Tag Archives: education

In so many ways . . .

. . . we are really two different countries and the similarities to Civil War era America abound.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

And there’s this too  – the ten poorest States. I got it from a 2011 story at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze where commenters were not surprised, reasoning that that’s what Obama had done to us in just 20 months. The man worked fast!

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. Louisiana
  6. Montana
  7. South CArolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. North Carolina

How about teen pregnancies? Below the mid point and dominating the list for ‘least teen pregnancies’, all of New England and most of the NorthEast. And what region dominates the list for ‘most teen pregnancies’? Lookee here:

STATES WITH MOST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
New Mexico – 93/1,000
Mississippi – 90/1,000
Texas – 85/1,000
Nevada – 84/1,000
Arkansas – 82/1,000
Arizona – 82/1,000
Delaware – 81/1,000
Louisiana – 80/1,000
Oklahoma – 80/1,000
Georgia – 78/1,000

STATES WITH FEWEST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
Iowa – 51/1,000
Nebraska – 50/1,000
Utah – 48/1,000
Wisconsin – 45/1,000
Maine – 43/1,000
Massachusetts – 42/1,000
North Dakota – 42/1,000
Minnesota – 42/1,000
Vermont – 38/1,000
New Hampshire – 33/1,000

How about high school dropouts by State? A pattern emerges.

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Vote for Malala . . .

. . . for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, here. The actions and courage of this single 14-year old girl may change the world.

Even Sharia law might be a bit more enlightened.

Last month, the Texas leg banned ‘critical thinking’ from the public school curriculum. Now, via Andrew Sullivan, there’s this – weep and be ashamed.

Apparently wanting to steer clear of fancy highbrow academic stuff like research or informed assessments, North Carolina has banned using recent science to guide policy making. House Bill 819, which passed today after the governor let the deadline to stop it slip, restricts all sea-level predictions used for policy-making to be based on “historical data,” effectively sending science back to 1900. The law will prevent policy-makers from using a recent study by the state’s Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) which predicted the sea level will rise by 39 inches in the next century. Developers were upset about the prediction that might cause reluctance to invest in the area.[Source]

You want some adverbs with that?

The Sunlight Foundation has published a (seriously wonky) report that measures the grade levels at which our congress critters speak. Their study covers 1996 to this 112th Congress, in both the House and Senate. It’s getting a bit of notice around the buhlogospheric-system and deservedly so. Fascinating stuff.

They say that congressional speech has dropped a full grade level in that period, with Tea Party freshman accounting for much of the most recent decline. (Which Senator speaks at the lowest grade level? Can you guess? Rand Paul bitches!)

The whole thing is here and there are a few interesting sidebars on their blog as well. I don’t think it’s at all clear from the study (I did say it’s wonky) if the change has any significant effect on clarity or successful communication, which after all, is the point of language. But even if utility is unaffected . . .

This grabbed my attention.

Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. . . .

USA! USA! USA!

I don’t know the date of these issues, but they’re current. I’ve posted a few (see here and here). It breaks my heart. And it’s not that Time magazine thinks we’re shallow. It’s that they know we’re shallow. Magazine cover choices are entirely about selling copies. The hard facts of the real world don’t seem to sell very well here. And Time knows that.

American television news is so over, we have to go to Al-Jazeera and El Arabia for news of our own wars

American broadcast and cable news operations don’t even bother anymore, not even in the traditional 6:30 pm network news slot, once the ‘big boy’. The final word. The program elevated by Walter Cronkite (CBS) and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley (ABC NBC – thanks Don) and someone on ABC (who was it before Birnkley moved over?).

Those shows now run perhaps 19 or 22 minutes, of which they devote a precious few to reminding us who they are and how great they are and thank each other for doing such a great job while letting us know, breathlessly, that every interview is ‘exclusive’. I even heard Brian Williams recently refer to their reporter in Libya as ‘the only network broadcast reporter in the square right now”. which meant that maybe ABC and CBS were taking a bathroom break. But no matter, heady stuff anyway – for them.

After all the chest thumping, they spend perhaps 6 or 7 minutes on the ‘news’ of the day (which this week includes updates on the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor.) And finally, there is a ‘report’ on some new weapon or medical breakthrough or cute animal – most of these appear to be video press releases.

The cables do a little real news, but mostly they opt for that cheap-to-produce stuff featuring poorly informed – but insistent – gasbags, opining on the political matters of the day.

Today, that is what passes for the news on American television. (There are exceptions of course – PBS News Hour,  Fareed Zacharia on CNN and – only occasionally anymore – 60 Minutes. I’ll add my own local news – they often do a very decent job.)

And then there’s the BBC. The venerable British Broadcasting Company is serious about reporting and committed to informing their viewers, listeners and readers. Look at this from their website. Now that’s committment – one click brings the world to the world.

