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Comment: Privacy issues also, as in this story submission (Score 1) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48951637) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

By me:
"Caroline Murray reports for the Sacandaga Express: "Just this year, the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District completed Phase 1 of a plan to install high-tech security cameras in every school across the district. For the first time, high school and middle school students started off the school year with security cameras pointed at them from every direction, including hallways, staircases, and public rooms, such as the cafeteria and gymnasium. For some veteran students, the cameras feel a bit invasive. "It is like '1984' with big brother," senior Hunter Horne said while walking down the hallway. ... Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said safety is the driving force behind the technology, however, admitted student behavior also plays a role in utilizing the equipment. Tomlinson said students have rights, and he wants to respect their privacy, but their rights change when students step foot on school grounds. ... Tomlinson said he already notices the culture has changed in the high school. He believes the amount of bullying and vandalism in the hallway is greatly reduced already. Gennett said faculty and teachers have peace of mind now, knowing the entire school is under surveillance. "It would be very difficult to find a location in our buildings where you can hide, or you can go, and intentionally do something that is not acceptable in our buildings," Tomlinson said. Some of the administrators view the security cameras as entertaining. Seniors Smith and Horne said certain staff members will call-out students over the loud speaker, and tell them to take off their hats."

One question not addressed in the article is whether forcing a child to submit to total one-way surveillance is a form of bullying or in some other way a vandalism of privacy or democracy? See also David Brin's "The Transparent Society" for another take on surveillance, where all the watchers are also watched."

Original source:

The inclusion of spending on "security" without any explanation of accountability or privacy issues is a reason I voted against the most recent New York State bond issue for educational technology in schools, as much as I am all for educational technology and also recognize the importance of security for all (the issue being how we go about ensuring security effectively in a broad sense).
"The New York Bonds for School Technology Act, Proposal 3 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in New York as a legislatively-referred bond question, where it was approved. The measure authorized the state comptroller to issue and sell bonds up to the amount of $2 billion. The revenue received from the sale of such bonds are, according to the proposal, used for projects related to the following:[1]
* Purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.
* Constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.
* Installing high-tech *security* [my emphasis] features in school buildings."

Comment: Re: Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools (Score 1) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48951593) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

Helping raise kids well is what parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, village, tribe, churches of the better sorts, and extended community are for... We got along fine without compulsory schools up until the last 150 years or so...

So kids don't have to go it alone -- except, perhaps, that other forces in our society have greatly damaged parenting, family life, community and village life, and so on, making it harder for them to help kids grow well.

Just one example related to the problems cause by two-income families:
"As Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi note in their book, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke, having a child is now "the single best predictor" of bankruptcy.""

For the beginnings of compulsory schooling in the USA, which Gatto said had to be enforced at gun point:
"In the US, the American Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the first state to pass a compulsory education law which occurred in 1852."

Or, on the problems of compulsory schools from another perspective:
"During this time, American educational professionals Raymond and Dorothy Moore began to research the academic validity of the rapidly growing Early Childhood Education movement. This research included independent studies by other researchers and a review of over 8,000 studies bearing on early childhood education and the physical and mental development of children.
    They asserted that formal schooling before ages 8-12 not only lacked the anticipated effectiveness, but was actually harmful to children. The Moores published their view that formal schooling was damaging young children academically, socially, mentally and even physiologically. They presented evidence that childhood problems such as juvenile delinquency, nearsightedness, increased enrollment of students in special education classes and behavioral problems were the result of increasingly earlier enrollment of students.[12] The Moores cited studies demonstrating that orphans who were given surrogate mothers were measurably more intelligent, with superior long term effects - even though the mothers were "mentally retarded teenagers" - and that illiterate tribal mothers in Africa produced children who were socially and emotionally more advanced than typical western children, "by western standards of measurement".[12]
    Their primary assertion was that the bonds and emotional development made at home with parents during these years produced critical long-term results that were cut short by enrollment in schools, and could neither be replaced nor afterward corrected in an institutional setting.[12] Recognizing a necessity for early out-of-home care for some children, particularly special needs and impoverished children and children from exceptionally inferior homes[clarification needed], they maintained that the vast majority of children are far better situated at home, even with mediocre parents, than with the most gifted and motivated teachers in a school setting. They described the difference as follows: "This is like saying, if you can help a child by taking him off the cold street and housing him in a warm tent, then warm tents should be provided for all children -- when obviously most children already have even more secure housing.""

