Tag Archives: education

The clear plastic box

A lot of unknowns lie on the other end of the tunnel.We visited Las Vegas several years ago. What a show that was! The city is the nation’s monument to decadence. Over here the Eiffel Tower, there a monorail, way up there a rooftop roller coaster, and everywhere the sound of one-armed bandits joyfully slurping coinage, occasionally giving back just enough to keep the gamblers gambling.

One of the highlights was Siegfried & Roy, a magical duo who could make lions and elephants disappear in front of your eyes. We were lucky enough to get seats in the pits at the front of the stage. Imagine sitting there ooh-ing at the show when suddenly you turn your head to be staring into the face of a small jungle “demon.”

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Drive slow, (Free Range) children

Drive Slow Children signIf the history of our planet could be compressed into 24 hours, we humans would account for little more than a minute. About nine minutes before that, dinosaurs roamed the globe, until a big rock fell from the sky, blew a hole in the ground somewhere south of Mexico, and evolved the dinosaurs into extinction.

In real time, about 250 million years ago, dinosaurs left footprints that became filled in with sand and other sediments, which compressed and would eventually decorate the capstone on rock walls of certain bridges where men fought and killed each other so their leaders could continue, or not, to base an economy on the unpaid labors of other men.

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The state will come up with it!

Capital dome reversed to form a funnel.Several years ago, when I was in the daily news game covering a school district near my home, came a discussion of the districts indebtedness and its need for a new elementary school. The district had undertaken a large number of improvements, and was about maxed out on what it could get its taxpayers to cough up.

“Never fear,” the superintendent told his Board of Directors. “According to state law, the new school won’t cost us anything.”

“With our debt load limited out, the state will pay for everything,” he said.

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Judge’s decision could have broad consequences for public Right to Know

Author's pen seeks to expose government secrecyA Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, judge may soon have a say in whether citizens have a right to know what decisions are made when their elected officials gather to make them. Currently, some gatherings of elected officials are claiming to be protected from the state’s Right to Know Law. A decision either way could affect other agencies, from school boards to economic development corporations.

Last July, a Bloomsburg-based author asked the PA State Association of Township Supervisors for information about its lobbying efforts as the legislature formulated a law to, purportedly, regulate the controversial Marcellus Shale industry. Continue reading

At what point does education become spying?

Cameras watch for speeders, red light runners, illegal drug sellers, and now children studying (or not) at homeOur children are getting entirely too used to living in a police state.

I remember when Officer Friendly graced children’s book. He often was a bit portly in his double-breasted overcoat with the shiny brass buttons. He carried a shillelagh, often in both hands, behind his back. He smiled at children, joked with them, and helped them out of minor childhood troubles while encouraging them to avoid more serious transgressions.

What brought that to mind was an article in TechNews Daily about a new program that will allow teachers to look over their students’ shoulders – even when they’re not in school.

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Pennsylvania’s parallel governments: a journey to The Outer Limits

Two Pennsylvania capitals side by sideFor decades, science fiction has been telling of parallel universes. I was introduced to the idea in my youth by “The Twilight Zone,” a weekly television show that ran 1959 – 1964 and featured people in strange situations – often in places they thought they recognized, but were not where they thought they were – their home town, but with no people, for instance.

Or “imagine, if you will,” as show host Rod Serling would say, finding yourself on the street where you lived. You walk up to your home and are met by – yourself. It’s you, your wife, your child, your dog – and none of them know who you are.

Sometimes the evening news resembles reruns of those old shows. We recognize the representatives we voters sent to Harrisburg to oversee the state’s operations, but they seem not to recognize us. It’s as though we live under parallel governments.

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Lack of GED, diploma or degree not necessarily indicator of school’s failure

Loading mulch into a semi-trailer with a front loader requires hand-eye coordination and attention, not collegeWhen I was young, Eighth Grade graduation marked the limit of many students’ academic career. I was raised in rural Maine, where young people helped their families on the farm, and the school calendar was written around planting and harvest schedules, and the fall agricultural fair.

The engineer who designs wind turbines can benefit from advanced education in physics. The primary requirements to operate a crane or read a torque wrench are ability to read and follow directions, and good hand-eye coordination.

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While we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, at least one American industrial giant invests in green technology in, of all places …

Masdar, a city in the middle of a desert with zero carbon emissions
While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.

