Velsicol Chemical vs. Rachel Carson — the lawsuit that didn’t happen

August 23, 2010

Decades later, the site of Velsicol's DDT manufacturing at St. Louis, Michigan, along the Pine River, remains a still-recovering-from-contamination site.  Velsicol denied DDT is dangerous in a letter to the publisher of Silent Spring. In 1999 EPA began a $100 million Superfund clean-up of Velsicol's site. Even with new, better cleanup methods, it's still a hazard.  Photo from Penny Park, by the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

Decades later, the site of Velsicol’s DDT manufacturing at St. Louis, Michigan, along the Pine River, remains a still-recovering-from-contamination site. Velsicol denied DDT is dangerous in a letter to the publisher of Silent Spring. In 1999 EPA began a $100 million Superfund clean-up of Velsicol’s site. Even with new, better cleanup methods, it’s still a hazard. Photo from Penny Park, by the Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force

This story by Linda Gittleman deserves circulation well outside central Michigan, where it was published in the Morning Sun:

LINDA GITTLEMAN: Telling stories of the St. Louis Superfund sites

Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010

When it comes to the St. Louis area Superfund sites, there must be a thousand sidebars – those quirky little stories that all played a role in what happened at the Velsicol Chemical plant, in the city and indeed the country throughout the last several decades.

And, I suspect, there are a thousand more yet to come out.

Several years ago, the PBS series “American Experience” showcased Rachel Carson, the woman who wrote “Silent Spring,” published in 1962. That was the book which became the force that led to the ban, for the most part, of DDT use in the U.S.

Velsicol in St. Louis was the largest manufacturer of DDT in the country.

In the program, Carson recalled the bad old days.

To say the chemical company didn’t much care for her is an understatement. They flat out called her a liar.

Not only was she up to no good with her “sinister influence.” She was also a “tool of the Communist menace.”

Nor did they care much for the New Yorker magazine, which published excerpts from her book shortly before publication. At least the same could be said for her publisher Houghton Mifflin.

Alma College Professor Ed Lorenz had traveled to Yale and perused Carson’s papers that are kept there.

He found a five-page letter written to the publisher from Velsicol’s lawyer outlining in great detail all the discrepancies, misstatements and misunderstandings on Carson’s part as well as the inaccuracies found in the New Yorker series.

Letter from Velsicol Chemical to publisher of Silent Spring

Letter from Velsicol Chemical to publisher of Silent Spring, threatening to sue if alleged errors in Silent Spring were not corrected. No changes were made, and Velsicol did not sue. Letter image from the archives of Alma College.

Certainly wouldn’t want to see all those errors in the book due out, so a letter from Velsicol was in order. A letter that would “call several matters to your attention from legal and ethical standpoints.”

Louis McLean, the attorney, requested a meeting with the publisher so they could discuss all that and more besides.

The editor in chief wrote back and thanked him for the letter, forwarding on a copy to Carson.

“We have reviewed carefully the sources for the statements in her book, in the light of the points you bring up in your letter,” Paul Brooks wrote in response. “While there may be room for differences of opinion, we still believe, after thorough examination, that Miss Carson’s presentation is accurate and fair. Since our concern as well as yours is factual accuracy, we do not believe that a meeting would serve any useful purpose.”

Velsicol didn’t sue.

E.B. White, then the publisher of the New Yorker wrote to Carson, remarking on her courage for, “putting on the gloves and going in with this formidable opponent. This will be an Uncle Tom’s Cabin of a book, I feel – the sort that will help turn the tide.”

It did, at least in the U.S.

And one last item for the “It’s a small world department:” Did you know that the mother of Bernie Davis, the former Alma College professor and former county commissioner, was Carson’s administrative assistant?

She too was interviewed on “American Experience,” Lorenz said.

(Linda Gittleman is the Gratiot Managing Editor and can be reached at

America is vexed with a non-centrally organized, but persistent, campaign to smear Rachel Carson and her work, with inaccurate claims about her research and the science of environmental protection — smears that would be laughable were there not so many ill-informed people who give them credence.  In contrast, there is no paid lobby to spread the good works of Rachel Carson — the truth simply stands on its own.

