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Did Obama Just Become "The Black President"?

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Reaction to Plans for Young Men: "At Last," "Not So Fast"

Under Fire, FCC Drops Study on Barriers to Media Entry

Columnist Fired, Top Editor Reportedly Out at El Diario

Words From Black Mothers Who Lost Sons to Violence

. . . In U.K.: "Look Around, All the Camera People Are White"

Detroit Outlets Partner to Report From "Grass Roots" 

Worldwide Protest Urges Egypt to Free Journalists

Desperate African Migrants Feel Brunt of Police in Morocco

Learn How to Become an Opinion Writer

Short Takes

 

Reaction to Plans for Young Men: "At Last," "Not So Fast"

President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, unveiled Thursday as a heartfelt and personal effort to assist young men of color, was largely praised by African American commentators but criticized by some as elevating the importance of "personal responsibility" over the effects of structural racism.

"At the end of the day, the problems are more structural than cultural," Paul Butler, Georgetown law professor and a former federal prosecutor, said Friday on NPR's "Tell Me More."

"So we can pull up our pants and we can stop calling each other the N-word, but that's not going to change the fact that black unemployment is twice white unemployment or when little Liam acts out, he gets sent to the principal's office. And when little [Kwame] acts out, he gets the police called on him. So black boys need mentors, yes, but they also need law and policy changes."

In the Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie wrote, "Put simply, history matters. And the only way to truly change the odds for these kids is to take that into account. Indeed, that goes for young men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who had active fathers, who lived in decent neighborhoods, who had opportunities. They didn't die because their parents weren't involved enough; they died because they lived in a country where their lives were feared and devalued."

Still, Butler added, "This program has the potential to be a game changer. I'm inspired by it. And I'm glad that the president has finally come around to talking about race and doing something meaningful because it's so important. We just really have to work hard. And you're right, all of us have to work hard to make sure the program is successful."

As Jesse J. Holland reported for the Associated Press, "Obama spoke from the White House East Room flanked by teenagers involved in the Becoming a Man program to help at-risk boys in his hometown of Chicago. He said he sees himself in them.

" 'I made bad choices. I got high, not always thinking about the harm it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short,' Obama said.

"Under Obama’s initiative, businesses, foundations and community groups would coordinate their investments to come up with, or support, programs that keep youths in school and out of the criminal justice system, while improving their access to higher education. Several foundations pledged at least $200 million over five years to promote that goal.

"Meanwhile, Obama signed a presidential memorandum creating a government-wide task force to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches, so that federal and local governments, community groups and businesses will have best practices to follow in the future. An online 'What Works' portal will provide public access to data about programs that improve outcomes for young minority men.

"Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, said Thursday marks the start of an effort that the president and first lady Michelle Obama plan to undertake 'for the rest of their lives.' . . ."

The foundations that pledged participation include some with journalism connections. They are The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Kapor Center for Social Impact, Open Society Foundations, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

However, it did not appear that the journalism programs themselves would be involved. "We are not yet aware if it will be part of this foundation collective effort, it's likely too early to determine," Kathy Reincke, communications officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, told Journal-isms by email.

At the Ford Foundation, Joshua Cinelli, manager of strategic communications and media relations, said by email, "the programs at the Ford Foundation currently involved in this initiative are education unit (more and better learning time), higher education for social justice, programs focused on economic fairness, and reforming the civil and criminal justice system. There will be a 90-day assessment where all the programs will be examined to try and leverage the best ideas and achieve the largest impact. The outcome of that is yet to be determined.

"There is a separate program around strengthening journalism."

For some observers, the "My Brother's Keeper" Initiative was an answer to a longstanding hope that Obama would specifically address African American issues as president.

CNN anchor Don Lemon was visibly emotional after Obama's speech, Noah Rothman reported for Mediaite. On Friday, "Lemon expanded on his impressions, telling CNN anchor Carol Costello that Obama 'became the black president' in that moment," Rothman wrote.

