Archive for May, 2008

Dumb

Posted in Education on May 23, 2008 by cheappaper

The New York Times reports today that the president is threatening to veto an increase to the GI Bill. Apparently he fears an exodus from our over extended military. As can be expected in an election year, this has become the rhetorical equivalent of a greased flag pole climbing contest.

The whole GI Bill thing is dumb. Please understand, I support the GI Bill. Born of political expediency, it nevertheless turned out to be one of the best pieces of legislation of the 20th century.

The whole GI Bill thing is dumb because it misses the point. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a movement to require that all U.S. citizens be provided with a free public education through grade 12. For all its ills, the U.S. education system turned out some of the best educated and most economically competitive individuals in the world. The GI Bill only improved on all that.

In the 21st century, a high school education is worth about as much as a 6th grade education was worth one hundred years ago. The sorry fact of the matter is that, as a country, we’re getting dumb. Why the debate over the GI bill is dumb is that we should not be voting to give veterans a free college education, we should be voting to give everyone a free college education. We should do this just like we voted to give everyone a high school education 100 years ago.

Why Fuss about the Environment?

Posted in Environment on May 22, 2008 by cheappaper

I keep hearing people fuss about the environment. I can’t figure out what it’s all about. The environment has been around a lot longer than humans. I figure it will be around for a long time after we’re gone.

No. I’m not worried about the environment. I’m worried about me.

I have a theory about this stuff. I call it the “Hammock Theory.” It works like this: assume I’m a lazy guy taking a nap in a hammock. The hammock is a rope hammock. That is, it is one of those hammocks made up of a network of connected strings.

Now also assume that while I’m napping, some rascal comes along and begins to cut the ropes. He doesn’t cut them all at once or all in one place. He cuts one here. He cuts another there.

At first, I’m not going to notice anything. Most of the net is there and as good as if it were all there. As he keep cutting, I may begin to notice a pinch here, a hot spot there, but at worst I may just roll over and keep snoozing.

The problem is, I’m no light weight. Eventually, this guy will cut enough ropes that without warning my weight will be enough to just rip through all the remaining ropes. I will drop to the ground and get hurt.

I don’t know about anyone else but right now I feel like my fat butt is hanging through a big hole in the hammock and if I so much as sneeze, I’m going for a bad ride.

Of Communication and Capitulation

Posted in The Middle Ground on May 16, 2008 by cheappaper

President Bush has taken a swing at the presumptive Democratic candidate, by likening him to Neville Chamberlain and the Nazi appeasers. (NY Times but you may have to register).

There are many reasons I find the President’s statements ill advised. I find it especially ironic, however, that Chamberlain’s negotiations preceded a war — and are often credited with causing it. Any negotiations that might take place with Iran now would be negotiations following a war — and one can draw his or her own conclusion as to what caused what.

I know a lawyer who is a professional negotiator. I have often heard him say that “those who do not communicate will litigate.” I accompanied him once when he suggested to a client that communication and negotiation might be in the client’s best interest. The client assailed him as being a “Chamberlain.” His response, which I have carried with me since, was, “I know a thousand respectful ways to say ‘No.'”

I have a hunch that if we do not communicate with Iran, we will end up fighting with Iran. Communication, however, is not the same thing as capitulation.

Sex, Guns, TV, and Classrooms

Posted in The Middle Ground, Violence on May 1, 2008 by cheappaper

Tara Parker-Pope writes too quick a byte on sexual harassment in our schools. One of the comments states,

What boy HASN’T played “Tune in, Tokyo” with the girls in school? Sex is a beautiful, natural act and should be encouraged, not confined into a dark, shameful corner. Let’s work to produce an enlightened, healthy Generation Y.

Tara fires back,

FROM TPP — But the discussion here isn’t about sex. It’s about harassment. And “tune in tokyo” is about grabbing a girls breasts without permission and turning them like they are radio dials. The fact that you think this is just harmless boy behavior is really disgusting.

I think Tara and her commenter both miss the mark. Sex, harassment, violence, and bullying are interrelated in complex ways that we may never fully understand.

I rarely watch TV. Each time I do, however, I see two things in almost all shows: violence and sex. The violence is explicit, graphic, and acceptable. It is most effective when used by the good guys. The sex is usually implicit, seductive, and subliminal. When it is shown graphically, it is usually lustful not loveful.

What a recipe. Take kids aged 12-18, add hormones, and stir a toxic mix of acceptable violence and unacceptable sex. The result cannot be anything but harassment and bullying.

I think Tara’s commenter, for all his misunderstanding, may have stumbled on a better solution than Tara’s violent name calling. I suspect if sex was acceptable and violence was not, the results in our classrooms might be different.