More about DDT and Alma, Michigan, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Also see:

Computer fritz. Expletive deleted.

August 22, 2010

Two days before school starts, with the computers in the classroom not yet up and running well, with a lot of material yet to create, with poor printer connections in the best of times, there appears to be a power supply issue.  Sudden loss of data.  Inability to back up.  Days for a solution.

Expletive deleted.

You know, when I was in solo practice I had a much smaller burden to bear on office automation.  I was responsible for all of it, but I didn’t have Wizards of Smart from downtown creating programs and processes incompatible with computer use.  The comic strip, “Dilbert,” discusses the Department of Automation and Information Prevention.

I got that.  With troubles on my own computer.

Another expletive deleted.

Maybe I can get Jonathan Kozol to do a chapter in a new book, a follow-up to Rudolph Flesch’s work: Why Johnny Can’t Teach.

Feel free to discuss on any thread.

Naked-eye star gazer Jack Horkheimer, dead at 72

August 22, 2010

Jack Horkheimer, the guy who worked for more than 30 years to acquaint people with the fine old tradition of naked-eye astronomy, died in Miami Friday.  He was 72.

Jack Horkheimer, America's Star Gazer - Photo by Bill Wisser

Jack Horkheimer, America's Star Gazer, at home in a television production studio - Photo by Bill Wisser, first published in Astronomy, January 2006

A short note appears in Sunday’s Miami Herald:

`Star Gazer’ host Jack Horkheimer dies


Jack Horkheimer, Public Television’s “Star Gazer,” died Friday afternoon of a respiratory ailment, according to a spokesman for the Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium.

Born June 11, 1938, he was 72.

In an e-mail to staff, museum officials said they were “very saddened to have just learned that our resident Star Gazer, Jack Horkheimer, passed away today after being ill for quite some time.

“Jack was executive director of [the] Planetarium for over 35 years and was an internationally recognized pioneer in popularizing naked-eye astronomy. He was also a recognized media celebrity, often being the foremost commentator on all astronomy related happenings nationwide.

Horkheimer was best known as the creator, writer and host of public television’s “Star Gazer,” the 30-year weekly TV series on naked eye astronomy. Seen on PBS stations nationwide, “Star Gazer” reached millions of people, helping create a love of the stars for several generations of enthusiasts.”

Arrangements are pending.

Read more:

Many of my best opportunities to watch stars come when I’ve far away from optics to improve the sighting.  Horkheimer’s practical advice on how to eyeball the sky delighted me from the start.

Horkheimer was a media guy, not an astronomer or scientist in any strict sense.  He was a great popularizer of astronomy.  Star Gazer may be the single most effective educational program on astronomy in history, by viewers and by total effect.

Checking his website, I note that he’s got, in the can and ready to broadcast, episodes of Star Gazer for weeks to come.

Here’s Star Gazer for the coming week:


Last Space Shuttle mission: Help NASA pick the wake-up tunes

August 21, 2010

How about, “The Party’s Over” for the very last Shuttle wake-up call?

Press release from NASA, August 20, 2010:

RELEASE : 10-193

NASA Asks Public for Final Shuttle Missions’ Wakeup Songs

HOUSTON — If you like music, the space program and are a little nostalgic, NASA has the perfect opportunity for you. For the first time, the public can help choose songs to wake up the astronauts during the last two scheduled space shuttle missions.

Traditionally, the songs played to wake up the astronauts are selected by friends and family of the crews. For the last two scheduled missions, NASA is inviting the public to visit the “Wakeup Song Contest” website to select songs from a list of the top 40 previous wakeup calls or to submit original tunes for consideration. To vote or submit a song, visit:

The two songs with the most votes from the top 40 list will be played as crew wakeup calls on the final scheduled flight of space shuttle Discovery. Discovery’s STS-133 mission is targeted to launch on Nov. 1.

“We’re looking forward to hearing which songs the public wants played for us,” STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey said. “It’s going to be a difficult choice, because there have been so many great songs played over the years.”

