Monday, November 29, 2010

Amazing: Cell phone allows you to rent cars by the hour

I am frequently amazed by how people use technology to provide new products and services. How Mobile Apps Are Disrupting the Car-Rental Business reports on a cool idea:

At first, the company that introduced America to rent-by-the-hour, pay-as-you-go car sharing grew slowly. Rivals saw it as a niche market for the ecologically minded and others who were willing to ditch their full-time vehicles.

But the advent of the smart phone has helped reshape the way Zipcar operates, greatly broadening its appeal. Launched two years ago, Zipcar's app for the iPhone has been downloaded by 400,000 people, who use it to locate the nearest available car and even honk its horn. That has made it much easier for customers to find cars wherever and whenever they want one. Now the company has expanded to 55 cities and 225 college campuses in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

Powerful video: I Fought For You By The Sound Tank

A friend sent me a link to this video:

We are lucky to live in a time when few of us need to fear that another country will take our lives. I am grateful that so many have put their lives on the line for me.

(Be warned, this is a tear jerker.)

This is discouraging: More taxes just means even more spending

In a column for The Wall Street Journal Stephen Moore And Richard Vedder explain that Higher Taxes Won't Reduce the Deficit. Here are two key paragraphs:

In the late 1980s, one of us, Richard Vedder, and Lowell Gallaway of Ohio University co-authored a often-cited research paper for the congressional Joint Economic Committee (known as the $1.58 study) that found that every new dollar of new taxes led to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Subsequent revisions of the study over the next decade found similar results.

We've updated the research. Using standard statistical analyses that introduce variables to control for business-cycle fluctuations, wars and inflation, we found that over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending. Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in—and a little bit more.

Read that line again:

"... we found that over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending."

We really need to vote out of office any politician who proposes increasing spending.

(Hat tip: TaxProf Blog)

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Hopefully you are all relaxed. Hopefully you had a fun time with family over the four day weekend.

Now you are starting to get back in the rhythm of life.

Don't forget to send in your submission to the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at Apollos Academy.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Little reason to push children to read at an early age

Research Finds No Advantage In Learning To Read From Age Five reports:

A University of Otago researcher has uncovered for the first time quantitative evidence that teaching children to read from age five is not likely to make that child any more successful at reading than a child who learns reading later, from age seven.

The ground-breaking Psychology PhD research, conducted by Dr Sebastian Suggate, has been placed on the University's "distinguished list" of doctoral theses for 2009. Dr Suggate has also been awarded a prestigious Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Humboldt Association in Germany to the University of Wuerzburg in Bavaria to further his studies into childhood education.

Moore's wrote in Better Late Than Early that it is better for young children, especially boys, to wait on academics until they are eight to ten years old. Part of this has to do with brain development. While much of the body is basically formed at birth, like your fingers and toes, the brain keeps undergoing major changes until people are eighteen and twenty. In trying to force young children to read before their brains are ready, it is like trying to make them walk before they even have their legs.

(Hat tip: Valerie Bonham Moon mentioned this on Facebook.)

Milton Friedman explains one of the reasons why public schools are doing so poorly

Milton Friedman explains there are four ways to spend money:

It helps to understand why government schools, and government programs in general, do a very poor job of using our money effectively.

(Hat tip: Fortitudine Vincimus)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving

This is a bit late, but still a good thought, from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:


George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Book review: King David's Spaceship

This story takes place in Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium universe. After a great interstellar war the human colonies lost the technology to travel between the stars. Finally one colony recovers and sets about rebuilding a single human empire, whether the other colonies want to join or not.

King David’s Space ship starts out on Prince Samual’s World. These colonists were able to keep some knowledge of science. When the story starts they are some where between an 1850 to 1900 level of technology. The planet is fractured with several governments jostling for power. The Empire helps King David start to reunite the planet.

One of King David’s spy realizes that Prince Samual’s World will be ruled by those of the empire, unless they can re-develop enough technology to launch a craft into space. By being a “space going” colony they will still be bought into the Empire, but with a higher status and allowed more self government.

One of the Empire’s men let slip that there is a library on a near by star system which might provide the means to build a space ship. But time is tight. They only have a year or two before the planet should be reunified and then bought into the Empire. Our heroes rush off to Makassar to see what they can learn.

Will they make it?

This is a fun story. It reads well. I had trouble putting it down. If you like classic Science Fiction with military battles and intrigues, then give this a book a try.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - Our Great Nation

Conni is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at

She has a theme of "Our Great Nation" and includes some beautiful pictures from their trip across the country.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Never hesitate to do a kindness

From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

You cannot do a kindness too soon,
because you never know how soon
it will be too late.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Words

Here are a few news words created by taking any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. [This list has been floating around the internet as the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational, but it is not associated with the Washington Post.]

Some of the new words:

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes and it's a serious bummer.

