picture of me


Mail 396 January 9 - 15, 2005






BOOK Reviews

read book now

Permanent Link to this Page

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                                     NEXT WEEK


Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  January 9, 2005

I am just back from Las Vegas and CES, and there is a huge pile of mail, much of it interesting. In order to catch up this will be short shrift much of the week.

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

As I write this, I'm listening to a BBC interview of Peter Ustinov made by John Bird four years ago when Ustinov was 80. It is wonderful--well worth finding and hearing, particularly after his death.



The Liberal leader, Charles Kennedy, has resigned under fire for his alcoholism. This is very different from what happens in America. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4591882.stm

The UK government seems to be fleeing continuing education. This has already eliminated one of my favourite programmes--the short courses offered at Nottingham. They are also eliminating ranger interpretation programmes in the national parks. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1681697,00.html 

Bird flu has been found in Turkey. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4592556.stm  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25149-1974978,00.html 

The Former Soviet Union is re-emerging. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1974862,00.html 

Energy costs rising quickly here. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,1681264,00.html 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Subject: I'd like to think we could take credit for this . . .

I'd like to think we could take credit for this . . .


- Roland Dobbins

Possibly in times past, but highly unlikely today.


Subject: You didn't make the list...

But I thought this might interest you, Dr. Pournelle -- Sci-Fi That Soars.


Charles Brumbelow

I wouldn't expect to make such a list. One of these days I will make my own.


Subject: Implicit Association Test

"Implicit Association Test" Reveals Your Attitudes Toward Race


Louis Andrews Stalking the Wild Taboo

I haven't read this; the concept seems interesting.




-- Roland Dobbins

Multiple information asymmetries...


Teachers gone wild!


-- Roland Dobbins

The horror story is that there's doubt about what to do here.


Dr. Pournelle,

Let me preface my remarks on your article by saying how much I have enjoyed your work over the years, both fiction and nonfiction. I remember reading the Man Kzin series when I was in high school. In any case, I just wanted to thank you for your article featuring firefox. i have used it since version .8, and I never realized how versatile, functional, and customizable it really is. I went on a bit of a bender with different plugins and extensions, and I am still learning how to use them, but on my laptop, which is kind of lacking in RAM (IBM G40 2.6 ghz p4 with 256 MB of RAM) I truly appreciate being able to access so many things in one program.

Again, let me thank you for many years of reading enjoyment and insight.


J. Tope

Thanks. BYTE subscriptions remain one of the better deals in town...


Subject: US Troops Seize Guardian Journalist

The Guardian is not happy, and neither is the BBC likely to be. Dr. Fadhil was named as this year's young journalist of the year by the Foreign Press Association and is nosing into a story for BBC Channel 4 (the UK equivalent of NPR) about Iraqi money held by the Americans and British that may have been misappropriated. A few days ago the BBC asked for an interview with the American authorities. The troops seized video tapes he had made for the programme.


-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Part of the cost of Empire. The Guardian is angry.


Subject: U.S. Patent #6,960,975 issued for Warp Drive

To add to the thread on reactionless drive technology, a quick search for patent 6,960,975 issued November 1st. 2005 to Boris Volfson of Indiana for a "Space vehicle propelled by the pressure of inflationary vacuum state" prompted a friend who's a Trekker to comment that "Mr. Volson will have a daughter who will marry a man named Cochrane. Their son, Zefram, will perfect his grandfather's patent..."

See http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&

David B. Huber


Re: Year end essay on Iraq:

You wrote: "We will have learned a hard lesson."

Since when do "we" learn? If we learned from Vietnam, why the repeat? And what does learning have to do with politicians driven by their own leftover teenage myths of kung-fu warfare triumphs, righteousness, and guesses about reelectability? Politicians "learning" would be a great subject for a science fiction story, by some master, to wit.

Phillip Randolph

I fear I do not understand at all.

Viet Nam was not the same thing as Iraq 1 which was not the same as Afghanistan which was not the same as Iraq 2.

Viet Nam was, at the end, a straight up infantry campaign in bad terrain, and in 1973 we demonstrated that we knew how to win that kind of war, and did. Decisively. Congress abandoned the military and the administration in 1975, or Saigon would be Saigon today. We at least learned not to use conscripts for a foreign war of attrition.

