Archive for the ‘education’ Category

The Real Problem, as I See It

June 10, 2015

Since my wife works for Fairfax County Public Schools, I quite often have a bone to pick with the way things are run. I would try writing a letter campaign to the administrators but I sometimes doubt they would be able to read it, understand it, or both.

Sure we have the wonderful SOLs that have to be taken because of national mandate and we all know how good those things are. When I was young, we had the tests the last week of school and had maybe one half-day afterwards.

Today they have two weeks of school AFTER the end of the tests. And what exactly do the teachers do in that valuable block of time? Play movies, have parties, and the like. You know, real constructive use of the teachers and the children’s time.

I don’t know, maybe they are contracturally obligated for a certain number of days, even if the time spend is wasted. Who knows?

Anyway, near the start of the year, wife planned an event at the school (one she does every year) and it has always been held in a certain room. The week before the event, someone in the office called her and said she couldn’t have the room.

Seems they instituted a new rule that all room requests had to be approved and set on the “Master Schedule” and someone else had requested that date just a week before – several weeks after the event had been announced. So she had to contact the parents and students and move the event to another, less favorable, venue.

Fast forward to today. It is nearing the end of a long and exhausting school year and the final event planned is due to occur next week. It was approved to be held in the gym and put on the “Master Schedule” three months ago.

Well, apparently the schedule is really master of nothing. The thrid grade teachers decided they wanted to hold their year-end celebration in the gym and, since parents are coming as well, they simply erased the name of the “scheduled” event and penciled in their own, with the administrators’ approval, of course.


See why I think the administrators might not be able to read anything I wrote to them?

Backing the Right Horse

May 1, 2015

I know I gave Superintendent of Public Instruction Karen Garza a hard time recently over the flak of the first snow days of the winter past but she has been doing a good job and there were no other fiascoes after that first snowy day.

Now she has another battle on her hands: the Fairfax County School Board has voted themselves massive pay raises (that is, if you conside 33% increases “massive”) while announcing there is a budget shortfall this year and the education services are going to have to be reduced. And, no, the teachers will get no more than a 0.6% pay raise to make up for the lack of COLAs for the past seven years.

Though the school board would probably like to have kept all this on the low-down, Superintendent Garza has gone very public with her feelings of betrayal by the elected body. And I’m sure it is touching a sensitive nerve throughout the county.

Several teacher friends of my wife have already announced their retirement from the county and moving to another county with better pay. Yes, we are losing a lot of the really good teachers. It does not bode well.

Then there is a new Facebook page started up to pass out information to the voters in the county about the very real need to have the current school board members voted out of office come November and put in some more service-oriented folk.

What I am wondering – and this is an idea that has been gathering dust in my closet since I first mentioned it a dozen years ago – is that there might be another source of support funding for the school system. Since the duly-elected government officials seem to be falling down so hard on the job, let’s turn this over to the corporate sector.

Just like Dan Snyder sold the naming rights for the Redskin’s Jack Kent Cook Stadium (now called “Fedex Field”) why not offer the same sort of coverage to corporate sponsors of public education?

The fees for naming High Schools would be more than Elementary Schools, of course, and the names could be combined.

Lanier Wells Fargo Middle School. Southfield Exxon-Mobil High. Don’t those names simply sing?

And Exxon-Mobil has enough money that they could name more than one high school in the county!

I am certain there are enough corporations with large enough marketing funds to assist the county’s shortfall. And each of the company’s could also have special projects funded in the schools as well. Not just for helping groom future employees but for assisting in grooming the future working force of America.

I know that Google and Lockheed Martin are already partnered in many ways with some of the local schools in different support roles so why not a more direct funding option as well?

It could be a win-win for everyone.

Although I do not know how much control over the curriculum the sponsors should be allowed. If any.

(Hmm, I wonder if Woodson Martian Publishing High has the proper ring to it?)

King of the Food Jungle, sort of

July 22, 2013


My wife and I were returning home from our vacation and she wanted to stop at the store to pick up a few things for the scholastic camp she is running in the summer school session starting next week.

She normally did this at the Shoppers Food Warehouse or Safeway nearer to the school but she likes to support the local economy in our small community rather than the one in Fairfax.

So we pulled into the local Food Lion, she pulled out her list, and we trundled into the store.

