Mail 713 Saturday, February 18, 2012
Sacking Bad Teachers.
There was an account in the New York Times of an education authority that was sacking bad teachers with the full approval of their union. Let us hope this spreads. It will, if the number of teachers who really want to teach exceeds the number of teachers who want an unexacting and well paid career with guaranteed job security. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/opinion/kristof-the-new-haven-experiment.html> <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/opinion/kristof-the-new-haven-experiment.html>
Glad you’re feeling better.
In Los Angeles the teachers unions have so constipated the system that it is nearly impossible to fire even a flagrantly bad teacher – and any teacher who is about to be fired is given the opportunity to resign thus keeping an retirement and sometimes other benefits. That was the case with the teacher photographed feeding cookies with his male body fluids as frosting to 3rd grade girls. He was removed from the classroom a year ago, but was allowed to resign. He’s now under arrest by the police – but even had he been arrested and convicted before he left the district he would have been able to resign before being axed. In his case he’s likely to be getting pension in prison, but he’ll still get it.
There needs to be some way to change all this, but the courts don’t approve of laws that reform the system. It may take something more drastic than that, because the system can’t continue to support this: there just isn’t enough money no matter how you raise the taxes. Paying more to retired than to working teachers is not likely to be a successful policy.
No one wants to discuss this because the unions are powerful, particularly in Los Angeles, and they all stand together. Solidarity and all that.
The American school system is one of the major reasons for continued unemployment. It fails the bright students in favor of the just below average, and it doesn’t teach much of any use at all to the way below average. The whole system needs rethinking, beginning with abolition of big unified districts in favor of smaller districts with their own school boards, and some education of those who want to be on school boards. It’s a nightmare in much of the country and the feds make it worse.
and the iron law always applies
Video Game Novelizations
They actually date back to the 80s. Alan Dean Foster did I think the first one, for a game called Shadowkeep, and the Zork games has some as well, as did The Bard’s Tale (Mercedes Lackey wrote a couple, I believe for one your publishers, Baen) and Might & Magic. George Alec Effinger wrote one of the Zork novels. His wasn’t so much a novelization of the game as a sequel, but a few of the others were more faithful to the games themselves.
It kind of disappeared when Japanese video games became dominant over PC ones, but now that has reversed (Western games are far more popular), so you are seeing it once again.
Yes, I was an early Zork player and was once asked to write a novel set in the Flathead kingdom; but by then I was successful in my own work and didn’t need to. All long ago. It is an interesting development. But as I said earlier, I don’t dare pay much attention to games developments now; I like them too much…
Fwiw, the Little Village Academy in Chicago (part of Chicago Public Schools, CPS) bans children from bringing lunches from home and mandates that they eat the school lunch. This was reported in the Chicago Tribune in April 2011.
"(principal Elsa Carmona), to my surprise, confirmed that she does indeed prohibit home lunches because she believes the school lunch is healthier than what she has seen kids bring on field trips"
"Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-11/news/ct-met-school-lunch-restrictions-041120110410_1_lunch-food-provider-public-school#> in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch. At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten."
Follow the money…
"When Eisenhower proposed the Interstate Highway system, it was largely proposed as part of a national defense system, and although it is forgotten now, part of the justification was the this would make it possible to build a large number of civil defense shelters…"
I don’t doubt it, and I’ve also seen it said — though honestly, the latest "authority" I’ve seen discuss it might be Lee Child in a Jack Reacher novel — that Eisenhower advocated the highways to allow large mobile army units to move rapidly within the US in the event of a war here, avoiding transportation problems he’d confronted in Europe. It’s a thought that might cross the mind of anybody familiar with the famous armored maneuvers in Louisiana before WWII, the ones where legend holds that Patton paid service station owners out of his own pocket for extra gas for his tanks.
The Army during the 1920’s and 30’s had enormous difficulties getting units from one coast to the other, and this was imprinted deeply in most of the officers of that time. Eisenhower, an operations specialist, was very much one of them.
I’m willing to keep the currant federal gas tax if the federal government took over the interstate highway system from the states and used the federal gas tax solely to fund the system. An argument can be made that the interstate highway system is a federal issue.
And we can make Alaska and Hawaii happy and not charge the tax there since there are no "real" interstates in either state. Hawaii can keep and and maintain H1, H2, and H3 on its own. Same with Puerto Rico and the other unconnected islands.
