U.S. education: Old dogs, new tricks, no problem

July 31, 2007

David Parker notes this wonderful event.  It makes me hopeful for the nation, really.

David:  Did you ask the guy if your students can interview him?

Difficulty viewing this blog?

July 31, 2007

Comments are not exactly at the deluge level, but I’ve heard from several people (including my wife) that the blog is bleeding out of its assigned column for reading, to the left.

WordPress tech thinks it may be a function of older versions of Internet Explorer.  They can’t duplicate the problem, nor can I.  Mozilla Firefox is my browser of choice, and the problem does not manifest there.

One solution would be to change the blog theme.  For a couple of reasons, I’m reluctant to do that — but I would like to know how much of a problem this is for readers.

Do you experience problems with text bleeding out of the columns?  Especially, do you experience this problem with the most current versions of Internet Explorer?  Do you have no problems at all?
Let me know in comments.  A change may come.

And in any case, it won’t kill you to comment, right?

Tracking hurricanes for classrooms

July 31, 2007

This image of Tropical Storm Chantal depicts wind speed in color and wind direction with small barbs. White barbs point to areas of heavy rain. The highest wind speeds, are shown in purple. The data were obtained by NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite on August 1, 2007, as it was just south of Newfoundland, Canada. NASA image

This image of Tropical Storm Chantal depicts wind speed in color and wind direction with small barbs. White barbs point to areas of heavy rain. The highest wind speeds, are shown in purple. The data were obtained by NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite on August 1, 2007, as it was just south of Newfoundland, Canada. NASA image

Here in North Texas, most of our classrooms see refugees from coastal storms from time to time — in fact, most schools still have refugees from Hurricane Katrina, or Hurricane Rita. Plus, sitting close to Tornado Alley, everyone understands that weather is no abstraction here. Weather is personal.

Maps of weather offer teachers a good way to make geography personal, too — or at least more relevant. Those little clouds swirling west from the coast of Africa today could be the hurricane that swamps the Texas coast in a couple of weeks.

An e-mail correspondent sent a link to the Weather Channel’s Hurricane Central, suggesting I might want to track storms for my personal safety (Tropical Storm Chantal is far off in the Atlantic, and racing away; no problems from that storm).

Why not have kids track storms in class? The map above, for example, should be a basic foundation for much of Texas history (the explorers and Spanish colonization, for example), for U.S. history (explorers and the slave trade, the Triangle Trade, the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, and so on). Get students used to using maps to track important and interesting things, and map use will become second nature, as it should be. The Weather Channel and other sources create updates on that basic map several times a day.

What sorts of storms did the explorers face? The slave ships? How big was the storm that shipwrecked Esteban in Texas? What is one likely source of the massive forest blowdown that created the greater Caddo Lake?

Hurricane season runs through October. There should be a lot of grist for the learning mill just in the daily weather reports. You might also use the weather maps in the daily newspaper (most local newspapers will give you a classroom set for a week for under $20.00 under the Newspapers in Education (NIE) project) (NIE offers an interactive quiz on geography weekly, by the way).

Is there any kid who isn’t fascinated by the weather? That’s your hook. Maps are freely available from the Weather Channel site, and from dozens of others.

Caption from NASA: The third tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season formed around 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 30 west of Bermuda. Exactly 12 hours later on Tuesday, July 31, at 11:00 a.m. EDT, the storm strengthened into a tropical storm with sustained winds of 40 mph and higher gusts. At that time, the storm was named Tropical Storm Chantal. Chantal was located near latitude 40.2 north and longitude 62.7 west, about 330 miles (530 km) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia and is moving rapidly toward the northeast near 23 mph (37 km/hr). Chantal is not a threat to the United States.

Caption from NASA: The third tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season formed around 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 30 west of Bermuda. Exactly 12 hours later on Tuesday, July 31, at 11:00 a.m. EDT, the storm strengthened into a tropical storm with sustained winds of 40 mph and higher gusts. At that time, the storm was named Tropical Storm Chantal. Chantal was located near latitude 40.2 north and longitude 62.7 west, about 330 miles (530 km) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia and is moving rapidly toward the northeast near 23 mph (37 km/hr). Chantal is not a threat to the United States.




