Monday, February 25, 2008

The Poems of Elizabeth Bishop

I had never heard of Elizabeth Bishop until her poems were collected by the Library of America and brought to my attention by the News Hour. offers a few of her poems read by friends here.

All I can say is that they are fabulous and well worth your time.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Killing School Boards A "Progressive" Agenda?

Matt Miller, an education policy expert at the Orwellian contrived Center for American Progress has an article appearing in The Atlantic called "First, Kill All the School Boards".

Yeah, I know. How cool, given all the violence that somebody should be running wish lists for who gun nuts should target. I love having someone paint a target on my back.

The title of course is metaphorical but still inappropriate in a country where the ones who can't think in metaphor express themselves in showers of bullets. Sorry, Matt - bad form.

Second, to the degree that I can ascertain, this so-called think tank is not really progressive at all. It looks to be a political honeypot intended to promote neocon agenda items as liberal/progressive ideas probably sucking up and drying up well-intentioned liberal donations. In other words, a neocon disinformation clearinghouse.

I'm not a progressive, I'm a liberal. Let's examine this so-called progressive agenda.

Miller's thesis is;
When you look at what local control of education has wrought,... we must... nationalize our schools, to some degree.

He argues that "there is no way of knowing how children are doing", that educational research & development is stunted by local control, local school boards are incompetent and controlled by teacher unions, and that there's financial inequity in local control.

The special interest groups behind Miller's thinking are elements of the Gates Foundation, neocons associated with "Lucky" Bill Bennett, and the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a 2006 panel called the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a 2006 panel called bipartisan by the partisans who put it together).

Miller claims this cabal of special interests somehow represents something both Democrats and Republicans have in common. This assertion, of course flies in the face of the fact that constituencies both parties want an end to NCLB, want the government out of education, and need no lectures about foreign competition. When the well-educated parents of students see their jobs evaporate overseas, the argument that bad schools are the excuse rings hollow.

Miller is frightened that teachers "teach whatever they want"! The state made the same kind of assertion when they blew through town a week or two ago. The people saying things like this have their heads up their asses.

I'm on a school board and I see what teachers are doing, the curriculum, and so on. American teachers don't teach what they want, they teach what's required in their own way. This is what makes Americans so fungible, our teachers and kids are not predictable automatons. Miller looks at totalitarian education systems with envy. If only everybody clicked their heels -sigh-.

There are barely a handful of educational publishing companies in this country producing textbooks. What is totalitarian government centralization going to do? Reduce it to one? Is there a correcter algebra? Is somebody teaching that George Washington isn't the first president?

These manufactured crisis in American Education exist because Washington wants more power not because American kids aren't learning. The creeps in Washington don't want kids to have a second to think about how criminal and demented the government has become.

He claims "Local control has kept education from attracting the research and development that drives progress, because benefits of scale are absent... The more complicated and fragmented the sale that a company has to make, the less willing it is to invest in product research and development."

This is pure group-think bullshit. Because this think tank doesn't know how to use the resources of the internet he and his colleagues assume local schools are equally ignorant. Wrong, the richness of tools, techniques and knowledge is approaching The Singularity at cybersonic latency. the idea that educators have the luxury of waiting for five year government plans to change curriculum is cute in an anal retentive, sad way.

The information tiger that education is riding is breath-taking. The ability of government to respond to anything is excruciating. Why put that yoke on public education?

Local control essentially surrenders power over the schools to the teachers’ unions. Union money and mobilization are often decisive in board elections. And local unions have hefty intellectual and political backing from their state and national affiliates. Even when they’re not in the unions’ pockets, in other words, school boards are outmatched.
This is not entirely true though it is disturbingly typical. In a country where the average worker is lucky to see a 1% pay increase, teacher salary scales progress at much higher accelerations. The tax base breaking point for this kind of thing is clearly in sight.

He claims "Meanwhile, common-sense reforms, like offering higher pay to attract teachers to under served specialties such as math, science, and special education, can’t get traction, because the unions say no".

Miller and his colleagues do not seem to understand that it is not higher pay that will make these jobs more desirable but less government interference. Brilliant science and math teachers are not happy about becoming mindless test droids.

And special education teachers need less worthless paperwork and more actual human contact time.

Miller's thesis is a whore to the politics of No Child Left Behind, Bush's phallic intrusion into education. Pandering to anything in NCLB results in recommendations such as these in which drunken businessmen draw up wish lists for schools, parents, and teachers and swing back room deals to secure testing rights while the dreams and aspirations of children go unfulfilled.

As the Amish girl in the schoolhouse in Pennsylvania said, "Shoot me first."

Miller and his associates are wrong. Local school boards work. They are courageous, they are innovative and they can be asinine. But they are elected and accountable and they care about the kids.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


What would schools be without them?

Yet with the advent of text messaging doesn't it make more sense to send a text message to members of this club or that that a time has changed?.

Today my sons got some bad information from a friend who got some bad information from a kid who is lucky to find his nose.

Can't somebody with a brain be responsible for texting last-minute schedule changes?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Is One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Being Sabotaged?

Fellow blogger Andy Carvin at Learning.Now is reporting a strange anomaly in the One Laptop Per Child Initiative. Andy reports in "Dude, Where’s My Laptop?" that
By donating $400 to OLPC, a person would receive their own XO laptop, while a second one would be given to a child in the developing world. OLPC began taking orders in mid-November. They made it clear that most people would probably not receive their laptop in time for Christmas, but they would try to accommodate those who ordered on the very first day of the program.

Some lucky donors managed to receive their laptops in time for the holidays, but others, including myself, receive cryptic emails saying that the address we supplied for shipping was incorrect, and that we would have to submit a new address for a January delivery. On bulletin boards, discussion lists and Twitter, people grumbled but were generally forgiving.

