medals they’ll get. And in places like Kashmir, they actually get promotions. So, in fact, it’s something to be proud of, an encounter killing, for, you know, both the army as well as the police and the counterinsurgency forces.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Arundhati Roy. She’s speaking to us from New Delhi, India. She has just published a new book called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Arundhati, why “listening to grasshoppers”?


ARUNDHATI ROY: Oh, it was the name of a lecture that I did in Turkey last year on the anniversary after the death of Hrant Dink, the Armenian journalist who was shot outside his office for daring to talk about the Armenian genocide of 1915, which you’re not supposed to talk about in Turkey. And my lecture was really about the historical links between progress and genocide.


And “listening to grasshoppers” was—referred to the testimony an old lady called Araxie Barsamian, who’s the friend—mother of my friend David Barsamian, who is Armenian and who talked about how, you know, the wheat had ripened in her village in 1915, and suddenly there was this huge swarm of grasshoppers that arrived. And the village elders were very worried about this and said it was a bad omen. And they were right, because a few months later, when the wheat had ripened, the Turks came, and that was the beginning of the Armenian genocide for her.


And so, I talk about—the whole lecture was really about how societies are prepared for genocide and how genocide is, you know, it’s like part of free trade, and how, you know, genocides that are acknowledged, and denied, and prosecuted, all have to—all depend on world trade, and always have done, and about how I worry that a country like India, that is poised on the threshold of progress, could also be poised on the threshold of genocide.


And that essay was written in January of last year. And now, as you see, the troops are closing in on the forest areas where the poorest people live. And they will be sacrificed at the altar of progress, unless we manage to show the world that we have to find a different way of seeing and a different way of going about things.


But here in India, there’s the smell of fascism in the air. Earlier, it was a kind of an anti-Muslim, religious fascism. Now we have a secular government, and it’s a kind of right-wing ruthlessness, where people openly say, you know, every country that has progressed and is developed, whether you look at Europe or America or China or Russia, they have a quote-unquote “past,” you know, they have a cruel past, and it’s time that India stepped up to the plate and realized that there are some people that are holding back this kind of progress and that we need to be ruthless and move in, as Israel did recently in Gaza, as Sri Lanka has recently done with its hundreds of thousands of Tamils in concentration camps. So why not India? You know? Why not just do away with the poor so that we can be a proper superpower, instead of a super-poor superpower?


AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we just have less than a minute. What gives you hope?


ARUNDHATI ROY: What gives me hope is the fact that this way of thinking is being resisted in a myriad ways in India, you know, from the poorest person in a loincloth in the forest saying, “We’re going to fight,” right up to me, who’s at the other end, you know. And all of us are joined together by the determination that, even if we lose, we’re going to fight, you know? And we’re not going to just let this happen without doing everything we can to stop it. And that gives me a tremendous amount of hope.


AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we thank you very much for being with us from, well, not far from your home, in New Delhi, India, in this international global exclusive broadcast on the publication of your book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, published by Haymarket Books.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fear

=== JKrishnamurti.org - Daily Quote ===

Have you ever looked at fear?

Have you ever faced fear? Please listen to the question carefully. Have you ever looked at fear? Or in the moment of being aware of fear, are you already in a state of flight from the fact? I will go into it a little bit, and you will see what I mean.

We name, we give a term to our various feelings, don't we? In saying, 'I am angry', we have given a term, a name, a label to a particular feeling. Now, please watch your own minds very clearly. When you have a feeling, you name that feeling; you call it anger, lust, love, pleasure, don't you? And this naming of the feeling is a process of intellection which prevents you from looking at the fact, that is, at the feeling.

You know, when you see a bird and say to yourself that it is a parrot or a pigeon or a crow, you are not looking at the bird. You have already ceased to look at the fact because the word parrot or pigeon or crow has come between you and the fact.

This is not some difficult intellectual feat but a process of the mind that must be understood. If you would go into the problem of fear or the problem of authority or the problem of pleasure or the problem of love, you must see that naming, giving a label, prevents you from looking at the fact....

The Collected Works, Vol. XI - 350

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Executive Functioning in preschoolers

NYT's magazine has an interesting article on the importance of executive functioning among preschoolers and how once this skill of waiting and organization is developed, it will lead to later academic success.

Come on, Abigail.”

“No, wait!” Abigail said. “I’m not finished!” She was bent low over her clipboard, a stubby pencil in her hand, slowly scratching out the letters in the book’s title, one by one: T H E. . . .

“Abigail, we’re waiting!” Jocelyn said, staring forcefully at her classmate. Henry, sitting next to her, sighed dramatically.

“I’m going as fast as I can!” Abigail said, looking harried. She brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and plowed ahead: V E R Y. . . .

The three children were seated at their classroom’s listening center, where their assignment was to leaf through a book together while listening on headphones to a CD with the voice of a teacher reading it aloud. The book in question was lying on the table in front of Jocelyn, and every few seconds, Abigail would jump up and lean over Jocelyn to peer at the cover, checking what came next in the title. Then she would dive back to the paper on her clipboard, and her pencil would carefully shape yet another letter: H U N. . . .

Henry fiddled with the CD player. Like Abigail and Jocelyn, he was a kindergarten student in Red Bank, a small town near the New Jersey shore. The students at the elementary school came mostly from working-class and low-income families, and, like the town itself, the student population was increasingly Hispanic. Jocelyn, with flowing dark hair, was the child of immigrants from Mexico; Henry was Hispanic with a spiky haircut; Abigail was white and blond.

“Abby!” Henry said. “Come on!” He and Jocelyn had long ago finished writing the title of the book on their lesson plans. They already had their headphones on. The only thing standing between them and the story was the pencil clutched in their classmate’s hand.

G R Y. . . .

“O.K., we’re starting,” Jocelyn announced. But they didn’t start. For all their impatience, they knew the rule of the listening center: You don’t start listening to the story until everyone is ready.

“Oh, man,” Henry said. He grabbed his face and lowered his head to the desk with a clunk.

C A T E R. . . .

“Let’s begin!” Jocelyn said.

“I’m almost done!” Abigail was hopping up and down now. “Don’t press it!” She bounced from foot to foot, still writing: P I L. . . .

“I’m pressing it!” Henry said. His finger hovered over the play button on the CD player . . . but it did not fall, not until Abigail etched out her last few letters and put on her headphones. Only then, finally, could the three of them turn the pages together and listen to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

When the CD finished, each child took a piece of paper and drew three pictures to illustrate what happened at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the book. Then they captioned each one, first drawing a series of horizontal lines under the pictures, one for each word, and then writing out each word, or an approximation thereof: For “butterfly,” Abigail wrote “btrfli.” Their language skills were pretty impressive for kindergarten students. But for the teachers and child psychologists running the program in which they were enrolled, those skills were considered secondary — not irrelevant, but not as important as the skills the children displayed before the story started, when all three were wrestling with themselves, fighting to overcome their impulses — in Abby’s case, the temptation to give up on writing out the whole title and just submit to the pleas of her friends; for Jocelyn and Henry, the urge to rip the pencil out of Abby’s hand and start the CD already.

Over the last few years, a new buzz phrase has emerged among scholars and scientists who study early-childhood development, a phrase that sounds more as if it belongs in the boardroom than the classroom: executive function. Originally a neuroscience term, it refers to the ability to think straight: to order your thoughts, to process information in a coherent way, to hold relevant details in your short-term memory, to avoid distractions and mental traps and focus on the task in front of you. And recently, cognitive psychologists have come to believe that executive function, and specifically the skill of self-regulation, might hold the answers to some of the most vexing questions in education today.