Arachnoleptic fit
(n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clarification on the expenses of college

Last week I summarized a talk by Glenn Reynolds on the High Education Bubble. Someone sent me an email asking about this line in my summary:

"At about minute 44 he references Bob Samuels of UCLS as reporting on research that the direct teaching costs for public school is about $1456 per student per year at a public school, and a little over $2500 per student per year at private schools."

The question was raised that maybe I had made a typo. Maybe I had meant "$14,560 per student per year at a public school and a little over $25,000 per student per year at a private school."

No, I captured exactly what Glenn was saying.

The point Glenn was making is that for the classroom education experience, seating in the chair, listening to the teacher, and all of that core basic education, the cost per student is around $1500 to $2500 per year. Factored into this are the costs for the building, the salaries to the teachers who really teach, and so on.

This is part of what the bubble is all about. There are many areas where higher education organizations choose to spend money that have little benefit to most students. For example universities have super expensive sports programs that provide little benefit to most students, and these programs lose tons of money. So factored into the tuition is a large chunk of money that goes to the sports programs. Each student is subsidizing the sports programs with highly inflated tuition. Another area is many universities take a large fraction of tuition and "invest" it into research, which may be good for the university, but again does little for most students.

This is an important part of the higher education bubble. The real cost of the true benefit to the student is the $2500 a year for the education they receive. Most of the rest of the tuition they are charged is of questionable benefit. Glenn suggests that more and more students and parents will step back and re-examine the value of over inflated tuition. At some point we'll hit a tipping point. Then the bubble will pop and we'll have some kind of readjustment.

Good thought about our lives

A couple times a month I try to do a Google search looking for new blogs about homeschooling. I have found that over time the Carnival of Homeschooling seems to lose contributors slightly faster than we gain, unless I reach out and invite more bloggers to participate in the carnival.

Today I came across this quote:

"If your beliefs are worth dying for then your life is worth living."
Guy Average

Good thought.

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Don't forget to send in your submission to the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at Apollos Academy.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

A problem with totalitarian governments

I like this thought from the Quotation of the day:

"The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage, is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
- George Orwell

Where to report abuses by the TSA

I am really bothered by the attitude the TSA has that they have every right to grop us before we board planes.

Jim Harper shares some Where to Report and Discuss TSA Abuses.

Ultimately I think Congress will have to act and force the TSA to back down. Hopefully the recent election will remind Congressmen that they should serve us, not rule us.

Book review: Galactic Patrol by E. E. Smith

Galactic Patrol is the third book in the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith. I recently picked this book up from Fantastic Collectibles.

This is the first time we are introduced to Kim Kinnison. Kim is a main focus of the rest of the series. Galactic Patrol starts with Kim as a young man who has just graduated and will join the Galactic Patrol as a Lensman. He is given a near impossible task, but through perseverance, ingenuity and luck, Kim is able to bring home a captured space ship from the pirates of Boskone.

The Boskone Pirates threaten to destroy civilization. And because their technology is better they have a very good chance to crippling civilization so that it will never flourish. With the Boskone spaceship that Kim captures civilization has a chance.

E. E. Smith does a great job of keeping the action moving. In many chapters our heroes are in another near hopeless situation. Again and again the odds are stack against them. But they keep trying, and they are always able to pull a rabbit out of the hat to escape total destruction.

We see more of the Lensmen universe. We’re introduced to Worsel and the two others who will become second stage lensmen, along with Worsel and Kim. E. E. Smith drops little details left and right flushing out a rich universe to make it seem almost real.

Like I said in my review of The First Lensman, if you enjoy Science Fiction and have never read the Lensman series, start with Triplanetary and then read the reset of the series. You are in for a great ride.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What do you get from books?

From A.Word.A.Day:

In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
-Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator and author (1902-2001)

This is the same Mortimer J. Adler who wrote A Guideboock to Learning and How to Read a Book. I strongly recommend the second book. I have loaned it to two people in the last month. I have a couple copies. (And yes, I am a bit of a book pusher at work.)

First Christmas song of the season!

This morning as I turned on the car the radio started playing Frosty the Snowman.

I thought the Christmas season was suppose to start after Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thoughts on what the Khan Academy means for the future of education

My mother forwarded a link to The Worth of Khan. This column has some thoughts about what kind of impact online education systems like the Khan Academy will have on the future of education.

The Khan Academy is trying to provide a free classroom to the world over the internet. Looking at their vast selection it appears they are very comprehensive.

Bruno Behrend concludes his column with this:

It is time to question the meaning of the words “education reform” and the investment in reforming the current system. Once the automobile was invented, there was no need for “buggy whip reform” or “horse turnaround plans.” Mr. Khan, and those like him, have exposed the current system for the obsolete monopoly that it is. This article lays waste to the idea of “reforming” the current system. The best thing we can do is rapidly manage the transition to an entirely new education model.

The last five decades of educational reform have done little to improve the effectiveness of government schools. Maybe Bruno Behrend is correct, systems like the Khan Academy may provide for a completely new approach. It will be interesting to see.

How cool is this! There are at least eight active homeschooling blog carnivals

I find being the organizer for the Carnival of Homeschooling keeps me pretty busy, which we started about five years ago.

