Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Throwing Money at 'Education'

I welcome more funding of education infrastructure projects and increased aid to college-bound students. The New York Times is reporting (Stimulus Plan Would Provide Flood of Aid to Education by Sam Dillon) the tsunami of money that's being targeted for education. CT's share is near the bottom (what's new?).
The formulas by which the stimulus money for public schools would be allocated to states and local districts are complex, but take into consideration numbers of school-age children in poor families. The level received per student would vary considerably by state, according to an analysis by the New America Foundation, a research group that monitors education spending. New York would be among the biggest beneficiaries, at $760 per student, while New Jersey and Connecticut would fall near the bottom, with $427 and $409 per student, respectively. The District of Columbia would get the most per student, $1,289, according to the foundation’s analysis.

The foundation contends, however, that the formula does not effectively allocate the most money to states with the greatest need.

In recent years the federal government has contributed 9 percent of the nation’s total spending on public schools, with states and local districts financing the rest. Washington has contributed 19 percent of spending on higher education. The stimulus package would raise those federal proportions significantly.

The Department of Education’s discretionary budget for the 2008 fiscal year was about $60 billion. The stimulus bill would raise that to about $135 billion this year, and to about $146 billion in 2010. Other federal agencies would administer about $20 billion in additional education-related spending.

“This really marks a new era in federal education spending,” said Edward Kealy, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 90 education groups.

The bill would increase 2009 fiscal year spending on Title I, a program of specialized classroom efforts to help educate poor children, to $20 billion from about $14.5 billion, and raise spending on education for disabled children to $17 billion from $11 billion.

Those increases respond to longtime demands by teachers unions, school boards and others that Washington fully finance the mandates laid out for states and districts in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, and in the main federal law regulating special education.

“We’ve been arguing that the federal government hasn’t been living up to its commitments, but these increases go a substantial way toward meeting them,” said Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

Frederick Hess, an education policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the bill as failing to include mechanisms to encourage districts to bring school budgets in line with property tax revenues, which have plunged with the bursting of the real estate bubble.

“It’s like an alcoholic at the end of the night when the bars close, and the solution is to open the bar for another hour,” Mr. Hess said.

The bill would, for the first time, involve the federal government in a significant fashion in the building and renovation of schools, which has been the responsibility of states and districts. It includes $20 billion for school renovation and modernization, with $14 billion for elementary and secondary schools and $6 billion for higher education. It also includes tax provisions under which the federal government would pay the interest on construction bonds issued by school districts.

Mr. Duncan said the bill’s school renovation provisions would create a “huge number of construction jobs,” because so many school buildings need repairs.

But Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California and the ranking minority member of the House education committee, said, “By putting the federal government in the business of building schools, Democrats may be irrevocably changing the federal government’s role in education in this country.”

In higher education, the bill would increase spending on Pell Grants, the most important federal student aid program, to $27 billion from about $19 billion this year.
What disturbs me is the very idea that No Child Left Behind - the worst idea affecting children on this planet - is being funded.

The funding it needs is dissolution.

Please god, pull the plug on this monstrosity of an education program. It deserves not a penny of public funding. Furthermore, school budgets need to be tightened not sustained at unsustainable levels. Taxpayers are no longer employees with disposable incomes. Education cannot become an entitlement program of unlimited benefits and runaway costs when the private sector is crippled.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spare Change

I just discovered a set of videos on YouTube that are wonderful examples of how seamless global art can be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thanks For the Memory

Drug manufacturers are now promoting memory enhancement products that are being developed for Alzheimer patients as a recreational and educational supplement.

The Telegraph in an article called 'Memory pill' that could help with exam revision could be available soon by Lucy Cockcroft reports;

Both have "cognitive-enhancing effects" which are aimed at treating patients with age-related memory loss.

Steven Ferris, a neurologist and former committee member of the Food and Drug Administration in the US, has predicted that a milder version will be available for healthy consumers as a "lifestyle pill" available over the counter.

Dr Ferris said: "My view is that one could gain approval, provided you showed the drugs to be effective and safe. It could be a huge market."

There is anecdotal evidence that mind-improving drugs are already being taken in Britain by healthy users.

Provigil, used to treat narcolepsy, is being taken by some students to help them stay awake, while Adderall XR and Ritalin, treatments for attention deficit disorder, are being used to help promote concentration.

A spokesman Adderall XR said: "We get a lot of calls from college campuses asking about it.

"There are risks though. It can raise blood pressure, people shouldn't do it."

The Department of Health said it was not illegal to buy the medicines over the internet, but it was not recommended.

Barbara Sahakian, professor of clinical neuropsychology at Cambridge, said: "It's hard to quantify the scale of the phenomenon but it's definitely catching on.

High-stress, high-stakes testing is once again producing unintended consequences.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Death of Judaism

I have become an advocate of teaching religion/philosophy in school. In raising my own boys I have been ashamed of much of what they've been exposed to in Roman Catholic churches. The message of the New Testament is used to sugar-coat generations of bad theology.

I read a New York Times article recently about the Wall Street scam artist Bernie Madoff who bilked billionaires of their fortunes. The most disturbing thing about the article was the same post-modern hodge-podge of pseudo-Judaic belief and practice Christianity suffers from. Heaven, hell, destiny, free-will, money, chosen people, ethics, faith and more all get thrown into the cultural blender to produce quaint television sit-com prognostications.

The garbled, absolutist drivel that is spewed forth has little or nothing to do with the study or reverence of God, it's just god-noise to make a buck and justify the means.

This past week, a story caught my attention that deserves this country's attention.

The story is about a doctor in Gaza who witnessed his daughters being killed. Gaza by the kindest of definitions is a concentration camp that the world has no righteous indignation about. Nobody who believes in the right to life cries out when children are herded into building for "safety" and then shelled to death. Real children rarely count in today's religious vernacular.

The excuses for these behaviors are tried and true and there will be no accountability. The Torah, the basis for Western law, might be a source of wisdom in times like these. But its too late. Judaism itself seems to be buried in the rubble of the Gaza disgrace.

And the disgrace is on everyone's head. There is no excuse for what goes on there by any party (and there are more than two). The perpetual killing sprees and blood feuds are sub-human exercises. War used to have an honor to it. Today, the Powell Doctrine is taken to the extreme. The use of overwhelming technological force on populations that can barely feed themselves and are being slowly strangle dto death should not be considered inspired tactical genius. This is the stuff of humanity that has abandoned rather than embraced religion, it is the mark of a beast and not a civilized man.

The agony of this doctor for his murdered children should summon some kind of moral indignation in anyone theist or atheist who can still think and connect the information with a sensibility that values both human life and the dependency of children on the behavior of the adults in charge.

War is no excuse for inhumanity.

Schools need to somehow dust off the lessons about the sanctity of human life if we are to survive. The next generation needs to get off this treadmill of hatred, barbarism, and self-immolation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Starting the New Year Right

My apologies for seeming to ignore this blog. I've actually been very busy with my art (see: ) and I promise to return to the subject of education sooner than later.

However, today I received a very nice comment on a technical set of instructions I wrote over a year ago about getting 64-bit Ubuntu wireless to work on a laptop. What is so odd to me is that after all these years, the heavy-duty technical community still has trouble understanding usability and documentation issues.

Hand-holding is essential for all but the technically savvy to understand. And hand-holding is hard-work, just like good teaching.

Anyway, compliments are always appreciated here.