Mine these two web resources for a wealth of grant-seeking guidance

There is a treasure trove of information available for grant seekers online–the only problem is finding the time to seek it out and put it to good use. Here are two useful resources that I discovered recently. If you know of any other sites or tools available on the internet that have helped streamline your own grants process, please send them to me via eMail and I’ll include them in a future article.

1. Grantmaker Deadlines Calendar

If you are a grant seeker in Minnesota–or if you’re planning to apply to foundations that are located in Minnesota–you must check out this resource on the Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) web site. This calendar lists all of the funders with upcoming deadlines in the next three months, as well as an alphabetical listing of private funders who accept proposals all year long. Links to each of these foundations’ web sites also are included.

I have mentioned the necessity of having a grants calendar in past articles, and this site will make the task an easy one. For those of you in the rest of the country, check your own state-level foundations organization and see if such a calendar is available. If it isn’t, send a copy of the Minnesota calendar and suggest that it be duplicated for your state’s private funders.

By the way, the MCF web site also contains additional information that might be of use, including information about grant-seeking basics, how to write a proposal, a common grant application form, and a common report form. If you want to learn more about foundation funders (their philosophy, future trends, relationship with grant seekers and grantees, etc.), subscribe to the MCF newsletter.

2. Prospect Worksheets for Individual Donors and Institutional Funders

To organize your information about funders, go to the Foundation Center’s web site, click on “Finding Funders,” and look at these two worksheets. The one for institutional funders (private funders) includes spaces for basic information such as contact name, address, and telephone number, as well as financial data, areas of interest, application information, and the sources of information about the funder (for example, 990-PF report, annual reports, directories, or the grantmaker’s web site).

If, in addition to grants, you are compiling information about individual donors who might be interested in giving money to your district, check out the individual donor worksheet. This quick-and-easy form includes spaces for pertinent information about individual donors, such as name, address, telephone number, employment information, personal information, family information, connection to your organization, areas of commonality with the prospect, sources used to collect the data, and a history of how the donor has been cultivated in the past (i.e. meetings, phone calls, letters, etc.).

See these related links:

Minnesota Council on Foundations
http://www.mcf.org

Foundation Center
http://www.fdncenter.org

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or Debor21727@aol.com.

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“Smithsonian Education” crafts lessons from the nation’s rich stores of cultural treasures

The Smithsonian Institution has launched a new educational web site where students and teachers can go to explore the findings and artifacts of all 16 Smithsonian museums, as well as the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s many world-class research centers. The site contains nearly 1,000 educational resources searchable by both grade level and subject area. For educators, SmithsonianEducation.org provides resources to plan, prepare, and teach hundreds of lessons focused on a wide variety of subjects–from history and culture to science and technology. All lessons are correlated with national education standards. “Explore, Discover, and Learn,” the web site’s highly interactive student section, includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum complex, as well as historical information about its collections and book lists intended to help students continue their research after school hours. Thinking of taking a field trip to the nation’s capital? The site’s family section offers all sorts of ideas for fun and educational things to do while in town.

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Chart the past–and present–of geographic exploration with this site commemorating Lewis and Clark

Commemorating 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their pioneering expedition throughout North America, ESRI, a maker of geographic information systems (GIS) software, has developed a new web site called “Lewis and Clark 200.” The site provides an introduction to modern techniques of exploration, as well as a detailed history of mapmaking–from the tools first used by the famous pair’s Corps of Discovery to more recent cartographic methods such as GIS, a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing places and events. What’s more, the web site offers many resources for geographic study, including classroom learning guides and links to Lewis and Clark maps and journals. The expedition and its bicentennial commemoration provide an evocative starting-off point for students interested in the study of geography, as well as an opportunity to use technology to understand changing environments. Today, geographic technologies are used to pinpoint the location of people, define landscape features, carefully manage the use of resources, and plan for sustainable development, according to the site.

