Wednesday, September 28

The Achievement Gap in Elite Schools


AN uneasy amalgam of pride and discontent, Caroline Mitchell sat amid the balloons and beach chairs on the front lawn of Princeton High School, watching the Class of 2004 graduate. Her pride was for the seniors' average SAT score of 1237, third-highest in the state, and their admission to elite universities like Harvard, Yale and Duke. As president of the high school alumni association and community liaison for the school district, Ms. Mitchell deserved to bask in the tradition of public-education excellence.

Discontent, though, was what she felt about Blake, her own son. He was receiving his diploma on this June afternoon only after years of struggle - the failed English class in ninth grade, the science teacher who said he was capable only of C's, the assignment to a remedial "basic skills" class. Even at that, Ms. Mitchell realized, Blake had fared better than several friends who were nowhere to be seen in the procession of gowns and mortarboards. They were headed instead for summer school.

"I said to myself: 'Oh, no. Please, no,' " Ms. Mitchell recalled. "I was so hurt. These were bright kids. This shouldn't have been happening."

It did not escape Ms. Mitchell's perception that her son and most of those faltering classmates were black. They were the evidence of a prosperous, accomplished school district's dirty little secret, a racial achievement gap that has been observed, acknowledged and left uncorrected for decades. Now that pattern just may have to change under the pressure of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Several months after Blake graduated, Princeton High School (and thus the district as a whole) ran afoul of the statute for the first time, based on the lagging scores of African-American students on a standardized English test given to 11th graders. Last month, the school was cited for the second year in a row, this time because 37 percent of black students failed to meet standards in English, and 55 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics failed in math.

One of the standard complaints about No Child Left Behind by its critics in public education is that it punishes urban schools that are chronically underfinanced and already contending with a concentration of poor, nonwhite, bilingual and special-education pupils. Princeton could hardly be more different. It is an Ivy League town with a minority population of slightly more than 10 percent and per-student spending well above the state average. The high school sends 94 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and offers 29 different Advanced Placement courses. Over all, 98 percent of Princeton High School students exceed the math and English standards required by No Child Left Behind.

So is the problem with the district, or is the problem with the law?

The answer seems clear to those parents - mostly black, but some white and Hispanic - who have been raising the issue of the achievement gap for years. While the Princeton community includes a slice of black bourgeoisie attached to the university or nearby corporations, most of the African-American population came here a century or more ago to serve as the butlers, maids, cooks and chauffeurs of a university and town with a nearly Southern fondness for segregation. The high school, for instance, did not integrate for nearly 20 years after its founding in 1898, and the elementary schools waited until they were compelled by state law in 1947.

As far back as the 1960's, according to the local historical society, black students suffered from "low expectations from teachers" and a high dropout rate. In the early 1990's, an interracial body calling itself the Robeson Group - in homage to Paul Robeson, the most famous product of black Princeton - mobilized to recruit more black teachers and help elect the first black member to the school board.

Despite such efforts, the achievement gap remained. A tracking system for math separates students in middle school. The high school, while not formally tracked, has such a demand for seats in Advanced Placement classes and honors sections that a rigid hierarchy exists in effect. Guidance counselors find their time consumed by writing recommendation letters for seniors who routinely apply to 10 or more high-end schools.

And until the No Child Left Behind law was enacted there were no concrete consequences for failing to address the resulting disparity. Which may be why a number of black parents here credit the federal law with forcing attention on the underside of public education in Princeton. It requires all districts to reveal test results and meet performance standards by various subgroups, including race.

"If you scratch the surface of this town, a lot of contradictions are going to emerge," said Ron Plummer, a project manager for a technology company and a co-chairman of the school district's minority education committee. "I do have some suspicions when measurements come from standardized tests alone. But if it's going to shine a bright light on the inadequacies of the system, especially as it regards children of color, then I'm all in favor."

In any case, there can be a tone of defensiveness, even smugness, among certain school leaders in Princeton. "We're proud of our F," said Lewis Goldstein, the assistant superintendent, referring to the contradiction between the district's overall success and its standing under No Child Left Behind. "It's as if you handed in your homework and the teacher handed it back and you got a 98 on it and an F. That's the situation we're in."

TO be fair to Princeton, it is hardly the only community to include both a large number of superachieving students and a smaller but persistent number of low-income, nonwhite stragglers. Princeton, in fact, belongs to an organization of 25 similar school districts, the Minority Student Achievement Network, which includes Evanston, Ill.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and Eugene, Ore., among others, that are working to find techniques to address the issue.

Princeton's superintendent, Judith Wilson, has accepted the challenge of reducing the achievement gap. As a newcomer to the district - she arrived last February from the working-class, half-minority district in Woodbury, N.J., near Camden - she sounds less beholden than some of her colleagues to Princeton's exalted sense of itself.

"If the gap can't be narrowed in Princeton," she said in an interview in her office last week, "then where can it be narrowed? There can't be a question here of resources, or of community support, or of quality of staff. So if we can't impact the students who are not born into privilege, then where can it happen?"

Sunday, September 25

An Unnatural Disaster

Is Hurricane Katrina "our tsunami," as the mayor of Biloxi, Miss., A.J. Holloway, has said? Does it make sense to compare today's disaster to a catastrophe that killed upward of 200,000 impoverished people, injured roughly half a million, displaced millions more, and was felt across a huge geographic span that included Sumatra, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and eastern Africa?

In searching for meaning in the current calamity, we can learn something about the root causes of such disasters by pinpointing the proper historical analogy.

Although it is no doubt an overstatement to compare Katrina to the 2004 tsunami, the two have some things in common. Both demonstrated the vulnerability of the poor in the face of natural calamity: Consider Katrina's victims who suffered through the aftermath at the Superdome and convention center. That was a man-made disaster that clearly could have been averted if the federal government, specifically the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had quickly marshaled the political will and resources to evacuate those without access to cars, instead of promoting on its Web site a faith-based charity that was clearly no match for the problem.

Likewise, both disasters demonstrated the tragic consequences of reckless coastal development. In Asia, industrial fish farms, tourist resorts, and refineries combined over the last generation to destroy huge stretches of coastal mangrove forest. The forest helps stabilize the land, and offers a form of natural protection that can soften the blow of a tsunami. Bangladesh experienced many fewer deaths in the disaster because of the conservation of its coastal mangroves than did Indonesia, where two-thirds of the forest has been destroyed.

In New Orleans, meanwhile, the dredging of channels to accommodate petrochemical companies has compromised huge amounts of marshland. Such changes, combined with the erosion of the area's barrier islands, and the Bush administration's policy of opening up more wetlands to development, weakened the natural frontline defense against a hurricane storm surge and left the city more vulnerable to death and destruction.

Both disasters also show the problems with neoliberal imperatives, based in a theory of political economy that idealizes the free market and chips away at the public sector at home, while worshiping at the altar of free trade and investment abroad. Foreign capital, whether in the form of tourism or the cash-cropping of fish, played a role in opening the coast around the Indian Ocean to the destructive force of the tsunami. In the aftermath of the disaster, the World Bank is leading the effort to expand the reach of those very same enterprises at the expense of the poor. The poor suffered the most in the calamity, and they are now experiencing the brutalizing effects of what the activist journalist Naomi Klein has rightly termed "disaster capitalism," as foreign corporations seek to profit from the reconstruction while the residents of the fishing villages that formerly occupied the area are being forced to relocate. In June 2005 Oxfam found that because the flow of aid has tended to go to business people and landowners, many of the poor have been made even poorer by the disaster.

What form the postdisaster rebuilding of the Gulf region will take remains to be seen. But this much is clear: Those poor people who had to suffer through the stench, the heat, and the overflowing toilets were victims of a way of thinking that goes back 25 years. Neoliberalism is a philosophy that has been shared by Republicans and Democrats alike (which is, by the way, why I'm not entirely convinced by those who argue that this kind of mistreatment would not have happened under a Kerry administration), and it was the root cause behind the failed evacuation. It is an ethos that deludes its adherents into thinking that "a thousand points of light" are better at solving America's problems than the federal government. It is a worldview that would rather put its faith in volunteer efforts than pony up the money and resources to safely evacuate the roughly 120,000 people in New Orleans who, we knew in advance, had no access to cars.

When it comes to hurricane evacuation, American officials ought to take a page out of Fidel Castro's handbook. The American news media never miss an opportunity to poke fun at the Communists. I would not want to defend all of Castro's policies, but whatever their faults, the Communists in Cuba have figured out how to use government resources to organize an efficient civil-defense system for protecting their people -- staging exercises to practice evacuation, providing shelters in advance with medical personnel, and even bringing in trucks before a storm so people can save their material possessions. It hardly needs mentioning that being alive is one of the prerequisites for enjoying the freedom that Americans value so much.

So there is a great deal that the tsunami and the present hurricane have in common. But a much better historical comparison exists closer to home, one that highlights the irresponsible decision making and denial on the part of government officials that, combined with profit-driven land development, largely explains why the poor pay with their lives in such disasters. I have in mind the 1928 hurricane that took the lives of at least 1,836 people in Florida, the vast majority of them poor migrant workers who drowned as the waters of Lake Okeechobee rose up over a dike and pounded them to death.

That disaster is comparable to what is happening in the wake of Hurricane Katrina not just because the victims in both cases are overwhelmingly poor and African-American. They compare because, in both cases, there were clear signs, in advance, that they were disasters waiting to happen -- literally unnatural disasters.

In the case of the 1928 Florida hurricane, the warning was telegraphed several years in advance. Earlier in the century state authorities had overseen a massive drainage project that reclaimed land around the shores of Lake Okeechobee and turned it into valuable agricultural enterprises. Yet living around the lake had its price. In 1922 heavy rains caused the water to rise more than four feet and flooded Clewiston and Moore Haven, towns along the lake's southern shore that housed the black laborers who worked the rich agricultural land nearby.

In 1924 storms again raised the lake level, causing more flooding. Then, in the summer of 1926, heavy rains raised the level of the lake yet again, leading a journalist named Howard Sharp to beg state officials to take steps to lower the water: "The lake is truly at a level so high as to make a perilous situation in the event of a storm," he wrote in the Tampa Tribune.

The Everglades Drainage District, headed by some of the highest officials in the state, including Gov. John W. Martin and Attorney General J.B. Johnson, took no action to lower the water. By September 1 the level of Lake Okeechobee exceeded 18 feet. The levees around the lake were built to only 21 feet, and anyone even remotely familiar with the area knew that a stiff wind could cause the lake to rise as much as three feet. The mathematics of fatality and destruction were painfully obvious. Yet the drainage commissioners, beholden to wealthy agricultural and commercial interests -- who wanted the lake water high to help with irrigating crops and navigation -- refused to act.