Best blog post title this week. Maybe this year.

July 30, 2007

No kidding. I run into this title a couple of times a day, and I laugh every time. Go see. Over at Neurophilosophy.

Uganda expands controlled DDT use

July 30, 2007

Contrary to the scare stories from JunkScience.com and other politicos, Uganda is expanding their use of DDT on a controlled basis, to fight malaria — exactly as Environmental Defense and other U.S. environmental groups have urged.  The story doesn’t say whether the Bush administration has come on board, but one can hope.

From New Vision:

By Fred Ouma

THE Government is to start indoor spraying of DDT in January 2008, the Malaria Control Programme manager with the health ministry has said.

Dr. John Bosco Rwakimari, who did not disclose the cost of the exercise, on Wednesday told participants at the malaria conference at the Imperial Resort Beach, Entebbe that the Government had secured funds to buy the pesticide.

“We have seen impressive results in Kabale and Kanungu districts where the malaria prevalence has reduced from 30% to less than 4% and 45% to 4.7% respectively,” he affirmed.

“DDT should be here (in Uganda) at beginning of the year. We shall start with high malaria endemic districts of Apac, Lira, Kitgum, Amuru, Gulu, Pader, Mbale and Pallisa in accordance with WHO and Stockholm Convention guidelines,” he added.

Rwakimari affirmed that by the end of 2010, all areas considered prone to the epidemic would be covered.

Were there a worldwide ban on DDT use, how could this happen?


DDT out, eagles back in Michigan Upper Peninsula

July 30, 2007

Another story of the success of the restrictions on use of DDT:  The recovery of eagles in Michigan; from the Escanaba Daily Press.


Eagles at edge of Escanaba River


BBC animation: The Western Front, World War I

July 30, 2007

Western Front of World War I, from BBC animation

Here’s another map animation from the BBC that helps people visualize the stalemate nature of the Western Front of World War I.

If this animation is available in any form for purchase from the BBC for classroom use, I haven’t found it. I do wish the BBC would do a DVD or CD compilation of these animations and make it available at very low cost to teachers (high costs mean schools buy only one copy, which teachers can’t get a chance to see, and consequently won’t integrate into their lesson plans; paradoxically, a low-priced disk would probably earn BBC more money, and certainly would contribute to much more classroom learning).

This would be a good link for individual study at home on the internet. A great lecture could be built around it, if one has internet access live in the classroom and a way to project it.

Historians at work: The last known Brit who fought in the trenches of World War I

July 29, 2007

Richard van Emden is not a well known historian in the U.S., but perhaps he should be better known (he is also a television producer). This is exactly the sort of work that we need more historians doing:

Van Emden is interviewing Harry Patch of Somerset, England. Patch is 109 years old, and is the last known surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches in Belgium for the Allies in World War I.

Harry Patch and Richard van Emden, in BelgiumHarry Patch, foreground, and Richard van Emden visit the site of the World War I Battle of Passchendaele, near Flanders, Belgium.

250,000 British soldiers died in the battle.

The 109-year-old fought in the Battle of Passchendaele when he was aged 19.

He served with the Duke of Cornwall’s light infantry and was called up for service while working as an 18-year-old apprentice plumber in Bath.

During the fighting, Mr Patch was badly wounded and three of his best friends were killed when a shell exploded just yards from where he was standing.

He made the trip with historian Richard van Emden, who helped Mr Patch write down his memories.

Mr van Emden showed him the five miles they advanced over 99 days which claimed 3,000 British casualties every day.

He was also shown a recently discovered panoramic photograph of the fields taken in 1917.

“Too many died,” said Mr Patch. “War isn’t worth one life.”

Interviews with participants in history, with the eyewitnesses, provide a good training ground for future historians. The interviews generally provide great value, even when done by amateurs, such as high school students.

Teachers, how many veterans of how many wars live in your town? How many of them have been asked to tell about their experiences?

Leo Rosten on Adam Smith

July 29, 2007

Leo Rosten writes clearly, concisely, and often with great humor. Consequently, his essays make good fodder for classroom use.