The ability of young children to control their emotional and cognitive impulses, it turns out, is a remarkably strong indicator of both short-term and long-term success, academic and otherwise. In some studies, self-regulation skills have been shown to predict academic achievement more reliably than I.Q. tests. The problem is that just as we’re coming to understand the importance of self-regulation skills, those skills appear to be in short supply among young American children. In one recent national survey, 46 percent of kindergarten teachers said that at least half the kids in their classes had problems following directions. In another study, Head Start teachers reported that more than a quarter of their students exhibited serious self-control-related negative behaviors, like kicking or threatening other students, at least once a week. Walter Gilliam, a professor at Yale’s child-study center, estimates that each year, across the country, more than 5,000 children are expelled from pre-K programs because teachers feel unable to control them.

There is a popular belief that executive-function skills are fixed early on, a function of genes and parenting, and that other than medication, there’s not much that teachers and professionals can do to affect children’s impulsive behavior. In fact, though, there is growing evidence that the opposite is true, that executive-function skills are relatively malleable — quite possibly more malleable than I.Q., which is notoriously hard to increase over a sustained period. In laboratory studies, research psychologists have found that with executive function, practice helps; when children or adults repeatedly perform basic exercises in cognitive self-regulation, they get better at it. But when researchers try to take those experiments out of the lab and into the classroom, their success rate is much lower. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the last seven years trying to find reliable, repeatable methods to improve self-control in children. When I spoke to her recently, she told me about a six-week-long experiment that she and some colleagues conducted in 2003 with 40 fifth-grade students at a school in Philadelphia.

“We did everything right,” she told me: led the kids through self-control exercises, helped them reorganize their lockers, gave them rewards for completing their homework. And at the end of the experiment, the students dutifully reported that they now had more self-control than when they started the program. But in fact, they did not: the children who had been through the intervention did no better on a variety of measures than a control group at the same school. “We looked at teacher ratings of self-control, we looked at homework completion, we looked at standardized achievement tests, we looked at G.P.A., we looked at whether they were late to class more,” Duckworth explained. “We got zero effect on everything.” Despite that failure, Duckworth says she is convinced that it is possible to boost executive function among children — she just thinks it will require a more complex and thoroughgoing program than the one that she and her colleagues employed. “It’s not impossible,” she concludes, “but it’s damn hard.”

Why I love Al- Jazeera

It is quite ironic that all the major news channels are using footage from Al-Jazeera including BBC world news.

Why I Love Al Jazeera
The Arab TV channel is visually stunning, exudes hustle, and covers the globe like no one else. Just beware of its insidious despotism.

Robert Kaplan in The Atlantic:

Has anyone watched the English-language version of Al Jazeera lately? The Qatar-based Arab TV channel’s eclectic internationalism—a feast of vivid, pathbreaking coverage from all continents—is a rebuke to the dire predictions about the end of foreign news as we know it. Indeed, if Al Jazeera were more widely available in the United States—on nationwide cable, for example, instead of only on the Web and several satellite stations and local cable channels—it would eat steadily into the viewership of The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. Al Jazeera—not Lehrer—is what the internationally minded elite class really yearns for: a visually stunning, deeply reported description of developments in dozens upon dozens of countries simultaneously...

Al Jazeera is also endearing because it exudes hustle. It constantly gets scoops. It has had gritty, hands-on coverage across the greater Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut to Iraq, that other channels haven’t matched. Its camera crew, for example, was the first to beam pictures from Mingora, the main town of Swat, enabling Al Jazeera to confirm that the Pakistani military had, in fact, prevailed there over the Taliban.

from 3qd via the atlantic.

Ahmed Rashid

Ahmed Rashid has a great article in the NY Review of books on the current situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan
by Nicholas Schmidle
Henry Holt, 254 pp., $25.00

Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda
by Gretchen Peters
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, 300 pp., $25.95

On August 5, Baitullah Mehsud, the all-powerful and utterly ruthless commander of the Pakistani Taliban, was killed in a US missile strike in South Waziristan. At the time of the strike, he was undergoing intravenous treatment for a kidney ailment, and was lying on the roof of his father-in-law's house with his young second wife. At about one o'clock that morning, a missile fired by an unmanned CIA drone tore through the house, splitting his body in two and killing his wife, her parents, and seven bodyguards.

His death marked the first major breakthrough in the war against extremist leaders in Pakistan since 2003, when several top al-Qaeda members based in the country were arrested or killed. Over the last few years, Mehsud's estimated 20,000 fighters gained almost total control over the seven tribal agencies that make up the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan.

Mehsud's death plunged the Pakistani Taliban, composed of some two dozen Pashtun tribal groups, into an intense struggle over leadership, creating an opportunity for the CIA and Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) to take action against the extremists. After ousting in April and May the militants who had seized the Swat valley—which is not in the tribal areas but north of the capital city of Islamabad—the Pakistani army is now pursuing the Pakistani Taliban with more determination: in mid-August, two of Mehsud's senior aides were arrested, one in FATA and the other in Islamabad while seeking medical treatment. The US is anxious for Pakistan to continue its pressure by launching an offensive in Waziristan, the region in the southern part of FATA—first in South Waziristan to eliminate the Pakistani Taliban there and then in North Waziristan, where al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban leaders are based.


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In North Waziristan two key Afghan Taliban networks—one led by the Pash- tun warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, and the other by the Muslim extremist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—have been on the payroll of Pakistan's ISI since the 1970s and the ISI still allows them to operate freely. Al-Qaeda militants also live in North Waziristan, as do militant groups of Pakistani Punjabis, who launch terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan.

The key question is whether the Pakistani army and the ISI, which have intermittently supported the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban since 2001, can now make a strategic shift—turning decisively to eliminate not only the Pakistani Taliban but also the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. Until now the Pakistani army has considered the Afghan Taliban a strategic asset in its battle against India and other regional rivals for influence in Afghanistan.

Success in eliminating these terrorist networks is vital for the US and the world—even more so now that the rigged presidential elections in Afghanistan in late August have created a deep political and security crisis for Afghans and Western forces there. Every day the evidence of electoral fraud has mounted, with videos posted on the Internet showing, for example, a local election chief stuffing ballot boxes.

Fighting Over the Spoils in the Tribal Areas
Baitullah Mehsud became Pakistan's most-wanted leader after Taliban forces allied with him took control of the Swat valley in April. They were pushed out of the valley by the army in June after fierce fighting that left 312 soldiers, 2,000 militants, and an unknown number of civilians dead. Mehsud also became a target for CIA-launched drones, after the US decided last year to target Pakistani Taliban leaders along with those from the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Mehsud was close to and trusted by Osama bin Laden; by Mullah Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban; and by Jalaluddin Haqqani. He gave them support, troops, and facilities for their various operations. By fighting off the Pakistani army and expanding his power across Pakistan's tribal areas, he gave al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban a hugely expanded sanctuary from which to operate and gather recruits for their war in Afghanistan.

Among Mehsud's innovations were the extremely efficient new systems he set up to train suicide bombers, some as young as eleven, and to produce vast quantities of land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are being used in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also oversaw a criminal network of kidnapping for ransom, which netted him a war chest estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. Seventy prominent Pakistanis have been kidnapped this year throughout Pakistan, with ransoms—as high as one million dollars—handed over in FATA.

With the control of money, men, and territory at stake, there was a fierce struggle among various Pashtun tribal contenders to succeed Mehsud as leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The succession was also heavily influenced by al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani sent several delegations to South Waziristan to influence Pakistani Taliban leaders.

