Tuesday, November 30, 2004

In the middle

What has always amazed me is that, when looking back on an episode in one's own life, or an episode in the life of the World, we can't figure out why we didn't do something, anything, to change its course. But, it is only in retrospect that episodes have a beginning and an end. It is rare that a person can say, "well, we are smack dab in the middle of this occurrence."

While elections seem to be beginnings and ends, they really aren't. There is very little that is different now in America after Nov 2 (except a lot of weeping and gnashing of blue teeth).

One of the movies I saw as a youth, at least several times, featured a rushing train in the first scene. Onward, and onward surged the train through a blinding rainstorm. We saw that the tracks had been washed out ahead, but, of course, the engineer did not know that and the mighty train plunged headlong into a deep valley.

What did intelligent Germans feel in 1935-37? Were they aware of the looming disaster for their country? Will we ever know?

The word for today is hubris, and it is palpable. Sorry, that's Hubris.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Man of Peace

Ariel Sharon brings you these delightful little bits:

Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.

The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.

Apparently, the Israelis are upset because the first little bit actually recreates a scene from their holocaust. Can't have any competition for the sympathy vote, can we.

But it is the second scenario that truly reflects the level to which Mr. Sharon and his accomplices have descended. Dante did not make a place in Hell low enough for monsters like these.

(thank you TBogg for the heads up.)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Inured to Tragedy

At some point, the American people have become inured to what is happening in Iraq. While much of the analogies to Vietnam that appear have to do with the battlefield itself (What, another guerrilla war?), we somehow just don't seem to give a damn anymore that people, including a lot of children, are getting killed. Furthermore, as Senator Robert Byrd points out, we are emotionally maiming battalions of our own men.

When Bush says "We are winning the battle" or, more sarcastically, "Major combat operations are over," Americans who have been raised on Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat just watch the bodies disappear. Laura Croft is immortal.

I have a proposal for Mr. Bush. Given that there is no way that you are going to "win" in any sense of the word (please note that the Palestinians are still resisting after 57 years), why don't you just pack the bags and come home. I realize this would a) throw Iraq into Civil War and b) deprive your big contributors of their oil wells. But, hey, its the only thing that makes sense at this point. Maybe the Old Europeans will step in and help. Or the United Nations. Or even the Russians. Or, God forbid, the Chinese (they need the oil).

Friday, November 26, 2004

Fallujah and No Child Left Behind

It may seem unfair to compare these two, but there is a similarity and it may be informative to do so.

Fallujah: This was an excursion to achieve a purpose. It had clearly become a stronghold of insurgents fighting both the United States occupation and the Iraqi who were collaborating with this occupation. (The wisdom and legality of the occupation have been argued extensively in many forums. I happen to believe it has been both unwise and illegal.)

The purpose of the assault on Fallujah was to clear the city of these insurgents. In the process, the city has been nigh on destroyed and many of its inhabitants either driven out or killed. In addition, a large number of insurgents have been killed (I am not sure that this is, de facto, a desirable thing. Many Iraqi view the insurgency, rather than us, as a liberation force.) This brings the basic question that links Fallujah and NCLB.

Is it not possible that using brute force will only exacerbate a problem rather than solve a problem?

In the case of Fallujah, it is too early to tell, but there is a good chance that the insurgency will have gained support in Iraq and other Islamic countries because of the assault. Rather than being defeated, they are recommitted.

Now, some data on school age children (some of this is from the NCLB website, some from Census Bureau data)

America Population 290 million
~60 million school age students (~20%)
48.2 million public school students in the United States (~80% of school age pop).

As of the 2002-03 school year, there were
14,465 public school districts in the United States.
95,615 public schools (average of 500 students/school)
Elementary 68.7%
Secondary 23.6%
Other 7.6%
Private Schools 27,223
Charter Schools 2,996
1.1 million homeschooled children (1.8%)

The document for NCLB is very interesting. In the introduction, after tossing out some blather about how great the support for education has been it quickly gets to the observation that children who complete public school in the US are not prepared for the modern world. (this is the problem, i.e. insurgents in Fallujah). The solution to this problem is supposedly very simple. You just demand that all children perform (i.e. pass standardized test). In other words, it attacks the problem of the failing American school system with brute force. To be fair, there is also some support for increasing teacher eduction and helping disadvantaged groups.

What is really behind the American child's failure? NCLB does not, as best as I can see, address this question. I doubt seriously if it is something that a school can do that will remedy it. I suspect it is a cultural phenomenon that is a combination of massive material wealth (goodies, clothes, video games, cars, etc.), decreased parental attention (it is hard to help with homework when you are working two jobs), pessimism about the future (we continue to have a poor job market with many of the better jobs going overseas), and lack of incentive for teachers (I know how they feel; its not fun being blamed for things you have no control over.)

The sadness is that NCLB may have the same effect as the attack on Fallujah. The incredible focus on "testing" children now is doing little more than creating high anxiety. I don't think that it is solving the problem.

Furthermore, it shows a mind set in the Bush Administration that eschews complexity. Iraq is a complex society. They are not all bad guys. School is a complex environment. It is doubtful that big league testing will address the problem of our children's failure to learn.

Its going to be a long four years.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


You know, I guess I do have a lot to be thankful for. I've had a good life. I'm still able to post snark and not get thrown in jail or worse. I can still read calculus and almost understand it.

But, I've got to get to work and make the room better for the kids to come. They'll understand.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Some seek greatness.
Some have it thrust upon them.
Most it eludes.
And some, and we're not naming names,
spit in its face.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Too Much Irony and Not Enough Pity

This is just too much. Consider the "election" in the Ukraine:
(From the Guardian)

"The opposition created a tent city on the central street and demanded the reversal of the official results, which give the pro-Russian prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, a 3% lead.
An exit poll funded by western embassies put Mr Yushchenko 11% ahead."

Doesn't this sound awfully familiar? Exit polls? Official results?

But the real irony is the protestor.

"The tension generated by the election worsened when Washington accused the government of fixing the vote and Russia backed Mr Yanukovich."

Oh, you reader of 2054 CE, laugh not at our insanity.

Back to Earth

I guess that we should try and do anything to advance the cause of children. If a blog can do that in the smallest way, then I will blog.

Children are in danger; they are an endangered species. If you doubt this, read the article in the Washington Post on Sunday:

Children Pay Cost of Iraq's Chaos
Malnutrition Nearly Double What It Was Before Invasion
By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page A01

Here is a letter to our local newspaper I am sending out tomorrow:

The presidential election has come and gone. George Bush has won. Instead of a meritocracy we have a mediocrity. Having won, however, does not absolve him from responsibility for his decisions of the past four years. While many have resulted in harm to children (American children will have to repay a massive deficit), it is the decision to invade Iraq and the aftermath that has been the most detrimental to their cause.

The US military has recently conducted a major offensive against Fallujah. During this attack, many civilians, including children, have lost their lives. This fact, the death of children in Iraq, seems to go almost completely unnoticed by the citizens of the United States. While we rightly mourn the soldiers who die there, we seem to care not a bit about the innocent civilians of Iraq. The Pentagon had a virtual blackout on the assault on Fallujah, but some information did filter through. Scenes of scattered bodies, prevention of medical care to injured civilians, destruction of homes and businesses. This is not the actions of the America that I once knew.

Those of us who decry this slaughter should demand an immediate end to this unjust war on children. It is sapping our resources and destroying our credibility in the World. In spite of the arrogance of the current administration, we should care what the World thinks. It’s the only World we have.

Onward and Upward with the Star Fleet.....