Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Are Children Dumber Today Than They Used To Be?

Lest I get in hot water with all the parents out there, my short answer is "no." Now let me explain the question.

I recently learned of a bill coming before the Utah Senate which would fund all day kindergarten throughout the state. Perhaps I am thinking of my own kids only, but I am convinced that all day kindergarten is not helpful to most students. For those who would point out that it is optional and not required I will say two things: first, when will that change, because our trend is towards adding requirements such as these to combat falling achievement results; and second, This post is not just about all day kindergarten. (Now on to what it is about.)

Forty years ago we had fewer after school programs, less technology in schools, and less emphasis on standardized testing. We also had higher literacy rates, better scores on math and science tests, and probably higher graduation rates (I could be wrong there - I have no data). If we add those two things together we should come to the conclusion that after school programs, more technology and emphasis on standardized tests are not the solution to the problem facing our education system. (They are great for the bottom line of some technology companies and some education companies who specialize in testing or after school programs.)

I don't mean to imply that having computers and other technology in schools is bad, or that tests make kids dumber (I know some people who make either of those arguments) but we should see that they do not solve the underlying problem.

Another trend that I think has a greater impact on our education system than the technology, tests, and extra programs is this - the vast majority of students today come from one of two kinds of homes: single parent homes or two income homes. This was not the case forty years ago. The real problem confronting our society and manifesting itself in our education system is that children are not getting the care from involved parents that they used to get. They are getting more activities and government sponsored daycare solutions and less of mom or dad sitting down to help with homework, attending parent-teacher conferences, being aware of what's happening in their lives, or even playing with them in the back yard. Our problem is homes which are nothing more than places to sleep and families which are all about blood relations with no thought about relationships.

Programs like all day kindergarten make it that much easier for parents to decide that they can both work and let the government raise their children. I admit that some people are in a position where they need outside help, but in most cases it is a matter of convenience rather than need. Society should not be burdened by the financial and social cost of funding a convenience. For those who have needs, we should be looking for ways to help their needs without making it convenient for others to go joyriding at our expense.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Marathon Registration

I finally committed (financially) to a specific marathon. Late last night I registered for the Days of '47 marathon for July 24th. I had chosen that marathon more than a month ago and planned to register on January 1st when I was told that registration would begin then. Unfortunately, registration did not begin on January 1st. I don't know when I last checked that it was still not available, but I checked again last night and it was open, so I registered.

That's 56 more reasons not to be a slacker in my training. Now I just need to get to where I can run on my ankle again. I've been cycling for my training for the last few weeks, as noted before, but I need to get out and actually run 10 miles rather than cycling for an equivelant amount of time.

I'm excited to be getting closer to this goal. 26 miles still seems like a huge mountain to climb.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Life is So Good

I have been thinking a lot lately about how good my life is right now. I have a job I love, a family that keeps me both happy and busy (often happy and busy are the same thing), and the opportunity to do things that I enjoy - such as study politics, blog, train for a marathon, etc. Today was a holiday for some people, but I was not begrudging the fact that it was not a holiday for me because I enjoy my work. Other jobs that I have liked still left me wanting every holiday I could get.

In the last few days, Isaac has started sleeping through the night, so I get to sleep through the night as well. And today we took the family to the community center for breakfast to support the literacy center. That is the first thing we have done for the purpose of spending money to support something we believe in. It's nice to finally be in a position financially where we feel that we can give more than time or verbal assent to an idea.

As I was talking to Laura recently about this, I realized that life really could not be any better. I even like the challenges that we face, and that we undoubtedly will face as we grow and as the kids advance to new stages - like becoming teenagers. My assessment was - our life could be different in various ways, but none of those differences would make it better than it is.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Amazing Brain

Today was my first seven mile workout. Looking forward to it, I knew that I did not want to be counting the minutes for over an hour. I shut my eyes and determined that I would not open them for at least 20 minutes. I needed to keep track of the time so that I could keep myself hydrated, which meant that I needed to look up within 30 minutes to make sure that I don't go more than the equivalent of three miles without a drink.

While my eyes were shut I tried to keep my mind occupied thinking about other things while internally keeping track of the time in 5 minute chunks. I determined that I would open my eyes once I thought it had been 25 minutes. Amazingly, when I opened my eyes it had been exactly 25 minutes (to the minute - not any more accurate than that). After drinking the allotted amount I logged a mental note that I had completed the first three miles in 26 minutes (my target is 27 minutes for three miles - I have done three miles in as little as 24 minutes).

When I shut my eyes again, I decided to mentally jog one of my normal three mile routes and see how accurate my time keeping was. At the mental end of the second three miles I looked at the clock to discover that it had taken 28 minutes - which is about normal for a second three mile set.