"This, in my view, is perhaps the president's greatest legacy," Michael H. Cottman wrote for BlackAmericaWeb.com.

On "Tell Me More," however, Rick Najera, a Latino film writer, actor and producer, said that although the initiative was billed as targeting "minority men," Latinos seemed to be an afterthought.

"It doesn't sound like it's aimed that much toward Latino youth and that's my big fear because for Latinos, sometimes we look at him as the deporter-in-chief," Najera said. "He's deported more Latinos than Bush did. So for us, we're always going to be a little bit skeptical. And even to look at the young men behind him, most of them are black."

Host Michel Martin noted that the young men were part of a Chicago group of black youth the president had been working with, but Najera replied, "Yeah, I know, but Chicago has got more Mexicans than they have in Guadalajara, Mexico, so it's a huge Mexican population there. So my worry is, yes, the — it's a good program. I really like the heart in it and all that, but let's not forget the Latinos. That has to always be up first, 'cause when he talks about Martin Luther King 50 years ago, Dr. King, the America today is filled with a lot of Latino young men and that needs to be addressed."

Some in the majority community scoffed at the entire project. A message from the Twitter account of Matt Yglesias, who just left his job as economics writer for Slate, read, " 'My Brother’s Keeper' seems very much like the kind of initiative you launch when you've given up on getting real stuff done."

Yglesias is part of the new "Project X" founded by former Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, whose hires have so far evidenced little color.

Bouie wrote in the Daily Beast, "To some conservatives, this program isn't just misguided — it's equivalent to institutionalized discrimination. On Twitter, Fox News contributor Todd Starnes complained that 'Caucasian is not one of the colors getting helped' by Obama's new initiative, and that he 'dreams of a day when all men — and women — are treated equally.' Since, you know, Obama is the real racist.

"Likewise, at the National Review, Roger Clegg attacks 'My Brother’s Keeper' as just another form of 'profiling' . . . "

Under Fire, FCC Drops Study on Barriers to Media Entry

"Following a firestorm of media attention regarding the FCC's efforts to examine newsroom decision making as part of a Critical Information Needs (CIN) Study, the FCC had announced a week ago that it would modify the study to eliminate the questions directed at media entities regarding their newsroom decisions," Scott R. Flick wrote Friday for CommLawCenter.

"That announcement, however, did not calm the furor, with calls from Congress for hearings and legislation to prevent the FCC from proceeding with the study. Late today, the FCC sought to put an end to this certainly unwelcome attention. It released a terse statement, the entirety of which is: 'The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study. The Commission will reassess the best way to fulfil [sic] its obligation to Congress to identify barriers to entry into the communications marketplace faced by entrepreneurs and other small businesses.'

"Whatever else it may represent, this past week's activities demonstrate the challenges for a government agency forced to operate on 'Internet Time' and facing a continuous news cycle. In prior eras, FCC dramas like this would have played out over months or years. In this case, once it became clear that the study was turning into political fodder, the FCC moved with surprising speed to back away from it, and then abandon it entirely, rather than continue to be the subject of news reports and late night monologues. . . . "

Diversity was a factor in the original decision to proceed with the study, initiated last year when the FCC's only African American commissioner, Mignon L. Clyburn, was its acting chairman. However, groups devoted to media diversity, such as the journalism associations of color, were silent as the study quickly became fodder for conservative attacks.

As Corey Hutchins wrote Feb. 17 for Columbia Journalism Review, "The study aims to gauge news consumers' access to 'critical information' in six local markets, along with any negative impact from 'barriers to entry' news producers in those markets. The commission chose Columbia as the test market in November because of its medium size, racial and ethnic diversity, and the nearby journalism school at the University of South Carolina. . . ."

Hutchins added Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review, "Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a reform group that advocates for quality journalism and public media, sees the backlash as an intentional effort to distract from a larger upcoming debate. As Adweek reported February 25, the FCC could be looking at tightening media ownership rules under its new chairman Tom Wheeler.