Now, a word of warning, if you have a Food Lion store near you (and it may just be a regional East Coast franchise for all I know)… if you have one near you: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS.

Otherwise you will come away scarred!!

(maybe that’s a little harsh, but…)

Anyway, when we got to the checkout stand, she handed over the documents from the school to prove “tax-exempt” status. Schools won’t reimburse for sales taxes paid as they don’t pay any.

The cashier looked at us as if we were aliens or something. The she took the page to the manager who stared at the page and gave us the once over like we had pulled a weapon on her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, handing back the authorization documents, “but you will have to submit these to our corporate offices for approval. After that they will send us the authorization codes to process this request.”

My wife glanced at me before asking, “And how long will that take?”

If she was hoping it was something that could have been handled this afternoon, she’d have better luck sighting Bigfoot.

“About three weeks,” came the response.

So we had to foot the $5.80 in taxes…

No big deal, you say, but if you knew how much teachers normally pay out for students during the normal school year – and it is always quite a bit more than the measly $200 the IRS allows in right-offs.

Next time, she will just go to Shoppers, or Safeway, or Giant, or Albertsons, or Piggly Wiggly, or any of the other eighty-five stores that don’t have a problem with tax-exempt customers.

Before we left the store, the cashier told us that they had also turned away the local Baptist Church just that afternoon.

Food Lion, a mouse that roared.

the Road Ahead… looks pretty bumpy

June 6, 2013
courtesy of Candie_N(Welcome Spring)@flickr

courtesy of Candie_N(Welcome Spring)@flickr

Bill Gates retired from head of the Microsoft Corporation and it doesn’t seem to have helped the programmers over there make a better product. Of course, they are still saddled with the digital infrastructure he “master-minded” (and I use the term lightly).

Meanwhile, Bill and Melinda have tried to do something meaningful with their fortune. The Gates Foundation has tackled illness around the world and soon announced they had eradicated malaria!

That’s a pretty good start, most people comment… but someone should have told the Gates and their sycophants that “eradicated” ailments have a very nasty tendency to return ten times worse. Yes, sadly, eradication seems to be just what most of these things need to become stronger.

So, I would say the road ahead looks pretty grim for the next generation of people who contract the new, improved malaria super bug.

And fresh from their “conquest” of malaria, the Gates have decided to take on the problem of education in America.

With the fellow’s track record in business monopoly and virus eradication, most people are certain a solution is just around the corner.

Yes, Bill is now being recognized as an “authority” on education and how to fix the system.

Looking around the internet, finding educational formulas that have actually “worked” in real practice one can see the whole concept of testing has to be trashed. It has been shown over and over to be the failing point of the educational system.

So, what does the Gates Foundation suggest as a fix? More testing! And not just for the students but for the teachers as well!!

As Bill so quaintly put it, teachers will be graded and those whose marks are not up to a certain benchmark will be fired.

Wonderful. Testing to a grade does not work so he suggests we expand the system to include the teachers as well! This guy is completely unbelievable!

I can see another bumpy road ahead.

Perhaps Bill should have stuck with his burgeoning stand-up career. Buffoonery elsewhere is so unbecoming.

Actually, if Bill wants to put his money someplace that would actually benefit mankind, why doesn’t he hire the best and brightest minds in the digital realm – any verify none of them program in Microsoft products – in order to build an operating system that actually works. You know, like the first time… without bugs, crashes, and failures… you know, like Windows.

With all the money he has, I am sure he could put together a crack team to put the thing together.

And if he could keep from trying to “roll up his sleeves” and interfere, we might actually have a decent computer on the market.

I mean, besides the Apple.

How Do You Figure??

February 26, 2013

It seems that all the genetics were there… but something went wrong.

Something about the “recessives” I think they are called.

And I had a pretty good run being on the cutting edge of technology but then I guess the old “peter principle” kicked in and I seem to have floundered. (Not the fish.)

My brothers got the good stuff. One’s a astrophysicist, one’s an engineer, and one’s a programmer… and me, I seem to have been hardwired for humor (or “so-called” humor, at least).

Dad was a systems analyst for NASA back in the day when working for NASA was exciting. Not like more recently when it was all maintenance and failed Mars missions, back when the men with the right stuff were strutting around making a pathway to the Moon.

