American Elephants


Little Things Hidden in the President’s Budget by The Elephant's Child

Little things are hidden in the 1200 pages of President Obama’s proposed budget. Sometimes they are found. The President’s budget is definitely dead on arrival, but Economist Steven Moore noticed that once again, President Obama is attempting to defund the D.C. School Voucher program. This is a wonderful program that gives at least some kids stuck in poor-performing schools vouchers (by a lottery)  that they can take to a school of their choice.

The Teachers’ Union is furiously opposed to the program. Students who get vouchers may take them to Catholic schools where teachers are not unionized. The program has been very successful in graduation rates and kids that go on to college. Makes the teachers’ union look bad. You can see the incentives here, including the incentive for the president.

Most embarrassing is that the president’s children go to Sidwell Friends School, very expensive, very exclusive, and they take some of the voucher program kids. Makes the president’s pandering to the union look bad.



Zero Tolerance Gone Amok by The Elephant's Child

Another day, another eruption of educational idiocy. Political correctness or zero tolerance. Mindless principals, afraid that they might be criticized by someone, somewhere, for allowing any indication of possible, potential, imaginary violence to take place in their school, do remarkably silly things to protect themselves and damage little kids.

Alden Steward, age 9, had watched “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” and his head was still filled with the movie. He told a classmate that he could make him disappear with a ring forged in Middle Earth’s Mount Doom. He brought his “one ring” to school, put it on a classmate’s head, and said he could make him invisible like Bilbo Baggins.

Kermit Elementary School officials in Texas suspended the 9 year old for making violent threats.

“I assure you my son lacks the magical powers necessary to threaten his friend’s existence,” the father wrote. “If he did, I’m sure he’d bring him right back.”

Gosh, I’m not sure that is even as threatening as the little kid who got suspended for eating his pop-tart into a “gun shape.” (Looked more like the State of Idaho to me.)

I have not kept track of all the suspensions of kids for imaginary crimes against their school friends. There are too many. If you cannot distinguish between child’s imaginary play and violence, you are not suitable to be in a position of authority over children. It indicates that if there were an actual emergency, this person could not cope. School Boards should require a modicum of common sense.

Mark Pokorny. Warner Bros. :Pictures

Mark Pokorny. Warner Bros.Pictures



Obama’s Analysis of His Own Presidency! by The Elephant's Child

A strange day indeed. President Barack Obama appeared on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” He said he was most proud of “saving the American Economy” and he is “very confident that America is stronger, more prosperous, safer, and more influential today than it was when I took office.”

Huh?

“I’m proud of saving the American economy. We still have a long way to go. Essentially what we did was stabilize it, lay a new foundation to move forward. As I said in the State of the Union address, that gives us, now the capacity to tackle what was an overriding theme of my campaign way back in 2008.  And that is to restore middle class economics and the capacity for people to get into the middle class and start seeing higher wages and a broader shared prosperity inside the United States.”

“Internationally, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve responsibly ended two wars. Now, people will say, well, you’re back in Iraq, but we’re not back in Iraq with an occupying army, we’re back with a coalition of 60 countries helping to stabilize the situation.”

“And so one of the things I’ve learned in this job over the last six years is that sometimes progress is incremental. But when I look at overall the steps that we’ve taken, I believe they are the right ones. I am very confident that America is stronger, more prosperous, safer, and more influential today than it was when I took office.”

Republicans, online, have expended volumes of words trying to understand this president and why he does — what he does. Not very successfully. That is the things he does are not successful and our understanding is not successful. But David Horowitz, in his new book Take No Prisoners, offers some clues.

The Democratic Party has moved steadily leftward since the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern until it is now a party of the Left, led by progressives who are convinced that their policies are way stations on the path to a “better world.”