" 'There is an ownership fight coming,' says Aaron, who expects the FCC under Wheeler will look at some of the structural agreements that have allowed consolidation over the years, and perhaps begin to tighten them. As that debate gears up, he paints the backlash to the CIN as a purposeful distraction.

" 'The idea that this study becomes this huge thing, I think, is really a political effort to undermine any effort to look at who owns what, and how much should they be allowed to own,' Aaron says. 'It's an effort for the opponents of media diversity…to try to throw a wrench into some very sensible policies and research that might actually shed some light on how we ended up in 2014 with no black-owned TV stations and very few stations owned by any other people of color.' "

Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the Institute's First Amendment Center, wrote in a First Amendment column this week, "Lest we forget, there's nothing in the First Amendment that protects the press from questions, criticism and review, by anybody. But when government does so, it merits extra caution and concern — if not claims that that 'media sky is falling.' The government's record on good intentions and the news media can provide enough cause to worry. . . .

But Policinski also said, "Yes, how well the news media are meeting their obligation to readers, viewers, listeners and users is a worthy subject of study — and is regularly, by non-profit organizations, private media monitoring groups and an ever-vocal host of individual critics.

"Regulators doing that very studying should raise caution, if not the panic voiced by some commentators. Might not a 'study of the studies' and reviews of oft-expressed criticism be more efficient and just as informative for that portion of the FCC’s examination of the news media today? . . ."

Columnist Fired, Top Editor Reportedly Out at El Diario 

A popular columnist for New York's El Diario-La Prensa who was once its editor-in-chief was fired this week, and the current top editor was reportedly forced out in an ongoing drama in which the newspaper and its parent company attempt to adjust to foreign ownership.

"A 20-year ride isn't bad," columnist Gerson Borrero told Journal-isms Friday by telephone. "I just don't like the disrespectful manner in which things are done."

El Diario "is not even a shell of what it used to be," Borrero continued. The new owners of El Diario and its parent company, impreMedia, have operated with disregard of New York's mix of Latino cultures, arriving with the "arrogant" perspective of people from Argentina and Spain, he said.

What happens in New York is important, Borrero said, because "New York City is an important fabric of what the future of this nation" is. "Simon Bolivar had a dream of uniting Latin America." Bolivar, the early 19th century Latin American leader of independence movements from Spain, didn't succeed, Borrero said. But with New York's range of Latinos, Bolivar's dream has been achieved in that city.

The New York-based National Institute for Latino Policy reported Friday that "Gerson Borrero as fired this week after being suspended without explanation by impreMedia's Vice President for Content, Juan Varela. Borrero's final reply to Varela. . . . was distributed to the entire newsroom . . .

"Although we can't confirm this at this time, we also have information that El Diario-La Prensa's Executive Editor, Erica Gonzalez was unceremoniously forced out of her position yesterday.

"Borrero, who is also a Political Commentator for NY1 News/Noticias, broke the story of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade scandal in the New York Post after El Diario refused to publish the story because of a deal it had struck with the NYS Attorney General to withhold the findings until they allowed them to be released.

"As best as we could reconstruct the circumstances, Borrero has had a longstanding freelance writer's agreement with the New York Post with El Diario's knowledge, but his column was nonetheless abruptly suspended and it was weeks afterwards that the paper's executive, Verela, took the time to talk to Borrero about it and agreed to get back to him to discuss the status of his column. But after doing so, he reportedly told everyone at a staff meeting at the newpaper that Borrero would return to El Diario 'over my dead body.' . . . "

Gonzalez, born in Brooklyn to Puerto Rican parents, did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment Friday.

Lizbeth Rodriguez, who became marketing director for impreMedia on Friday, said by telephone that she would refer questions to the paper's editorial managers, but no further response was forthcoming.

Words From Black Mothers Who Lost Sons to Violence

"Last Thursday, I took my son to meet Lucia McBath, because he is 13, about the age when a black boy begins to directly understand what his country thinks of him. His parents cannot save him. His parents cannot save both his person and his humanity," Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Tuesday for the Atlantic.

McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis, 17, who was killed after Michael Dunn, 47, shot into an SUV holding four black teenagers. Dun had argued with Davis about the volume of their music.

On Feb. 15, a Florida jury convicted Dunn, who is white, on three charges of attempted second-degree murder. The jury deadlocked on the charge of first-degree murder of Davis.

"I told her that I was stunned by her grace after the verdict," Coates wrote. "I told her the verdict greatly angered me. I told her that the idea that someone on that jury thought it plausible there was a gun in the car baffled me. I told her it was appalling to consider the upshot of the verdict — had Michael Dunn simply stopped shooting and only fired the shots that killed Jordan Davis, he might be free today.

"She said, 'It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren't angry. Don't think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn't negate what I'm feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He's laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out.'

"I asked if she'd considered that Dunn might never be convicted of Davis's murder. 'It's a strong possibility,' she said. 'The minute we looked at the jury instructions, we thought, "That right there is what will keep Jordan from getting a guilty verdict." I was crushed but not surprised.'

"A thought came to me that had been swirling for days: Dunn might win on appeal. I considered the possibility of him walking free. I considered the spectacle of George Zimmerman walking free. I considered the great mass of black youth that is regularly interrupted without any real reckoning, without any consideration of the machinery of black pariahdom. I asked McBath how she felt about her country.

"She paused, then gave an answer that perfectly summed up the spirit of African-American patriotism. 'I still love my country. It's the only country we have. This is the best that I've got,' she said. 'And I still believe that there are people here who believe in justness and fairness. And I still believe there are people here who don't make judgments about people based on the color of skin. I am a product of that.

"But I am disheartened that as far as we've come it doesn't matter that we have a black president. It doesn't matter how educated we've become. It doesn't matter because there still is an issue of race in this country. No, we have not really arrived. If something like this can happen, we have not arrived. And I ask myself, 'At what point are we going to get there?' And I have no answer. And I want to be able to answer.' . . . "

. . . In U.K.: "Look Around, All the Camera People Are White"

In England, "The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has called on the media industry to do more to reflect Britain's black and Asian population, saying change had to happen "at the top" ," John Plunkett wrote Friday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.

The case of Lawrence rocked Britain much as the Trayvon Martin killing affected the United States. Lawrence was an 18-year-old student who was stabbed to death in South London on the night of April 22, 1993, by a gang of white youths while waiting at a bus stop. "It soon became clear that the murder was motivated by racism," Patrick Barkham wrote in a 1999 summary of the case in the Guardian. Barkham also wrote then, "It has taken two police inquiries, a public inquiry, and now the Macpherson Report, to reveal the extent of the corruption and the conscious and unconscious racism that afflicted the police force investigating Stephen Lawrence's murder."

Doreen Lawrence was made a baroness last year.

"Lady Lawrence, who on Friday called for a public inquiry into the use of undercover police, welcomed a BBC initiative to increase the diversity of its workforce but said more needed to be done," Plunkett's story continued.

"She said a [BBC] corporation scheme, in association with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, to take on 20 people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to learn broadcasting and production skills, was a 'great idea' but added: 'I think it should have happened a long time ago.'

" 'If you truly want to reflect society you have to put things in place to make it happen,' Lawrence told an audience at a New Broadcasting House event organised by the BBC and the Royal Television Society on Friday.

" '[The] majority of people do have qualifications, they do have everything they need and yet there is still a barrier. If you look at the top level, who is at the top? That needs to change. Once you see all these changes, you will begin to see people want to come here.

" 'If you see nobody reflecting you, you feel there is no point in trying, they won't accept me.'

"Lawrence pointed out that all the camera operators at Friday's event in the BBC's Radio Theatre were white, which she said was reflected across UK TV. In the whole of the UK media industry, an estimated 5.4% of people are from BAME backgrounds.

" 'If you look around, all the camera people are white,' said Lawrence. . . ."