I know there are other homeschooling carnivals. I had not realized that there are at least eight!

This means homeschooling is growing.

Pretty cool!

More on Less Flying

There seems to be growing public concern about the TSA's recent decision to use these full-body image detectors and to do "more thorough pat-downs" of people boarding planes. Last week my response was I will fly less, and maybe even stop flying until the TSA changes their stance.

John Taylor, a software engineer in San Diego, researched the issue and was told that his airport didn't use the full-body image detectors, so he decided to take a family trip. But the online TSA report was outdated. When he arrived he was told to do the full-body scan, he objected. (There are several reasons, one is the radiation seems to be a faily high level.) Then the TSA wanted to do a full body pat down, which includes groping around the gential area.

Here is his full account of the incident. This goes to one of the key issues:

I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal.

So I'm wondering, how to do we fight this invasive account by the TSA? I'm thinking about writing the airlines that we use and tell them we won't be flying until this gets resolved. Would it be worthwhile to contact our politicians? Do you think anyone at the TSA will listen?

Who admires you?

From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

We all admire the wisdom of people
who come to us for advice.
-Jack Herbert

Passed the CHSPE

Our oldest daughter recently took the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination.

The California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) is a program established by California law (Education Code Section 48412). If eligible to take the test, you can earn the legal equivalent of a high school diploma by passing the CHSPE. The CHSPE consists of two sections: an English-language Arts section and a Mathematics section. If you pass both sections of the CHSPE, the California State Board of Education will award you a Certificate of Proficiency, which by state law is equivalent to a high school diploma (although not equivalent to completing all coursework required for regular graduation from high school). All persons and institutions subject to California law that require a high school diploma for any purpose must accept the certificate as satisfying the requirement.

I was able to log on yesterday and see her results. I was happy to see that she passed with a wide margin in the Writing and Reading sections. Her math score was respectable, but nothing flashy.

In many ways, nothing will change for us except that now she won't need a work permit and she can work any hours she chooses. Normally, 16 year-old employees can't work during school hours and their hours are limited. We are hoping that this flexibility will make it easier for her to find a job.

We may or may not use the CHSPE results at our local community college. High school students can enroll anyway, but they are the last to register and classes options are limited. The benefit for concurrent enrollment is that tuition is free. Free won't matter if we can't register for the classes she wants.

We need to take a trip out to our community college and see which path makes sense.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Higher education across the pond

Recently, Henry has blogged about the education bubble here in the USA. I agree that there is a problem, but I like our problem a whole lot more than the one facing the UK.

A quarter of university hopefuls remain unplaced

More than a quarter of UK university applicants are still without a place on a degree course, according to the latest figures.

The university admissions service, Ucas, says up to 187,000 candidates are chasing a falling number of unfilled places.

This means 46,358 more people than last year were in the same position.

With record results and a cap on university places, competition is said to be very tough this year.

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook warned that this year was likely to be the most difficult year for admissions for a decade. A record 675,465 students have applied to university this year.

Our problem is that we have too many under-qualified students attending college. In the UK, they don't have spots for all the qualified applicants. It will be interesting (and a bit frightening for those of us with children approaching college age) to see how each system corrects itself.

An unhomeschooler does well

Astra Taylor is a film director up in Canada. She recently gave a talk about her experience of being an unhomeschooler:

I listened to the first fifteen minutes. Very interesting and entertaining. (I'm at work and my lunch is over, so I need to get back to work. Oh, ignore the post time, I'm scheduling this talk for a little later in the afternoon.)

(Hat tip: News & Commentary)

Pat Farenga reviews: A Matter of Conscience: Education as a Fundamental Freedom

Pat Farenga has a long review of A Matter of Conscience: Education as a Fundamental Freedom by Kelly Green who blogs at kelly green and cold.

Pat starts his review with:

Kelly Green has written a series of rousing essays and commentary about contemporary homeschooling that deserve to be read by any homeschooler who is thinking about the national and international social and political situations homeschooling now faces. Ms. Green, an experienced homeschooling parent and group leader who lives in Canada, uses current events in the United Kingdom and Sweden, in particular, to drive home her points. As a homeschooling political activist, Ms. Green draws upon and comments on her work with the Canadian government, helping ground her political views with practical strategies and tactics.

The book looks worth reading.

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - the home edition

The NerdMom invites you into her home for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted at NerdFamily.

Book review: The Pallbearers

Growing up I watched shows like The Rockford Files, A-Team and The Greatest American Hero. I was surprised that these, and so many more, had many episodes written by Stephen J. Cannell.

I was walking through the library a couple weeks ago and noticed The Pallbearers. For some reason the name of author, Stephen J. Cannell, jumped out at me. I decided to check it out. I later found out he has written over a dozen novels.

The main character is Shane Scully. He is a detective who had worked as a policeman. Shane was abandoned by his parents and ends up in an orphanage. His wife is still in the police. The story takes place down in Southern California.