Perhaps we can learn from Viet Nam not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


The Right to Block Spam

Morning Jerry,

Suddenly, without warning, sanity briefly reigns in Washington DC: You have the right to block spam!


It's amazing that there was even a question.





"Do something you like. Forget about the pay, for Christ's sakes. Regulate your style of living to fit your income. Just have fun in your job, that's the main thing." ~ General Chuck Yeager



This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  January 10, 2005

Still digging my way out of the hole CES made in my schedule. More Short Shrift.

Subject: Brain science

Jerry: Researchers have found specialist cells in the human brain, that are devoted to social functioning:

"The human brain has multiple mirror neuron systems that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior and their emotions."

This probably explains our aberrant compunction to anthropomorphize (just about) everything we come into contact with.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/10/science/10mirr.html <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/10/science/10mirr.html

Chris C

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing he has the Gods on his side. Aristotle


Annoy someone online--two years in jail? By Declan McCullagh, CNET News.com Published on ZDNet News: January 9, 2006, 11:19 AM PT

Commentary--Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else." It's illegal to annoy

A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language<snip>.

Is anonymous publication including Spamming a right?




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Still catching up...

Subject: Latest from Fred On Everything

Dr. Pournelle,

In case you have not read Fred Reed's latest article on the Intelligent Design debate, here is a link to it;


He does an excellent job of summarizing the debate and the different positions. It is well worth the read. Thanks

Matt Kirchner

Still sensible as always. I grow increasingly fond of Fred. There is a disturbing line at the bottom of his column: "Note: A couple of readers have told me that FOE has been blocked by the Army's netnanny as a hate site. Anyone know about this?"

I know nothing of this; does anyone? {Later: I am pleased to say this was a false rumor.}


Subject: Reading First Program

Dr. P. I first heard of this program in an article in, of all places, Indian Country Today. See the article at:


Interested in what sort of program could produce such results, I did a Google search and found this page:


Like many government websites, it doesn't appear to offer very many specifics at first glance. However, digging into the FAQs -- http://www.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/faq.html  -- I found this under FAQ 7 (Italics mine):

What's different about Reading First?

Reading First, unlike previous national reading programs, is a classroom-focused nationwide effort designed to help each and every student become a successful reader. Every state will be eligible to apply, and the most needy schools and districts will receive the funds and other support they will need to succeed.

Second, the size and scope of the program are much larger than previous programs. We cannot acknowledge the depth of the problem without making available the support and expertise required to ensure reading success for all students.

Moreover, Reading First differs from earlier initiatives by establishing clear, specific expectations for what can and should happen for all students. Reading First specifies that teachers' classroom instructional decisions must be informed by scientifically based reading research. Through Reading First funds, grants will be available for state and local programs in which students are systematically and explicitly taught five key early reading skills:

* Phonemic awareness - the ability to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds - or phonemes - in spoken words. * Phonics - the relationship between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. * Fluency - the capacity to read text accurately and quickly. * Vocabulary - the words students must know to communicate effectively. * Comprehension - the ability to understand and gain meaning from what has been read.

Reading First appropriately concentrates attention on the classroom. After all, during the average school day, students spend most of their time in classrooms. Classroom instructional time should reflect the most accurate and up-to-date knowledge about the science of teaching children how to read. For that reason, Reading First provides funds to state and local districts to help classroom teachers improve the reading instruction they deliver to all of their children.

I find this very interesting. Especially the first two bullet points. Can it be that some subversive in the government has actually managed to implement a phonics based reading program supported by federal grant money? Or am I being too optimistic?

Timothy K. Morris


No data here as this is the first I have heard. Sanity may creep in here and there but recall Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Sanity won't last.


Subject: Einstein's notion of a "cosmological constant" challenged


"Dark energy - the mysterious force that drives the acceleration of the universe - changes over time, controversial new calculations suggest. If true, the work rules out Einstein's notion of a "cosmological constant" and suggests dark energy, which now repels space, once drew it together.