As for video games, I agree excessive screen time is problematical for any kid, but maybe we should make better (more educational) ones if kids like them so much? Again though, helping maintain a healthy balance is part of a larger social responsibility. Unfortunately, there is little accountability for people creating "supernormal stimuli" and all too many incentives to addict people to unhealthy things (whether games, food, videos, drugs, gambling, "therapy", or whatever). Some of the smartest minds in our society are paid some of the highest dollars to figure out ways to get kids to buy unhealthy crap to make more profits for those with a lot of capital. That is a tough force to put against a kid, even with parental supervision. Is it no wonder so many kids succumb? Perhaps this is part of a definition of "evil"? And it relates also to media deregulation that started under Carter and accelerated under Reagan. See the book "The War Play Dilemma" which talks about the unholy alliance of media producers, toy manufactures, and fast food makers who saturate kids 24X7 (even on their bedclothes) with stereotyped images.

Also, and I say this as someone who (along with his wife) put more than six person-years into writing an educational simulation in the 1990s, there has been precious little real support to make quality educational software -- unless it is tightly tied with raising children's grades in compulsory school, and even then still weak. There are exceptions (Kerbal Space Program? Khan Academy? Minecraft by accident? Space Engineers? Concord Consortium?), but overall, very little support relative to the need or desire to write such software. Still, it's true that more recently, there have been many good educational apps for cell phones and tablets, so some things are improving there, although I doubt most of these app makers are making enough money to support themselves (even if a handful no doubt do quite well). And then, on top of that, many granting agencies allow the few educational grant winners to make their works proprietary, this making them hard to build upon.

Most of the money for "Education" in our society gets sucked up by the compulsory school system or things closely linked to it. In New York State, an average of about US$20,000 per year is spent per compulsory schooled child. Just a fraction of that could otherwise pay for a heck of a lot of educational software and other educational materials for all under FOSS licenses. Think Khan Academy times 1000! And with that material being useable globally.

Also, US kids are unduly stressed from being forced to go to compulsory school, from the changes in cultural patterns preventing outdoor play (read "Last Child in the Woods" on "Nature Deficit Disorder") and interacting with neighboring kids, as well as other family stresses in the stagnant US economy (stagnant or declining take-home wages for decades for most workers, while expectations rise) which prevent parents and relatives and so on from spending more time with kids. These all contribute to an unhealthy environment that makes video games more appealing.

As a stereotype, how many adults come home from an overly stressful day at work and then turn on the TV and have a beer? So, kids come home from an overly stressful (even if just from boredom) day at school and play video games. Maybe the issue is more the nature of the workplace or the school?

Again, "The Moores published their view that formal schooling was damaging young children academically, socially, mentally and even physiologically." Think of it this way -- why should any parent be forced (at gunpoint) to allow his or her young child be adopted essentially by a state-selected single mother who already has twenty kids of the same age? But that is essentially the system we have now, although the "adoption" only covers most of a kid's waking weekday hours. So, we've got all these kids who according to research are damaged in all sorts of serious ways by compulsory schooling before age twelve, where their well-meaning school teacher "adoptive parent" has next to no time for them as one out of twenty or so other kids, and we then wonder why kids can't manage their own time or life well during or afterwards? Or why kids turn to video games or whatever including illegal drugs to deal with the stress or other resulting problems?

How did we let it get this way? Yet as Gatto says, every step made a sort of rational sense by itself...
"A huge price had to be paid for business and government efficiency, a price we still pay in the quality of our existence. Part of what kids gave up was the prospect of being able to read very well, an historic part of the American genius. School had instead to train them for their role in the new over-arching social system. But spare yourself the agony of thinking of this as a conspiracy. It was and is a fully rational transaction, the very epitome of rationalization engendered by a group of honorable men, all honorable men. The real conspirators were ourselves. When we sold our liberty for the promise of security, we became like children in a conspiracy against growing up, sad children who conspire against their own children, consigning them over and over to the denaturing vats of compulsory state factory-schooling."

BTW, if we are going to have schools, either the Albany Free School model (focusing on play and social/psychological development) or the one room school house of multiple ages all together (with older teaching younger, starting around age 10 or so, lasting a few years) makes a lot more sense and historically shows a lot more success at raising capable people for a democracy. However, better than all that for most of the time is parents and a local village with enough time to raise kids well...

To be clear -- I'm not against kids going to classes if they want, or kids hanging out with other kids of the same or different ages when they want, or making all of that tremendously easy to do -- including by putting 10X more money into our local public libraries for a start. I'm not against the state taxing the public and transferring money to families with kids to help the families and kids. I'm also not against parents choosing a private school for their kids if they want to do that and do other work instead. The issue is the compulsion and the state deciding instead of the family deciding what kids do during most of the day. Part of that issue is also the state instead of the family taking that US$20,000 a year and deciding how to spend it -- with, exaggerating but not much, the state generally choosing to spend it to support essentially single mothers with twenty same-aged kids.