Nobody listened, and on September 18, 1926, a Category 4 storm ripped across Florida and caused the waters of Lake Okeechobee to wash over a dike and kill at least 150 people (though 300 seems more likely) in Moore Haven, which had an entire population of only 1,200 at the time.

After the disaster, the attorney general explained: "The storm caused the loss and damage. ... It is not humanly possible to guard against the unknown and against the forces of nature when loosed." Interpreting the event as a "natural" disaster masked the calamity's man-made causes and scarcely moved anyone to action to help ward off a future catastrophe, which, it turned out, was just around the corner.

On September 16, 1928, a powerful storm, with a barometric low of 27.43 inches -- even lower than that recorded in 1926 -- swept ashore near Palm Beach. After the notorious 1900 Galveston hurricane (which left at least 8,000 dead), it was the deadliest storm in 20th-century American history. Most of those who died were black migrant workers, virtually all of whom drowned in the towns along the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee, as the howling winds sent a wall of water crashing over the dikes in a grim repetition of what had happened two years before.

Sightseers, brimming with morbid curiosity, filed into the region to see the mounds of swollen, rotting corpses firsthand. According to one report, "the visitor would stare for moments entranced, then invariably turn aside to vomit." Bodies were still being found more than a month after the disaster, when searching ceased for lack of funds.

Again, Sharp seemed remarkably prescient, writing a week before the storm that those who advocated a high water level in Lake Okeechobee were taking "a terrible responsibility on themselves." And again, a member of the Everglades drainage commission -- this time Ernest Amos, the state comptroller -- called the disaster an "act of God," in what is surely one of history's more irresponsible outbursts of denial.

After Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, President Bush, sounding much like state officials in Florida in the 1920s, said: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Seeing the calamity as primarily the work of unforeseen and unpredictable forces, however, amounts to a form of moral hand-washing.

In fact, multiple warnings had gone out. FEMA has known about the potential for large loss of life in New Orleans, probably for a generation. Ten years ago Weatherwise magazine called New Orleans "the Death Valley of the Gulf Coast" because the city is surrounded by water and not particularly well served by major roadways. In 2000, in talking about the general decline in death rates from natural disasters in the 20th century, I called attention in my book Acts of God to New Orleans and wrote: "Think twice before assuming that high death tolls are a thing of the past." Mark Fischetti, a contributing editor to Scientific American, made the same prediction in an excellent report in the magazine in 2001. The journalists John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein reported extensively in 2002 on the potential for calamity in The Times-Picayune. And as recently as May 2005, Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, was quoted as saying, "I can't emphasize enough how concerned I am with southeast Louisiana because of its unique characteristics, its complex levee system."

Is the current disaster the American tsunami? No, it's the Hurricane Katrina calamity. But the same blind faith in the free market and private enterprise, coupled with the brutal downsizing of the public sector, and a very explicit pattern of denial in the face of impending natural calamity, help explain why America's most vulnerable saw their lives washed out to sea.

Ted Steinberg is a professor of history and law at Case Western Reserve University. Among his books are Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America (Oxford University Press, 2000), Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History (Oxford University Press, 2002)

The Broken Contract

September 25, 2005

A contract of citizenship defines the duties of care that public officials owe to the people of a democratic society. The Constitution defines some parts of this contract, and statutes define other parts, but much of it is a tacit understanding that citizens have about what to expect from their government. Its basic term is protection: helping citizens to protect their families and possessions from forces beyond their control. Let's not suppose this contract is uncontroversial. American politics is a furious argument about what should be in the contract and what shouldn't be. But there is enough agreement, most of the time, about what the contract contains for America to hold together as a political community. When disasters strike, they test whether the contract is respected in a citizen's hour of need. When the levees broke, the contract of American citizenship failed.

The most striking feature of the catastrophe is not that the contract didn't hold. That is now too obvious to argue about. Many municipal, state and federal officials, elected and appointed, forgot the duty of care they owed to their fellow citizens. Some fled when they should have stayed at their posts. Some promised help they could not deliver. Some failed to rise to the terrible occasion. All of this is now well documented. What has not been noticed is that the people with the most articulate understanding of what the contract of American citizenship entails were the poor, abandoned, hungry people huddled in the stinking darkness of the New Orleans convention center.

"We are American," a woman at the convention center proclaimed on television. She spoke with scathing anger, but also with astonishment that she should be required to remind Americans of such a simple fact. She - not the governor, not the mayor, not the president - understood that the catastrophe was a test of the bonds of citizenship and that the government had failed the test. This failure was perhaps most evident when, on Sept. 1, a full three days after the hurricane struck Louisiana, Washington's top officials were asserting that they had only just learned that in the convention center were thousands of exhausted fellow citizens in the dark, at the ends of their tethers, awaiting an evacuation that had not come.

"We are American": that single sentence was a lesson in political obligation. Black or white, rich or poor, Americans are not supposed to be strangers to one another. Having been abandoned, the people in the convention center were reduced to reminding their fellow citizens, through the medium of television, that they were not refugees in a foreign country. Citizenship ties are not humanitarian, abstract or discretionary. They are not ties of charity. In America, a citizen has a claim of right on the resources of her government when she cannot - simply cannot - help herself.

It may be astonishing that American citizens should have had to remind their fellow Americans of this, but let us not pretend we do not know the reason. They were black, and for all that poor blacks have experienced and endured in this country, they had good reason to be surprised that they were treated not as citizens but as garbage.

Let us not assume, either, that this moment of contempt is over. A week after the disaster, bodies were still floating in the fetid waters. I hope they will have been cleared by the time you read this. Duties of care, not to mention decency, cannot be less controversial than care of the dead. Yet often enough, the only people who took the care to cover corpses, to identify their names, to mark out a place of rest, were not law enforcement officials, who always seemed to have some pressing reason that it wasn't their job, but the storm victims themselves.

Let us not be sentimental. The poor and dispossessed of New Orleans cannot afford to be sentimental. They know they live in an unjust and unfair society. They know their schools aren't much good, that their police protection is radically deficient, that their economic opportunities are few and that their neighborhoods have been starved of hope and help.

Knowing all this, the people of New Orleans still believed that, as Americans, they were entitled to levees that would hold, an evacuation plan that would actually evacuate them and a resettlement plan that would get them back on their feet. They were entitled to this because they are Americans and because these simple things, while costly, are well within the means of the richest society on earth.

So it is not - as some commentators claimed - that the catastrophe laid bare the deep inequalities of American society. These inequalities may have been news to some, but they were not news to the displaced people in the convention center and elsewhere. What was bitter news to them was that their claims of citizenship mattered so little to the institutions charged with their protection.

There are inequalities that people endure, and there are inequalities that enrage. Neighborhoods in Los Angeles that kept quiet through poverty and discrimination erupted when Rodney King's attackers were acquitted. Why? Because police brutality on television, combined with the blatant lack of accountability exposed by the ensuing trial, betrayed the contract that binds all Americans to their allegiances: the promise of equal protection of the laws. When government failed so dismally in New Orleans, the betrayal was of the same order: it was no longer possible to believe in the contract that binds Americans together.

Let us grant that the contract is contested ground. Liberals since Franklin D. Roosevelt have believed that being a citizen should give protection against the dangers of unemployment, old age and ill health, while conservatives have sought to curtail the contract, arguing that government programs weaken personal responsibility and hobble economic progress. Still, the idea of a contract is very basic. President Bush's Social Security proposals got nowhere because they appeared to tamper with one of its key terms: the idea that the government will guarantee every American a secure retirement income.

What makes the failure over Katrina so unexpected is that while liberals and conservatives agreed about nothing else, they were supposed to have agreed that government should protect Americans from natural disaster. Since the Mississippi flood of 1927, and the efforts of Herbert Hoover and the Army Corps of Engineers, public authority has been charged with this duty. This was the key element of the contract that seemed to have been ripped up like a roof shingle and cast into the infernal waters of New Orleans.

This betrayal cannot be made better by charity and generosity. Americans have turned out to be - not surprisingly - very generous toward what has become the largest population of internally displaced people since the Civil War. But private benevolence cannot heal the wounds - of humiliation and abandonment - caused by government failure. Nor can exemplary performance by some agencies - the Coast Guard, for example - do that much to redeem the abject performance of others.

The failures were not just failures of performance or anticipation. They were failures of political imagination. Officials and engineers in charge of the levees reasoned like actuaries, building to a standard designed to protect only most of the people most of the time. Had they reasoned with any degree of political imagination, they might have started from the premise that there are some harms that a government must protect its people from, however unlikely they may turn out to be, whatever the cost. That is how the British reasoned when they built the hugely expensive Thames barrier, how the Dutch reasoned when they built their flood-control system. In America, a levee defends a foundational moral intuition: all lives are worth protecting and, since this is America, worth protecting at the highest standard. This principle was betrayed by the Army Corps of Engineers, by the state and local officials who knew the levees needed repair and did nothing and by Congress, which allowed the president to cut appropriations for levee renewal.

The same betrayal occurred in evacuation plans that assumed that citizens could evacuate by car. It turned out that 27 percent of city households did not own a car. Racial ignorance and contempt may explain some of this, but not all. A better explanation is that the people involved in municipal, state and federal government simply did not care enough about their own professional morality to find out the true facts. Public officials simply didn't bother to cross the social distances that divided them from the truth of the New Orleans population. These social distances between rich and poor, between black and white are stubborn and are likely to endure, but the most basic duty of public leadership is always to know how the other half lives - and dies.

A duty to truth was failed, but so was a duty to democracy. Why weren't ordinary New Orleans citizens consulted about the evacuation plan? The people in poor wards of the city would have picked its holes apart in a second. In the future, one simple test of an evacuation plan's adequacy should be: Have the people who are likely to be evacuated been fully consulted on its contents?

The most terrible price of Katrina - everyone can see this - was not the destruction of lives and property, terrible though this was. The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together. It is very much too late for senior federal officials, from the president on down, to reknit these ties. It is just too late for the public-relations exercises that pass for leadership these days, the fine speeches from the Oval Office or other stage-managed venues. The real work of healing will be done by citizens much lower down the chain of command: the schoolteachers and superintendents of public school systems around the country who are taking in children and putting them through the healing routines of the school day; the morticians who do what they can to respect the dead; the National Guardsmen who protect the vacant city; the officials and business people who plan its rebirth. To an important degree, the future of confidence in American government will depend not on the leaders who failed their trust but on the foot-soldiers who did not and whom Americans can only hope will do the right thing now. Millions of acts of common decency and bureaucratic courage will be necessary before all Americans, and not just the storm victims, feel that they live, once again, in a political community and not in a savage and lawless swamp.

As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income

September 25, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C. - Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.

The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.

Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent.

The effort is the most ambitious in the country to create economically diverse public schools, and it is the most successful, according to several independent experts. La Crosse, Wis.; St. Lucie County, Fla.; San Francisco; Cambridge, Mass.; and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., have adopted economic integration plans.