The plot revolves around the death of Walter "Pop" Dix. Pop was the home director of the orphanage Shane eventually landed in. At first it appears that Pop died by suicide, but later Shane, and some others from the orphanage, figure out Pop was murdered. The story wraps up with an exciting conclusion.

This must have been an easy story to write. It takes place in a setting that so many of Stephen Cannell's story took place, the Los Angeles area. The topic was one he had written about hundreds of times: murder. The story reads well. I had trouble putting it down. The story was a bit gritty and had swearing.

I don't plan to read more of the Shane Scully books, but if you are into detective mystery books, you may enjoy this one.

Radical Idea: Shut down the Department of Education

I would like to get rid of the Department of Education. The Constitution doesn't provide for it. This centralized bureaucracy has inflicted harm on our children.

Recently there have been more people calling for the abolishment of the Department of Education. Unfortunately it looks like it will survive a bit longer. In Dept. of Education to Survive GOP, Tad DeHaven starts with:

For those of us who recognize that federal k-12 education spending has been a costly failure, it’s been great to hear some tea party candidates call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education.

Unfortunately, the party favored by tea party supporters at the moment has no interest in shuttering the DOE. After all, it was Republican House minority leader John Boehner—possibly the next speaker of the House—who worked with the departed Sen. Ted Kennedy to give us the expensive and intrusive No Child Left Behind law.

Hopefully over the next couple years more and more people will recognize that the Department of Education is not improving education in America, and then it will finally be shut down.

Data on Higher Education

A Closer Look at Higher Education by Jenna Ashley Robinson has some scary statistics about Higher Education in the US. Here are a few:

• Only 29% of college graduates achieve a score of “proficient” on national literacytests.

• Only 53% of students who begin college have graduated after six years.

• After factoring in forgone wages and the cost of a college education, the average lifetime earnings advantage for college graduates ranges from $150,000 to $500,000—not the million dollar figure that is often cited.

• In a survey at 50 selective colleges, 46% of students said that some professors use the classroom to present their personal political views.

You can read the full list here.

Good thought about what you do today

From A.Word.A.Day mailing list:

Don't wait for the Last Judgement. It takes place every day.
-Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

Monday, November 15, 2010

The world is tiny

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century came out about five years ago. The author, Thomas Friedman, makes the point that technology has leveled the playing field. It used to be that if you wanted to compete in a town, state, or country, you had to be physically located there. It was hard, or impossible, to help with the design of some new product and live some where else.

Technology has changed all this. Many businesses have moved substantial parts of their companies to India and China because the internet allows much easier communication. I'm currently working with a group in Shanghai. It has its problems, and it would be easier to walk down the hall to discuss issues, but given that my company can hire engineers in China for a fraction of the price here, there are valid business reasons for offshoring.

This weekend it hit me just how much technology is bringing the whole together.

A Different View from the Top of the World tells us that even the most remote parts of the world are coming on to the grid:

I've always thought Mount Everest was just OK. Sure, vaulting majestically out of the Earth more than 29,000 feet is impressive, but then what? Like many remote locales, Everest's natural "beauty" has been offset by a lack of conveniences. Until now.

Last week Ncell, a telecom company based in Nepal, announced that it had installed antennas at Everest's base camp that will let climbers make phone calls, video chat and surf the Web at the summit. Which begs the obvious question: what took so long? For years climbers have felt off the grid simply because they were more than five miles above sea level and could wave at passing airplanes. Well, that era is over. Now successful mountaineers can call their friends and family, post a celebratory video message to You Tube and add old-timey mustaches to pictures of the mountain. And just because they're struggling to stay alive at 70 below zero doesn't mean they can't keep up with the latest developments at the "wicked keggr @ Brody's house 2NITE!"

What an amazing world.

Fun European History review

One of my brothers posted a link on Facebook showing 10 Centuries of European History in 5 minutes:

I don't think this is an effective way to learn history, but I do think it is a great review.

It is easy to forget how free we are

This morning I came across a reference to Mao's Last Dancer. From the website's summary of the movie:

Based on Li's best selling autobiography, MAO'S LAST DANCER is the epic story of a young poverty stricken boy from China and his inspirational journey to international stardom as a world-class dancer.

The story begins when a young Li is taken from his peasant home by the Chinese government and chosen to study ballet in Beijing. Separated from his family and enduring countless hours of practice, Li struggles to find his place in the new life he has been given. Gaining confidence from a kind teacher's encouraging guidance and a chance trip to America, Li finally discovers that his passion has always been dance.

In doing a little research I found this movie was shown briefly in our area a month ago. Bummer. I would have like to have seen it in the theater. I'll add it to our Netflix queue.

Li Cunxin (the dancer) sounds like an amazing person. His personal website reports that at age 35 he went back to school, studied accounting and finances, and now works at the Australian Stock Exchange. And Wikipedia says that he was named the 2009 Australian Father of the Year.