But that was just the beginning of the problem. As reported by Ars Technica recently, the software used by OLPC’s fulfillment contractor had a glitch that caused perfectly correct addressed to appear incorrect, preventing FedEx from shipping the laptops. Making matters worse, when donors re-submitted their address or supplied a new one, the glitch would overwrite the new information and again supply FedEx with a nonexistent address. Moreover, they were unable to ship to PO Boxes - a fact that was never communicated to donors before they ordered.

While a group of volunteers began to document the potential causes of the delivery mess on a wiki, established a forum where users could vent their own experiences with the ordering process. The posts are filled with people who were clearly supporters of the initiative but now are questioning its competence, like this one, entitled Joke of the Year:

I’ve always been a supporter of programs that are aimed to eradicate poverty and help the poor. I’ve traveled extensively and lived in Africa and I grew up in China. While I was living in Ethiopia, I took up in the annual 10km run and raised $400 for the UNICEF.

Now I’m just very surprised by the lack of human touch of OLPC foundation. I’m not frustrated because I’m still very patient and hoping it will arrive one day. But this email reply from their support team is leaving me disappointed.

Please note that this reply from the support team was dated “Jan 17, 2008 2:29 PM”:
“We currently show that your laptop has been sent to the warehouse for shipping. You will be receiving an email notifying you when the laptop has been shipped along with a tracking number. If you live within the United States, you should receive your laptop no later than January 15, 2008. If you live in Canada, you should receive your laptop in the January/February 2008 timeframe.”

Their experiences mirror my own. While I was expecting delays, I was amazed and dismayed by the sheer disorganization of their customer service.
Given the threat that the OLPC program represents to vested interests, one cannot help but wonder whether this in fact is a "glitch" and not a wholesale effort to sabotoge the program.

I've spent many years in the software engineering field - far to many to believe that mailing list software such as this could be so complex or buggy to cause this kind of sustained havoc.

Is anyone else equally suspicious? This looks sufficiently suspicious to warrant an investigation into malicious behavior behind the scenes.

RIF Funds Eliminated

That's right. As America's reading scores continue to drop, the Bush administration has decided to cut bait on bothering to stimulate reading in children.

The Reading Is Fundamental program has had its funds cut.
Statement from Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO, of Reading Is Fundamental

"President Bush’s proposed budget calling for the elimination of Reading Is Fundamental’s (RIF) Inexpensive Book Distribution program would be devastating to the 4.6 million children and their families who receive free books and reading encouragement from RIF programs at nearly 20,000 locations throughout the U.S.

“Unless Congress reinstates $25.5 million in funding for this program, RIF would not be able to distribute 16 million books annually to the nation’s youngest and most at-risk children. RIF programs in schools, childcare centers, migrant programs, military bases, and other locations serve children from low-income families, children with disabilities, foster and homeless children, and children without access to libraries. The Inexpensive Book Distribution program is authorized under the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (SEC.5451 Inexpensive Book Distribution Program for Reading Motivation) and is not funded through earmarks. It has been funded by Congress and six Administrations without interruption since 1975.

“Since its founding in 1966, RIF’s programs have played an important role in improving literacy in this country. The U.S. Department of Education has shown that the number of books in a child’s home is a significant predictor of academic achievement. In addition, RIF programs also support academic achievement by involving hundreds of thousands of volunteers and other caring adults in encouraging children to read for fun. We urge all Americans to contact their Congressional representatives and ask them to reinstate funding for this important program.”

'Nuff said.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Political Homocide of Science

Business Week is reporting that Case Western University professor, Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues have attempted to arrange a presidential debate on science. Why?
When most of the Republican candidates for President proclaimed that they did not believe in evolution during a debate last year, astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss was one of many who were aghast. The Case Western University professor and best-selling author was even more upset when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee shrugged off concerns, saying that he was running for President, not writing a middle-school curriculum. "How could being scientifically illiterate be perfectly acceptable?" Krauss asks. "No one would accept a candidate who, say, denied the Holocaust."

The Business Week article is an important one for educators. How can America susrvive if a president is elected who denies the principles of science? Can we grow doctors, biologists, nano-technologists, and more if the country operates on superstition? And how do teachers keep their jobs when they are treated as witches?

"It's hard to get 12,000 scientists to agree on anything," says Alan Leschner, chief of AAAS and former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "But science is the biggest issue facing modern society, and we are concerned that only one candidate—Hillary Clinton—has so far devoted any energy to science."

There's also a palatable hunger in the scientific community for a government that bases its policies on science, after years of decisions from the Bush Administration that they believe ignored scientific reality. "We have all become painfully aware in recent years that it is not only irresponsible but dangerous and expensive to distort and repackage scientific conclusions for political purposes," Otto explained in a recent editorial on the Salon Web site.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Return to the Forbidden Planet!

I just love this poster.

E. O. Smith Drama Club presents the hit British musical

Return to the Forbidden Planet
By Bob Carlton

Friday, February 8 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 10 at 1:30 pm

In the
E. O. Smith High School Auditorium

ALL AGES will enjoy this fun show that features a live band, a talented cast of singers and dancers, multi-media special effects and classic rock songs such as “Good Vibrations,” “ Great Balls of Fire,” ”Born to be Wild,”
“The Monster Mash,” “Gloria,” “Only The Lonely”
and many, many more.

Tickets available at the door,
$6 for children, students and seniors and $9 for adults.

Snow dates are Saturday, Feb. 9 at 1:30;
and Sunday, Feb. 10 at 7:00.