For a family with two kids in New York State, that US$40,000 a year otherwise spent on compulsory school could allow one parent to stay home full-time with the kids, or could support world travel, or could pay for tutors, or could pay for many other educational experiences in local museums or local homeschool resource centers. But parents are not getting that choice regarding those funds. Still, it is true that homeschooling is currently legal in all 50 US states, although it is not legal in a lot of Europe. So, at least that is a start. Europe's school are less bad though, because in general the money follows the kid, and parents have much more choice of schooling including Waldorf, free schools, and so on, where any alternative school that can attract kids is assured of a decent revenue and decently paid teachers. By contrast, the Albany Free School can't pay its teachers much and also survives in part by some wise early investments in local real estate.

Sure, there will be failures by some families if families decide how to spend all that money -- and in those cases, the community may have to step in. But as the point above about tents suggests, most families, given enough resources, will do a better job of education than schools -- especially in today's internet age with ready access to any sort of educational material.

And public schools themselves produce oh so many failures in oh so many ways -- even including kids with straight A's.

See for example, on "A's":
"Both rewards and punishments, says Punished by Rewards author Alfie Kohn, are ways of manipulating behavior that destroy the potential for real learning. Instead, he advocates providing an engaging curriculum and a caring atmosphere âoeso kids can act on their natural desire to find out.â"

And on the problems resulting from grades:
"Researchers have found three consistent effects of using â" and especially, emphasizing the importance of â" letter or number grades:
1. Grades tend to reduce students' interest in the learning itself. ...
2. Grades tend to reduce students' preference for challenging tasks. ...
3. Grades tend to reduce the quality of students' thinking. ...
The preceding three results should be enough to cause any conscientious educator to rethink the practice of giving students grades. But as they say on late-night TV commercials, Wait â" thereâ(TM)s more. ..."

And even deeper issues:
"Look again at the seven lessons of schoolteaching: confusion, class assignment, dulled responses, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, surveillance -- all of these things are good training for permanent underclasses, people derived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And in later years it became the training shaken loose from even its own original logic -- to regulate the poor; since the 1920s the growth of the school bureaucracy and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling just exactly as it is, has enlarged this institution's original grasp to where it began to seize the sons and daughters of the middle classes."

Comment: US$560 for a family of four is significant (Score 1) 90

by Paul Fernhout (#48951185) Attached to: US Wireless Spectrum Auction Raises $44.9 Billion

There is another way to look at it. Using your figures, the total amount per US person is about US$142. That is for a ten year lease of the spectrum if I recall correctly, so we can expect a similar amount again in another decade. So, that is about US$14 per person per year during that time (well, a little more, with interest as the money if the money is received up front). For a family of four, that is about US$56 per family per year ignoring interest. That could be a month or two of cell phone service on a cheap plan -- or even half a year for one phone on a very cheap plan (like Ting's cheapest). Or, with the entire amount up front (US$560 per family), that could be the cost of an unlocked current smartphone or, say, two current Chromebooks, or, say, a Chromebook and a "FreedomBox" or such as a home server, or, say, a new Raspberry Pi educational kit every three years. Or it might just cover an otherwise-missed mortgage payment during the next decade. US$560 in various ways could make a *big* difference to a lot of lower middle class people living paycheck to paycheck on the edge in the USA.

Given that whoever got the spectrum will undoubtedly charge more for it given these up front costs, it seems only fair for families to get some money to offset those extra costs.

It's true though that some US states already have a free-to-the-user limited cell phone plan for very poorest people on Welfare, an one might argue in theory this money should also go to something like that -- but probably less fairly IMHO compared to a needs-blind cost, otherwise it becomes a hidden "tax" on everyone. I would argue that the current approach, to put the money to deficit reduction, is similarly just a hidden tax of US$560 on every US family -- where the tax for deficit reduction is paid by higher cell phone fees. Since the poorest people probably spend the greatest percentage of their income on cell phone service (which is becoming a necessity of mainstream US life), the plan to use the money to pay back the deficit is a terribly *regressive* tax as a way to pay back the deficit. This also ignores both that the deficit creates the US money supply and also that much of it can be considered to be underwriting problematical optional war spending like the Iraq war. So, rather than get US$560 in the family pocketbook, each US family instead sees a tighter money supply (so, higher credit card interest) and also probably yet more war spending since there was no real accounting for the previous spending (other than this new hidden cell phone tax).

"The increased military spending following 9/11 was financed almost entirely by borrowing."

As an aside, the theory of auctioning off (or "privatizing") the spectrum is probably based on some notion of "highest economic use", in the theory that whoever would pay the most for the spectrum would make the most use of it for the most benefit to the most people. But in reality, such auctions may just be putting resources in the hands of people (and their organizations) that may have the most capital (including trademarks and good will) and think they are best at "rent seeking" to extract the most money from the most people regardless of what they can deliver. Again, distributing the funds raised at least partially protects people from that -- however, it is still not enough in many cases. Ideas like the open WiFi spectrum are alternatives, and are helping a lot of people in a lot of ways. Other ideas include "ham" like regulations on the use of some frequencies.

