CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 323 August 16 - 22, 2004
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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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August 16, 2004
Jerry, I asked you why the most fiercely libertarian society on the planet tolerated the TSA and their like. You replied by asking why the English tolerated the destuction of British society. This was a pity as I was asking because I really wanted to know. The latest Fred on Everything has an answer:-
The lobotomy box gives to Hollywood and New York limitless sculpting access to the minds of our children, limitless power to condition all of us. For hours a day, week after month after year after decade, each generation sees what the two cities want it to see. It sees nothing else. Because the programming does not come from the formal government, because it seems to counsel only the purchase of New! Improved! Whatever! because we hold it in contempt while spending our lives before it, we—many of us—do not see what it really is.
Regards John Edwards
My reply only seemed frivolous; it was intentional if short. The answers are similar.
"So I guess it is true. Galileo was not convicted of heresy. He was put on trial for it, he recanted his works, he was put under house arrest, but convicted of heresy? No, not convicted... "
I suppose it's not worth niggling over, but the charge was not heresy, even if moderns with no concept of heresy feel free to label it so. No one at the time supposed the charge was heresy, since the motionlessness of the earth was not a matter of faith. It's like people today thinking that Michael Milliken or Martha Stewart were convicted of insider trading -- when they were not even charged with that offense. (In fact, the charge against Galileo was very much like the charge against Ms. Stewart.) The whole thing was a stew of international politics, anti-Florentine prejudice, Galileo's in-your-face style, Urban's ego, and the ferocious enmity of the Aristotelian schoolmen. In the end, it required forged evidence to upset the plea bargain, and even so, three of the ten inquisitor-judges voted for acquittal, and one was the Pope's nephew. As Galileo himself wrote to his friend Cardinal Picollomini afterward, "You and I both know the true motives that lay behind the lying mask of religion." The trial itself was a scandal even while it was happening, and one sympathizer said that the trial would never had taken place if Galileo had not alienated the Jesuit astronomers with gratuitous insults.
A useful overview of the affair is "The Crime of Galileo," by Giorgio de Santillana.
I am going to bow out of this. I had a long talk with Ruffini a few years ago about his being called in by the present Pope to work on rehabilitating Galileo; he found that amusing.
Galileo seems to have been well treated, as opposed to some. But the Inquisition in Italy was small potatoes compared to some places; and of course the major witch trials were in Germany, and were particularly vicious in Protestant times (and all bound in with confiscation of property, too....)
|This week:||Tuesday, August
Today was partially devoured by locusts.
In your latest column, you say that "by the time you read this, Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be out." Well, danged if I can find it anywhere on the Microsoft site. Release Candidate 2, yes, but the regular Service Pack 2 doesn't seem to be there.
Regarding Galileo, I think the most interesting speculation on the question is that of Pietro Redondi. In his _Galileo Heretic _ he argues that what was really going on was the Pope saving Galileo's life! Redondi thinks Galileo inadvertently expressed an opinion concerning atoms and atomism that could have been argued to involve heretical ideas concerning the nature of the Eucharist. Since that was one of the hottest areas of contention with the Protestants, if Galileo was convicted, he'd definitely have been executed. So the Pope broke the Inquisition's procedural rules and trumped up a charge concerning heliocentricism that no one actually cared about, to have an excuse for banning the book instead of burning the scientist.
I don't know if this is true, but Redondi argues his case well. And I don't know of any facts that contradict his idea.
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
You can get the network install file here:
It's 272,391 KB. Note that "network install" means only that it is complete: you download it all and then run it. You don't have to have a network, although it will install across a network if you have one.
It has been a long time since I read much about the Inquisition, but it is my understanding that the number of people actually executed in Italy was small. In Spain the whole show was bound up with the expulsion of the Jews, false and real conversions from Muslim to Christianity, seizures of property, and secular rulers who were often more zealous than any Church authorities.
And of course it all gets bound up with horror stories from the Peasant Revolts which were put down vigorously by both sides in the Religious Wars in Germany.
Subject: IMPORTANT - Phishing Help
As we have warned before, 'phishing' is becoming quite common in emails. With some clever tricks, some of which are hard to spot, you can be fooled into clicking on a link that will look like your bank's web page, but is actually a page designed to get your financial information. If you fill in the form, you can bet that your bank account will have fraudulent charges in about an hour.