Original songs must have a space theme and be submitted to NASA by 4 p.m. CST on Jan. 10, 2011. The songs will be reviewed by agency officials and the top finalists put to a public vote. The top two songs will be used to wake space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 crew.
Endeavour’s mission is the last scheduled space shuttle flight. It is targeted to launch on Feb. 26, 2011.

“Space shuttle crews really enjoy the morning wake-up music,” STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly said. “While we don’t have the best quality speaker in the space shuttle, it will be interesting to hear what the public comes up with. We are looking forward to it.”

The song contest campaign follows NASA’s ongoing “Face in Space” project. It invites the public to send electronic images of their faces into orbit aboard one of the final remaining space shuttle missions. To submit your image, visit:

For more information about the Space Shuttle Program and the STS-133 and STS-134 missions to the International Space Station, visit:

For more information about the space station, visit:

– end –

Hallowed ground: Why other nations think we’re nuts

August 20, 2010

Scott Hanley at Angular Unconformities used Google Earth to see how other nations deal with the placement of potentially-offensive installations near the sites of their great national calamaties.

Charles Krauthammer pushed the argument to the shark-jumping bridge in his regular column at the Washington Post:

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there — and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.

That’s why Disney’s 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War (and that was wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

We noted on another thread that there is, in fact, a Japanese Cultural Center at Pearl Harbor.  Hanley wonders how the Japanese deal with reminders of the being the victims of the first atomic bomb used in warfare — a topic upon which the Japanese are understandably extremely sensitive.

Go to the photos, see what Hanley found:

Hallowed ground

Baseball and 7-Eleven, symbols of American cultural imperialism at the site of the world’s first nuclear assault. McDonald’s, by contrast, maintains a discreet 2000′ distance across the river.

This campaign against a Moslem cultural center in lower Manhattan is the prototypical example of where the “Ugly American” myth gets its roots. Hanley’s analysis is incredibly simple, no?

Cat and Mosque, at Dogboy and Mr. Dan

August 19, 2010

Mark Fiore’s latest animated political cartoon won’t be popular with Newt Gingrich.  But then, Fiore won the Pulitzer, not Gingrich.

(This cartoon is not available on Fiore’s YouTube Channel, yet.)

(Oh, and remember:  This is the guy whose app got Apple’s panties in a wad — while you’re there, iPhone users, get the app that Steve Jobs thought mean for ridiculing those who so richly deserve ridicule.  Ain’t the First Amendment grand?)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jennsmom.

Cagle Cartoons gets trite, and wrong

August 19, 2010

I’m a great lover of political cartoons and political cartooning, of all stripes.  Great truths sneak out of the pens that produce stunned laughter in a reader (viewer), I think, especially when they stun me into a new realization.

Political cartooning stumbles along through hard times.  Where once upon a time a major U.S. city, like St. Louis, would have three or more daily newspapers, each of which would employ more than one cartoonist, the newspapers themselves disappear (more slowly this year, but no new ones have been birthed, either), and those few surviving newspapers try to get along with one or fewer political cartoonists, and they even reduce the number of syndicated cartoons.

Where U.S. history teachers revel in the glorious images and humor of Thomas Nast (even though he was a Republican sympathizer), Thomas Keppler, Berryman, Ding Darling, Herblock, Bill Mauldin, and other bright cartoonists of the 19th and 20th centuries, Daryl Cagle has gallantly tried to preserve the profession and the art, with a group that spreads cartoons of a lot of cartoonists employed by papers or free-lancing.

I subscribe to the electronic newsletter of Cagle Cartoons.  I’ve found their processes for getting approval not to work well for me (or work at all — I have yet to get any response on any cartoon I’ve asked them about).  But I hope cartoonists like the brilliant Sherffius, or Calvin Grondahl from my almost-native Utah, get enough additional exposure to make them comfortable and keep the cartooning.

Lately I’ve been despairing.  Cagle added columns by cartoonists and others.  Most of that material tends toward hard conservatism, I find, and lack of reportorial and intellectual rigor.

Like this piece of guano from a reporter named Phil Brennan. Oh, we should have expected it to be  lightweight, his being a regular contributor to the disinformation source NewsMax.

But still.

