DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN SCHOOLS

September 17, 2014

DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN SCHOOLS

How should any organization, particularly large ones, handle complaints? In this day of Facebook and other instant and public communications it is not a trivial matter to consider. In my view, the key issue is to keep such matters private and internal to the organization itself to launch, review and ultimately resolve disputes. Only after that internal review has been completed and a clear record of how it was handled should disputes then be taken to more public forums, including launching legal action in courts.

Of course such a process runs directly into the face of Freedom of Speech. So what to do becomes the question.

The first step is defining exactly what a dispute might be. It can range for a simple direction from one person to another, a teacher to a student, an administrator to a teacher, etc. to do something differently.

“Stop talking in class” can be a perfect example, direction from a teacher to a student disrupting the entire class. Some students simply do not want to “stop talking” and thus resent the teacher’s interference with such activities. They might stop for a moment and then resume that same disruption a moment later, when the teacher’s back is turned so to speak. So what to do about that simple and frequent dispute?

It is not my intention to try to tell teachers how to control kids in their classes. I only point out that it is the teacher’s responsibility to do exactly that. When it doesn’t happen and the class continues to be disrupted, it is the teacher’s fault, ultimately.

The best tool in a teacher’s kit of actions to be taken when students fail to achieve reasonable standards is to lower a student’s grade. When a student fails to demonstrate proficiency in academics that student’s grade should reflect failure of such. Teachers not only should assign low grades, they must do so if they are expected to hold students accountable to reasonable standards, in terms of both academics and behavior.

But today teachers do not assign grades to students for behavior, good or bad. Why not? I suggest a “citizenship” grade be assigned to every student in every class by every teacher and such grades should be a permanent part of any school record.

Next step in any dispute process is the ability, actually the “right” of any party that believes they have been unjustly harmed, to take the dispute to a higher level. Say a student receives a lower than expected grade. The student and his parents, together, must be allowed to challenge a grade assigned by any teacher. No, a student, a child legally, should not have that ability, other than a quiet conversation with the teacher. But if a student convinces his parent(s) that justice in grading was wrong, then a process must be present to resolve that dispute, between adults, not kids still learning.

I won’t go into detail about how to administratively handle such a process but will say the process must be clearly laid out in BOE policies and records and written records of such adult disputes must be maintained as a part of any student’s official record, period. Such records must be available for review by anyone in the chain of command within, but not outside of any school, up to and including members of the BOE. No private citizen should ever have access to any student record. Only directly involved adults, parents, counselors, administrators and teachers Of THAT CHILD (in other classes) should have such access, up to any member of the BOE as well.

Said another way, if a student is constantly complaining, incorrectly in the opinion of a teacher, assign that child a low grade in citizenship. But if a parent decides to complain, it must be official and recorded in that student’s permanent record.

Let’s now consider disputes that originate between two adults, say a teacher and a supervisor of that teacher. Again, a private and quiet conversation is the usual manner to resolve such differences, disputes, between two professional adults. When such professional interaction fails to resolve the differences, disputes, the same clear, formal and written process must be available and a permanent record of same kept in any adult’s record as long as they are employees within that organization.

Same would apply if a Principal disputed directions from authorities in that organization senior in position to that Principal. Settle the matter as professionals or make it official and keep a record of same. And such records must again be available for review by anyone within the chain of command of that organization, up to and including any member of the BOE.

I would also suggest this process should work both ways. If a supervisor observes repeated problems with an employee, that supervisor should have the authority to make it a matter of record, in the employee’s official record. Then the dispute process works in reverse, with the employee officially responding as a matter of record. That goes on until resolution is reached and recorded officially, with no deletions of any records allowed as well.

Decide to make it official and it then remains official, second thoughts not allowed for mistakes, officially.

Of course initiating and maintaining permanent records, written records of such matters is a real pain in the butt. But the reality of working in today’s world of instant communications, even publicly through social media, demands such records in my view, today. No school can dictate NOT complaining on social media by anyone, but a school can then “go to the record” to see if official action has been taken to resolve the issue. If no such action has been taken, then ignoring the social media outrage expressed by someone is fine and such outbursts should just be officially ignored. BUT as well……..

There is nothing wrong with keeping a record in the student’s or teacher’s file showing such lack of adherence to BOE policy related to internal dispute resolution as well. Complain in public, social media, and any organization should have the ability to make that complaint a matter of official and personal records, period. A school should not have to do so, but must be allowed to do so, thru BOE policy, when a school is criticized publicly by employees or students of that school without first attempting to resolve the dispute internally.

Keep such records on file and when an official complaint arises and a student’s or teacher’s or administrator’s record will reflect their unwillingness to use the official process in the past. Complain in public and expect a record of such will be maintained in one’s official record within that school. Constant public outbursts against an organization or individuals within that organization, without first using the official process to resolve disputes, is a very good indicator of lack of simple professional performance by complainers, constant and public complainers. In extreme cases for adults, termination of employment should be considered by leaders within the organization

Unions do that all the time for their members by filing grievances. Usually those employees are not college graduates that should know how to protect themselves and get their disputes settled, professionally, as any teacher should know how to do. Even if teachers are members of a union, they should be able to protect themselves within any organization, officially, one on one within the “system”. And if a bunch of teachers feel they have experienced the same mistreatment then there should be a large number of official records to reflect such concerns. Or of course their union can take up the issue, very officially as well.

Permit me to offer an example of how such an official record could be maintained, a computerized record. Any teacher should have access to their official record, anytime, through password protected computer access. Any supervisor, official supervisor in a well-defined by BOE policy directive, should have the same access to any teacher’s record. Allowing unauthorized access to others of such records should be considered a very serious violation of BOE policy, period.

An official complaint can easily be launched, officially, by inserting that written complaint by a teacher IN THE TEACHERS OFFICIAL RECORD. A teacher can “write a blog” if they so choose to do so, but in a permanent record. Then “comments on that blog” can be inserted into that record as well, in writing. Such comment by a supervisor COULD SAY, “I have reviewed the complaint and have resolved it by ……..” That’s it, dispute resolved, officially and in writing and life moves on for both parties.

Ah, you say, what if the teacher still wants to take the dispute to a higher level. Fine, write in the comments to that “blog” (a very official one) why one disagrees and request, in the “blog” further review and action (stating what action is requested) on up the chain of command. Hell such a written record could be pushed, step by step all the way up the chain of command.

Some would say such a system is far too onerous. Some employees will misuse the system and think every little thing must go all the way to the Superintendent to resolve all trivial matters. Not so in my view. A supervisor can state, in writing, “That’s it” and the dispute goes no higher, officially and the case is officially closed. Of course the teacher or other employee can write all they want in THEIR official record, computerized with lots of memory space, but no further action would be required by the chain of command in that particular case.

One more point. Such computer records must be “read only” protected. Once someone hits “enter” to a written complaint or comment to same, that’s it, it is part of the official record and NO ONE can go back and change it, period.

I also see no reason that student disputes cannot be so computerized as well as long as they have an adult (a parent or guardian) acknowledge and be responsible for such comments in such records, each entered comment or complaint. Kids, students should not be expected to participate in such a formal process, even high school students. Formal disputes must be adult to adult disputes, not kids complaining about other kids or other adults.

One last point. If a teacher has a complaint about the “system”, go ahead and launch such a complaint in their own official record. The individual responsible for that “system” should then resolve the complaint. If 100 teachers want to complain, then put them in one “package” a computer file, and require only one response to that file, officially.

Let’s assume a large group of teachers don’t like a particular BOE policy. They can complain, dispute that BOE policy in ALL (individually) teacher records. That makes it very clear all the parties to the complaint. Then the BOE spokesperson, maybe the President of the BOE states, “The policy has been considered in view of this complaint and will remain unchanged”, period, that is it.

Don’t like that response and someone can then ask to speak before the BOE officially and publicly, but not before such a complaint has been answered by the BOE, in writing.

If a number of teachers believe that someone “cheats on his taxes”, THAT is not a matter for the school to adjudicate. Such a complaint should be directed by an adult citizen to the appropriate tax authority, the IRS for example. As well a copy of such complaint should be made available to the party so accused, as a matter of professional courtesy. NO action should be taken by the school system or the BOE in such legal questions. Let legal authorities deal with the issue.

Complaints within an organizational system should be handled, administratively, by that organization, complete with the appropriate privacy in such matters, for all parties involved. If illegal actions are noted, then make legal complaints, as the law allows, not the BOE policy. As well, any employee launching such a legal complaint should expect that complaint to become part of their organizational official record. After all such legal action is a public matter and would not have been noted had the complainer not have been part of the organization.

As well such responses to non-legal complaints do not require a complete and legal investigation by anyone within the organization. It is an administrative action within an organization, a private complaint and response maintained within the organization. Want to take it public, then file a lawsuit and take it to court. And yes, such organizational records must be available in any legal proceedings undertaken by both sides in a legal dispute. Same applies when the BOE approves administrative action to withhold a new contract or otherwise takes action against any employee. The employee’s record would have to show written evidence of why the BOE took such action. But of course that record remains private within the system unless courts get involved.

