WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Open Friday / Weekend Forum

So which stories / issues / topics capture your attention this weekend?

In Wilmington, Mayor Dennis Williams' administration continued to draw fire for the use of taxpayers' money to pay for security at the all-day, hip-hop, Foxtail Fest, an inaugural concert from What Scene?. Behind this event: Brandon Potter, the son of Williams' chief "strategy" adviser, ex-State Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter and state Representative Charles Potter, Junior (Mayor Williams' cousin).

The lone Republican on City Council, Michael Brown Senior, raised the original ruckus, but this political brush fire is spreading as sponsors of other events - who had to pay for their own police coverage - cry foul. For example, the Hispanic Festival.

Mayor Williams appears to be trying to distance himself from this latest example of apparent nepotism in his administration. What is it about the Potters? Governor Markell felt compelled to name Velda Jones-Potter to fill out the remainder of his term as state Treasurer. She enjoyed a lucrative contract with the City of Wilmington - at a time of austerity - and ran a glaringly inept campaign to win the state Treasurer's office in her own right. (Including exceptional obfuscation in agreeing to any debates.) Brandon Potter took a newly minted position in marketing at the start of the Williams Administration, then abruptly gave his two weeks' notice after four months on the job.

LATE WORD FRIDAY EVENING: Mayor Williams announces Velda Jones Potter "is no longer with" his administration.

Still struggling to deal with the spate of shootings, the Williams Administration certainly didn't need this sideshow.

Speaking of shootings, thirteen people were shot at a park on Chicago's southwest side, including a three-year-old boy. The little boy and two other victims were listed in critical condition.

Appearing on MSNBC, Governor Markell dismissed criticism of Common Core state standards. Common Core is theoretically designed to 'raise the bar' for student achievement in reading and math. A growing number of critics in Delaware and elsewhere decry it as a bureaucratic boondoggle which pirates educational decisions from parents and local educators. The Markell Administration insists existing standards don't place sufficient emphasis on science and engineering, and don't promote essential critical thinking skills. Criticism of Common Core comes primarily from the political right, but some liberals/progressives have problems with it as well.

The perceived opening between the United States and Iran apparently widens.


"Iran's leaders seized on perceived flexibility in a private letter from President Obama and have decided to gamble on forging a grand bargain over their nuclear program to end crippling sanctions, a prominent adviser to the Iranian leadership said on Thursday.

The adviser, who participated in top-level discussions of the country's diplomatic strategy, said that Mr. Obama's letter, delivered to Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, about three weeks ago, promised relief from sanctions if Iran demonstrated a willingness to 'cooperate with the international community, keep your commitments and remove ambiguities.'"

Looks like Presidents Obama and Rouhani will have their first personal encounter at the United Nations next Tuesday.

Interviewed for 16 Jesuit publications around the globe, Pope Francis criticized his church for putting dogma before love, and for constantly emphasizing moral positions (abortion, gay marriage, artificial contraception) over service to the poor and marginalized. "We have to find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and the fragrance of the Gospel..." Also, "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all." To Vatican watchers such as John Allen (NPR, CNN, & National Catholic Reporter), Pope Francis was "not breaking with traditional doctrine, but trying to shift the church's emphasis from condemnation to mercy..."

According to The NEW YORK TIMES: "Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage. But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage, and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new..."

People following the climate change debate await a landmark U.N. report on climate change to be presented at next week's meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report will include data indicating the rate of global warming during the 1998--2012 period slowed to about half the average rate since 1951. That will be attributed to the natural variability of climate, as well as the cooling effects from volcanic eruptions and a steep decline in solar activity. But the report may not include a more satisfactory, thorough explanation for the supposed decline in global warming. Of course, it all depends on your time-frame. The time-line for the current I.P.C.C. report begins with 1998, an exceptionally warm El Nino year. La Nina, the natural cooling cycle, occurred in 2010 and 2011. So the trend line from 1998 to 2013 looks rather lame. But, from my understanding, if you stretch the timeline from 1970 through 2013, the global rise in temperature continues at a more even rate.

Furthermore, the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finds the ocean temperatures in August 2013 TIED for the warmest in recorded history. The National Center for Atmospheric Research's Kevin Trenberth also found evidence of dramatic temperature increases in the deeper oceans.

Meanwhile, leaked documents uncovered by The Associated Press have several countries expressing concern the I.P.C.C. report would merely provide ammo to deniers of man-made climate change. Politicians from the United States, Germany, Belgium, and Hungary reportedly expressed concern. The Germans reportedly favored deletion of references to the slowdown in warming. They argue a evidence from a decade or a decade-and-a-half can be very misleading.

Posted at 7:18am on September 20, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 11:52am
My opinion of Pope Francis is still developing. However, I do like the stance taken on moral issues during the interview. Although I am Eastern Orthodox Catholic rather than Roman, I frequently watch Mass on EWTN. I know not to watch during January, the month of the March for Life. Abortion is all they preach about. Enough is enough! The Faith is much more than a single topic regarding sin. It is a positive message that people need to hear.

Mike from Delaware
Fri, Sep 20, 2013 3:21pm
I am a former Catholic; am today a Lutheran Christian. I too worship with a Mass at my local Lutheran Church and have watched the Mass a number of times on EWTN. There are some differences in that Lutherans do not pray to Mary, the Saints, or for the dead, and the sermons might be different as a Lutheran sermon is strong on Law and Gospel, but otherwise the Lutheran Mass isn't any different than the Catholic Mass.