Brennan argues that birthers should give up on their challenges to Obama’s eligibility, because of the chaos that would be caused were Obama to be replaced by John McCain so far into an administration.  (Yeah — just hold on.  I know.)  All the laws Obama signed would be nullified, Brennan wrote, all his appointments nullifed, and the slate wiped clean for McCain and Palin to occupy the White House. Obama’s defended his birth in a U.S. territory successfully so far, so birthers should give up trying for change.

Just for a moment, imagine that the Court does its job and it turns out that Obama can’t come up with a legitimate birth certificate showing that he was indeed born on U.S. soil in what was then the territory of Hawaii, and the Court declares that he is therefore ineligible to serve as the nation’s chief executive.

Should that be the case nothing that he has done, no appointments that he has made nor executive orders he issued would be valid. And under the provisions of the Constitution, John McCain would be declared the legitimate President of the United States and Sarah Palin the Vice President starting with Inauguration Day, 2009.

It might cause a civil war, Brennan says.

Mr. Brennan:  I know the U.S. Constitution.  I’ve read the U.S. Constitution.  The U.S. Constitution is a friend of mine.  What you describe is not in the Constitution, and doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality.

Here’s the comment I posted to Brennan’s piece at Cagle Cartoons:

A couple of fact checking issues here:

1. Hawaii was a state in 1961, not a territory. Hawaii became a state in August 1959.

2. Under the Constitution and federal laws on succession, if the person at the top of the ticket becomes ineligible to serve, the person next in line in succession becomes president. Were Obama declared ineligible, we’d have President Joe Biden.

3. There is no provision to nullify laws and directives of a federal officer later found ineligible for the office. Under pretty well-established law, all of those actions stand unless repealed later. Congressional actions, especially, would not be rolled back. All appointments stand.

4. Obama has already provided unassailable proof of his birth. Under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, all states and the federal government must honor official actions of the states. Hawaii issued, under seal, a document verifying that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu in 1961. “Under seal” is the highest authority we can give a document under statutory and common law — it’s got more than 800 years of precedent behind it. The only possible way to get at a document under seal is to provide clear and convincing evidence of fraud on the state. There is no showing of any fraud that stands up in court, under Hawaii or federal rules of evidence.

In short, almost everything stated as fact for the premises of that piece, is fiction.

Bad enough that joints like the Discovery Institute, NewsMax, the Washington Times and others have fired all their fact checkers — but shouldn’t a high school-educated person know better?  Is there no editing at Cagle Cartoons at all?

Twitter Tweet button on all posts

August 18, 2010

WordPress added a function that puts an easy way to tweet from any post.

Tweet Button for WordPress

New Tweet button, found at the bottom of all posts; this is just an image -- click the little one below, to Tweet

When you click on the title of a post, or when you go to “comments,” there will be a button at the end of the post, before comments, that gives you a quick way to tweet a post.

This is automatic, not the clunky 18 step process required to post the line of buttons you see on some posts (those where I remembered to go back and create them).

Please, feel free to use that button with abandon.

Thanks, WordPress.

Thanks, Dear Readers.

Republicans in trouble in Texas

August 18, 2010

Four years ago, while few were watching, Democrats took every county post in Dallas County, Texas, previously a bastion of Republican votes.  Not even normally-Democratic-leaning Harris County (Houston, nor Bexar County (San Antonio), went so blue.

In Corpus Christi in July, Democrats were wowed by a slate of powerful state-wide off candidates — Bill White, very successful, pro-business Mayor of Houston nominated for governor, a firebrand of a woman named Linda Chavez-Thompson to make Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sweat and run from debates, and Hector Uribe for Texas Land Commissioner, and others. White is leading Gov. Rick Perry in fundraising.

The rest of the state is waking up, too.  A blog at the Austin American-Statesman looked around the ethical challenges to Texas Republicans, and figured out that the Texas House of Representatives could very well go Democratic.

Lots to get to today as [Joe] Driver takes a hit, we learn more about the state’s budget problems and thousands of prison workers could be out of work.

While the split between 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats in the Texas House is close enough that there has always been a legitimate battle for partisan control in 2010, most objective observers have long said Republicans are likely to keep a House majority heading into next year. For one thing, it’s a Republican year, and for another, GOP groups seem better-organized and better-funded than usual, and for another, we already know of one seat (Wichita Falls) that is likely to switch from Democrat to Republican because of an incumbent’s retirement.