Right now, almost everyone 65 or older (roughly) gets a basic income in the USA of about US$1000 - US$2000 per month via "Social Security" as well as health care via Medicare. Is that not significant? That makes a big difference to a lot of people and even their children. So, I feel it is hard to generalize that "Disbursement of government money to the masses doesn't really do much". Granted, that basic income is funded in a regressive way with fixed percentage payroll taxes capped at some limit that prevents them from affecting the very affluent.

As automation spreads (including wireless stuff), it is likely most human labor will have less and less economic value in the marketplace, because robots, AIs, and other automation will be cheaper and more reliable for most tasks most of the time -- even "creative" tasks. Thus we need more financial experiments in this direction IMHO, and this broadcast spectrum auction would provide a perfect opportunity to explore these alternatives. Instead, it looks like the result is another hidden war tax making it harder on the middle class to get by...

Other similar ways to fund such a basic income could include carbon taxes, fishery licenses, logging permits, mining permits, copyright fees, patent fees, import or export tariffs, fees for regulated stock transactions or similar big financial movements, fees for the first use of money in banks as it is created by the Federal Reserve, and so on... Even if each one is small, together they might add up to a lot.

Comment: Re:If you can't add without a calculator... (Score 1) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48949881) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

Battery powered calculators? Slide rules? Backup generator? Cell phone apps? Calling a back office who has a calculator?

But see also my other comment on order of magnitude stuff, especially to quickly double-check the answer from a machine. It is probably more important that someone notice that a $99.99 dress and $48.33 pair of pants should not add up to $1048.32 (high by x10) or $58.32 (low by x3) from adding or missing a nine somewhere than that they can do an exact calculation in their head.

Although, if I as a customer had to choose between a clerk who was pleasant and helpful but needed a calculator to ring up a sale and one who was not pleasant or helpful but could do sums in their head without a battery-powered calculator or cell phone, I know which one I'd pick. :-)

Comment: Order of magnitude vs. precise (Score 2) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48949841) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

IMHO, an important skill is order-of-magnitude calculations. If you subtract US$79.99 from your bank balance in a checking account, you should realize something is wrong if your balance drops by $1000 instead of near to $100. Same for political-type calculations relating to roughly how many people are in a country and how much some policy might cost if it costs $X per person and so on (by rounding, to get a ballpark figure). Without that basic skill, people are completely at the mercy of the machines or their own fat finger typing or unscrupulous other people.

Order-of-magnitude calculation is the sort of skill people picked up quickly using slide rules. :-)
"Simulated Pickett N909-ES Slide Rule"

"Slip-stick" engineering pretty much got us to the Moon and back. :-) Even if no doubt more precise calculations were made along the way at some point.

But precise calculations are indeed perhaps better turned over to calculators, so people can focus on other things. There are only so many things we can pay attention to or remember at one time.

Yes, I did learn to do a square root on paper at some point, not that I recall it much now. But I don't feel especially weaker for not being able to do that at the moment. And even if I did recall the procedure, what would be the point in using it to determine the square root of 99 if I could punch use a calculator? Again though, being able to check the result roughly would be important though, to know the correct result must be somewhere around 10 and not 5 and not 20.

Just out of curiosity:
"How to calculate a square root without a calculator"

One example comment there (from an "Instructor of Mathematics"):
"I vaguely recall learning the square root algorithm in K-12, but frankly, I see no value in this algorithm except as a curiosity. And I am not of the "reform" crowd. I fully believe students not be given a calculator to use until advanced algebra or pre-calculus, and then only a scientific calculator (not graphing). Do you really believe student at the K-7 level will understand how/why this algorithm works? I was happy to see that you recommended the "estimate and check" method. This is what I also recommended to my daughter, who is now studying square roots in her home school curriculum. The "estimate and check" method is a good exercise in estimating, multiplying, and also memorizing perfect squares. ..."

Comment: Keep kids from computers as long as possible (Score 1) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48949771) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

Kids need so much -- nature; human interactions; emotion coaching; music; manipulating blocks, sand, and water; physical exercise; and so on. Computers (or other screens) crowd that all out so quickly as a "supernormal stimuli". Sure kids can learn computers young, but the human mind is adapted to grow a certain way within a natural environment and an extended family/tribe. Best to avoid computers/screens as long as possible IMHO, as it will happen soon enough anyway. We did not let our kid have much screen time until around age four, and I still feel that was too soon, and rapidly became a losing battle after age six to eight or so. Sure, like you I'm proud of my own kid's accomplishments with computers, but I also realize they come at a cost of other missed opportunities.

BTW, John Taylor Gatto essentially says "gifted" programs are a scam, carving off those who might otherwise be natural leaders and making them a cog (if that) in a bigger system of social control.