I agree with JimH, Our Faith in the Risen Christ is so much more than abortion and gay/lesbian marriage. If your Bible has Jesus' words in Red, I recommend as a devotional study to read just the Red lettered words of Christ. It will provide much food for thought.

Moving to another topic: I say YES to City Councilman Michael Brown for not letting the city get away with such a misuse of taxpayers' dollars for police services. The big question will be how to recoup that money spent. Good luck getting the Foxtail folks to pony up that money.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 6:48pm
I think the best headline came from Delaware Liberal which a non believer said... This Pope is making me want to become Catholic.

That is what the church is supposed to do, and finally, we have a leader who is rising to the challenge.

Fri, Sep 20, 2013 7:37pm
Common Core seeks to tear apart our public educational system and rebuild a private one in its place. Common Core born out fully, yields what exists in Philadelphia, Chicago, and DC today.

The underlying idea behind common core is that by destroying the current academics of public schools to the point where no one wants to send their children there, one can then open private schools for profit, and people will flock to one's doors.

The problem for them, is that Public Schools are not broken. In fact they are doing a great job. Common Core is aimed at breaking them, so privatization of education can then becomes marketable. There is half a trillion of public school funds yearly for private investors to try to steal. Hence the hedge funds of Wall Street are solidly behind Common Core, and likewise, why Jack Markell defends it stridently on CNBC as well as Bloomberg, and MSNBC for good measure.

The Common Core is based on fluff... Their leading line is that we are all in global competition, and test scores get rolled out from China, to which we look rather poor.

However, those test scores came from China's equivalent of Harvard, and yet we test everyone in our public educational system... China still does not school one third of its billion population. Likewise, the test scores from S. Korea, Finland, and Hong Kong, also are those only of their elite, compared to ours complete with inner city children.

Likewise similar dishonesty is prevalent when comparing Charters to Public School Systems. Locally Newark Charter School is praised for its great results. It has less than 18% of those eligible for free lunch, and a very small number of Blacks. Charter schools with children in poverty along the same levels as public schools, can not compete with public schools. They don't have the depth of resources. They are worse; public schools are better. So there is great dishonesty in comparing apples to avocados practiced by all those promoting educational reform.

The proponents of Common Core, as just did Jack Markell, hide behind "the standards"... It is how they hope to achieve these same standards, that are the problem. Mussolini made the Italian trains run on time. How he did it was the problem. Stalin, was revered by the Russian people when he died, that is, those Russians still alive. They were shocked when Khrushchev began letting them in on Stalin's dirty secrets.

Point is; never trust the salesman. Trust the customer who tried out the product and who will give you an unvarnished opinion. Those are the parents of children who are in Common Core.

Those parents are up in arms over what is happening to their kids. New York State failed 70% of its kids. Their excuse was that they didn't meet the higher standards. Guess what? we have run these same tests on parents who are highly successful in their professional capacities. All were horrified, disgusted, and rather freaked out by how hard these tests were written.

All said, the math is math, and not really that complicated, but trying to understand what the question was asking through the convolutions of gobblygook which made no sense, was close to impossible.

These kids were set up to fail. That is what is behind Common Core. Making kids fail, then using that to fire the good teachers, using it to fire good principals, using it to close down good schools, and meld good districts into huge overlaying bad ones... Then to point to how bad the schools are doing, and offer to put in private schools which always turn out to do even worse. But since it is about money, the Children can suffer once the money starts flowing into their pockets.

That is the nutshell of what Common Core is all about. It is wrong to call out Conservative and progressives as being only those who are against it. Truth is: it is parents who are against it. Every parent who has a child in Common Core, becomes very anti-common core. On the other hand, those who frequent the company of educational lobbyists, tend to be the only ones supporting this rather insipid program.....

Just look at "who" writes all the supportive pro Common Core pieces in the News Journal.. Lobbyists registered on the Delaware Lobby page.

Mike from Delaware
Fri, Sep 20, 2013 8:28pm
Kavips: I'm not an advocate of private schools, I had children in the public schools (Christina & Colonial). There are many great teachers in both districts, but the disruptive kids antics keep the other kids from learning. No consistent discipline. White teachers afraid to discipline black or Hispanic students for fear of being called a racist. Black & Hispanic teachers afraid to discipline white students for the same reason.

Many kids aren't challenged in school. Not much is expected,etc. Many kids can barely read their diploma or make change. Why do you think many folks don't want to support the referendums? The mindset is why throw more money down the rat hole. It's not like the outcome will improve with more money , it hasn't in the past 30 years. That's the constant wail from public schools, oh if we had more money. Never we're going to improve our product, what we're doing, so you as the tax payer won't feel like you're flushing your tax dollars down the drain. Our high school diploma will again be worth something again. Nope, instead the school's attitude is we're the professionals. We know best, so shut your mouth & vote for the referendum so we can have more money to not make a dimes bit of improvement in our students outcomes.

You must be the only person who isn't employed by the schools to think they are world class & giving our kids a world class education.

An interesting discussion from the author who toured the world's schools & compared them to the US schools was on Radio Times on WHYY-FM's web site. The program aired about a week ago, I believe. Worth taking the time to listen to.