Well, this thing just got more interesting.

Jay Root of the Associated Press reports in this morning’s papers that Rep. Joe Driver, an 18-year-legislator, has been getting reimbursements from the state for legislative-related travel and other expenses paid by his campaign, to the tune of $17,431.

From Root’s story: “A north Texas state representative who rails against the evils of runaway government spending admitted Monday that he has pocketed thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for travel expenses that his campaign had already funded. Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, faced with findings from an investigation by The Associated Press, acknowledged in an interview that for years he has been submitting the same receipts — for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals, fees and incidentals — to both his campaign and to the Texas House of Representatives. He has also been collecting thousands of dollars in state mileage reimbursements for travel in vehicles for which his campaign has shelled out more than $100,000 since 2000. The AP’s review of hundreds of pages of state and campaign travel records found that Driver double-billed for at least $17,431.55 in travel expenses, much of it at fancy out-of-state hotels, since 2005. The number could go higher, but House travel records before mid-2005 have already been destroyed. Driver has been in office for 18 years. The double-billing figure does not include the vehicle expenses.”

What’s almost as amazing as the story itself is Driver’s reaction to the findings. His initial effort at damage control made Linda Harper-Brown look like Karen Hughes.

“Now you’re scaring the heck out of me,” Driver told the AP, adding: “It pretty well screws my week.”

Ya think?

Later in the story, Driver says, “If I knew it was wrong, I wouldn’t have done it that way. I wouldn’t have done it just to make money.”

In Driver’s defense, he did warn us that he wasn’t a numbers guy.

Driver’s campaign actually did put out a real defense Monday night. Here it is, in its entirety:

“After reviewing the facts with ethics specialists in the Texas House it is clear that an inadvertent mistake was made in my campaign expenses.”

Republicans grow desperate.  Stay tuned to Texas, and send money to Democrats if you can.

Here’s Hector Uribe at the State Democratic Convention:

NASA awards Global Climate Change Education grants

August 18, 2010

NASA announced a series of awards totaling $7.7 million to 17 agencies who will work to improve education on climate change. One of NASA’s goals and duties is to educate about NASA research.

These grants have been in the mill for a while, and should be welcomed by the winners of the awards. Wait for people convinced climate change isn’t happening or shouldn’t be prevented, to howl up a storm. 

Here’s the press release:

NASA Announces 2010 Global Climate Change Education Awards

WASHINGTON — NASA has awarded $7.7 million in cooperative agreements to 17 organizations across the United States to enhance learning through the use of NASA’s Earth science resources. The selected organizations include colleges and universities, nonprofit groups, and a community college. The winning proposals in the Global Climate Change Education Awards illustrated innovative approaches to using NASA content in elementary, secondary and undergraduate teaching, and lifelong learning. The proposals emphasized engaging students in NASA Earth observation data and Earth system models, and providing climate-related research experiences for teachers and undergraduate students. Each cooperative agreement is expected to leverage NASA’s unique contributions in climate and Earth system science. The grants support NASA’s goal of engaging students in the critical disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and inspiring the next generation of researchers and explorers. The 17 proposals will fund organizations in Washington, D.C., and 13 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Winning proposals were selected through a merit-based, peer-reviewed competition. The performance period is up to three years and awards range in value from $300,000 to $700,000. For a list of selected organizations and projects descriptions, click on “Selected Proposals” and look for “Global Climate Change Education” at: For information about NASA’s education programs, visit:

– end –

Winning proposals came from organizations across the nation (home state listed in parentheses; last name of principal investigator after the dash). Selected proposals in Funding Category D/M: Using NASA Earth system data, interactive models and simulations to Strengthen Teaching and Learning about Global Climate

  • American Meteorological Society – Brey
  • Columbia University – Chandler
  • Cayuga Community College (New York) – Coughlin
  • University of Toledo (Ohio) – Czajkowski
  • University of California at Riverside – Droser
  • University of North Carolina – Gray
  • Florida Atlantic University – Lambert
  • University of New Hampshire – Martin
  • Colorado State University – Moore
  • University of Idaho – Mulkey
  • University of Minnesota – Roehrig
  • University of Massachusetts – Rooney-Varga
  • SRI International (California) – Zalles

Selected proposals in Funding Category R: Global Climate Change Science Research Experiences for Pre- or In-Service Teachers

  • Institute for Earth Science Research and Education (Pennsylvania) – Brooks
  • Harvard University – Ellison
  • University of Nebraska – Gosselin
  • Oregon State University – O’Connell

Details of the winning proposals can be found here.

