Education: Is Help On The Way?

For centuries ivory tower academics controlled education.  They decided what was taught, how it was taught, when it was taught, and to whom it was taught.  As public education evolved, politicians became their allies, and in some cases their masters.  Liberal politicians hand out money “for the kids”, and in return the academics advance their left wing objectives.  Consider some recent changes: reducing teaching civics and history, cutting reading the classics, and turning classrooms into laboratories for “innovative methods”.  How many different ways have academics experimented with to teach basic mathematics in the past 75 years or so?   Can kids figure out 2×2 any better today than they could back then?  Politicians are obsessed with being “fair”, so schools eliminate grades, homework, and give everyone an award for showing up.  Standardized tests are “dumbed down”.  Then parents wonder why colleges need remedial high school courses, employers wonder why young employees lack good communication and math skills, and many wonder why young people can’t handle real life (which is not fair).  Academics and politicians have third partner: textbook publishers.  Every time academics decide that the teaching methodology of a subject like mathematics has to change, those companies reap a windfall.  Likewise when politicians decide that a subject like history needs to be presented with a different slant, e.g., don’t love your country, hate it, because what happened 200 years ago is YOUR fault.  Technology companies have latched on to the “spend-spend-spend” profiteering of textbook publishers.  The kids must have absolutely the latest technology.  Does anyone care what it’s being used for (or isn’t)?  Do local school administrators even know what the latest technology is or are they buying into to sales pitches?  Since the Feds began their takeover of public education in the 1970’s the US has spent over one trillion dollars on education but it’s nowhere near number one in achievement internationally.

There are signs that the winds are shifting.  President Trump selected a businessperson for Secretary of Education.  In the state of New Hampshire, the Republican governor selected a businessperson for Education Commissioner.  Business people know that money is neither free nor unlimited.  They understand “return on investment”.  They know, as academics should, that one size does not fit all, so they’re more supportive of alternatives to public schools like charter schools, magnet school, private schools, and home schooling.  Common Core is a win for liberal politicians who seek to indoctrinate children with “common values” but a loss for states, parents, taxpayers,  and the kids.

 

But… sometimes the winds shift the other way too.  New York state was praised for requiring a literacy test for teaching candidates.  After all, literacy is the foundation of learning.  Well, the liberals are considering abolishing the test because minorities have more difficulty in passing it. One candidate complained about the test being given on a computer.  What does that person expect to see in a modern classroom?  Once again we see the best interests of the students being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

Advertisements

Where’s the North Pole?

M1: “Ummm… where’s the North Pole?”

M2: “I dunno… up north I guess.”

M1: “where’s north?”

M2: “I dunno… but someone does… check Wiki.”

 

Would anyone like to draw a cartoon to go with that hypothetical exchange?  It might be funny if it didn’t reflect a truth.

A recent survey by a fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH regarding attitudes towards climate change and science itself revealed that less than one in five Americans know that thousands of their fellow citizens live and work above the Arctic Circle (where’s Alaska?) and that less than half know where the North and South Poles are located.  Although this survey was looking at the attitudes of  different political supporters, it, along with previous studies regarding educational attainment and international testing, deliver a scathing indictment of the public school system.  The most expensive public school system in the world isn’t educating its students for that real world!  If people don’t know where Alaska or the Poles are, it’s not because of their political views, it’s because they never learned geography (even of their own nation).  If people don’t know how our government is supposed to work it’s because they never learned civics.  If, as business leaders have said, young employees can’t write a coherent sentence, it’s because they never learned English grammar.  Likewise for science, mathematics, history, and any other subject.

Sadly, liberals who demand “one-size-fits-all” Common Core schools while ignoring successful alternatives like charter and magnet schools, are putting politics ahead of the children.  If they think  that kids need to spend more time “feeling good”, or feeling guilty for the actions of people 200 years ago, or questioning their gender, they’re only contributing to the decline in learning.  Indoctrination isn’t education.

The first step in reversing this downward trend is accountability.  Start by ending tenure, a luxury that other professions don’t enjoy.  Taxpayers need to be asking what they’re paying for, e.g.,  will a shiny new school building really mean a better education or is it just a better resume for the mayor?  Parents need to demand accountability, but so do teachers.  It’s up to the parents to see that homework is done, to attend scheduled meetings, and to teach their children respect for others.  The more we expect the schools to do the jobs of parents the less time the schools will have to do their own job: educating.

The second step is to get Federal government control out of education.  Over fifty years of “Fed Ed” and a trillion dollars later we haven’t gained that much.  Return control of the schools to the states, hand them a copy of my “Mission Statement for Schools”, and tell them to shape up.  If the parents care and the states want to compete economically and attract business, they’ll deliver.

