Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oh Chicago Pubic School Students You are Getting a Bill of Goods

Life continues to get worse for the children of the Chicago Public Schools. I have heard it said that given enough time, 90% of students can learn 90% of the material they are presented. That is probably why Chicago has now decided to increase the school week by an additional 7 1/2 hours. Since the school children of Chicago perform poorly, I suppose the educators are willing to try nearly anything to make it look like they are worth the handsome salaries + a more-than generous retirement that they receive that is breaking our state budget.

School is just starting, and various initiatives have spent the entire last month telling Chicagoans that school will start this year at about the same time it does every year. What a surprise! If you treat people like idiots, one should not be surprised when people respond in a less than brilliant manner. Some people simply aren't cut out for the academic life, but in Chicago the educational establishment seems under the delusion is that inside every child is a lurking PhD. That however, seems far from the case.

Students who don't see the value of an education aren't likely to want to spend the energy to be good students, and I cannot see the good of holding them for ever longer hours in schools that have been incapable of turning out anything other than under performers. For those students who are bright and motivated, this time takes away from Internet learning, educational TV, the library, studying the out-of-doors, and (dare I say it?) good, old fashioned play, long considered essential for child development. Remember when it was decided good nutrition was the key to getting kids educated? That one didn't work either; we have all heard the stories how school breakfasts and lunches are making kids fat.

And to those CPS students who detest the idea of a  longer school day which will begin next year, I'm with you. Hopefully you will have enough free time to go to the library so you can smuggle a book into your class, hide it on your lap during class, and have the chance to learn something that interests you. From your test scores, I would imagine it is impossible to score so poorly unless you are bored to death.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Michelle Bahmann: the Candidate from Lake Woebegon

Who isn't studying up today on Michelle Bachman, winner of the 2011 Iowa straw poll, and now a serious candidate for the 2012 US Presidential election? In a nutshell, Michelle appears to be nearly straight out of Lake Wobegon, the fictional Minnesota town town created by Garrison Kiellor. She's Norwegian, Lutheran, and unique--and we do remember that the founders of the town were New England Unitarian missionaries, at least one of whom came to convert the Native American Ojibwe Indians through interpretive dance. (And while off-topic, we do note that the "about me" quote, to the right is from Lake Woebegon Days, the book.)

Where else, other than Lake Woebegon would give us a candidate who has a Law Degree from Oral Roberts University, a super-conservative Christian University that thankfully has gotten out of the teaching of law, and a LL.M. in taxation from William and Mary School of law. LL.M.'s are advanced degrees for lawyers, smart lawyers actually, and William and Mary is a top school. Tax Law is hard, or at least obtuse, so we know Michelle is no dumbbell.

Like the residents of Lake Woebegon, Michelle is quite quirky. Strong anti-abortion sentiments led her to "sidewalk counselling" of women contemplating an abortion, her background hints that at one time she felt strong sentiments that the US should be (or is) a Christian theocracy, and she believes that carbon dioxide emissions may be quite beneficial. On the other hand, as an IRS attorney for 5 years she knows first-hand the convoluted US tax code, she opposed the Wall Street bailout bills which hurt this country enormously, and has worked to keep school curriculum local rather than national.

In short, Michelle Bachmann is an interesting candidate with interesting ideas, and will move the presidential debate into areas which are worthy of greater discussion. With her only federal experience being her 5 years with the IRS and 5 years in the US Congress, her experience will be of little help in convincing people to support her.

And is the White House ready for lutefiske? The US Scandinavian vote is really quite small, like the population countries from where they came, and the number of Lutherans in the US quite limited, so  Michelle starts out with a distinct disadvantage that may lead to not finding her on the ticket come next November.

On the other hand, after 4 years of beer diplomacy, waygu beef appetisers at White House cocktail events and new age concepts where foreign dignitaries are treated to a hamburger joint lunch, "Have a sandwich," Lake Woebegon's answer to nearly every problem, might just sound pretty good.