The Homeschool Showcase is up

The latest Homeschool Showcase is up. It starts:

Welcome to the November 15, 2010 edition of Homeschool Showcase, where we spotlight all the encouraging, inspiring and just plain fun ways that homeschooling families live and learn together. Can you believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner? We actually have our first Thanksgiving dinner later this week. This is the time of year when my kids start getting antsy and I start looking for great ideas to keep us all learning, but also having fun and enjoying the magic of the holiday season. I think you’ll find some of those great ideas here.

Humor - the solution to school over crowding

I thought this was funny. Close to Home has the solution to school over crowding.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Christmas decorations

Since the holidays are almost upon us, I wanted to put a plug in for an outdoor nativity set.

It is hard to find Christ-centered decorations.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Another CLEP resource

The ClepForHomeschool mailing list recently had a link to a Free Clep web site. I've spent fifteen minutes checking it out. It looks worth while.

Justin lists the various CLEP tests and gives links to resources for studying. He also ranks the tests according to what he thinks is the easiest to the hardest.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thoughts on tackling the clutter

Our children don't have a good habit yet of putting things away. Janine and I are still working with them. One of the things that helps keep order in our house is we have friends and family over a couple times a month.

But there is a constant struggle to clean up.

If you have this struggle you might check out Heather's ideas on Tackling The Clutter, Homeschool Style.

If you live in California consider supporting HSC

Janine and I belong to the HomeSchool Association of California. They do a good job of watching out for homeschooling issues.

If you live in California consider joining them. It is just $30 for a one year membership.

John Stossel essay contest: What's Great About America

If you're looking for a writing assignment for your kids, you might check out John Stossel's essay contest on What's Great About America. Your child might even win a prize. This contest is for students at regular schools and homeschools.

More on the Higher Education Bubble

Earlier this week I blogged about Glenn Reynolds' recent speech on the Higher Education Bubble.

I agree with Glenn that the current trend of the cost for higher education climbing two and three times faster than inflation can not continue. It isn't clear to me when this will crash down, but it has to stop at some point.

Glenn recent wrote a column on this: Higher education's bubble is about to burst. It is a good summary of the main points in his talk. I encourage you to read his column. If you want more information about the Higher Education Bubble, you could then check out my post and then his speech.

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up

The recent Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at Bugs, Knights, and Turkeys In the Yard.

Do we want to be united, or divided

Some phrases are so common that if you say the first part of the phrase, most people will automatically finish it for you. For example if you say "United we stand..." Most people will at least think of the second half: "divided we fall."

There is great power in unity. One of the classic examples is to give a thin branch to a child. They can easily break it. Then give two branches and often the child will have a harder time but still be able to break it. But if you give them a dozen or hundred branches lashed together he won't be able to break it. The lesson is that together we can be stronger and more effective than by ourselves.

Paul Jacob recently challenged the assumption that we should always be united. In Divided We Stand he shares a fascinating statistic, that when the government in Washington DC was united by the same party in both the legislative and executive branches, the increase in federal spending was on average 4.67%, but when the White House and Congress were split across the two parties the federal spending grew at almost half the rate, 2.55%.

The recent election should mean for a number of reasons a much smaller growth in government.


Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Don't forget to send in your submission to the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at NerdFamily Blog.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

I may be flying less for awhile

Don’t Let Strip-and-Grope Become the New Normal starts off with a scary scenario:

The middle-aged man in the blue shirt spoke gently, but directly, to Tabitha, as if he had done this a thousand times before with 12-year-old girls like her. In words tailored to her understanding, and designed to make what he was about to do seem normal, not creepy, the man in the blue shirt made it clear that if she didn’t do as he instructed she would not get to go to Disneyland. He merely wanted to show another man what was under Tabitha’s blouse and panties. Her refusal was so firm, and her face so alarmed, that he backed off and tried another tactic. If Tabitha would merely stand still while one of the man’s friends touched her body all over (caressing her in ways that no one ever had) then that would be the end of it, and she could go to Disneyland.

If this were a “real” story, it would likely end in prison terms for the man in the blue shirt and his friends, and a lifetime of psychological problems for Tabitha.

It’s not real … but it is true. It’s an intentionally provocative fictional dramatization of the new airline security protocol used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Go read the whole column.

In an effort to "protect" us, the government is becoming more and more invasive. I'm not sure how to effectively oppose this, but for now I may contact a few airline companies and tell them I am cutting back on my use of their services.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

I think this is true way more often than we realize

From A.Word.A.Day:

Like cars in amusement parks, our direction is often determined through collisions.
-Yahia Lababidi, author (b. 1973)

Book review: The Fred Factor

I am trying to instill in my children a broader vision of education. Part of this effort is I have them read a variety of useful books. My oldest daughter recently read The Fred Factor. This is her review of the book:


The book The Fred Factor is about making everything you do significant. It opens with the example of a postal worker named Fred. Then The Fred Factor expands on how to be a ‘Fred.’ The book ends with how to help others become ‘Freds.’ This is a fun and easy book to read.