At the office, we've been getting a lot of these phishing emails. They are hard to block, as they don't contain executable attachments. And some of them are quite good.
I analyzed one, and wrote a report showing how a link can be fooled, and showing the very well done phishing page. Here's the link.
Phishing emails are increasing, and getting quite good (see more examples at http://www.anti-phishing.org in their "Archives"). Anti-virus won't find it, and a fully patched system (even XP/SP2) can be fooled.
The folks at the Internet Storm Center provided a link to a browser add-in that displays the actual domain name of the web page. "SpoofStick" is available for IE and Firefox (doesn't work with NetCaptor). It adds an additional toolbar, and shows text like "You're on www.jerrypournelle.com". That's all it does, but will help ensure that you are on the site that you think you are. Recommended. Get it at http://www.corestreet.com/spoofstick/ .
Regards, Rick Hellewell, information security at digital choke dot com
TV, British Society & Fred on Everything
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
As usual Fred has his points. More than usual he is direct and to the point on his latest rant. But he is wrong. Not completely wrong, or even mostly wrong, but wrong enough. He says you cannot not watch tv, and I think you can. I do, or I mean I don't (I think). What I really mean is that I don't "watch" tv. That doesn't mean I don't have a tv, I do, a very nice Sony 27" tube. But I don't watch "mainstream" tv. No Survivor, or Fear Factor. No Network news, no CNN (unless I want to watch immediate disaster coverage, like 911), no NFL, no NBA or NHL or Baseball (ok, maybe the last round of the Masters ;) ). I couldn't tell you the last time I tuned in ABC, or CBS or whatever. I watch some History, a little Discovery, some TLC when they have something interesting. I watch Food Network because I like to cook and HGTV because I have both a house and garden and enjoy doing it myself. I don't sit and stare for hours on end. I also don't buy into what Hollyork (great term, Fred!) is selling. Advertising has never worked it's nefarious ways upon me. In fact I'm quite likely to buy something that isn't heavily advertised.
Same with music. Once an entertainer I like sells out (and it's pretty obvious when they do), I stop buying their music. Take Billy Joel, for an example. His first three LP's were positively brilliant, his fourth was great, his fifth quite good, his sixth starting to sound derivative and I haven't bought another since 1978. My taste in music didn't change, his did. TV sold out. It sold out long before I was born, but it took until the 1990 for me to realize it. What made it click in my head was having children. I had been told the Children's Television Network was created because some people were disillusioned with the commercialization of network tv. I realized that Sesame Street was a gigantic marketing effort, second only to Disney.
I got your "ask the English why" reference immediately. Must come from reading your stuff for decades. I'm waiting for us all to start painting our faces blue.
The Washington Post is having a best blog contest, which I saw linked from The Corner. It seems to be oriented to political blogs of the 'partisan hack' variety.
Nonetheless, I nominated you (http://www.jerrypournelle.com) in the category of Best Rant and Best Outside the Beltway, Steve Sailor (http://www.isteve.com/) as Most Original, the Reason mag blog (http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/) as Best Democratic/Republican Party Coverage, Wonkette (http://www.wonkette.com/) as Best Campaign Dirt and Best Inside the Beltway (she's obscene AND totally irreverant!), Fafblog (http://fafblog.blogspot.com/) as Class Clown, The Volohk Conspiracy (http://volokh.com/)as Most Likely to Last Beyond Election Day (there was no one else to stick it), and then I dithered over what they meant by Best International (?) and then just tossed Laura Rozen (http://www.warandpiece.com/) in there.
As you can see, the choice of categories sucks. I wouldn't expect anyone to agree with my choices (DUH) for the most part, but if anyone wants to pile on and nominate you in Best Rant and Best Outside the Beltway, there is a chance (admittedly small given that the partisans will be piling on as well) that we might squeeze you in.
They're taking nominations until September 3rd, with top five being voted on at the end of September.
ash ['Political monkey-wrenching since 1977.']
This is an English translation of a paper written for Charles DeGaulle, recommending a future policy for France: the formation of a "Latin Empire" to offset the Soviet and Anglo-American Empires. Rather long, but worth it, I think. http://www.policyreview.org/aug04/kojeve.html
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
This from the Mirror:
"A BOSS had her job ad banned - because it asked for "hard-working" staff.
