Tell Vladimir I Can Be More Flexible After the Election.

More flexible?

Open Letter on Learning

An Open Letter to Kids About Their Education
by
Dwight Boud

Dear Student,

You are growing fast. Every year you are expected to learn more than you knew the year before. When you turn eighteen, you are viewed as an adult. You are expected, then, to go to college or take a job.

I was a teacher for thirty years. During those years, I saw how schools are set up and how adults often disagree about the best way to educate children. These adults are teachers, professors, parents, school board members, politicians, principals, superintendents, journalists, and political activists.

Every year that adults argue about education, you grow a year closer to adulthood. You do not have time to wait for them to decide on the best way to teach you. Don’t assume that they don’t know what they are doing. Many of them are wise and well-educated themselves. They can teach you much. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in a classroom or school where that’s not true. Don’t accept that as the way things have to be.

No matter who you are or what you’re interested in, nearly everything you need to know is available elsewhere, mostly in books. You’re lucky to live at a time, too, when new technology is popping up all over the place: laptops, iPads, smart phones, search engines, etc.

Most of us learn in individual ways. That means that some people have to hear a lesson, others have to see it as well. Some have to try to do something new themselves. Others learn best by reading about something. There is no good way for one teacher to meet all these needs in the usual classroom. That’s where you come in.

In the long run, you are responsible for your own education. No one can keep you from learning if you are determined to do so. Some people continue studying and learning for a lifetime. When I was teaching in high school I used to remind my students that “all this stuff” (the material I was presenting to them) is in books. Now it’s in books, movies, DVD’s, online, etc. It’s very important for you, your family, your community, and even your country that you learn as much as you can. We all have skills and aptitudes that we should develop to their full potential.

So don’t wait for grown-ups to decide what is the best way for everyone to learn. Certainly don’t lock yourself into any theory, scheme, or organization that claims to know all the answers. Start where you are most interested but don’t limit yourself to only one subject, build on what you already know, consult with people who already understand an area that interests you (don’t forget your teachers, they love good questions) and dedicate yourself to continued learning.

© Dwight Boud 2014

Birds of a Feather

Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 3.22.42 PM

Secrecy Bites Redux

When I saw Nancy Pelosi caught looking foolish on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” I thought she would have done well to read this blog entry that I posted a while back. I decided to bring it back for a timely encore.

It appears to me that the President’s penchant for secrecy has come around to bite him. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was sold, much like the President himself, as a “pig in a poke.” Virtually no one read it before it was “passed.” It was thousands of pages long and legislators were told they had to “pass it to find out what was in it.” Obviously whatever was in it had to be kept secret. So what to do when it came time to set up the computer programs to enable the new law to work? If they hired one outstanding firm to assign their best programmers to the task, it was almost certain that the programmers would have to know what was in it. After all, how could they write code without knowing what the code was supposed to accomplish?

The way to keep it secret was, first of all, to use only people who could be trusted. The programming job had to be done by people who wouldn’t spill the beans. Spilling the beans prematurely could engender more resistance to the law than was good for the President’s objectives. But even that wasn’t fool proof. Washington, D.C. was prone to information leaks. To make such leaks less likely, the best plan was a.) to give the job to a Canadian company, after all, they already had a nationalized healthcare system, and b.) to divide the programming into separate smaller segments. That way the program could be written but be so fragmented that no one would have the overall picture. The right hand wouldn’t know what the left hand was doing. It could all be put together later.

One method programmers use when they don’t know specifically what goes into a certain position in a program is to enter “placeholder” language. When that is all “put together” without being edited by someone who understands the demands of the whole law, you get what we’ve got. But it all had to be kept secret. You know, like Obama’s college records, who it was who decided to say that the Benghazi killings happened because of a video, who gave the orders for the IRS to target conservative groups, and on and on.

The problems with the sign-up page are just the beginning. Who has any confidence that other aspects of the program are set to run any more smoothly? Millions of people have been told their health insurance doesn’t qualify under the new law. So much for “you can keep your plan.”

On the Pope’s Economics

I’m not a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Like many non-Catholics, however, I find much to admire in Pope Francis. Without reciting all the memorable events of his relatively young papacy, I’m impressed with his humility, his willingness to mingle with “the people,” his efforts to reform church bureaucracy and the Vatican bank, his unsurprising concern for the poor, and in general, his willingness not only to “talk the talk,” but to “walk the walk.”

As an anti-communist, however, I was disturbed by his reported criticism of capitalism. I happen to believe that capitalism has done more to achieve some of Pope Francis’s goals than any of the collectivist economic schemes that have generally failed. While the Pope has confirmed that he does not favor communism as an economic system, he seems dedicated to the idea that something must be done about inequality of income around the world (there are plenty of rich people outside the United States).

Where socialism is instituted, it usually requires the use of coercion. Even where it is done, ostensibly, by a vote of the people, the elections are rigged. Candidates are elected by ludicrous margins, God-given free will is squelched, and people who can flee move elsewhere.

When capitalism has problems, it’s usually not the system that is at fault but some of the “capitalists” who operate within the system: everyone from the Ponzi schemer to the fly-by-night contractor. These people, of course, are criminals with sketchy morals, and they are everywhere. In totalitarian countries, the crooks are inside the government. In free societies, they are, hopefully outside the government itself. The average citizen is plagued either way. This is where the Pope and, I believe, all religions come in.

Certainly Pope Francis has as much right as anyone to share his thoughts on economics, but should that be a primary concern of a religious leader? I suggest that religious leaders should not be telling us what economic theories we should adopt, but should concern themselves with the souls of those who pervert those systems. It’s too tempting to try to devise a system that will be immune to criminal influence. Who wouldn’t like to find the “magic bullet”, the panacea for economic ills? The challenge for religion, though, is much more difficult than that. In my opinion, it is to bring people to a relationship with the Divine and thereby to make us good. A truly heavy lift.

At least that’s how it looks from here.

Obama, why stop here?

It seems that our President faces a serious problem with the ACA, “Obamacare.” He needs to have thousands of young people buy health insurance to make the law viable. You’ve heard how the young and healthy are needed to pay for the older and sicker. The law provides financial penalties (call them “taxes” to make the whole thing “constitutional”) for anyone who doesn’t buy insurance. Unfortunately for the workability of this program, most young and healthy people would rather pay the penalty than buy the insurance. First of all, they say, the federal standards require that the available insurance cover things that don’t apply to all potential purchasers. For example, a young male probably will not willingly pay for maternity care. Furthermore, many young people under the ACA are allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26, a self contradictory provision of the law that common sense would have deleted from the original concept.

It seems to me that President Obama is overlooking the most obvious solution to his problem. The “taxes” to be levied on the non-compliant amount to 1% of their incomes or $95, whichever is higher. That doesn’t seem high enough. If he wants young people to buy health insurance, he should raise the “taxes” for not doing so. The news tells us that many young people who investigate available Healthcare Policies are seeing much higher premiums and deductibles. The relatively puny penalties for not buying insurance will hardly do the trick. Obama needs to step up and make the penalties more onerous than the potentially increased costs of insurance.

I know what you’re thinking, Obama doesn’t have the authority to do that. Don’t be silly. He’s already exempted groups from the law and delayed mandates. He’s treated the law as though it were his law and not ours. What authority exists to prevent him from changing the penalties? Step up, Mr. President. Don’t wimp out now. Show us what you’re made of.

The President Shall…

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Dwight Boud

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