Beloit College’s list: E-mail already passé to freshmen

August 18, 2010

If they knew what “old hat” meant, they might say that e-mail is old hat — but today’s entering college class of 2014 doesn’t regard e-mail as modern enough, nor much of other technology as fast enough.

Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, began to publish its profile of the cultural world of entering college freshmen in 1998.  The Mindset List originally aimed to help Beloit professors understand the views of incoming freshmen, with some hopes of bridging the ever-widening Generation Gaps between faculty and students.

Among other things, the Mindset List highlights the importance of teaching patient scholarship methods to students who have astonishing access to electronic information, though not necessarily better access to real knowledge; students need to learn the difference between data and information, information and knowledge, and knowledge and wisdom.

The newest Mindset List comes as one of the list’s creators will retire, an interesting footnote in historic attempts to understand rates of cultural change affecting college-bound kids.  Beloit’s public relations chief Ron Nief created the list with Prof. Tom McBride, who teaches modern students about Milton and Shakespeare.  It is unclear whether Nief will be able to retire from compiling or interpreting the annual Mindset List.  O tempora o mores!

We might assume that Nief had a hand in writing the Beloit College press release on the 2014 list:

Beloit, Wis. – Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since “digital” has always been in the cultural DNA, they’ve never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them.  A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.

Here is the list of 75 touchstones of cultural change guaranteed to give you twinges of your own aging, even if you were in the class of 2010:

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992.

For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelenos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.

7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. “Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51.  Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

63. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. The Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Beloit College ranks among the best small, liberal arts colleges in the U.S.  Beloit College is part of a consortium our family has some fondness for, the 40 colleges in the group Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL).  Every high school student should be aware of this group, and the methods developed to make application to several of these colleges easier (our son chose Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin).

This list highlights areas of potential ignorance teachers need to consider.  Notice there is little on the list about the Cold War, Vietnam, nor popular books.  The skew to technology includes an implicit skew away from some of the traditional ways we have transmitted culture to our children:  Newspapers, magazines, books, Broadway plays and musicals.  Even broadcast television is notable for the pop culture icons, and great changes in television viewing methods and habits.

The class of 2014 graduates a complete century away from the outbreak of World War I.  Their parents may not have known the administrations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson — Richard Nixon and Watergate may have been learned only from history books, by their parents.

How much more distant is the class of 2018, who enter high school as freshmen this year — next Monday, in Texas?


What would George Washington say and do about a mosque in Manhattan? (“To bigotry, no sanction”)

August 17, 2010

Double encore post.  And look at the date

August 17, 1790, found U.S. President George Washington traveling the country, in Newport, Rhode Island.

Washington met with “the Hebrew Congregation” (Jewish group), and congregation leader (Rabbi?) Moses Seixas presented Washington with an address extolling Washington’s virtues, and the virtues of the new nation. Seixas noted past persecutions of Jews, and signalled a hopeful note:

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold a government erected by the Majesty of the People–a Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to All liberty of conscience and immunities of Citizenship, deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental machine.

George Washingtons reply to the Newport, RI, Hebrew congregation, August 17, 1790 - Library of Congress image

George Washington's reply to the Newport, RI, "Hebrew congregation," August 17, 1790 - Library of Congress image

President Washington responded with what may be regarded as his most powerful statement in support of religious freedom in the U.S. — and this was prior to the ratification of the First Amendment:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

Below the fold, more history of the events and religious freedom, from the Library of Congress.

Read the rest of this entry »

Academy Award winner: “Logorama”

August 16, 2010

Delightfully creative.  Surely there is at least a bell ringer in here, just in identifying the different logos.  For economics and sociology classes, this is a study in branding, done in very interesting fashion.