Beryl King was told by a Jobcentre that it discriminated against people who were not industrious."
Yet another nail in the coffin of republican civic virtue....
Mike Juergens firstname.lastname@example.org
Decline of the West Part 1343, Treason of the Clerks...
Sorry: I had speeches and other business.
Latin Empire and terrorism
I read that curious “Outline of a Doctrine of French Policy” prepared for de Gaulle’s provisional French government in August 1945 by Alexandre Kojčve. It has to be said that is a very strange, very ‘French’ document, made odder still if one knows that Kojčve was a Russian-born Marxist who settled in France in the 1920s.
He seems to me to have some very strange notions of what constitutes an empire. And the proposition that Italy, newly liberated from Mussolini‘s fascism and Spain, still under the fascist rule of Franco, would willingly—willingly, mark you—sign up as French satellites in what he admitted would be be a second-rank “empire” is, well, unconvincing. Certainly the “Latin Empire” Kojčve proposed did not come to pass and was not the central plank of de Gaulle’s foreign policy. That was reconciliation with Germany and from that fundament, to build an international European political entity in which what was then West Germany, subdued politically and militarily by total defeat in 1945 and unwilling or even unable to attempt a foreign policy of its own, would be the engine, the powerhouse, but it would be lead by France.
This is why in the ‘60s, de Gaulle took the opportunity to veto Britain’s application to joint the fledgling Common Market as it then was, as he saw Britain as the one nation that, once in the club, would be able to wrest leadership away from France. Yet it is almost uncanny how his stated vision for Europe of “un Europe de pays”, a Europe of countries or nations, rather than some sort of federal united states of Europe, is now almost exactly the policy of today’s British eurosceptics
Such a “Europe de pays” is almost the direct opposite of Kojčve’s so-called Latin Empire. Because for de Gaulle the glory of France, the French nation, was the sine qua non. France did succeed in dominating the European Union with the compliant , almost silent aid of Germany until the collapse of Communism and the reunification of Germany. Now it found itself bound in with a larger, more confident Germany, that had cast off its former diffidence about expressing itself internationally. France no longer had control of the European Union, as became explicitly obvious with the recent arrival of the new eastern members.
When it came to the question of war with Iraq, clearly Germany and France were on the same side in their opposition, but what I think most people have missed is that the two opposed from very different motives. France opposed war with Saddam from its long-held perspective of pro-Arabism, anti-Americanism with more than a touch of cynical opportunism thrown in. Much of this can be seen to have been already alive and well over half a century ago in Kojčve’s paper. Germany, on the other hand, opposed from honest principle; the Germany that has now emerged at last from World War Two is at heart a pacifist nation, which has learned the lesson of two world wars perhaps too well; but that is the reason for German opposition, and fundamentally this is an honourable position, which cannot be said of the French one.
But you know, in the same issue of Policy Review, there is a much more relevant and cogent paper on “The Terror to Come” by Walter Laqueur, which sets out very well why a war against terrorism is such a different problem from all previous conventional wars
Subject: Semper Wi-Fi.
-- Roland Dobbins
Suspicion breeds confidence.
Subject: Clerical error puts Kennedy on "no fly" list
Another one of those wonderful moments in national security
Feeling so much safer already...
Subject: At least -he- can call Tom Ridge . . .
-- Roland Dobbins
Much, much safer...
While a long-time reader of your computer columns in Byte and your web site, I confess that I haven't delved into your fiction. With the release of your new book, I was reminded of my intention to start reading some of your fiction.
But, you have a lot of books ! (Amazon shows 92 titles for your name.) So I am looking for a "reader's guide to fiction by Dr. Jerry Pournelle" — a list of your books that I might read in the proper order.
If you can find time in your busy schedule to point me towards a list (or if your readers have recommendations), I can get started on your catalogue.
I know. It's on the list. Real Soon Now...
Subject: Sales rank 484 AND "Early SF Adopter #18"
Congratulations, Jerry -- Amazon sales rank 484 AND "Early SF Adopter #18", with more to come!
See the attached PDFs for documentation of these facts: At 10:50 PM CDST on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004, "Burning Tower" had an Amazon Sales Ranking of 484. The book was also ranked #18 in Amazon's "Early Adopter Scienc Fiction & Fantasy" list.