Why I am going back to bed

I got two hours of sleep last night and I’m too old for that to be okay. So I was up much earlier than usual and at 6:00 am I turned on the TV for Morning Joe, which I rarely watch but what the hell else is on at 6am.

Cable box went out. I did the routine, unplugged, checked connections, gave it time, waited out the interminable Comcast reboot process. And the cable box went out.

Called Comcast. Spent 29 minutes (I timed it) on the phone (19 on hold). Their service reps are usually pretty good and even helpful, but the guy this morning must have been having a bad hair day. Eventually he sent a reset signal. And the cable box went out.  Need new box.This is the third time. All recordings will be lost. First service availability is Sunday; six days without service. Unacceptable. Comcast clearly hasn’t enough personnel to service their customers (and, I assume, really doesn’t care because in my area they’re all there is). I will rip the box from it’s hidey hole and carry it to Comcast. Where there will be a long line. I will try not to cry.

In my email this morning I find a dangerous dispute underway amongst my fellow Trustees (very local Endowment Trust). Beyond disagreement. This is not going to be pleasant and threatens to undo eight years of work. I will not think about it any more today. Tomorrow perhaps.

Also in my email this morning: Verizon tells me I’ve exceeded my monthly contract allowance on my cell and minutes are now being charged at a rate I’d rather not know about. But! But! “My account” at their website says no, no, not at all. Usage is in fact down. I must deal with Verizon. Which is best done in person and is possible because there’s a friendly store nearby. But I’m pissed anyway.

Am meeting my brother and his wife for lunch. Haven’t seen them since May, during which time I’ve lost quite a bit of weight which has made me feel great and look good! But we all know about odd family dynamics, right? When I got up this morning, I found that I’ve gained 20 pounds since last night.

And then. And then. Dear Elvis, and then I picked up my morning paper.

  • U.N. says Afghans torture detainees

KABUL, Afghanistan — Detainees are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, and in some cases their genitals are twisted until the prisoners lose consciousness at sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police, according to a United Nations report released here on Monday.

  • Gov. Scott targets university funding – not a disaster in itself; like most things it all ‘depends’. But:

Scott said that Rick Perry — the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate — planted higher education reform in the Florida governor’s mind when the two met shortly after Scott’s election.

“He said, ‘I’ve got this plan in Texas, you ought to look at it,’” Scott recalled.

Perry was referring to the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” policy paper created by Texas businessman Jeff Sandefer. A successful entrepreneur and energy investor, Sandefer also taught business classes part-time at the University of Texas until the school began hiring more full-time tenured professors.

Sandefer became an outspoken critic of state universities, particularly the system for promoting faculty. Tenure, critics say, places too much emphasis on research. To be promoted, faculty must publish original work. As a result, they spend less time in the classroom and often delegate teaching to graduate students.

(Ahhh. Inspiration from a State with the worst education record in the country. Way to go gov.)

  • Foreign plants and insects have slipped undetected into the US since 9/11, as customs agents were re-assigned to anti-terrorism, causing in some cases, devastating damage. It’s cost hundreds of millions – especially in CA and FL – in lost crops and higher grocery prices.

I don’t expect tomorrow will be any better.

Is there a lesson here in how kids learn?

New quote

Just added to the QUOTES page:

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” 
                                Frederick Douglas

Might as well take teh stupid all the way

After all, who needs schoolin’? I think Ed sent this:

Walker attack spreads to public education

POSTED BY ORHAN

On Sunday Wisconsin Gov. “Chainsaw” Scott Walker signed into law a state budget cutting $800 million from public education, while insisting state school districts will be better off after the cuts. Milwaukee public schools will be the hardest hit, with 988 full-time layoffs coming this week.

In an interview Monday Walker said, “The tools we gave them allow them to more than offset, and in some cases, actually net more revenue than they would have otherwise with the state budget. Now, those are changes you may agree or disagree with how we got there, but in the end, they’re going to fare better.”

The budget expands the state’s “school choice” voucher program, providing more public funds for private schools, and permitting Milwaukee parents to send their children to any private school in the state.

Lobbying group The American Federation for Monetizing Children, which pumped resources into the legislative effort, praised the expansion, as well as the “Once In, Always In” provision that will ensure, according to economist John Lott, that “once a student gets a voucher, that student will always be able to keep it, regardless of their family’s future income. In previous years, a student who received a voucher could lose eligibility for the program because his or her parents happened to increase their income in a given year.”

The idea of students being so harshly penalized for a simple reversal of their parents’ fortunes must have been more than the legislators could bear to contemplate.  And no doubt school district workers are bursting with gratitude for the “tools” Walker gave them.

Reprise: Keep you cold Koch hands off . . .