Finally on August 26 a new power-sharing agreement was worked out between the two main contenders: Hakimullah Mehsud, twenty-eight, a ruthless Mehsud protégé who took responsibility for a series of suicide bombings in Pakistan earlier this year, became the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban; while his main rival, Waliur Rehman, who had acted as Mehsud's deputy, will head the Taliban in South Waziristan, where most of the fighters are based. Both men promised a new bombing campaign in Pakistan and increased support to the Afghan Taliban. One day later, on August 27, they fulfilled their promise when a suicide bomber at Torkham—a town that straddles a major crossing on the Afghanistan–Pakistan border—attacked a police checkpoint on the road used by NATO convoys to enter Afghanistan, killing twenty-two people. Three days after that, on August 30, a suicide bomber killed fifteen policemen in Swat.

The Reconquest of Swat
Regrouped under its new leadership, the Pakistani Taliban will continue to pose a major threat to the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari and to the country's military leaders, who are the real decision-makers in Pakistan. The army's recent counterinsurgency campaign in the Swat valley was its first success since 2001, allowing the more than two million people who had fled the region to return home. Mingora, the main town in Swat, is once again open for business and the hundreds of schools destroyed by the Taliban have restarted under tents.

However, the Swat campaign has left gnawing doubts. None of the twenty militant commanders operating there has been killed or captured. The local Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah is also at large, although suspected of being badly wounded. Taliban attacks against schools and police stations resumed in late August, proving that many Taliban are still hiding out in the mountains.

Still, the army has clearly adopted a new and much tougher strategy for eliminating the Pakistani Taliban and establishing greater cooperation between the CIA and the ISI in the tribal areas. This progress has been much appreciated by US officials. On a visit to Islamabad in mid-August Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told me that Pakistan's cooperation in fighting the Pakistani Taliban was very welcome, but that the army now has to go into South Waziristan and clear out the militants just as it did in Swat. In the meantime the US military is providing limited fresh equipment and funds to the army for just such an operation.

During August, other Western officials came to Islamabad to deliver the same message. In addition to Holbrooke, they included British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and two senior US commanders, General David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, and General Stanley McChrystal, the new head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. They all urged the government and army to use this moment to turn decisively against the terrorist holdouts in the tribal areas and in Waziristan.

However, Pakistan's generals made it abundantly clear that they will not invade South Waziristan for the moment. "It's going to take months" to launch a ground offensive, the senior commander in the area, Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad, told reporters after meeting with Holbrooke on August 18. General Ahmad said that all the army can do now is choke off supplies to South Waziristan by shutting down the roads, while planes and artillery bombard terrorist hideouts—but from outside South Waziristan.

The army would prefer to wait and see what happens in Waziristan and also in Afghanistan. It is hesitant to move into the tribal areas, where since 2004 it has been defeated by the guerrilla tactics of the Taliban and their advantage in the area's harsh mountainous terrain. Pakistan continues to pursue a policy of containing the Taliban fighters on the Afghan border rather than eliminating them. That clearly will not satisfy Western governments and military leaders since it leaves NATO forces in Afghanistan vulnerable to the inflow of men, supplies, and suicide bombers from the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Senior Pakistani officials say they will only be able to adopt a new strategy against the Taliban when India changes its current policy toward Pakistan and Kashmir. In Swat the army succeeded because it made use of Pakistani troops transferred from the Indian border, where 80 percent of the army is based. The key to launching a Pakistani offensive in the tribal areas is for the Americans to help improve Pakistan's relations with New Delhi, so that the army can move more of its troops to the Afghan border.

India is not helping. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on August 17 that Pakistan-based terrorist groups were plotting more attacks against India. Last November the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) carried out attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Lashkar is a group that is distinct from the Taliban and has been particularly active against targets in India and Kashmir. Indian officials now say that Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar leader who lives undisturbed in Lahore, was "the brain" behind the Mumbai attack. They demand that he be put on trial.

Pakistan is refusing to clamp down on Lashkar or put Saeed behind bars. Lashkar is the best disciplined, organized, and loyal of the jihadi groups that the ISI has trained and sponsored since the 1980s, and it has always targeted India rather than the Pakistani army. The army will do everything to preserve Lashkar, as long as it believes there is a threat from India. Similarly, Pakistan's continued support for the Afghan Taliban is based on countering India's influence in Afghanistan and on having an alternative force that Pakistan can count on, in case the Americans leave Afghanistan.

In short, the strategy of the Pakistani military to selectively use Islamic extremists both as a tool in its foreign policy arsenal against India and to gain influence in Afghanistan is not going to change in a hurry. The Obama administration's main strategy for the moment is hand-holding—it wants to keep engaging with the Pakistani leaders to try to get them to change course. At least one senior US official arrives in Islamabad every other week to argue the American case.

The Afghan Elections
Pakistan's safe havens for the Afghan Taliban have been to a large extent responsible for their revival and growing dominance across Afghanistan and for the rising death toll among NATO forces. But the Taliban were not the major cause of the political crisis that enveloped Afghanistan after the August 20 presidential elections.

US officials told me in April 2008 that President Bush had been warned by his military commanders that Afghanistan was going from bad to worse. More troops and money were needed; reconstruction was at a standstill; pressure had to be put on Pakistan; the elections in April 2009 should be indefinitely postponed. Bush ignored all the advice except for asking the Afghans to postpone the elections until August.

He left everything else to his successor to sort out. When Obama took over in January, the crisis was much worse and Pakistan and Afghanistan immediately became his highest foreign policy priorities. Obama added 21,000 more troops, committed billions of dollars to rebuild Afghan security forces and speed up economic development, and sent hundreds of American civilian experts to help rebuild the country. He has attempted to make the anti-narcotics policy more effective and to involve neighboring countries in a regional settlement. It's an assertive and possibly productive new strategy, but the Obama administration has had neither the time nor the resources to implement it.

The depth of the opium problem, for example, has recently been exposed by Gretchen Peters, who in her book Seeds of Terror describes how opium sales have ballooned since 2001, because of either a lack of a coherent strategy by the US or the constant bickering over a strategy between the US and its NATO partners, particularly Britain. Bush refused to use the US military—the only capable force on the ground—to interdict drug convoys in Afghanistan and arrest or kill drug lords, many of whom were easily identifiable. Only last year did the Department of Defense agree to use the military for these purposes. During the last six months there have been a series of raids by US Special Forces and Afghan commandos that have netted large amounts of opium, chemicals that turn it into heroin, and many of the drug traffickers. Afghanistan today provides 93 percent of the world's heroin. As Peters shows, from the poppy growers, to the Taliban and other local powers, to the drug lords and their allies in government, the influence of opium money pervades Afghan life.

In fact, most of this year has been taken up with preparing for the Afghan elections and trying to ensure sufficient security for them. Everything else has had to be put on hold. In private moments Holbrooke has regretted how the elections have distracted attention from putting into effect Obama's new strategy. At home Obama has not had the time to show that his policy is the right one to follow, and now the elections themselves are being exposed as riddled with fraud.

Another complicating issue for Obama has been the troubled US relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who in the spring was convinced that Obama and Holbrooke wanted to replace him and hold the elections under a caretaker president. That was never the case, but Karzai's paranoia, which is fostered by some of his aides and brothers, who drum up astounding conspiracy theories about US or British intentions, got the better of him.

That the elections were subject to extensive rigging by Karzai's supporters was partly the result of his belief that the Americans were backing one of the two strongest opposition figures, either Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, which was again not the case. In fact, with so much now invested in Afghanistan, Obama and Holbrooke had every incentive to ensure that the election results were credible. What is now clear, however, is that the flagrantly dishonest elections have undermined the government and its Western backers, jeopardized future Afghan trust in democracy, and given the Taliban more reason to claim they are winning.