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 12:30am
That would be an interesting radio show to hear.

The most interesting thing to understand about education, is the science behind our IQ's.. IQ's are balanced now, just as they were back when we went to school.

There was a report that I saw yesterday, that said all the new teaching tricks and methods that were supposed to educate those on the bottom, were not working. Those on the bottom are still there. That effort was wasted.

What does work, Mike, is personal attention. Apparently that is how we are wired. If someone we like tells us something, we remember. If it is someone we don't like, we forget it...

The best way to raise our standards is to have 11 to 1 student ratios. That requires putting more teachers into the classroom. More money does help, too. Especially when we are behind from lack of funding caused by the budget cutting of late...

If you invest in your people, education fixes itself... And Mike, we do have the best educated society of any nation. Our dumbest know more than most nation's smartest. That is why unfair comparisons between our lowest performers against other nations highest performers, is pretty incongruous.

Allan Loudell
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 4:12am
Breaking local news:

Mayor Williams announces the departure of Velda Jones-Potter.

About time!

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 5:19am
You can't teach dogs to tap dance and you can't make dumb kids smart. Thanks to Brown v Board of Education and other misguided directives, schools have been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. You can't make everybody better, so equality means making some worse. Nobody wants to admit that in the real world, only half the children are above average (and one-third of those are pretty close to average - basic statistics). Most kids can't do "critical thinking." Most won't ever read anything more advanced than a comic book or romance novel - if they read anything at all. Most will only benefit from rote learning. Enough reading to order at McDonald's. Enough arithmetic to make change. After eighth grade, smart kids go on the college prep track and the rest can get vocational training.

MikeFromDelaware keeps beating the same old drum and telling the same old false, urban legends that he picked up from some right-wing preacher or talk show host. Lies, all of them. Kids can't read their diplomas. Jezz, he's like a dog with a bone on that one. He knows nothing about education since clearly he never got one. The real issue is school's turning out dummies who don't know they are dumb. Very few people are good at everything. Klutzes learn to live with a lack of athletic ability; heck, schools even rub their noses in their lack of athletic ability. Others may be tone deaf or can't draw a straight line. But can't ever let somebody know that they aren't bright, can't process information or reason effectively.

Public schools are wonderful? Really? No kidding? Then why do so many people in Delaware - more than anywhere else in the country - pay to get their kids out of the public school system?

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 10:27am
Billsmith: Based on what you said, most who will only benefit from rote learning have enough reading to order from McDonald's. Isn't that being barely able to read one's diploma? So aren't we essentially saying the same thing?

My oldest son, was in middle school at the time [8th grade]. One day, my son came home from school and told us of what they were doing in Science class [No, they weren't being taught Creationism thankfully - that doesn't belong in a Science class]. He brought home a pet rock. He had drawn a face on it, and had given it a name. This was part of what they were instructed to do with the rock. So I asked him, so you're going to study about what kind of rock this is, and the origin of that type of rock, and learn a bit about Geology? He said no. Our homework assignment is to write a story about the pet rock's first day in school. So I asked him, is this an English class assignment? No dad, it's for Science; this is stupid. I had to agree with him.

So my wife and I made an appointment to see the Science teacher. Well, the teacher met with us, and when I asked about this assignment, she explained to us many kids in the class will never achieve more than working at McDonald's and asking would you like a hot apple pie with that order? So this assignment will make the class interesting for these students. I asked, what about the rest of the class who's bored out of their minds? We don't do different assignments; same class for all. So this was a real assignment for all, and no the smarter kids couldn't do something else where they could actually learn some Science.

So Billsmith, I totally agree with you that the public schools have dumbed down and why I say that many kids who graduate can barely read their diplomas, because it's true and the reason my youngest child was home-schooled until high school.

So I've experienced first-hand what a failure the public school system in NCC is with my two oldest kids, so just maybe I actually know MORE about this than you. Just because you have a college degree doesn't make you smarter than those of us who don't. Just because I don't have a sheepskin to hang on my wall doesn't mean I don't read serious non-fiction books, or that I don't, or can't, think.

Just because someone doesn't come to the same conclusions as you doesn't make them stupid or ignorant. So why the insults? I was always taught that truly smart people don't have to lower themselves to that level, to make their point. I'm not smart or as educated as you apparently - so that gives me an excuse - so what's YOUR excuse?

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 12:05pm
MikeFromDelaware: I agree with your observation about that so-called "science teacher." But it's not something new. They were going for the lowest level when I was in school (at least the lowest level out of special ed). Not only was Shaw right about teachers, he may have over-estimated them. Mark Twain observed that as he got older, it seemed his father had learned more. As I got older, teachers got dumber. When I got to college and met a dull dweeb, invariably an ed major.

Smart kids learn in spite of teachers. Actually, they seem to do better without teachers. Exhibit A: Computer geeks.

Still, I think your phrase about graduates not being able to read their diplomas sounds good in a Limbaughesque way but it's too overblown to be credible. I haven't seen my high school diploma in years; probably my mother threw it out with my comic books now worth a few thousand each. I have looked at my university diplomas. No more difficult than a McDonald's menu. Now my mother's diplomas I could not read. She is from a different era and her's were in Latin.