The Fred that the book is named after is the author Mark Sanborn’s postman. He first proves himself a ‘Fred’ by introducing himself to Sanborn and the offering to hold Mr. Sanborn’s post when he leaves town. Then Fred the Postman proved himself extraordinary by fixing a package mix-up committed not by Fred’s company but by the UPS. For the next ten years Sanborn received excellent service. The Fred Factor was started by a simple postman; see how he made a difference. Not only in Mark Sanborn’s life but those lives this book has and will touch.

How to be a Fred in four steps. Step one is the mindset that everyone makes a difference, even a postman. People can make a difference anytime and to anyone. The next step is to build relationships. When you read the book you’ll see how a relationship with a postman brightened Sanborn‘s day. Step three is to try and create something that others value, a sort of modern day Philosopher’s Stone. The last step is to constantly expand your skills. These steps teach a person how to be a Fred.

Four steps to create Freds. The first Find them, The Fred Factor instructs one on how to find Freds by creating a place that attracts them, how to recognize a dormant Fred, and how to hire them. Next step Reward them, this step is self explanatory, if you want Freds to stay around you should reward them. The third step is to Educate them. The last step is to Demonstrate. When you are a Fred Freds are more likely to find you. Four simple steps that just happen to spell Fred.

This book is really engaging and simple to follow. It would a satisfactory book for anyone. It should be mandatory for any one entering a management level job.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Interesting thought: The political class are like bad renters

One of my brothers recently shared on Facebook a link to an interesting post: Art Laffer: The political class are like bad renters. The post starts with:

I was at a gathering of the Show Me Institute recently. They were opening their gorgeous new headquarters set in a magnificent late 19th century West End Mansion. Art Laffer gave some remarks and he said something that I found apt: "The political class are like bad renters, not knowing if they'll be in power more than two years they spend everything at hand and then some, because to conserve it is to eventually bequeath resources on their adversaries."

Thinking of our elected officials as bad renters pushes me to respecting them less.

Interesting analysis on our over medicated society

My uncle sent a link to the family. A recent column at CNN explains how some medical companies think.

How to brand a disease -- and sell a cure starts with:

If you want to understand the way prescription drugs are marketed today, have a look at the 1928 book, "Propaganda," by Edward Bernays, the father of public relations in America.

For Bernays, the public relations business was less about selling things than about creating the conditions for things to sell themselves. When Bernays was working as a salesman for Mozart pianos, for example, he did not simply place advertisements for pianos in newspapers. That would have been too obvious.

Instead, Bernays persuaded reporters to write about a new trend: Sophisticated people were putting aside a special room in the home for playing music. Once a person had a music room, Bernays believed, he would naturally think of buying a piano. As Bernays wrote, "It will come to him as his own idea."

It is a good column, a bit scary.

Looks interesting - any tried this out?

Instapundit recently had a link to a Youtube video. I noticed the video was made in part by Xtranormal. Their tag line is:

If you can type you can make movies...

It looks interesting. I was wondering, has anyone used their software?

What is an acceptable level of unemployement

Now you know:

Newlan's Truism:
An "acceptable" level of unemployment means that the government
economist to whom it is acceptable still has a job.

(From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The HomeSpun Life.

Sisterlisa tells us:

"We've got some great articles this week and this carnival will cover a variety of 'subjects' including lifestyle, faith, and classical music."


Carnival of Homeschooling

Glenn Reynolds on the Higher Education Bubble

I have blogged several times in the past about the problem of rising cost of a college education.

Glenn Reynolds, who blogs at Instapundit, greatly expands on the problem. He gave a speech about the Higher Education Bubble. He has given a lot of thought about this problem. His speech is about 50 minutes and then he does some Q&A.

Glenn Reynolds - The Higher Education Bubble and What Comes Next from Clemson Institute on Vimeo.

Here are some of the highlights:

Several times he says "When something can't go on forever, it won't."

The relative value of a college degree is declining. The average wages of college graduates has actually declined when adjusted for inflation. This means the return for a college education is going down.

Because of several factors, like the current recession, the ability to borrow and finance a college education is going down.

College graduates are entering the job force with more debt, which makes it harder to buy a house.

The single best hedge for avoiding a bubble is to avoid debt.

He sees three general reasons for and individual to college:
1) To be more productive
2) To be able to network
3) To get the "college experience"

The only real benefit to society for a college is the first reason.

At about minute 44 he references Bob Samuels of UCLS as reporting on research that the direct teaching costs for public school is about $1456 per student per year at a public school, and a little over $2500 per student per year at private schools. When the bubble bursts, many schools will have to get rid of the superfluous expenses like three story rock climbing walls and tuition will be much closer to what it really costs for the education.

I loved his observation: "You don't get deferred gratification and self discipline from government subsidies.

I great enjoyed the talk and think it is worth watching.

Update I - 15 Nov 2010. Glenn has a column up: Higher education's bubble is about to burst.

