Friday, February 11, 2011

PBS and NPR Funding Dicontinuation

As a public school classroom teacher PBS and NPR provide me, the students of my classes, as well as many other fellow teachers video and audio stories, documentaries, news, and insights into topics that are not available anywhere else. All other media sources are supported by advertising and commercial interests that have as their goals producing profits and not necessarily ideas and information that are non-entertainment and viewership rating producing.

Public broadcasting is one of the functions a society owes itself, and thus should be a primary function of government. This can be one of the biggest bangs for the tax dollar. An educated citizenry is essential for the society to thrive. The BBC has been a better per capita funded media system than ours and should be at least the MINIMUM goal toward which the United States should set its sights. We need to better fund public broadcasting rather than cut that funding.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thoughts about the 2 party system

Who or what has said that we should have a two party system? Why not 3 or 1 or 10, or none? How would we achieve a viable method of including the voices of all ‘parties’ in the decision making/problem solving system? Why ‘parties’ at all. Why not individuals? Had the idea of political parties, arisen in the context of constraints possessed by some particular social order in the past, or some education or communication deficiencies
present in the past, but no longer constraints? President Washington question the concept of political parties during that very first term. Political parties are not even mentioned in the Constitution. Why not individuals with NO organizations promoting them, just individuals running on their own merits, experiences, and ideas? How could we NOW provide for the learning and understanding about those individuals by their constituents? If we insist on a 2 party system, why not provide equal voice for each party in the problem solving, decision making process? When voting and elections often separate different individuals or parties by only a few percentage points, why should not the idea of the lesser achieving individual NOT be presented, heard, or considered in the decision making process, decision making bodies, or within the greater public forum? Nearly half of the ideas of the populace are being hidden, or ignored, and not considered. Is that to suggest that nearly half of the people at any one time are not worthy of having their ideas made available and understandable and considered? Seldom if ever does an elected representative have a mandate of all.

If we insist on a 2 party system, why not have the constituency of each political party elect one individual who then would sit beside the other individual in the deliberative bodies of the senate and/or house, and collegially work together to come up with ideas and action plans for solutions to the problems we/they face? Are the possible solutions to problems always dichotomies? Do we consider ourselves individually infallible and fountains of truth and possessing all necessary knowledge to make decisions independently? Would not the ideas of others, and their experiences synergistically contribute to alternate solutions or ideas? Are we not attempting to work toward some mutual benefit? That however brings up the question as to what is considered a benefit. When determining benefits, what is the projected time frame over which the benefit is to be achieved, and what is the time we expect the benefit is to last in to the future? Are we looking only for time periods of an elected official, the employment period of a CEO, a single generation, or multiple generations?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saving America through Journalism

The role of journalism in a socieity is integral to that society's functioning. Knowledge is essential to decision making and good journalism can provide that knowledge. Good journalism not only reports events and the actions and thoughts of groups or individuals, but also poses the questions why and how behind those events, actions and thoughts. Editorial may provide some 'opinions' to those questions however other 'citizen journalists' will search out the whys and hows. Like those things that are essential to 'life', profit should not be associated with the provision of the products of journalism. I have often considred radio and video journalism candidates for federal subsidy, but until viewing the PBS NOW program January 15th, 2010,had not considered print journalsim. Funny how we so often exhibit such 'tunnel vision'. As a middle school teacher I have seen a continual decline in the asking of the questions why and how when viewing the 'events' of the day. Journalism translates to most people as 'news' what has happened, not why it has happened, nor asking what is at the root of what has happened.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cognitive Dissonance In Effective Teaching

I wish I had been more successful applying the cognitive dissonance concept in my science, engineering, and journalism classes while I was teaching in middle school. On those all too rare days, however ,I was blessed and excited with a glimpse of what learning could be. One such experience revolved around what I called the “Paper Structure” problem with the base question - How much weight can be supported by a single sheet of copy paper? I set a few parameters on how the paper was to be hung/supported then using a paper clip and a one pound fishing weight attempted to hook the weight laden paper clip over the sheet of copy paper with a resulting zip and tear with the weight crashing to the floor with a thump. Then I proclaimed that one set of students in the past had supported 8 pounds of weight using only pieces of wooden dowel , short lengths of 18 gage aluminum wire, eight pounds of fishing sinkers, a paper punch, scissor, and that lonely sheet of paper. Off they went for a week of exploration. These middle school kids universally were focused, excited, and self directed for that entire week. They shared, experimented, collaborated, asked questions, and learned to live with and grow from continual ‘failures’. What sparked the activity was ‘cognitive dissonance’. I must add, though, that showmanship as a set up to initiate the process is important in the contrived atmosphere of the classroom. I used, modified and evolved this activity over 5 years and 60 different classes of students. It was universally effective. Incidentally, the idea for this activity came from and Annenberg sponsored project I viewed one day on PBS.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

California State Parks and the State Budget

As a former Park Ranger, now a retired school teacher I can imagine a different approach to 'budgeting' the State Park System. The investment of years of public monies, time, and the realization of what we in California have created in a Park System is the essence of what government is about. We still need to continue to look to the future, planning ahead and refrain from actions that will undermine our achievements, investments, and non-renewable resources that the park protect and make available to our populace. There are some things that government can do that private enterprise can't, and the State Park System is one of those.

