Tricks of the trade

Sounds like such a deal. Next week the Seattle-based International Trade Education Foundation kicks off “an intensive, two-week Summer Seminar” for middle school, high school, and community-college teachers on “Washington State in the Global Economy.” The topic is timely, what with this city hosting the World Trade Organization jamboree this November and this state always boasting of being the world-tradingest in the country. And the seminar promises to provide “deeper understanding of the international economic environment, and heightened awareness of the key global, national and local public policy issues affecting trade and economic affairs,” and to help the teachers “prepare students to be better informed world citizens.” The state Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) grants teachers attending the seminar 80 hours of continuing-certification credits. Best of all, it’s free.

Or is it? The International Trade Education Foundation is an offshoot of the Washington Council for International Trade—the industry/governmental trade-boosting group, headed by Port Commissioner Pat Davis, that showed its clout last year when it persuaded the Seattle City Council to turn down a mild, largely symbolic Burma-boycott measure last year. The two groups make no bones about their connection. And the WCIT makes no bones about the fact that its mission is first, as its Web site ( puts it, “to advocate for free trade” and second “to educate about free trade.”

So how do you separate the two? That question torments the various labor, green, and human- and indigenous-rights groups tilting against the free-trade/multinational juggernaut that has so dominated national policy and local debates. They see the teachers’ seminar as one more vehicle for promoting trade orthodoxy under a public aegis. Other such vehicles: a conference on the WTO hosted by UW Global Trade, Transportation, and Logistics Studies last month (see Q&D, 6/3); another program for secondary teachers sponsored by UW’s Jackson School for International Studies; and a program to train UW student “mentors” as “WTO student Ambassadors” to spread the word in the schools.

The WCIT hardly seems oblivious to the multiplier effect of teaching teachers. Its Web site notes that “as a pyramid of outreach, the summer sessions have been amazingly effective. A group of 25 teachers reaches thousands of students each year. Over the [seminars’ 22] years, more than 400 teachers have taken the course.” Do the math.

Asked whether the SPI’s office upholds any policies for distinguishing between advocacy and education in certifying providers of teacher-training programs like this one, Laura Gooding, its administrator for continuing-education requirements, notes that “most organizations are advocating something.” She points to the Washington Association for Bilingual Education and the Association for Language Education as two examples. Indeed, of the 160-odd “professional organizations” that the SPI has approved to provide continuing ed, a few do have obvious advocacy roles: Planned Parenthood, People for Puget Sound. But they’re not involved in a breaking issue with stakes as big or confusion as widespread as in the trade fight.

Out in the cold

Is there a trend here? Three years ago, Newsweek‘s notorious cover story on Seattle gushed, “Everyone’s Moving There. Should You?” And the flood of net immigration here from California slowed to half its early-’90s rate, as it got easier to get a job there and harder to drive or buy a house here. Now Newsweek gasps, “Everyone Else Is Getting Rich. Why Aren’t You?” Sounds scary; what if the celebrated Newsweek kiss of death at work again? Maybe you should sell your stocks and batten down for another late-summer slump.

Whoever has more toys by age 34. . . .

And while you wonder, consider these gleanings on what this era’s Money Mushroom has done to our sense of perspective. In a recent Motley Fool debate on whether Dell Computer is a has-been stock, Yi-Hsin Chang insists not—partly because, as she puts it, “Michael [Dell] is richer than Bill Gates was when he was 34 years old. Enough said.”

And in The Nation (6/28), Robert Sherrill notes that Bill Gates’ net worth ($51 billion “as of the latest count”) is greater than that of 106 million other Americans combined. No wonder Gates says he wants to give it away.

The homage that dares not speak its name

Speaking, or rather not speaking of The Nation . . . I suppose it shows a certain breadth of spirit for US News’ right-leaning John Leo, whose column runs in the Tuesday Seattle Times, to recapitulate Nation columnist Patricia Williams’ devastating critique of rampant racial and ethnic stereotypes in Star Wars: The Phantom Menaceand credit her. (Williams’ column ran in the Nation issue postdated July 5, and Leo’s recap appeared in the July 6 Times.) But Leo, whose pontifications get a cumulative press run dozens of times greater than Williams’, didn’t have the decency to credit the leftie magazine where he read it; he merely referred to “Law Professor Patricia Williams.”

Fellow traveler ‘fesses up

Amazing how a reputation can stick; people still ask me, “Are you still writing for The Nation?” So before anyone assumes that’s why I’m touting that pinko rag, here’s proper disclosure: I’ve written two articles for The Nation; the most recent appeared nine years ago. After that, I didn’t get around to it again (even though article rates had gotten up into the low three figures). Hats off to those who keep at it.

And I haven’t seen The Phantom Menace. The sight of Jar Jar Binks making Liam Neeson look ridiculous on the cover of Vanity Fair was enough. And I’ve always thought it’s been straight downhill for the Star Wars series ever since American Graffiti.