British bank note featuring Adam Smith

Rosten is probably most famous for the introduction he once gave to the comedian W. C. Fields, a spur-of-the-moment bon mots that so exactly described Fields comedian persona that it is often listed as a line Fields himself wrote: “Any man who hates dogs and children can’t be all bad.”

That story also tells us that Rosten looks at Adam Smith coolly, through no rose-colored glass.

The Adam Smith Institute carries Rosten’s essay on Smith in its entirety. Go read it:

It is a clumsy, sprawling, elephantine book. The facts are suffocating, the digressions interminable, the pace as maddening as the title is uninviting: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. But it is one of the towering achievements of the human mind: a masterwork of observation and analysis, of ingenious correlations, inspired theorizings, and the most persistent and powerful cerebration. Delightful ironies break through its stodgy surface:

“The late resolution of the Quakers [to free] their Negro slaves may satisfy us that their number cannot be very great …”

“The chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.”

“To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising customers [is] unfit for a nation of shopkeepers, but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”

So comprehensive is its range, so perceptive its probings, that it can dance, within one conceptual scheme, from the diamond mines of Golconda to the price of Chinese silver in Peru; from the fisheries of Holland to the plight of Irish prostitutes in London. It links a thousand apparently unrelated oddities into unexpected chains of consequence. And the brilliance of its intelligence “lights up the mosaic of detail,” says Schumpeter, “heating the facts until they glow.” Sometimes.

Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776 – not as a textbook, but as a polemical cannon aimed at governments that were subsidizing and protecting their merchants, their farmers, their manufacturers, against “unfair” competition, at home or from imports. Smith set out to demolish the mercantilist theory from which those politics flowed. He challenged the powerful interests who were profiting from unfree markets, collusive prices, tariffs and subsidies, and obsolete ways of producing things.

[More at the site of the Adam Smith Institute, including the continuation of this essay.]

Leo Rosten, publicity shot

Leo Rosten

88-year-old man finally gets Eagle Scout rank

July 29, 2007

Joining the elite, top 5% of all Boy Scouts, Walter Hart was awarded his Eagle rank in a ceremony Saturday in Fort Myers, Florida. Walter is 88.

There was a 70+ year delay in Walter’s ceremony — he passed the requirements for the rank, but then went off to fight in World War II before the award was made.

The Associated Press story ran in the New York Times:

”I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Hart, who lives in a retirement center in nearby Lehigh Acres.

Scout officials say he may be the oldest person to ever earn the honor.

Hart joined the Cub Scouts in 1928 in Malden, Mass., and earned 23 merit badges during his years as a Boy Scout, scouting officials said. Of the 120 merit badges available, 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout rank.

It all got set aside when he joined the Navy during World War II and served two years aboard the USS Alfred A. Cunningham.

Last year, he rediscovered some of his old Boy Scout memorabilia, including documents that showed he completed the requirements for his Eagle Scout rank. He contacted the Scouts about receiving his award.

”I think this was something that was always on his mind, but every time he went to go do it, something else came up,” daughter Elizabeth Gatturna said. ”I know how hard he’s tried to get to this point.”

Congratulations, Walter.

Walter Hart, 88, rec'd Eagle Badge 7-28-2007

  • Walter Hart, 88, is shown wearing a 2007 Boy Scout uniform with the merit badge sash he used as a youth, prior to World War II. Apart from the not-quite fit, we can tell the sash is his old one because many of the merit badges are in their pre-World War II designs, and the sash shows rank badges for Star Scout and Life Scout; current uniform rules do not allow rank badges on the sash. Under Scout rules, Walter may wear this sash for his Scouting career. Associated Press photo.

Spread the news, please:

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Who was Millard Fillmore? No, really?

July 28, 2007

George Pendle’s hoax biography of Millard Fillmore sells okay — but Amazon lists 365,000 books selling better (July 28, 2007). That’s small solace to people who worry, as H. L. Mencken came too late to worry, about how hoaxes may spread. Mark Twain is reputed to have said that a lie can travel around the world twice before the truth can get its boots on.

So I was interested to find that somebody actually has a biography on Fillmore that ventures beyond the usual encyclopedia article. Big Mo’s Presidents Review featured Fillmore on July 15. According to the site, Big Mo is a journalist now stuck (or happy) in the corporate world. The biography is not so long that junior high (8th grade) U.S. history students will find it incredibly onerous, nor is it so short that it merely repeats the same old material.  It’s a good report.