I don't make excuses. However, I don't like being bullied. I don't like being bullied by church-goers who try to impose their standards of behavior on me or to make me say their prayers in secular settings. Or by those dumb kids who used to slow everything down with whatever was the equivalent of pet rocks in my day and annoy me with their dumb questions (they should have figured it on their own), and then beat the crap out of me at recess. So, you'll understand why I can't muster much regard for tea people, ditto-heads and the religious right.

I have looked at the ELCA and Missouri Synod websites. I didn't see the word "mass" used. I admit that Luther didn't go too far from the Roman church. He left graven images out of the 10 commandments and left statues in the churches (although I never saw a crucifix, just plain crosses). I did attend an ELCA church several times a few years ago. Terrible music. The pastor picked the worst and most obscure hymns because they fit with his sermon topic, not because anybody knew them, liked them or enjoyed singing them. And they didn't use Elizabethan English any more. On top of that you had to shake hands with people during the service and then you had to get in a receiving line and shake hands with the pastor to get out the door. Love thy neighbor is fine but I don't necessarily want to have to talk them. When my mother was still alive she'd get me to drive her to a Missouri Synod church down in Florida. The music was better and they had a hand-shake free exit. But I had to listen to the fat pastor denounce gays and whatever other class of sinners had his attention that week. I guess he probably would not have agreed with what the Pope had to say this week.

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 2:05pm
Billsmith: Thanks for the background on your church life. I said I couldn't find anything on that topic [mass] at either web site, so I'm not surprised you didn't either.

I don't know that the word mass is something either Lutheran group goes out of their way to use. This area is so very heavily Catholic [definitely the largest group of Christians in this area - with United Methodists coming in second with Baptists in third place, the last time I saw stats on this for Delaware]. I've been told that almost 1/2 of the folks in Lutheran Churches in this area ARE former Catholics [mostly those who went through a divorce and as divorce is the unpardonable sin in the Roman church, these folks have become refugees and migrated into both Lutheran ELCA and LCMS].

So maybe the Lutheran churches here understand how a former Catholic would call their service a mass, because they're identical, ALMOST word for word [other than any praying to Mary/Saints/Dead folks] so they've both chosen to not get upset over the use of the word mass. I don't know, but I've discussed it with four Lutheran pastors and what I told you is what they told me.

Interesting your mom's college diploma is in Latin. Back then many kids in high school took Latin [my mom did in high school] and I believe, many colleges back then actually required their students to take some Latin as part of their Bachelors Degree and these weren't "Catholic Colleges". Today I'm not sure if colleges even require any foreign language. So you make an interesting point that even our college degrees have been dumbed down, since your mom's day, maybe even since our time. This might explain why America has to import so many hi-tech folks and "brainiac's" [for a lack of a better word] from overseas to meet needs of their businesses and research, etc.

I understand why you have the issues you have with the TEA/Dittoheads/Religious Right folks [I wasn't a bully, I was a musician and not the "gym grunt" in sports (enjoyed playing but wasn't the first guy chosen for a team - not the last though), but never had problems with bullies. I was a pretty good sized kid and could defend myself [did so a couple of times] so maybe they just didn't think it was worth the hassle to bother me, even though I was a musician, but was a musician who could fight if pushed far enough].

But try to understand that not ALL religious Christians fit into any of those categories you listed above. I'm not a TEA person [sure I may agree with some things but you've read here many times where EarlGrey or Mrpizza and I have disagreed]. I'm not a dittohead [haven't been a fan of elRushbo since the years of Clinton when he stopped being entertaining and funny, and became a "secular preacher" for the GOP]; and my religious views may be more conservative than yours [especially since you no longer have any religious views], but I'm far from being a member of the Religious Right. I've visited Baptist churches and trust me, we don't agree on many things. I've had many from those types of churches tell me that I'm not saved, because I don't have the same beliefs they do. As I said, I'm sort of in between ELCA and LCMS in where I am in my walk.

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 2:55pm
Just curious Allan, did you get a tweet 4:30 am on the release of Velda? I was scanning all sources an hour before and there was nothing.

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 3:12pm
I'm glad to hear the mayor took quick action. I hope there will be an investigation and criminal charges leveled against Potter. This just can't be swept under the carpet. Potter and Son need to repay the city for the money "stolen" from the city tax payers.

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 3:25pm
Bill S has a point in his dealings with Mike. All of us should be careful we don't extrapolate large general platitudes based on isolated instances of our experience.

Just because we ran across a gay person who can't count change, doesn't mean all gay people can't count change. Just because a pizza delivering postal employee is too conservative, does not mean all postal employees deliver pizza too conservatively.

That is particularly prevalent in dealing with education. A single event that happened in each of our pasts has colored views on education... Nothing to be ashamed, that is how most of us think, based upon our experience.

Scientific observation was invented upon the understanding that sometimes what we see and experience ourselves, is bad data. If we make decisions off of bad data, we make bad decisions.

If you work in union and all are lazy, does not mean all unions are lazy. If you work with a developer who is a big fat crook, still, not all developers are big fat crooks...

It pays to look at data. And Mike actually did above. Some people are smart, some are not. One can actually find a mid point in smartness and pin point that location, and mark those whose smarts are above and below it.

We all agree that you can't make dumb people smart, or smart people dumb. Education should not be set up that way. Instead, I think no one would object if education's goal was simply stated, as being able to make dumb people less dumb, and smart people more smart.

