Friday, August 30, 2013
SIX HUNDRED MILLION YEARS IN K-12
Peter Orszag, who was Obama’s budget director and is now a vice chairman at Citigroup, thinks it would be a good idea to cut back on summer school vacations for kids, arguing that this would both improve academics and reduce obesity.
I’m with Jeremy Lott: But to look at the vast wasteland that is American public education — the poor teaching, the awful curriculum, the low standards, the anemic achievement, the institutional resistance to needed reform — and say that the real problem is summer vacation takes a special sort of mind.
I wrote about the war on summer vacation back in 2006, after stopping at a store in Georgia on the first day of August and discovering that this was the first day of school for the local children. In this post, I said:
The truth is, most public K-12 schools make very poor use of the time of their students. They waste huge proportions of the millions of hours which have been entrusted to them–waste them through the mindless implementation of fads and theories, waste them through inappropriate teacher-credentialing processes, waste them through refusal to maintain high standards of performance and behavior.
When an organization or institution proves itself to be a poor steward of the resources that have been entrusted to it, the right answer is not to give it more resources to waste.
Orszag and similar thinkers seem to have no concept that good things can happen to children’s development outside of an institutional setting. Plenty of kids develop and pursue interests in science, literature, art, music…plus, there is plenty to be learned simply by interacting with friends in an unstructured environment.
Would the world be better off if Steve Wozniak and Jeri Ellsworth..to name only two of many, many examples..had their noses held constantly to the school grindstone rather than having time to develop their interests in electronics?
Lewis E Lawes, who was warden of Sing Sing prison from 1915 to 1941, wrote an interesting book titled Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing. The title refers to the aggregate lengths of the sentences of the men in the prison at a typical particular point in time.
Twenty-five hundred men saddled with an aggregate of twenty thousand years! Within such cycles worlds are born, die, and are reborn. That span has witnessed the evolution of the intelligence of mortal man. And we know that twenty thousand years have seen nations run their courses, perish, and give way to their successors. Twenty thousand years in my keeping. What will they evolve?
Following the same approach, the aggregate length of the terms to be spent in K-12 schools by their current students is more than 600,000,000 years. What proportion of this time is actually used productively?
And how many of the officials who supervise and run the public schools, and the ed-school professors who influence their policies, think about this 600,000,000 years in the same serious and reflective way that Lawes thought about the 20,000 years under his supervision? Some do, of course, but a disturbing percentage of them seem to be simply going through the bureaucratic motions.
And the politicians and officials of the Democratic Party are the last people in the world who are ever going to call them on it.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
WORTHWHILE READING & VIEWING
How did Estonia become a leader in technology?
Richard Fernandez on the creation of a whole generation of risk-averse elites
Why is the golden age of television so dark?
Finding the right balance between optimism and realism
How to evaluate your own emotional intelligence
How the politicized life is destroying society
Flying aboard the PanAm--Boeing Clipper, circa 1940
Transoceanic aircraft navigation in the Clipper era. (The author uses the term "bearing" incorrectly: the proper term for the direction the airplane is headed in is actually "heading.)
The man who loved not wisely, but at least twice
cross-posted at Chicago Boyz, where comments are open
Friday, August 23, 2013
CAMILLE PAGLIA APPLIES OLD-FASHIONED COMMON SENSE
…and thereby misses the real story.
Writing about Hillary Clinton as the prospective Democratic presidential candidate, Camille Paglia asks “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Camille, Camille, Camille.
Would anyone have asked, upon George III’s accession to the Kingship, “What exactly has he ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France, “What exactly has she ever accomplished?”
Would anyone have asked, when Lord Cardigan was named commander of the Light Brigade and his brother-in-law the Earl of Lucan was named overall British cavalry commander in the Crimean War, ”What exactly have they ever accomplished?” (Well, a few people did, but they were pretty much ignored)
Camille, your question reflects the mindset of an earlier America in which it was widely believed that leaders should be selected based on their actual accomplishments. This didn’t always actually happen, of course, but at least it was the ideal. But today, our society is being pushed hard in the direction of an aristocratic model wherein elevation to leadership is a matter of factors quite other than a track record of success in performing whatever tasks the leader is supposed to be carrying out. This transformation is largely complete in the field of politics, and is rapidly advancing in other areas of American life as well.
Hillary Clinton is a member of a political family–a member by marriage, it is true, but still a member. She attended an Ivy League college. She vacations in the Hamptons. She is popular with members of the entertainment industry. She has name recognition among people whose reading does not go past the celebrity magazines on the rack at the supermarket checkout stand.
These are the things that matter today in identifying an aristocrat who is qualified for high political office. Actual accomplishments, actual failures (see Benghazi, see indeed the whole Middle East) are of minor significance by comparison.
America is falling increasingly under the domination of a political aristocracy of great power and privilege: an aristocracy, moreover, which imposes very little in the way of responsibilities on itself. We are getting the social rigidity and the incompetence in high places that tend to be associated with the aristocratic form of government, without any of the partially-offsetting virtues that historical aristocracies have sometimes developed.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
BARACK OBAMA AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
Roger Simon writes about Obama’s strange apparent affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Scott Johnson writes about the true nature of this Fascist organization.
Hans von Spakovsky writes about the historical connections between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi party, as well as the MB’s current Nazi-like behavior: Kristallnacht in Egypt.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
AN ESSAY ABOUT ESSAYS
…and lots of other things, by the always-interesting Paul Graham. Excerpt:
People trying to be cool will find themselves at a disadvantage when collecting surprises. To be surprised is to be mistaken. And the essence of cool, as any fourteen year old could tell you, is nil admirari. When you’re mistaken, don’t dwell on it; just act like nothing’s wrong and maybe no one will notice.
