Thursday, May 22, 2008

With the political campaign heating up, attention is beginning to fall on Bush's No Child Left Behind program for public schools. The program has drawn loads of scathing criticism for its top-down approach to solving problems and the inept way that it has been implemented in many schools, including the snarky No Child Left Behind -- Football Version

All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away until they do win the championship.

It would be a great analogy if it kept things in proportion. NCLB is not, as the blog claims, supposed to prepare children to win the championship. It's supposed to prepare children to qualify for the team. Way-big difference. Currently too many schools are not bothering to prepare children to qualify for the team.

The other day a young woman came over to our house for some math tutoring. She had graduated with good grades from the local "good" high school and is probably gifted, but she had never been taught the fundamental concepts she was supposed to learn. She couldn't subtract 0.5 from 6. While this distressed the adults in the room, it totally amazed my home-schooled eight year-old, who could do all the problems on the woman's college homework assignment in her head. I finally had to distract the child with cartoons before the poor woman died of embarrassment.

While NCLB is a step in the wrong direction, it only got passed because public schools weren't doing their job in the first place. To quote from today's AP article

Educators look at that goal and say, 'These people must be kidding,'" Petrilli said.

Even if educators have that view, parents don't, says Kerri Briggs, the Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

"They would like their kids to be on grade level now and not 50 years from now, not 20 years from now, but this year," Briggs said.

Let's not even try to kid anybody. The only reason NCLB passed in the first place was because the public schools were broke and had refused to do anything substantive to fix their problems for decades. Desperation was the cause for NCLB, not malevolence. Yes, there are a few loonies around who want to end public education, because a working public education system (as opposed to the mess we got now) is essential to a working democracy. But NCLB was not passed because of a few loonies. It was passed because a substantial number of parents in this country are fed up with their schools not working.

Want to end government interference in the school system? Fix the blooming schools without government interference. If the schools are not willing to fix their problems on their own, they can't blame their customers, the parents, for trying to fix the problems for them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I Ought to Frame This

"Dear Taxpayer,

"You are entitled to an economic stimulus payment of $xxx as provided by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. You can expect your payment by 5/23/08."

Honestly, how often do you get a note from the Federal Government saying, "Your check is in the mail"?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

After weeks without reliable phone or internet, we finally got our line fixed. Turned out there was a loose wire on a pole outside our house. Then AT&T tried to charge us for all that, and tell us there was nothing we could do but pay up. A complaint to the State put paid to their little game.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mississippi's First Big Budget Election

My family just survived our first big-budget political election. In previous years Mississippi has been too inconsequential for the Big Guys to bombard us with a propaganda saturation campaign. Not so this year unfortunately, as the race for the House of Representatives seat MS-01 seemed suddenly worthy of big-money mass callings, media, and mailings praising the virtues of the Conservative Republican candidate while accusing Democratic candidate Travis Childers of closing churches, not paying his own taxes, increasing taxes on others, and everything else short of eating babies for breakfast. Most of the attack ads turned out to be lies and all of them carefully avoided talking about the real issues, like the war and the economy.

I'm pleased as punch to report that the big-money ad campaign failed completely. Glenn McCullough, the Fundamentalist Christian Conservative Republican candidate who snowed in our mailboxes and whose flunkies called our phone 6-12 times a day with pre-recorded messages was about the first person knocked out of the race. Then we were blitzed with a fistful of anti-Childers mailings every day. My husband especially loved the one that linked Childers to Obama; he thought it was the best endorsement anyone could possibly offer Childers. The net result of all that garbage was that Democrat Travis Childers carried our county easily and won the race.

Hopefully the big-money people will have learned their lesson and we won't get a similar blanket of glossy over-sized postcards and annoying phone calls next election. Hopefully.

As for us, we voted for Green Party candidate John Wages until he was knocked out of the race. Wages was the only candidate running in favor of pulling out of the war. Then we switched to Childers for the runoff. Childers seems tolerable, but I could not in good conscious vote for someone who would, among other things, deny the sanctity of marriage to all single adults who seek it's blessings while a better candidate was on the ballot.

While looking for tonight's election reports I found a nice-looking blog for Mississipi Democrats called CottonMouth. It's good to see another Mississippi blogger who isn't a staunch Conservative; sometimes I feel a bit lonely.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Harvard Law Scholar Elizabeth Warren gave a lecture on what has gone wrong with the American Economic Dream. It's up on youtube here. Watch it. The sad but entirely predictable thing is that I heard all these statements 20 years ago in publications on the "radical liberal fringe". I did what I could to protect my family then, staying away from credit cards and debt. I figured, rightly it turned out, by the time the mainstream media picked up on the story it would be too late. Still, it's nice to see the government's figures backing everything up.

Keep in mind that what Elizabeth Warren talks about isn't news. It's history. She isn't talking about what is happening right now, but what has already happened while America has slept.