The Albany (NY) Free School and its high school equivalent are examples of places that gets a lot of things right, IMHO.
"Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is the only democratic educational institution for teens in the Capital District. We offer a supportive and personal learning environment for young adults from diverse backgrounds. Our staff strives to teach young adults how to think for themselves by encouraging critical discussions and respecting student input into their educational process. Our students learn self-motivation and, in the process, discover independence and self-reliance."

Contrast with, at the other extreme, a place like Choate Rosemary Hall,in the words of one of its students, Alfredo Brillembourg '16 News Staff Writer:
"In his essay about elite education, writer William Deresiewicz asserts, "Elite education forgot that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers." This idea of higher education refers to a stage of formal learning that further cultivates young minds. Indeed, Choate is an establishment of higher education and it excels in its academic teaching. In light of this, Choate has very high expectations for its students and acts upon them by assigning heavy homework loads, frequent assessments, and rigorous course work. Although this method does promote good habits and a high level of learning, it does not encourage students to think for themselves because there is simply no time for us to do so.
    In response to this stress-inducing environment, students are forced to figure out the system of boarding school, rather than actually taking in what they are being taught. Choate scholars need more time to be able to relax and embrace their studies. Choate must steer away from teaching kids to cheat the system of higher education by supporting a more innovative learning environment that will allow kids to appreciate what they are learning, rather than simply learning it for the grade. Choate's methods for education must work toward teaching kids how to think for themselves because it will allow for more success in life as a whole, rather than simply teaching how to succeed through the system of higher education.
    The pressure and demands imposed upon students at Choate force kids to resort to techniques such as last-minute studying and memorizing, which are not conducive toward actual learning and will harm students in the long run. The large workloads are a huge source of stress for students, and they cause students to lose interest in pursuing other subjects because they have too much to understand at once. Likewise, the long hours of school and sports combined wear students down, and rather than appreciating intellectual topics outside of school, kids are too caught up in getting through their work quickly to acquire as much sleep as possible. Choate needs to give students more time to think about things other than their lives at the school by allowing for more leisure time, which will ultimately serve to relieve the substantial stress that gets students caught up in their academic lives. ..."

Sadly, the Choate student news site administrators did not publish my comment there from early last week suggesting comparing and contrasting Choate with the Albany Free School, and looking at the writings of people like John Holt, John Talor Gatto, Alfie Kohn, and so on, which all support the student's brave point...

That said, not all schools are the same, however they label themselves. Hope you found a good one if other options like homeschooling/unschooling are not workable or desired.

Comment: Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools (Score 1) 177

by Paul Fernhout (#48949595) Attached to: Can Students Have Too Much Tech?

"Stay on task" like a workhouse or factory? Whose task? To what end?

The new (yet old) paradigm is learner-directed education. A healthy kid's own natural curiosity and desire to succeed then helps him or he power through challenges (if it has not been wiped out before then through boredom/confusion or rewards/punishments). However, most software and even internet content is not that educational and so is a rough fit. We need more good stuff, especially FOSS educational simulations. If kids are not choosing to learn important things with at least some of their time, we need to ask why? What sort of messages are we sending kids about what we value as a society (like what is on TV)?

See also my essay:
"Why Educational Technology Has Failed Schools"
"Ultimately, educational technology's greatest value is in supporting "learning on demand" based on interest or need which is at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to "learning just in case"
based on someone else's demand.Compulsory schools don't usually traffic in "learning on demand", for the most part leaving that kind of activity to libraries or museums or the home or business or the "real world". In order for compulsory schools to make use of the best of educational technology and what is has to offer, schools themselves must change. ...
    So, there is more to the story of technology than it failing in schools. Modern information and manufacturing technology itself is giving compulsory schools a failing grade. Compulsory schools do not pass in the information age. They are no longer needed. What remains is just to watch this all play out, and hopefully guide the collapse of compulsory schooling so that the fewest people get hurt in the process."

That said, I strongly believe that there needs to be a way to ensure families have the resources they need to raise healthy educated kids (including paying for tutors and classes as desired). I feel a "basic income" from birth could be part of the answer to that (John Holt suggests that in "Escape from Childhood"), and would provide families with plenty of money to pay for their children's education as desired or time to teach their own. Until then, consider:
"New York State current spends roughly 20,000 US dollars per schooled child per year to support the public school system. This essay suggests that the same amount of money be given directly to the family of each homeschooled child. Further, it suggests that eventually all parents would get this amount, as more and more families decide to homeschool because it is suddenly easier financially. It suggests why ultimately this will be a win/win situation for everyone involved (including parents, children, teachers, school staff, other people in the community, and even school administrators :-) because ultimately local schools will grow into larger vibrant community learning centers open to anyone in the community and looking more like college campuses. New York State could try this plan incrementally in a few different school districts across the state as pilot programs to see how it works out."