The vision of moral and social progress that Democrats share has profound consequences for the way they conduct their political battles. Unlike conservatives, progressives are not in politics merely to improve government practices and ameliorate social problems. They are missionaries who want to “change society” and “solve” its problems. They are out to create an entirely new order, which they call ‘social justice.” They think of themselves as social redeemers. Their belief in a redeemed future accounts for their political passion and for their furious personal assaults on those who stand in their way. …

The very grandeur of their ambition turns progressives into zealots. They dream of using the power of the state to make everyone equal and to take care of everyone’s needs. They are going to legislate—and dictate—social equality and social justice. How intoxicating is that idea? It explains why progressives approach politics differently from conservatives. It doesn’t matter to progressives that the massive entitlement programs they created—Social Security and Medicare—are already bankrupt. They can take care of that by making wealthy people pay their “fair share.” Progressives believe that if they can appropriate enough money and accumulate enough power, they can make their glorious future work. Everything Democrats do and every campaign they conduct is about mobilizing their political resources to bring about this result. It is about social transformation—one program and one candidate at a time. No Republican in his right mind thinks like this.

I recommend the book highly. I wish I could quote more. Eyeopening! I keep reading the first chapters over as the examples from my own experience prove every word.



The Current Measles Outbreak Is “100 Percent Connected” To The Anti-Vaccine Movement! by The Elephant's Child

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The majority of current measles cases in 14 states are linked to an outbreak traced to Disneyland. Reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington State. From January 1, to January 28 there have been 84 cases reported— representing 64% of reported cases, according to the CDC

In 2014, the U.S. experienced 23 measles outbreaks, totaling 640 cases, including one large outbreak of 383 cases, occurring predominately among unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio. Many of the 2014 cases were associated with cases brought in from the Philippines.

measles-cases-616pxIn spite of cases brought in from other countries, the U.S. seemed on the road to eradicating the disease entirely.  2014 saw the worst outbreak in two decades. What happened last year? More than 13,000 parents nationwide claimed on forms that vaccinating their children from preventable diseases like measles violated their “personal beliefs.”

Before 1963, when the measles vaccine became available for public use in the U.S., there were more than 500,000 reported measles cases every year, according to the CDC. On average 432 cases a year resulted in death. After an effective vaccination campaign, that number shrank to 86 measles cases by 2000 with zero fatalities.

Measles is one of the most infectious diseases on record, incredibly contagious among those who have not been vaccinated. The virus can linger on surfaces for up to two hours, and before those infected have any symptoms they can be spreading the disease. Aside from the blotchy red rash, you can get pneumonia, croup and diarrhea. The worst complication, which only occurs in about one in 1,000 cases is encephalitis which can lead to permanent brain damage or be fatal. The elderly or children under five are more prone to complications.

The current outbreak is “100 percent connected” to the anti-vaccine movement among the ill-informed. Most children are required to receive vaccinations to attend schools, but misinformed parents cite ‘health,’ ‘religious’ or ‘philosophical’ reasons in order to get an exemption. They are not only putting their own child at risk, but many other children as well. Oddly enough, it’s some of the wealthiest communities that are most unvaccinated, and have the most cases, like Marin County, California. and Orange County in Southern California, where unvaccinated students are not allowed to attend classes. Bad parenting.



Dang! Taxing the Rich Is Harder Than Obama Thought! by The Elephant's Child

Oops! President Obama’s scheme for redistributing wealth by taxing 529 Plan distributions when they were actually withdrawn to pay the tuition bill, was just cancelled. Somebody told him that really rich people don’t save their money in a 529, they pay the tuition for their kids out of petty cash. It’s the middle class who have to save up, and it was a struggle.  This wealth redistribution bit is more complicated than one might assume.

When you want to garner votes by giving people stuff, it has to be paid for — somehow. If the support for your political party depends on giving voters free stuff, then you have to take the cost out of someone else’s pocket. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out:

The move is a setback for the president. He sought in the run-up to last week’s State of the Union address to reframe a long-running debate over the tax system by issuing a set of proposals to address middle-class anxiety over wage and income stagnation. …

But the blowback over his call to scale back the tax advantages of 529 plans showed the political difficulty of making such changes.

A White House official said the 529 proposal was “a very small component of the president’s overall plan to deliver $50 billion in education tax cuts for middle-class families. We proposed it because we thought it was a sensible approach, part of consolidating six programs to two and expanding and better targeting education tax relief for the middle class.”