Detroit Outlets Partner to Report From "Grass Roots"

"A long worn-out joke about Detroit goes something like this: 'The last one out of the city, please turn off the lights,' " Madison Gray wrote Thursday for the Poynter Institute.

"It’s a tired jab at a city that has taken more than its share of punches for its seemingly intractable financial troubles — not least of all from the Detroit press. But now the local media has stopped to take a closer look at the damage and the recovery as the Motor City teaches itself to fight again.

"Several news organizations based in and around Detroit have formed the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, a project sponsored by the San Francisco-based Renaissance Journalism organization with $500,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation and Ford Foundation.

"The purpose of the year-long program is to report on the troubled city from a grass-roots perspective with the news organizations sharing their content, a collaboration that's rare in a news environment as competitive as Detroit’s.

"The nine partners in the cooperative include Bridge Magazine, an online publication of The Center for Michigan; Detroit Public Radio (WDET); Michigan Public Radio; Detroit Public Television; and New Michigan Media that combines five ethnic papers — Arab American News, The Jewish News, Latino Press, The Michigan Korean Weekly and The Michigan Citizen, which targets the African-American community.

"Jon Funabiki, founder of the Renaissance Journalism program based at San Francisco State University, said with Detroit experiencing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, it was the right time to delve into the issues. . . ."

Worldwide Protest Urges Egypt to Free Journalists

"Prominent journalists, politicians and free speech advocates around the world are appealing for the immediate release of three British Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt since December on terrorism charges," Max Strasser reported Thursday for Newsweek.

"Simultaneous protests were held from Beirut to Berlin in a global day of action called for by Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based news organization.

"Their Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, foreign correspondent Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed were arrested last December on terrorism charges. They joined Abdullah al-Shami, a correspondent for the network's Arabic channel, who has been imprisoned since August and has been on a hunger strike for over a month.

"Social media users united their online protest under the hashtag #FreeAJStaff and wrote messages of support. More than 3 million people worldwide read posts on the subject, according to Al Jazeera. . . ."

Desperate African Migrants Feel Brunt of Police in Morocco

Morocco has begun a public relations offensive aimed at African Americans, as evidenced by a January expenses-paid trip accepted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, partial sponsorship of a National Association of Black Journalists event and a meeting there by the National Bar Association. But a story by Suzanne Daley Thursday in the New York Times reports that relations between Morocco and other blacks — those arriving from elsewhere in Africa — are tense.

"It is easy to pick out the new arrivals at the shelter for immigrants here on this tiny patch of Spain in North Africa," Daley reported from Melilla, Spain. "One man limps by on crutches with a plaster cast on his ankle. Another has a bandaged arm in a sling. Abbdol Cisse, 19, had stitches on his face.

" 'The police in Morocco were throwing stones at us, at our heads,' Mr. Cisse said recently, explaining his injuries. 'They had metal bars, and they hit our legs while we were climbing.'

Daley also wrote, "For most of the men, the assaults on fences represent the final push to get to Europe after more than two years of traveling or living in the hills behind Melilla, on the outskirts of the Moroccan city of Nador, in desperate conditions.

"In the Moroccan woods, some of the men sleep in caves or under sheets of plastic, searching for food in the garbage cans of Nador. On a recent visit, five of the men appeared to have broken legs, and three had broken arms from encounters with the Moroccan police, they said. They asked for visits from the Red Cross.

"But few had any idea of going home. 'I have spent two years traveling by land from Cameroon to here, and almost two years more hiding here in the woods,' said Musa Bankura, 36. "My family has spent all their savings. I can’t go back home now with nothing.'  "

Learn How to Become an Opinion Writer

"Experienced minority journalists have until March 24 to apply for the intensive seminar on opinion writing May 1-4 at the [former] Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee," the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation announced.

"Participants explore the nuts-and-bolts of writing opinion in a 'boot camp' environment and hear presentations from nationally known speakers, said program director Tommy Denton, retired editorial page editor and past president of the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation," which has co-sponsored the highly successful seminar in partnership with the Diversity Institute.