That is the failure of Common Core and No Child Left Behind. Both focus on bringing up the bottom, and since one method is all they can do, they do very little to expand the levels of those at the top.

Those at the top, need opportunity to expand their knowledge. They need little direction, since they are relatively curious and can't stop learning. They need the proper things place in their environment to learn the proper things. A smart person today, will learn how to make meth from today's most popular TV series.. He will do so because Jack Markell's Common Core has made his school so monotonous that making meth is now deemed fascinating, since under Common Core, he will be reading instructional manuals instead of Great Works of Literature. Apparently all of America agrees with this, based on Breaking Bad's ratings.

The idea is that, just as every contributor on this blog is different, and responds to different stimuli and keywords, so does every child possess a unique way of dealing with his environment.

Given the complexity with how we as a species are made up, the only sure method to increase learning is to have one on one teaching. A mentor who can determine what knowledge we lack, and then fill in the hole.

That can only be done in a school system where there is less than 11 to 1 teacher student ratio. Incidentally that is why there are 11 players on each side of the pigskin during a football game, not a single one more, and should one be there, a penalty flag is thrown. Same rules should apply in the classroom.

The secret is hiring more teachers to give us that ratio. Then every student can get an individual learning plan no matter at what point of the IQ scale he happens to be born into.

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 3:59pm
kavips: Food for thought in what you posted. I would ask, though, whether we really need teachers. The classroom model goes back to the middle ages. While the education industry - and yes, it is an industry with a product to sell - the education industry seems to enjoy playing with the newest pedagogical fad, they seem to resist more basic changes. I'm not a fan of home schooling but that part of the industry has come up with some new tools for self-directed learning. I've read about experiments done by some more progressive schools in which kids use computer aids to learn the material at home and do what used to be considered homework (practice, drills) in the classroom with the teacher there to help or coach. One of the best high school learning experiences I had was with an early "programmed learning" course, in which I taught myself. And in my day, there were kids fascinated with cars who taught themselves how to take them apart and put them together again. Other kids taught themselves electronics. Later on, it was computers kids learned on their own. Music teachers didn't think rock n' roll guitar was worthy of the classroom, so kids taught themselves. So, let's think about whether we really need teachers. The education industry has convinced us we do; just as they've convinced us nobody gets a job without their product.

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 8:26pm
Interesting post both Kavips & Billsmith. When I was in the Air Force during Vietnam I learned Aircraft Electric Repair at Chanute AFB, near Champaign, Illinois. We learned all the electro/mechanical theory using self paced booklets. The teacher (sergeant ) was simply there to collect the booklet when you passed the quiz at the end of each booklet (he graded it). If you passed he gave you the next booklet, if you didn't get at least an 85, he'd tell you to go back & do the booklet again. He offered no other commentary to help you learn. Only after finishing all the booklets did you move on the a different area in the hanger where you'd learn any hands on stuff on practice circuits. They'd give you known problems to troubleshoot. Again, self paced. Once you finished all that, moved on to some aircraft to troubleshoot problems they had put in that aircraft. Once you completed these various aircraft you graduated & were then sent to your first duty assignment. This course was designed to take 9 months to complete. Obviously some fast readers & fast learners finished sooner, others like me took the 9 months ( hey I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer), & others took longer. I do remember the sergeant say to the class that if we take too long we'd wash out & they'd make us either MP's or cooks. I always thought, great they give the dumb one's the guns & let them cook our food.

The point is, the military's been essentially doing what Billsmith describes minus the computer stuff since it didn't exist since at least 1970( when I started Tech School. It worked quite well.

The only real teachers were when you started doing hands on, so if you weren't doing something correctly they could correct you.

I never considered that as a way to do school, but I believe Billsmith's on to something.

Have you considered proposing your idea to a school board? Each kid can go at their pace. They can not move on to the next booklet or lesson on the computer until they pass the computer quiz. This solves another problem. It eliminates subjective grading by a prejudiced teacher, that would give ALL kids the same equal opportunity in school. The smart kids will breeze through, average kids would progress in a normal pace, & the slower kids won't have the pressure of trying to keep up or the guilt of knowing they are holding up the rest of the class. Great idea, Billsmith. Now the hard part, selling the schools & tax payers on it.

Sat, Sep 21, 2013 8:53pm
MikeFromDelaware: It's cheaper. That sells a lot of taxpayers. Fewer teachers. Forget about it.
Another idea whose time should come again: The one room school house. Older kids helped teach younger kids. The best way to learn something is to teach it. Medical training (internships and residencies) still follows that model: See one. Do one. Teach one.
Another reason for vouchers. The only way to foster innovation is to have more independent players competing in the market.
As Mark Twain said: God made an idiot for the practice and then created the school board.
I wonder if that science teacher is still having kids "adopt" pet rocks.
When you make something easy and allow no possibility of failure, you are telling kids that this something is not important. Art class used to be like that. Now everything is.

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Sep 21, 2013 11:03pm
Billsmith: I agree vouchers would indeed foster innovation in schools. The lock on public money the public schools have should end. Let them compete for that tax money, then maybe there would be some hope for our public schools. As long as they are guaranteed getting the money they have no incentive to make such changes as we've discussed today.

