Saturday, March 30, 2013

Public Schools, Charter Schools, No Schools?

Posted by a colleague from auld lang syne:

My comment:

Many are surprised to find that Milton Freedman, generally regarded as the founder of the charter school movement, believed that our public schools are socialist and should be dismantled. "The establishment of the school system in the United States as an island of socialism in a free market sea ..."

The charter school movement was originated, and remains, largely an effort to put an end to free public education.

Mr. Friedman clearly believes that free enterprise, free choice, and the competitive market are the foundations of our country's success. I believe these were contributors, but I also believe that altogether they contributed less to our success than the free public education system. And that is something he opposes.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

CPS -- Government vs. Parent?

CAPTA (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) is a law which certainly has good intentions but which has proven to be very controversial. The problem with the whole situation is that people look at this the wrong way. They see threat and respond emotionally. Both sides need to rationally consider the situation. There are plenty of accusations and plenty of facts which indicate abuse on both sides of the problem. There are abusive parents and children do need protection. On the other hand, there are cases in which workers have been overzealous and the system has shown itself to be terribly flawed .

Every child care professional has experienced both sides of this problem. The answer is not to take an extreme position. Extremism is always a problem, in and of itself. We have a much better range of choices than to eliminate the organization entirely or to give it even more power.

Better training of social workers, more oversight, more workers so that they are not overwhelmed with huge caseloads, an appropriate defender for the parents who will support their rights when they are confused and frightened and uncertain of the correct action: all of these would greatly contribute to a much better system.

The biggest changes that would help would be simply better trained workers in appropriate numbers. Better training insures that workers make more careful, rational decisions. It would help them make more accurate decisions. And having enough workers guarantees a worker can put the time into making those accurate, correct decisions.

When a worker knows a child's life may be in his or her hands, they must make a decision. They don't want to become the abuser by hurting an innocent family, but on the other hand if they make the wrong decision a child may die. To make a good decision requires careful investigation, a large investment of time, a great deal of thought and consideration, but this cannot be when you have a huge caseload.

When I first started working Adelanto, one of the things the old-timers told me was how CPS had once been a serious and respected friend in the community. Not just a friend of educators, but a friend of parents. That was because at that time Adelanto was very small, the number CPS workers was comparatively high. They had time to work with families. They were able to actually go into homes and teach and guide parents. CPS was not necessarily considered to be a danger to parents at that time.

But as the little city grew and as the number of caseworkers did not grow accordingly, things changed. The workers are now stressed. They have to get answers quickly and they no longer have time for in-depth investigations. They do not have time to get to know the families. They do not have time to give help. They have become strangers, outsiders, invaders who simply come in and often make old problems worse and may even generate new problems

Right now in American government it is very hard to convince people that we need to spend additional money. Yet, the simple fact is, if we wish a system like this to work and actually protect children and help families, it requires an expenditure of money. When you need cancer surgery or treatment for some other terrible disease you do not say, "Well I'll just take the cheapest doctor." You get the best doctor that you can afford to buy. And yet as a nation we look at our children and say, "Oh well, we don't want to waste money on THEM."

I can tell stories from both sides of this problem. One of the most cogent things I can say is that is very important to remember is that whenever we made a call to CPS, and we called them often, we were either relieved or upset when we found out the name of the social worker assigned to the case. The entire system is dependent upon the effectiveness and the competence of one single individual, the investigating social worker. A good social worker and we were all relieved as we knew the job would get done, would get done well and it that it would serve the needs of the community and the family. The wrong investigator and we were worried. We knew things would not go well for anyone.

The solution to the problem, then, is an appropriate investment of time, training and functionality. There are other issues I haven't even discussed, since I perceive the key issues being the proper training of workers and having the proper number of workers with the time to apply that training effectively. Those two things alone would vastly reform the system. But both of them would cost money. It costs more money to train workers better, better trained workers expect higher pay, and obviously it costs more to have more workers available. We must ask are our children worth it? If they are then we must spend the money. If they are not worth it, then we should save money and let whatever happens to the children happen.

Other problems which need to be addressed include the following:

One. We've already discussed the fact that too few workers leads to large caseloads leads to poor quality work.

Two. We also discussed in proper training or incomplete training leads to workers of different qualities and capabilities. A good worker does a good job, a not so good worker a very poor job

Three. Parents are not represented unless they are able to afford an attorney. This is entirely inappropriate. There should be a government appointed representative who takes the family side, which includes making sure the parents rights are being respected. Theoretically CPS takes the family side, but this is not always true.

