Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Spellings Report: Jordanian Press Conference

Earlier today, we reported on globe-trotting Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' junket conference with her counterparts from the G8 and the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), held at Dead Sea, Jordan from May 22 to 23. This conference was staged at an exclusive spa on the Jordanian-side of the Dead Sea.

On Monday, the Secretary met with members of the Jordanian Press and
answered a few questions. This was the most interesting exchange:
Al Rai:(Jordanian Press) How do you see, as the United States, the required reform in education in the area as you highlighted it in your speech in the morning, that there is a very necessary need to reform in the Middle East? What kind of reform are you asking for?

Secretary Spellings: Well, I think there needs to be more access for girls and women in particular. I think the region is widely variant with respect to who has to work on what. Some nations have made more progress with literacy and technology and infrastructure and the like than others. So, that is why it is so important that these initiatives are locally developed and address the needs of each individual nation, but as I said, the shared priority is around literacy. We all know we have great work to do in that arena. And that it has been in our international interest and in our national interest to have a highly skilled work force.

Spellings played safe and talked about making education more accessible for girls and women.

I don't know why Spellings chose not to address the fact that anti-American sentiment continues to be fanned in countless Madrassa schools that are to be found throughout the middle east. These schools of religious instruction often propound a militant form of Islam known as Wahhabism and have been frequently cited as fertile recruiting grounds for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Perhaps Spellings didn't want to offend the sensibilities of her hosts by reminding them of unpleasant facts.

On a more positive note, Spellings' remarks to the Jordanian press were much more "meaty" than when
we reported her last exchange with a member of the American press. Here is a sample of the tone of that interview which was "conducted" by reporter Deborah Solomon from the New York Times Magazine:

NYT: Time for a pop quiz. Can you tell us the capital of Illinois?

Spellings: Uh. Springfield?

NYT: Correct.

Spellings: Phew. That was a close one.

NYT: What's the capital of Wyoming?

Spellings: Cheyenne or Cody. (Long pause.) Cheyenne.

NYT: Yes, it's Cheyenne, which I know because I watch ''Jeopardy!''

Secretary Spellings must have been paying attention when she was taking "Media Management 101" back in her college days.

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