Peace Nobel: Al Gore and IPCC

October 12, 2007

2007’s Nobel Prize for Peace sailed out to Al Gore and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”


First, this is a big win for science. The IPCC has been victim of political knee-capping as virulent as any we’ve seen in the last 25 years. Science wins out with the Nobel.

Second, if, in October 2000, we had been able to see a headline, “Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize,” what would we have thought that meant about the results of the 2000 election? It’s an indictment of the inaction of the Bush regime that in 6 years Al Gore has done enough to win a Nobel for his efforts, while the Bush administration has not.

Third, while Gore is U.S. citizen, he’s a graduate of St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C., a good private school. I’m 0-4 on public school grads winning Nobels this year. So much for my predictions. Of course, P. Z. Myers argues Nobels are at best a lagging indicator (how’s that for zipping in an economic term, social studies teachers?). But he’s talking about science, not education in general. P. Z. says the real disaster for U.S. awards is ahead, when our failure to support science in research and graduate study starts to “pay off.”

Al Gore is a good guy, in my experience. He’s knowledgeable about a lot of things, he has foresight (we’d not have this internet but for Gore’s work to save it in its infancy), and he’s a mensch. Ah, for the things that could have been.


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Nobels, a lagging indicator

October 12, 2007

P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula notes buzz about the science Nobels all going to Europeans (even the two U.S. residents are European).  Nobels are a lagging indicator of things, at best, P. Z. says.  The real damage done to U.S. research shows up other places.

Thanks for the reassurances, P. Z.

(He’s right, you know.  He’s using Nobels as an indicator of the robustness of U.S. science; I use them as an indicator of the robustness of U.S. education.  Much of the same stuff applies.  More on science, later.)

Too much communication: e-mail

October 12, 2007

What’s one big difference between education and business? Communication, especially electronic communication. Businesses have too much of it, many if not most educational organizations are a decade behind that curve, not yet having enough.

e-mail gif from South Alabama University

Free content at the Wall Street Journal includes this column by Sue Shellenbarger in Work and Family, “A day without e-mail is like . . .” She tells the story of U.S. Cellular’s chief operating officer banning e-mail on Fridays to improve work. He was striving for more face-to-face communication among employees, and he got it.

My first experience with e-mail was at the U.S. Department of Education — good heavens! — two decades ago. We were experimenting with electronic communication with the old, slow systems that linked dumb terminals through telephone connections (1200 BAUD, anyone?). Our formerly technophobic boss, Checker Finn, was at home recuperating from some physical ailment, and we made the delightful mistake of showing him he could send and receive messages by computer. Within a few weeks it took at least an hour a day to keep up with the messages. But our operations were split, with administration across town at the main ED building, and most of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) closer to the Capitol, at New Jersey Avenue, NE. Basic communications that had taken three days by inside mail, courier, and the limousine between the two buildings, were shortened to exchanges over 15 or 20 minutes. Computer messaging was a huge boost to productivity on most things. E-mail, such as it was, had to be printed out to be read. Saving it was a manual filing process.

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