Headline of the Day

Maybe it’s a sign of a warped sense of humor, but I found this headline from the AFP hilarious:

Living Forever May Never Be Possible: Study

What would we do without studies?

What Are Your Kids Learning In School? [Updated]

Probably we should all be past being shocked at what goes on in the public schools, but I confess that an email I got today from Devin Foley of Better Ed shocked me. It quoted descriptions, written by Twin Cities area high school teachers, of how their schools teach literature classes. This one comes from Edina High School, which was once known as an excellent institution:

Acceptance and inter-cultural understanding can be fostered through the use of powerful texts, discussion, analysis, and exploration in the classroom. An English curriculum grounded in social justice rests on a belief based in equity—that each person should have access to resources regardless of race, gender, ability, age, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation.

“Access to resources”? What does that mean?

Additionally, a social justice framework is grounded in a belief that children are the foundation of our future, and that schools, therefore, can (and should) play a significant role in shaping an equitable landscape of that future. Social justice teaching asks students to think critically about texts–to question whose voices are heard in a text and whose are silenced, who’s being overly served and who’s being under-served, how power affects the text, and how we know what we know–and to think critically about their power and role in effecting meaningful change in both personal, local, and immediate contexts, as well as in global contexts. Additionally, English classes are charged with a preparing students to be critical creators, consumers, and participators in a media infused, global 21st century that is already well underway.

Literature as liberal BS. If I had a kid in that school, I would pull him or her out tomorrow. This one is from a teacher at Woodbury High School:

At Woodbury High School, the [literature] course is primarily structured chronologically. Social, economic, cultural and political frameworks of the readings are sometimes explored explicitly through eight critical lenses: feminist, deconstruction, new criticism, new historical/biographical, reader response, post-colonial, psychological and Marxist theory. Students apply critical literary elements such as figurative language, symbolism, and motif to find author’s intent.

This is mis-education, worse than not attending school at all. Any child of normal intelligence would gain more from staying up late at night and reading books with a flashlight under the covers than from being subjected to such cant. For many students, such palpable bullshit is likely to ruin literature forever.

Even in the better public schools, liberal dogma pops up from time to time. When my youngest daughter was, as I recall, in fourth grade, she was given an assignment to relate how she, personally, would combat global warming. She wrote that she would never live in a house bigger than John Edwards’ or fly on more private airplanes than Al Gore. But not all kids have the resources to see through such nonsense. It is only by constant parental vigilance that public schools can be prevented from going off the rails.

UPDATE: A reader adds:

It’s hopeless. Can you imagine what urban public schools are like? Crush the public schools…defund them…vouchers for everyone. It’s so god-awful I’d even take progressive vouchers over the status quo.

When I hear the word “access” I release the safety catch on my Browning. And I am awaiting the day when the last feminist-deconstructionist-queer theory-Marxist-post colonialist high school teacher is strangled with the guts of the last AFT-NEA Department of Education bureaucrat…

Add some music to your day

I first heard the late Kenny Rankin back in the day on Minneapolis’s KQRS when it was a freeform FM radio station, in the late ’60 or early ’70s. I liked what I heard (probably his “Peaceful” or one of his many covers of Beatles songs), but forgot about him for a long time until I heard John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey talking him up and playing his music on their weekly Radio Deluxe program. They clearly loved him and still love his music.

In the video below Kenny performs “When Sunny Gets Blue,” one of the songs Don Costa arranged for The Kenny Rankin Album (1967). I’ve had Rankin’s version of the song going around in my head all day and wanted to share it with those of you who might enjoy it, concededly a niche market.

When Kenny died in 2009, Peter Keepnews recalled a few salient facts of his life in the New York Times and Alec Baldwin did likewise in a personal key at the Huffington Post.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Last week John noted that he went out shooting for recreation. I chase after ocean-going wildlife.  But somehow I keep forgetting my harpoon.  Anyway, here’s two short highlight reels of the action this week.  Call the first one “The Porpoise-Driven Life.”  Okay, groan if you want to.  The second one has some great whale-on-whale action: (more…)

What do Americans believe about immigration?

Kellyanne Conway has released the results of a new poll on immigration. The poll takes a deeper look at the issue than any survey I recall seeing. It finds that (1) immigration has become a massive issue, (2) neither political party has an edge on immigration, but (3) the issue represents a major opportunity for Republicans if they adopt a stance that favors American workers over immigrants.

A majority of Americans in Conway’s survey named immigration as one of the three most important issues in their voting decision this fall. And, while they disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the issue by an almost 2-1 ratio, Republicans are not viewed favorably either.

What immigration policies do Americans favor? For one thing, according to the survey, by a margin of 70-21, likely voters favor encouraging illegal immigrants to return to their home country over offering them legal status in this country. Among voters who consider immigration the most important issue, the margin is 80-13. Among voters who consider it a “top 3″ issue the margin is 75-17.