"Astronomers invoked the concept of dark energy to explain supernovae observations in the late 1990s that the universe is not only expanding but accelerating. The supernovae appeared dimmer - and therefore more distant - than expected, given their red shift, which measures how much their light has been stretched by the expansion of space."


Charles Brumbelow


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now



Subject: Google Keynote Video

Dr. Pournelle,

 if you haven't received this yet:
  has most of the keynote (sans the Robin Williams pieces) lasting 48+ minutes. Hope you enjoy it, although it only managed to convince me that Larry Page has a lot of work to do to become convincing (much less charismatic), particularly considering how fascinating most of what he wanted to talk about really seemed to be, once you get through the slow, unfunny jokes (or maybe funny jokes but unfunny delivery) that made up most of the presentation.

Best regards, James Siddall jr

I didn't go, and I don't regret not going. The information content was pretty low. I am told that there was great cheering at Microsoft over the Google keynote.


Subject: Kyoto Treaty - More Junk Science Revealed?

Dear Jerry,


"Scientists in Germany have discovered that ordinary plants produce significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which helps trap the sun's energy in the atmosphere."


"If this turned out to be true, it would have major implications for the rules of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which allows countries and companies to offset emissions from the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil by funding the planting of new forests or the restoration of deforested areas."

The more time that passes, the less the Kyoto Treaty is found to be based on science and the more it resembles other historic ecclesiastical statements of religious faith



But we have known most of this for a long time. And I can still recall Possony's accent as he said in a speech in the 1970's "much of the methane attributable to human activity comes from the flatulence of cows," something else we have long known...

It is time to take the Kyoto madness out in the parking lot and shoot it. It is a waste of resources at best.



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  January 13, 2006


Subject:  intel iMac

Dear JP:

Just this morning as I got confirmation that my new Intel iMac shipped (6 days early, yay!) word "on the street" is hinting that this machine, even tho it uses EFI to boot rather than BIOS, may well be able to run Windows XP after all. Just how is as yet unclear, but two or three Mac tech sites are reporting the same thing. More when I know more...



PS: "Cringely" reports that much more Mac news - including large screen plasma TV/computers - are due VERY soon, but just weren't ready for MacWorld. Also says no Vista in 2006 (big surprise). For more see here: http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20060112.html

See also financial news in view.


Dear Dr Pournelle,

The BBC article referred to by Mark <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4604332.stm> - has an entertaining subtext which might brighten a few people's day. Reading the BBC article, one discovers that the research comes from a researcher at NIWA (where I did thermal pollution calculations for the Huntly power station on a PDP-11 many years ago):

"The possible implications are set out in Nature by David Lowe of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, who writes: "We now have the spectre that new forests might increase greenhouse warming through methane emissions rather than decrease it by sequestering carbon dioxide."

New Zealand is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol. Why was a Kiwi scientist working on the relative importance of plant emissions? I'm guessing it's because of something you refer to, the large amounts of methane produced by cattle. Some months back there was a furious controversy because of the "fart tax" introduced by the Labour government on cattle farms. Quite logically, the powers that be decreed that this would assist NZ in meeting its Kyoto protocol commitments - a sort of carbon tax.

But this country has unbelievable numbers of ruminants. Such farms are tremendously profitable because, unlike their European or American equivalents, the climate doesn't require that cattle be fed corn in winter or be kept in barns. Instead they eat grass, hay, or silage, all year round. So a methane tax would beyond doubt bankrupt a large number of the farmers on whom the bureaucrats depend for their taxes.

After due rumination and digestion of the electoral implications, the proposal for a fart tax was, er, dropped. But of course the patent hypocrisy was obvious to all. Now a local scientist has pointed out that growing plants also contribute a huge proportion of methane, the government has a perfect excuse for jettisoning the idea of a tax on animal flatulence. I'll bet his research grants are approved next year...

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics tcole@physics.otago.ac.nz

And see below


Dear Jerry,

With the continuing loss of manufacturing and engineering jobs America's creative minority is not being permitted to create. As Heinlein said, " Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck."".