And all four boys were infused with that scientific bent. But why would three keep going strong and the fourth one (which, ahem, would be yours truly) seem to run out of folds in the gray matter to tuck any more information? Is there some sort of cure for this thing or is it incurable?

Is it even a disease? I know I am un-eased by it.

Sigh. Though I do not know how it happened, I can at least be thankful I am not earning my living in one of the scientific fields. I mean, how would it feel to wake up one morning and think, “Okay, so it’s a Higgs boson. So what?” That would really put a crunch in the old paycheck.

But at least I have been spared that little problem. At least I won’t be deemed out-of-date.

As long as they don’t change the way we count money…

Time’s Person of the Year 2012

December 20, 2012

Well, they have made the announcement.

I was betting on Malala. You know, that Pakistani teenager who spoke out against the Taliban about women’s education and got shot in the head for her troubles? She survived to continue the fight. And I was hoping it would have gotten mention in such a way.

But it was not to be. The editors over at Time took the “safe” bet and named Barack Obama. Well, congratulations are in order for POTUS.

Perhaps the editors actually saw the great strides Obama had made this year in… well, in the area of… er, maybe it was… Hang on! Give me a minute!

Oh, yeah, I got it! He is the first African-American to win RE-election as President!

Yes, that sounds a little lame, doesn’t it?

Or maybe because he was able to make a tough stand against the Taliban… Oh, wait, that was Malala.

Or it was his stand against the oppressive Muslim regimes… Oops! I guess that was Malala as well.

How about his stand on promoting education for women, especially in the areas of technology and… well, maybe… except that that too seems to be Malala.

But then we must not forget what Obama did for all the older, wealthy guys – like the editors over at Time magazine, huh? – and that is a heck of a lot more than Malala ever did for them!

Or it might boil down to the same reason as Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize before he had been President a week. You know, right about when he was talking about sending more troops to the Mid-East to fight a more expanded war…

And that reason is POLITICS.

Let’s face it, Time is nothing more than another political rag. You know, the stuff made for lining garbage pails and the bottoms of bird cages.

Congratulations are in order to Malala for even getting a mention by the fat cats over at Time.

Fighting for Women’s Rights

December 15, 2012

Someone showed me an interesting blog recently (and now I can’t remember the name!) about the fight for women’s issues.

The idea behind the article was that men should not be the leaders in that cause. The blogger said it was nice that some should try but they should really just leave it up to the women. Somehow, that sounds something like a sexist remark to me.

There is a fourteen year-old girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, who was leading the cause there. A great warrior of the Taliban came to kill her. Firing point blank, he shot her twice but failed to kill her.

Yes, the great and powerful Taliban has taken up the cause to kill little girls who stand in their way. As a terrorist regime, they have certainly fallen upon hard times, huh? They could not stand up to the armies of the United States but they sure have big enough cojones to shoot little girls, even if not effective enough to eliminate their targets.

This past week, they shot the leader of the Afghanistan women’s movement and were, unfortunately, a bit more successful in that murder. It is a sad commentary that the age old “battle of the sexes” has devolved into this.

I don’t know what test tubes these pseudo-humans came from but anyone who does not revere their own mother (and the half of the species she represents) have got more than just a couple of screws loose in their craniums.

Anyway, getting back to the men leading the fight for women’s rights, the President of Pakistan has now honored Malala by allocating $ten million to further women’s education in Pakistan. Apparently, he was not waiting for a female president to take on that duty.

All this reminds me of Jackie Robinson. For years I have heard people say how great it was that he broke the “color barrier” in professional sports. Actually, he did not – nor could he on his own – do any such thing. Branch Rickey was the one who broke the barrier by hiring Robinson.

This is not to downplay what Robinson did. He, Rickey, and everyone concerned knew there was going to be heck to pay for the addition of a black player in Major League Baseball and the one who would bear the brunt of that was Robinson himself. It was a brave thing to do accepting the job and the almost certain hatred that would be heaped upon him.

None of the public’s rage fell on Rickey, of course, as if they somehow thought Robinson was to blame for being hired.

So, until women are ensconced in the seats of power in the nations around the world – as well as in the major religions – they are going to have to count on men to come to their aid in making a way for the women. Sad, I know, but true.

This process should be an arena of agreement between the two sexes, rather than an extended portion of the battleground.