The main reason why college costs are so high is that the federal government keeps upping the amount that students can borrow. That frees up the universities to raise tuition and hire more administrative staff, add some more amenities like climbing walls or improving the landscaping. And professors expect to be better paid. After all they have PhDs and look how much those corporate CEOs and government bureaucrats make!

There comes a point when people would rather be free than have their votes purchased with free stuff that only costs them more in the long run. But it takes a while to learn that. Liberals never learn that lowering taxes brings in more money, that less regulation sparks creativity, or that the free market does a better job of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  Pity.

You really can’t get more money by increasing taxes on “the rich.” Wealthy people have lots of options, and lots of legal ways to shelter their money, and they can hire the best accountants and lawyers to help them do it. Works better to let them keep more of their own money — they will invest it in growing businesses, building things and hiring workers. And that makes the economy grow.



Handwriting, Printing, Cursive or Keyboard? by The Elephant's Child

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The late Richard Mitchell, the ‘underground grammarian’ wrote that “the business of writing is to stay put on the page, so you can look at it later and see where you have been stupid.”

I learned in college that handwritten notes help you to learn. The act of writing helps to fix things in your mind. Now comes a study from researchers at Princeton and UCLA that shows that taking notes on the computer is detrimental to learning. Handwritten notes are dramatically more effective at helping students retain information. Laptop use can negatively affect performance on educational assessments, even when the computer is used for its intended function of easier notetaking.

The majority of students would tell you just the opposite. Yet the study shows that students who take direct notes retain significantly less information. In recent years, the public schools have decided that children will do all their writing on a computer and they need only learn keyboarding. Cursive is out. Children not only don’t learn to write, they don’t learn to read handwriting.

Most adults who have learned cursive as children abandon it as adults for a mixture. The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters, making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. I switched to a mixture in sixth grade—I remember distinctly because I got in trouble for it with a teacher who was a Palmer-method purist. I was lucky to have a father and an aunt with impossible handwriting, which I mastered, and I have seldom been stymied by anyone’s handwriting.

The benefits of handwriting, learning cursive, is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. The physical act of writing leads to increased comprehension and participation. The College Board found a few  years ago that students who wrote the essay portion of the SAT in cursive scored slightly higher than those who printed, which experts believe is because the speed and efficiency of writing allows students to focus on the content of their essays.

If you are an opponent of Common Core, cursive is no longer included in the Common Core State Standards, which I believe to be an important mistake.



Increased Communication: Blessing or Burden? by The Elephant's Child

4986d76bc1365c018aa601e6a4ed1a52 It was just 100 years ago Sunday that the first commercial transcontinental phone line opened on January 25, 1915. Alexander Graham Bell made the call to his assistant Thomas Watson.

Only 39 years earlier, Bell had spoken to Watson in the first phone call ever, in Boston — just after Bell had  patented the telephone.

By 1915, the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. network crossed the continent with a single copper circuit 6,800 miles long. It could only carry one call at a time — but hearing another person’s voice from the other side of the continent was truly astonishing. There were already 8.6 million phones served by AT&T, but the first intercontinental call was a major public event. The call went from New York to San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition., where they were celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal.

We are inclined to forget that, for example, our founding fathers if they wanted to communicate with someone at a distance, had to send a rider carrying a message. Their days were uninterrupted by such things as the telephone, a radio, TV, computer, cell phones that we take with us so we don’t spend a moment unconnected.

We are so accustomed to multi-tasking and a constant flow of voices and opinion, sales and entertainment, that we don’t recognize the loss of silence, uninterrupted contemplation, time to think deeply. That blessing greatly contributed to the care that went into the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, and that clear thought, perhaps impossible today, may well be why it has lasted so well.

The current presumption is that all our equipment will go away and we will have wearable technology or implants so that we are never, never disconnected.

That must be contrasted with what seems to me our increasing inability to deal with the information age. What has come along with the increased flow of information is too much choice, and way too much stuff for which the word “information” does not really apply. Our educational system is not yet directly addressing information management, how to select that which is important, how to tell truth from falsehood, sense from nonsense, and how to form, from that flow, a life-enriching body of knowledge.




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