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CNN Student News Transcript: March 11, 2009

  • Story Highlights
  • Examine the details of a proposal to overhaul the U.S. education system
  • Learn about the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule
  • Trace the history of the tense relationship between Tibet and China
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(CNN Student News) -- March 11, 2009

Quick Guide

Education Reform - Examine the details of a proposal to overhaul the U.S. education system.

Afghan Women at Risk - Learn about the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Tibetan Chinese Relations - Trace the history of the tense relationship between Tibet and China.



CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: An educational overhaul? That issue is first up in today's show. I'm Carl Azuz.

First Up: Education Reform

AZUZ: "We cannot afford to let the relative decline of American education continue." Those, the words of President Obama as he unveiled a proposal to overhaul the country's educational system. Some critics argue that the president is tackling too many issues, but Mr. Obama says America doesn't have the luxury to address one challenge at a time. This latest proposal touches on everything from test scores to teacher salaries to the amount of time you spend in school.

Downloadable Maps


AZUZ: It's a five-pronged approach to reforming education in America, and President Obama says it would span from the cradle through career. First, he's calling for more spending on early childhood programs. For example, some first-time parents would get regular visits from nurses who'd check on kids and, the president says, help prepare them for school and life.

Second, Mr. Obama wants to toughen and clarify testing standards. He believes schools have reacted to lower test scores by simply lowering expectations. To fight that, Obama wants funding for the "No Child Left Behind" program to be tied to results. Simply put: increase student performance, get more money.

The third tier aims to recruit and train teachers. Money from the stimulus plan has been set aside to offset teacher layoffs. One controversial point though: Obama wants good teachers to get paid more. Teachers' unions and critics say that could cause school officials to play favorites.

The unions also have a problem with this: Obama wants more charter schools, schools that don't answer to the local school board and have different approaches to education. The president wants to end limits on the number of these schools that states allow. But teachers' unions say charter schools take the money that public schools should get. And many teachers and students won't want to hear this: Obama wants longer school days and more of them. Why?

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom.

AZUZ: Higher education comes fifth on this list: increasing Pell Grant awards. Also, giving a $2,500 tax credit per year to help working families with their students' college tuition. One goal: that the U.S. would have the world's highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Thing is, the president can't make all this happen; his power is limited. So, we'll have to keep our eyes on states to see what they do in the days ahead.


Blog Promo

AZUZ: So, a five-point proposal, but we're focusing on one that could have a direct impact on you: longer school days. You've heard the president's view - we want to hear yours! And teachers, you're invited too. Head to our blog at and tell us what you think.

Financial Scandal

AZUZ: Following up on some financial news now. Bernard Madoff, the man accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, is expected to plead guilty to 11 criminal charges and he could go to jail for the rest of his life. Madoff, arrested late last year. Charged with scamming thousands of clients in a scheme that pays off early investors with money from new ones. Madoff is expected to enter his guilty plea tomorrow. If that happens, the judge says he'll sentence Madoff in several months.


ERIC NIVISON, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! Which of these countries is Afghanistan? If you think you know it, shout it out! Is it: A, B, C or D? You've got three seconds -- GO! On this map, D is Afghanistan, a nation that's home to nearly 33 million people.

Afghan Women at Risk

AZUZ: President Obama says he'll consider talking with some members of the Taliban to try and bring peace to Afghanistan. The militant group controlled the nation before being thrown out of power in 2001, and it was criticized for its harsh rule. A leading Afghan activist says any negotiations with the Taliban need to address the issue of women's rights. Carol Costello explores this topic.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN REPORTER: It was America's promise to the women and girls of Afghanistan: empowerment after years of Taliban oppression.

AFGHAN SCHOOLGIRL: The Taliban told us not to go to school. We were afraid because those who tried to learn were beaten.

COSTELLO: Today, more than seven years after U.S. troops toppled the Taliban, the Afghan government says 2 million Afghan girls now go to school. But there is evidence the Taliban and the dark days are returning. Suraya Paksad provides shelter in Afghanistan for women and girls who are victims of violence.

COSTELLO: Do many women still fear the Taliban?