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 1:57am
To Mike... all I hope is that Mr. Potter's office is on the ground floor, so I can run up and bang on his window at Christmas time, and shout out" "Merry Christmas! Mr. Potter!"

And he can respond: "And Happy New Year to you.... in jail."

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 2:46am
Do we need teachers? The answer is yes. Although you both brought up good examples of self-paced learning which were successful, none of the examples mentioned were cases of topics where one didn't want to learn.

Would any of us have learned trig or algebra if we could take our time with it on our own? Or would we be taking apart cars or planes and putting them back together?

Learning is a social occasion. We learn socially, it is how we are put together. Emotions are what cause us to remember things. Can one accomplish computer testing? Corporate training has been consistently done on computers since 2000. Problem is it really doesn't work for maintaining longterm comprehension, but can suffice short-term.

If any of you have taken such computer testing, I challenge you to remember something from 2 years ago. Myself, right now I'm remembering a question, the picture graphic accompanying the question, but for the life of me can't remember the answer. However, though I can't remember that answer, what I do vividly recall is something an attractive instructor once said, back when I first started my adult learning. That stuck like glue.

We are wired to listen to people... For that reason we need a human being teaching us. Mike, in the service, you had to pass those self propelled courses, meaning you were being judged by a human being as either a pass or fail. Most people tried hard to pass, because naturally, they don't want to be judged as a failure by a fellow human being. But when no one is judging, people tend to let go, and not care about results. That is actually taught as one of the basic rules of management, that if you don't follow up, your employees lose interest and under-perform.

As for the one room school house approach, that really does not bear up in practice. Having 12th graders babysit 1st graders may in some strange way help the 1st graders,(I don't know how) but if so, it is at the expense of lost learning being done by the 12th graders. Likewise, having first graders see the teacher write quadratic equations on the blackboard, might scare them away from math entirely. Better to have a teacher teaching first grade well, and a different one teaching twelfth grade subjects well. (What teenager would think going to school with 7 year olds was cool?)

Vouchers sound good in isolation. Along the lines of: I have a kid, if vouchers give him a better option, let him have a voucher. But in reality, it doesn't work that way. All a district's kids cannot get into the "one good school". So the ones who do, are lucky; the ones who can't, are doomed. Far worse than before. By taking all the successful people out of your system and putting them all into one school, you leave all the unsuccessful people in unsuccessful schools. As any mathematician knows, if your negatives increase faster than your positives, you have a negative balance across your entire system...

What vouchers are really saying, is let us give vouchers, and let schools pick who they want, and we'll leave the others in some babysitting structure. As anyone can well imagine, if you put all your stupid people together, they are going to remain stupid. How are you going to insure the schools don't accept whites (smart) and spurn blacks (dumb)? You are re-segregating if you allow vouchers.

The current problems with Philadelphia and Chicago and DC schools is because of funding issues that arose from using vouchers.

In a study done in Philly, it was shown that the average test scores of the entire city fell, because of vouchers and choice and the infusion of charters. The kids have less beneficial education now, than they did before choice and vouchers and charters were in place.

IF you think that dumbing down the entire student population is a good thing, continue supporting vouchers. In reality, they are bad for every one, except those investors of private schools who get to make a bundle at the public trough...

Vouchers are inefficient, costly, destructive, and cost the public a 1000 times more to correct the problems they create, than if nothing had been tried at all.....

The absolute stupidity of having British Petroleum start a charter school, take your property taxes for their profit, and by doing so, give less money per student to teach all the rest, is very poor stewardship of public funds. Especially if the BP school is bad...

It makes horrible sense to give vouchers for public education.

Mike from Delaware
Sun, Sep 22, 2013 8:52am
Kavips: Let's look at NCC above the canal, where they made all public students equal via busing. All city kids and suburban kids went to the same schools, had the same teachers, had the same books, same opportunities. Did the minority scores improve? No. Did the White scores stay where they were prior to Deseg, No, they fell, still higher than the minority scores, but still fell.

The only thing that busing accomplished was that generation of kids are far more comfortable being around folks of other colors [whites being around blacks/Hispanics, and blacks/Hispanics being around whites] than my generation where I was in all white elementary/junior high, and had only two black kids in our high school. That wasn't supposed to be the job of the schools, their job was to educate our kids, this they failed to do and continue to fail to do.

The self-paced program could work if set up correctly. Have that teacher in the room as the sergeant was to keep order and to be that human who gives approval for good grades and moving on to the next lesson. So even if on a computer, you take the quiz and the computer grades it, then the student goes up to the teacher's desk to report they completed the quiz. The teacher can use his/her computer to check to verify. Maybe the teacher then has to key in something for YOUR specific computer that would allow you to advance to the next level [this way the kids can't skip]. So the human approval/disapproval thing is still there.

Remember, it's self paced only up to the point of each lesson, but bottom line is as we had only a certain amount of time to complete the entire course satisfactory before being washed out and being made a "sky cop" as we called them in the Air Force or as kitchen help working in the chow hall peeling potatoes and scrubbing pots all day. So if the student hasn't finish satisfactory all the work by the end of the school year then guess what, they get to repeat that year's work the following year, so yes they flunk. The computer won't lie so no child gets pushed up to the next grade level, because the kid is a pain in the teacher's ass and she wants this kid gone, or the kid isn't held back due to racial prejudice as the teacher gets no say in promotion or failure, the kids's computer record speaks for itself. This puts the burden of doing the work and meeting expectations on the kid. Granted teacher's won't like this, but they've had their chance to do their jobs and just aren't able, so this works in the military, so why not in school. It won't take long for the kids to get the idea that if they don't do the work, they won't be able to BS their way to a just passing grade, or hassle the teacher so she pushes them to the next grade level. The computer does all that. Kids play computer games, they totally get the idea of getting to the next level, this is the same thing.