--Gary Pavek ( mailto:email@example.com ) ================================================ "Too many people simply give up too easily. You have to keep the desire to forge ahead, and you have to be able to take the bruises of unsuccess. Success is just one long street fight." -- Milton Berle (1908-2002) ================================================
Thanks ALL! Keep it up!!
Subject: Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...
>. Apparently this was an asteroid strike as large as the end-Cretaceous event, but because it landed in Antarctica in the middle of an ice age about 780,000 years ago, was much less destructive. -- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Subject: Safety first!
-- Roland Dobbins
Another note for the Terrorists', Disruptors', and general Pranksters' Notebook
Subject: Sinus Irrigator
Love your site Jerry, keep up the good fight. I was surprised to see mention of the Sinus Irrigator. Many Gulf War vets came home with terrible sinus and bronchial problems after the first gulf war and I can attest that the irrigator has been a big help for many suffering with frequent sinus infections and coughing. I continue to use it daily and recommend it to others.
I would like to see more feedback from any readers which may be in the military or former military with a ground level perspective to balance the media attack.
We've talked about this device before: it's a pump like a Water-Pik that comes with some powders you mix and a special nozzle, and it's used to pump out your sinuses. It has reduced my sinus problems to manageable levels, and I use it religiously now.
If you get it through the following link you get a discount. Truth in advertising: I get a small commission also. This was arranged by the company without any request from me because they were getting a lot of orders through my web site anyway. I don't take advertisements, and I recommended this because I use it.
I caught part of an interesting presentation on C-SPAN by Mary Habeck:
A little Googling revealed that Habeck is apparently the sole surviving military historian on the Yale faculty, and has been denied tenure, possibly as "part of a larger decision on the part of Yale's history department to phase out military history as a professional specialization and, by extension, as a subject in which courses are offered:"
I fear I don't have the time to follow your website as closely, or as often, as I would like. However, I've been loosely following your thoughts/correspondence on education. I'm only a young educator, and in a university rather than a secondary school, but it seems to me you have (so far or perhaps I missed it) left out a big part of the educational equation. You have discussed teachers and bureaucratic set-up but I've seen no discussion of students (and their parents).
You say, "..I put the proposition that return to local school boards with real power would be the most important reform we could make."
I agree with this, which made me wonder: why did we go away from such local power? Why, if local boards had a great deal of power, did they give it up? Or who took it from them? I don't know nearly enough history, of my own people or others, but it seems to me that on the surface the loss of local control of schools goes hand in hand with a change in thought of parents and students. That is, parents today seem to view education as a commodity purchased rather than a process participated in. In my brief experience, it seems impossible to teach a student who does not wish to learn or who does not view the class as important. In this I am fortunate. I teach at a private university and the overwhelming majority of my students consider my class important, whether they are genuinely interested in the subject or not (which most are, whether they explicitly understand their interest, or not).
I recall that you once pointed out that you were educated in a small, overcrowded building that housed several grades with a single teacher and yet you, and most of your fellow students, came out well (forgive me if I have the details wrong). I would wager that most of you - from the very poorest to the very richest - shared the fact of parents who made it clear that school was important and that you had better work hard at it. A smaller percentage, perhaps, of my fellow students and I have done well; but those of us that did well had like-minded parents.
Enough. My reason for writing, is to suggest that local control was lost because most parents, that is, most localities, don't want local control. They want someone to come give their children an education. They value education but don't properly understand what "being educated" means and, therefore, they think it can be handed down from up on high. If most parents really knew what their kids should be getting, they'd be less impressed with test scores and credentials and more willing to take control of their local schools.
Perhaps, at this point, it is too late to wrest control away from departments of education; but before we rush to put control back where it belongs, it is, I believe, important to consider how that control was lost in the first place. I'm sorry to be so long and fully acknowledge I'm not an expert on our educational system or its history.
<snip> Name Withheld
Back in the 50's "Federal aid to Education" was a frequent political topic: there was none, you see, and many said there should be, citing how many school buildings could be built for the cost of a B-52 and other such. It would, we were told, be wonderful for the schools. In those days, though, it was noted that the word "education" doesn't appear in the Constitution, and any rights to any such thing would have to be derived from the states; the Feds weren't and shouldn't be concerned. But it would do so much good!