In theory the gas taxes go into a Trust Fund that can only be spent on highways, but of course it never works quite as promised.
Real Reason For "Free" Contraception? buffy willow
Paul Rahe analyzes the politics of the Administration decision forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraception, agrees with your conclusion that it makes little practical sense, but goes on to say:
"This suggests that there can be only one reason why Sebelius, Pelosi, and Obama decided to proceed. They wanted to show the bishops and the Catholic laity who is boss. They wanted to make those who think contraception wrong and abortion a species of murder complicit in both.
They wanted to rub the noses of their opponents in it. They wanted to marginalize them. Humiliation was, in fact, their only aim, and malice, their motive."
Given the facts, it’s a disturbingly plausible argument. Interesting times…
Full Rahe column at
subject: Election Coverage
You know, it’s just occurred to me that Leftists talk about conservatism as much as atheists talk about God– i.e., more than anybody else does.
And for the same reason. They’re not engaged in disbelief– just denial.
Matthew Joseph Harrington
e pur si muove (the motto of consensus deniers since 1633)
We have a full consensus of astronomers that they Earth does not move. Stop being ridiculous.
SUBJ: David Friedman’s web site
I suspect you already know David Friedman. However here goes anyway.
I have recently discovered the web site and associated blog of David Friedman (a/k/a "Cariadoc of the Bow" in olden SCA times – I have been using his medieval recipes cookbook for 25 years) son of Milton Friedman. His views rather remind me of yours – which is high praise indeed.
Two items I found immediately interesting are
"Why We are Getting Smarter: A Conjectural Explanation"
which is reminiscent of your piece on how the Ashkenazim improved their IQ.
and the following which I’m working through now and seems an excellent read. Witty and wisdom in shirt-sleeve English.
_The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism_ (2nd edn)
My sincere best wishes for a speedy recovery for you and Roberta.
Long time readers will recall that David is a very old friend whom I still see although not as often as either of us would prefer. I used to quote him often in the old BYTE column.
We’re both pretty busy. David’s Machinery of Freedom tries to give practical libertarian solutions to a number of social and economic questions. It may be about the best book on that subject in existence; David is very logical and very consistent. He remains libertarian and I conservative; both our positions are more vectors than immediate policies. He writes pretty good, too.
Essay in Taki’s Mag that echos many of the views expressed here. Both amusing and likely spot on. I think you’ll like it.
So I’m not convinced that “ADD” and “ADHD” are anything more than ideas. At least that’s how it seems to me at the moment. I can be persuaded otherwise, but you’ll have to be very, you know, persuasive. I suspect that what is often misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is actually Teacher Charisma Deficit Disorder.
After ignoring these so-called attention disorders for years, I did a little research and was surprised to discover that there are no blood or DNA tests needed for a diagnosis. A standard ADHD questionnaire <http://www.simonepstein.org/questionnaire_may06.htm> is chillingly vague. You can just fidget a lot, talk a lot, maybe act a little bored, then WHAM!—they’re scrubbing your brain with amphetamines.
I am familiar with a very real case of autism. I think autism and Aspergers are overdiagnosed, but they are very real. As to ADD and ADHD, they were pretty well unknown when I was in graduate school in psychology, and in the short period when I had a psychology practice (in connection with a pediatrician) my specialty, indeed the only thing I did, was work with bright kids who were not doing well in school. I suppose they might have “had” ADD or ADHD, but even in the 1970’s that was not a usual diagnosis, and I found all my patients more easily treated by simply helping them find things they found interesting. Most were simply bored stiff with school; when I showed how their school work might provide some foundation for much more interesting endeavors, and how they could quickly move past what was being taught to other and more interesting things, they were “cured”. I never recommended drugs (couldn’t prescribe them but the pediatrician who owned the practice certainly could) because I never saw any need for them. I also taught some techniques for self discipline which had helped with me when I was in school bored stiff.
ADD and ADHD have created big industries and there are “specialists” with a big interest in keeping them going. The psychological DSM defines them and insurance companies will pay. It may be that there are real cases of a real disorder; I haven’t made a strong systematic study; but I have never seen anything I could call a “disorder” of that kind. I did see bright bored kids. But that is all we were looking for, so that’s not science…
The DSM defines ‘disorders’ that used to be considered fairly normal but unpleasant behavior.
do not track plus
You really want this.