The St. Pete Times not only ran the story today about the Koch Foundation buying veto power over the hiring of professors with a donation, but they addressed it editorially as well.

Koch Gift Too Costly for Florida State

Florida State University’s economics department needs to reconsider its relationship with billionaire Charles G. Koch, who pledged $1.5 million to the school as long as professors hired with the money hew to Koch’s Libertarian philosophy. The arrangement reeks of pandering and undermines academic freedom, the cornerstone of American higher education.

FSU of course agreed to this nonsense – and they did it for a very small endowment of $1.5 million, movie money for the Kochs. Bad decision and FSU should return the money, but of course they won’t.

Keep your cold Koch hands off FSU

I'm Charles Koch and I'd lke to buy me some teachers.

The St. Petersburg Times tells me this morning that billionaire libertarian Charles Koch dangles needed money in front of college deans and gets his way. He gets veto power over professors for the program he’s funding.

A conservative billionaire who opposes government meddling in business has bought a rare commodity: the right to interfere in faculty hiring at a publicly funded university. . .

 In return [for his donation], his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”

Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom. . . .

Most universities, including the University of Florida, have policies that strictly limit donors’ influence over the use of their gifts. Yale University once returned $20 million when the donor demanded veto power over appointments, saying such control was “unheard of.”

Jennifer Washburn, who has reviewed dozens of contracts between universities and donors, called the Koch agreement with FSU “truly shocking.”

Said Washburn, author of University Inc., a book on industry’s ties to academia: “This is an egregious example of a public university being willing to sell itself for next to nothing.”

A pubic university, largely taxpayer funded has let a libertarian buy influence on their curriculum. That’s the way the oligarchs do it in Russia.

Yeah, but we have a kick ass military

Newsweek just published one of those How Dumb Are We articles that seem to pop up every few years. We Americans never do very well, especially compared with the rest of the First World.

For as long as they’ve existed, Americans have been misunderstanding checks and balances and misidentifying their senators. . . .  the yearly shifts in civic knowledge since World War II have averaged out to slightly under one percent.

This time the magazine surveyed 1000 people and the 100 questions were from the current test for US Citizenship. It seems most of us would fail. I tried to take the quiz and got up to #28 (of 100 questions), but honestly, the process is painfully slow so I just quit. Each question is on its own screen, then another screen for the answer which also shows the scores of the people surveyed. It was depressing:

  • 70% of Americans don’t know what is the supreme law of the land
  • 86% don’t know how many members of the House of Representatives
  • 61% have no idea how long a Senator serves
  • 63% don’t know how many justices on the Supreme Court
  • 87% don’t know that the economic system in the US is capitalism
  • 81% couldn’t name one of the enumerated powers of the Federal Government
  • 73% couldn’t name the US enemy in the Cold War

Oddly, a full 58% do know that the Speaker of the House is third in line for the Presidency.

The accompanying article, in making the point that Americans have always been ill informed about their own government and country, said that now, however,  “the world has changed. And unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more inhospitable to incurious know-nothings—like us.”

In fairness, they describe some of the mitigating factors that contribute to why we fare so poorly against other developed nations,  especially in Europe.

Most experts agree that the relative complexity of the U.S. political system makes it hard for Americans to keep up. In many European countries, parliaments have proportional representation, and the majority party rules without having to share power with a lot of subnational governments . . .  In contrast, we’re saddled with a nonproportional Senate; a tangle of state, local, and federal bureaucracies; and near-constant elections for every imaginable office. . . It doesn’t help that the United States has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world . . . we have a lot of very poor people without access to good education, and a huge immigrant population that doesn’t even speak English.

If you have the patience to take the test (here) let us know how you did.

March Musings (Dorian Lives!)

POSTED BY DORIAN  (Moe notes: Newbies may not know that Dorian was an original co-blogger here who got busy with something he calls ‘a life’. Dorian is young, a musician, a sound designer, newly in love and a wonderful friend. Nice to see him back. To see previous Dorian posts, scroll down to Dorian’s Two Cents in Categories.)

A few random musings: 1) Entering negotiations with the intention not to negotiate is a form of rhetorical terrorism. 2) There’s a reason peaceful protests actually work: A large, angry human mob explicitly not causing mayhem is comparatively rare.

On Public Schools: A democracy can and should be judged by the state of its public schools. (You’re going to Kid Congress every day, not to mention all that mandatory dealing-with-the-people-you-hate training. )

ALSO: Libyans on Hallucinogens would be a good 4th album title.

This cartoon is from 1983

I think it costs a bit more to raise a kid today. ( I framed this one and gave it to my father back when,)

Ahhh, now I see . . . .

Turns out there is a good reason to fear Obama’s efforts to reach out to the rest of the world. If we let him do this global grown-up stuff, our kids’ education could suffer!