I spent the remaining minutes of my workout being amazed that the mind could so accurately keep time and remember in such detail the path that I had not run in weeks. What a marvelous gift a mind is.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dennis Kucinich

This has been an interesting investigation. I knew, based on the fact that Dennis Kucinich ran in 2004, that this was a candidate who was serious. I found that personally I could probably like Dennis. His position in opposition to Iraq has been a consistent hallmark for Dennis so there was no doubt in my mind that it was not a matter of popularity.

Looking at his positions on various issues, I am forced to conclude that Kucinich is not the right man for the job in 2008. He wants to decriminalize marijuana, put us in more debt by guaranteeing a full retirement through social security at age 65 for everyone, leave NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, and he thinks that the federal government can guarantee a quality education through college for all Americans.

I was surprised to discover, after all those points of disagreement, that his position on abortion is quite similar to mine. He believes that abortion is a blight on society but that there are some situations where it should be a medical option. Combining that with a skepticism that the congress would ever bring the abortion decision to an up or down vote, Kucinich believe that there are many things that we can and should do to help reduce the number of abortions in our nation (including abstinence education).

Dennis Kucinich is a candidate for all the right reasons and I believe him to be a man of integrity, but I do not endorse him for President in 2008.

Where is the Line?

This is an honest question. In the last 24 hours we have heard the President outline his plan to send more troops to Iraq. We have also heard many people call for various forms of resistance to that plan. John Edwards has called on Congress to refuse to fund the plan. Tom Vilsack has called on the Iowa legislature and city and state governments everywhere to pass resolutions opposed to escalating the war. I have also seen statements by Dennis Kucinich, Steve Kubby and Robert Milnes starkly opposing this move. All of these men are expected to be candidates for President in 2008, and I'm sure there are other potential candidates whose statements have not come to my attention.

Contrary to what some people may think if they have read my post, Divine Strake, and the comments that follow, my natural inclination is to support my leaders. I remember being uneasy when we started in Iraq, but I was not really opposed to the war until 2006.

This is what had lead me to this question. All those candidates have a much easier time than the President because they can make statements, but he has to make decisions. We will see the results of his decisions, unlike the results of their statements. I agree with their statements that increasing troop levels will not improve the situation in Iraq.

So while I disagree with out commander-in-chief I want to support him as much as possible. If there was a way to oppose him such that we could prevent him from executing this decision I think it would be better for our nation, on the other hand, if we openly oppose him but the decision is executed we risk making our global enemies more bold as they see that we do not all support our leaders.

What is the line between supporting and disagreeing with our leaders? There is a time for discussion and a time for solidarity. Which time is this? (and when does it switch to the other time?)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comments on Do Not Call

I got some good comments from Jason and Denise after my post on the National Do Not Call Registry. I got permission to post some of the comment.

What happens if we follow the personal responsibility road a little further?

In the above example, personal responsibility has to be taken in order to get on the do-not-call registry. However, the program is still a government bureaucracy funded at taxpayer expense (unless of course fines for non-compliance fund the program).
To look further even than these avenues - if a large majority of individuals would refuse to do business with companies that engage in telemarketing (and spam, for that matter), their work would become less profitable, and they would find less intrusive ways to advertise. They only call and e-mail now because it's working. If they stop making money at it, they'll stop doing it.

I'm not exactly complaining about the do-not-call list - I'm on it myself. I like what it does. However, I do recognize that so much of what we, as Americans complain about (such as unwanted phone solicitation), need not be brought before our local or federal government. We are big kids and can handle these things on our own.
Much, if not most, of what government does these days can be handled by private citizens taking personal responsibility, by private organizations working to improve society, and by private entrepreneurial businesses seeking to make a buck by providing a wanted service for pay.
That sounds like the kind of small government that we really need. Let people take responsibility for themselves and their actions and not make everything an avenue for government involvement.


I said I would try to run on the 30th of December to see how my ankle was doing, but I didn't. I finally concluded (without running that day) that I was going to have to believe what I had read that this kind of injury could take weeks (up to 8) to heal. After consulting with my brother-in-law (the triathlete) I decided that I should get a cycling trainer so that I could do bike workouts which would help me increase my stamina without doing further damage while my ankle healed. That also allows me to exercise at home at times when I would not be able to go out running.

I started working out after my trainer arrived this week and I love it. I don't work all the same muscle groups, but it's a great aerobic workout which is probably the thing I need more than the specific muscles for running - I'm already running as fast as I need to for my goal I just need to work up to being able to go for 26 miles. I figure I will continue to cycle for some of my workouts throughout my training and after the marathon I will continue to do a mixture of running and cycling.