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“BritainUSA 4 Kids” captures what life is like for students across the pond

American students can experience what it’s like to live in the United Kingdom using this new web site from the British government. “BritainUSA 4 Kids” is loaded with historical and cultural resources designed to teach young learners about British life. This interactive web site includes a picture gallery where students can explore medieval castles and famous British landmarks, a timeline dedicated to the rich history of the U.K., and information on sports and fashion, as well as useful resources for both students and teachers. Teaching a lesson on World War II? The site’s History pages offer a British perspective on what life was like for children during the war. For multimedia classroom projects, try downloading images from the Picture Gallery. This extensive archive contains the latest photos of historical buildings and popular places in Britain, as well as images of the Royal Family.

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ED’s revamped web site aims to be more user-friendly

The U.S. Department of Education is revamping how it delivers tools and resources to stakeholders. The agency’s newly redesigned web site is one of the steps ED said it’s taking to make information and resources more readily available to educators, parents, and students alike. “This redesigned site can help reduce the time teachers, parents, and others spend looking for information, so they can spend more time using it to help children learn,” said Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Among the latest improvements is the reorganization of data into five major categories: grants and contracts, financial aide for students, education resources, research and statistics, and policy. Officials also have added customized pages for teachers, principals, parents, students, institutions of higher education, grantees, and technical assistance providers. Each visitor now has the option to personalize his or her own version of the site, so users automatically see information about the topics that interest them specifically. Developers also have been working to improve the site’s search engine so that queries can be answered with greater speed, accuracy, and reliability, ED officials say.

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Learn how to instill good habits with this computer recycling web site

From Dell Inc. and the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) comes a new program designed to raise awareness of computer disposal issues and help consumers rid themselves of unwanted equipment. The initiative, which began Oct. 10, is a follow-up to the company’s recent 15-city National Dell Recycling Tour, which collected nearly 2 million pounds of used computer equipment this past spring and summer. Through this latest endeavor, Dell hopes to share what it learned during the tour with university and community recycling coordinators, empowering them to conduct future collection events in their own communities as a means of environmentally responsible recycling. The NRC web site provides all sorts of resources to promote more responsible computer recycling. As part of the partnership, Dell and NRC also have developed a best-practices guide, part of an outreach toolkit they plan to release soon on a national scale.

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Track and compare each state’s progress toward NCLB compliance with this online database

This site, courtesy of the Education Commission of the States, is billed as a “one-stop shop” for determining just how close schools nationwide are to meeting the demands of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The NCLB Database offers access to a range of information regarding the progress of all 50 states toward satisfactory federal compliance. Information in the database reflects state laws, departmental regulations, board rules, directives, and practices related to 40 requirements across seven major sections of the legislation–and it’s all up to date. The data, compiled by ECS researchers in conjunction with state policy makers and their staff members, will be updated frequently as policies change, the site’s creators say. The database allows administrators and other education stakeholders to access comparative data, allowing them to gauge the progress of their own states compared with others around the nation. The site also contains important advocacy information ranging from election issues to political data.

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partners index

AAL Solutions Inc., of Ontario, offers a district-wide student information web solution called eSIS for real-time information access from a centralized location. Visit AAL’s web site: http://www.aalsolutions.com (800) 668-8486 See the ad for AAL Solutions on page 18

AlphaSmart Inc., of Los Gatos, Calif., develops and markets affordable and effective technology solutions for the education market. Visit AlphaSmart’s web site: http://www.alphasmart.com (888) 274-0680 See AlphaSmart’s ad on page 9

America Online, based in Dulles, Va., offers schools a safe and easy internet content program at no cost. Visit the AOL@School web site: http://www.aolschool.com (888) 648-4023 See the ad for AOL@School on page 13

Axonix Corp., of Salt Lake City, provides network storage and video sharing appliances. Visit Axonix’s web site: http://www.axonix.com (800) 866-9797 See the ad for Axonix on page 40

Century Consultants Ltd., of Lakewood, N.J., has been helping school districts manage information in innovative ways since 1977. Visit the Century Consultants web site: http://www.centuryltd.com (800) 852-2566 See the ad for Century Consultants on page 33