Can you use it in class, even at 16 minutes?  The language may be too edgy for freshman and sophomores, yes?

A short description from the Vimeo post, by Marc Altshuler, who owns the company who created and recorded the music for the film:

This is a short film that was directed by the French animation collective H5, François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy + Ludovic Houplain. It was presented at the Cannes Film Festival 2009. It opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and won a 2010 academy award under the category of animated short.

In this film there are two pieces of licensed music, in the beginning and in the end. All the other music and sound design are original. The opening track (Dean Martin “Good Morning Life”) and closing track (The Ink Spots “I don’t want to send the world on fire”) songs are licensed pre-existing tracks. All original music and sound design is by, human (

Brilliant little work even if you can’t use it in class.

High rates of drowning: Why is there a racial disparity in drowning deaths?

August 16, 2010

Congress granted a national charter to the American Red Cross to perform emergency services, and to teach people to swim, to prevent drowning, as part of the disaster-readiness services of the organization originally founded in 1881.  Many of us got our first swim lessons under the direction of a Water Safety Instructor trained and certified by the Red Cross; some of us went on to get WSI certification to teach swimming and lifesaving.

But for some reasons, these drowning prevention measures are not working to save the lives of African Americans as well as for everybody else.

NPR’s Talk of the Nation carried a story about the problem in today’s edition (available on-line here, a 30-minute story):

Swimming Disparity
The drowning deaths of six black teens in Louisiana renewed questions about the long-standing disparity between those Americans who can swim and those who can’t. Neither the teens who drowned nor their families who watched from shore could swim.  According to the CDC the rate of fatal drowning is highest among African-American children ages 5-14 (three times that of white children in the same age range) due to a combination of social, economic and cultural issues. Neal Conan talks about what causes the dangerous disparity in swimming, and how to recognize and assist someone who’s drowning.

Drowning rates run even higher for Native Americans.

Race disparities in drownings in the U.S.; AP chart via NPR

Race disparities in drownings in the U.S.; AP chart via NPR

More than 30 people have died in drowning accidents already this year in Texas alone — victims of all races — after a terrible 2009 record.  About 3,500 people die in the U.S. from drowning every year.  Most of these accidental deaths could have been prevented with the use of personal flotation devices, and may have been preventable had the people involved had basic drownproofing, or swimming, or lifesaving instruction.

(Remember this mantra:  Reach; throw; row; go.  Only after attempts to reach for the victim, perhaps with a pole, or throw a flotation device, or row a boat, should anyone including a well-trained lifesaver, go into the water to retrieve someone drowning.)

Where can people get instruction on how to prevent drownings?  Red Cross courses are offered at countless community pools — those pools are, alas, generally the first services cut back when cities and counties trim budgets, as they have been trimming since the start of our nation’s financial woes in 2008.    Other good sources of anti-drowning instruction are the YMCA, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts.

I received lifesaving instruction at community pools, and in Red Cross sanctioned programs at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.  I earned the Swimming, Lifesaving, Rowing and Canoeing merit badges in Scouting, and I taught rowing and canoeing at a Scout camp and another camp, and I taught Red Cross Lifesaving for several years as a WSI.

Even in Dick Schwendiman’s astounding Advanced First Aid course at the University of Utah, I didn’t learn the following stuff about drowning, however (another Red Cross certified course).  Regardless whether you can get a lifesaving course, or if you’ve had one, you need to go read Mario Vittone’s stuff on drowning, and how to recognize when someone in the water needs help:

Button, Drowning doesn't look like drowning

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know – from fifty feet away – what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound.

You’ll find that life-saving article at Mario Vittone’s blog on boater safety. If you are a teen ager, a parent, a grandparent, or you ever swim, you need to read that article.  (Thanks to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula for pointing the way to that post.)

Will you help save a life, please?


Coming Soon: FRONTLINE, “Top Secret America – the top secret world the government created in response to the 9/11 attacks”

August 16, 2010

Coming this fall:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

FRONTLINE: Coming Soon: Top Secret America – th…, posted with vodpod

Where is Frank Church now that we really need him?

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