"Veteran members of AOJ lead simulated editorial board meetings and oversee and critique the writing of two opinion pieces during the seminar.

"The seminar also features presentations by nationally known speakers including Val Hoeppner, a digital journalist who will discuss social media skills in today's communications world. . . ."

Short Takes

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Comments

Cross-Postings From The Root

GregAbdul

(trying not to sound like an angry black man)

Those who criticize this program from the left, who doubt the President's sincerity or say, "we'll have to see" are so full of it. First off, this President gains absolutely nothing politically and no advantage whatsoever in proposing this program. So the Tavis Smiley's and the Paul Butler's need to quit. This discussion of structural barriers versus personal responsibility is nonsense. We are talking about young black men who cannot get jobs. Is Obama, or anyone else for that matter, supposed to create some magical government jobs program where young men of color can come to work every day with their pants hanging off their butts as they curse and use the N-word in some negro utopian workplace? The workplaces of America are overwhelmingly run by older people who have no use for thug behavior in the workplace and I use thug in its pejorative sense of being code for the N-word. The other major thing is, any real jobs program has to get past the Republican controlled House, which we all know quite well simply ain't gonna happen. The President, in spite of Congress, is doing all he can in this case to reach out to an underprivileged class and some of us really don't care about black boys (caring means you tell your kids to pull up their pants and work hard in school). Instead you hear words used in totally wrong contexts, like "the new generation has appropriated the N-word and use it now without fear of its negative connotations." That's code for, "we old black people have no desire or energy to actually confront the behaviors that disadvantage our young men and we would rather patronize them and criticize the government for not patronizing them too." It's the Obama hater's cop out. The Obama coalition is a color blind coalition based on a morality that serves the greater good for the greatest amount of people and his "critics" need to get over themselves.

docbhub

@GregAbdul Greg I disagree. This is a private sector initiative and not much of a public policy decision. In this respect, "My Brother's Keeper" is no different from George W Bushes "faith-based initiative". Now we are to have faith that private companies will invest in urban black communities and hire black men over (the new preferred minority) hispanic men. Tavis Smiley is CORRECT to be critical of this president who does everything to satisfy his narcissistic tendencies to try to be all things to all people on the cheap.

1tinman1

@docbhub @GregAbdul

BS! GWB's faith-based idea was in part funded by taxpayers. It was anti-women' s rights, anti-abortion and rightwing conservative Republican/TeaBag biased.

GregAbdul

@docbhub Maybe I can't write...or think. I am pretty sure i said, you are NOT going to see a job's program out of this government, not because of Obama, but because of the conservatives. Those same conservatives look and see blacks who are never satisfied and who refuse to look inwards to any kind of self improvement. It's always the white man's fault. They see black people who totally refuse to have any real agency when it comes to their particular situations. Is the President's program a total cure? Of course not. But the question really is, how do you crack open to door for young men of color? The elders in the black community know when you see a poorly educated young man coming down the street with the dreads and his drawers out that you want NOTHING to do with that boy. But you then have the nerve to turn around and holler how white America is supposed to take them into their workplaces and give them money. The substance of your position makes for terrible politics. Where this President is reaching out and trying to help young men of color, many in the black community make it perfectly clear they are only looking for the next handout from the white man. Getting yourself an education and making yourself presentable come BEFORE any job opening decides where and if you work. If you don't know how to position yourself as an applicant before you walk out the door where you live with mom and dad the games already over way before you walk into that office where a stranger has to measure whether he or she want's to spend 40 hours a week with you and thousands of dollars on your upkeep. "The government's faith based initiative was a bad thing"(?) For some of us, encouraging faith is a good thing. Once again, this was something supported by all sides. Most of us are not atheists. There will be no upcoming government program that cranks money out to blacks only, so to complain that it's Obama's fault, I simply do not understand. The question is how do we move the ball? With blacks (I think mostly) complaining that we should not have to improve our parenting, we are refusing to budge, and at the same time demanding progress from up above. It must me be me that's confused, because I sure do not understand such thinking.

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