I will repeat this in another issue of mail. Firefox users take note. You want this.
Subject: Apple vs Amazon in ereader format smackdown
“Format wars are a mixed blessing for consumers. Whether it’s Betamax versus VHS or Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD, the consumer ultimately wins because companies have to advance superior technologies. But problems arise if the format you backed loses the war – and your device becomes next year’s expensive doorstop.
A new fight is emerging in epublishing between Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle, with skirmishes between Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others. But the real battle is between the underlying formats: EPUB 3 and KF8”
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I love my Kindle, but I really don’t care what format it uses. What I do care about is having one or the other of these companies gaining market share control and owning the most popular format, then jacking up the price. So far, I’ve not seen that kind of attitude from Amazon, but we’ve definitely seen it from Apple at the iTunes store.
I agree. But I suspect technology will take care of this. Microsoft got rich setting standards. I expect Amazon will discover that secret. Amazon loses money on sales of the physical Kindle, so I would presume encourages apps that let Kindle books be read on other devices.
Volcanoes, rather than the Maunder Minimum, may have triggered the Little Ice Age?
New evidence (followed by modeling verification) on the origin and development of the Little Ice Age..
And the battle of the models continues. We know that volcanoes can have dramatic climate effects.
Subject: Prevention and treatment of colds-zinc seems to work based on the Cochran reports (contains link to full Cochran report)
You seem to be suffering from too many colds (one is too many for me). I read the Cochran analysis of Zinc for prevention and treatment of colds and they concluded that it seems to work to either fend off a cold and to reduce the duration and symptoms of a cold. The possible mechanism may be somehow affecting the ability of the virus to spread to other cells. Cochran did comment that the exact dose and frequency is not known as different studies used different doses. See information below.
However, Zicam and Cold-EEze have sprays, lozenges etc. CVS and Rite-Aid have generics. I have not had a cold in a year despite frequent travel and the last cold I had was very short and mild. This is not dispositive but it does seem to work.
One drawback is the zinc gluconate changes your sensation of taste for about 30 minutes to an hour after using and some people are more sensitive to this than others. I just avoid taking it before eating.
I hope this helps.
Michael Montgomery, MD
I haven’t done this and I should. I hadn’t heard that these zinc based potions were useful for shortening symptoms after you already have the cold; and I didn’t see this when it first came in because, well, because I wasn’t up to reading my mail as closely as I should have been.
I’m getting over this mess, and I’m about to go out and buy a lock for the barn door for future… Thanks. I gather the CVS generic will do?
I tried calling in to Sec. Bennett’s morning talk show some time ago. The subject was the benefit and correctness of "No Child Left Behind", more aptly teach to the lowest common denominator. He and his guest really did think that all children could utilize a college prep education. Maybe something to do with his education business, but I couldn’t believe that someone as intelligent as Bill Bennett didn’t believe that there was a distribution of talents and native intellect, and that some people were better as well as happier in "menial" jobs. I don’t know about you, but when my car is not working correctly or my A/C is on the fritz during a Texas summer I value the skills of a good technician at least as much as someone with a college education in sociology or Poli. Sci. How is it that we have lost the vision that our society necessarily contains a spectrum of jobs, skills, interests, and abilities that are not always tied to a college education? How is it that people that hold these "lesser" jobs get patronized by "upper" classes? I don’t want to go back to an agrarian/skilled labor economy of the 18th/19th century but I sure wish people still carried a similar mindset. How do we best protect economic mobility (beside cheap energy and reduced governmental interference) and individual liberty? I would be curious to know who you would consider a good read on this. Von Mises seems a good starting point, but who else do you think is authoritative on true capitalism?
Get over your cold soon. I need you to finish last installment of Janissaries as well as getting ‘Anvil’ published.
A nation that has no use for half its citizens cannot survive. A great number of the ‘services’ now done by bureaucracies were taken care of by volunteer – what Tocqueville called ‘the associations’ through most of the life of the Republic.
That was one way to allow citizens in boring jobs and dull occupations to feel valuable to the community – there WERE valuable to the community. That is one reason for chopping back on government. Paying people to be unionized stupid is probably not a good thing for a Republic.
Making productive people more productive is an honorable job. That means helping them. We need to change our views about domestic service. I note that the TV sitcoms are beginning to do that.