Education – Conservative vs. Liberal

April 15, 2010

The focus of the Kansas School Board has recently been shifted as the Democrats won control of the body in the recent election.

Recent changes in the curriculum regarding evolution and restrictions on sex education were the likely culprits in the Republican losses. Apparently, the populace wants the children instructed in the scientific fields of evolution and reproduction.

The problem I have with this “controversy” is that NEITHER approach is correct. Creation or Evolution, which to teach? The answer is surprising simple: BOTH, obviously.

In discussing American history, would you teach the Republican Party or the Democratic Party? They have quite divergent views (from each other as well as from their historical counterparts), but teaching only one set of political priorities would be in error. So it is with the differing THEORIES or evolution and creation.

They are both just theories and should both be heard.

The school boards do not have a right to censor one version or the other. Both are equally sound theories and both have many adherents. And both have much written in support of them as well as articles refuting them. To deny one view without empirical evidence to the contrary would be injudicious and well as fundamentally WRONG!

Admittedly, there are a LOT of other “theories” out there as well, but I do not believe we should give equal airtime in public schools to all theories. Some are minor (to most of us) and obscure to even those in the respective fields. But the above opposing theories are major and both have substantial support.

It does not matter what some politician or some moralist thinks about the issue, the educational system should not be allowed to make the choice one way or the other, or we might as well have Big Brother take the role and make all our decisions for us.

I have spoken primarily about the creation/evolution question as it is fundamentally easier to address than the sex education question. But here the problem is with the moralistic views, rather than any pure science. The more religious people would like to see the introduction to sex taken out of the schools and put back where it should “rightfully” be: instruction from your peers like it was in ‘the good old days’. Parents think they should be the ones to tell their children about sex but most do not do it until the youngsters have already found out most of the data from their friends, who learned of it from their friends’ older siblings.

Many claim the instruction should be based in Christian morals. Have any of these people actually read the Bible? The is a LOT more sex (and some of it very graphic as well) than most fundamentalists would realize. So, using the Bible itself as a guide, I would say let the Sex Ed in schools continue.

Intelligence is often defined as being able to make decisions correctly from the available data. If there is no opposing view’s data presented, can you possibly have ANY intelligence?

the Three Stooges of Government

April 12, 2010

A recent Zogby poll showed that most American’s could name the three Stooges but not the branches of the government. They could name some of the dwarves, but not the Supreme Court Justices. It does not mean American’s are stupid, just uninformed about issues that mean little or nothing to them.

People have an easy time remembering things that matter to them: song lyrics, people’s names, certain dates, directions, et cetera.

Were it not for the ability of the brain to store and summon-up these memorized tidbits, our whole society would come crashing down. And a key factor in this type of memory actually working is the pleasure associated with the data.

And as there is little pleasure (for most people, anyway) in even thinking of the government, it is small wonder that anyone can name the three branches of government. The knowledge of such data would imply that people actually care about, or are concerned with this government of, by, and for the people themselves.

An unspoken freedom in America is the freedom from even thinking about the government. The freedom to ignore what the lawmakers and diplomats are doing to the world every day in OUR name… yes, we can breathe easy and simply ignore all of that.

Also, one might think it a nifty piece of psychological buffoonery for the pollsters to ask about the three branches of government and immediately enquire about the famous comic trio.

So, for those of you who could not come up with the three branches of government, I will tell you: Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe.

Yale – Shame!

January 17, 2010

Yale University is quite proud having produced another President of the United States. Even at the time I should have thought they would be more circumspect. I think they should not be over proud of the fact. This mostly illiterate President would be a marvelous poster boy for the “What a Waste of Money Higher Education Is” campaign.

And graduates of Yale can see the value of a sheepskin with the word YALE on it took a sharp downturn.

How did this functioning illiterate get a degree from what was once a prestigious university? Money… and his family name. And that’s about it. Imagine how utterly stupid you too could be and still get a degree from Yale. As long as you did not have to appear and take any orals and could pay someone to do your homework and sit in on your exams for you, you too could be on the next rocket to glory, just like George W. And you don’t even have to understand the English language!!

Money and connections! Yale, you could singlehandedly destroy the educational institution as a whole with this pathetic example of exactly what you will “honor” with a degree.

But Yale doesn’t care what image this creates for them. They still have the Skull and Bones…