Hundreds of thousands of American engineers are losing their jobs and their profession. The IEEE-USA reported in March 2005, that between the years 2000 and 2004, there was a decline of 23% in the number of employed EE's and a 24% decline in the number of employed computer programmers. The placement firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas reported last week that there were 140,000 high tech layoffs last year alone. Ford is going to design their new car lines in San Palo Brazil and is laying off American engineers. Meanwhile our trade deficit grows ever larger. How can we ever bring it down if we don't manufacture any products in the US? I fear America is in for some very "bad luck". I can just imagine how appalled that Heinlein, who was a mechanical engineer, would be by the current state of affairs.

J Marino Mesa Arizona


The Death of American Manufacturing By Robert Morley February 2006

Globalization and outsourcing are hammering our icons of industry.

For over a half century, American manufacturing has dominated the globe. It turned the tide in World War ii and hastened the defeat of Nazi Germany; it subsequently helped rebuild Europe and Japan; it enabled the United States to outlast the Soviet empire in the Cold War. At the same time, it met all the material needs of the American people.

During this period, many American icons were born. Companies like General Motors, Ford, Boeing, Maytag and Levi Strauss became household names. American manufacturing became synonymous with quality and ingenuity.

On the back of this industrial output rose America’s middle class. High-paying manufacturing jobs, in turn, helped spur a robust and growing economy that depended little on foreign nations for manufactured goods and armaments.

However, manufacturing as a share of the economy has been plummeting. In 1965, manufacturing accounted for 53 percent of the economy. By 1988 it only accounted for 39 percent, and in 2004, it accounted for just 9 percent.

Considering the stupendous list of America’s manufacturing achievements and the vulnerabilities associated with foreign dependence when a nation lacks strong domestic manufacturing, it is alarming when economists are warning that the U.S. is facing the “gutting, hollowing out and closing down of American manufacturing forever” (Benson’s Economic & Market Trends, Feb. 27, 2004).

Job Losses

The loss of the manufacturing industry manifests itself most clearly in job losses. According to the Economist, “For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, fewer than 10 percent of American workers are now employed in manufacturing” (Oct. 1, 2005). But even this figure is probably double the actual percentage, because many workers in a typical manufacturing firm have service-type jobs. In comparison, during the 1970s, approximately 25 percent of American workers were employed in manufacturing. From 1990 to present, manufacturing jobs have decreased every single year; since 1996, they have plummeted by almost one fifth.

Most recently, these job losses and the hollowing out of American manufacturing have been evidenced in the auto industry.

On Nov. 21, 2005, General Motors Corporation (gm) announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs and close nine manufacturing plants across North America. According to its ceo, the decision represented an attempt to “get its costs in line with major global competitors” and “return North American operations to profitability as soon as possible” (Associated Press, Nov. 21, 2005). Following these cuts, gm will have laid off 40 percent of its white-collar staff since 2000.

In a reflection of the resultant loss of confidence in the company, last May gm’s debt (sold as bonds) was downgraded by s&p from investment grade to the highest level of junk status; in September, it was downgraded even further. Now it is five steps below investment grade. Analysts even recommend selling gm stock, with one Bank of America Securities analyst saying it was “inevitable” that gm would eventually seek bankruptcy protection (cnn/Money, Dec. 16, 2005).

gm’s layoffs exclude the cuts announced by former gm-owned auto parts maker Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy protection last October. In 1999, Delphi laid off 18,000 workers. Now it is reportedly seeking to cut two thirds of its 34,000 hourly workers and slash hourly wages from as much as $30 per hour to as little as $10.

Ford, another American icon, has been slashing jobs too. According to Forbes, Ford could cut up to 30,000 jobs and close 10 plants (Dec. 7, 2005).

Egan-Jones Ratings Co., an independent firm, is predicting that “[t]his is the beginning of the end of the U.S. auto industry as most people have come to know it” (TheStreet.com, May 5, 2005).

However, the auto industry is just one example of the overall decline in American industrial might over the past couple of decades.<snip>

We have three things to fear, and our government is on the wrong side of every one of the issues. We sow the wind.