In Wake County, only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago. Last spring, 80 percent did. Hispanic students have made similar strides. Overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago.

School officials here have tried many tactics to improve student performance. Teachers get bonuses when their schools make significant progress in standardized tests, and the district uses sophisticated data gathering to identify, and respond to, students' weaknesses.

Some of the strategies used in Wake County could be replicated across the country, the experts said, but they also cautioned that unusual circumstances have helped make the politically delicate task of economic integration possible here.

The school district is countywide, which makes it far easier to combine students from the city and suburbs. The county has a 30-year history of busing students for racial integration, and many parents and students are accustomed to long bus rides to distant schools. The local economy is robust, and the district is growing rapidly. And corporate leaders and newspaper editorial pages here have firmly supported economic diversity in the schools.

Some experts said the academic results in Wake County were particularly significant because they bolstered research that showed low-income students did best when they attended middle-class schools.

"Low-income students who have an opportunity to go to middle-class schools are surrounded by peers who have bigger dreams and who are more academically engaged," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who has written about economic integration in schools. "They are surrounded by parents who are more likely to be active in the school. And they are taught by teachers who more likely are highly qualified than the teachers in low-income schools."

To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children in every school, the Wake County school district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are drawn to magnet schools in the city. Low-income children from the city are bused to middle-class schools in the suburbs.

Some parents chafe at the length of their children's bus rides or at what they see as social engineering. But the test results are hard to dispute, proponents of economic integration say, as is the broad appeal of the school district, which has been growing by 5,000 students a year.

"What I say to parents is, 'Here is what you should hold me accountable for: at the end of that bus ride, are we providing a quality education for your child?' " Bill McNeal, the school superintendent, said.

Asked how parents respond, Mr. McNeal said, "They are coming back, and they are bringing their friends."

Not everyone supports the strategy. Some parents deeply oppose mandatory assignments to schools. Every winter, the district, using a complicated formula, develops a list of students who will be reassigned to new schools for the following academic year, and nearly every year some parents object vehemently.

"Kids are bused all over creation, and they say it's for economic diversity, but really it's a proxy for race," said Cynthia Matson, who is white and middle class. She is the president and a founder of Assignment By Choice, an advocacy group promoting parental choice.

The organization wants parents to be responsible for selecting schools, and it objects to restrictions that, in certain circumstances, make it difficult for some middle-class children to get into magnet schools.

"If a parent wants their kid bused, then let them make the choice," Mrs. Matson said. "But don't force parents to have their kids bused across town to go to a school that they don't want to go to."

Supporters of economic integration contend that the county offers parents many choices but that the school district needs the discretion to assign some children to schools to avoid large concentrations of poor children. "I believe in choice as much as anyone," Mr. McNeal said. "However, I can't let choice erode our ability to provide quality programs and quality teaching."

The board of education had two motives when it decided to make economic integration a main element in the district's strategy: board members feared that the county's three-decade effort to integrate public schools racially would be found unconstitutional if challenged in the federal courts, and they took note of numerous studies that showed the academic benefits of economically diversifying schools.

"There is a lot of evidence that it's just sound educational policy, sound public policy, to try to avoid concentrations of low-achieving students," said John H. Gilbert, a professor emeritus at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who served for 16 years on the county school board and voted for the plan. "They do much better and advantaged students are not hurt by it if you follow policies that avoid concentrating low-achievement students."

One sign of the success of the Wake County plan, Mr. Gilbert said, is that residential property values in Raleigh have remained high, as have those in the suburbs. "The economy is really saying something about the effort in the city," he said.

About 27 percent of the county's students are low-income, a proportion that has increased slightly in recent years. While many are black and Hispanic, about 15 percent are white. Moreover, more than 40 percent of the district's black students are working- and middle-class, and not poor.

Wake County has used many strategies to limit the proportion of low-income students in schools to 40 percent. For example, magnet schools lure many suburban parents to the city.

Betty Trevino lives in Fuquay-Varina, a town in southern Wake County. Ms. Trevino drives her son, Eric, 5, to and from the Joyner Elementary School, where he goes to kindergarten. Students are taught in English and Spanish, and global themes are emphasized at the school, which is north of downtown Raleigh, more than 20 miles from the Trevinos' home. With traffic, the trip takes 45 minutes each way.

"I think it works," she said of her drive halfway across the county, "because it's such a good school."

Many low-income children are bused to suburban schools. While some of their parents are unhappy with the length of the rides, some also said they were happy with their child's school.

"I think it's ridiculous," LaToya Mangum said of the 55 minutes that her son Gabriel, 7, spends riding a bus to the northern reaches of Wake County, where he is in second grade. On the other hand, she said, "So far, I do like the school."

The neighborhood school has been redefined, with complex logistics and attendance maps that can resemble madly gerrymandered Congressional districts.

The Swift Creek Elementary School, in southwest Raleigh near the city line, draws most of its students from within two miles of the school, in both the city and suburbs. But students also come to Swift Creek from four widely scattered areas in low-income sections of south and southeastern Raleigh; some live 6 to 8 miles from the school, while others are as far as 12 miles away.

Ela Browder lives in Cary, an affluent, sprawling suburb, but each morning she puts her 6-year-old son, Michael, on a bus for a short ride across the city line to Swift Creek.

"We're very happy with the school," Ms. Browder said. "The children are very enriched by it. I think it's the best of both worlds."

Of the county's 139 elementary, middle and high schools, all but 22 are within the 40 percent guideline, according to the district's data. Some are only a few percentage points above the guideline, while others are significantly higher.

The overwhelming majority of the 120,000 children in the district go either to a local school or a school of their choice, officials said. Slightly more than 85 percent of students attend a school within five miles of home and another 12 percent or so voluntarily attend magnet or year-round schools.

Although the figures can be calculated many ways, Mr. McNeal says about 2.5 percent - or about 3,000 children - are assigned to schools for economic balance or to accommodate the district's growth by filling new schools or easing overcrowding in existing ones. Most of those bused for economic diversity tend to be low-income, he said.

A school board election will take place in October. While the board has continued to endorse economic integration, some supporters worry that that could change one day.

"It's not easy and it can be very contentious in the community," said Walter C. Sherlin, who retired two years ago as an associate superintendent. "Is it worth doing? Look at 91 percent at or above grade level. Look at 139 schools, all of them successful. I think the answer is obvious."

Friday, September 23

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Subject: EFFector 18.32: Don't Let Congress Ignore the Broadcast Treaty!
Date: September 23, 2005 3:22:42 PM EDT

EFFector Vol. 18, No. 32 September 23, 2005

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
ISSN 1062-9424

In the 348th Issue of EFFector:

* Action Alert: Don't Let Congress Ignore the Broadcast
* Google's Card Catalog Should Be Left Open
* EFF Hosts 15th Anniversary Party, October 2
* Election Reform Commission Urges Secure E-voting
* EFF, Florida Disability Rights Advocates Fight to Avert
E-voting Debacle
* EFF in Canada: Protect Your Northern Rights!
* CopyNight Reminder: Cocktails & Copyright, September 27
* miniLinks (10): Hollywood to Waste $30 Million Believing
It Can Build Better Copy Protection
* Staff Calendar: 09.24.05 - 09.25.05 - Annalee Newitz
emcees Webzine 2005, San Francisco, CA; 09.25.05 - Jason
Schultz speaks at ResFest, San Francisco, CA; 10.02.05 -
EFF hosts 15th Anniversary Party, San Francisco, CA

* Administrivia

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

Help EFF protect privacy, innovation, and free speech.
Make a donation and become a member today!

Tell a friend about EFF:

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* Action Alert: Don't Let Congress Ignore the Broadcast

Lobbyists at the World Intellectual Property Organization
(WIPO) want to give broadcasters a brace of undeserved
rights in the content that they transmit. That's right,
another group of companies is seeking to control what you
do with your television or computer. If they get their
way, these middlemen will seize 50 years of copyright-like
control over the material they merely broadcast, including
public domain and Creative Commons-licensed works. If that
wasn't bad enough, the US is pushing to extend this new
layer of rights to "webcasters."

EFF believes that there should be a demonstrated need for
such rights, and a clear understanding of how they
will impact the public, educators, existing copyright
holders, and new Internet technologies. Write to Congress
now and ask them to take a close look at this new WIPO

Join EFF as a member today:

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* Google's Card Catalog Should Be Left Open

San Francisco, CA - The Authors Guild filed a class-action
copyright infringement suit Tuesday against Google over
its Google Print library project. Working with major
university libraries, Google Print aims to make thousands
of books searchable via the Web, allowing people to search
for key words or phrases in books. The public may browse
the full text of public domain materials in the process
of such a search, but only a few sentences of text around
the search term in books still covered by copyright.

EFF applauds Google's effort to create the digital equivalent
of a library card catalog and believes the company has a
strong case.

"Just as libraries don't need to pay publishers when they
create a card catalog, neither should Google or other
search engines be required to when they create an
improved digital equivalent," said EFF Senior Staff
Attorney Fred von Lohmann.

In defending the lawsuit, Google is relying on the
copyright principle of fair use, which allows the
public to copy works without having to ask permission
or pay licensing fees to copyright holders. EFF
believes Google is likely to prevail on its defense.
One key point in Google's favor is that Google Print
is a transformative use of these books - the company is
creating a virtual card catalog to assist people in
finding relevant books, rather than creating
replacements for the books themselves.

In addition, it is almost certain that Google Print will
boost, rather than hurt, the market for the copyrighted
books. "It's easy to see how Google Print can stimulate
demand for books that otherwise would lay undiscovered
in library stacks," said von Lohmann. "It's hard to see
how it could hurt publishers or authors."

For additional legal analysis, EFF recommends "The Google
Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis," a recently
published white paper by noted Washington, DC, copyright
attorney Jonathan Band of Policy Bandwidth.

For this release:

"The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis"

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* EFF Hosts 15th Anniversary Party, October 2

When: Sunday, October 2nd, 2005, at 5 p.m.
Where: EFF Headquarters in San Francisco, 454 Shotwell

Mark your calendars! EFF is 15 years old this year, and
we're going to celebrate! We're having an anniversary
bash at our San Francisco headquarters on Shotwell Street
on Sunday, October 2nd, 2005. The party starts at 5 p.m.

Join us for delicious Mexican food and drinks from Pancho
Villa, hear a special address from our founders, John Perry
Barlow and John Gilmore, taste our special 3D cake, and
enjoy both the grooves of Gypsy Jazz from the Zegnotronic
Rocket Society and the hypnotic beats of DJ Ripley and
Kid Kameleon.

Our celebration is free of charge and open to anyone, so
bring your friends and family. We look forward to
celebrating with you.