Also, there are so many addicting aspects to modern society, parents need better support in managing that for their children (rather than even more kid-targeted commercials and so on). The problem and some partial solutions:
"Popular culture and technology inundate our children with an onslaught of mixed messages at earlier ages than ever before. Corporations capitalize on this disturbing trend, and without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially; some may even to engage in precocious sexual behavior. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did this happen? What can we do? So Sexy So Soon is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids-or their kids' friends-do and say. Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized experts in early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, understand that saying no to commercial culture-TV, movies, toys, Internet access, and video games-isn't a realistic or viable option for most families. Instead, they offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault."

As Gatto says, "Schooling is a form of adoption" but the surrogate parents have little time to be good parents by the nature of the school institution.
"Schooling is a form of adoption. You give your kid up in his or her most plastic years to a group of strangers. You accept a promise, sometimes stated and more often implied that the state through its agents knows better how to raise your children and educate them than you, your neighbors, your grandparents, your local traditions do. And that your kid will be better off so adopted. But by the time the child returns to the family, or has the option of doing that, very few want to. Their parents are some form of friendly stranger too and why not? In the key hours of growing up, strangers have reared the kid. Now let's look at the strangers of which you (interviewer) was one and I was one. Regardless of our good feeling toward children. Regardless of our individual talents or intelligence, we have so little time each day with each of these kids, we can't possibly know enough vital information about that particular kid to tailor a set of exercises for that kid. Oh, you know, some of us will try more than others, but there simply isn't any time to do it to a significant degree. ..."

Anyway, good luck doing what good you can in a difficult social situation where there is little one person can change much by themselves. Until the day compulsory schooling is ended, we need good people in schools to help make them less bad.

Comment: That is why we chose the Dojo Javascript framework (Score 1) 77

by Paul Fernhout (#48948531) Attached to: How Blind Programmers Write Code

"Dojo has made a serious commitment to creating a toolkit that allows the development of accessible Web applications for all users, regardless of physical abilities. The core widget set of Dojo, dijit, is fully accessible since the 1.0 release, making Dojo the only fully accessible open source toolkit for Web 2.0 development. This means that users who require keyboard only navigation, need accommodations for low vision or who use an assistive technology, can interact with the dijit widgets. If you are new to accessibility, please refer to the Web Accessibility Issues page for more general information about accessibility"

Comment: Past US history has problematical parts & prog (Score 1) 103

by Paul Fernhout (#48932071) Attached to: Snowden Documents: CSE Tracks Millions of Downloads Daily

Yes, bad things are happening. But unless we remember and celebrate the past successes, we may more easily give way to despair.

Examples of problematical episodes from US history: The McCarthy era in the 1950s, the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, the US Eugenics movement in the 1930s and before -- where the Nazis got the idea, the lynching of black citizens in the South along with a US white supremacy movement (again, long before "Arianism" took hold in Germany), the tragic Civil War of the 1870s, and many more such things... Plus so much problematical foreign policy, including grabbing big parts of Mexico and invading Canada multiple times, not to mention the systematic genocide committed against the Native Americans to steal their land (the US Army's primary function in early years was taking part in all that). The USA may criticize China's "human rights" record, but the US past is filled with many horrors that may be far worse than things China is doing now (even in Tibet etc.).

Governments always demand to be respected in various ways. Those ways may change over time. Yes, there are bad trends, and bad episodes, some still ongoing and growing like you and others including me point to, but the USA has muddled through them in the past. Some wrongs have been righted decades later (even as "justice delayed is justice denied"); others have yet to be resolved. Generally, the successes are helped along by efforts from citizens, as in: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)".

I can urge you to read "A People's History of the United States" to get a broader perspective on all this regarding the USA. It is a perspective not taught in the past in most US classrooms or probably still in most civics classes for immigrants. It is the history of US citizens struggling repeatedly to control a government and industry (the two being intertwined), to keep them accountable to human needs. It is full of examples both of successes and failures. Here is an online version, but it is probably available in any major book store:

Another good book is John Gardner's 1971 book "Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society". Here I quote what he says and comment on it:
""As I was browsing in a university bookstore recently, I heard an apple-cheeked girl say to her companion, "The truth is that our society and everything in it is in a state of decay." I studied her carefully and I must report that she did not seem even slightly decayed. But what of the society as a whole? Decay is hardly the word for what is happening to us. We are witnessing changes so profound and far-reaching that the mind can hardly grasp all the implications. ... Only the blind and complacent could fail to recognize the great tasks of renewal facing us -- in government, in education, ..."
    John Gardner goes on to say that every generation faces the problem of renewing itself to meet new challenges emerging from the very success of the old ways of doing things. And he suggests that social values are not some drying up old reservoir, but rather a reservoir of variable capacity that must be recharged anew in every generation. [He also suggests every generation must re-learn for itself what the words carved on the stone monuments really mean.]
    Democracy -- use it or lose it.
    Free speech on the internet -- use it or lose it.
    Social capital -- use it or lose it?
    P2P -- use it or lose it? :-)
    Again, Gardner's book was written in 1971, so, about forty years ago. Although it's true the last thirty years in the USA has pretty much been a disaster socially ("greed is good"), even if technically we have advanced, and there has at least also been a growing environmental consciousness."