Let me be clear. Any employee should always be able to “complain to their boss” about perceived problems and “bosses” must attempt to resolve such issues, quietly and unofficially with no record of such discussions. Certainly private notes can be kept by each party, but no official records, yet.

But if any employee remains aggrieved after such private and professional interactions, then the employee must be offered a path to further complain, officially. Official complaints MUST be recorded and the actions taken by all involved kept as a matter of record, hopefully a simple computerized record with no changes to such by anyone once “enter” is hit by anyone within the chain of command. Comments from outside the chain of command would not be permitted as well, by anyone.

Obviously complaints from outside the system by people not directly involved within the system must always be simply ignored by employees. If a political figure is chastised by private citizens, then that political figure can respond however they choose to do so as well. That is pure politics and not part of an organizational dispute resolution process.

This blog is a perfect example. No employee should consider challenging or supporting this blog, officially. I can say whatever I like, but no employee should ever respond to me “officially”. As well if they chose to respond to this blog anonymously, then I can let it stand or delete it as I like. This is MY blog and no one else’s. But I assure anyone as well that if you put your name, rank or serial number, so to speak in a comment herein, I will let it stand. However if it is offensive to others, not just me, I reserve the right to let “others” know about it as well. Same goes with high praise for others as well if either praise or condemnation is publicly stated in this public blog.

MORE ABOUT TEACHER PAY

September 15, 2014

MORE ABOUT TEACHER PAY

In my last blog, MONEY FOR EDUCATION AND EDUCATORS, I tried to make the point that significantly raising pay for teachers, all teachers within our local public school system would require significant tax increases, somewhere, probably locally. Yes it is a simple and probably obvious point, but one that needed making with using some real, local numbers, reality if you will. To pay all teachers in R-8 more money then one must increase the current amount available, some $29.5 Million each year. Pay all teachers a lot more, say $10,000 per year more, and expect taxes to go up by $6 Million per year for every year in the future. Try that one for public approval!!

I also showed that “trimming” other operational costs would do little to significantly raise teacher pay, for all teachers.

Now I offer some ideas, perhaps radical ideas, for how to actually raise the pay of some teachers, but not all teachers. In doing so I run right into union resistance and resistance from others calling for “fairness” or “equality”, for teachers. You may “fire when ready, Gridley” to use an old Navy term to my detractors, right out of the gate so to speak.

I started to write this using only my military understanding of pay, pay scales, promotion procedures, etc. But I just deleted all of that as anyone reading it would think I am trying to militarize teachers. Wrong of course, but that is a reaction I could expect. So I start again, with a different, more general points, that applly to any large organization, business, military, other government employees (state, local or federal) and, yes, teachers.

In terms of pay and benefits, an important element of any organization using either public or private funding, what is the goal of such organizations in terms of retention of employees? I submit the goal is exactly the same for any large organization. It is to retain the people that contribute the most to that particular “mission” (producing goods and services for profit, educated kids, winning a war, collecting taxes, etc.). Good pay and benefits helps to achieve that goal, achieving the “mission” of any organization by having good employees working within that organization.

But be careful. If only pay and benefits was involved, then just raise the pay and benefits until the mission is accomplished, right? Seems logical, but we all know that does not work very well. In fact companies go broke, armies are defeated and schools graduate subpar students when that happens, many times.

Any organization has limits to just how much pay and benefits can be awarded, to all employees, the “average pay” if you will. The trick if you will, good leadership, “business sense” if you like, is to pay MORE to people that contribute MORE to the mission and less to those that cannot or will not do their jobs to higher levels of contribution, to the mission if you will. If you keep the “average pay” constant, the limit of total pay for all employees, then figure out how to distribute pay to selected employees to further contribute to the mission or goal of the organization. In schools that means distributing the pay and benefits “unequally” so that the good get far more money than the bad and those that just put in time to do their current job remain relatively stagnate in terms of pay raises.

So I suggest a discussion about how we distribute the available $29.5 Million in teacher pay (alone). I consider ways to pay more to the “good”, pay much less to underperformers, and keep the large middle group relatively stagnate (in pay and benefits) to just “do their current jobs” to some minimum standards.

One way, a traditional way, is pay more for those that work longer, hours, years, etc. Time in service raises for all that stick around in fact raises pay, but only by small amounts year to year. That is expected and satisfies few that want more money. Schools (and the military) use that financial incentive all the time. Unions do the same. In government organizations that time in service raise approach makes it easier for politicians. With routine growth in an economy, taxes go up due only to such economic growth. So politicians don’t have to make a big deal out of manipulating large budgets, robbing Peter to pay Paul so to speakm or God forebid, raising taxes. Economic growth does it for the politicians, usually. And when such economic growth is slow or even degrades (a recession) well more pressure on politicians for more pay becomes a real argument, like trying to get more blood out of a turnip.

What does not happen within the ranks of teachers however is good teachers make more money than underperforming or stagnant teachers. Try that approach and one has a fight on his or her hands and terms of “not fair”, “unequal”, “biased”, etc. are heard all over the place, publicly for public employees paid by taxpayers.

To distribute pay on the basis of “good, stagnant or underperforming” INDIVIDUALS is a challenge to any organization. How can anyone, or group of “anyone’s” make such distinctions in the performance of their employees becomes the issue. Resolving that issue by “taking a vote” is questionable as well, particularly if only a few employees are truly “good”, far fewer in numbers than the stagnate (good enough in current jobs, for now) or underperforming numbers of employees in any work place.

Well here is another platitude, oft written by me. An organization only gets what it INSPECTS, not what it EXPECTS, from people or equipment. Any “boss” can write expectations. I want to make a 20% “profit” this year. Well great expectation, but go do it becomes the challenge. As well challenge to who is the next question. If it is not a challenge to all employees, everyone pulling together to reach that goal, then the chances of making a 20% profit or higher is likely to simply not happen. But if all employees increase their output by 20%, well here come the profits, or better educated kids or winning a war.

I would also add that the above example assumes all employees are working at peak performance. Ha, that never happens, anywhere. But weeding out the underperformers might help in terms of growth (or even breaking even) and replacing them with good replacements, well trained and motivated to do their best. Sustaining that same motivation can also be achieved through higher pay, in part at least. But such higher pay must come with increased output, individually or within the entire organization.

You see most employees don’t think their individual performance makes much difference to an organization’s goals. They are “in it for their money” and as long as they get their (or more) moneym then all is well. Bad organizations work that way, no teamwork with a united understanding of how each individual makes a needed contribution to the goals of an organization. And if a leader asks for more effort to achieve higher goals, well pay me more money NOW is demanded, by many. That is called more pay for stagnate or even degraded output, in my view. Others will say, “I won’t do that no matter how much money you want to pay me”. Ever heard that assertion by employees, even senior executives in some workplaces?

Most people were glad to get a job at a particular level of pay. But that wears off over time and more pay for less or equal work is demanded, forget how well or poorly the individual or organization is doing. Good luck getting it unless more money flows in (result of selling more or better goods and services or taxes) to an organization, a lot more money if EVERYONE is going to benefit in a large organization.

Inspect for the good (and reward the good only), see who is just putting in the time and doing an acceptable job and see very clearly who the underperformers might be. Go out and look, not just sit behind a desk and write reports. The performance of employees, be it in a school, on a ship, in a manufacturing plant, a research lab, etc., etc. is the KEY to higher pay, more money to any organization.

Just ask Steve Jobs about that point. He was a tyrant, inspecting every detail in every job, all over his company. He drove people crazy with all his demands as well. (So did Rickover, but forget the military analogy). But look what he (they) achieved, for his employees, his company and yes, society at large with his products. He expected a lot from everyone in Apple but he only got a lot by inspecting, chiding, leading all employees and demanding the utmost from everyone with whom he came in contact. Steve Jobs was a leader, a great leader. He knew how to inspect for and get great performance from his employees.

Imagine Steve Jobs as a Principal in your school!!!! Wonder what test scores would come out of THAT school? More important, how many good citizens would come out of that school, with performance on any “test” being part of but not the single criteria for being “good”.

As well Steve Jobs made a lot of money, for himself and thousands, maybe millions of others by being a good leader. Sure he was smart enough to learn the technology involved, but his leadership was what made the money over time. Bill Gates became the richest man in the world doing exactly that as well. And now that he, Gates, is giving money away, I bet he uses the same tools, demanding performance from everyone to whom he gives money, for the poor. Dollar for dollar, I expect Gates gets more and better results than any “government aid” as well, for the poor, again.

I also would bet a lot of money that Jobs paid his employees for performance, not time in service, etc. And he did not just rely on some “forms” (written evaluations produced by bureaucrats) or other “reports” from others. Do your job and keep your current pay. Do MORE than your current job, innovate, work harder, learn more, and at least in Apple (or the nuclear Navy) and more money would come your way.