Please let us know you're coming so we don't run out of
food and libations! Send an email to, or
call 415-436-9333 x129.

EFF's office is located at 454 Shotwell Street and is BART
accessible. Take BART to 16th and Mission, walk to 19th
Street and take a left, and take another left on Shotwell
Street, three blocks down. We are between 18th and
19th on Shotwell.

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* Election Reform Commission Urges Secure E-voting

EFF Applauds Commission Recommendations But Opposes
National ID Card Endorsement

Washington, DC - The Carter-Baker Commission, formally
known as the Commission on Federal Election Reform,
this week released an extensive report on the
country's electoral health, along with a wide range of
suggested reforms. Most of the Commission's
recommendations should cheer those concerned about the
security of electronic voting.

The report found that there is an urgent need for the
nation to increase transparency in voting processes and
to institute robust security measures, and that the
lack of transparency and robust security is undermining
public confidence that votes are being accurately

"The Commission joins a growing chorus of concerned
groups and citizens urging that electronic voting
technology and related procedures be overhauled," said
EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "This high-level,
bipartisan panel confirmed that e-voting has
introduced an unacceptable amount of uncertainty
into voting, which should be the most trusted task
performed by government. Congress and the states
need to move quickly to ensure that another election
doesn't go by with the same systemic flaws. Luckily,
on the federal level, HR 550 could help us reach
some of those goals by mandating a voter-verified
paper trail and mandatory audits." HR 550,
currently seeking support in the House, could
become the biggest beneficiary from the report's
strong pro-paper trail findings. [Follow this link
to tell your member of Congress to support HR 550:]

Zimmerman noted that while most of the Commission's
recommendations were on-the-mark, others - such as
permitting states to decide for themselves
whether paper or electronic ballots would rule in
the event of disparities - don't go far enough to
ensure accountable elections. In addition, EFF
strongly opposes the Commission's privacy-invasive
recommendations regarding voter identification. The
report suggests that voters should be required to
present the national ID card mandated by the recently
passed Real ID Act at the voting booth.

"Tying voter ID requirements to the REAL ID Act is bad
for voting and for privacy," said EFF Senior Staff
Attorney Lee Tien. "There's scant evidence that
inadequate voter ID is a factor in election fraud.
And the Commission admits to concerns that voter ID
requirements could disenfranchise eligible voters,
adversely affect minorities, or be used to monitor
whether voting behaviors are 'serious and legitimate'
- a vague and subjective standard."

"Moreover, the REAL ID Act turns drivers' licenses into
de facto national IDs by forcing states to link their
DMV databases so that drivers' personal data will
instantly be available to a wide range of state, local,
and federal officials," added Tien. "Once created,
history has shown that law enforcement, employers,
landlords, credit agencies, mortgage brokers, and
direct mailers will find a way to access and abuse those

For the full press release:

For the Carter-Baker Commission report:

EFF action alert to support HR 550:

More about e-voting:

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* EFF, Florida Disability Rights Advocates Fight to Avert
E-voting Debacle

Case Puts Security and Auditability at Risk in the Next

Volusia County, FL - EFF filed a friend-of-the-court
brief last week with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
supporting Volusia County, Florida, in an ongoing legal
battle to permit the county to consider voting systems
that are both accessible to the disabled and auditable
for everyone.

EFF's brief strongly urged the court to reject an argument
by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) that
Volusia County should be forced to purchase paperless
touchscreen voting machines for the upcoming October
11th election. This deadline would require the county to
rush to prepare for the election, possibly jeopardizing
its efforts to program the machines, train election and
pollworkers, and educate the public. Instead, argued
EFF, the county should be given the chance to acquire
voting technology that creates an auditable paper trail,
as well as provides accessibility features for a wider
range of disabled voters.

"As a blind voter, I'm strongly opposed to the paperless
e-voting machines that the NFB is trying to force onto
us," said David Dixon, president of Handicapped Adults of
Volusia County (HAVOC). "I want a voting system that is
accessible to as many voters as possible and that also
produces an audit trail. The paperless machines are
simply the wrong approach, and I support the county's
efforts to try to find a better way."

"We're disappointed that national disability rights groups
have taken such a counter-productive step despite
opposition from local disability rights leaders," said EFF
Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "At a time when people
devoted to meaningful election reform should be working
together, it's unfortunate that the NFB is making the
dangerous argument that election integrity should be
sacrificed for otherwise laudable accessibility goals."

For the full press release:

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* EFF in Canada: Protect Your Northern Rights!

EFF is pleased to announce that we are strengthening our
work in Canada. We'll be tracking issues like Bill C-60
(copyright reform), "lawful access" (privacy and surveillance),
and other digital rights issues that matter to Canadians.
Ren Bucholz, EFF's Policy Coordinator in the Americas, is
now based in Toronto, Ontario, where he'll be following
these developments full time. If you're interested in
staying up-to-date on EFF's work in Canada, sign up for
special bulletins here:

* miniLinks
miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the

~ Don't Blame the User for Security Screw-ups
Jakob Nielsen says stop shouting at poor consumers for
problems caused by badly designed security software.

~ Practical Guide to Political Blogging and Activism
Reporters Without Borders publishes an outstanding how-to
for bloggers seeking to make their voices heard in the
face of government monitoring, censorship, and worse:

EFF's own Legal Guide for Bloggers, which provides a
collection of FAQs on the wide range of legal issues
bloggers confront:

~ Levy Breaches in Sweden
A company that makes MP3 players refuses to pay the
copyright levy on players, arguing that it's

(The Local)

~ Family Values
A Christian band from San Diego is helping fans circumvent
industry-mandated DRM, explaining, "We refuse to allow
corporate policy to taint the family we've developed

~ Obscenity Regs to Hit the Net?
Susan Crawford looks at a draft telecom bill that could
put the FCC in charge of "national consumer protection
standards" aimed at stopping broadband, VoIP, and
broadband video services from being used for annoying or
"indecent" speech:

~ Piercing the Copyright Reality-Distortion Field
EFF pal Wendy Seltzer and friends annotate the USPTO's
one-sided copyright quiz for kids, highlighting its
unfortunate distortions:

~ Boucher Seeks to Cut Copyright's Red Tape
Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) says he's working on
new legislation to make it easier to license musical

~ Hollywood to Waste $30 Million Believing It Can Build
Better Copy Protection
That's the spot-on headline for a Techdirt piece
criticizing Hollywood's plans to create home-grown

Edward Felten's take:

~ Fair Use as...Illicit Housecleaning?
EFF's own Jason Schultz criticizes the strained analogies
being used to describe the Google Print furor:

~ Red Hat and Patents
The deputy general counsel for Red Hat discusses patent
reform and free software:

Artists in Hazmat Suits and Response by Jeffrey Skoller

Thursday, September 22

Faith Camp: Christian students gather and prepare to defend their beliefs

From the issue dated September 23, 2005


Manitou Springs, Colo.

Every year, several hundred thousand visitors pass through this small mountain town. The motels and restaurants that line the main drag depend on tourist dollars for their survival, as do the T-shirt and trinket shops. Most come to marvel at the view from atop Pikes Peak, the very panorama that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write "America the Beautiful" -- her paean to spacious skies, fruited plains, and the grace of God.

Christian teenagers flock here for a different reason. Each summer more than 1,200 of them come from around the country to attend a two-week workshop on how to defend their faith during college. They listen to lectures on creationism versus evolution, abortion, homosexuality, Christianity and the media, euthanasia, and postmodernism, among other topics. While the workshop is sometimes referred to as a camp, that moniker is misleading: On an average day, students sit through six hours of classes. This is not about horseback riding or leather tooling; this is serious business.

Spend a couple of days at the workshop and it becomes clear that, for many of these students, college is fraught with peril. There is the pressure to party, to drink, to have sex. There is also the subtle pressure to conform to a non-Christian worldview. There are biology courses that ask students to accept evolution, which workshop organizers and most of the students reject as untrue and ungodly. There are literature courses that see any text, including the Bible, as open to multiple interpretations. And there are philosophy classes that view absolute truth as nothing more than an illusion.

Professors are often portrayed not as keepers of knowledge, but as clever propagandists determined to undermine the beliefs of gullible Christians. "The dirty little secret of education is that our young people are being indoctrinated into another faith, but they're not told that," says the Rev. David Noebel, the president and founder of Summit Ministries, which runs the workshop. "They're being told that secular humanism is somehow agenda-free and value-neutral when it is not."

What this means for Christian students, he says, is simple: "Either they're going to get serious about their faith, or they're going to lose it."

'You Better Be Prepared'

When David Noebel started Summit Ministries in 1962, the group's focus was on communism. In the early days, only a dozen or so students would sign up; Mr. Noebel taught all the classes, and his wife, Alice, cooked all the meals. He also wrote books and pamphlets warning of the dual threats of communism and rock 'n' roll. One of those books, Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles, has become an underground classic among memorabilia collectors. Its cover features the disembodied heads of the Fab Four floating beneath an ominous-looking hammer and sickle.

Even after more than 40 years, the 69-year-old minister and author seems to revel in the company of his young students. He calls them "Tiger" and they call him "Doc." As it happens, Mr. Noebel did not finish his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, though his rapid-fire references to philosophers and theologians tend to impress listeners. "Did you know he used to read a book a day?" one teenager asks, her voice full of awe.

Summit's headquarters is a 61-room former hotel with a large cafeteria and an auditorium where classes are held. Mr. Noebel bought the well-worn building in the 1960s for a song. Since then Summit has acquired 10 houses and 24 cabins located nearby for staff and visiting speakers. Summit has 15 full-time, year-round employees; in the summer, the number grows to nearly 50. The facilities can accommodate a maximum of 180 students at a time. To meet demand, Summit offers seven separate two-week workshops each summer.

The days begin with an hour of Bible study led by Mr. Noebel, followed by a lecture from one of the visiting speakers. On a recent Thursday, the guest lecture was delivered by Dave and Mary Jo Nutting, a husband-and-wife team who founded the Alpha Omega Institute, which is devoted to "exposing the fallacies of evolutionary worldviews and defending the accuracy of the Bible," according to its Web site. They have put together an entertaining two-hour PowerPoint presentation to promote creationism. In one sequence, Mr. Nutting shows a cartoon of a man standing next to a pile of lumber covered with dynamite. The cartoon man lights the fuse and -- boom! -- suddenly the lumber is gone and in its place is a lovely house. "That, folks, is evolution," Mr. Nutting says.

Other regular guests include Mike Haley, whose bio says he was "involved in the homosexual community as a teen and young adult" and is now married (to a woman), and Kevin Bywater, a former Mormon, who is "dedicated to helping Christians understand and effectively reach members of pseudo-Christian religions." One of the most popular lectures is given by Eric and Leslie Ludy, the authors of When God Writes Your Love Story: The Ultimate Approach to Guy/Girl Relationships. The married couple speaks about the importance of maintaining both physical and spiritual purity.

