Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing the Public Schools

Here's the smartest thing I've ever heard anyone say about our public schools: "People say we need to fix the schools. They're wrong. We need to fix the public."

Two weeks ago, my wife and I attended her 50 year reunion of the class of 1963 in a tiny town on the eastern edge of Iowa. Half a century ago, many of the kids who came into town for high school had been schooled for their first eight years in rural one-room buildings with one teacher who taught all eight grades in a communal classroom. I listened while one man recalled the experience. "Starting in 1st grade, we could hear the lessons that the teacher was giving to her 8th grade students, and that same process was repeated every year until we, ourselves, were the 8th grade students. By that time, we had heard the curriculum seven times before. There was no way we could have failed to learn it."

Another reunion attendee... a woman... recalled that her rural school, which averaged 20 to 25 students total each year during the eight years she was there, contained a mix of English, Irish, Swedes, Germans, and one black boy. The King's English was the only language spoken or taught.

And one last thing... during the 12 years of school (1951 - 1963) preceding my wife's graduation, the United States of America was well on its way to achieving eventual manned flights to the moon because our nation had half of all the industry in the world, and half of the world's total GDP to finance research and production. And we had the best education system on earth.

Basically, we were, then, where China is now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sarah Palin In a Different Dress and Using a Different Name

Today, October 1, 2013, might actually prove to be highly significant when the future history of the U.S.A. is written. This was the day when a small band of radical extremists showed that destructive attacks didn't always need to come from foreign outside forces. Leading the charge was Sarah Palin, although now she was wearing a different dress and masquerading under the name of Ted Cruz... but there was no mistaking that old familiar right-wing narcissistic self-righteousness.

There isn't any law that says a nation is only allowed to have a civil war ONCE in its history. All it takes for a country to look like Egypt or Iraq or Syria is a lot of weaponry and a lot of divisive ideology, and the United States has more guns and political animosity than anywhere else on earth. Our downfall right now is our democracy itself. Democracy has always been a fragile form of government that was played out like a game under a strict set of rules, a game... it depended on having all the players stay within the rules. And the main rule was always that the loser in an election had to accept the loss. But now we see that the rules are unenforceable, so they don't apply.

I honestly believe that what we saw today is the first step in the transition from a democracy to something else, and I'm certainly not smart enough to know what that "something else" might be.