I have also heard from a variety of people that I was looking more fit. I finally began to notice that myself this week. This race is going to cost me a lot more than I had initially thought - I'm going to need to buy a new wardrobe by the time I'm done because my pants are all baggy now.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Title Game Follow-up

I thought I would follow up to my Title Game post.

Basically, the talk of a Ohio State/Michigan rematch for the title game is an embarrassment for the Big Ten Conference. Both of them lost their BCS bowl games. I think that rust was an issue in both games. Michigan got outclassed by USC but they would have made that a close game if they had not been off for over 6 weeks. After 7 weeks off, Ohio State had no business on the field with a well-rested Florida team. This really does not reflect the quality of football team that Ohio State had this year. The moral of the story is, any team that has any hope of playing for the national title should make sure to have a game scheduled after Thanksgiving. This is no problem for the champions of the SEC, ACC, or Big 12 with their Championship games, but the Big Ten, Pac 10, and Big East teams have to think about this issue as they schedule games.

This should also serve as a warning against any title game that only represents one conference.

My personal favorite story line for this title game is the Urban Meyer coaching career. he turned Bowling Green around in two years then moved to Utah in a better conference. Two years at Utah saw him crashing the BCS party and moving on to Florida in a better conference. Two years at Florida and he was in the National Championship game - which the Gators won by 27. This puts him among an elite group of coaches who have won a National Championship within two years of taking over a program - a group that includes Jim Tressel at Ohio State in 2002.

My final take on the season is this - Florida will be #1, USC might get a vote as #1 from someone - they are likely to be the pre-season #1 next season, and I think someone ought to throw a #1 vote to Boise since they are the only undefeated team left even though they did not have a schedule that would make them #1 - they had only one non-conference game with a non-BCS opponent, and that was Utah(8-5) - even Florida played a Div 1-AA team.

UPDATE: Thanks to Greg Archuleta of the Albuquerque Journal I got my wish. Boise State got a vote as #1. It's too bad the Coaches Poll had them as #6 because they are definitely a top 5 team.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Do Not Call Registry

After receiving yet another phone call from Dish Network, I have begun thinking about the National Do Not Call Registry. I have been on the registry for a year, and the calls definitely seemed to go down after I got on there, except for the calls from Dish Network - at least eight in the last year.

I even confirmed with the registry that my number was listed there. Then I filed a complaint against Dish Network. My wife asked about all the calls we get from companies where we have accounts, like the phone company. They are allowed to call us unless we specifically ask them not to. If we even make an inquiry with a company they can call us for three months after the inquiry.

I called the phone company and they agreed to take me off their call list. I still need to call the one credit card that pesters us with phone calls (the other credit card companies don't call us) but at least I know I can.

All of this led me to think about what it takes to make this registry work. Obviously it requires that people get themselves on the list. Their website even warns that if someone calls with an offer to get you on the registry for a fee it's a scam. Registry is free and is the responsibility of anyone who wants their number listed. The second thing that is required to make this work is that people need to report violations. This is easy to do at the site. Just make sure that you have the name of the company, or the phone number they called from. Also, you must list the date they called. If the call is not within 31 days of your registration with the registry, and it is not from:

  • a charity
  • a political organization
  • a poll (where they don't offer to sell anything)
  • or a company where you are doing business

then it is a violation which will be investigated.

I guess it's like every other aspect of a representative government - how well it works depends entirely upon the participation of the citizens.

UPDATE 1/11/2007: I just got another call from Dish Network. I filed another complaint.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Divine Strake

I don't know how many people are aware of the Divine Strake event which is a test of the effectiveness of weapons against an underground tunnel complex. The event is supposed to be taking place in Nevada this year after being authorized by Congress in 2002. Back then it was a response to the unsuccessful efforts to go after Osama bin Laden in Bora Bora. Now I'm not sure why we are still pouring money into such a project.

Since 2002 we should have learned that our weapons are not our weak point in the kind of warfare we are likely to be engaging in now or in the future. If there is a military need, it is probably along the lines of increasing intelligence gathering operations and improving protective measures for our military personnel in the face of unpredictable enemies and unconventional tactics.

We should also know that we are not facing enemies who are going to be deterred no matter how effective our weapons are. Just as our soldiers would consider it to be an honor to die in the cause of preserving freedom, our enemies fight for ideologies in which death is an honor and not something to be avoided.

I think it's time for the government leave their cold-war thinking behind, and even their 2002 (early-in-the-war-on-terror) thinking behind and stop throwing money after projects such as this which do not, in fact, make us safer, or improve our military. If you feel the same way, write to your representative. You may also want to write to your senators. To make it easy, I have gathered the contact information for the senators in Utah (downwind from the test site) and Nevada (where the test site is located) since they would have the most vested interest in this.

Orrin Hatch(UT)

Harry Reid(NV)

Bob Bennett(UT)

John Ensign(NV)