About half of Summit's expenses are covered by student fees. The other half comes from the 6,000 or so donors who consistently support the program. It doesn't seem to hurt fund raising that the workshop has been endorsed by some of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country, including Tim LaHaye, co-author of the extraordinarily successful Left Behind book series, and James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, located in Colorado Springs, just a few minutes from Summit's headquarters. Mr. Dobson, who sent his son, Ryan, through the program, writes that Summit helps teenagers "suddenly understand the civil war we have described and what it means to them personally."

The "civil war" Mr. Dobson refers to is between those who share Christian values and those who do not. And nowhere is that battle being waged more vigorously, according to Mr. Noebel, than on college campuses: "We tell students, 'You're going off to college and here's what you're going to discover there, so you better be prepared.'"

Bibles and Battles

Craig Thomas wants to be prepared. Mr. Thomas begins his freshman year at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor this fall, where he plans to major in English. He is a big fan of the Christian writer C.S. Lewis and wants to be able to defend his faith with the same kind of rigor and intelligence. Mr. Thomas has an out-of-control mane of curly blond hair and a tendency to become overexcited. At one point, midconversation, he dashes off to look up a quote by the political philosopher Edmund Burke so he can recite it word for word.

Even though he is a devout Christian, Mr. Thomas chose to attend a secular college because it will "make me a more well-rounded person." Still, he is worried about what he will encounter in the classroom. "You always hear horror stories about professors treading on students' beliefs," he says. "I hope they won't ignore my point of view." When a professor or fellow student asserts something that runs contrary to Christianity, Mr. Thomas intends to speak up. And now, thanks to the workshop, he knows what to say. "Without Summit, I would have been very much unprepared," he says.

That's how Sarah Keyes feels, too. Ms. Keyes, a sophomore at Columbia University, came to Summit before her freshman year and decided to return this summer "just to reaffirm what I learned." As part of its well-known core curriculum, Columbia undergraduates study the Bible not as divinely inspired scripture, but as literature. For Ms. Keyes this was distressing. But, she says, Summit taught her that the Bible is "historically accurate," and this knowledge kept her from believing that it belonged on the same plane as Homer or Aeschylus. "It equipped me to think through things and not accept everything I was told," she says.

Still, she experienced plenty of challenges to her faith, and she felt like a second trip to Summit was necessary. "There were several times when I felt professors were trying to undermine my faith, though perhaps not intentionally," Ms. Keyes says.

Most of the students who come to Summit plan to attend non-Christian colleges. During a workshop this summer, Mr. Noebel asked students who were going to Christian colleges to raise their hands. Fewer than 20 went up.

One of those hands belonged to Kendra White. She begins her freshman year this fall at Asbury College, a small Christian college in Kentucky. Even so, Ms. White says she expects to meet students and professors who do not share her beliefs -- and she wants to be ready. She was home-schooled using a Christian curriculum and has participated in Bible memorization competitions around the country. She has committed nine books of the Bible to memory (although, she admits, she's a little rusty on Galatians). She begged her parents to pay the $700 fee and put her on a plane to Colorado.

What specifically does she think she will run into at a college like Asbury? Ms. White has heard rumors from her older brother, who also attends Asbury, of "homosexuality and other stuff that shouldn't be going on at a Christian college." She has already prayed over photographs of each of her fellow incoming freshmen. "I want to put on the full armor of God before I go into battle," she says.

The idea that a Christian student might lose his or her faith at a Christian college might strike some as strange, but not Mr. Noebel. "You don't just lose your faith at the University of Michigan," he says. "You can lose it at Calvin College, too."

Taking Sides

The workshop has only one session devoted to homosexuality, but the topic seems to come up frequently. Mr. Noebel contends that gay and lesbian organizations wield more power than any other group on college campuses. "Much of the faculty is scared to death of them," he says. "The homosexual agenda has been around for a long time, but it's now really at the top." In a book he co-wrote with Tim LaHaye, homosexuality is grouped with drug use, "kids killing kids," and abortion as "true signs of a decaying society."

The students are less harsh in their condemnations. "I don't agree at all with homosexuality," says Davy Desmond, who will begin her freshman year at George Fox University in the spring. "But it's not like I'm going to say, 'Hey, you're going to hell.'" Bri Johnson, a high-school junior who isn't sure yet where she will attend college, jumps in: "Yeah. I mean, you dislike the action, but you love the person, you know?"

Students here also seem to agree on abortion. On one day of the workshop, Lyndsay Bennett wore a black T-shirt with the words "Abortion is Homicide" printed in white letters across the front. Ms. Bennett, who is attending Carl Sandburg College, says students watched a video earlier in the week that showed graphic images of an abortion "with a baby's little arms and legs and how the face gets torn into pieces." The video was disturbing, she says, but "they gave us lots of good arguments to use" against abortion.

Students are encouraged not only to take sides on controversial issues like abortion, but also to evangelize whenever possible during college. Some of the more fearless ones even fan out into Manitou Springs to attempt to convert locals and tourists. This is not always appreciated. They are no longer welcome at a certain New Age gift store, and one local innkeeper says students "come up to you and say awful things about how you're going to hell." Other merchants say the students are polite and that they are happy to have the extra business.

Politics and theology mix in a none-too-subtle manner at Summit. In the lobby of the main building hangs a framed drawing of Ronald Reagan. Among some students the words "liberal" and "atheist" are used as synonyms. Mr. Noebel's views on a range of issues, including free-market capitalism (he's in favor of it) and environmentalism (he seems to be against it), slip out during lectures. "The best way to save the spotted owl is to eat them," he says. "Charge $25 a plate, and they'll be millions of them. Trust me. And they taste good -- they taste like bald eagle."

While Mr. Noebel may be kidding about the spotted owl, he does believe in blending politics and religion. In his book, The Battle for Truth, he argues that "the state was established to administer God's justice" and encourages Christians to run for political office. "If the people rejoice when the righteous rule (Proverbs 29:2), the righteous need to rule," he writes.

There are a few dissenters, and even a non-Christian or two, who end up at Summit. At 16 years old, Isaac McBride is one of the youngest attendees, albeit a somewhat unwilling one: His mom made him come. He calls himself "definitely one of the most liberal people here." He says he was concerned about the session on homosexuality but found it less objectionable than he had feared. Many of the students here seem overwhelmed with the workload -- "Our brains are packed, man!" one exclaims -- but Mr. McBride says he wishes there had been more substance. In particular, he thinks that some of the views of non-Christian philosophers should have been discussed more fully. "There's a lot of things Derrida and Foucault can teach us, and to just dismiss them -- it's kind of disappointing," says Mr. McBride, who plans to apply to Reed College.

Such criticism is rare among students, most of whom say they are glad they came. In recent years, Summit Ministries has grown considerably and now offers satellite workshops in Ohio, Tennessee, New Zealand, and Australia. While little known outside of evangelical circles, word-of-mouth advertising has made Summit a household name in many youth groups and Sunday school classes. When asked how they heard about Summit, several students can't remember. "Everyone knows about Summit," one of them says.

On the final night of the workshop, Mr. Noebel's usual after-dinner lecture is replaced with an extended worship service. Students and staff members give personal testimonies of sin and redemption. Then everyone sings. The overhead lights are switched off, and the lyrics are projected onto a large screen at the front of the room. As they're singing, some of the teenagers close their eyes and sway gently to the music, their arms outstretched, their palms turned toward heaven.

Wednesday, September 21

Challenged by Creationists, Museums Answer Back

September 20, 2005

ITHACA, N.Y. - Lenore Durkee, a retired biology professor, was volunteering as a docent at the Museum of the Earth here when she was confronted by a group of seven or eight people, creationists eager to challenge the museum exhibitions on evolution.

They peppered Dr. Durkee with questions about everything from techniques for dating fossils to the second law of thermodynamics, their queries coming so thick and fast that she found it hard to reply.

After about 45 minutes, "I told them I needed to take a break," she recalled. "My mouth was dry."

That encounter and others like it provided the impetus for a training session here in August. Dr. Durkee and scores of other volunteers and staff members from the museum and elsewhere crowded into a meeting room to hear advice from the museum director, Warren D. Allmon, on ways to deal with visitors who reject settled precepts of science on religious grounds.

Similar efforts are under way or planned around the country as science museums and other institutions struggle to contend with challenges to the theory of evolution that they say are growing common and sometimes aggressive.

One company, called B.C. Tours "because we are biblically correct," even offers escorted visits to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature. Participants hear creationists' explanations for the exhibitions.

So officials like Judy Diamond, curator of public programs at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, are trying to meet such challenges head-on.

Dr. Diamond is working on evolution exhibitions financed by the National Science Foundation that will go on long-term display at six museums of natural history from Minnesota to Texas. The program includes training for docents and staff members.

"The goal is to understand the controversies, so that people are better able to handle them as they come up," she said. "Museums, as a field, have recognized we need to take a more proactive role in evolution education."

Dr. Allmon, who directs the Paleontological Research Institution, an affiliate of Cornell University, began the training session here in September with statistics from Gallup Polls: 54 percent of Americans do not believe that human beings evolved from earlier species, and although almost half believe that Darwin has been proved right, slightly more disagree.

"Just telling them they are wrong is not going to be effective," he said.

Instead, he told the volunteers that when they encounter religious fundamentalists they should emphasize that science museums live by the rules of science. They seek answers in nature to questions about nature, they look for explanations that can be tested by experiment and observation in the material world, and they understand that all scientific knowledge is provisional - capable of being overturned when better answers are discovered.

"Is it against all religion?" he asked. "No. But it is against some religions."

There is more than one type of creationist, he said: "thinking creationists who want to know answers, and they are willing to listen, even if they go away unconvinced" and "people who for whatever reason are here to bother you, to trap you, to bludgeon you."

Those were the type of people who confronted Dr. Durkee, a former biology professor at Grinnell College in Iowa. The encounter left her discouraged.

"It is no wonder that many biologists will simply refuse to debate creationists or I.D.ers," she said, using the abbreviation for intelligent design, a cousin of creationism. "It is as if they aren't listening."

Dr. Allmon says even trained scientists like Dr. Durkee can benefit from explicit advice about dealing with religious challenges to science exhibitions.

"There is an art, a script that is very, very helpful," he said.

A pamphlet handed out at the training session provides information on the scientific method, the theory of evolution and other basic information. It offers suggestions on replying to frequently raised challenges like "Is there lots of evidence against evolution?" (The answer begins, simply, "No.")

When talking to visitors about evolution, the pamphlet advises, "don't avoid using the word." Rehearse answers to frequently asked questions, because "you'll be more comfortable when you sound like you know what you're talking about."