The Consortium for School Networking, of Washington, D.C., is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the use of information technologies and the internet in K-12 education to improve teaching and learning. Visit CoSN’s web site: http://www.cosn.org (888) 604-5209 See CoSN’s ad on page 36

CrossTec Corp., of Boca Raton, Fla., is the maker of the award-winning NetOp family of remote management and training software products. Visit the CrossTec web site: http://www.crossteccorp.com (800) 675-0729 See CrossTec’s ad on page 47

EDmin.com, of San Diego, provides a solution for assessment, technology planning, and implementation for schools, districts, and related agencies. Visit EDmin.com’s web site: http://www.edmin.com (800) 748-6696 See EDmin.com’s ad on page 38

Eduventures Inc., of Boston, provides organizations in the corporate, postsecondary, and preK-12 learning markets with analysis and insight necessary to make strategic decisions. Visit the Eduventures web site: http://www.eduventures.org (617) 426-5622 See Eduventures’ ad on page 34

EnGenius Technologies, of Costa Mesa, Calif., provides long-range voice and data technologies for homes, schools, and businesses. Visit the EnGenius Technologies web site: http://www.engeniustech.com (888) 735-7888 See the ad for EnGenius Technologies on page 17

eRate Consulting Services LLC, of Woodstock, Ga., provides up-to-date information and services to help applicants and service providers with the eRate process. Visit the eRate Consulting Services web site: http://www.erateconsulting.com (888) 249-1661 See the ad for e-Rate Consulting Services on page 21

eRate Elite Services Inc., of Owings Mills, Md., is a management firm that specializes in meeting the needs of applicants seeking eRate funding. Visit the eRate Elite Services web site: http://www.erateelite.com (866) ERATE-ES See the ad for eRate Elite Services on page 24

Everyday Wireless LLC, of West Lawn, Pa., researches, develops, and markets wireless technologies that make people’s everyday lives safer and easier. The company’s primary focus is on pupil transportation. Visit the Everyday Wireless web site: http://www.everydaywireless.com (866) 896-1721 See the ad for Everyday Wireless on page 10

eZedia Inc., of Winnipeg, is a leader in digital media software technology, with a product line that includes multimedia authoring tools and other professional enhancement applications. Visit eZedia’s web site: http://www.ezedia.com (877) 408-0195 See the eZedia ad on page 35

Funds for Learning LLC, of Arlington, Va., and Edmond, Okla., is an educational technology consulting firm specializing in the federal eRate program. Visit the Funds for Learning web site: http://www.fundsforlearning.com (877) 752-5222 See the Funds for Learning ad on page 37

Gateway Inc., of San Diego, is a Fortune 250 company focusing on building lifelong relationships with businesses, schools, and consumers through complete technology personalization. Visit the Gateway web site: http://www.gateway.com (888) 888-0294 or (888) 888-0438 See the Gateway ad on pages 2 and 3

Grolier Online, headquartered in Danbury, Conn., and now part of Scholastic Library Publishing, provides schools with a wide array of online reference and research materials, from Encyclopedia Americana to the New Book of Popular Science. Visit the Grolier Online web site: http://go.grolier.com (888) 326-6546 See Grolier’s ad on page 20

Hewlett-Packard Co. North America includes the company’s K-12 education division (part of the Enterprise Systems Group), which offers a host of technology products, services, and solutions to help transform schools into 21st-century learning environments. Visit HP’s K-12 Solutions web site: http://www.hp.com/go/k12solutions (800) 88-TEACH See HP North America’s ad on page 55

IBM Corp., headquartered in Armonk, N.Y, provides powerful tools that help enrich educational programs. Visit the IBM web site: http://www.ibm.com (866) 426-1740 See IBM’s ad on page 15

Macromedia Inc., of San Francisco, provides industry-leading software that empowers internet developers and designers. Visit the Macromedia web site: http://www.macromedia.com (800) 470-7211 See Macromedia’s ad on page 14

Maryland Public Television, of Owings Mills, Md., provides a free financial literacy web site, called Sense and Dollars, as part of Thinkport, a comprehensive online resource for educators and families. Visit the Maryland Public Television web site: http://www.mpt.org (410) 356-5600 See the Maryland Public Television ad on page 39