Update II - 20 Nov 2010. Some clarification on the expenses of college.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Book reivew: The Odious Ogre

When I heard that the author and illustrator of The Phantom Tollboth were collaborating again I was pretty stoked. I love The Phantom Tollboth. I have read it several times. And we've read it outloud as a family.

A brief blurb of The Odious Ogre sounded like the book had potential. I eagerly looked forward to reading the book.

I am under impressed.

While The Phantom Tollboth was aimed at young readers who had moved passed chapter books, The Odious Ogre is a picture book designed for parents to read to children. It is a short book, about 32 pages, and could be read out loud in five to ten minutes.

But this is not a book I would read to my four-year-old. The first third of the book is about an ogre eats people. Cannibalism is not a topic I think young children need exposure to.

A young woman, who is kind, generous and understanding "defeats" the ogre. While the point that kindness and understanding are characteristics of strong people and have value, there was too much deus ex machina for me.

There are better books and I encourage you to skip this one.

Anyone in the Mu Eta Sigma society?

My daughters don't have my love of math. They are good solid workers and probably will take pre-calculus their senior year in high school. I'm afraid they won't be interested in chasing math much beyond calculus at college.

Math Honor Society for Homeschoolers reports that there is a national society just for homeschoolers:

Is your child great in math? Home schooled students aren't eligible to join the National Math Honor Society Mu Alpha Theta, but they ARE eligible to join Mu Eta Sigma. Mu Eta Sigma is a math honor society strictly for homeschooled students.

The blog has more details.

Anyone have a child in the society? Are they enjoying it?

It is important to finish a job

I like this thought from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

One thought driven home is better
than three left on base.

-James Liter

Update the post: The 6th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards are open for voting

The Homeschool Post is hosting their 6th annual Homeschool Blog Awards.

They have twenty categories this year:

Best Homeschool Mom Blog
Best Homeschool Dad Blog
Best Blog Design
Best Photos and Artistic Content Blog
Best Crafts, Plans & Projects Blog

Best Family or Group Blog
Best Encourager
Best Special Needs Homeschool Blog
Best Homeschool Methods Blog
Best Nature Blog

Best Teen Blog
Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog
Best Homemaking Blog
Funniest Homeschool Blog
Best Curriculum or Business Blog

Best Variety Blog
Best Thrifty Homeschooler
Best Super Homeschooler
Best NEW Homeschool Blog
Best Nitty-Gritty Blog

We're in the Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog.

Go vote.

Time to get the Federal government out of Education?

The US Department of Education was founded in 1979. Four years later the Federal Government released a report on the state of Education in America. A Nation at Risk warned that education had deteriorated over the previous decades. It had this famous quote:

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."

This is another powerful quote:

"Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

Things have only gotten worse since 1983.

I acknowledge that correlation is not causation. But I do believe that overall the Department of Education has been bad for education in the United States. The central bureaucracy passes many rules with little accountability. By returning to local and state control education in American would improve.

In Keep Fed Ed? What, Do You Hate Kids? Neal McCluskey recognizes that politically it would be a huge challenge to dismantle the Department of Education, but encourages politicians to take up the good fight. His column starts with:

Yesterday, Tad DeHaven wrote about an interview with Rep. John Kline (R-MN), likely chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee should the GOP take the House majority. Tad lamented that Kline seemed to declare any potential effort to kill the U.S. Department of Education (ED) already dead in the water. Unfortunately, Kline is certainly right: Any effort to kill ED in the next couple of years would not only have to get through a (presumably) GOP-held House, but (also presumably) a Dem-controlled Senate and Obama-occupied White House. There just aint no way ED will be dismantled — and more importantly, it’s profligate programs eliminated — in that environment.

I agree that it will be very hard to get rid of the Department of Education. And I am so glad that homeschooling gives us an option to provide a quality education.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Kind of over reacting don't you think?

Joanne Jacobs reports about a Teen suspended for riding horse to school:

To celebrate school spirit week, a Boston-area high school student dressed up as a knight and rode his family’s horse around the school. Dan DePaolis, 17, was suspended for two days for endangering the student body; a friend, who dressed as a squire and led the horse at a sedate walk, got a one-day suspension and two hours of community service.

Our society sends conflicting messages. Some times a seventeen year old is treated like an adult, and other times they are treated like a little child.

If this was against the rules I can kind of see some slap on the wrists. The thing that really jumped out at me was the father reported that:

"They told my son it's the equivalent of bringing in a loaded firearm to school."

Humm, a gun and a horse. They sure seem different to me.

Here's a video of the ride to school:

I wonder what would have happened if he had rode the horse to one of the local university.

Another reason to home school - to avoid jail time

I find it amazing that people are so quick to try and force others to do what they think is a good idea.

Personally I think there should be a minimal set of behaviors which are not tolerated, murder, theft and so on. Most of the rest should be encouraged but not forced or even legislated. Yes eating too much fat is bad for a body, but we shouldn't be forced to follow someone else's idea of the one true way.