SURAYA PAKZAD, VOICE OF WOMEN ORGANIZATION: Yeah, even I feel fear sometimes because when I, when I receive death threats, when I'm going to the office, I don't use the same way that every day I'm going. I change the routes to go to the office. I cannot share my schedule even with my friends, with my staff, and even sometimes I'm not secure talking on phone.

COSTELLO: Pakzad says violence against girls grows by the day. Four months ago, men on motorcycles used water pistols to spray acid on a group of girls walking to school. The incident was widely condemned, as were other Taliban-inspired acts against women, by America's new secretary of state.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE This is not culture. This is not custom. This is criminal.

COSTELLO: Pakzad says Clinton's words brought a renewed optimism, which promptly dissipated when President Obama floated an idea to reach out to Taliban moderates to bring peace to Afghanistan.

PAKZAD: This is a hard question for now.

COSTELLO: She says if the Taliban is brought in, women's rights must be on the table. But as of Monday, there were no clear assurances from the state department.

ROBERT WOOD, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, I think you have to wait until our policy review is done before, you know, drawing any conclusions on anything.

COSTELLO: Despite her worries, Pakzad will go back to Afghanistan with hope.

PAKZAD: And I know when I see that you are enjoying your freedom in this beautiful country, and I know, I believe it doesn't come by itself. It was the result of hard work of a group of dedicated women that put their lives at risk.

COSTELLO: The state department told us women's rights are important and to keep in mind this idea of using moderate elements of the Taliban is just that right now: an idea. Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.


I.D. Me!

NIVISON: See if you can I.D. Me! I was born in Tibet in 1935. I assumed power as the Tibetan leader in 1950. I won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. I'm the Dalai Lama, and I've lived in exile, away from my home country, since 1959.

Tibetan Chinese Relations

AZUZ: This month marks the 50th anniversary of when the Dalai Lama left Tibet during an uprising against the Chinese government. The spiritual leader says China has made life "hell on Earth" for Tibetans in the time since, but China blames the decades-long conflict on the Dalai Lama. Kristie Lu Stout traces the tense history between the two sides.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN REPORTER: The Potala Palace, a stunning landmark and symbol of Tibetan nationalism. It was also home to the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama. But now, it's capped by the red flag of China. Let's step back in time to find out how this came to be. While the 20th century is still young, China's last emperor has been overthrown, rival warlords vie for power with a weak central government, and Tibet, which was nominally under Chinese rule during the last dynasty, declares its independence.

In 1940, a five-year-old boy from a peasant family is enthroned as the latest reincarnation in a line of 13 previous Dalai Lamas, and venerated as the god-king ruler of Tibet. In 1950, having pacified China, the new communist government in Beijing turns its attention to this remote mountainous region. Its armies move on Lhasa. Chinese leader Mao Zedong offers automony but also demands obedience. Smiles for the cameras here, but back home, resentment against Chinese rule is brewing.

And then, on March 10, 1959, violence erupts in Lhasa. A Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule fails. Exiles claim some 86,000 Tibetans are killed. After weeks of unrest, the Dalai Lama and his ministers flee Tibet and go into exile in northern India. They are soon joined by tens of thousands of followers. During decades of exile in Dharmasala, India, the Dalai Lama continues to press China to give autonomy to Tibet. He becomes a cause celebre in the west, but talks with Beijing never get anywhere. The run up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing sees another round of violence in Tibet. In March last year, angry Tibetan protesters take to the streets in Lhasa, targeting and even killing Han Chinese. Beijing responds with a brutal crackdown. This month, it's lockdown in Tibet. Foreigners are banned from entering, and security is intense. China isn't taking any chances.


Before We Go

AZUZ: Well, before we leave you today, we're bringing you a distinct downside to living in a beachfront home. It might look like this wall of ice is meant to keep people out, but the ice is actually working its way in! Strong winds helped the force of nature force its way inside these homes. Luckily, everyone got out in time. But there was nothing anyone could do about the invading ice, which was advancing about 20 feet every half hour.



AZUZ: Must have been a chilling scene. That puts today's show on ice. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.

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