Sunday, July 13, 2014


The problem with schools

A California judge has ruled that the California law that establishes tenure for teachers in public schools  in the state is unconstitutional.  He accepts the view that the law protects teachers, both good and bad, from being fired arbitrarily.  Therefore, the law makes it almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher.  He argues that children, especially children in poor neighborhoods deserve good teachers.  At present, bad or incompetent teachers are transferred from good schools to schools in poor neighborhoods.

It's all very true.  In my mind and according to my experience and observation, good schools are created by good students, not by good teachers.  The only way to improve a school is to improve the quality of the students.  Good students - that is, students that are eager to learn and are curious enough to learn by themselves - have little problem in coping with bad and incompetent teachers.  In my case, I had a physics teacher in high school who didn't know much about physics.  He was the athletic coach and he knew about teen-age boys and games of football, baseball, etc.  I learned physics on my own and went on to major in physics at university.  One of my daughters - the one that attended El Camino Real High School - took the advance placement mathematics class.  The teacher was a tenured English teacher.  He didn't know much about math.  The class was held in a room also used as an electronics laboratory.  Some of the students spent time watching television programs.  About a third of the students, including my daughter, hated this guy because he wasn't teaching them anything.  My daughter went on to UCLA and majored in Physics (just like her old man) and graduated with the rank of No. 1 among the girls.  That annoyed her.  She wanted to be ranked among all the students and would have been pleased to be ranked No. 20 among all the students.

El Camino Real HS has a reputation nationally as being an outstanding school.  It's because of the students.  The residents of the area that provides the students are mostly college graduates and well-educated themselves.  They provide smart kids for the school.  Smart kids make a good school.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Boehner's Gift

Every day my email is filled with messages from Democratic candidates begging for money.  Not local candidates; I live in a "safe" district and my representatives to the State legislature and to the federal congress feel secure enough in their jobs that they do not send me begging letters every day.

These days the letters I get usually start out with either "The Tea Party is . . ." or "John Boehner is suing the President . . ."  The Tea Party has been a good fund-raiser for Democrats for several years.  Lately the Speaker, John Boehner from Ohio, has created another one.  He is going to sue President Obama for . . . what?  Being President and using his legal authority to issue executive orders to accomplish things that Congress won't act on.  It's hilarious.  I want to see the case go to trial, although I doubt that any judge with any judgment at all would touch it.  Even so, letters go out; Mr. Boehner is going to sue the President, show your support for the President by sending money.

Obama and the Democrats are collecting a mint of money from this threatened lawsuit.  It makes me think that Obama and Boehner dreamed up the scheme while playing golf together.  I am puzzled.  Obama and the Democrats get the money, but what does Boehner get?

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Some Ancient Wisdom

What are nuclear activists?  We generally think of them as dedicated individuals who are trying to save the world from a disaster that would spread radioactive fission products everywhere and bring about an end of human civilization as illustrated in the movie "On the Beach."  In this movie, the nuclear radiation disaster has eliminated human life north of the equator.  An American submarine has escaped to Australia to enjoy what time is left for the humans there.

Here is another story.  In the 1950's, when nuclear reactors were being built for use in generating electric power, there were several arguments advanced in favor of changing from coal-fired power plants to nuclear power plants.  Here are two:

Even counting the disasters at Three-mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, these arguments are still valid today.  In the 1950's there was not yet evidence of climate change due to excess CO2 pollution of the world's atmosphere.  Today one can add a third argument:  Climate Change.

Are the nuclear activists wrong or wrong-headed?  No.  We need eventually to dispose of all schemes for generating power that depend on burning fossil fuel or fissioning mined uranium and thorium.  Eventually these sources will all be used up.  In addition, the burning of carbon threatens human life in a manner similar to that shown in the movie:  The temperature and the oceans will continue to rise until our descendants move to northern Canada, Greenland, northern Siberia, and antarctica to escape the heat and humidity of the rest of the world.  Increasing the temperature of the oceans may release great quantities of HS gas, about as poisining in its own way as radiation from fission products.

Nuclear activists aren't going to take my advice, of course.  If they did, they would become anti-coal and anti-petroleum activists as well as anti-nuclear.  All forms of energy production that depend on mined or fossil material must be phased out before we run out.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?