The issues are: American public schools which are horrible and more concerned with political correctness and pretense of equality than with teaching, which subject everyone to a needless and often useless "college prep" curriculum instead of preparing students for the work they will probably do in life; unlimited immigration coupled with expanding welfare, so that Americans learn you do not have to work, while at the same time learn that all the entry level jobs are taken up by people who will work for a pittance compared to what you can get on welfare (being "in poverty" becomes a highly desirable state in which to be); and the export of all the vital manufacturing jobs so that we are dependent for the very weapons of war on imports and the willingness of foreigners to sell to us. We no longer have Willow Run and Detroit and the Saginaw Wheel Division and Kenworth and the other industries which were quickly converted to building the weapons that smashed the Wehrmacht. Hitler wanted to destroy Detroit. We have done that for him.

Machiavelli pointed out that if you depend on foreign mercenaries for your protection you will not survive: either they will lose your battles, or they will turn to rob the paymaster. Selling off all the potential for building the weapons of war and depending on borrowed money so that we can continue to import not just "stuff" but the very vital necessities, is much the same thing.

And neither political party cares.

We sow the wind.


Subject: Washington Post education column: college prep vs. vocational ed


I've been reading your work long enough to know you have an interest in the tension between college prep tracks in high school and the need of many students for better vocational preparation. Here's a Washington Post column (Jay Mathews) on the topic. It is a discussion with an educator in California with strong opinions on the need for vocational training for the many students who are not college material.


Jay is a strong advocate of the "college prep" for everyone, and AP/IB for many. Chris Peters, on the other hand, reports that "most of the kids I see every day are literally having their time wasted by a curriculum that is at least 80 percent college preparatory." He would like to see vocational training that is not a dumping ground for poor or unmotivated students.

Interesting discussion.

Regards, Richard Clark

P.S. My wife has been trying to convince her (left-leaning) ladies book club that they need to read your _Lucifer's Hammer_. That should open some minds - or at least blow them ...

The way to see that no child is left behind is to see that no child gets ahead. Gates gives money to assure "a world class university prep education for every student." These are signs of profound ignorance, of believing n Lake Woebegon. HALF THE CHILDREN IN AMERICA ARE BELOW AVERAGE. A good high school education is sufficient education for at least half the population and more likely for 70% of the population but it must be the proper high school education.

It is madness or theft to say that everyone should go to college. When I began in the aerospace industry it was a tossup whether, 15 years after high school, you would have made more money by going to college then going to work for aerospace, or if you simply went to an aerospace industrial job right out of high school and thus earned during what would have been college years, and saved the expenses of college.

Of course if your grade and high school educations are worthless, going to work right after high school makes no sense.  Thus the academicians continue to ensure their full employment by turning out teachers who cannot in 12 years teach much, so the students have to continue to pay the eggheads more and more each year as they go to college to learn not much more than we used to learn in high school.


And see below


Early man hunted by birds?

More and more of Burning City/Burning Tower turns out to be accurate . . .


 Roland Dobbins


Subject: Global warming is a matter of plants


You've probably received many copies of this story by now. It certainly confirms the point you've made many times that those with an agenda are too eager to leap into solution space rather than fund proper studies. Having an agenda and the loudest bullhorn seems to be the order of the day for the debaters in this contest. It's as if it is no longer important to be correct in the policy decision taken; all that matters is that one side loses and the "our side" wins. See also the logging industry and much of America's manufacturing, refining, and power plant capacity. Losing in the global market to better, smarter, faster competitors is one thing; losing because of ham-stringing, progress-stopping, agenda-pandering regulation and lawsuits is another.

If the Gaea-worshipers have their way, the industrialized nations will cease to be industrialized. Then we'll really learn about the effects of unintentional consequences.

Best regards,

Jim Floyd

We are already learning about the effects of unintentional consequences.

And we know how to solve most of the problems. We just don't do them. And we don't really believe in science. The friends of science would rather natter about prohibit9ing a three line sticker in a textbook than do anything about actually applying scientific method to world problems. But then the purpose is to make them feel good about themselves without having actually to know anything.

We cannot do anything about global warming (or cooling) until we know more about what drives climate changes; but that is hard work and doesn't make a lot of people rich running about doing things. Better to fund lots of free trips to Rio and Kyoto for middle grade intellectuals to go confer with each other and pass resolutions.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Subject: anonymous publication

It is highly intuitive that opinions must be identified by author to keep anonymous information from doing harm. but the truth is counter-intuitive. Essential whistle blowers often cannot function without anonymity.