For much of this year the Taliban have been on the offensive in Afghanistan. Their control of just thirty out of 364 districts in 2003 expanded to 164 districts at the end of 2008, according to the military expert Anthony Cordesman, who is advising General McChrystal. Taliban attacks increased by 60 percent between October 2008 and April 2009. Forty-seven American soldiers died in August, making it the deadliest month in the war for the US Army. Forty-four were killed in July.

In August, moreover—as part of their well-planned anti-election campaign—the Taliban opened new fronts in the north and west of the country where they had little presence before. On election day in Kunduz in the far northeast of the country, considered to be one of the safest cities in Afghanistan, the Taliban fired fifty-seven rockets. The US military has acknowledged the gravity of the situation. "It is serious and it is deteriorating.... The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated" in their tactics, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN on August 23.

Both before and after the elections there were highly visible Taliban attacks in cities including Kabul and Kandahar, along with well-laid ambushes, attacks against security forces, and extensive use of IEDs. A month before the elections thousands of US, British, and Afghan forces launched an offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in order to regain territory, block supply routes from Pakistan, and release villagers from the clutches of the Taliban so that they could vote.

Instead, voter turnout was estimated by Western officials who had done their own investigation at between 1 and 5 percent in most parts of Helmand and Kandahar—before high-intensity ballot stuffing for Karzai began in the late hours of August 20. According to Western diplomats, Karzai loyalists also created hundreds of fake polling sites, from which many thousands of votes were recorded in favor of the incumbent. In one southern district, the polling sites were shut down and the entire vote of 23,900 ballots was forged for Karzai. In Babaji, a town in Helmand that was reclaimed by British forces with the loss of four soldiers this month, only 150 people voted, out of 80,000 who were eligible. The British suffered thirty-seven dead and 150 wounded in the six-week Helmand campaign— ostensibly to provide security for the vote. It will be difficult to maintain the morale of Western troops for long under such circumstances.

The Taliban had threatened to derail the elections and, to a considerable degree, they did, because much of the terrified population did not vote. The turnout is expected to be between 30 to 40 percent, much less than the 70 percent who voted in 2004. There were four hundred Taliban attacks on election day and many polling stations never opened.

How Could the Rigging Have Happened?
Forty candidates ran against Karzai. His main opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and other candidates produced overwhelming evidence of cheating. By the end of August the Electoral Complaints Commission had received over 2,500 complaints, of which more than 570 could directly affect the results. It will take weeks to go through all these claims.

Still, within hours of the polls closing, the US, NATO, the European Union, and the UN congratulated everyone on a successful election. Their words were aimed at the Taliban, who had failed to stop it; but they sounded hollow and deceitful to Afghans who were more interested in the credibility of the election.

The rigging defied expectations. There were hundreds of foreign observers from the US and other embassies. Both UN officials and a European Union delegation were assigned months ago to make sure this would be a credible election. Afghans and other experts were warning the embassies about possible rigging. Abdullah Abdullah painted a bleak future for the country if the West did not recognize the fraud. "The fact is that the foundations of this country have been damaged by this fraud, throwing it open to all kinds of consequences, including instability. It is true that the Taliban are the first threat but an illegitimate government would be the second," said Abdullah to reporters in Kabul on August 29. Yet the entire Western community in Afghanistan was caught napping by the widespread fraud. In fact, as I recently wrote elsewhere, the fraud was assured months ago when Karzai began to align himself with regional warlords, drug traffickers, and top officials in the provinces who were terrified of losing their lucrative sinecures.

The biggest mistake may have been made by the UN in not running the elections as it did in 2004 but instead handing them over to the Afghan-run "Independent Election Commission," which was beholden to Karzai, who appointed the members. On September 8, a UN-backed commission announced that it had found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" and ordered a partial recount of returns that claimed Karzai had received 54 percent of the vote. If Karzai does not receive over 50 percent of the vote in the final count then there will be a runoff election in October. If Karzai wins over 50 percent his legitimacy will be doubted by many Afghans while the credibility of the US and the other nations involved in the elections will be even more damaged.

An October runoff between Karzai and Abdullah may win back the credibility of the democratic process if that election is more tightly run, but it will leave the country paralyzed for most of the next two months. During that time there could be severe ethnic tensions. Karzai is a Pashtun while Abdullah's mother is a Tajik. We can expect local conflicts, assassinations, and a breakdown in law and order—while the Taliban will further justify their condemnation of democracy as an infidel conspiracy. The best option would be for the US to pressure Karzai to accept a national government that would include Abdullah and other opposition candidates.

In Washington President Obama is under fire from the left of the Democratic Party for becoming another war president and from right-wing Republicans for being overly ambitious in his plans for Afghanistan. Increasingly Americans are getting fed up with a war that has gone on longer than the US involvement in the two world wars combined. For the first time, polling shows that a majority of Americans do not approve of Obama's handling of Afghanistan. Yet if it is to have any chance of success, the Obama plan for Afghanistan needs a serious long-term commitment—at least for the next three years. Democratic politicians are demanding results before next year's congressional elections, which is neither realistic nor possible. Moreover, the Taliban are quite aware of the Democrats' timetable. With Obama's plan the US will be taking Afghanistan seriously for the first time since 2001; if it is to be successful it will need not only time but international and US support—both open to question.

After Obama's injection of 21,000 troops and trainers, total Western forces in Afghanistan now number 100,000, including 68,000 US troops. It is likely that General McChrystal will soon ask for more. Obama's overall plan has been to achieve security by doubling the Afghan army's strength to 240,000 men and the police to 160,000; but these are tasks that would take at least until 2014 to complete, if indeed they can be carried out. Meanwhile the military operation in Afghanistan is now costing cash-strapped US taxpayers $4 billion a month.

Across the region many people fear that the US and NATO may start to pull out of Afghanistan during the next twelve months despite their uncompleted mission. That would almost certainly result in the Taliban walking into Kabul. Al-Qaeda would be in a stronger position to launch global terrorist attacks. The Pakistani Taliban would be able to "liberate" large parts of Pakistan. The Taliban's game plan of waiting out the Americans now looks more plausible than ever.

For all these reasons it is important to recognize that if Western forces are to regain the initiative in Afghanistan, they must deal with the situation in Pakistan, which needs to eliminate sanctuaries of both the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban forces within the country. The Pakistani military will bide its time until the Americans are really desperate, and then the army will demand its price from the US—a price to be measured in financial and military support.

Balochistan
Much has been made of Pakistan as a potential failed state on the verge of breakup, yet if there is even a remote chance of that happening it will not be because of the Taliban, but because of an underlying crisis that has been studiously ignored by the West—the separatist movement in Balochistan. The issue is well described in the best chapter of a new book on Pakistan by Nicholas Schmidle, To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan.

Balochistan is Pakistan's largest province, comprising 48 percent of its territory and sharing a long border with southern Afghanistan; but it is a land of rugged mountains and deserts, with a population of only 12 million people. Ever since Pakistan's creation in 1947, the Baloch tribes have been in revolt against what they see as the chauvinism and denial of their rights by the Pakistani army in favor of Punjab, the country's most populous province, with 86 million people.

In five major insurgencies against the army, the Baloch have demanded greater autonomy, royalties for the province's gas, development funds, and genuine political representation. The fifth insurgency began in 2005 and has intensified because of the brutal repression and hundreds of "disappearances" of Baloch nationalists, for which the army under former President Pervez Musharraf was responsible.

