Wandering Eye: State lawmakers take on police misconduct, Oliver Sacks stares down death, and more

Heightened public concern over misconduct by law enforcers has spawned two bills in the Maryland General Assembly proposed by Baltimore City Hall that would crack down on law-breaking cops. House Bill 363 would prohibit a “law enforcement officer, while acting in the course of the officer's official duties, from committing a misdemeanor or felony that carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment of more than 1 year,” and a violator would be guilty of felony misconduct in office, with a maximum 10-year sentence to run consecutive to whatever term of confinement is imposed in the originating crime. It is scheduled for a hearing on March 12 before the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 384 would strip law enforcers convicted of a felony or misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of more than a year, or had such a conviction set aside, from the right they currently have to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, a law designed to protect officers accused of misconduct from overzealous punishment. Its hearing before the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled for March 10. (Van Smith)


Politico took a hard look at Pearson Education, and the long story is worth your time. If the lack of accountability doesn’t surprise you, just check out the detail—starting with a nifty no-bid contract with the University of Florida worth $186 million. “Pearson has been the most creative and the most aggressive at [taking over] all those things we used to take as part of the public sector’s responsibility,” said Michael Apple, a professor of education policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to Politico. The story went on: “Pearson declined to answer specific questions about many of its contracts and business practices.” The whole money pile is based on the two uber-trends in education: never-ending tests and online courses. Both require legions of $1,000-a-day IT professionals to “build out” the “platforms” and both have proved—so far, anyway—less than efficacious in improving the learnedness of students. (Or, for that matter, the managers of our educational system, who never seem to tire of life on this empty treadmill.) What the system does create, at all levels, is mountains of minable data—and monopoly opportunities. Pearson even holds the monopoly on the GED exam, as we noticed last year. It raised the price of that from $45 to $120. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


One of the pleasures of being a reporter is getting the opportunity to talk with people you admire. Conversing with the great writer and clinical neurologist Oliver Sacks a couple of years ago, upon the release of his book "Hallucinations," was among the greatest of such pleasures for me. Sacks' books bring a deeply human concern to medical issues, so it was profoundly moving to find his tragic reflection on his own life now that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer in today's New York Times. Though the news is sad, Sacks brings his characteristic intellectual warmth to the subject of his own death. At 81, he has already seen the deaths of many of his contemporaries and he writes, "My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death." He ends the brief essay then with a line we could all hope to have written: "Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure." (Baynard Woods)

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