Microsoft Corp., of Redmond, Wash., is a world leader in software for personal, business, and education use. Visit Microsoft’s web site: http://www.microsoft.com (425) 882-8080 See the Microsoft ads on pages 5, 27, 28, 32, and 48

MiLAN Technology, of Sunnyvale, Calif., is a leading provider of physical-layer networking products and a pioneer in the field of media conversion. Visit MiLAN’s web site: http://www.milan.com (800) 466-4526 See the ad for MiLAN Technology on page 11

Nextel Communications Inc., of Reston, Va., is a leading provider of fully integrated, all-digital wireless service. Visit the Nextel web site: http://www.nextel.com (888) 639-8354 See the Nextel ad on page 19

Pearson Education Technologies, of Mesa, Ariz., is a leading provider of educational software and learning solutions to K-12 schools and adult learners. Visit the Pearson Education Technologies web site: http://www.pearsonedtech.com (888) 627-LEARN See the ad for Pearson Education Technologies on the back cover

ProQuest Information and Learning Co., of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a division of Proquest Co. and the producer of eLibrary, an affordable and user-friendly general reference tool. Visit ProQuest’s web site: http://www.il.proquest.com (800) 521-0600 See the ProQuest ad on page 7

Sagebrush Corp., of Minneapolis, is a fast-growing leader in serving K-12 library media specialists in their efforts to provide access to information, stimulate interest in reading, and improve student performance. Visit the Sagebrush web site: http://www.sagebrushcorp.com (800) 533-5430 See the Sagebrush ad on page 12

SMART Technologies Inc., of Calgary, is a market leader in developing products for shared spaces, including the SMART Board, an electronic interactive whiteboard. Visit the SMART Technologies web site: http://www.smarttech.com (888) 42-SMART See the SMART Technologies ad on page 16

Wireless Information Networks Inc., of Willowbrook, Ill., is entirely focused on wireless LAN and WAN integration and development. Visit the Wireless Information Networks web site: http://www.877mobilan.com (630) 288-0072 See the ad for Wireless Information Networks on page 8

ZT Group International, with offices in New York City and New Jersey, is a leading supplier of computer systems, network services, storage solutions, notebook computers, and peripherals to schools and businesses. Visit the ZT Group web site: http://www.ztgroup.com (866) 984-7687 See the ad for ZT Group on page 41

eSchool News Online Partners

Be sure to visit eSchool News Online http://www.eschoolnews.org

and the School Technology Buyer’s Guide http://www.eschoolnews.org/buyersguide to learn more about these leading companies that believe an informed educator is their best customer:

eRate Consulting Services LLC, of Woodstock, Ga., provides up-to-date information and services to help applicants and service providers with the eRate process. Visit the eRate Consulting Services web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/erate or http://www.erateconsulting.com (888) 249-1661

eZedia Inc., of Winnipeg, is a leader in digital media software technology, with a product line that includes multimedia authoring tools and other professional enhancement applications. Visit eZedia’s web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/multimedia or http://www.ezedia.com (877) 408-0195

TechSmith, of Okemos, Mich., makes software that enables students, faculty, and staff to capture and share text, video, and graphics from software applications and the internet easily. Visit TechSmith’s web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/video or http://www.TechSmith.com (800) 517-3001

Thinkronize Inc., of Cincinnati, is the producer of NetTrekker, an award-winning and trusted search engine for schools. Visit the NetTrekker web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/enhancingcurriculum or http://www.nettrekker.com (877) 517-1125

Web Help Desk, from MacsDesign Studio of Fremont, Calif., is a web-based help desk software solution that easily manages a school district’s computer problems and repairs. Visit the Web Help Desk web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/nrm or http://www.webhelpdesk.prospector.com (866) 701-0227

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Ten tips that will improve your eRate outlook this year

Across the United States, educators are looking forward to participating in the coming eRate funding year with an eagerness normally reserved for root canals and colonoscopies. Although the program admittedly can be complex, you can ease your workload and reduce funding anxieties by following these 10 simple suggestions.