This history of bad episodes (or government overreach) is not unique to the USA also. Even in the USSR and China and Germany in the past, things changed for the better after a period of tighter government controls (and yet may cycle again). And before those improvements, people learn the limits of the system and how to work creatively within them.

That does not mean a lot of people don't suffer in the meanwhile though... Or that such tight controls may not weaken a country to the point of internal collapse or incapacity to deal with an external threat. As in someone's sig on Slashdot, "if your country doesn't fight for you, why should you fight for it?" Other than through ignorance or misinformation or propaganda... A video game that explores that theme, btw:
"Beyond Good & Evil (video game)"

Still, given the USA has a lot of nukes (and maybe plagues and such), that does not mean this time it won't be different and the USA won't take the whole world with if if it descends further into fearful selfish self-destructive madness. That's in part what worries me most -- that the elite is essentially playing a game of "chicken" in that sense with the rest of the US population and the world. As in, "Give us everything we want (which is indeed everything) or the world will be destroyed as it plunges into chaos we created by our previous selfishness and paranoia".

There is also an aspect that when bureaucracy becomes enshrined in automated systems backed by police robots (e.g. Elysium), there may be no end to institutionalized cruelty. That can be true even though history has shown us enough of such cruelty when bureaucracies are just staffed by humans. (like the Nazi Holocaust powered by punched cards and patriotism and fear). But once all humans are purged from such bureaucracies, there is less room for "humanity" in at least some of the decisions at the edges. One can see that in, say, John Taylor Gatto's accomplishments as a school teacher in NYC helping kids to learn anyway (like helping them find apprenticeships), even when it was against the rules.

I agree a lot of bad things are happening (another example is "border checkpoints" 100 miles inland), just as a lot of bad things have happened. I'm just saying, we don't really know what will happen this time, even with intense surveillance. Probably, as another reply suggests, it will get worse in many ways before it become better. As I suggest elsewhere, intense surveillance is also an opportunity to set a good example and educate the watchers...
"On dealing with social hurricanes (like the US CIA) "

But at the same time there is much positive change going on. To take just one positive example (in part by researchers and some free market dynamics and limited government support), just look at how power from solar panels is now (or soon) about a cheap as power from coal. When I was a boy in the 1970s in the USA, everyone was afraid of social collapse from running out of oil. While some still fear that, anyone who looks at the falling prices of solar PV since the 1970s knows that "Peak Oil" is not going to be a civilization destroying event like we feared back then.

As another example of positive change (in part by some government regulation, especially at the state level), back then, rivers in the USA would catch fire! That does not happen in the USA now due to decades of progress from the environmental movement (even if China now has a similar environmental problems).

Before that, in the 1930s, Pittsburgh had air so choked with coal smog that the buildings were blackened and people suffered and died from the bad air, which is such a change from the Pittsburgh of today (even if China is repeating some of the same mistakes, but also now working to correct them). Some pictures are here:

This one shows a Pittsburgh building being cleaned, and you can see how dirty they were:

Or as another example, when I was a boy, the "Russians" were the enemy. They were evil. The Russian people were trapped and unable to communicate with the outside world. It is hard to explain how much the USSR was feared and hated and despised and pitied in the USA decades ago. We were all ready to blow up the world with nuclear weapons rather than have any Russian influence spread ("Better dead than Red"). Decades later a Russian emigre graduate professor taught me advanced math (a person who had learned math helping his father design missile guidance systems to target the USA). Americans are learning from Russian medical breakthroughs like with phage therapy for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We have an international space station together and Russian rockets put Americans into space. My own kid now plays "World of Tanks" alongside Russian citizens on the WOT test server, working together with Russians and communicating as allies (granted, against another team of mixed-nationality players). Star Trek presaged this in the 1960s, with Chekov on the bridge of the Enterprise. We even now have instant translators of languages (to some degree), something that was just sci-fi back in the 1960s

Of course, sadly, now and then people beat the war drums that China is the implacable "enemy". That was ramping up just before 9/11/2001, but then suddenly went quiet for a time after 9/11. Or now its essentially the whole Muslim world or maybe Afghanis or Iraqis that is the "enemy" (ignoring how most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally, who the US president just visited with the change in king).