Many young Baloch are now demanding their own state. In August, with the start of the new school year, Baloch students refused to hoist the Pakistani flag or sing the national anthem. Ten non-Baloch college principals were assassinated by guerrillas the same month, creating panic among the Punjabi settler population. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Dawood, the titular chief of chiefs of all the Baloch tribes—whose ancestors once ruled Balochistan—announced on August 11 the formation of a council for "an independent Balochistan"; he rejected any reconciliation with the government unless there was international mediation from the UN. According to human rights activists, hundreds of Baloch nationalists have disappeared—they are believed to have been secretly arrested and tortured by the military but their whereabouts remain unknown.

Schmidle meets the Khan and other Baloch chiefs and, with no small courage, follows them as they are trailed by the ISI. "By the end of 2006, nearly every nationalist leader in Balochistan had been killed, arrested, or placed under house arrest," he writes. The Khan of Kalat describes Balochistan's mineral wealth to Schmidle: "We are sitting on gold and anytime we speak up and ask for due compensation, we get a bloody spanking."

The civilian government under President Zardari arranged a cease-fire with the guerrillas last year but failed to follow it up with serious talks, and guerrilla attacks have resumed. Pakistan's past military rulers have ignored the fact that their country is a multiethnic, multireligious state and the policies of an overtly centralized military do not work. The army's refusal to acknowledge this led to the loss of East Pakistan—now Bangladesh—in 1971. Tomorrow it could be Balochistan.

Schmidle has written a picaresque book about what Pakistan looks like today. Like a good film director he presents extraordinary pictures of political mayhem and violence interspersed with dialogue, solid character actors, and tightly focused close-ups of bad guys such as Maulana Fazlullah, the leader of the Swati Taliban—"a short man with large gaps between his teeth,...wavy hair,...a bulky, black turban and a goofy smile."

However, like many movies, Schmidle's book lacks a coherent plot. Each chapter serves up a separate scene or subject, but no common thread or larger themes and ideas link the chapters together. In fact there is little that sets the book apart from the best recent Western newspaper reporting on Pakistan. Schmidle's prose can be brilliant but fails to describe the undercurrents of life in Balochistan or provide the analysis that is needed.

As early as page 8 he heralds his arrival in Pakistan with an analysis that could have been culled from any US magazine over the past three years—Pakistan as the most dangerous place on earth:

From what I gathered, there were a few essential things to know about Pakistan: the army was perpetually in charge, the intelligence agencies were a brooding and ubiquituous force, the Islamists threatened to take over, ethnic problems portended more Balkanization, corruption plagued human interaction and a modest arsenal of nuclear weapons all combined to make Pakistan the most dysfunctional—and most dangerous—country in the world.
After reading such a statement of the obvious we expect some further insights. Instead, at the end of the book, Schmidle is still asking the same questions, having found no answers:

The political, social, economic, and religious dynamics embedded in Pakistan seemed to become more and more complicated—and volatile—with time, and less and less solvable.
Foreign correspondents should not make too much of their own intrepid adventures, but this is not the case with Schmidle. He opens the book with a graphic account of his deportation from Pakistan, warning us that the book is going to be as much about him as about Pakistan. We are often told about his looks and his physique—he is six feet two with blond hair—and about the personal dilemmas that obsess him: What clothes should he wear? What color should he dye his hair? Would it be better to pretend to be Canadian rather than American? Such worries only trivialize his story.

The son of a Marine general, Schmidle, in his mid-twenties and married, arrives in Pakistan in February 2006 under a two-year grant from a Washington think tank. To his credit, he learns Urdu and travels extensively. His time in Islamabad coincides with the most tumultuous events in the country's history during the dictatorship of General Musharraf. The heart of his story is his meetings with Islamic extremists. He befriends the bespectacled, soft-spoken yet lethal religious leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who ran the radical Red Mosque in the center of Islamabad. Ghazi opens doors for Schmidle that lead him straight into the heart of the Islamic militancy that was beginning to grip the country in 2006. Ghazi himself is a complex character:

While Ghazi relished his al-Qaeda connections and the confidence such friends might have lent, I still found him to be surprisingly sensible and pragmatic. His eyes didn't burn with fervor. Nor did his rhetoric emanate hatred. He calmly explained the rise of anti-Americanism around the world as a product of the United States' "missed opportunity" to act as a benevolent, global leader.
Ghazi's story ends with his martyrdom once the army, after procrastinating for six months, storms the Red Mosque. One hundred militants die but hundreds of Ghazi's young followers escape the siege to become the suicide bombers that have since torn through the heart of Pakistan's cities.

Ultimately the book's strength lies in its cinematic descriptions, for example its account of the quarter in Karachi run by the political leader Altaf Hussain and his party, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), which advocates preserving the ethnic identity of the Urdu-speaking minority that emigrated from India:

Whitewashed apartment blocks lined the surrounding streets. Billboards modeled Altaf's face more than they advertised products, and the MQM's white, green, and red-striped flag fluttered from lampposts, traffic lights and car antennas. Sputtering Suzuki hatchbacks circled around a dried-up fountain, the color of rain clouds. A sculpture of a clenched fist rose from the top of the fountain.
Unfortunately, strong description is not enough. Whether Pakistan's army and political leaders can deal with the threat from the Taliban and other violent forces they have themselves sustained over the years is a question that needs to be addressed more urgently than ever as the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan deteriorates further.

—September 10, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Private Schools outperform public schools in India.

Sepia Mutiny reports that public schools in India are performing poorly due to high teacher absentism, probably due to low salaries.

A few months back, I pointed mutineers at a new book - The Beautiful Tree - which documented the surprising success of very low cost, unchartered, private schools in India. Although some charged as little as $1-$2 per child, per month and they solidly outperformed their government counterparts -


It ain't pretty but it works...

The results from Delhi were typical. In mathematics, mean scores of children in government schools were 24.5 percent, whereas they were 42.1 percent in private unrecognized schools and 43.9 percent in private recognized. That is, children in unrecognized private schools scored nearly 18 percentage points more in math than children in government schools (a 72 percent advantage!), while children in recognized private schools scored over 19 percentage points more than children in government schools (a 79 percent advantage).

In a blog post over at the ever-excellent Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok provides some detail on one of the reasons for the utterly poor government school performance, teacher absenteeism -

Spot checks by the World Bank, for example, indicate that on a typical day 11% of teachers are absent in Peru, 16% are absent in Bangladesh, 27% in Uganda and 25% in India.

Even when teachers are present they are often not teaching. In India, where a quarter of the teachers are absent on any particular day, only about half of those present are actually teaching.

The reason they are able to get away with this is a, uh, textbook case of public choice economics -- when teacher's paychecks are determined by bureaucrats and politicians, their energy shifts from teaching towards politicking & lobbying -

The problem is not low salaries. Salaries for public school teachers in India are above the norm for that country.

...Teachers are literate and they vote so they are a powerful political force especially where teacher unions are strong. As if this were not enough, in India, the teachers have historically had a guarantee of representation in the state Legislative Councils so political power has often flowed to teachers far in excess of their numbers. As a result, it's virtually impossible to fire a teacher for absenteeism.

For comparison, private teacher salaries clock in at "one-fifth to one-tenth of government salary levels."

Still, I'd argue that the real secret to private school success isn't simply the lower cost, it's the local accountability and competition that's intrinsic to parents directly purchasing services from local, entrepreneurially run schools.

Tomie dePaola


Babble has an interview with Italian Children's book writer and illustrator, Tomie dePaola.

For forty years, Tomie dePaola has been writing and illustrating — providing generations of children with more than 250 classics, among them Newberry Honor and Caldecott winners. But it's his wise Italian grandmother with a penchant for pasta who has bewitched books off the shelves. With a new story, Strega Nona's Harvest, simmering in the pot and hitting shelves this September, dePaola sat down with Babble. The author cast a spell on us with his stories of being banned from learning Italian as a boy, his early years as an illustrator and the real origin of Strega Nona — all interspersed with plenty of laughter. — Jeanne Sager


How does it feel knowing that Strega Nona is being read by kids of people who read it as kids?