Some of us argued that there is no such thing as free money: with Federal money would come Federal control.
The results are clear.
There were also things like Federal rules requiring mainstreaming of handicapped and dullard students, which may or may not be a good idea but one might think ought to be left to local governments, and a number of other such matters. And over time we converted from a system of education to a system of providing credentials.
The results are clear.
Subject: IMPORTANT - Back to School Computer Warnings
It's back to school time, and lots of new computers. The Internet Storm Center ( http://isc.sans.org/survivalhistory.php ) reports that an unprotected/unpatched computer connected to the Internet will survive less than 20 minutes before being attacked or scanned by nefarious users or processes.
So it is important to make sure that your student's (or your) new computer is properly protected before connecting to the Internet, or a school computer network. There are four basics:
- Windows Firewall enabled (the first step after the initial startup and before connecting to the Internet). Consider adding a hardware firewall for additional protection.
- Automatic Windows Updates, set for download and install without user intervention.
- Anti-virus program installed, and set for daily updates.
- Anti-spyware/adware program installed; teach your student to run the program at least once a week.
Readers might find my 'home computer security checklist' helpful in ensuring proper configuration and documentation of the computer. If you follow all the steps in this document, you are less likely to get panicked calls from your student (at least about problems with their computer). The report is here; it might also be useful to less-technical friends and relatives.
Regards, Rick Hellewell, information security at digital choke dot com
August 21, 2004
Iraqis seem keener on fighting the US, its democratic enabler, than on actually organising a democracy. It appears that sectarian fidelity, and ethnic fraternity, trumps national loyalty. Perhaps things will get better when the US leaves and the Iraqis have to face their problems themselves. But experience indicates things never get better in the Middle East, only varying degrees of worse.
Indeed, indeed. One might have thought that anyone would know this before we went in. Back in the Old Days, the President owned the Navy and Marines, and the Congress owned the Army: if you wanted a real war you had to go to the Congress and get a Declaration, after which the nation was at WARRE, and mobilized, and we had conservation and "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" and "don't you know there's a war on?" and like that.
If all you wanted to do was wring a tyrant's neck you sent in the Marines, they did the job, and came home again. Alas, if only...
If anyone is thinking of writing a popular music hit in Cairo, they would be well-advised to lard it with criticism of US foreign policy. Yank-bashing makes discs fly off the shelves and crowds bums onto theatre seats.
I think that Arabs get some kind of masochistic pleasure out of seeing Westerners stomp on them. Some weird Crusade/Jihad throwback.
I genuinely thought Arabs would be grateful to be rid of an aggressive dictator. But it turns out that there are worse things than being repressed by a totalitarian aggressor ie having an American soldier in the neighbourhood.
Nice Guys get Illegal aliens http://olimu.com/WebJournalism/Texts/Commentary/NiceGuysGetII.htm
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dunn19aug19,1,4631141.story LOS ANGELES Conviction in False Hate Crime Case Jury finds former Claremont McKenna College professor guilty of attempted insurance fraud and filing a false police report. By Arlene Martínez and Monte Morin Times Staff Writers
August 19, 2004
A former Claremont McKenna College professor accused of spray painting racist slogans on her car and then blaming students for the vandalism was convicted Wednesday of attempted insurance fraud and filing a false police report.
Kerri Dunn, 39, a former visiting psychology professor, showed no emotion as a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury in Pomona rendered its verdict. Dunn faces up to 3 1/2 years imprisonment when she returns to court for sentencing Sept. 17. <snip>
August 22, 2004
Subject: Defending Our Skies Against the Elderly.
As I watched the airport screener search my father, I had to wonder: have we lost our common sense? <snip>
- Roland Dobbins
We can accumulate these stories until Doomsday, but the simple remedy: abolish the TSA -- will never happen. No bureaucracy is ever disbanded just because it is counterproductive to the real purpose of the agency. If the notion is to make us all feel safer and therefore fly and keep the airlines open, the TSA is a disaster: yet on it goes, on it goes, on it goes, and "reforms" will do nothing.
We are NOT safe; but we are safer on airplanes than in the cars taking us to airports. That would be true with no airport screeners at all provided that cockpit doors are locked, and passengers understand that the pilots are not going to divert the flight: you may all be killed, or you may Mao Mao the hijackers.