How might we “encourage” illegal immigrants to return to their home country? Two-thirds of likely voters in the survey favor denying illegal immigrants jobs and welfare benefits.

The House recently passed a three-point immigration plan the prongs of which are (1) providing extra funding for immigration enforcement, (2) making it easier to repatriate young illegal immigrants, and (3) restricting the president’s ability to legalize immigrants through executive power. Conway’s survey found that Americans favor this proposal by a margin of 58-32.

Obama may be on the verge of unilaterally granting amnesty to most illegal immigrants. Americans oppose this move. By a 74-21 margin, they favor Obama working with Congress over him changing immigration policy on his own. Even a majority of Democrats agree with this.

What is driving sentiment in favor of a tougher, rather than a more lenient, approach to illegal immigration. Fairness is, of course, one consideration.

However, Conway’s findings suggest that the desire to protect the American worker is paramount. 74 percent agreed with the following proposition: “The government has a responsibility to adopt immigration policies that protect. . .unemployed or low-wage American workers from competition with illegal immigrants for job.” 85 percent of “blue collar workers” agreed with this. Even a majority of those identifying themselves as liberals concurred.

The same sentiment is evident in the response to this question: “If U.S. businesses have trouble finding workers, what should happen? They should raise wages and improve working conditions to attract Americans OR more immigrant workers should be allowed into the country to fill these jobs.”

Three-quarters of respondents (and 86 percent of Blacks) said that businesses should raise wages and improve working conditions. Only 8 percent favored allowing more immigrant workers into the country to fill the jobs.

From a political standpoint, then, Republicans should be treating immigration as a jobs issue and as a means of appealing to workers. Instead of pandering to business’s desire for cheap labor and to Hispanics who are unlikely to support Republicans in any realistic scenario, they should focus on the interests of the American worker, as the American worker perceives them.

No public office holder has done this more effectively than Sen. Jeff Sessions. And, if I may be permitted to indulge in a bit of blog promotion, no commentator has done it more effectively than John Hinderaker.

Fraud? Did You Say Fraud?

Liberals who defend Obamacare used to point to the VA as an example of how the government could provide universal health coverage just dandy. Well, that talking point has rather disappeared down an Orwellian memory hole.

Another favorite talking point was that the government’s low administrative costs for Medicare proved that private insurance, with their higher overhead, were inefficient profiteering price gougers, etc. That was one reason for Obamacare’s mandate that insurance companies had to deliver at least 80 percent of premiums in health services.

That’s why I’m surprised the front page story in last Saturday’s New York Times hasn’t made a bigger splash: “Pervasive Medicare Fraud Proves Hard to Stop.” How much fraud? The story reports that it is as much as $60 billion a year. That’s 60 with B. A one with nine zeros after it.  Times sixty.  (As Sterling Archer might explain the math.)

Fraud and systematic overcharging are estimated at roughly $60 billion, or 10 percent, of Medicare’s costs every year, but the administration recovered only about $4.3 billion last year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for overseeing the effort, manually reviews just three million of the estimated 1.2 billion claims it receives each year.

Turns out it’s really easy to keep your administrative costs low if you have a system that allows $60 billion a year in fraud and overbilling. Why haven’t Aetna and Blue Cross thought of this?

And now the final Jeopardy question: anyone think there might be a similar problem with fraud in Food Stamps, Medicaid, unemployment, disability, and so forth? Wait, I forgot; you’re a racist if you ask this.

Rand Paul’s self-serving version of identity politics

Rand Paul was in Guatemala this week. Eliana Johnson reports that during his visit, Dr. Paul worked with a team of surgeons to perform eye surgeries at Salama’s Hospital de Ojos.

Paul opined that doctors are superior to lawyers when it comes to serving in political office:

I personally think that if we got rid of all the lawyers and replaced them with all the doctors our country would be much better off because doctors are “problem-solvers” who don’t get caught up in partisanship.

Was Paul being serious? I don’t know. Either way, his statement reveals considerable ignorance.

Most lawyers are problem solvers; otherwise they couldn’t command their fees. Lawyers help clients solve tax problems, estate problems, domestic relations problems, property problems, litigation problems (usually through settlements designed to avoid unacceptable consequences for both parties), etc.

As for “partisanship,” it may be the case that lawyers are more politically active and politically ambitious than doctors. But there is no reason to think that doctors who are politically active and ambitious — such as Rand Paul — are less partisan than their lawyer counterparts.

In any event, why is “partisanship” inherently bad in a politician. If you don’t want the Republicans to nominate a “partisan” for president, you should support Susan Collins or Jon Huntsman, not Rand Paul.