The third step is to “put America first” so that business can thrive.  Make sure that trade agreements guarantee fair trade, not just “free trade”.  Put citizens first by limiting immigration to what the economy can absorb without reducing wages or seeing US workers replaced by H1B visa holders.  Reform our tax code and stop rewarding companies that move operations overseas.  We don’t have to be isolationist, just sovereign.  The future of our nation depends on it.

Tax And Destroy

Everyone has heard the famous quote “the power to tax involves the power to destroy” from Chief Justice John Marshall in an 1819 Supreme Court ruling that states could not tax the Federal government.  What about government use of taxation against the people it’s supposed to be working for?  What is that destroying?

For much of US history, taxes were collected to fund essential government services such as national defense, border security, law enforcement, public infrastructure, education, and resource conservation.  In fact Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said “taxes are what we pay for civilized society”.  Progressives have changed that through taxation for wealth redistribution and “social engineering”.  Social engineering typically involves the use of punitive taxes to discourage “wrong behavior” as defined by some omniscient Big Brother.  I’ll start with punitive taxation.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is pouring millions of dollars into local efforts to impose a punitive tax on sugary sodas.  OK, they’re not particularly healthy, but where does that process end?  Under the influence of UN Agenda 21 Denmark is seriously considering a tax on meat.  Once the USDA includes sustainability in diet recommendations it won’t be long before progressives want taxes on meat, and eventually dairy products.  This is about controlling people, and more control equals less freedom.  Eventually the only choice progressives will allow is for an abortion.  Bloomberg also pours millions into local gun control efforts, some of which include punitive taxes on guns and ammunition.  No ammo tax will ever stop a street gang, psychopath, disgruntled worker, or jihadist from unleashing mayhem.  What it will do is hurt honest shooting sports participants, particularly those involved in competitive target shooting.  It takes thousands of hours and probably close to a million rounds to reach Olympic level competitor status.  It’s those honest achievers who will be hurt, not the criminal who loads a “Saturday night special” to rob a convenience store.

(Hey Mike, why don’t you ever ask for more taxes on billionaires?)

President Obama wants a ten dollar per barrel tax on oil, even though it would raise prices of gas and heating oil and could send the economy into recession.  This is a punitive tax to punish those who insist on using fossil fuels.  As I pointed out in “Alternative Energy: The Missing Link”, however, we don’t have the technology to convert to renewable fuels overnight.  How many cities are 100% powered by renewable energy 24/7?  The answer is none.  How many all-electric vehicles have a 500 mile cruising range, or even a 100 mile range that can recharge during a 5 minute rest stop?  Again the answer is none.  An all-electric vehicle is a great choice for commuting from the suburbs to the city but would you want to set out to “see the USA” in one?  Incidentally if that electric vehicle doesn’t recharge from a renewable source it isn’t fully “green”.  He claims that the tax revenue would be used for research, and while some might be, some of it might also be used for global wealth redistribution.

So, what about wealth redistribution?  Within the US wealth redistribution is accomplished through various welfare programs and a widely abused tax credit program called EITC.  If you read my proposal for the ISIC welfare reform program you’ll know that I’m not opposed to welfare as a hand up for the unfortunate or as assistance for those who are unable to fully support themselves due to disability.  When children are starving in spite of school meal programs, SNAP, and WIC, however, something in the system isn’t working.  When a person who is fully capable of working decides to live off the labor of others and then jokes about it on social media welfare fraud has gone too far and reform is past due.  That’s an insult to every working family that’s struggling to support itself.  I’m also opposed to allowing foreigners to enter the US and immediately land on extended welfare.  Traditionally our immigration policy only admitted honest healthy people who were capable of supporting themselves within a reasonable time frame.  See my “Immigration is a Privilege, not a Right” post for more.  Global wealth redistribution is a recent concept arising from UN Agenda 21.  Third world nations are demanding billions of dollars from developed nations to “go green” under Agenda 21 while having no intent to meet the human rights objectives specified in that agenda.  See my post “UN Agenda 21 vs the Wealthy Wimpy West” for more.  I believe that global wealth redistribution is unconstitutional.  Nothing in our Constitution allows the government to send our tax dollars overseas or be taxed by any foreign entity.

So, what are the socialist progressives destroying with social engineering and Marxist wealth redistribution?  Essentially everything that made the USA exceptional: freedom (choice, not control); individual responsibility (the flip side of the rights/responsibility coin); the value of the family, and national sovereignty.

As many have pointed out, the US will never be conquered from without, it will destroy itself from within..  Progressives/socialists are leading the charge.