1. Start early.

If you’re reading this and haven’t filed a Form 470, get going, at least for your basic services. Though the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) establishes a window for filing funding requests, the Form 470 can be filed any time. Waiting until the last minute increases the possibility for mistakes, so do it now. If there are additions or changes later, you can file additional forms.

2. File electronically.

Though many participants complain about various aspects of the eRate program, few can deny that its online filing process is easy and reliable. The ability to save incomplete documents allows you to populate forms with basic information on your district and fill in other information as it becomes available. What makes online filing even better is that the online form cannot be submitted without certain information fields filled in. That means when you successfully submit your form, it meets the minimum processing standards established by the SLD. That’s especially important if you’re filing close to a deadline.

3. Certify immediately.

All of the online forms need to be certified after submission, either using a personal identification number (PIN) assigned to you or with an original signature on paper. We advise clients to apply for a PIN, but whichever way you go, do it immediately. Wait a day, and you’ll forget about it as your regular job closes back in around you.

4. List someone from your school or district as the contact person on your Form 470.

As consultants, we appear as the listed contact for most forms and for audits and reviews, but we always advise our client schools to list themselves on their Form 470.

There are two reasons for this. The first is pretty obvious: The school district is the best source of information about the specific telecommunications needs it has listed on the form. The second reason is that it prevents a school from inadvertently listing someone who is either a service provider or is linked to a service provider as the contact, which is a sure-fire way to get rejected (see box at right).

So why not list your eRate consultant on the Form 470? From our viewpoint, we provide expertise in the eRate process and have no business being involved in any purchasing deliberations other than answering eligibility questions and ensuring compliance. Keeping our name off the Form 470 keeps us out of the bidding and selection process.

5. Check your Form 470 before you sign a contract.

You might hear very faint–but blood-curdling–screams each summer and wonder where they come from. We can tell you. They come from superintendents across the United States whose funding requests were denied because they signed a contract less than 28 days after filing their Form 470. And don’t say, “How dumb can you get?” It happens all the time.

Before you sign any contracts, make sure the 28-day posting period for Form 470 has elapsed. An easy way to do this is to check your Form 470 as it appears on the SLD’s web site. It will state the earliest date you can sign a contract for items listed on that form. It’s there for the vendor to see, too, but your salesperson might forget this in his anxiety to have you sign so he can use his commission check for a Boxster down payment.

6. Gather documentation materials beforehand.

Before you file a funding request, do your homework and assemble the documentation for that request. Make notes on how you got the request figure if it’s not exactly what is on the bill; it’s probably going to be six months before your request is reviewed, and you’ll need something to jog your memory.

Taking a wild guess and figuring that it will all get sorted out during the review process is a recipe for disaster. Overestimate the figure, and you’ll get denied because an excessive amount of the request was ineligible or because you were unable to provide documentation to justify the request. The same goes for expenses that are clearly ineligible: Get rid of them up front. You’ll sleep better–and fare better in the review.

7. Take advantage of the RAL grace period.

The SLD issues a Receipt Acknowledgment Letter (RAL) to let you know that your Form 471 has been certified and accepted by the agency. You have three weeks from the RAL issue date to change basic information in the form, correct errors made by the SLD, change funding categories, and lower (but not raise) the dollar amounts you’ve requested.

If you did sloppy work putting together a Form 471, you can correct many of your most egregious errors during this time. Unfortunately, most people are so glad to have the forms submitted on time that they don’t take advantage of this grace period; later, after getting a funding denial, they wish they had.

8. Keep it together.

One funding year requires a lot of paperwork, and it helps if you can keep it together. At eRate Consulting Services, we use something called a Classification Folder. It looks like a file folder, but it has six “pages” with metal prongs for holding two-hole punched paper. You can use each page for a different form and related correspondence. Keeping everything for a particular funding year in one place–forms, correspondence, and documentation–makes it easy to locate what you need, even if it’s from a previous funding year.