Skip Your Parent-Teacher Conference, Go to Jail? is a classic example of this. Yes I'm sure that meeting your child's teacher will help your child do better at school, but why do we have to force parents to attend the parent-teacher conferences? The article starts:

Show up for your child's parent-teacher conference or go to jail: the choice could be yours in Michigan, if a county prosecutor has her way.

Just as parent-teacher conference season is shifting into high gear in schools across the country, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is championing a law that would require parents to participate in at least one parent-teacher conference a year or spend up to three days in the slammer.

Laws like this typically have little flexibility. If a student only has one parent, and the parent is working two child, often the law doesn't care.

This would be a bad idea and I hope the community pushes back.

(Hat tip: Guerrilla Homeschooling)

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Don't forget to send in your submission to the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at The HomeSpun Life.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - The Sing a Happy Song Edition

Mama Squirrel is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Dewey's Treehouse.

She starts off with:

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling takes its theme from a post submitted by Earnest Parenting, "Cooperation is Such a Joy."

"I’ve been a bit of a bummer lately I think, complaining about stress and a new school year and so on. So today?? Good news! I’m seeing some cooperation! We’re stopping for lunch shortly with almost everyone done with half their schoolwork. Several things have contributed to this happy state....I’m off to lunch, singing a happy song."

So what's everyone else singing a happy song about?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Book review: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

A couple weeks ago a friend raved about a book. He explained that The Checklist Manifesto had insights to avoiding problems. I borrowed the book from the library and was blown away by some of the ideas. Now I’ll buy the book and review it with my children.

Early in the book the author makes a fascinating point. His analysis of the source of mistakes is that broadly there are two basic reasons why we make mistakes. The first major reason for many errors is because we don’t know enough. If we have only an introductory education on how to drive a car or write software we can often make simple blunders that more experience will teach us to avoid. The second major source of mistakes is we are careless. This turns out to be a major source of faults when there is great complexity.

Atul Gawande is a doctor and much of this book is about the complexity of medicine. Dr. Gawande explains that medicine has become the art of managing extreme complexity. Currently there are over 13,000 different diseases, syndromes and types of injuries. Imagine that! Trying to stay on top of even a fraction is an almost impossible job. At one clinic the average doctor had to deal with over 250 primary diseases and conditions in a year.

With the increase in complexity comes the greater chance for mistakes. For example in the United States there are over 150,000 deaths each year for people who have gone through surgery. Research indicates that over half of those were avoidable. People die from mistakes! In a typical day a person recovering from surgery may need 180 different specific actions. If one of them is missed or done wrong the patient might die.

Dr. Gawande switches from medicine to airplanes. In 1935 Boeing was demonstrating their new bomber the B-17 to the Army Air Corp. The generally accepted belief was Boeing had it in the bag. The plane could carry five times the as many bombs as the Army had requested. It was designed to faster and farther than the competition. Yet the plane crashed right after take off. They had invested heavily in developing the B-17; the lost of the contract almost killed Boeing. They launched a major investigation into the crash. Why was there a crash? They went over every piece of wreckage. They came to a surprising conclusion. While they had one of the best test pilots in the industry it appears that the B-17 was too complex to fly. There were many, maybe too many, things to keep track of. If the pilot missed one of them the plane might crash. A key result of this investigation was the widely adopted use of the checklist. Now before every flight a pilot reviews a checklist and airplane accidents are very infrequent.

The author breaks down problems from another approach. He shows how there are three types of problems. The first type of problems is simple problems which can be solved by a recipe or formulae. The second type of problems is more complex problems, but repeatable, like flying to the moon. Fundamentally these complex problems can be reduced to a large set of simple problems; each is solvable with a well understood recipe. The last type of problems is non repeatable complex problems, like raising a child. The fundamental problem is the solution for one problem may not work for another similar problem. Parents face this all the time, discipline and rewards work differently with each child. Checklists don’t solve all problems, but they help tell which problems are appropriate.

Much of this book is about a surgery process improvement team Dr. Gawande was contributing to, and how they decided to recommend the use of checklists with surgery. They found that it was important to consider what goes on the checklist and what doesn’t go on the checklist. They drew heavily from the airplane industry. For example you don’t need to tell the surgeon to breath, he does that automatically. The checklist shouldn’t be too long, because people will tend to skip steps or toss it out completely. The team noticed that few mistakes happened with a well functioning surgery team, but at most hospitals the teams were formed and reformed for almost every surgery. It was hard to have each surgery team function as a cohesive team. They tried to encourage this by including on the checklist a step where each team member would introduce themselves. The result was the teams become more united and covered each other. Nurses felt freer to point out to a surgeon when they skipped a step. This single item lead to a huge decrease in the complications and deaths after surgery.

The book also explores how checklists get used effectively in other industries like building construction, and to some extent investing.

This is a fascinating book and well worth reading, probably worth reading twice.

The latest edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up

The latest edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at riddlelove.

How to preach to your children

From A.Word.A.Day:

You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.
-Oliver Goldsmith, writer and physician (1730-1774)