For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels. Continue reading

Replacing humans with machines not necessarily a cost savings

NASA photo of Alan Shepard's launch of first US astronaut into spaceThe Messeder Space Pod (for want, at present, of a better name) finally is ready to go. My co-pilot in life and other travels went visiting her sister a couple months ago, and came home in love with an r-Pod, a small (18-foot) camper trailer not much bigger than the original space capsule that carried Astronaut Alan Shepard from Cape Canaveral to a wet spot in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Speaking of bullies – a case in point

A field of plowed furrows awaits planting the new year's cropVermont residents would like to know what the heck is in their food. So they went to their legislature to ask for a law, and it looked for a time that their request would be honored. Unfortunately, Monsanto – the poster child for Genetically Modified groceries – informed the state that should it have the effrontery to pass such a law, the agricultural mega-corp would sue.

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Bullying: We rail against it, but do little to actually stop it

I graduated Eighth Grade in ceremonies held at the local Grange hall, next to the town fire station, at the other end of Church Street, where the town’s only church stood.

It was in the two-room school house, and on the way home from it, I learned about bullying, … Continue reading…

So many colors in a rainbow

First Born's kids play on a Civil War battlefieldGoogle has started a new, free, travel opportunity. It’s called the Google Art Project, and offers young people of all ages opportunity to visit places many will never have opportunity to see – for instance, Freer Gallery of Art (Smithsonian), Denver (Colorado) Art Museum, Hong Kong Museum of Art. Point your browser to www.googleartproject.com and start admiring.

Art, one of my college professors said, is the history of the tribe. To which I add, that and fiction. In both, the creators get to show life as they see it, without their stories being approved by Texas and California school districts.

“But the little boy said…
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one”

(From “Flowers are Red,” by Harry Chapin, 1978)

When my son started school, … Continue reading …

Big Brother wants your Facebook password

A growing number of employers would like your Facebook login filled in.I was in Florida a couple weeks ago, and purchased a SunPass – like an EZ-Pass to most of the rest of the East Coast states, except EZ-Pass doesn’t work in Florida. They have their own thing going down there, and they’re not sharing.

Of course, one can drive the Florida Turnpike without a SunPass. The state also has Photo Billing, with which it has replaced humans in toll booths. Gone is the toll-taker with whom you could have a slow-down and human contact on a long trip via interstate highway. Instead, you go speeding through (no need to slow down in Florida) beneath an array of cameras and have your picture taken.

And if your car does not have a working SunPass, the registered owner of your license plate will get a bill from the state – plus a couple bucks “administration fee.”

We have become inured to cameras following us around. Banks have them, as do most retail stores. They’re in casinos, … Continue reading …

Kids need (outer) space for dreams

Somewhere, below the water and above the trees, other worlds await young explorersI went for a walk in the woods one day with the granddaughters, in search of the source of a creek which flows from the county where I live in south-central Pennsylvania, across the state line into Maryland, and joins the Monocacy River east of Thurmont.

A paper company once owned the particular piece of forest, 2,500 acres of the first tree farm in the state that gave birth to the nation’s forest conservation movement. There was a time when men with axes and horses took to the woods to cut trees and drag them to a nearby road, from whence they could be carted to the mill. Axes gave way to chainsaws, and horses to huge, powerful tractors called “skidders,” but even then, logging was a slow process. I know; I was raised where logging and paper making was the primary industry.

Chainsaws have been replaced by machines with air conditioned cabs from which one operator can virtually denude a mountainside in a matter days, instead of the months or years once required, leaving the owner to pay taxes for several decades while waiting patiently for trees to grow to usable girth. Glatfelter, owner of that 2,500 acres, had decided to sell the land, to let someone else pay the taxes and “call us when you’ve got wood to sell.” … Continue reading …

It’s not what you do it with that counts; it’s what you do with it that means everything

Phones and computers I have ownedA fellow columnist wrote last week thanking other kids’ parents for buying their eight-year-olds cell phones. He thought a cell phone to be far down on the list of things an eight-year-old should have to keep track of.

“But dad,” his offspring moaned, “Everybody’s got one.”

My daughter used that line on me once or twice, to which I replied, “I doubt that a lot.”

Sometime after the last time, Daughter was overheard in conversation with a friend who wanted her company going  someplace.

“Everyone’s going,” the friend said. Continue reading …

Corbett opts for short-term profits over environment and education

GAHS awaits students, while administrators wrangle with governor's budget cuts
Gov. Tom Corbett’s seems to believe that putting money into things like education, so that future jobs might find young Pennsylvanians qualified to take them, is unnecessary, wasteful spending. Investment, on the other hand, means continued tax breaks to gas and coal companies so they can have profits now, some of which they may later contribute to his re-election campaign.

Case in point: A report published in December revealed the state gives about $2.9 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Continue reading …