It works in many cases, good cases, examples of hard work, innovation, progress. When organizations become stagnate, accept the status quo, well such organizations must learn to be happy with what they have, not what they want. People, all people, make more money with growth, where improvement is achieved.

And when an organization flounders, the output degrades, well in business, even the military when that happens people get fired, for underperforming. That is not always the case in large public paid bureaucracies, in my view.

Why do we not take that approach with teachers and schools and administrators in our schools? And janitors, cooks, bus drivers. Secretaries, etc. as well, at least in my view.

Inspect for and reward the truly good, keep the “just doing my job” relatively stagnate, like they are doing in their work and get rid of the underperformers. In concept it is rather simple. All it takes is real leadership to do it as well, not more money. But go to taxpayers, or investors, for more money, well growth in performance better be evident to justify more money. Promises seldom work, except in some politics!!

There is a word that underlies this approach. It is called “competition”. Everyone knows that competition improves performance, in sports, business, wars, etc. In good organizations peers competing against peers works quite well as well. People compete in their performance to gain promotions, more pay, etc. That is not bad, it motivates people to do better, do more. I have always found that highly motivated employees do much better than ones that do not always try to improve themselves, individually. And the worst ones in most organizations are the ones that always claim the “boss” is the cause of their own poor performance.

Note: How to motivate employees, other than with pay and benefits is another blog, to come. So don’t rant against this one for the time being, at least in terms of motivation beyond pay and benefits.

Sure, in any competition there must be common rules. In America that is called good laws, where under the law everyone is in fact equal. But only really bad sports teams call for changing the rules for all to automatically make them a better team. Or bad teams blame the referees for “bad calls”.

I recently observed a great high school tennis match. Both players were equally matched in level of skill, power, etc. The winner made far fewer unforced errors. The only bad thing was the loser complaining that the winner cheated on line calls. Had that loser made fewer unforced errors, her own errors in playing tennis, the outcome would have been different and could not be based on “close (or bad) calls”. In high school tennis the players usually make the line calls by the way. Is that “fair”? Should we pay for line judges? Hmmmm?

But when the law, the rules are followed, the referees and courts are fair, calling “foul” with no preference for either side when rules or laws are broken, well both sports and business, and government can thrive in such environments, with everyone doing their best to be the best, that they can be.

Do that in our schools and everyone, students, teachers and administrators will do much better and the country will benefit, greatly, in the end results with far more good citizens on all of our streets. And it won’t cost a cent in tax dollars.

MONEY FOR EDUCATION AND EDUCATORS

September 13, 2014

MONEY FOR EDUCATION AND EDUCATORS IN JOPLIN

A burning issue related to education is underpaid teachers. I address that issue in this blog. at least in Joplin.

Rather than guess, I have requested real figures from R-8, and now received them. Both the President of the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools provided “permission” for me to get the numbers from the Financial Director, Paul Barr. But I hasten to add none of them gave me any information, other than raw numbers, to write this blog. The observations (and the “math”) herein, call them opinions, are mine and mine along.

Here are the numbers:

We have 603 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) teachers.

The Operating costs for R-8 are currently $66,063,190, let’s call it $66 Million

Out of those operating costs we pay all those teachers $29,628,413, let’s call it $29.5 Million, in salaries. Another $6,761,473, let’s call it $6.5 Million, goes to benefits just for teachers. That means “teachers cost us” $36,389,886, let’s call it $36.5 Million this year.

Said another way, teacher pay and benefits cost taxpayers about 55% of the total operating costs, this year. Those figures came directly from the Director of Finance for Joplin Schools. If you disagree, well you know who to argue with about such numbers.

From here on, I do the math and make my own observations and conclusions. Argue with me if you disagree.

The average teacher pay and benefits becomes $60,348. Average pay alone, average annual salaries, is $49,135. I let the reader figure the average cost of teacher benefits.

Based on those figures, well let’s decide to raise the pay of all teachers, decidedly. Let’s take say over $10,000 per year per teacher to raise the average pay to, say, $60,000 per year. Is that a “fair” salary for teachers, on average?

Well that means that the total cost of teacher pay alone would become an increase of $6 Million per year (rounding off). That of course means the operating costs goes up to (about) $72 Million per year, for teacher pay increases alone, with no benefit increases.

Now where I ask should that $6 Million in extra dollars come from? I submit such a step increase in teacher pay alone must come from raising taxes somewhere. No one is going to “trim” $6 Million out of the total operating costs, just to raise teacher pay, alone, by cutting other costs to operate our schools.

In fact if you just raise teacher pay, the average pay, by $1000 per year, that means an extra half a $ Million per year, actually some $603,000, must be cut from other operating costs to pay just teachers more money, a very slight increase (about 2%) in annual pay.

I will let the reader do the math to raise teacher pay AND benefits in small or large amounts as well. But the point, a larger dollar value, will be the same. It must come from either tax increases or a significant cut somewhere else in operating costs.

During the recent campaign for positions on the BOE, one candidate used the Superintendent’s salary, about $175,000 per year as a political issue suggesting it was excessive. Others have loudly complained about the total cost of “executive staff”. Of course if the Superintendent worked for free, one can do the math to see the impact that would have on teacher pay and benefits, assuming that money was all given to teachers only. That would be a pay raise of about $290 (0.4% raise) per year in pay and/or benefits per teacher, only teachers ($24 per month!!).

I am also told that the executive staff costs are about 3.4% of operating costs, some $2,244,000 per year. Fire the entire executive staff, including secretaries, etc. (I am not sure whether Principals and Assistant Principals are included) and teacher pay and benefits could be raised by $3,721 per year, not a bad, but still probably not enough, increase in teacher pay and benefits. I also note that since his arrival the current Superintendent has eliminated about 6 highly paid Assistant Superintendent positions on that executive staff. There are now NO Assistant Superintendents on the R-8 staff. To me that is a good and rather large cut in “executive pay”, paid for by taxpayers. And yes, all you Turner supporters, you believe he has hired too many “coaches”, etc. which is another blog!!

One final number, a number not provided by Mr. Barr, and not asked for by me. If one includes ALL “staff”, meaning bus drivers, janitors, cooks, teachers aids, probably substitute teachers, and others, the “people costs” to R-8 and any other normal school district rises to about 75-85% of operating costs, about a 30% increase over just teachers alone, at 55%. Take the high end of that estimate, my estimate, and one finds that out of $66 Million paid per year to operate our local schools, not build them, costs about $56 Million per year, all coming out of taxpayer pockets for “people” working within the entire R-8 district. That leaves about $10 million per year to put “supplies” (like gas for buses and lawnmowers, etc.) in schools to “operate”.

Just consider. If we raise taxes, just locally, to gain another $6 Million to pay teachers more money, significantly more money, one could estimate that taxes, local taxes would to up by about $120 per PERSON (assume 50,000 “taxpayers”), or about $500 per year per household (of a sort at least). Now try doing that just locally to pay more money to just teachers by raising taxes that much. Use the real number of people that actually pay local taxes (far less than the population of Joplin) and that figure for a single tax increase goes up in the thousands of dollars range, just for 603 FTE teachers to get more money.

The really simple conclusion from all of the above “math” is that if we are going to raise the salaries and/or benefits of people working in R-8 it will have to be a very small increase or a very carefully targeted increase for SOME people, not large numbers of people. OR our taxes go up considerably.

Yes, I agree that SOME teachers are underpaid, the good ones if you will. But I would not try to increase the pay of ALL teachers unless I was ready to call for another, significant tax increase from “somewhere”, local, federal or state taxes.

What I would support, with vigor, however is a MERIT pay increase system to pay GOOD, call them GREAT teachers more money than currently earned. I believe that would be affordable without tax increases and we would further incentivize GOOD teachers, the ones that really TEACH ALL kids, the money they deserve.

Is that “fair”? Not at all as all teachers don’t get more money, or janitors, or cooks or even “executive staff”. But it does put more money where it would count; paying the teachers that really teach kids more money, in a short period of time.

I would even go so far as to suggest that a GREAT public school teacher, one that really teaches kids to become great citizens, should be paid in the range of $100,000 per year, in pay alone. Now go figure out how to do THAT, financially, with taxpayer money!!! I will let the reader do that math!

Corporations, even the American military does so all the time, put more money into the pockets of people that really contribute to the mission of such institutions. Even “grunts” (in the military) that deploy and have a chance of being shot, get more money than a counterpart sitting safely back in America. Is that “wrong”?

One final point, a point applicable to members of the military in America and teachers as well. Those men and women (military) have been significantly underpaid for decades while they are on active duty. It is hard to “raise a family” on military pay alone, particularly if you try to do so on entry pay levels, officer or enlisted making not too much difference.

BUT a huge benefit for career members of the military is retirement pay and benefits. Citizens scream about such costs a lot today in America. Do they also scream about “plush” retirement pay and benefits for former teachers? I don’t hear it for sure. But like the military, if you include the pay and benefits while on active duty and the retirement pay and benefits while retired, say up to age 75, you will find the average total pay over a professional and retirement lifetime comes out pretty equal, to people paid a lot while working but get little once they leave “active duty”.