Appointment of ____ to be ambassador to France; Fillmore and Daniel Webster signatures

The Big Mo report on Fillmore is good enough that other people are copying it wholesale (with attribution).

One gap:  Big Mo leaves out discussion of Fillmore’s boyhood, which is one area that students search on frequently, according to the statistics from this blog.  I think Fillmore’s early life, his change in careers after he threatened to kill the man he was indentured to if the fellow did not allow him to learn the trade, make some interesting discussion points about Fillmore’s character.  Minor quibbles.

On the plus side, he includes just about every image available on the internet, and cartoons about Fillmore, which are deucedly difficult to find in high resolution images.

Fillmore need not be a mystery.  Check it out.

Power Line documents flag desecretion in Minnesota

July 28, 2007

What’s wrong with this picture?

Uncle Sam on stilts, carrying a flag improperly; citizens do not salute

They didn’t mean to, but there it is: Flag displays not in accordance with the U.S. Flag Code at every turn — flag desecration! Or, as Power Line titles it, “A Minnesota 4th of July.” You can see the slide show here. I point out some Flag Code violations in a slide-by-slide list, after the fold.

No, I’m not calling for the Sheriff of Buncombe County, North Carolina, to dispatch his deputies to arrest everyone in Apple Valley, Minnesota, who participated in the 2004 4th of July Parade — not even if they are Ron Paul supporters (in 2004, who knew?). Heck, we’d need to do the same for Duncanville, Texas (I was there; I probably still have some photographs somewhere), and probably for Provo, Utah (“the nation’s biggest Freedom Day celebration”) and Prescott, Arizona, and 15,000 other towns in America where citizens turn out on the celebration for our Declaration of Independence and have a parade. Of course, most of those towns are not fettered with North Carolina’s outdated and uconstitutional flag desecration law, either.

Fact is, most people are not too familiar with the U.S. Flag Code, and in their attempts to have a good time and celebrate the good stuff in and of this nation, they sometimes do not hew to the Flag Code’s call.

Which means simply that we need to do a better job of educating citizens on how to respect their flag and display it respectfully; and it also means we shouldn’t get all worked up whenever someone screams “FLAG DESECRATION!” to alarm us and make us rally around George Bush (who, as we saw in the last post, needs some Flag Code education for himself).

To his credit, Scott Johnson at Power Line is not a huge backer of flag desecration amendments to the Constitution. Nor are the other two contributors at PowerLine, except for their frequent complaint that the First Amendment “protects flag burning and nude dancing” but not whatever it is they want to rant about at that moment.

But if these über patriots think all this Flag Code bustin’ is good patriotism, where does a deputy in Asheville, North Carolina, get off telling people they can’t use the flag in their protest? Isn’t that THE core value the flag stands for, that citizens can protest?

Or, is it really true that the Bush defenders have politicized the nation so badly that only some political statements are protected by the First Amendment? We, our people, fought King George III to win the right to speak our minds. We shouldn’t yield to anyone that right won with the blood of patriots.

Read the rest of this entry »

Flag desecration arrest in North Carolina

July 28, 2007

The Volokh Conspiracy notes the arrest of an Asheville, North Carolina couple for improper flag display — they flew the U.S. flag upside down (a universal sign of distress), and with protest notes attached to it.

Details from the Asheville Citizen-Times.

The newspaper also notes that the flag desecration statute appears not to have been used since the Vietnam War era (anybody care to guess which political views got cited?) . A local fireworks sales stand in the area displayed U.S. flags in violation of the Flag Code near July 4, but while news abstracts appear to show the stand was cited for a violation of the sign code, there is no indication it was cited for the flag desecration code.

We need to amend the Flag Code, to authorize flag displays that have become popular recently, such as shirts that resemble the flag, flag decals in autos, flag bumper stickers, and other displays that technically violate the Flag Code — unless, of course, we want to try to criminalize innocent attempts to honor the flag. Flag desecration cases almost always have a political component, however, and such prosecutions should generally be suspect under the First Amendment — don’t you agree?