Dr. Allmon told his audience to "be firm and clear, not defensive." The pamphlet says that if all else fails, and docents find themselves in an unpleasant confrontation, they excuse themselves by saying, "I have to go to the restroom."

Eugenie C. Scott, who directs the National Center for Science Education and is conducting training sessions for Dr. Diamond's program, said that within the last year or so efforts to train museum personnel and volunteers on evolution and related topics had substantially increased. "This seems to be a cottage industry now," Dr. Scott said.

Robert M. West, a paleontologist and former science museum director who is now a consultant to museums, said several institutions were intensifying the docents' training "so they are comfortable with the concepts, not just the material but the intellectual, philosophical background - and they know their administrations are going to support them if someone criticizes them."

At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the staff and docents often encounter groups from B.C. Tours, which for 15 years has offered tours of the museum based on literal readings of the Bible. The group embraces young-earth creationism, the view that the earth and its plants, animals and people were created in a matter of days a few thousand years ago.

"We present both sides from an objective perspective and let the students decide for themselves," said Rusty Carter, an operator of the group.

Mr. Carter praised the museum, saying it had been "very professional and accommodating, even though they do not support us." A typical group might have 30 or 40 people, he added.

Kirk Johnson, a paleontologist who is the chief curator at the museum, was philosophical about the group. "It's interesting to walk along with them," he said.

Participants pay the admission fee and have as much right as anyone else to be in the museum, Dr. Johnson said, but sometimes "we have to restrain our docents from interacting with them."

John G. West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, whose researchers endorse intelligent design, said he was not aware of organized efforts to challenge museum exhibitions on evolution. He added, "It is not unheard of for museum exhibits to be wrong scientifically."

Dr. Scott, who trained as a physical anthropologist, said that in training docents she emphasized "how the public understands or misunderstands evolution and some of the misconceptions they come in with." She hopes to combat the idea that people must choose between science and faith - "that you are either a good Christian creationist or an evil atheist evolutionist."

"It's your job," she told docents, "not to slam the door in the face of a believer."

At the American Museum of Natural History, which is about to open what it describes as "the most in-depth exhibition ever" on Darwin and his work, curators and other staff members instruct volunteer "explainers" on the science behind its exhibitions, according to Stephen Reichl, a spokesman. If visitors challenge the presentations, the explainers are instructed to listen "and then explain the science and the evidence."

Sarah Fiorello, an environmental educator at the Finger Lakes State Parks Region who took part in the Ithaca training session in August, said she was now prepared to take the same approach. When she describes the region's geological history on tours of its gorges, visitors often object - as even a member of her family once did - that "it does not say that in the Bible."

Now, she said, she will tell them, "The landscape tells a story based on geological events, based on science."

Dr. Durkee also said she found the session helpful. "When you are in a museum, you can't antagonize people," she said. "Your job is to help them, to explain your point of view, but respect theirs.

"I like the idea of stressing that this is a science museum, and we deal with matters of science."

Leaving Campus by Car, and the College Even Helps

September 21, 2005

A full day of classes just wasn't appealing to David Goldstein, a student at George Washington University, so he invited a friend on a road trip to the Shenandoah Valley.

The fact that neither owned a car didn't matter - they simply booked one online and headed to campus, where the very school they were ditching provided them with a ride to the mountains.

When Mr. Goldstein needs a car, he reserves one through Zipcar, a five-year-old car-sharing agency that allows users to reserve cars by the hour or day and that has been courting students, faculty members and staff at colleges since 2003.

"Having a car changes your life completely. It's freedom," said Mr. Goldstein, 22, who relied on public transportation before Zipcar. "I can just get into the car and do whatever I want to do."

The company estimates that about 20 percent of its users come from its college program. Twenty East Coast schools, including Tufts, Howard, Rutgers and American University, have Zipcars on campus.

"Students, faculty and staff want to have access to transportation, and the schools have problems providing parking," said Scott Griffith, chief executive of Zipcar. "There's a tension between 'I want a car' and schools being unable to provide parking. We stepped in with a nice solution."

Schools sign up for the program free, but must provide parking spots, basic maintenance like oil changes, and cleaning. Zipcar provides the cars, basic insurance and marketing, Mr. Griffith said.

People affiliated with a university partner do not have to pay the standard $175 in fees, instead paying a $25 annual fee. Cars cost $8.50 an hour or $60 a day. People who joined through colleges will get the discount at all Zipcar locations.

Mark Horowitz, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he considered buying a used car when he arrived on campus last year, but realized that Zipcar would be cheaper and parking would be easier. He uses the car to drive to discount stores and supermarkets, which are cheaper than food shopping options near campus. He returns the car to its reserved Zipcar space.

"I'm living on a grad student stipend. I can barely afford to live as it is," Mr. Horowitz, 30, said of his decision to forgo a car. "Things are a bit more expensive here. And now I can go to Target and buy everything I need. I do save money that way. I don't know how much, but it must pay for the car."

Renters must be over 21, although schools can buy additional insurance through a third party to insure drivers ages 18 to 20. All renters must have a valid driver's license that is at least a year old and consent to a driving record check. If any egregious violations are found, the driver cannot rent.

But the best part lately, users said, is that Zipcar pays for gas. And the universities shovel out the cars during snowstorms, which increased rentals at Tufts University last winter.

Zipcar, whose headquarters are in Cambridge, Mass., said about 70 of its 700 cars are on the 20 campuses. The service mainly offers small cars including Honda Civics and Volkswagen Jettas, but for $1 more an hour users can rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle. About 15 percent of the fleet consists of hybrid or electric cars.

University officials said the program is a way to offer students alternative means of transportation at little charge to the school while conserving parking spots.

"As parking availability lessens here on campus, we have to make sure there are transportation options available, and this is one of the options," said Randy Young, a spokesman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is losing spots because of construction. "This is seen as an economical and ecologically sound alternative operation."

The program started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003, said Larry Bruti, the university's director of parking services. About 1,600 students and faculty and staff members are now registered users, he said. M.I.T. has seven cars, with hundreds available in the area.

The service makes sense, he said, as M.I.T. has 4,814 parking spots for students, faculty members and staff. They're not cheap, either - students pay $592 for a space, while employees pay $575.

Elizabeth Cooney, a graduate student at M.I.T., signed up for Zipcar last year. The service is invaluable to Ms. Cooney and her husband, who is also in graduate school, because it is inexpensive and convenient - there is a pickup and drop-off location next to their apartment building, where car owners have to pay $175 for a spot, she said.

"For us, it's the price factor," she said. "It's much cheaper and more convenient, and you don't have to worry about where it's parked all the time. If we didn't have Zipcar it would be impossible to go to Target, or the mall, or drop packages at UPS."

Use of the cars, however, is as varied as students.

Mr. Goldstein, a fifth-year student at George Washington University, first used a Zipcar last summer to drive to a diner in Arlington, Va., with some friends at 3 a.m., to eat a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with French fries. He often rented the cars in the middle of the night when he worked as a restaurant manger this summer, and once drove to Virginia to go grocery shopping.

"I have a weird schedule and I rented a Zipcar at 3:30 a.m.," Mr. Goldstein said. "I got my grocery shopping done. It was a nice trip. That way you're not fighting with some old lady in a muumuu over a cantaloupe."

Mr. Goldstein rented a car nearly every Sunday night to drive to the Cheesecake Factory, where he and his friends would buy cheesecake to eat while watching the HBO show "Entourage."

"I can't afford a car, but I can afford a Zipcar," Mr. Goldstein said.

Students and university officials say access is often the biggest problem, as not all the cars are always available. But officials at Zipcar said they had avoided what might seem to be the biggest concern with college students - drunken driving.

Mr. Griffith said there had been no reports of students' driving drunk in a Zipcar, and there have been no reported accidents thus far. Were there reports or, upon returning the car, evidence that something happened, the person's membership would be canceled, he said.

"This is sort of a self-policing system," Mr. Griffith said. "People rely on Zipcars and want to use them, and there's some natural forces at work that keeps people handling them appropriately. And we certainly monitor and watch the populations to make sure there's not anything inappropriate going on."

Students like the approach.

"I would never want to get a D.U.I. in a Zipcar," Mr. Goldstein said. "They'd revoke my membership. Never mind what happened to me."

A Fright Over Fries

September 21, 2005

Americans may have plenty of reasons to fear French fries. While they are one of the country's favorite foods, they are soaked with trans fats, loaded with sodium and full of simple carbs, the bad kind. And, it turns out, they are also full of a chemical called acrylamide, which is known to cause cancer in laboratory rats and mice.

That discovery a few years ago has raised questions about the safety of fries, as well as potato chips, which are also packed with acrylamide.

It ultimately led to a showdown this summer over whether such foods should bear health warning labels and whether companies should be required to reduce acrylamide levels in their food.

The battle pits the activist attorney general of California against the food industry and the Food and Drug Administration.

What happens over the next few months could have a huge bearing on the eating habits of Americans, and may make a dent in the bottom lines of restaurants and food companies. French fries are the No. 1 consumed food in restaurants, according to the NPD Group, a research firm.

California's attorney general, Bill Lockyer, filed suit in August against McDonald's; Burger King; Frito-Lay, owned by PepsiCo; and six other food companies, saying that they should be forced to put labels on all fries and potato chips sold in California. The proposed warning might say something to this effect: "This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer."

The food industry, which might prefer seeing every American become vegan to being forced to put the word "cancer" on its products, is worried. Food companies argue, accurately, that scientists do not know for certain that acrylamide is carcinogenic to humans at the levels present in food. Acrylamide is not put into food, but is formed when starchy food is heated at high temperatures.

The F.D.A. is also opposed to labeling, pending its own review of the matter, which began in 2002 when scientists first discovered that acrylamide could be formed in food.

While legal specialists say the attorney general's lawsuit is something of a long shot, it is likely to spur further action. The California Environmental Protection Agency, which has also been looking at acrylamide for several years, says it will issue regulations by the end of this year. Proposals include displays of warning labels and signs in supermarkets and restaurants, as well as a total exemption for acrylamide in food - an option the food industry has lobbied heavily for but which is considered unlikely to be adopted.

Under Proposition 65, which California voters approved in 1986, the state is required to regulate chemicals that are known to cause cancer or reproductive harm and to force manufacturers to label their products or otherwise warn consumers. Acrylamide, a chemical that has a variety of industrial uses, has been on the Proposition 65 list since 1990.

In California, warning labels are currently found on products like paint solvents and fertilizer. In response to another lawsuit by the attorney general's office, supermarkets in the state recently started posting signs warning about mercury in certain fish at their seafood counters.

Were they ever to materialize, French fry and potato chip warning labels or signs would be required only in California. But among states, California has the nation's biggest economy, representing 13.5 percent of the national gross domestic product, and is often a regulatory trendsetter.