I ignore (and don’t like) “golden parachutes” for failing executives for sure, so don’t throw that back at me please.

It is a point, evaluate the lump sum of activity duty and retirement pay and benefits, to consider when arguing about “teacher pay” but would take another blog to “show the math” to confirm that point.

TWO NAVY FIGHTERS COLLIDE

September 12, 2014

TWO NAVY FIGHTERS COLLIDE

That is just in on AOL news. The jets were operating “in the western Pacific” off of the USS Carl Vinson, a modern nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Where exactly the carrier was located is not revealed. By that I mean I cannot determine if the carrier was “forward deployed” in the far western Pacific, or simple doing routine training off the western coast of California. It makes a difference in such accidents.

This is a rare accident, two operational military jets colliding in mid-air, anywhere. There are all sorts of “procedures” to prevent such accidents, even in combat zones or an air battle. As well you can bet the underlying cause of the accident will be “pilot error”.

The only way, ultimately, to prevent pilot error is through unbelievable (to a civilian) training and education. One must always learn to walk before they can run. Well pilots, recruits to become pilots must learn a lot on the ground before ever getting into the cockpit of any aircraft. And for months they have a real pilot behind them in a cockpit before they fly on their own. Even the most seasoned combat pilot still needs “time in the air” alone, to stay sharp and able to fly safely. That costs money, lots of money, to first train and then keep trained every military pilot in America.

Normally, I do not find “money” or lack of it as the fundamental cause of incidents. I don’t in this specific case as well. Lack of adequate training however, time in the air to practice, could well be the part of the failure of either pilot to “fly correctly”.

What does concern me, now, is the old word “sequestration”. We heard a lot about it several years ago. I wonder if the cutbacks resulting from Congressional action contributed to this accident. My guess is the answer is yes but no final accident report will “blame Congress” or the President for a single accident.

I heard of carriers “tied up to the piers” as a result of sequestration. That also means flight crews grounded for long periods of time. I wonder if the two pilots colliding in mid-air were ones remaining on the ground far too long and failed to achieve or maintain the ability to “fly safely”, as a result of sequestration a few years ago?

As well it should scare the living hell out of any American if any military pilots are not ready to “fly safely”. We are now embarking on another air WAR for Christ’s sake. Can you imagine what would happen to any American pilot that landed, after an accident and came into the hands of ISIS????

Oh, my God would that be a video that no one would want to watch!!

So I must now ask the question of military leaders, men ready to send our pilots back into gruesome harm’s way, against the likes of ISIS. Are our pilots in fact ready to fly combat missions over ISIS? Has the President ordered combat missions to men and equipment still suffering from sequestration a few years ago?

I don’t know any Navy pilot that when ordered to go drop a bomb would respond that he was not ready to do so. Every one of those fire breathers would jump in his or her airplane and do their absolute best to drop the ordered bombs on target and get home safely afterwards. But are they ready to do so is my question, based on just one unusual accident?

I don’t know the answer but the question should be asked, of the President and his military leaders. No civilians should send untrained, or inadequately trained men into combat. Are we about to do so?

HOW ABOUT A SECRET, OR VERY QUIET WAR?

September 11, 2014

HOW ABOUT A SECRET, OR VERY QUIET WAR?

As considerable consternation arose last night after the President’s speech, I gave some thought to the above approach, a “secret war”.

I checked back and forth between MSNBC and Fox and heard everyone complaining, by and large. Too much this, not enough of that, etc. was what I heard, from both left and right. So I then began to consider fighting the war that is in fact going on, secretly.

By that I mean don’t tell anyone what we are up to, to fight a war. Just fight it and win it, using American values when in a tough fight. Certainly our enemy is doing exactly such, fighting a secret war against us, using decidedly perverted values. They are as sneaky as sneaky can be in this war. And yet we try to wage war against them in the full light of day. We also aren’t doing very well, over the long haul it seems, the last 13 years to wage war with a camera on every soldier, sailor, and, yes, spy if you will.

One commenter, on Fox for sure, said “We no longer interrogate enemies”. To an extent I believe that. At best we capture an enemy, sneakily sometimes, and no longer interrogate them. Our interrogators are afraid, in many cases, to extract needed information, from an enemy in civilian clothing or even a uniform. They might go to jail now if they do so. And for sure, any interrogation must be taped and recorded to prove that the interrogator did nothing “wrong”.

Do you think prisoners of any sort don’t know that now, when captured by Americans? If they hold firm to their perverted beliefs they can just sit there quite safely and know full well that Allah will care for them.

We seem intent to fight a war now using American jurisprudence as our guide. Whatever we might learn from the enemy must be to the level of proof required in an American court. Threaten to beat the crap out of an enemy in war and that testimony becomes inadmissible in court. So we no longer so threaten, or even try to put some “stress” into the mind of a prisoner.

Is sleep deprivation inhumane? Is keeping a man in an uncomfortable position torture? Yes it seems to be today and do so to a criminal in America and the case gets thrown out of court, as it should. But we sure learned a lot from KSL, but only after we waterboarded him a few times. My goodness the country became outraged when that hit the front pages, did it not?

Just how many plots against America have been stopped, before any attacks, by “secret” activities by Americans? I have no idea and neither does anyone else. But I bet we stopped a few, or many, until we stopped interrogating the enemies. Now, we rely on “technology” alone and of course $ Trillions of dollars to buy and use that technology. America has now probably gone farther away from tried and still true “HUMINT”, human intelligence gained from really sneaky and sometimes deadly means. By some estimates we have now spent some $4 Trilion to wage a war. I wonder how many “spies” we still have, over there?

To even suggest we no longer “interrogate anyone” is scary, to me at least, while fighting a damned war!!!

I am NOT suggesting inquisition like torture by the way. I am not suggesting we “wire them up and hit them with voltage”, cut off fingers, etc., beat the crap out of them repeatedly until they are maimed for life. I am talking about secretly applying all sorts of “stress” in the minds and bodies of the enemy. The methods used should not have to pass muster if shown on American TV as well. The goal is credible intelligence from any enemy. I would as well suggest no inhumane method to be used, but I reserve the right to define inhumane as well, not by vote of Congress.

Which leads me to the current debate about “boots on the ground”. What a joke. One cannot fight a war without boots on the ground of the enemy. No airplane can do what a man can do when face to face with an enemy. As well “boots” are needed to keep airplanes flying from wherever they start and return. Does anyone think we can fight an air war in Iraq and Syria alone without some boots on some ground, overseas, to keep airplanes in the air, or protect the airbase from which they fly, etc.? I guarantee you we no longer have enough operational carrier battle groups left to wage a “long war” (President’s words), an air war only, for any length of time.

As well a “lily pad” offense demands boots on the ground of the enemy as well, secret boots, sneaky boots, etc. And spies, real men in harm’s way are needed as well to simply tell the airplanes and other boots where to go.

By saying we will not put boots on the ground is either an outright lie, which I don’t call the President for saying, OR we are seemingly going to outsource the boots. We are going to pay someone else to put boots on the ground to fight our war. Holy Cow! Has that ever worked in a real war, which I insist we are in and have been in for 13 years now.

So here is a speech for our President, a short one.

“I will ask Congress to declare war on radical Islam. Given such authority, I will then launch very secretly the forces and means to conduct that war. I will not tell Congress, the American people or for sure any enemy what to expect in the conduct of that war. But I will keep Congress up to date on the progress made, secretly, and when we win the American people will know it as well. As for how I will direct men and women to conduct themselves in that war, well it is simple. They will meet force with overwhelming American force, treat the enemy as an enemy in war and leave the details to American men and women in uniform to remain honest and very well trained Americans as they go forth to WIN A WAR. Oh, by the way, if I have to use a nuclear weapon to win a war, which I hope I don’t have to do, well you will see it after it happens.”

Then of course, let Congress debate that resolution, in public. If it passes we go to war to win a war. If it does not pass, then I would resign as President and let someone else figure out how to fight and win a war which we have failed, miserably, to do for now 13 years.

By the way folks, the Powell Doctrine does not work against a sneaky and well funded enemy. But a lily pad approach might work very well, as long as we have very sneaky boots on the ground to destroy “networks of terror”, not armies in the field.

WAHHABISM

September 9, 2014

WAHHABISM

The more I read and think about Middle East turmoil, the more I find out about Wahhabism, a particular and conservative (virulent?) segment of the Muslim Faith. Being not much of a scholar, I went to Wikipedia to learn more on that subject.

The beliefs and practices of that faith, or segment of Islamic beliefs began with one man, a Bedouin “preacher” of sorts in the remote desert in now Saudi Arabia, in the middle part of the 1700’s. He promoted a return to the basic, desert borne faith of Islam, lives lived in austerity in the physical realm, but deep and abiding faith and worship of Allah. Extremely literal interpretation of the Quran was the basis of his teachings and beliefs.