Four. The system is terribly flawed in that regards parents as guilty until proven innocent once a child has been removed. This is unconstitutional. In any other crime, you are innocent until proven guilty. Once a child is been taken away, since the courts interest lays in protecting the child at that point, officials often refuse to return the child until the parents admit they are guilty, even if they are innocent. This is done in an attempt to protect the child from parents were unwilling to face the truth. But if the parents are innocent then it is the CPS worker and the government who are not facing the truth and it is they who are abusing the child and the family. This is wrong and must be addressed.

Five. The laws are too vague and unclear. For example, we once had a staff meeting back in the 1970s. During it a visiting CPS worker stated to the staff that she believed that while spanking was legal using a belt to administer a spanking was clearly abuse and in such a case of child had to be removed from the home. A teacher promptly stood up and said, "Put the handcuffs on me then, because I'm guilty." She was a very good teacher and a very good parent. I am certain she never abused her children. Other staff members backd her up and said much the same thing. The point is that different workers have different opinions about what is or is not abuse. That is not acceptable. We must have clear standards.

Six. In many cases in which I had reported abuse, once the investigation had begun the parents simply moved away to another school district, sometimes out of the state. Of course there were attempts to follow up, but sometimes the results were tragic. If a case has validly been opened, the parent should not be able simply move away and thus keep their children in danger and at risk. Of course, it also follows that all cases which reach such a level must be valid. And that's what the other reforms are intended to accomplish.

Let me finish by making a comment to those who are opposed to the continued existence of CPS. Yes, there have been abuses. In some cases innocent families have been harmed by intervention instead of guilty families being saved from hurting their own children. Nevertheless, the problem is real. Over the years, I have called CPS many times and I have many terrible memories of serious abuse incidents. The problem is not a simple one, and defies simplistic solutions. We must work together, government and parents, to protect our children in an appropriate and effective manner. This is not easy, but it is a necessity.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Resurrection -- Well, Sort Of

Three days ago I went out very worried. But I made it back intact. Today I went out again. Only three hours in a silent dark room after I got back, and I feel OK. I am getting better and getting there fast.


From the LA Times -- Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio has become one of the most prominent elected Republicans to announce his support for same-sex marriage, a "change of heart" that he said began when his son told him that he was gay. --

Sen. Portman's rather remarkable declaration has led to condemnation from both sides. There are those among the tolerant angry at him for taking so long to finally get here and over his previous record. There are those on the conservative side angry him for having changed his position.

I'm reminded of Abraham Lincoln. There are those who criticize him for having taken so long to finally realize that abolition was an absolute necessity. And there are those, even in this day, who criticize him for offending the South's "right" to traffic in human flesh. In Lincoln's case, I'll agree with Fredrick Douglas. Douglas said that it was terrible that it took Lincoln so long to finally get there, but, he added, at least he had finally arrived and it was pretty hard to criticize that.

Senator Portman was lost, but now is found; was blind, but now he sees. Good for him.

In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents. -- Luke 15:10

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi, The Number

You've seen the movie, now memorize the number!

Actually, as the LA Times reports, it's pi appreciation day. I'm heating up a cherry about you?

Pi, one of the one of the weirdest's like infinity. The more you think about it, the stranger it gets. Say, is there a square root of negative one day?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Run ol' hare

Run ol' hare

Who sees in secret

Run ol' hare

Who knows what's coming

Run ol' hare

If I was a ol' hare

I'd run too


Man the barricades! Once more, dear friends, into the breach! And other expressions of valor, courage and risk-taking!

I'm about to undertake a dangerous assignment, an odyssey into the unknown. In the past five weeks, I left the house only twice, not counting walks to the mailbox. The first trip triggered the worst vertigo attack in years. The second was a necessity two weeks later as I was out of bread and Ritz, essentials when I have difficulty getting upstairs to the kitchen. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad. Still, vertigo resumed, the next day.

I am now running low on supplies and think I can make the trip without restarting the whole mess. If religious, pray for me, if not, send good vibes via the fifth dimension.

I'm going in!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Daylight Savings Time, Money Wasting Time

It's time for my bi-annual rant . We are returning to daylight savings time, more accurately known as money wasting time. As reported in Scientific American, September 2010, daylight savings time in recent studies has been shown to result in more electricity use in regions of Indiana which observe daylight savings time than in regions of Indiana which do not. In other words, we may be saving daylight, but we are wasting money.

Other studies have shown that because of the enforced change of times we are creating an artificial jet lag for hundreds of millions of Americans. This results in more traffic accidents, depression, and even heart attacks. This grim picture doesn't even take a look at the wasted man-hours due to the nationally mandated jet lag.