We would be safer yet if we required all military combat officers to carry a sidearm off duty whenever they travel.
Instead we have the TSA. On it goes. On it goes.
Perhaps the TSA have a point. I found this quote, and being familiar with British Rail have no difficulty in believing it:-
In 1980, the London Observer reported that a demonstrator carrying a dummy rocket- launcher had walked onto a railway platform where a train hauling nuclear waste was due to pass - according to a subsequent statement from British Rail, regulations did not forbid passengers carrying rocket-launchers from going onto station platforms."
Truly our masters are mad , John Edwards
Subject: Apollo 11 anniversary cartoon
You may have seen this already, it's a few weeks old.
Minsky and I said that to Carter's NASA Administrator Frosch. And I've said it to every NASA Administrator since. Doesn't do much good. But there is a way.
The Congress has determined that it is in the national interest to have an American Lunar Colony. The Treasurer is hereby directed to pay to the first American owned company to place 31 Americans on the surface of the Moon and maintain them alive and well for not less than three years and one day the sum of Ten Billion Dollars, which shall not be subject to income or other taxes.
That one Act would do it, and it would cost exactly $10 billion, and we wouldn't have to pay a cent until it was done. Oh. Well.
First, be feared
“Iraqis seem keener on fighting the US, its democratic enabler, than on actually organising a democracy.” — Jack
“I genuinely thought Arabs would be grateful to be rid of an aggressive dictator.” — Jason
Naďve beliefs, I’m afraid. No matter what the hypothetical benefits, no-one is going to welcome foreign conquest, occupation—and national humiliation. And when the apparent result to date is not democracy but violent chaos with no sign of an end, expect the situation to get worse, not better.
The key to avoiding the current predicament was to have tackled the issue of law and order in the right way from the start. This was not done.
I was reminded today that when the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Mountbatten, in command of the Allied Indian Ocean Sector, “requested” the Japanese military and/or police in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc. to continue to police these territories until they were relieved. I’m not sure, but I think it more than likely that a similar expedient was employed in Japan proper until sufficient US personnel could be got there.
As Mountbatten said later, there was no alternative as he could not have Allied troops installed overnight across half south east Asia, and without the Japanese continuing in their police role, there would have been instant chaos, civil war, and so forth. Sound familiar?
As soon as possible, teams of Allied officers arrived to take over the management, through the existing command structure, of Japanese troops, who were then more gradually replaced with Allied troops and local police.
This expedient was necessary because the Japanese surrender following the atomic bombs had happened very suddenly. By contrast, when Germany finally surrendered almost all the country was already occupied by Anglo-American or Russian armies so the need did not arise. In Iraq, the resistance collapsed so quickly as to be somewhat more like the Japanese situation than the German. But no-one seems to have planned for this eventuality, or thought clearly about what to do when confronted with it.
The strategic error in Iraq was disbanding the pre-existing Iraqi army and police without having anything immediately available to take their place. This created what might be called not a power vacuum, but a law-and-order vacuum, with the consequences we still live with.
What matters first in a conquered nation is not to be loved or to be thanked, but to be feared and to be obeyed. The democracy and the thanks and so on will come later.
All of which I said before we went in, but they do not seem to have listened. In fact the egregious Frum read me out of the Conservative movement for such heresy.
I have been following your mail discussion of the perils of centralized control of education with considerable interest. In my humble opinion, the downfall of education in North America stems from the rise of "expertism". Few parents trust themselves anymore, in the face of a barrage of expert opinion on every subject. I note that in Europe, it requires an advanced degree in a subject before being allowed to teach it in high school. Here, the Colleges of Education stress "method" to the exclusion of content, and often have the lowest entrance requirements, a disgrace I cannot understand. The answer is competition in every possible form, and let the good drive out the bad. Continue the good work, and take time off to write fiction - there isn't enough good stuff available.
Subject: local control of schools
Mike Royko in one of his classic columns said:
"Lets list all the things the US Government does well.
1/ Wage War
As you can see, it is a very short list."
Chicago is an example of "local control" that has been a failure for a long time. I remember my music teacher father talking in the middle 60's about how the Board's bureaucracy was screwing things up. It took close to 40 years before anyone had the guts to make major changes.