In time his followers grew in number and began to intersect with the more secular practices of another Bedouin tribe, the tribe of Al-Saud. Neither could overcome the other and a form of alliance was achieved. The Wahhabis swore allegiance to the secular rule of the House of Saud and the Saudis’ allowed Wahhabi mullahs to become the “state religion”, the only segment of Islamic faith allowed to be practiced within the bounds of Saud secular rule.

Just as all Muslims are not the same Muslims, all Bedouin tribes are not the same as well. For centuries Bedouins have fought against Bedouins and Allah help any other non-Bedouin tribe that intruded into any Bedouin domain. Head cutting off, stoning, all sorts of “non-civilized” (according to European definitions) behavior prevailed in such areas. The Ottoman Empire “ruled” if that is the correct term, but the deserts belonged to Bedouins by and large and no one tried to intrude into their space, for centuries again.

WWI introduced Bedouin tribes to the rest of the world. Most have heard of Lawrence of Arabia and his successful efforts to use Bedouin tribes and tactics to fight against the Ottoman, largely Turkish, armies in the Middle East. And of course the Bedouin tribal areas became Saudi Arabia, after WWI, by European Powers drawing lines on a map. And the House of Saud has ruled, with Wahhabi support since that time, almost a century now. And of course the unbelievable wealth to support that secular and religious state came from oil and still does, literally mountains of money flowing into Saudi, and thus Wahhabi coffers each day in 2014.

I wonder if today the wealth of Wahhabism equals or even exceeds the wealth of the Catholic Church, today?

Imagine if you can what America would be like today had the Puritan culture of the 1700’s in New England prevailed as the “state religion” of America today. Americans could not imagine such an existence would be my guess. But walk the very metropolitan streets of any Saudi city, and for sure in most Saudi villages, complete with a “post” in the village square to carry out Islamic justice as deemed appropriate by Wahhabi mullahs. It would be like seeing a set of gallows in every small American town, ready and willing to carry out “western justice” used in the 1800’s in the American West.

The House of Saud is not dumb for sure. That “family” has ruled Bedouin areas for centuries now. Many believe such secular rule would be impossible without the support of Wahhabi mullahs and their followers today. At some point in time perhaps Al Qaeda or ISIS, both with deep religious roots in Wahhabism, would overthrow the House of Al-Saud and a return to a real Islamic Caliphate promoted and carried out by religious leaders, “nuts” to most American minds.

No doubt the Ottoman Empire was a Muslim led Empire. But that secular government allowed many forms of religion within its regions, very large regions of the known world for about 4 centuries. Even Christianity was allowed in the Ottoman Empire as long as Christians paid their taxes. Does anyone think that would happen if Wahhabism gained a foothold of government in the broader Middle East today? I wonder if the Muslim Brotherhood attempt of late in Egypt to “rule” is a symptom of such aspirations by Wahhabis?

Yes it is a stretch to imagine such, but pick the most radical, virulent form of Christianity today, a “tribe of snake handlers” and other strange practices and sermons, and think of that “tribe” telling President Obama what to do. As well President Obama (or Truman, or Roosevelt, etc.) gives a ton of money to Wahhabi “charities” all the time, $ Billions of dollars to “support Wahhabism” and the spread of that virulent faith.

That I suggest is a lens or perspective to view the country of Saudi Arabia today. The House of Al Saud must walk a very fine line between what is considered “humane government” in the world today and the demands of Wahhabism. When the government of Saudi Arabia “supports” American needs, just imagine the “feedback” it gets from Wahhabism and the threat the government of Saudi Arabia must feel, breathing down its neck.

Careful reading will also show that the House of Al-Saud is not just a monolithic family all calling for the same thing to happen, geopolitically. Put a wiretap in some penthouse near a major medical facility in America where a Saudi “prince” is residing while undergoing treatment for medical problems. I fully suspect Americans would be amazed at what goes on in such hotel rooms, right under our noses so to speak. There are elements with the House of Al-Saud itself that want to fulfill the dreams of Wahhabism, in my view.

The best defense, so far available to the House of Al-Saud today seems to be the secret police forces under the stern control of that government. I wonder which is worse (worse by Western standards at least) the secret police in Saudi Arabia today or the ones doing the bidding of President Mubarak in Egypt not too long ago? I also note we considered both countries our “allies” and ask for them to help keep peace in the Middle East.

My very short form research also revealed that Salafists and Wahhabis are essentially one and the same. Muslim scholars might disagree, but heads roll and stones are thrown at the bidding of both “faiths” or segments of Islam. And geopolitically, both segments are part of radical Islam or terrorism if I can use such a word today.

President has told us that on Wednesday, tomorrow, he will reveal his “game plan” to respond to ISIL (or is it ISIS?). I am still awaiting the outcome of our earlier American “game plan” against Al-Qaeda. We built a coalition, sent an army into two fields and have used every airplane we can muster up to defeat Al-Qaeda. I can’t wait to hear how we will now approach the challenges put before us by ISIL.

I do sense however, that there is a common thread between Al-Qaeda and ISIL and probably yet to be heard of openly, other terrorist organizations. They are first of all Sunni, almost completely. They have included a vast number of Wahhabi trained, “educated” (if I dare use such a word) men, and certainly are funded by petrodollars coming from you know where.

OK, that was a misstatement. There are certainly Shia led terrorist organizations. And those Wahhabis hate them almost as much as they hate Jews and America. Left to their own devices I suspect Shia and Sunni groups would now conduct a Hundred Years War with each other, just like Protestants and Catholics did about four or five centuries ago. I wonder if there is some way we can “facilitate that”??? Nope, not a chance as many Americans would say “that’s not fair” (or humane)!!!

We on the other hand will spend a small fortune, along with our allies in England, to find one lone British born and probably Wahhabi raised citizen of Great Britain now routinely cutting the heads off of our journalists. We will probably get him, just like we did Osama BL. But as far as I can tell Al-Qaeda, and now ISIL are alive and well, now “ruling” a vast desert in both Syria and Iraq, cutting the heads off of lots of people, and we are still forming up our new “game plan”.

We even have a hint of the new “game plan” it seems. President Obama has already said we will “build a coalition” use all the airplanes we can muster up but NOT, God forbid, put any “boots on the ground”. By “boots on the ground” I suppose he means in Iraq or Syria. So at least militarily we seem to be headed down only two thirds of the path used by the now discredited Bush II. He used all three, “coalitions, airplanes and boots on the ground”, and seems to have lost two wars. Now we will be humane and only use two tools, one diplomatic with another, God help us all, coalition, and all the airplanes we can muster up.

But you can also be damn sure none of those airplanes will be allowed to bomb any “civilians”. My guess is we will not bomb any “Syrians or Iraqis” as well, at least by rules of engagement dictated from on high for pilots flying at 20,000 feet using guided bombs. Nope we will only bomb “ISIL”. Hmmmmm???

I wonder, actually I HOPE, if we could possibly be conducting a “secret war” against Wahhabism and at least some of the members of the House of Al Saud supporting those “nuts”. If we are doing such, and facing the Saudi secret police on the ground against us, well I wonder how much progress we have been making, over the last 13 years of “war”?

Think “center of gravity” if you can and then consider a “game plan”, Mr. President.

WHAT TO DO TO IRRESPONSIBLE ADULTS

September 8, 2014

WHAT TO DO TO ABOUT IRRESPONSIBLE ADULTS

I am again amazed. Check out my last blog about what to do about kids being raised in deplorable conditions. First, I was chewed out by my wife for revealing a “story” told in a conference with a variety of interested citizens in a school. (She does not want to get the school in “trouble”) Then I was attacked by a commenter for telling the “story”. In his view the story could NOT have been true.

Does anyone believe that some kids in Joplin are NOT raised in deplorable conditions, conditions that would fail to meet the standards or any sane and responsible adult? I read liberal blogs all the time about such conditions and the incessant call for more money from government to correct such conditions. Yet when I “tell a story” which I have no reason to believe is a lie, well I get chewed out.

Forget whether or not the specific story is true or false. Just consider the circumstances of any child being raised in bad conditions. Who is at fault when that happens is the whole point I was trying to make. If you want to really find some bad conditions then let’s go on a tour of Joplin and look into such matters, legally. Go to DFS and hear some real horror stories. Go ask the police. But please, don’t try to suggest that such conditions do not exist. We all know they exist. The real issue is what to do about such matters, terrible conditions in which any child is raised.

Let’s start with the really young child, one under the age of say 10 years of age. How many such children in Joplin are poorly fed, poorly clothed, rarely bath or are bathed at all, see despicable things happening in their homes, their neighborhoods, etc. Please don’t try to tell me such just doesn’t happen or even rarely happens in Joplin. Just go look and listen or observe just about any classroom in a public school, or the line of kids and sometimes parents outside an Assistant Principal’s office for disciplinary reasons. It happens all the time and liberals scream the loudest about such conditions.

I submit that every child in America has a responsible adult responsible for every child, in America. Even an orphan has some adult responsible for the conditions under which that child lives, usually an adult appointed by law. If any child lives in despicable conditions I further submit that the responsibility of such conditions resides with a single responsible adult, whether they accept that responsibility or not.