In short daylight savings time is a program that only Congress could love. It is nothing but destructive. It has zero benefits and many negative effects. It is is all bad for the country. That's why it's so important.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Let There be Peace on Earth

and let it begin with my birdfeeder.

Two days ago new peace treaty was finally struck. It's not about to make a big difference on the world scene, but it's a rather nice development in this household. A couple of months ago, I broke down and bought a new feeder for the hummingbirds. It didn't take them long to notice it was there and it didn't take much longer than that for one in particular to stake the area out as his territory.

So far, so perfectly normal. The difference was quite surprising to me. For the dozen or so years I've been doing this I've had a lot of hummingbirds out there. Usually they quickly get accustomed to me and I have even felt the breeze from their wings as they've hovered around my hands when I go out to refresh the supply of nectar for them.

Not so with this bird. From the very first he decided that I was some kind of threat. He would buzz me, dive bomb me, hover a few inches in front of my face while making nasty chirping noises...yeah I know,nasty chirping noises? If you don't get it, it is clear that you don't know much about hummingbirds!

To say the least, I was more than a little irritated. After all, if it weren't for me, there wouldn't be a feeder and it wouldn't have any nectar in it even if it were there. But it seems that even hummingbirds can learn. Two days ago he actually flew up and calmly took his drink from the feeder, paying me no attention whatsoever. It seems that even birds can learn . Maybe there is some hope for humanity. Then again, maybe not.

Strawberry Pie


Pie Dough
Yield: dou­ble crust for a 8″-9″ pie


flour 3 cups
sugar ¼ cup
salt 1 tsp
but­ter, cold 2 sticks (1 cup)
short­en­ing, cold 1/2 cup
water, cold ¼ cup
vodka, cold ¼ cup


Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food proces­sor and pulse till all is well incorporated.
Add the but­ter and Short­en­ing and pulse 5 or 6 times till the but­ter and short­en­ing are pea sized.
Take the dough and place it in a giant bowl and mix the water and vodka in by hand or with a spat­ula. I pre­fer to do it by hand to make sure I get all of it wet.
Make two disks and place in saran wrap, and refrig­er­ate for at least 2 hours.

This is a very soft dough which requires pie weights to keep the crust from separating from the bottom of the pie pan and to keep the sides from collapsing.

From America's Test Kitchen-- see video on their site.

2 lbs berries
Take out 6 oz. about 6 berries. Purée them. Add 2 tablespoons corn starch. Add 1.5 teaspoons pink box pectin. Add mix to 3/4 cup sugar. Heat to boil and cook til smooth and shiny, thick as hot jelly. Cool in bowl, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Mix in remaining berries, mix thoroughly. Add to pie shell by hand.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Welfare Reform

Excerpts from and some additional commentary on:

President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform legislation in 1996. He claims it as a signature success of his presidency. Today, Conservatives say the law worked well and we should get even tougher on welfare recipients. Liberals say the law failed and we should repeal it.

-- Many claim success for the program, but today’s “This Week in Poverty” column in The Nation tells a different story

A stunning report released by the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center reveals that the number of US households living on less than $2 per person per day—a standard used by the World Bank to measure poverty in developing nations—rose by 130 percent between 1996 and 2011, from 636,000 to 1.46 million. The number of children living in these extreme conditions also doubled, from 1.4 million to 2.8 million

Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, where he has been doing this work since 1973, told me that the state has cracked down on people who fail to meet their thirty-hour weekly work requirement “and in the last six months or so they’ve driven at least 30,000 people off of assistance. The welfare caseload in Ohio is dropping rapidly. ” He’s traveled throughout the county of late to see how conditions are changing. “There’s a growing number of families out there—through the combination of time limits and sanctions—who have no cash whatsoever, they’re just surviving on food stamps,” he said. “The housing conditions—people are doubling, tripling up even in little trailers. These kids are hungry, they’re sleeping in chairs, or makeshift beds, crammed together. They can’t afford transportation—they’re stuck out in these communities with no way to go anywhere or do anything.” --

So the program IS a great success, if your goal is desperate families and hungry children.

Of course, we are a Christian nation, so we do prefer these things.

Prime Time Biblical Exegesis

Started watching The Bible on the History Channel. Good thing, too. I obviously missed a LOT in Sunday School and from reading the Bible. For example, I was totally unaware of the really cool Ninja Angel hoo- ha, hop n chop scenes in Sodom just before the destruction. Wonder how I managed to miss that?

I can hardly wait for the History Channel's next show on the Battle of Yorktown. I'm certain they will reveal the truth that the battle was won by Washington's secret core of zombie bigfoots.

Nothing like the History Channel to learn about history!