9. Use the SLD’s web site.

It’s a well-organized source of information and tools, where you can learn the daily status of your Form 471, file a Form 486 online, or read an in-depth paper on wide-area network eligibility. The SLD also can answer your questions by eMail or telephone. Use these resources to gather information and reduce your work time.

10. Use someone like us.

If you’ve read these tips and still feel that eRate processing makes your brain hurt–or that you’re genetically unable to file forms more than 10 minutes before deadline–hire an eRate consultant to help you. You’ll reduce your workload and avoid unpleasant surprises at funding time.

Bob and Georgia Morrow are a husband-and-wife team who handle client schools for eRate Consulting Services LLC, an Atlanta-based company that provides consulting services to both applicants and service providers. Bob spent 31 years with BellSouth, while Georgia has handled provisioning duties for a number of telephone and internet firms, including Earthlink predecessor Mindspring.

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from the publisher:Beware the beguiling idea

A little over 20 years ago, President Ronald Reagan managed to bluff the Soviet Union into abandoning the Cold War and snapping the lights off on the Evil Empire. This remarkable turn of events came thanks, in no small part, to an elaborate fiction–the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

Based on the appearance of science, a general gullibility, and convoys of cash, Star Wars–the Hollywood-inspired moniker for SDI and its plan to mount an impenetrable missile defense in space–ultimately led the old guard in the Kremlin to give up the ghost.

What on earth, you might be asking yourself, does the 1980s Star Wars initiative have to do with contemporary education?

Well, a recollection of that out-of-this-world chimera rockets to mind as I mull the scheme just announced by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). I refer to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) data-management tool. That bold initiative is set to launch in January, and you can read all about it in our Front Page story by Associate Editor Cara Branigan.

Far more modest in scope than SDI (priced at a mere $51 million so far), this proposed tool nonetheless seems reminiscent to me of the Star Wars initiative on at least four counts.

It offers an appearance of science. It comes with ambitious predictions of extravagant feats. It seems plausible to the gullible. And it certainly won’t work. At least, it won’t do the wondrous things its proponents promise.

Just consider some of the hype. This tool, according to ED, will reveal how much student achievement is earned per dollar spent; it will monitor the progress of an individual school; it will even predict how a school will compare to Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks, given consistent practices, by the year 2014!

SDI had just one problem. It didn’t work. The space-based armaments couldn’t hit incoming missiles. (Neither could Star Wars stop low-level missile attacks from submarines or airplanes.) But, by George, what a beguiling idea! The Soviets bought it–and, oh, how we longed to huddle safe from the reign of nuclear terror under that marvelous high-tech umbrella.

ED’s data-management tool–for all its impressive trappings–has one problem, too. Test scores simply aren’t the infallible barometer of education achievement. You can’t add up a column of test scores and determine with much certainty whether a student is learning or a school is progressing.

I know this might seem like heresy in the NCLB era, but there it is. It’s the unavoidable fallacy underlying the entire edifice surrounding our general approach to education these days–and this latest multi-million-dollar data-management tool is likely only to compound it.

Yes, it sure would be handy if test scores really told the story on education, but as you well know, it’s more complicated than that. You might get a picture of some kind using a paint-by-the-numbers kit, but you’ll never prove your artistry if that’s your technique of choice.

A test score is a murky gauge at best. It might tell you something, but not a lot, and certainly not the entire tale. Consequently, slicing and dicing test scores across attendance boundaries, from state to state, from coast to coast–even at warp speed and in massive quantities–just won’t tell us all we need to know, and it might turn out to be downright misleading.

Gathering data and analyzing them carefully can be a valuable activity, to be sure. Assembling and studying objective information–such as how many teachers are certified in the subjects they’re teaching–can be highly informative and can guide prescriptive action. I’m quite aware that ED’s data-management tool could serve up some of that sort information, too. But, in the last analysis, the bedrock supporting this highly touted tool will be the test score.

In the 1980s, letting our adversaries overestimate the impact of SDI ultimately had a beneficial outcome. But in this decade, in education–no matter what some in the Bush Administration think of the NEA–there really is no Evil Empire. So, in this case, we’ll be fooling only ourselves.

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