I also acknowledge and agree that many responsible adults do their absolute best to raise children in the right manner. I can imagine a grandmother, doing everything possible to raise a grandchild, or a single mother again doing her best to teach a kid how to live “properly”. I am not casting stones at such well-meaning and responsible adults, ones doing their best to raise a child. No I am casting a big rock at those that do not do their best to properly raise a child.

I am talking about a responsible adult accepting food stamps to feed a child but the child is not fed. I am talking about a responsible adult living in public housing that fails to keep their home (even single room perhaps) clean and free from dangers. I am talking about any responsible adult that does not know at any given time where their child might be and what they are doing, wherever they might be. I am talking about the responsible adult that allows young kids to stay up until …… when they have school the next day. I am talking about the responsible adult that uses foul language around a child and allows the child to speak in the same manner and tone. I am talking about the responsible adult that always blames someone else for bad things and fails to keep control of the things any adult can and should control. Kids learn how to play that blame game very early on in life. I am talking about the responsible adult that believes TV should be used as a tool to keep a kid quiet, all the time and fails to take the time themselves to expand a child’s interests, horizons if you will.

OK, responsible adults must work two job, maybe three in order to make ends meet. But I submit that does not relieve the responsible adult of their responsibility to their child. Just turning a child loose to do whatever they like, all the time, is NOT fulfilling adult responsibility to raise a child. Hard choices are a fact of life, for all adults. When it comes down to going to work or keeping control of a young child, well which is more important I ask? If one does not have the “time” or “money” to raise a child properly, then find someone else that does have the tools to properly raise a child.

Responsibility can in fact be transferred, or changed, simply by making someone else responsible for a child. If a responsible adult cannot “control that child” then find someone else that can fulfill that responsibility. We have agencies that can do that for sure and are in fact required by law to do so when conditions really get bad. If such a public agency takes a child away from a terrible home, then that agency is responsible for finding a “proper” home for that child as well. To simply transfer responsibility of that child to a guardian that refuses to “control that child”, well whose fault is that I ask?

One of the great failures in modern America in my view is our collective inability to hold people, individuals responsible for many things. By that I mean adult individuals, not children. When a child misbehaves some adult should be accountable for such misbehavior. I was “too busy”, “had to work” (without first ensuring some supervision for a child), just “ignoring” misbehavior, attacking the messenger when a child misbehaves (blame a teacher for example), and the list goes on reflect fundamental failures of adults to accept responsibility for a child and themselves to “do something about it”, without expecting someone else to do it for you. I of course would add that being too drunk (or high) to control a child is often the reason for unsupervised kids, like it or not.

Let me be clear. When a child “acts up in school” the teacher at that moment is responsible for not allowing such behavior to take place in a given class. Teachers, all teachers, must learn to control a class and every student in it. If a child fails to turn in homework, falls asleep in class, fails to stay on task with the material being presented or studied, the teacher must correct that situation, at the moment it occurs. I don’t care particularly how they do so, keep children on task and studying the correct material, though throwing an eraser at a child, yelling at him or her, etc. is questionable at best and usually just “wrong” for a teacher to do so. But make no mistake, teachers must learn to control their students and hopefully are trained and educated in such skills. If someone sees a disruptive and uncontrolled classroom, and I have seen many, then the teacher is at fault.

But the real troublemakers in such classes, and there are usually just one or two that get things started, well don’t blame the teacher for such continuing terrible behavior of individual students. One thing ANY teacher should be able to do is assign a failing grade to such students. Make it “official” that a student is failing to conform to needed standards of academic skills or simple public behavior in a class room. And when parents come screaming about such a teacher that upholds such good standards, well you can tell I am sure what I would say to any parent doing so.

To answer the question in the title to this blog, I offer a first step to achieve, ultimately that goal. Hold the responsible adult, and there can only be one such individual, accountable to “society” or the mechanisms in society established by law that observe “bad behavior” on the part of children. “I don’t know how…….” can never be an excuse for not raising a child properly. If a responsible adult does not know “how” to do something important to any good society, well go find out “how” is my solution, for a starter.

Remember, we are talking about children in such cases. Children must be “taught” well. Yes, it also takes a “village” to do such teaching to all children. But someone is ultimately responsible for the actions of a child. Passing the ultimate blame to others is something done all the time today by society and lousy parents or guardians as well.

I close with a final Rickover quote. “Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when some thing goes wrong, then you have never had anyone responsible”. I add to that, how do you “fix something” if you don’t know who or what to “fix”? Want to fix absenteeism or the drop-out rate in schools? Well we have been holding schools accountable for such behavior by children for a long time now and the problem is not getting fixed very well at all, it seems to me. “Society” is pushing the wrong button in my view for those two burning problems in society today.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT KIDS

September 6, 2014

WHAT TO DO ABOUT KIDS

My wife tutored a third grader last year in a nearby elementary school. The child’s father was in prison and she lived with her grandmother. Recently my wife attended a conference held at the same elementary school to discuss the conditions that some students endure while attending the first through fifth grades, in one school in Joplin. The stories revealed at that conference shocked her to say the least.

One child, a third grader this year, was said to live in a tool shed in his back yard. It was simply a plywood “box” with a few windows, all broken out. He slept on the floor with one dirty pillow and one dirty blanket. No heat, light, running water, etc. was available to him.

The school became aware of such conditions and asked the Department of Family Services (DFS) to look into the living conditions for that child. The report back to the school was one saying all was OK and no DFS action would be taken.

Soon thereafter the child had been absent for two or three days. The principal with a security escort went to the home and found the child asleep in the “tool shed”. No parents were at home. I don’t know what happened next so that is the end of that particular story.

I asked my wife what her estimate was of children in Joplin living is such neglected conditions. About 50% was her reply. Accurate or not, I have no idea but she seemed to have gained that estimate from the aforementioned conference.

Am I reacting to a single anecdote or are such conditions prevalent, all over Joplin? Frankly, I don’t know. I also don’t know where to go to get real “facts” the truth of living conditions for lots of kids, young kids, in Joplin.

There are at least four players in this single situation the child himself, his parent(s), the school and the DFS. Of course I could add in “society”, churches, private charitable organizations locally, police, and the list goes on. Of course the law plays a role as well. Do current laws permit kids to live in such conditions? Certainly I could go a mile wide and an inch deep to attempt to lay blame on someone or something to correct the conditions for just one child. But if I do so in a public blog all I would hear back is finger pointing in another direction, trying to lay the blame elsewhere.

And of course if one particular institution accepted the blame, that institution would call for more public money for its budget to hire more ……… and build more …….. to correct the situation.

Certainly one child in such conditions is one child too many. But my God, if 50% of kids in Joplin exist in such conditions, or 25%, etc. then what should be done and by whom to not allow such to happen. In other words who, exactly, is responsible for allowing such conditions for a child and how, exactly, and by whom, should the responsible party be held accountable?

It seems rather simple, to me at least to understand who, exactly, is responsible for bad conditions in raising a child. Clearly it is the parents and I don’t mean just one. Every child has one mother and one father. Both of those individuals are responsible for raising their child or children. As Hyman Rickover once said, “If responsibility is rightfully yours, no evasion or ignorance or passing the blame can shift the burden to someone else”.

So what exactly should “society” do when parents, both of them, fail to act responsibly to raise a child and who exactly should define what those responsibilities might be. “Society” itself cannot act. The responsibility to act on behalf of “society” is assigned to DFS when deplorable conditions exist, for just one child or 50% of the population of children, it seems to me.

Yes the school is responsible for dealing with that child once he or she crosses the threshold of a given school. But no school, no single teacher or administrator can be held responsible for the conditions in that child’s life outside of school. And schools, teachers, administrators should not have to act like “cops” to point out wrong doing by parents as well. Maybe there should be a DFS representative in each school or at least available on a moment’s notice to go to a given school to investigate the living conditions of any maltreated child?

Now there is a controversial word, I suppose, maltreated. What exactly does that mean? You can bet your bottom dollar that if any “authorities” showed up at home when (if) Mom and Dad were there, that authority would hear every excuse in the world for the conditions under which that child lived, at “home”, home being a tool shed it seems to me in this case.

There is no doubt that some children live in deplorable conditions in America. We throw money at the issue all the time as well. But of course the money does not go to the child, nor should it. Money to raise kids, feed them, cloth them, house them humanly is instead given to “adults”, be they parents, guardians, “authorities”, etc. many of whom do not in any way act like responsible adults. In particular, “authorities” will always claim their institution needs more money to care for downtrodden kids, just like parents will do as well.

The problem with that approach is that institution will simply go hire more “social workers”, just like the one that deemed conditions for this particular child were “OK” and no action by DFS required.

I do not think anyone reading about this child would say the “school” has done anything wrong nor is there much else, in my view, the school can do to ensure the child is “raised properly”. Blaming a school for absenteeism, dropping out of school, lack of study and hard work by the child, etc. is blaming the wrong responsible adult. As well blaming the school when DFS does not step in and “do something” TO THE PARENTS for the conditions in which that child is being raised is a miscarriage of responsibility by DFS, not the school(s).