And fried potatoes are a big business throughout the country. Americans spend an estimated $4 billion a year on fries and $3 billion a year on potato chips. In addition to McDonald's, Burger King and Frito-Lay, other companies named in the suit are KFC, a division of Yum Brands; Wendy's International; Lance, which makes Cape Cod potato chips; H. J. Heinz, which produces Ore-Ida frozen potato products; the potato chip company Kettle Foods; and Procter & Gamble, which sells Pringles.

The regulation of chemicals in food has, for the last four decades, relied upon animal study extrapolation to determine risks to humans. For obvious ethical reasons, the testing of potential carcinogens is not done directly on humans; animals, particularly mice and rats, have served as proxies.

The California attorney general and several activist groups say that consumers should be given information so they can make informed food choices.

"Proposition 65 requires companies to tell us when we're exposed to potentially dangerous toxins in our food; the law benefits us all," said Mr. Lockyer, in a statement.

Edward G. Weil, California's deputy attorney general, said he was "not trying to ban French fries," but that he needed to take action in the absence of regulatory decisions by either the F.D.A. or the California E.P.A.

The attorney general's office cites a dozen acrylamide animal studies showing both cancer and birth defects, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of the chemical as a carcinogen for 13 years.

The food industry and the F.D.A., meanwhile, are calling for more studies. The agency says that it has been "very active" in acrylamide research and will do a thorough risk assessment once a large-scale experiment is completed in 2007.

The controversy started when Swedish scientists accidentally discovered acrylamide in food in 2002. The chemical had long been used in the manufacture of things like grout and adhesives and to perform tasks like separating solid sewage from water.

Its discovery in food sent the international scientific community into a tailspin and ignited a debate over how chemicals in food should be regulated.

Under the Delaney Clause, which amended the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1958, no substance that causes cancer in either humans or animals can be added to food. But that law is normally applied to substances introduced to food, like dyes and preservatives, not those, like acrylamide, created by cooking. Frying and baking potatoes at home create acrylamide as well.

Thus, the food industry wants acrylamide treated differently from food chemicals. "Acrylamide has been present in the food supply and safely consumed since human beings discovered that cooked food tastes good," said Kristen Power, director of state affairs at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is leading the food industry's efforts on acrylamide. "It is in 40 percent of the calories consumed in the average American diet."

Acrylamide is also found in lesser amounts in breads, cereals, cookies and crackers, as well as roasted nuts and some vegetables that have been grilled or sautéed.

Elizabeth Whelan, executive director of the American Council on Science and Health, a group financed by the food industry, foundations and private individuals, said that in singling out potato chips and French fries, the California attorney general is applying a double standard.

Food like whole wheat toast and black olives, she notes, also have high acrylamide levels. (The chemical processing of black olives, which are not naturally black, forms acrylamide.) "This is really just another attack on what we call junk food," Ms. Whelan said.

Mr. Weil of the California attorney general's office said his office looked carefully at food consumption data before deciding which products to pursue. "If people ate as many olives as they do French fries, we'd have to be concerned about it," Mr. Weil said.

Other foods that test positive for acrylamide, like breads, cereals and peanut butter, contain the chemical at comparatively low levels, Mr. Weil said.

"When the food industry says 40 percent of the calories in the food supply have some acrylamide in it, that's true only if you count foods with even the tiniest bit," he said. "The potato chips and French fries really stand by themselves as having high levels."

Scientists say that is because acrylamide is created, generally speaking, when the naturally occurring amino acid asparagine is heated to temperatures above 250 degrees in the presence of sugars or starches. Potatoes have a lot of both asparagine and starch, and are often fried at temperatures of up to 400 degrees.

Alise Cappel, research director at the Environmental Law Foundation, a nonprofit group that recently sued four potato chip companies over acrylamide (the suit is expected to be joined with the attorney general's), says people are increasingly eating foods with acrylamide.

"It certainly has been in the food supply for centuries, but the frying of food is a relatively new cooking technique," Ms. Cappel said. "And we're eating more cookies, crackers and breads than we ever have before."

The F.D.A. is not convinced that such consumption is necessarily bad. The agency has said that warning labels on food could "confuse consumers" and create "unnecessary public alarm."

In a July 2003 letter, Lester M. Crawford, then a deputy commissioner and now commissioner of the agency, warned that any of California's attempts to regulate acrylamide could "directly conflict with federal law." The F.D.A. says it has broad authority to regulate the labels of food products.

Terry C. Troxell, director for the office of plant and dairy foods at the F.D.A., said that the agency had already spent millions financing acrylamide research. "This isn't a simple situation," Mr. Troxell said. "Acrylamide is interwoven with the way we prepare and cook our food."

Mr. Weil charges that the agency is dragging its feet. "More research is good, but we've been waiting around on our own state agency and the F.D.A., which has been studying this for three years and hasn't done anything," he said. "And they have no schedule for when they're going to do anything."

Most food companies say they will continue to follow the agency's lead. "If the F.D.A. or California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ever changes the regulations, we will modify our standards to be in full compliance," said Jonathan Blum, senior vice president of Yum Brands.

In the meantime, companies are taking some preliminary steps to find ways to reduce acrylamide levels. Frito-Lay says it has worked with Michael W. Pariza, a professor in the University of Wisconsin's food microbiology and toxicology department, on acrylamide-reduction research.

But Professor Pariza, who is working with a consortium of 12 companies, says no one has found any clear solutions. "Anybody who thinks that companies can turn on a dime and fix this is wrong," he said.

Scientists say that a simple and sure way to reduce acrylamide in food is to lower cooking temperatures. But this approach carries its own set of problems.

"You get French fries that are really just warm potatoes," said Ken Lee, chairman of Ohio State University's food science department and a member of the F.D.A.'s advisory committee on acrylamide.

Low cooking temperatures also produce cereal that is not crunchy and crackers that are less flavorful.

"This thing is a real scientific head-scratcher," Professor Lee said.

Tuesday, September 20

Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood - recycled agitprop?

The institutional memory of a newspaper gets swept into the trash at the end of every working day. Even the nation's best dailies publish stories without consulting their own archives to see if a new report contradicts a previous account, and therefore requires an explanation, or merely confirms earlier results—which calls into question why the new piece was commissioned in the first place.

Institutional memory is particularly short when newspapers commit themselves to publishing stories about "emerging trends." The New York Times exposed its memory loss earlier this week when it tapped into the collective anxiety about balancing kids and career with the Page One piece, "Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood" (Sept. 20).

The story doesn't directly assert that a new trend of elite college females eschewing work for family is afoot. It doesn't have to. As I noted in a "Press Box" column published the same day, the heavy use of the word "many" (it appears a dozen times, counting the headline) and a mountain of anecdotes about Yalies who say they anticipate devoting themselves to their children's playroom instead of the corporate boardroom leverages the article into a piece of trendology.

The lede of the article, written by Louise Story, reads:

Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: smart (1510 SAT), disciplined (4.0 grade point average), competitive (finalist in Texas oratory competition), musical (pianist), athletic (runner) and altruistic (hospital volunteer). And at the start of her sophomore year at Yale, Ms. Liu is full of ambition, planning to go to law school.

So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom.

Evidence of Times amnesia comes in the form of a very similar story published on its Page One 25 years ago. Titled "Many Young Women Now Say They'd Pick Family Over Career" (Dec. 28, 1980), the article begins:

She could be the symbol of everything the women's movement fought to win. A senior at Princeton, she has just won a Rotary fellowship to study in France. She expects to attend business school and work in international finance.

But when Mary Anne Citrino marries and has her children, she says, she plans to quit whatever job she has for eight years to become a full-time mother.

She is not alone. At a time when young women have more job opportunities and chances for advancement than ever, many of them now in college appear to be challenging the values of their predecessors. They are questioning whether a career is more important than having children and caring for them personally.

Very familiar material, eh? The 1980 Times story rings other bells rung by the 2005 version. It uses the qualifier "many" (11 times, including in the headline) with the same abandon. (Do trend writers buy the word in bulk at Costco?) It assembles and frames anecdotes about undergraduate females at a top university to suggest—without directly saying so—that women's values about career vs. motherhood are in flux. And it juxtaposes those two choices in the same rigid, unhelpful way. There wasn't an Internet back in 1980 where readers could salute or damn what they read in the Times, but I'll bet the article stirred a massive debate around water coolers, at kitchen tables, and inside universities. Its intensity probably matched that of the one going on today about the Story article. Her piece, which ran three days ago, is currently the second most e-mailed story from the Times. According to the blog search engine Feedster, 67 blogs or sites currently link to it.

Louise Story defends her article and its methodology from Connecticut,* where she's pursuing a master's degree at the Yale School of Management. She graduated from Yale in 2003, where she contributed to the Yale Daily News.c

In my first "Press Box" piece, I flippantly wrote that I suspected that the idea for the story came from cocktail chatter overhead by a Times editor. My suspicion was wrong. The idea came to Story in the summer of 2004 while attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.* Once there, she developed it into her master's project under adviser Sylvia Nasar. Story earned her master's in 2005. (It is not uncommon for Columbia J-school projects to find a publisher or broadcaster.)

I also criticized Story's story for citing the results from an e-mail survey of 138 Yale undergraduate females without crediting the survey to any author. For a story so dependent on the fuzzy quantifier "many," it's important for readers to know the provenance of Story's purported hunk of hard data, that "roughly 60 percent [of respondents] said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely."

Story says she conducted the survey from November 2004 to January 2005 while at Columbia. Earlier this week, the editors of Gelf Magazine posted a list of questions from the survey, and remarked how some of them were "loaded," that is, likely to produce a biased result. For instance, the first question—"When you have children, do you plan to stay at home with them or do you plan to continue working? Why?"—assumes that the respondents intend to have children.

Story says she revised the survey after its weaknesses were pointed out to her. But in her final tabulation, she retained the responses from about 30 women who answered the first survey because, she said, the responses didn't vary significantly from those given to the revised version. She concedes the survey wasn't conducted with social-science rigor but calls it "a very good journalistic questionnaire."

The problem with Story's e-mail survey is not that she asked a lot of students questions. Reporters are supposed to ask lots of people questions. But if a journalist wants readers to be impressed by numbers like "roughly 60 percent," they must 1) say who collected the numbers and 2) explain how the numbers were collected. The Times and Story failed the reader by not stating that these findings were about as anecdotal and impressionistic as, say, the findings of a columnist like David S. Broder based on 100 interviews he conducted in Iowa to take the state's political temperature. Broder would never write, "roughly 60 percent of 100 Iowans interviewed believe the president is doing a bad job," because a hard number indicates that such numerical findings have real significance (especially when their source is not divulged). Instead, Broder would typically place the results in their proper anecdotal context, by using a phrase like "most of the Iowans I met with. ..." That would dispel the misapprehension that he thought his interviews had the same footing as as a Gallup poll. Story, on the other hand, presented her results to sound like good sociology.