Even local control doesn't work if all you have is a hive of bureaucrats issuing directives instead of doing useful work.
Actually I would add things like X-Projects, and even Apollo; and the Interstate Highway System seems to be a success. But as Royko says, it is a short list. I never said local boards would all get things better. Just that some will.
Subject: RE: The Schools essay you are writing
Regarding the essay you're writing on schools: Could you include your perspective on the libertarian position?
I believe the most common libertarian position on schools would be "Keep government completely out of education - leave it entirely in private hands". This allows parents to choose a school with policies that match their children's educational needs, and their own religious and/or moral beliefs. People who do not want to pay much for education can choose to have few or no children. Those who want to give money to a worthwhile charity will see schools and scholarships as an excellent choice, rather than feeling "I already paid my fair share in taxes".
I presume from your preliminary comments that you see value in having local government control schools, probably enforcing school financing through local taxation. What important goals to you see being achieved by that, that would not be achieved by the libertarian approach, and which outweigh the benefits of the latter?
Tom Craver Chandler, AZ
I have no objection to compulsory public schools as a means of socialization and ensuring all citizens of some minimum knowledge. John Stuart Mill once said that if the state would require that all citizens get an education (say jailing parents whose kids don't pass standard tests) it could save itself the trouble of providing that education: the market would take care of it.
I think that might be a bit extreme. Incidentally, I find no mention in the US Constitution of anything about education and conclude that the legitimate power of the US to do anything for education including paying money and certainly mandating standards is zero. Except, of course, in the District of Columbia where the power of Congress is near absolute.
Interestingly the District, where it is legal and constitutional and one might even say ethically required for Congress to provide a good education doesn't seem to have good schools at all. Perhaps if Congress would, in the District where they have the authority, set us an example we might wish to follow...
Re: "I got this comment: "You must trust your neighbors more than I do.""
I'm not certain it's the right idea to be considering. A better question would be who can I hold accountable? Is it easier for me to contact or engage an expert, professor, or the neighbor who sits on my school board? Regardless of trust, I can tell you the names of the 5 people who sit on the school board of my city. I can't tell you a single name of anyone from the US Department of Education.
Another question. Does it matter who I purchase the book from? Is it strictly amazon pre-orders that will affect print run, or may I shop around?
Thank you for your courtesy, Richard Micko
Good point. As to the book, feel free! A lot of pre-orders now will influence the print order...
Subject: Local School Boards
>Over in the Science Fiction Writers of America forum, I put the >proposition that return to local school boards with real power would be >the most important reform we could make.
I absolutely agree with the above.
I think that the single most detrimental thing to come out of the "race reforms" of the Sixties was the destruction of city "neighborhood schools", replacing them with "busing" to achieve "racial balance/integration": It would have been FAR BETTER to have kept the neighborhood schools in 'minority neighborhoods" intact and made sure they were funded as well or better than their white counterparts, and that the TEACHING STAFFS were integrated.
I have at least a passing familiarity with the "ed biz", as three generations of female ancestors (great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother) were all teachers.
Rick Hellewell's Back to School Computer Warnings are right on target, except his advice doesn't quite go far enough. He says to consider a hardware firewall. I say just get one and use it.
These days you can buy a router with a built-in firewall very cheaply. Some of these firewalls are more sophisticated than the basic network address translation (NAT) firewall that used to be standard on these things. So, buy a router and use it as a firewall, even if you don't use a network for your computer.
Well, I have already given this advice both here and in the column...
Subject: Language determine the ability to think?
Some interesting results from a "primitive tribe." It seems they **can't** count above three.
See "Language May Shape Human Thought" at http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996303
Ranten N. Raven
Where is Whorf now that we need him?
I need one after reading this article. Apparently the financial welfare of GlaxoSmithKline is more important to the FDA than whether people (children) live or die. Maybe they figure the anti-depressants will help children deal with the effects of over-prescribed Ritalin. Maybe they figure that if they treat scientists badly enough for telling the truth, they'll stop doing it. Well, if the FDA doesn't like the data, it can always suppress it. Maybe the FDA needs an anti-suppressant!