But there is at least one thing the school could do in this case and similar ones. Absenteeism is a direct result of bad parenting by responsible adults, period. Yet schools, not parents are “graded” on too much absenteeism (I could say the same for drop outs) and thus ……. Well the dots include NOT marking a kid as absent if any lame excuse can be found to avoid the school receiving a bad grade. There was a low level scandal not too long ago wherein kids were given passing grades in courses in which they were absent some 40 or so times in one semester.

If a kid is absent without a very good reason documented and TRUE, why does society blame the school? If a kid shows up dirty, poorly fed, demonstrates lack of sleep, and a host of other indicators of “bad raising” outside of school, why do we blame the school(s)?

But if a school even thinks about “grading the parents” well all hell breaks loose from angry parents and the yells and finger pointing are directed at the school(s), the teachers marking a kid as absent, the administrator that trys to “chew out the parents”, etc. And DFS, the agency responsible for finding and “fixing” bad parents just goes about its business, saying a kid sleeping in a tool shed during school hours is ……….

If “society” cannot determine who, specifically, the single individual responsible for raising a child might be, then why in the hell do we throw money at the problem and expect it to go away? And when bad parents continue to “get away with it”, why does “society” just throw more money at the “authority” (note the use of singular) responsible for holding the parent(s) accountable. If the story told about one child is true (and I believe it is), with the implication that many kids suffer the same conditions, then I would suggest a parent be held responsible and some single “authority” failed to hold that parent accountable. That would at least be one “social worker” that did NOT earn a day’s pay in my view.

I will let the reader decide what should be done to the responsible parent in this particular situation. That is a separate discussion, what to do to people that do not uphold their unique responsibilities in a modern society. All I am trying to do herein is point out the need for holding the right people responsible, point the finger at THEM, not just try to spread the blame all over the place and thus never hold any individual truly accountable for deplorable things in society.

OK, I can’t resist this one. We in Joplin have seen, repeatedly on the front page of our local newspaper, stories and pictures of two “hoods” (druggies?) leaving a dead body in a driveway. Sure that is a “bad story” and the law should be applied, with vigor. But I ask, which is even worse, like letting a kid live in a tool shed and probably suffer other forms of abuse, or “dumping a dead man” that had maybe overdosed. Why do we not publish the stories and pictures of real child abuse and the individual responsible for raising a child under such conditions?

MUSING ABOUT SCIENCE

September 1, 2014

MUSING ABOUT SCIENCE

Note: Using Microsoft Word, I typed the original using superscripts to write exponents, powers of 10. Pasting such on Word Press, my blog mechanism, I find such superscripts do not convert and are shown as normal script. Thus 10 to the exponent of 22 is shown only as 1022, or something like that. Bear with that difficulty and just remember when you see a 10 with numbers after it, it is intended to be 10 to that exponent or “power of 10”. I can do the math but not the word engineering!!!

Having recently read “The Cosmic Landscape” by Leonard Susskind, one of the founders of String Theory, my mind has wandered as far “out” as it can go as well as far “down”, as well. I have wondered about our human limits, thus far, to understand both the Cosmos and the very small things making up that Cosmos. Thus this blog of idle dabbling and thinking about the “world” of science as described at least in that book.

Just how far can we see today? That answer seems to be about 1.3 x 1022 kilometers, “out”. That is simply the distance that light travels in 14 Billion years. Simple algebra is all the math needed to reach that conclusion. But what is beyond that distance becomes the question.

Susskind offers the hypothesis that pure energy, the plasma supposedly created at the instant and of the “big bang” is just beyond that horizon. In other words we are in a universe some 1022 kilometers in, well what, is the next question. Are we contained within a spherical universe with a diameter (or would it be a radius) of that many kilometers? Well maybe not suggests the author.

Maybe the universe is flat, not spherical. We can see the horizon on the X and Y plane of a flat surface. Einstein always proposed a spherical universe such that if a bullet was shot, at the speed of light, eventually it would come back and hit the shooter in the head. String Theory at least suggests that might not be the case. Instead the indestructible bullet would just keep going beyond our horizon, into the plasma of our creation, come out the other side of that field of energy and just keep going to ……….?

How ridiculous one might suggest, a “forever traveling” bullet. Well it would not be surprising to the bullet, as long as it travelled at the speed of light. Einstein figured that one out. When something travels at the speed of light, Time, remains unchanging. As far as all that energy beyond our horizon can tell it was just “born”. Its age is zero as it continues to fly around in space at the speed of light.

That of course raises the question of what, exactly, is time, the fourth dimension according to Einstein, along with X,Y AND Z (to make a sphere moving somewhere in time). I wonder if a year is something different on another planet within our own universe, one that circles its own sun (star) once every ???? Would “things” on such a planet think a year was different from the one we use to measure time? Probably. Or instead is there some universal clock that keeps time in something other than years, minutes, seconds or very larger (or smaller) units of time?

But so what you say, as no bullet will ever be able to travel at the speed of light. When any mass moves that fast the mass itself become infinite, according to Einstein and his equations, accepted by just about all scientists today. Only photons, units of energy containing no mass at all, can move at the speed of light, and not beyond that speed, as determined so far by science, at least in our universe.

So much for moving “out” into space. What about moving “down” into the very small segments of space. So far we have developed “microscopes” that can now see “down” to somewhere in the range of 10-22 meters. That is a decimal point with 22 zeros before the unit of 1 appears.

But Susskind suggests if we just built a better, more powerful, microscope we could see farther “down” into elementary space. Maybe the same is true with a bigger, more powerful, telescope as well to expand our horizon of observation in the Cosmos. But so far we can only see “down” about as far as we can see “out”, for now, at least in terms of positive or negative powers of 10.

How do we thus far find a way to see “down” to a very small segment of space? We do so by building very large accelerators, moving very small particles, like protons and neutrons and electrons, at very high speeds. The higher the speeds attained the more energy required to move small particles at such speeds, ones approaching but never reaching the speed of light. Those small particles then hit “things” and we see, yep, smaller things, like quarks, bosons, and some 20 or so other “things”.

Now for a really big leap. Susskind suggests that if we could build a big enough accelerator we might well find the smallest of the small, the actual “building blocks” of mass. But to do so he estimates the accelerator would have to be the size of our own galaxy and it would burn 3 Trillion barrels of oil per second to create the needed energy to move very small particles very fast indeed.

Susskind further explains that Plank, the man determining the Plank Constant, a very important number in quantum mechanics, thought there was a limit to “small”. He proposed something on the order of
10-33 centimeters (or was it meters?). But again, according to Susskind, we would have to have a galaxy size accelerator using a star (fusion energy) to power it to see that far “down”.

Then of course there becomes the issue of “space vacuum”. Take a small segment of space and see what is in it, if anything. Susskind believes there is all sorts of “stuff” within a space vacuum, but we can’t see it, yet, except maybe for very short periods of time in a very large, earth bound accelerator. He believes as well that is where a Higgs Boson is to be found.

OK, so what does a Higgs boson do? We know, or think, that a field of energy, like an electromagnetic field contains photons of energy. A field of gravity contains gravitons. It would lead one to believe that a Higgs field would contain, yep, Higgs bosons. And within String Theory mathematics, but certainly no direct observations, yet, those Higgs fields COULD define the nature of other physical laws in a particular Higgs field.

String Theory goes on, mathematically, to suggest a huge number of various Higgs fields, all at varying levels of intensity of Higgs bosons, all “over the place”, place being defined now as “space containing multiverses”, other universes. That number happens to be about 10500.

That is what Susskind, and others, describe as a Cosmic “Landscape”. It is a vast amount of space with energy fields, Higgs Fields as thus far best determined, of high, low and in between levels of Higgs bosons. Think of such a landscape as one on earth with high, low and in between altitudes; thus a landscape containing mountains, valleys and plains, of energy in space, or mass on earth.

One last question that comes to me after reading the “book” by Susskind. It involves the equation
E=MC2.

Even I understand, well sort of, how that equation moves in the direction to the “left”. I spent a career with the conversation of mass to energy, by splitting large atoms into small ones to create energy. But I am unaware of how to move the equation to the “right”, convert energy to mass. What makes that happen, I wonder? How does one take several photons of energy and convert them to mass? I can calculate what happens (algebra again) when mass goes to energy or energy turns to mass. I know how to make it happen to convert mass to energy. But I don’t know how to convert energy into mass, which obviously happened shortly after the “big bang” occurred and might still be happening “out there in the plasma” surrounding, maybe, our own universe. It may well be happening in our own sun right now as well, “making” more mass to send out into space. Who knows for sure, yet.

Is that, maybe, why we still believe our universe is expanding, plasma being converted to mass “out there” well beyond our horizon today? As well, recall all those photons in the plasma have been moving around at the speed of light. If or when such photons change to mass, that mass must slow down. But how slow must it become. Is that, maybe, why we see outer galaxies moving away from us much faster than the ones close by? Hubble discovered that phenomena and “science” stills thinks such is true today. Maybe after light speed energy turns to mass, the recently created mass still moves very fast and slows down later on due to the force of gravity “behind it”.