That's a little scary. (Laughs/) It's when the grandkids of kids who read it are reading it that I'll know I've been around too long!

But Strega Nona's coming back?

Yes, she made her appearance last fall in an incredibly beautiful pop-up book that I did last year with Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, and she'll be back this fall with a new book, Strega Nona's Harvest.

"I tell young people that Strega Nona built my swimming pool for me."I read it and I loved that the pasta pot appeared in this book as well.

It has to appear everywhere!

I've always liked seeing that you try to incorporate the Italian in there too; what prompted that?

I've done that with all the Strega Nona books to try to teach a few little words of Italian. When I was growing up, my father didn't want us to learn Italian because we were Americans. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that he was born in 1907 — there was quite a lot of prejudice against immigrants in the early 1900s, and it was very important that we didn't learn Italian. Of course, the older I got, the more angry I got! I could have been bilingual.


You've written more than 250 books by now, with other characters. How does it feel that when people hear Tomie dePaola, they think Strega Nona?

That's fine! I tell young people that she built my swimming pool for me, with the royalties. I had no idea when I created the first book that she'd be so successful and she'd capture everyone's imagination. She's everybody's beloved grandmother. Big Anthony is everybody!

Everybody's dopey uncle?

Or ourselves. (Laughs.)

Actually, my daughter's favorite is the one about Little Grunt and Big Egg. What are some of your favorites that you've done other than Strega?

Well, I have a very close place in my heart for the autobiographical fiction books, books like Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs; The Art Lesson, which is a true story, Stagestruck; Tom, the story about my grandfather; The Baby Sister. In recent years I've been doing chapter books, and they've been all autobiographical. Those I've found really wonderful to work on. It's really unleashing my memories and the feelings I had when I was younger. It's great to revisit those places and feelings.

Mind revisiting how you got into writing?

I got into writing through illustrating. I wanted to be an artist, and I went to art school, Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I took book illustration and decided I wanted to go into children's book illustration because the '50s was a golden age of children's book illustration. Maurice Sendak had just started out. Arnold Lobel had just begun to work; Leo Lionni, Eric Carle. It was a very exciting field and very imaginative and design-directed. It took awhile, and I had illustrated maybe about four books when an editor said, "Have you ever considered doing any writing?" Of course, I had, but secretly was afraid of the whole writing end of it. I knew I could draw, but I didn't know I could put together a book, although I was a good writer, because I was a good reader in grammar school. I always tell people if they're not a good reader, they won't be a good writer. I got handheld by an editor who really brought me along with my first couple of books. Then I did Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs and that really started the whole thing. Within a year, I had all kinds of books on all kinds of lists.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

thought for today for someone who is having a BAD day

For your heart to remain happy keep it always filled with gratefulness.
Gratefulness is the secret way to the Divine.



- The Mother [p-98, White Roses, Sixth Edition, 1999]

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

quote for today~

Quote of the Day - Horace Walpole - "Life is a comedy for those who think... and a tragedy for those who feel."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tejpreet S. Chopra

This is from Outlook. A dynamic human being and well liked by many.
future leaders
Lo-Cal, Hi-Protein
Building capacities and nurturing talent is the need of the hour
Tejpreet S. Chopra
India’s steady growth amid the global recession has been a subject of wide
discussion. There’s been much debate on whether this is misplaced euphoria or the sign of a nation that has managed to insulate itself from one of the worst financial crises of recent times on the strength of its consistent growth. What is fundamentally clear in the given environment is that the country has its unique opportunities and challenges. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for global companies, more so in the context of human resource management, and in nurturing future organisational leaders.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a leader is not where she/he stands in moments of comfort, but where she/he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. The last year was a challenge that put to test leaders globally. Experts say recession is a time for organisations to correct past mistakes, thereby strengthening capabilities and preparing for the next upward cycle in the market. The crucial question in such times is: what is my organisation doing to develop a pool of future leaders that will take us to the next wave of growth? I believe future leaders will stand out during this difficult period.

The current challenges have brought to the forefront the need for a leaner workforce with a strong focus on performance and the need to nurture the right talent. Despite the positive growth in the country, a number of companies have been forced to reduce their headcount in order to increase productivity. However, as the Indian market continues to improve, I suspect attrition will start increasing as well. Therefore, it is critical for companies to continue to invest in their people by providing challenging assignments, training and the right avenues for them to grow professionally. In other words, opportunities for ‘continuous learning’.

The other critical aspect will be the ability to create a performance-driven culture. Each organisation has to constantly raise the bar in order to achieve the ultimate goal of continuous improvement. As a result, one ends up creating a culture of meritocracy. By differentiating key performers in the organisation, it is imperative that companies develop the right systems to retain their best talent. This is going to be one of the major challenges for India Inc over the next few years.

The uncertain business environment demands a different kind of leadership from business leaders as well. It is important to have regular and open communication from leaders who need to inspire and motivate their employees. The ability to drive change in an organisation is significantly greater when leaders are transparent, open and authentic.

The effect of recession lingers and is reflected in the form of pressures an organisation has to undergo to keep growing profitably and more importantly, as mentioned, the ability to develop and identify a chain of future leaders. We at GE have a constant focus on building strong leaders through various leadership programmes imparting both technical and managerial skills. This has helped GE, over a period of time, to build a team of senior officials who have made a significant impact in their areas of responsibility.

In conclusion, it is important for organisations to focus on helping employees grow professionally and developing leaders in times like this. Leaders in your organisation are not those that merely make their numbers, but those who are passionate, share your values and are driven, authentic, transparent, develop talent and not only have enormous amounts of energy themselves but can energise those they lead.

Naseeruddin Shah


Wonderful interview with Naseruddin Shah, posted on Sepia Mutiny.

by Beena Sarwar, on Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan

My recent article on the ‘blasphemy’ laws, slightly edited version published in Dawn, Aug 29, op-ed as ‘A misguided mindset. Also up on my blog Journeys to democracy

Karachi, Aug 26

Stopping the rot

Beena Sarwar

The introspection, debate and outrage generated a month ago by the attacks on two villages in Gojra on July 31 and Aug 1 may be out of public sight, as happened all too often in the past, but the nine people murdered and the homes and churches gutted are not out of mind. Neither is Najeeb Zafar, the young factory owner in Sheikhupura, Punjab, killed on August 4 for allegedly desecrating Quranic verses when he removed a calendar from a wall. The following day, police in Sanghar, Sindh, saved a similarly accused 60-year old woman, Akhtari Malkani by taking her in protective custody.

On the surface, these incidents were motivated by passions aroused by allegations of blasphemy or disrespect to the holy Quran. These criminal charges can be punishable by death – but this is a punishment for the state to administer, not private citizens. The real motivation remains settling scores, a pattern identified over twenty years ago when the first ‘blasphemy murder’ took place – that of the Punjabi poet and teacher Naiamat Ahmar in Faisalabad in 1992.

The pattern involves one party targeting another, alleging blasphemy while the real motives are personal enmity or economic rivalry as Zubeida Mustafa noted in a recent column. The accused tend to be poor people who have improved their lot in life, triggering jealousies. Accusations of blasphemy are used to justify the violence. Ms Mustafa also pointed to (mis) education as a factor that makes it easy, when such an allegation is levelled, to rabble-rouse a mob into violence.

The three recent cases bear out these observations. In Gojra, evidence points to a pre-meditated plan aimed at clearing out the village from the area, while the administration turned a deaf ear to the warnings and pleas of observers. A disgruntled employee accused Najeeb Zafar of disrespecting the Quran; the unarmed police sent to protect him could only watch as the mob set upon him. Akhtari Malkani had a monetary dispute with her accuser - he disappeared without registering an FIR. She says she threw a book of accounts on the floor, not the holy Quran.