A system like this would put Al Sharpton out of business at least from a school perspective. ALL kids would be treated exactly the same, because now there would be computer records of each kids performance, etc, and as the computer decides if you get promoted, by completing the required work, there's no way for any racial non-sense to get in the way. Also, bullies can't force some "geek" to do their homework or write their term papers, etc, because all the work they do is on the computer. Any practice work a student did at home [again on their computer] is just that practice, no grade involved so they get no points for doing it, the only benefit is it may help themselves to do better in school the next day [some will take advantage, yep many won't, but after a while when they aren't moving on as fast as their friends [peer pressure being used for a constructive end for a change] they'll start doing the extra non-credit stuff at home or at the public library if they don't have a computer [also with such a program maybe the school library with some computers in there too can be made available for those students who don't have a computer at home [some of the savings from not needing so many teachers could help pay for that]. Can't get any less biased and fair than this type of program.

So you don't eliminate all teachers, but you surly don't need as many. However, you'll need IT folks to keep those computer programs, etc, working top notch, so new jobs will be created also.

The only folks who will complain about such a system is the teacher's union, because we'll need less teachers.

Mike from Delaware
Sun, Sep 22, 2013 8:56am
Another cost savings, no books, other than library books.

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 10:02am
When Dick Cheney went hunting that time and shot one of his friends, in the photo released of him in his hunting cap and vest he looked like Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits.

At Obama's inauguration, Cheney was in a wheel chair and when they showed him on TV being wheeled out to his limo, he looked like Mr. Potter.

Of course, now we know that Jimmy Stewart would have ended up with even more money than Mr. Potter. Potter wanted to rent apartments. Jimmy Stewart wanted to build suburban housing developments and do mortgages, eventually causing the so-called "great recession. No wonder Donna Reed picked him over the guy whose dad owned a plastics factory.

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 11:05am
Kavips: You PC types are true believers as much as the TP (tea party) and RR (religious right) types.
You also like to twist what other people say in order to make your point. It's called reductio ad absurdum. Something else you and TP'ers have in common.
Learning is not social. Nobody has to learn algebra or trig. Some people are motivated; some are not. Some have an aptitude for math; others do not. The education industry thrives by keeping people in school to learn crap they really don't need.
I attended a small high school. One year only one guy wanted to take trig. So, the head of the math department got him a programmed learning trig course. He finished the year before Thanksgiving and got an A on the final.
You sound like you are in the teacher's union. Unions fight for jobs that are no longer needed. Trains had to have brakemen a century after the adoption of the air braking system. And diesels carried firemen.
Besides how can 25 or 30 kids sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher drone on be considered "social?" And how can (examples already provided here) one-size-fits-all, lowest-common-denominator, everybody slows down for the dummies social education be considered productive or positive?
You should read Ayn Rand sometime (or see the movies).

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 2:43pm
And I'm proud to announce that I'm both a TP and RR.

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 10:37pm
Thanks for the caricature, BillS.. Of course sometimes those points are dead on, and sometimes they are way off. That is what makes discourse interesting. However, I would differ in your opinion regarding "reductio ad absurdum". That is not what I do. Properly spoken, what I do would be, and should be called, "absurdum ad reductio..." meaning it is absurd to reduce complicated equations to simple untrue points. All of which is far too complicated for a Tea Party type to extract himself from.

(lol, I amaze myself sometimes).

Before I buy your argument, I would need some type of data, as to why learning is not social, when currently all evidence points to hormones being what imprint upon our brain all that we learn. Until then, learning is social.

Secondly, nobody has to learn algebra or trig? Of course you are using language freely. What you mean is that not everybody has to learn algebra or trig, which is true.

However anyone going onto engineering has to learn trig and algebra. and all those professions that build things, design things, etc. If no one studied trig or algebra in one generation, engineering would die out... Back to the Dark Ages. So fortunately all are exposed to trig and algebra in High School, so those with an aptitude, can find they like it and go forward.

I want to point out again how individual anecdotes are being used to make points. Mike uses a self paced program that is untested, and predicts its bountiful results. Mike also says black and white scores did not achieve anticipated results, without mentioning that testing for scores began 15 years after the desegregation order. Who knows, it could have all those whites listening to Pearl Jam being the reason white scores fell. There was no study done at the times. Likewise repeating rap lyrics could have caused the bump-up in black's English Language scores all throughout the nineties.