2016 Update:  Not unexpected: the UN has advocated for all nations to tax sugary drinks like sodas.

Unexpected: the UN also wants taxes on 100% fruit juices.  Who wants their morning OJ taxed?  It’s past time to tell the UN that we’re a sovereign nation, and while we’ll work with them on international issues, we will not surrender our rights or our freedom to them.

Does STEM Matter Any More?

As our progressive government and it’s subservient public school system try to steer students towards college degrees in STEM subjects the Democrats are simultaneously devaluing those degrees.  Did you see the article about STEM graduates working in Wal-Mart to pay off their huge student loans?  Want to know how this administration is undermining US citizens?  The answer is H1B visas.  Conceptually companies can only request H1B workers to do jobs for which no citizen is qualified.  Some companies are using foreign contractors to bypass the intent of the visa program.  Most recently, April 24th was the last work day for IT workers at Abbott Labs as they were replaced by contract workers, some of whom are here on H1B visas.  In some cases US workers have had to agree to train their foreign replacements and not sue the company in order to get their severance packages.  Talk about adding insult to injury.  Some companies just go the direct route.  Tech giant Intel has announced a 12,000 person layoff at the same time it has requested over 14,000 H1B visas.  Could that be a coincidence?  The whole H1B visa scam began in Silicon Valley, where cheaper foreign workers replaced US workers who were conveniently labeled “obsolete”.

So why is this happening?  One is the progressives’ obsession with globalization.  US workers must compete, even if unfairly, for US jobs.  India has an education industry created solely to teach students computer programming and minimal English so they can come to the US.  This is what I described in “Undocumented Foreign Aid”, i.e., the money these high paid workers send overseas.  Another is simply the ignorance of the public that’s more concerned with the latest reality TV show than their children’s’ futures. There’s even a bit of UN Agenda 21 as this is de facto wealth redistribution.

To protect US workers I propose the following modifications to the H1B visa program:

  1. No employer shall terminate or coerce a US employee into leaving in order to replace that worker with a foreign worker, either directly or through the use of a contractor.  If an employee is terminated the position must be filled by a US worker or left open for one year.  The position cannot be eliminated and recreated with a different title to bypass this rule
  2. No employer can require a terminated employee to sign any agreement that would protect the employer from a lawsuit if the ex-employee learned that the position had been filled by a foreign worker within one year.
  3. No terminated employee (unless terminated for cause such as theft) shall be denied any promised severance package for any reason whatsoever.

I have also proposed inversely indexing the H1B visa quota to STEM unemployment and raising the cost of H1B visa holders to US employers.

Next time President Obama says “every child should learn to code” ask him “why?”.

Update:  Billionaire Zuckerberg wants even more H1B visas to replace US workers and foreign companies taking US jobs.  He’s starting with $24 million to help train Africans in computer programming.  Since he can thank the US for being so rich why doesn’t he fund retraining for US IT workers who have been displaced by foreign workers?  Since they already know computers they shouldn’t have any problem learning the latest coding techniques, and they actually speak English.

Update 2:  Hillary Clinton’s “Tech Agenda”, her plan for US technology should she win the 2016 election, would be to “staple” green cards (permanent residency) to diplomas of foreign STEM students.  More foreigners in Silicon Valley, more citizens flipping burgers.

SCOTUS Focus

The unfortunate death of Justice Scalia has brought election year turmoil to the process of selecting a replacement.  Democrats demand prompt action while Republicans advocate for “wait until next year” even though they know they may not win.  The Constitution doesn’t specify a number of justices for the Court, which began with 6 and has had as many as 10, so this really isn’t a constitutional argument; it’s a political one.  The Supreme Court, with it’s authority to review laws for constitutionality, was supposed to serve as a somewhat independent check on overreaches of power by either the executive or legislative branches.  Instead it has become  a pawn of partisan conflict.

When a president appoints a justice solely to advance a party agenda, overturn previous rulings, or “legislate from the bench” the court becomes an arm of the executive branch with influence much longer than the president’s term of office.   That isn’t what the authors of the Constitution intended.  In it’s pursuit of collectivism the far left sees the Court as a means to nullify the individual rights granted by Bill of Rights.  The Court has no authority to amend the Constitution or repeal its amendments.  Justice Scalia understood that.  There’s a procedure for amending the Constitution that requires more than a court decision.

Freedom: it’s easy to lose and almost impossible to get back.