Final thought. Just how much energy is in that plasma surrounding our own universe? Use Einstein’s equation and one can determine (using algebra) how much total mass our own universe might ultimately achieve. At that point the plasma is exhausted, we run out of universal gas, and the universe then begins to collapse upon itself due to gravity. Over time, all that mass further contracts, like in a black hole. And as that “funnel” gets smaller, with mass ever becoming more dense, a singularity occurs and the black hole vanishes. Poof, there goes the universe.

Or instead does “this universe” simple show up elsewhere as a singularity of intense energy and the big bang happens all over again. Could that be where we “came from”, I wonder?

THE MIDDLE EAST, UKRAINE, GAZA AND THE WORLD

August 27, 2014

THE MIDDLE EAST, UKRAINE, GAZA AND THE WORLD

Is there a connection between conflict in the four regions and if so what is it, I wonder. In a sense, I believe the answer is yes. The connection, tangential as it may be is the relationship between Russia, the United States and Europe. If those three “powers” became united, well just imagine the world thereafter, today.

First however I wonder if you are as confused as I am with now all the various players in the Middle East. In terms of stateless factions there are at a minimum, Al Qaeda, ISIS (or is it ISIL?), Hamas, Hezbollah, and who knows how many other “moderate rebels” fighting against the Assad regime in Syria? Russia clearly backs the Assad government in Syria and the United States instead supports, well whom exactly I wonder?

Equally clear, in the Ukraine, the United States supports the Ukrainian government in Kiev and Russia supports, well whom exactly I wonder? It certainly is not the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

Then of course there is the conflict in Gaza right now, ongoing for several months. Which side does Russia support and the same question for the United States, I wonder.

Then in Europe, at least the larger countries in terms of geopolitical power or influence, Britain, France and Germany, where does Europe stand? In speaking of “Europe” for now, just consider those three countries and figure out where they stand and might be willing to support a favorable outcome, one side against the other.

If you really want to become confused, consider Saudi Arabia and Iran in all three current conflicts, Syrian civil war, Israel vs. Gaza (Hamas) and now ISIS vs the United States.

Take it a step “deeper” and consider the question, “Who, exactly is Saudi Arabia”? Is it the Kingdom of al Saud, or is it the Wahhabi mullahs and followers, or rich Saudi’s sending $ Billions of dollars into Saudi “charities” that ultimately provide considerable funds to Al Qaeda, “moderate terrorist groups” or the now hated (by the United States) ISIS.

Geopolitics is now so confusing, who is against whom, who does or should America “support” and what exactly does “support” mean, I wonder? I wonder if there is a way to clarify such matters, at least for America and where it stands, geopolitically today. I note it is far different now than either in WWII or the Cold War, an “us against them” type of geopolitical conflict. The fronts on the battlefields in WWII and the Iron Curtain were at least lines on a map showing who was against whom. Not so today in many cases.

At least to me I do see one thing America, under the leadership of President Obama, supports. Stop violence, anywhere and take the disputes to the negotiating table. That seems to be the tenor and substance of American foreign policy today, stop current “wars” and negotiate. And to get our way when negotiations stall or are non-existent, well it is OK to apply American economic muscle to the equation, right?

Now ask, just how effective has that approach been over the last six years. I at least see four real wars going on right now, in Syria, Gaza, the Ukraine and now it seems ISIS vs. America. Should I add Al Qaeda vs. America to that list as well or have we already defeated Al Qaeda, after 13 years of war against that faction in the Arab world?

As well, should I now leave Egypt out of such discussions, just the internal issues within that large Arab country? America’s position now seems to be, in Egypt, let the “people decide”. Well which “people” I wonder. Right now my guess, and it is only a guess, is the “military people in Egypt”. At least they seem able to keep the lid on things therein and keep Egypt off the front pages of American news outlets while other real wars are going on, some four of them by my count.

Take a step back from today’s world and think a little about history, relatively modern history and the geopolitical alignments in say 1914. How many Americans today understand exactly why WWI began? I have studied that issue rather carefully and still cannot put my finger on a single set of geopolitical tensions that caused that first WORLD war. All I, and most Americans understand is the results of that conflict in terms of cost, financially and in human suffering. As well, when the WORLD screwed up upon the conclusion of that war, well some 20 years later we had to go back and do “it” all over again, another WORLD war.

At least upon conclusion of the SECOND round, a second world war, there was real clarity about “us against them”. Of course it was America against communist Russia, the Soviet Union if you like. And at least with such clarity of opponents, AND the possession of nuclear weapons on both sides, a real war was avoided. Need I remind anyone that during the Cold War, deterrence worked and thus allowed diplomatic and economic power to prevail over “us against them”.

Is deterrence working, for America and the world, now? Not so in Gaza, Iraq (ISIS), Syria or the Ukraine, at least by my estimation. But I do know where deterrence, combined with the extraordinary ability to fight for about 66 years now, has worked. It is within the State of Israel, like it or not. Almost the entire Arab world has tried, repeatedly, to eliminate that country, kill as many Jews as possible and push them into the sea, never to return. Yet for some 66 years since Israel was formed as a State, with international approval from the UN, that State has prevailed, so far.

One reason for the success of Israel, if surviving is a measure of success, is clarity as to who the opposition might be. It is Israel, a Jewish State vs. just about every Arab country in the world. Oh that America could have such clarity as to who our opponents might be today. Our foreign policy seems to be today that we oppose no one, geopolitically and just “want to be friends with everyone”.

Is that the real world, anytime in history, one in which there are no geopolitical tensions that could rise to the level of war. Does a “good citizen of the world” really believe that geopolitics is such today that war will not be needed to determine geopolitical outcomes? Remember, “War is politics using other means”. Good citizens may not like that reality, but can anyone not say such is reality, today, with wars going on all over the world and becoming increasingly violent using modern, and thus far non-nuclear, technology.

Push even the left in America hard enough, much less the right in American politics, and war becomes the chosen option. Not so the left might say right now. They don’t call for war, they just want to eliminate ISIS today. After all those SOBs cut the head off of an American last week and thus we should…..

One last point if I may. About 13 years ago an American President declared “if you are not with us, you are against us”. It became “us against “terror”, according to that President and 80% of Americans thought that was a good idea, for about three years, until …….. That same President said such a war against terror would be a generational war.

That one went right over the heads of most Americans. The only generational war we have seen was our own Civil War, if one includes events leading up to that conflict and the first shot then being fired at Fort Sumter. Then America took off the gloves and won a bitter and very real war, in about 4 years.

No one knows today in the world what a generational war might be, except for Arabs and Israelis, I submit. Can or should we pick a side in that one and then win it, a multigenerational war “over there” (but increasingly “here” today).

Those of us born during or shortly after WWII grew up in the midst of a dangerous world, the Cold War. We then grew older and observed the end of that war and yep, we won it. America was united in that war and for that reason alone we prevailed, in my view.

Who or what today is our real enemy. Islamic terrorism is my choice for that single and very dangerous opponent, us against them today, at least from the perspective of an “old warrior”. Why can our country not gain the clarity of purpose to prevail against that single opponent? And yes, we can, if we just look, determine who is supporting those terrorists. If we are too blind to see such opponents, whether they call themselves “friends” or not, well we can always ask Israel to guide us. They have been the focal point of that enemy for a long time and know exactly against whom they are fighting, up front from time to time but always behind the scenes of headlines, for 66 years now.

If Americans today look only at geopolitical outcome, who, I ask were our greatest Presidents? Washington and Lincoln are undisputed on that list because they stood for American ideals and won terrible wars. FDR makes my list, in geopolitical terms for winning WWII for us, through his leadership on a global and domestic scale. I can forgive him for planting the seeds of domestic discontent before the start of WWII, misguidedly in my conservative view. And yep, Reagan was the last President to bring us to victory in the Cold War, like him domestically or not from those on the left today.

All four of those Presidents knew full well who the enemy might be and then led the American people to prevail in four terrible and costly wars. War is in fact politics by other means and those four Presidents knew it with clarity and had the resolve to win when it really counted.

I add a note after leaving this unpublished for a 24 hours. I see weapons fire has been noted from Syria into Israel, across a border crossing in the Golan Heights. The shells incoming on the Israeli side seem to be stray’s for a conflict in Syria and not an attack on Israel itself. Israel has not returned fire and holds the Syrian government responsible for any “stray fire into Israel”, as it should in my view.

Typically, Israel takes no side in that Syrian civil war, a war of Arabs vs Arabs (and Persians as well) it seems. Israel could care less which side wins that war, as any winner will remain anti-Israel whatever the outcome might be. Again, clarity as to who exactly their (Israel’s) opponent might be is a constant in their own war on terror. As well I doubt that Israel spends scarce resources, financially or diplomatically to “stop the bloodshed” (in Syria) as an end unto itself.


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