Last April, there was the horrific case of Jagdish Kumar, the young Hindu factory worker in Karachi, lynched by co-workers for alleged blasphemy. The real reason appears to have been personal enmity based on Kumar’s reported association with a Muslim girl.

Such cases have been taking place since the option of life imprisonment under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (“Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet”), the ‘blasphemy law’, introduced by Gen. Ziaul Haq in 1985 was amended by default in 1992 to make death the mandatory punishment for anyone convicted under this law. Certainly, the law does not provide for these extra-judicial murders. However, it is equally true no such murder took place until death was made the mandatory punishment for 295-C convictions.

People of all faiths, including Muslims (remember the Muslim religious scholar lynched in Gujranwala, 1994?), have been accused and attacked since then. Investigations into blasphemy accusations indicate pre-meditation rather than the heat of passion. Those who commit the violence may be arrested but none has ever been punished. Even the Inquiry Commission Tribunal headed by Justice Tanvir A. Khan of the Lahore High Court examining the destruction of Christian homes and churches in Shantinagar, 1997, was quashed (the Punjab Chief Minister then too was Shahbaz Sharif; will he rise to the occasion this time?).

The public defamation of blasphemy victims is a key tactic preceding such attacks – posters and mosque loudspeakers are routinely used for this.

Naimat Ahmar was killed after posters cropped up warning people that a Christian teacher (Ahmar) was leading their children astray. A hand-written copy in Urdu that I saw at the time warned Muslims that Ahmar was misleading students, telling them that the Prophet (pbuh) ‘stole’ goats – ‘bakriyaN charaya kartey thay’. Replace ‘churaya’ (stole) with ‘charaya’ (grazed) and it’s apparent what Ahmar probably said.

A youngster from the militant outfit Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba (later changed to Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan) accosted Ahmar outside the Education Department in Faisalabad and knifed him to death. Investigations revealed that the murderer’s uncle wanted Ahmar’s job in the Education Department. The allegation of blasphemy alone was enough to ‘justify’ the murder. Policemen at the lockup housing the murderer, garlanded by his ASS (sic) mentors, embraced and kissed him. The ASS was, in fact, behind just about every ‘blasphemy case’ during the 1990s – the SSP, now banned, is believed to be behind the Gojra carnage as well.

Blasphemy accused are attacked and murdered even in prisons and police lock-ups, sometimes by the very people who are supposed to protect them. In 2004 a police constable attacked Samuel Masih, 27, an under-trial prisoner at Kot Lakhpat jail with a brick-cutter. Samuel had been charged with spitting at the wall of a mosque (Section 295, “defiling a place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion of any class”, maximum sentence up to two years). He succumbed to his injuries the following day. “I wanted to earn a place in heaven by killing him,” Ali reportedly confessed.

The fanatical and misguided mindset cultivated over the past few decades will not disappear by simply repealing 295-C, although this must be done. Embarking on a sensible education policy is also a long-term step that must be taken to stop the rot. What must be an immediate priority is the strict enforcement of law and order.

Those inciting violence and murder from mosque loudspeakers and public accusations, true or false, must be held culpable, charged, tried and punished according to law. This also goes for those who desecrate a holy book or symbol of any religion. There must be accountability for those who allow these murders to take place. The political leadership is responsible for providing police with the training, means and the orders to prevent such violence. Finally, religion cannot be used or allowed to justify murder.



The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker

Monday, September 21, 2009

Multisensory structured language programs

Multisensory Structured Language Programs: Content and Principles of Instruction
(1995)

What is taught
Phonology and phonological awareness
Phonology is the study of sounds and how they work within their environment. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a given language that can be recognized as being distinct from other sounds in the language. Phonological awareness is the understanding of the internal linguistic structure of words. An important aspect of phonological awareness is phonemic awareness or the ability to segment words into their component sounds.

Sound-symbol association
This is the knowledge of the various sounds in the English language and their correspondence to the letters and combinations of letters which represent those sounds. Sound-symbol association must be taught (and mastered) in two directions: visual to auditory and auditory to visual. Additionally, students must master the blending of sounds and letters into words as well as the segmenting of whole words into the individual sounds.

Syllable instruction
A syllable is a unit of oral or written language with one vowel sound. Instruction must include the teaching of the six basic types of syllables in the English Language: closed, vowel-consonant-e, open, consonant-le, r-controlled, and diphthong. Syllable division rules must be directly taught in relation to the word structure.

Morphology
Morphology is the study of how morphemes are combined from words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language. The curriculum must include the study of base words, roots, and affixes.

Syntax
Syntax is the set of principles that dictate the sequence and function of words in a sentence in order to convey meaning. This includes grammar, sentence variation and the mechanics of language.

Semantics
Semantics is that aspect of language concerned with meaning. The curriculum (from the beginning) must include instruction in the comprehension of written language.

How it is taught
Simultaneous, multisensory (VAKT)
Teaching is done using all learning pathways in the brain (visual/auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning.

Systematic and cumulative
Multisensory language instruction requires that the organization of material follows the logical order of the language. The sequence must begin with the easiest and most basic elements and progress methodically to more difficult material. Each step must also be based on those already learned. Concepts taught must be systematically reviewed to strengthen memory.

Direct instruction
The inferential learning of any concept cannot be taken for granted. Multisensory language instruction requires the direct teaching of all concepts with continuous student-teacher interaction.

Diagnostic teaching
The teacher must be adept at prescriptive or individualized teaching. The teaching plan is based on careful and continuous assessment of the individual's needs. The content presented must be mastered to the degree of automaticity.

Synthetic and analytic instruction
Multisensory, structured language programs include both synthetic and analytic instruction. Synthetic instruction presents the parts of the language and then teaches how the parts work together to form a whole. Analytic instruction presents the whole and teaches how this can be broken down into its component parts.

According to the National Teacher Education Task Force of the International Dyslexia Association, multisensory structured language programs should include the following content and be taught with the following principles of instruction.

View Table 1. Principles of Instruction (63kb PDF)*

Descriptions of some MSSL reading programs
From the original Orton-Gillingham method, many variations have been developed. Some of the modified Orton-Gillingham methods written by Orton students are The Slingerland Method, The Spalding Method, Project Read, Alphabetic Phonics, The Herman Method, and The Wilson Method. Other works included in which the authors of the programs used the tenets of Orton's work, but were not directly trained by Orton-Gillingham personnel are The Alphabetic- Phonetic- Structural -Linguistic approach to Literacy (Shedd), Sequential English Education (Pickering), and Starting Over (Knight). The Association Method (DuBard), and the Lindamood-Bell Method (Lindamood -Bell) have as their basis the research into hearing impaired and the language impaired individuals.

Alphabetic phonics
Alphabetic Phonics evolved directly from Orton-Gillingham. It combines all three learning modalities (auditory for spelling; visual for reading; kinesthetic for handwriting). The "Instant Spelling Deck" for daily 3-minute drill focuses on the most probable spelling of each of the forty-four speech sounds. The Initial Reading Deck is a set of 98 cards with 3D pictured key words (chosen by students) to "unlock" each of the 44 speech sounds. Bench Mark Measures geared exactly to the curriculum were added to provide periodic proof of students' progress in reading, spelling, handwriting, and alphabetizing-designed both to guide the teachers' presentation pace and to enhance the student's confidence. For more information contact the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, 2222 Welborn St., Dallas, TX 75219. Phone 214/559-7425 214/559-7425.