Alternative Energy: The Missing Link

Those who accept the idea of climate change caused by human activity call their opponents “deniers”, yet in one way they are also deniers, of technology. Both solar and wind energy have one insurmountable (at this time) disadvantage: the electricity must be used as it’s generated. You can use a battery to power an electric car for some distance and then recharge it (although it takes much longer than filling a gas tank). There is, however, no battery storage system large enough to store the power required by even a small city at night or when the wind doesn’t blow. The technology simply doesn’t exist. Transfer systems that convert electricity to mechanical energy and then back to electricity aren’t practical either due to losses at every stage. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be researching electricity storage, we should, but we can’t assume we’re on the verge of an earth-changing breakthrough, because we’re not. Scientists have been “on the verge of a breakthrough” in fusion power for decades but those super expensive devices have yet to produce a sustainable and commercially viable power output in excess of their input.
This means that a transition to alternative energy sources will happen gradually, not instantaneously. Politics can’t force science or alter the laws of physics. Attempts to do so, like President Obama’s proposed $10 per barrel tax on oil, will not materialize new technology, they will just hurt the people and the economy of the USA while generating more tax revenue for liberals to squander. On the other hand, the goal of UN Agenda 21 is to drag down developed nations, and our president is fully on board with that.
The rational, i.e., apolitical, approach is to plan the dual transition. Start by replacing the dirtiest fuels, like coal, with cleaner burning natural gas. Focus on energy conservation to reduce demand. Simultaneously implement alternative sources on a scale where current technology permits and continue improving that technology.
As for the types of technology, solar power is the cleanest. Wind farms are unsightly, kill birds, and emit low frequency vibrations that can make neighbors sick. That’s a well documented fact, not hypochondria. Another clean power source that does produce electricity 24/7 is hydroelectric power. It’s been a mainstay in eastern Canada for decades. They even have excess capacity that they would gladly sell to energy hungry New England if the environmentalists who demand clean energy would allow the transmission lines to be built. Expansion of hydroelectric power in the US is unlikely as efforts are underway to remove dams, not build them. Harnessing tidal power might benefit coastal cities but this is still experimental technology. What about biofuels? Except for capturing methane (natural gas) from landfills as a transition fuel it’s a dead end. Producing liquid fuel from crops removes food sources that are needed to feed a growing population, and when burned, emit CO2 just like oil from the ground.

The subject of hydroelectric dams raises the question of when does harnessing something change it. People don’t like dams because they substantially change the river. How many wind farms could be placed in one area without altering local wind patterns? How many tidal turbines could be placed in a harbor without altering the currents? Solar energy wins on this one. No number of solar panels on earth could alter the sun.

There are deniers on both sides but one thing neither can deny is that the world will eventually run out of fossil fuels, notably oil.  This reality was first brought to the attention of petroleum producers in 1952 by M. King Hubbert.  As an important raw material oil will eventually become too expensive to burn. The transition to alternate energy sources is, therefore, inevitable. It just won’t be driven by emotions, socialism, or surrender to a corrupt organization like the UN.

Got Heroin? Thank a Democrat.

Hankering for heroin? Cracking up for cocaine? Thank President Obama and all the far-left progressives, including Hillary, who refuse to take the one action that would drastically reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the USA: secure our southern border.
Securing the border would be expensive, but so is spending more and more money on efforts that aren’t particularly effective at curbing the drug epidemic. Let’s look at them. Education is necessary but not sufficient. Every addict in this country probably experienced drug awareness teaching in school. Treatment of addiction makes more sense than jailing addicts but it’s hard for a recovering addict to stay clean with drugs on every corner. Computerized prescription tracking may cut the number of “doctor shoppers” but it’s a serious intrusion by government into the doctor-patient relationship. How long before a “czar” with no medical training dictates medical treatments? What happens when those databases are hacked (and all databases seem to get hacked) and homes with legitimate medications become robbery targets? Law enforcement works hard to arrest dealers but our prisons are revolving doors for street-level drug dealers and the top drug lords are well hidden. Federal efforts at patrolling the border are overwhelmed by it’s sheer length and by political correctness.
An open border doesn’t just bring in drugs. It brings in illegal weapons, drug cartel members, and violent gangs like MS-13. Drug abuse causes a host of other social problems too. Sharing needles spreads diseases like Hep-C and AIDS. Addicts have a hard time holding jobs or caring for their families. They may steal to support their habit or become abusive. Drug gangs stage open warfare on city streets, often killing innocent bystanders, and anyone who thinks more gun laws will make these thugs surrender their weapons must believe in unicorns. The only way to put drug gangs out of business is to cut off their supply of drugs.
Heroin and cocaine don’t come from a workshop at the North Pole; they come from south of the border, and until that border is secured people will be dying and law enforcement officials will be working with one hand tied behind their backs.
Build the fence now, for the safety of our children and security of our nation.