American Elephants


Bill Gates Talks About the Potential for Education and Technology. by The Elephant's Child
August 13, 2010, 6:58 pm
Filed under: Education, Freedom, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

Everyone except College professors agree that college is too expensive.  Articles have been appearing to that effect in greater frequency recently, some suggesting that big college loans are no longer worth it.  Others suggest that higher education is only the latest of the bubbles waiting to explode.

Bill Gates suggests that education will increasingly become web-centered.  If we can have full-length movies online, with special effects and full color, we can certainly have college-level classes.  The potential for a few supremely effective professors to reach millions over the internet with far more effective presentations than the usual classroom, should have a lot of tenured professors shaking in their tweed jackets.

Education’s interaction with technology has been for the most part unfortunate.  At least in our district, kids no longer learn cursive writing.  The theory is that with an always present keyboard, they don’t need to learn anything beyond printing.  But keyboards are not always present, and the act of writing fixes and clarifies things in the mind.  It allows you to consider what you have written and see where you have been stupid.  Boring math drill is considered no longer necessary when everyone has a calculator.  Silly reasoning.

The potential for transforming education is breathtaking.  The first priority is to get the fingers of the federal government out of public education.



Transparency vs. Secrecy. Secrecy Wins! by The Elephant's Child

The headline on this memo from the President, published at the White House website reads:

Transparency and Open Government:

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

The following subheads read ‘Government should be participatory.’ and ‘Government should be collaborative.  The whole thing was to be published in the Federal Register.

The headline in the Washington Examiner reads “Obama closes curtain on transparency.” As I mentioned before, I don’t go hunting for these things, they just appear.

President Obama has abolished the position in his White House dedicated to transparency and shunted those duties into the portfolio of a partisan ex-lobbyist who is openly antagonistic to the notion of disclosure by government and politicians.

The former “ethics czar” Norm Eisen has been sent to the Czech Republic to serve as U.S. Ambassador.   Most of Eisen’s duties will be given to the already very-full docket of White House Counsel Bob Bauer.  Bauer was formerly the top lawyer for the Democratic National Committee.  His own words show little interest in what is usually defined as “transparency.”

He has suggested that the notion “that politicians and parties are pictured as forever trying to get away with something,” is an idea not worth much. We needn’t keep too close an eye on our leaders.  In August 2006 Bauer blogged “disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned.”

Some other headlines from here and there: “Inspector General for TARP assails Obama Administration for Lack of Transparency and Deepening Housing Crisis,” Most Transparent Administration Ever Makes Effective Reporting from Gulf a Felony,” Obama Falls Short on Transparency Pledge.The EPA  Silences a Climate Skeptic.” These are just typical examples.  A little Googling turns up dozens of similar headlines.

Politicians have a natural tendency to want those things which reflect badly on them to be kept secret.  That tendency must be resisted.  The folks in Washington D.C. are elected to be our representatives.  They, including the president, report to us.  They are our servants and serve  at our discretion.  With an election coming up in November, they would do well to remember that fact.




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