Story has strong and adamant defenders. Master's adviser Sylvia Nasar, a former Times reporter, accuses me of "shooting first and asking questions later" because I published my first critique without conducting any interviews with the principals, and only later talked to Story and others connected to the piece. While I sometimes do interviews for press critiques, I feel no more obliged to phone the author of a work of journalism to discuss it with him before writing a press column than a book critic feels that he should phone up the author of a book before reviewing it. The article or book is the thing. Unlike most book reviewers, though, if my piece is called into question I am willing to 1) correct it, and 2) do additional research and interviews for a follow-up, as I have here.

Story wrote for the Times business section over the summer. Her Times colleague, the much decorated David Cay Johnston, is a major fan of her work. "Among the young journalists I have mentored over the past three decades, Louise Story is in a league by herself," he writes in an e-mail. She quickly grasps "subtle issues at the level of theory and principle whose significance and context she writes about in plain English."

One criticism of Story's article is that college students are poor predictors of what sorts of adults become. To test this idea I conducted some purely anecdotal research of my own: I Googled the lead character of the 1980 New York Times story, Mary Anne Citrino. Within minutes, I reached her at her New York City office at the Blackstone Group, an investment and advisory group, where she is a senior managing director.

Citrino laughed at this week's Times story when she read it, recalling her role in the similarly squishy Times story from a generation ago. She says the Times reporter misrepresented what she said, attributing to her sentiments that were "the exact opposite of what I meant."

"I never wanted to be a full-time mother," says Citrino. She says she was considered the most gung-ho career woman among her classmates, never stopped working after finishing school, has three children, and put in 20 years at Morgan Stanley before joining Blackstone a year ago.

"I never even considered giving up my career," Citrino says.

But that's just one anecdote, mind you.

September 20, 2005

Cynthia Liu is precisely the kind of high achiever Yale wants: smart (1510 SAT), disciplined (4.0 grade point average), competitive (finalist in Texas oratory competition), musical (pianist), athletic (runner) and altruistic (hospital volunteer). And at the start of her sophomore year at Yale, Ms. Liu is full of ambition, planning to go to law school.

So will she join the long tradition of famous Ivy League graduates? Not likely. By the time she is 30, this accomplished 19-year-old expects to be a stay-at-home mom.

"My mother's always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," Ms. Liu said matter-of-factly. "You always have to choose one over the other."

At Yale and other top colleges, women are being groomed to take their place in an ever more diverse professional elite. It is almost taken for granted that, just as they make up half the students at these institutions, they will move into leadership roles on an equal basis with their male classmates.

There is just one problem with this scenario: many of these women say that is not what they want.

Many women at the nation's most elite colleges say they have already decided that they will put aside their careers in favor of raising children. Though some of these students are not planning to have children and some hope to have a family and work full time, many others, like Ms. Liu, say they will happily play a traditional female role, with motherhood their main commitment.

Much attention has been focused on career women who leave the work force to rear children. What seems to be changing is that while many women in college two or three decades ago expected to have full-time careers, their daughters, while still in college, say they have already decided to suspend or end their careers when they have children.

"At the height of the women's movement and shortly thereafter, women were much more firm in their expectation that they could somehow combine full-time work with child rearing," said Cynthia E. Russett, a professor of American history who has taught at Yale since 1967. "The women today are, in effect, turning realistic."

Dr. Russett is among more than a dozen faculty members and administrators at the most exclusive institutions who have been on campus for decades and who said in interviews that they had noticed the changing attitude.

Many students say staying home is not a shocking idea among their friends. Shannon Flynn, an 18-year-old from Guilford, Conn., who is a freshman at Harvard, says many of her girlfriends do not want to work full time.

"Most probably do feel like me, maybe even tending toward wanting to not work at all," said Ms. Flynn, who plans to work part time after having children, though she is torn because she has worked so hard in school.

"Men really aren't put in that position," she said.

Uzezi Abugo, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who hopes to become a lawyer, says she, too, wants to be home with her children at least until they are in school.

"I've seen the difference between kids who did have their mother stay at home and kids who didn't, and it's kind of like an obvious difference when you look at it," said Ms. Abugo, whose mother, a nurse, stayed home until Ms. Abugo was in first grade.

While the changing attitudes are difficult to quantify, the shift emerges repeatedly in interviews with Ivy League students, including 138 freshman and senior females at Yale who replied to e-mail questions sent to members of two residential colleges over the last school year.

The interviews found that 85 of the students, or roughly 60 percent, said that when they had children, they planned to cut back on work or stop working entirely. About half of those women said they planned to work part time, and about half wanted to stop work for at least a few years.

Two of the women interviewed said they expected their husbands to stay home with the children while they pursued their careers. Two others said either they or their husbands would stay home, depending on whose career was furthest along.

The women said that pursuing a rigorous college education was worth the time and money because it would help position them to work in meaningful part-time jobs when their children are young or to attain good jobs when their children leave home.

In recent years, elite colleges have emphasized the important roles they expect their alumni - both men and women - to play in society.

For example, earlier this month, Shirley M. Tilghman, the president of Princeton University, welcomed new freshmen, saying: "The goal of a Princeton education is to prepare young men and women to take up positions of leadership in the 21st century. Of course, the word 'leadership' conjures up images of presidents and C.E.O.'s, but I want to stress that my idea of a leader is much broader than that."

She listed education, medicine and engineering as other areas where students could become leaders.

In an e-mail response to a question, Dr. Tilghman added: "There is nothing inconsistent with being a leader and a stay-at-home parent. Some women (and a handful of men) whom I have known who have done this have had a powerful impact on their communities."

Yet the likelihood that so many young women plan to opt out of high-powered careers presents a conundrum.

"It really does raise this question for all of us and for the country: when we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?" said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of undergraduate admissions at Harvard, who served as dean for coeducation in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

It is a complicated issue and one that most schools have not addressed. The women they are counting on to lead society are likely to marry men who will make enough money to give them a real choice about whether to be full-time mothers, unlike those women who must work out of economic necessity.

It is less than clear what universities should, or could, do about it. For one, a person's expectations at age 18 are less than perfect predictors of their life choices 10 years later. And in any case, admissions officers are not likely to ask applicants whether they plan to become stay-at-home moms.

University officials said that success meant different things to different people and that universities were trying to broaden students' minds, not simply prepare them for jobs.

"What does concern me," said Peter Salovey, the dean of Yale College, "is that so few students seem to be able to think outside the box; so few students seem to be able to imagine a life for themselves that isn't constructed along traditional gender roles."

There is, of course, nothing new about women being more likely than men to stay home to rear children.

According to a 2000 survey of Yale alumni from the classes of 1979, 1984, 1989 and 1994, conducted by the Yale Office of Institutional Research, more men from each of those classes than women said that work was their primary activity - a gap that was small among alumni in their 20's but widened as women moved into their prime child-rearing years. Among the alumni surveyed who had reached their 40's, only 56 percent of the women still worked, compared with 90 percent of the men.

A 2005 study of comparable Yale alumni classes found that the pattern had not changed. Among the alumni who had reached their early 40's, just over half said work was their primary activity, compared with 90 percent of the men. Among the women who had reached their late 40's, some said they had returned to work, but the percentage of women working was still far behind the percentage of men.

A 2001 survey of Harvard Business School graduates found that 31 percent of the women from the classes of 1981, 1985 and 1991 who answered the survey worked only part time or on contract, and another 31 percent did not work at all, levels strikingly similar to the percentages of the Yale students interviewed who predicted they would stay at home or work part time in their 30's and 40's.

What seems new is that while many of their mothers expected to have hard-charging careers, then scaled back their professional plans only after having children, the women of this generation expect their careers to take second place to child rearing.

"It never occurred to me," Rebecca W. Bushnell, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, said about working versus raising children. "Thirty years ago when I was heading out, I guess I was just taking it one step at a time."

Dr. Bushnell said young women today, in contrast, are thinking and talking about part-time or flexible work options for when they have children. "People have a heightened awareness of trying to get the right balance between work and family."

Sarah Currie, a senior at Harvard, said many of the men in her American Family class last fall approved of women's plans to stay home with their children.

"A lot of the guys were like, 'I think that's really great,' " Ms. Currie said. "One of the guys was like, 'I think that's sexy.' Staying at home with your children isn't as polarizing of an issue as I envision it is for women who are in their 30's now."

For most of the young women who responded to e-mail questions, a major factor shaping their attitudes seemed to be their experience with their own mothers, about three out of five of whom did not work at all, took several years off or worked only part time.

"My stepmom's very proud of my choice because it makes her feel more valuable," said Kellie Zesch, a Texan who graduated from the University of North Carolina two years ago and who said that once she had children, she intended to stay home for at least five years and then consider working part time. "It justified it to her, that I don't look down on her for not having a career."

Similarly, students who are committed to full-time careers, without breaks, also cited their mothers as influences. Laura Sullivan, a sophomore at Yale who wants to be a lawyer, called her mother's choice to work full time the "greatest gift."

"She showed me what it meant to be an amazing mother and maintain a career," Ms. Sullivan said.

Some of these women's mothers, who said they did not think about these issues so early in their lives, said they were surprised to hear that their college-age daughters had already formed their plans.

Emily Lechner, one of Ms. Liu's roommates, hopes to stay home a few years, then work part time as a lawyer once her children are in school.

Her mother, Carol, who once thought she would have a full-time career but gave it up when her children were born, was pleasantly surprised to hear that. "I do have this bias that the parents can do it best," she said. "I see a lot of women in their 30's who have full-time nannies, and I just question if their kids are getting the best."

For many feminists, it may come as a shock to hear how unbothered many young women at the nation's top schools are by the strictures of traditional roles.

"They are still thinking of this as a private issue; they're accepting it," said Laura Wexler, a professor of American studies and women's and gender studies at Yale. "Women have been given full-time working career opportunities and encouragement with no social changes to support it.

"I really believed 25 years ago," Dr. Wexler added, "that this would be solved by now."

Angie Ku, another of Ms. Liu's roommates who had a stay-at-home mom, talks nonchalantly about attending law or business school, having perhaps a 10-year career and then staying home with her children.

"Parents have such an influence on their children," Ms. Ku said. "I want to have that influence. Me!"

She said she did not mind if that limited her career potential.

"I'll have a career until I have two kids," she said. "It doesn't necessarily matter how far you get. It's kind of like the experience: I have tried what I wanted to do."

Ms. Ku added that she did not think it was a problem that women usually do most of the work raising kids.

"I accept things how they are," she said. "I don't mind the status quo. I don't see why I have to go against it."

After all, she added, those roles got her where she is.

"It worked so well for me," she said, "and I don't see in my life why it wouldn't work."