The Association Method
The Association Methodis a multisensory, phonetically based, systematic, incremental instructional program for teaching and/or refining oral and written language. Special features are: multisensory teaching which includes the use of auditory, visual, tactile and motor-kinesthetic cues for learning; use of the Northampton Symbol system for teaching sound/symbol relationships for reading; use of cursive writing for initial instruction-children learn to read manuscript, but write only in cursive; a slower temporal rate of speech is used to provide children more time to process auditorily and more time to observe the speaker's lip movements; precise articulation is required from the beginning; and color differentiation is used as an attention-getter, to differentiate phonemes within words, and to highlight verbs and new concepts in language structures. An individual child's book is made as he/she progresses through the Method. For more information contact The DuBard School for Language Disorders, University of Southern Mississippi, Box 10035, Hattisburg, MS 39406-0035. Phone 601/266-5223 601/266-5223

The Herman Approach
Renee Herman developed this sequence of instruction and a methodology that started each student at his point of deficit and sequentially taught him mastery of each skill level, expanding those skill levels vertically and horizontally as in an inverted pyramid. Multisensory strategies that link visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile stimuli help dyslexic students compensate for visual and auditory processing problems. Kinesthetic and tactile exercises are carefully sequenced and each activity is repeated until the response is automatic. The Herman Method reading curriculum encompasses: decoding and encoding skills, sight word recognition, structural analysis, use of contextual clues, dictionary access skills, decoding of diacritical symbols, and the complete spectrum of comprehension skills. For more information contact Lexia Learning Systems, Inc. 2 Lewis Street, PO Box 466 Lincoln, MA 01773 - 800-435-3942 or 781-259-8752 781-259-8752 Fax: 781-259-1349 info@lexialearning.com

Lindamood-Bell
The Lindamood® Phonemic Sequencing (LiPS) Program (formerly called the ADD Program, Auditory Discrimination in Depth) successfully stimulates phonemic awareness. Individuals become aware of the mouth actions which produce speech sounds. This awareness becomes the means of verifying sounds within words and enables individuals to become self-correcting in reading and spelling, and speech. The Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking (V/V) program develops concept imagery through a series of steps beginning with expressive language and extending from a word to imaged paragraphs. For more information contact Lindamood-Bell Learning Process, 416 Higuera, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Phone 800/233-1819 800/233-1819

Montessori and Sequential English Education Approach
The Sequential English Education program is a multisensory structured language approach to teaching reading, writing, and spelling to students at risk for or diagnosed as dyslexic or having a related disorder. The program initially emphasizes the mastery of the code of the English language, the alphabetic, and phonetic system. It is one of a few programs age appropriate for 5 and 6 year old children. The instruction is 1:1 or small group (1:7) and intensive. Multisensory techniques are integral. In the SEE program the memory board (textured surface of masonite board) is used for a visual-auditory-tactile and kinesthetic input of new material being learned and any error being corrected. Comprehension proceeds from word meanings to sentence paraphrasing. For more information contact The Sequential English Education Training Program at The June Shelton School and Evaluation Center, 5002 West Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX 75209. Phone 214/352-1772 214/352-1772

Orton-Gillingham
Orton-Gillingham is the structured,sequential multisensory teaching of written language based upon the constant use of association of all of the following - how a letter or word looks, how it sounds, and how the speech organs or the hand in writing feels when producing it. Children also learn the common rules of the English language such as the final e rule and when to use -ck and -tch. Older students learn a variety of syllable patterns and common prefixes and suffixes, then Latin and Greek word parts. For more information contact the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practioners and Educators, P.O. Box 234, East Main StreetAmenia, NY 12501-0234. Phone 914/373-8919 914/373-8919

Project Read
Project Read is an alternative approach to teaching reading and written expression concepts and skills to children/adolescents in mainstream classrooms as well as in special education and Chapter One services. It began as a decoding/encoding program, but it was soon very apparent that the majority of these students had more pervasive language learning problems and so the program curriculum was expanded to include reading comprehension and written expression. thus the name "language Circle," which describes the integration of all the elements of language learning. For more information contact Language Circle Enterprises and Project READ, P.O. Box 20631, Bloomington, MN 55420. Phone 800/450-0343 800/450-0343

The Slingerland Multisensory Approach
The Slingerland Multisensory Approach is a classroom adaptation of the Orton-Gillingham Approach. Originally created for preventive instruction, it is used today both as a preventive and remedial approach and is practiced in classrooms, in small groups, and in one-to-one settings with students ranging from primary grade children to adults. The Slingerland approach differs from more traditional approaches in several ways. Simultaneous, multisensory teaching strategies are incorporated into every facet of the lesson. The logic and structure of English are taught using the alphabetic-phonic principle of beginning with the smallest unit of sight, sound, feel-a letter. All the language arts skills-oral expression, decoding, reading comprehension, spelling handwriting and written expression-are taught with the one integrated direct instruction approach. Students are given guided practice in functional use of these skills with the goals of independent reading and written expression. For more information contact the Slingerland Institute for Literacy, One Bellevue Center, 411 108th Ave. NE, Bellevue, WAS 98004. Phone 425/453-1190 425/453-1190

The Spalding Method is a total language arts approach consisting of integrated, simultaneous, multisensory instruction in listening, speaking, writing, spelling, and reading. These instructional elements (spelling, listening/reading comprehension, and writing) provide the major language arts strands. A fourth philosophical element insures consistency in program implementation. The Spalding principles which guide lesson plans, instruction, and decisions are the following: 1) learning with a child-centered approach, 2) multisensory instruction; 3) encouraging higher-level thinking; 4) achieving quality work; 5) recognizing the value and importance of tasks; and, 6) integrating language arts into all curriculum areas. For more information contact the Spalding Education Foundation, 2814 West Bell Road, Suite 1405, Phoenix, Arizona 85023. Phone 602/866-7801 602/866-7801

Starting Over instruction includes diagnosis and remediation of decoding, spelling, vocabulary, writing, handwriting and comprehension. Its philosophy: 1) Dyslexic children and adults can learn to read, spell, and write if they are diagnosed and taught using a multisensory, structured language approach; 2) teachers can be taught to do both the diagnosis and the remediation; 3) dyslexics can be taught to surmount their primary problem-awareness of differences among sounds; 4) critical thinking can be taught by giving clues and asking question; 5) teachers can be taught not to give answers or model sounds; 6) memorization can be enhanced by daily review of previously introduced material; 7) sequenced steps for decoding and spelling serve to focus attention, activate and slow down the learner, enhance memorization, and foster independence; 8) comprehension can be improved by merely improving decoding; 9: when decoding has been made automatic and fluent, explicit comprehension instruction can make reading a pleasure; and, 10) writing can be mastered when taught alongside decoding and comprehension. For more information contact Starting Over, 317 West 89th Street, New York, NY 10024. Phone 212/769-2760 212/769-2760

The Wilson Reading System
The Wilson Reading System is a 12-Step remedial reading and writing program for individuals with a language-based learning disability. This program is based on Orton-Gillingham philosophy and principles and current phonological coding research. It directly teaches the structure of words in the English language so that students master the coding system for reading and spelling. Unlike other programs that overwhelm the student with rules, the language system of English is presented in a very systematic and cumulative manner so that it is manageable. The Wilson Reading System specifically teaches strategies for decoding and spelling. However, from the beginning steps of the program, it includes oral expressive language development and comprehension. Visualization techniques are used for comprehension. For more information contact Wilson Language Training, 175 West Main Street, Millbury, MA 01527-1441. Phone
Great Basic resource on LD online on the different systems available for remediating reading disabilites.

Elon Musk going off the rails

Elon Musk needs to know that there are other ways of doing things