Once more to the ER, but all’s well. Notes on good reading.

View 839 Sunday, August 17, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


My son Phillip with family is on the way back to Virginia, so it should be calm at Chaos Manor but of course it is not. Roberta managed to bang her foot and do something to a toe, and this morning it was clear that something was wrong, so we hunted up a crutch from the last time we were out there, and after church and breakfast we paid another visit to the Kaiser Emergency Room. Once again a pleasant experience – well, as pleasant as anything like that can be; everyone we encountered was pleasant, and fortunately we weren’t taking up time that ought to have gone to greater emergencies. An X-ray showed that the toe was indeed broken, but no complications. Treatment consisted of a bit of gauze and tape provided by the RN, and instructions from the physician to stay off her foot as much as possible, find the other crutch and use that too, no hikes for four weeks, take the recommended dosage of NSAID for as long as it hurts, and come back out to a regular physician in a week. Also an odd sort of shoe that looks like “medical equipment” and thus will be taxed heavily. All of which other than the shoe like affair was what we expected, but better to take no chances.

So all is well, but that can use up a day. The good part of it was that I had stowed a magazine in my brief case to read while waiting, and it had reviews of two books I would probably not have known about: Paul Johnson with a short (and given that it’s Johnson, likely to be very readable) biography of Mozart, which Roberta will definitely want, and Christopher Tolkien has put out his father’s famous (to his students) but previously unpublished translation of Beowulf along with many of his lecture notes from Tolkien’s days as professor of Anglo-Saxon. That sounded so interesting that I ordered two, one to give Niven – he doesn’t read this daybook so don’t tell him. I’ll have reviews of both in the Chaos Manor Review column I’m preparing.

The Review is slow in preparation because I’ve been subject to interruptions, and since it’s not in a regular magazine I haven’t had deadlines to meet. That turns out to be a mistake, and once I get this thing going again I’ll give myself deadlines – probably the 10th of the Month as I did in BYTE days – as an incentive to ignore the funk and get to work.


The California Sixth Grade Reader continues to sell well, and I have enough inquiries about a POD print version that we’re looking into it. The Kindle version http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=California+sixth+grade+reader gets periodic spikes in sales as someone mentions it. Big spike after Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit mention. When I got this

Hi Jerry,

In case you haven’t heard about it yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFrYEV07p4I

It’s worth 5 minutes of your time.

I hope everything continues to be well with you.

– Paul

I wondered if there would be a similar spike in sales. Not quite, but still noticeable. That seems to be the way eBook sales grow: a series of spikes, each of which settles back but to a higher constant sales level than before the spike. I do hope the book will continue to catch on with home schoolers and charter schools. In any event, The Struggle for Stupidity is an interesting lecture, and there’s a commentary at http://therightscoop.com/bill-whittle-the-struggle-for-stupidity/ that is worth a click.

We published the Sixth Grade Reader because I hoped it would make the point that American schools really have gone downhill since World War I and the Great Depression. Yes, there’s a lot more to be learned, about science and technology, and that leaves less room for classic stories like Jason and the Argonauts, and Horatius at the Bridge; but I haven’t seen much indication that what is being learned in their place is equivalent to learning the joy of reading, nor is the utility all that great – particularly in fifth and sixth grade.


I understand that the education establishment, which receives orders of magnitude more money per student than any education system including the most expensive private academies did back in 1914, has many reasons why today’s schools seem shabby compared to what was being learned back in the first half of the Twentieth Century.  One is that we now try to educate ALL the students, so therefore it’s naturally going to be a great deal more difficult.  I don’t think they have thought that statement through; the implications are important. If there’s a segment of the population – a large segment, because at least 85% of the school age kids went to school through sixth grade in 1914 – that just can’t manage concepts like The King of the Golden River, or Longfellow’s poetry, who is it, and is it wise to dumb down the entire school system in order to accommodate them?  I’d have thought education more important now for a successful future than it was back then.  Is it that there’s more poor protoplasm in the schools than there used to be, and we must invest orders of magnitude in resources to accommodate them? 

Surely no one wants to say that.  So why does it take ten times as much money to teach kids Fun With Dick and Jane than it did to get them reading Ruskin and Longfellow?




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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