Furthermore Mike, when he states that if a student does not complete all his work in a certain length of time, he fails the course, how is that different from a teacher? At least a teacher is pacing the course throughout the year. If a child falls behind, she can rescue them, whereas a self paced course on a computer would be powerless until the end, (In computer voice: Sorry, Incomplete; take again next year.).. And it is very funny, Mike says this will cut salaries of teachers, Hooray, Hooray! But we will have to hire a lot of IT guys. So where's the savings? Furthermore, he glibly states that if a kid doesn't pass, he takes the entire course over again. Mike have you ever taken a computer course over a second time? It's click, click, click. as fast through as possible. Mike totally discounts the cost to society of paying $10,000 an extra year for that child who had he had a teacher would have passed. Quickly adding, his plan replaces a $30,000 teacher with an IT guy ($79,000) and lets say fails 5 students who'd otherwise pass ($50,000) and so Mike's grand scheme has cost taxpayers $129,000 in order to save taxpayers $30,000.. That is what using personal anecdotes in ones' past as solid future policy, does.

Just to be fair Bill S does the same. . His anecdote was the one person who wanted to take trig. Thinking back, if I'd had the option to opt out of trig, I would have. The only reason I took it was I had to, and that choice as probably done more for my career than any other. Because of his experience at one school, he assumes every school in every district should do the same. Good chance if enacted, we'd have no engineers in one generation, unless they all taught trig to themselves...

So anecdotes do not belong in science. Testing and repeated results do. If you apply a certain set of circumstances, you will get a certain set of results.

This is absent in Common Core. Common Core was made into the curriculum before it was even invented. Global corporations, particularly Pearson which is British, were given contracts to develop the curriculum, pilot the curriculum, roll out the curriculum, test and grade those taking the curriculum and collecting a check from Federal, state, and local governments for the privilege. These were no-bid contracts, very similar to how Halliburton got rich during Cheney's tenure. "You shoot pool with someone who works here, you can get a loan..."

Unions are not fallible. They do fight for jobs that are not needed, but for different reasons. The Fireman were kept on trains so someone could take over in case the engineer died. The runaway carts in Quebec bring to mind the damage that could occur, as was portrayed in many a westerns, when an engineer was not in control of his train. Likewise, brakemen were kept stationed in the back as eyes on the train (someone had to shoot the Indians when traveling through Cleveland), before camera technology was advanced enough to fill that duty. The problem with both, was that technology took out part of their jobs, but not all of them. They were still required.

Again, you bring up 25 to 30 children in a classroom as not being social.. if you were ever in such a class, you know very well all learning is social. What you learned may not have been what the teacher was droning on about, but you learned something socially viable in that class. Even if it was just cutting up.

25-30 in a class is too many. What works is an 11 student to one teacher ratio. At that level a trained teacher can determine what each student is missing, and fill that student's void. At that level the teacher can coach the student in all aspects of life, personality as well as knowledge.

We know this because it has been tested. The results are consistent in every occasion, every income strata. This is the time-tried method of bettering education which works.

Did I mention that all learning is social, btw?

Sun, Sep 22, 2013 11:00pm
Here's a famous name to chew on. Saturday night, I delivered pizza to a Widener student whose name is Paula Jones. Now ain't that a hoot?

Mike from Delaware
Sun, Sep 22, 2013 11:25pm
The self paced study method is used today for some college courses& it was successful in the military. It could be done & could help kids learn better than they are today, but don't worry Kavips the teacher's union is very strong & such an idea won't happen anytime soon.

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 3:47am
Kavips: Nobody has to learn algebra or trig. "Nobody: pronoun. No person. Not anyone. No one." Some people want to. But one can function very well in society without either.

And schools have stopped teaching even basic arithmetic skills to the point that most people below a certain age can't figure how to tip or make change.

Do you know of any schools, public, private or parochial, with a class size of 11?

Trains have a dead-man's switch. If the engineer dies, the train stops. Engineers almost never die at the throttle (or pass out) and firemen almost never take over. And they don't shovel coal into a boiler any more either.

If you want to claim that people learn social skills from being in social settings, you may have a point. But up to now, we were talking about academic skills. Kids can play together to learn social skills (and they do it better without the constant adult interference so prevalent today). Schools exist to teach academic skills and those are not learned socially, unless you are talking about kids copying each other's homework.

Mike from Delaware
Mon, Sep 23, 2013 8:09am
Mrpizza: I remember back around 1969 going into the record department at Almart [where Kohl's is now on Kirkwood Highway] and seeing the young guy working there named "Glenn Miller". He saw my eyes read his name, and before I could say a word, he said, NO I'm not related to Glenn Miller. No I'm not Glenn Miller returned from the dead, and YES I hate his music.

So having a famous name isn't always what its cracked up to be for some folks.

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 7:20pm
Interesting article in Slate related to this discussion:
Attention Must Be Paid!

Schools need to teach students to maintain attention, not cater to short-attention spans.


Again, the education industry is about dumbing it down, making it easy, building false self-esteem - anything but teaching.

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 9:56pm
MFD: I asked Paula if people kid her about her name, and she said no that her generation is far enough removed from it that nobody really gives it a thought. Then she told me I was awesome and gave me a $5 tip!

Mon, Sep 23, 2013 9:57pm

Once again, the Republicans get the last laugh!


Allan Loudell
Tue, Sep 24, 2013 5:57am

The newsroom received a release from the Williams Administration Friday evening just after I left the station around 7 p.m. (I had to come back to work at 4:30 a.m. to prepare for anchoring the 6---9 a.m. Saturday morning news block and newscasts from 9 a.m. onwards.)

As to the education discussion, I partially blame "Sesame Street" and any other kids' shows with hyper production values catering to short attention spans.

Allan Loudell

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