All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand. Stephen Wright
I know nothing about this; perhaps Dr. Hume can comment. I fear I do not trust the NYT when it comes to large corporations and public health. They can have it right -- there are the remains of a fine newspaper about the Times -- but they often do not have it right.
I've ordered my copy of "Burning Tower" though I will not be able to enjoy it until I return to the U.S. next year. I am currently spending this year working in Italy.
For anyone who has not spent any time out of the U.S.A., I highly recommend it. Learning a new language alone is worth the time spent. It opens whole new avenues in the thought processing centers of the mind. Experiencing a new culture extends that even further and makes you question many of the things you took for granted. But I digress from why I am writing this note.
I have spent this week vacationing in Rome. It has been wonderful to be near and even to touch some of the art objects I had only seen in pictures before. To experience the Colosseum, to touch a 2300 year old statue of a Dying Gaul, to walk the streets of the ancient Roman Forum, to name just a few things, is something impossible to describe in a few short words.
However, it was while I was in the Capitoline Museum and taking the picture that is attached to this note, that my wife asked me a question that really made me think.
"I wonder if anything we have done will be remembered in 2000 years?" she asked.
A startling question and one I am not certain I can answer. Surely landing on the moon will be remembered, but have we really accomplished nothing else worth remembering?
I can name off the top of my head at least 30 things that the Romans contributed to our current culture. Things that are 'remembered' (though maybe not commonly known as being Roman in origin) almost daily.
But are there more things we have done that are worth remembering? Your thoughts and those of your readers would be most appreciated.
Braxton S. Cook
I love walking around Rome. (And you can follow me, here...) And I often think just that: what will we do that anyone will note in 2000 years?
Subject: css Zen Garden: The Beauty in CSS Design
Fascinating exercise in website design
You may recall me asking you the provenance of a maxim that was baffling me. The problem is that I thought it was Winston Churchill or GB Shaw. As you'll see, it comes from much humbler stock.
Best regards, Paul Schindler
Here's the item from this week's column: On Jan. 1, 2002, in this column, I asked about the provenance of the maxim, "If you maintain a consistent political position long enough, you'll eventually be accused of treason." I assumed it was Churchill or Shaw, but could find no proof of that. Last week, I sat down with Google to try again. Imagine my surprise to find that the oldest reference to it was... written by me! In the summer issue of The Tech, the MIT student newspaper, Aug. 3, 1973, I cited it without attribution in reference to MIT's Draper Laboratories. Then I found that Angus King, Maine's former governor, always cites Mort Sahl as the originator. This makes sense; my mother owned the album "Mort Sahl at the Hungry I" which I must have listened to several hundred times as a boy. You can find several more references on Google.
I am not astonished. Mort Sahl was a brilliant man in many ways.
: Recent link to "Underground History of Education" book
In your mail section on Aug 12, you had a link to the online book "The Underground History of American Education". You noted correctly in your comments that the book shows how the current school system is mainly a jobs program for teachers.
I have been reading the book, and am shocked and amazed by some of the things it reveals. The opening point is that reading can be taught to anyone in a short time with phonics (which you and most of your readers know). Before compulsory school began, at least 99% of Americans were literate. The point of compulsory schooling was to _prevent_ members of the lower classes from becoming truly educated! The masses needed to be prepared for positions in modern industrial society, and too much education would interfere with this goal. This goal was accomplished by teaching reading with the "Whole Word" method, using teacher certification and layers of school administrators to make sure every teacher went along. Upper class children would escape this dumbing down by attending elite private schools.
The supporting evidence for this idea comes from a wide range of topics, and is too broad for me to summarize with any brevity. Here is a link to a review that describes the book in more detail,
and here is a link to a section of the book that encapulates a lot of the author's conclusions about the way we got the schools we have today.
I have found this book highly relevant to many of the letters that have appeared in your mail section in the past week. One writer had recently completed a Ph.d and still did not feel "educated". Another discusses possible reasons for the lack of small local school boards. I see these issues in a whole new light after reading this book, and I highly recommend it to you and your readers that share an interest in education and its effect on society. I will note that some of the author's points must be taken with a grain of salt, but I think the general thrust of his arguments is accurate.
Thanks for providing a forum where issues like these are discussed,
My wife has long not merely contended but demonstrated that anyone can learn to read. And I strongly recommend that everyone teach their children to read before they get to school. You can do that by looking here.
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