How much of the ire against the Kuhns in Asheville was prompted by their support of Ron Paul for president? (See the photo of their protest signs, and note the lawn sign in the background.) Mark and Deborah Kuhn show their flag protest signs, after arrest incident

If someone has the details of the fireworks stand case near Asheville, please send them along — was the stand in the same county as Mark and Deborah Kuhn?

UpdateThe Mountain Xpress story carries a slightly different tone, identifying the Kuhns as “activists,” and featuring interviews of eyewitnesses to the arrests.

Other improper flag displays, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nonqoute of the Moment: What Ben Bradlee did NOT say

July 27, 2007

My respect for Fred Gielow rose when I found this on-line erratum notice, correcting a vicious misquoting of former Newsweek columnist and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

This is one way a responsible author corrects a misquoting of someone, particularly one that puts words in the person’s mouth that convey a message opposite to the message they delivered:


I have been advised by the assistant counsel at The Washington Post that Mr. Benjamin C. Bradlee, vice-president at-large of The Washington Post, never made the statement attributed to him on page 117 of my book, You Don’t Say. The principal source of that quotation is the book Trashing the Planet, by Dixy Lee Ray with Lou Guzzo, Regnery Gateway, 1990, page 76. The assistant counsel states the quote is a fabrication.

The assistant counsel tells me Mr. Bradlee says he was discussing a matter at an environmental conference with fellow panelists and had no problem with what the panelists were saying, but he warned that there was

“a minor danger in saying it, because as soon as you say, ‘To hell with the news, I’m no longer interested in the news, I’m interested in causes,’ you’ve got a whole kooky constituency to respond to, which you can waste a lot of time on.”

That statement is indeed significantly different in meaning from the statement I quoted from Trashing the Planet, which said,

“To hell with the news. I’m no longer interested in the news. I’m interested in causes. We don’t print the truth. We don’t pretend to print the truth . . .”

Inasmuch as Trashing the Planet cites as a reference for its quotation an article by David Brooks in the October 5, 1989 Wall Street Journal, and inasmuch as I now find that Wall Street Journal article contains wording wholly consistent with the first quotation (above), not the second, I’m led to believe the second quotation is in error. This is a difficult conclusion for me to reach because I greatly respect Dixy Lee Ray and Regnery Gateway, and I have great confidence in their integrity.

Nevertheless, I must now apologize to Mr. Bradlee and I must apologize to all readers of my book who have depended on the correctness of the quote I obtained from Trashing the Planet. As I have stated to the assistant counsel, I’m interested only in the truth. When it can be shown that I have relied on information or a quotation that is shown to be incorrect or improper, I am anxious to correct the record.

Once again, let my extend my most sincere and genuine apologies to Mr. Bradlee. It was never my intention to attribute to him something he did not say. I know how painful it is to be accused of something you did not do or say. I would not wish that pain on anyone. And to demonstrate my desire to disseminate this information to set the record straight, I will post this message on my website for an indefinite period of time and will highlight access to it.

Fred Gielow_____________________________[end quote from Gielow]

Mr. Gielow’s faith in the Regnery publishing house is misplaced, in my experience.

Now, perhaps Mr. Gielow will correct his misquoting of Charles Wurster at his website. [Update, 7-29-2007:  Mr. Gielow responds by e-mail that he will check out the citations of the Wurster misquote.  Good news.]

Flag displays, and worship

July 27, 2007

See controversy here. The post below comes from the blog of the Dallas Morning News on religion, completely, from a post by religion writer Sam Hodges:

Should church sanctuaries display the U.S. flag?


It’s a subject that’s generating heat within United Methodist circles. Here’s one pastor’s view, in a piece put out by the UMC News Service.

A UMNS Commentary
By the Rev. Clayton Childers*

As a staff member at the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, I am frequently asked questions that require me to go where “angels fear to tread.” Questions about displaying national flags in the church’s sanctuary take us into that treacherous terrain.

Many United Methodist churches maintain a tradition of placing the United States flag in the sanctuary, by the altar, within the chancel, or at another prominent location on the church grounds. I heard of one case in which the U.S. flag actually covered the altar itself. So we must ask: Is this an appropriate use of the national flag from both a Christian and United Methodist perspective?

Read the rest of this entry »

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