Richard Hunt


Agreed, but it's also pretty clear that allowing anonymous information to be circulated in ways that are difficult to ignore merely promotes spam.

There needs to be some kind of filter, preferably by a trusted intelligent person.

Implementation is the hard part. If you have ever listened to the raw data on a tip line you would know what I mean.

Do you have suggestions for how to implement this?


And here is good news:

Subject: Ion Drive with 21,000 isp


According to the article linked here, the ESA has funded the development of an ion drive that has demonstrated an exhaust velocity of 210,000 meters/sec. If I remember correctly, this corresponds to an ISP of 21,000.

"The new engine is over ten times more fuel efficient than the one used on SMART-1. "Using a similar amount of propellant as SMART-1, with the right power supply, a future spacecraft using our new engine design wouldn't just reach the Moon, it would be able to leave the Solar System entirely," says Dr Roger Walker of ESA's Advanced Concepts Team, Research Fellow in Advanced Propulsion and Technical Manager of the project."


The design solves the problem of grid degradation, and is scalable, given a sufficient supply of electricy. If we build a space elevator to get to orbit, then use this ion drive for space propulsion, I think we would have a viable basis for space colonization.

Rick Stilson

I need to look into this if only because I need a very high ISP system for a story I am working on about an asteroid civilization...





Subject: On Education

A short reply to what you have said on education: Amen.

I am a high school graduate with some college, and nuclear training from the US Navy. I work alongside engineers and scientists today. What impressed me with the naval technical schools was the fact that promising students could be turned around into instructors immediately after graduation. The only additional material that was helpful to the budding teacher was a three day basic instructor training where you learned how students learn. Granted, the curriculum tends to be narrowly focused, but the point is that you don’t need a master’s degree to teach kindergarten.

Reading letters of Civil War soldiers is humbling when you consider that many of them only had an elementary education, but write better than most, e.g. posters on Slashdot or any message forum.

I’m afraid that today we have turned colleges into some sort of rewards system with the promise of higher wages at the end, instead of the training ground for the future leaders of society. We have become a nation of slackers.

Stephen Borchert

The sorry state of education today is another consequence of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureucracu: tjhe education establishment is under the control of people who do not give a tinker's dam about teaching student, but care a lot about full employment for those with the proper credentials, and those who supply the credentials, and jacking up the amounts they extract from the taxpayers while giving back little. The teachers who actually care about students are fenced in with rules, and fenced out of any control over the establishment or indeed of their own classrooms and lives; the best may stick it out, others flee, and others finally give in, abandon the students, and climb onto the administrative lunch wagon.

Education in the United States is an utter disaster. In 1983 the National Commission on Education concluded that if a foreign country had imposed this system on the United States we would rightly consider it an act of war. It has been imposed on us, but by domestic organizations on whom we apparently cannot declare war.

The result was predicted and is predictable, and there seems to be nothing we can do about it: not even ammend the Head Start laws to allow them to TEACH THE KIDS TO READ in Head Start. If they taught even a few it would get us ahead of where we are. The fact is that in rural Florida in the 1920's we were able to teach just about every child to read in first grade -- by the end of first grade. Now we can't do that. Why?

Are our kids stupid? No. Are the teachers lazy? Some are. Most simply don't know they can do it, and are forbiden to use rational methods to try.

And we, the suckers, never catch wise, and continue to pour more money for decreasing results.

We need a law that says that for every first grade student at end of first grade who cannot read, the teacher is docked in pay. Docked by a lot. Then raise the pay so that with 100% success, first grade teachers would be very well paid indeed; with 95% success they would be paid better than they are now; at 90% they get what they get now; and for every point under 90% they are docked 3% of their salaries, down to the point where they owe the people money at the end of the year.

If it is protested that no teacher would take the job under those conditions, I point out that we are asking no more than 2 year Associate of Arts teachers were expected to do in rural Tennessee in the 1930's -- and in my school that teacher also had to teach second grade which was in the same room. And they routinely achieved these results.

What man has done, man can aspire to.




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now



Home duties





The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

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. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.


Search: type in string and press return.





Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)