The easy way, but likely not close to the optimum, to manage the State Park budget is to simply eliminate tax supported funding. Moth-balling a park creates the potential for very serious problems down the road. Have those problems been considered? You have trained and site familiar staffs that are likely going to disappear. How will you bring the parks back on line? What of PM (preventative maintenance)? How will vandalism be prevented?

Why can't a 'fee-based' system be put in place that truly reflects the cost of operation of the Park System? For at least the short term, fees could be instituted, with the for knowledge that a number of people will be excluded from usage due to the higher fees, but that is certainly better than eliminating the recreation and historical resources for ALL. Along with streamlining management and services in the parks, and the elimination of some services might bring the cost of operation within reach of a fee-based system.

How about ROTATING access dates to parks, with seasonal or scheduled closures and for the short term rotating some staff between parks.

I strongly urge you to seek creative solutions that provide adequate revenue to keep our state parks open and accessible to all Californians.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Not-For-Profit in the Arena of Needs and Single Payer Health Care

Not-For-Profit in the Arena of Needs

Who should profit from a person’s need for medical care or disability maintenance? Should anyone profit? Why should the gross-charge for medical care include a profit above and beyond the actual cost of production-distribution-administration and prorated training, design, and development and be a part of the economic model for the provision of our essential needs? Are food, water, energy, shelter, provisions for health/safety, and transportation essential need? Are these rights or privileges? Is survival of the fittest the our operating paradigm, or is compassion?

Specifically – health, medical, pharmaceutical, and prevention - businesses and services which comprise a 15 percent of our present GDP are essential to each individual’s life. Is the idea of profit for these services exploitive, if not a form of extortion? The brokers and middlemen that are now interjected between the consuming individual and the service provider/product should become unnecessary, with the improved levels of - communication, automation, and education – available today. Could an enlightened, educated, and responsible citizenry be self responsible for maintaining accountability for the efficacy of the administration of these services, and the acceptance of risk? Do we now have a model on the internet, AngiesList, that attempts to accomplish this? Is this not the place for litigation, but instead a place for the ‘free marketplace’ to weed-out, or entrust, where individuals’ actions to purchase and use are the judge and jury? If we and our educational institutions work correctly, we can dramatically improve our own oversight of medical care, and if we are individually conscientious, we can exercise higher levels of preventative medicine as well as preliminary diagnostics and even treatment prescription. If we individually fail to assume responsibility that fault lies individually with us. What defines a non-profit business? Who or what agencies monitor those not-for-profit businesses, define the policies appropriate of non-profits, and enforce those policies? Why would anyone want to establish and run a non-profit business? Could true not-for-profit health care related products and service significantly reduce the cost of health care? Or, on the other hand, are health care and the insurance management/access industries currently mainly operating as not-for-profit, thus making this argument moot? Is this truly and issue of individual responsibility, and if so how do we foster greater individual responsibility?

Another take of the problem of health care costs was developed by the CATO institute in 1994, in which the primary premise is the over-use of medical services because of ‘ease-of-access’ to the system. You can follow the link here to the article Cato Policy Analysis No. 211. In addition, Cato argues that ‘third-party’ payments (government/medicare/medicade, and insurance companies) are paying the bills, enabling the patient, and thus encouraging higher costs. Is it a combination of these observations? Are we trying to provide for the delivery of too much health care? What is too much? Too much for whom?

Last, how do these arguments relate to the other essential needs of food, water, energy, and shelter?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Conditioned to Authority

Someone always knows or understands better! Yes? From the time we are born, through our ‘growing-up-years', then as participating grown adults, most of us may have a sense that for much which goes on in our immediate as well as the greater world, there are others better qualified to make decisions and take responsibility. For reasons that are laudatory, as well as sometimes seemingly practical, the adults around children, acting in what we believe are the children’s best interest, structure and limit the child’s world. “Children are children, you know, and are likely to make mistakes.” We want to protect them, shield them, and direct them in the ‘right direction’. Isn’t it more efficient to experience the right things and be exposed to the right-proven-ideas than to blunder around, explore blind avenues, and waste time not having things work out as planned? We don’t want people or society to ‘fail’. Someone else knows what is best and right for us and is better prepared to make decisions. As adults, do we also then adopt and accept a hierarchy of authority? Do we delegate or abdicate to others, who we perceive as authorities, the decisions and responsibilities that will protect and provide for us? Who has the motivation and self assurance to consider and tackle the uncertainties of our lifetimes, those things that will be “The Black Swans” as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? The authorities? Who are they? You? Me? or THEM? . Does this make things run better, or correctly? Correctly for whom, from who’s vantage point, for how long?

As a recently retired middle school teacher, I have experienced during those 40 years what I’m hypothesizing is a large part of the population highly conditioned to accept, desire, and cow to authority, more so as the years have progressed. I will be developing this hypothesis over the next few months through this blog as it relates to all parts of our individual and collectives lives. This will be kind of a debriefing of my world view after the experiences that have shaped me during the past 40 years. Hopefully these writings will raise questions, cause you to reflect and share your understandings from deep within you. I find I typically have more questions than understandings.
I also have biases. I'm sure you will point them out to me/us.