One of the keys to coolness is to avoid situations where inexperience may make you look foolish. If you want to find surprises you should do the opposite. Study lots of different things, because some of the most interesting surprises are unexpected connections between different fields. For example, jam, bacon, pickles, and cheese, which are among the most pleasing of foods, were all originally intended as methods of preservation. And so were books and paintings.
Whatever you study, include history– but social and economic history, not political history. History seems to me so important that it’s misleading to treat it as a mere field of study. Another way to describe it is all the data we have so far.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
WILLOW RUN PLANT NEEDS HELP
The Willow Run plant, a 63-acre factory, was designed for the single purpose of producing B-24 bombers…and produce them it did, once it got going, at the rate of one per hour. The genesis of the plant lay in a 1940 visit to Consolidated Aircraft, where the planes were then being built, by Ford Motor Company production vp Charles Sorensen–Ford had originally been asked by the government to quote on building some components for the bomber. After watching Consolidated’s process for a while, Sorensen asserted that the whole thing could be put together by assembly-line methods. (See the link, which is Sorensen’s own story about “a $200,000,000 proposition backed only by a penciled sketch.”)
Unused since 2010, the plant had been scheduled for demolition, but there is now a project to turn it into a museum that will be focused on science education and social history as well as aviation history–the Yankee Air Museum is to be relocated there–and the history of the plant itself. Several million $ must be raised by October 1 to save the plant; astronaut Jack Lousma and auto-industry bad boy Bob Lutz are spearheading the effort.
An additional $3.4 million needs to be raised by October 1 if the plant is to be saved and the museum project is to go forward. You can contribute here.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Interesting stories and thoughts from Kathleen Fasanella:
Monday, August 12, 2013
LOIS LANE TRIES COMPUTER DATING, IN 1961
...see my post at Chicago Boyz
Saturday, August 10, 2013
THE STORY OF THE TWO WOLVES
In a BOOKWORM post about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Book’s mother was in a Japanese concentration camp at the time–read the link), the discussion turned to the Japanese maltreatment of prisoners. I noted that Japanese treatment of Russian POWs in the Russo-Japanese war (1904) seems to have been quite decent, in strong contrast with their abominable treatment of just aboutall prisoners in the period…only 30 years later…beginning with the invasion of Manchuria and continuing through the Second World War, and I said:
“It is interesting and frightening how quickly a culture can change. If you were looking for a place to live in Europe in 1913, Germany would have looked pretty good…even (especially?) if you were Jewish. Only 20 years later, a significant % of the population was barking mad, and almost all of the rest were clueless or cowed into submission.”
One of the main reasons why Barack Obama is such a disaster as a leader is that he always chooses to feed the Bad Wolf.
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
THE MENTALITY OF THE TOTALITARIAN REVOLUTIONARY
Re-reading Doctor Zhivago, I was struck by the following passage:
That’s just the point, Larisa Feodorovna. There are limits to everything. In all this time something definite should have been achieved. But it turns out that those who inspired the revolution aren’t at home in anything except change and turmoil, they aren’t happy with anything that’s on less than a world scale. For them transitional periods, worlds in the making, are an end in themselves. They aren’t trained for anything else, they don’t know anything except that. And do you know why these never-ending preparations are so futile? It’s because these men haven’t any real capacities, they are incompetent. Man is born to live, not to prepare for life. Life itself, the phenomenon of life, the gift of life, is so breath-takingly serious. So why substitute this childish harlequinade of immature fantasies, these schoolboy escapades?
Zhivago’s words here provide an interesting parallel to the observations of Sebasian Haffner from inter-war Germany…
Saturday, August 03, 2013
AN AGE OF DECLINE?
In 2011, I reviewed a biography of General Bernard Schriever, who led missile development activities for the US Air Force. The bio noted that Schriever and his crew had been referred to as “tomorrow’s men” in a 1957 TIME cover story, to which I commented:
In retrospect, this was true only if one defined “tomorrow” as the interval between the appearance of the article and, say, July 1969. Actually it could be argued that Schriever was a man of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, the era of the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam and the Empire State Building. In our current era, the execution of such projects has become difficult almost to the point of impossibility. Schreiver faced down General LeMay and Secretary Talbott..would a modern-day Schriever be able to prevail against the lilliputian army of lawyers, “community activists,” and “public interest” nonprofits who obstruct every single project of any size?
No one who was born after 1935 has walked on the moon. That period is swiftly becoming a historical relic. A thing that men did who lived long ago. A great work of other times like the building of dams and fleets, the winning of wars and the expansion of frontiers. Those are things that the men of back then did. Those are not things that we do anymore…
In those long lost days, we did great things. The bureaucrats took their cut and the contractors chiseled and the lobbyists lobbied and the whole great vulture pack of government swarmed and screeched and still somehow, with a billion monkeys on our back, we moved forward, because we still had great goals. Now our goal is government. There is no longer a moon. Only a paper moon.
The whole mess of bureaucrats, contractors, lobbyists, policy experts, consultants, congressmen, aides, crooks, creeps, thieves and agents is no longer a necessary evil that we put up with in order to accomplish great things. It is the great thing that we accomplish. There are no more moon landings, no more dams or tallest buildings in the world. The massive towering edifice of our own government is now our moon landing, our Hoover Dam, our Empire State Building…
We have replaced confidence with attitude. And the difference between them is the same as the difference between a civilization and the savages outside. Confidence comes from competence. Attitude comes from rituals of pride uninformed by achievements.
Can we convince the Sultan that things are not really so bleak, that American can and will have a brilliant future?
Or do we have to admit that things are really as dark as portrayed in the post?