Another example is a bi-racial person becoming President of the USA. Granted, his politics are mostly just more of the same old corporatism, but such an election result would have been unthinkable to most US Americans in the 1950s (let alone his parent's marriage being illegal in the USA in some places and times).
"Anti-miscegenation laws or miscegenation laws were laws that enforced racial segregation at the level of marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races. Such laws were first introduced in North America from the late seventeenth century onwards by several of the Thirteen Colonies, and subsequently by many US states and US territories and remained in force in many US states until 1967."

So, even as since the 1970s (or before) the USA has gotten worse in some ways, it has gotten better in others. And we still have a long way to go, including an unending struggle as previous hard-won rights like "overtime pay" are chipped away until they (hopefully) get restored.
"Should IT Professionals Be Exempt From Overtime Regulations?"

Here is a book with more optimism:
"Blessed Unrest"
"A leading environmentalist and social activist's examination of the worldwide movement for social and environmental change
    Paul Hawken has spent over a decade researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice.
From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people's needs worldwide.
    Blessed Unrest explores the diversity of the movement, its brilliant ideas, innovative strategies, and hidden history, which date back many centuries. A culmination of Hawken's many years of leadership in the environmental and social justice fields, it will inspire and delight any and all who despair of the world's fate, and its conclusions will surprise even those within the movement itself. Fundamentally, it is a description of humanity's collective genius, and the unstoppable movement to reimagine our relationship to the environment and one another."

Comment: Thanks for the first-hand perspective on old China (Score 2) 103

by Paul Fernhout (#48929735) Attached to: Snowden Documents: CSE Tracks Millions of Downloads Daily

See also, for an old German example:
"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. ..This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter. ... To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it -- please try to believe me -- unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measure"â(TM) that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head. ..."

That said, every country is different, with different strengths and weaknesses in different situations. It is not clear how it all will play out in the USA. Like Howard Zinn wrote in 2004, on "The Optimism of Uncertainty":
"In this awful world where the efforts of caring people often pale in comparison to what is done by those who have power, how do I manage to stay involved and seemingly happy? I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning.
    To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. What leaps out from the history of the past hundred years is its utter unpredictability. This confounds us, because we are talking about exactly the period when human beings became so ingenious technologically that they could plan and predict the exact time of someone landing on the moon, or walk down the street talking to someone halfway around the earth.
    Let's go back a hundred years. A revolution to overthrow the tsar of Russia, in that most sluggish of semi-feudal empires, not only startled the most advanced imperial powers, but took Lenin himself by surprise and sent him rushing by train to Petrograd. Given the Russian Revolution, who could have predicted Stalin's deformation of it, or Khrushchev's astounding exposure of Stalin, or Gorbachev's succession of surprises? Who would have predicted the bizarre shifts of World War II-the Nazi-Soviet pact (those embarrassing photos of von Ribbentrop and Molotov shaking hands), and the German army rolling through Russia, apparently invincible, causing colossal casualties, being turned back at the gates of Leningrad, on the western edge of Moscow, in the streets of Stalingrad, followed by the defeat of the German army, with Hitler huddled in his Berlin bunker, waiting to die?
    And then the post-war world, taking a shape no one could have drawn in advance: The Chinese Communist revolution, which Stalin himself had given little chance. And then the break with the Soviet Union, the tumultuous and violent Cultural Revolution, and then another turnabout, with post-Mao China renouncing its most fervently held ideas and institutions, making overtures to the West, cuddling up to capitalist enterprise, perplexing everyone. No one foresaw the disintegration of the old Western empires happening so quickly after the war, or the odd array of societies that would be created in the newly independent nations, from the benign village socialism of Nyerere's Tanzania to the madness of Idi Amin's adjacent Uganda.
    Spain became an astonishment. A million died in the civil war, which ended in victory for the Fascist Franco, backed by Hitler and Mussolini. I recall a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade telling me that he could not imagine Spanish Fascism being overthrown without another bloody war. But after Franco was gone, a parliamentary democracy came into being, open to Socialists, Communists, anarchists, everyone. In other places too, deeply entrenched dictatorships seemed suddenly to disintegrate-in Portugal, Argentina, the Philippines, Iran. ...
  Consider the remarkable transformation, in just a few decades, in people's consciousness of racism, in the bold presence of women demanding their rightful place, in a growing public awareness that gays are not curiosities but sensate human beings, in the long-term growing skepticism about military intervention despite brief surges of military madness. It is that long-term change that I think we must see if we are not to lose hope. Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act. Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society.
    We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory. "

Comment: Re:Getting Greece to be 99% self-sufficient (Score 1) 327

Many economic models are possible (including subsistence, gift, exchange, and planned, or a mix). The choice depends what sort of society you want and what your priorities are and what your cultural history is. For example, "Palace Economies" and "Water Empires" have lasted for centuries:

I'm not holding central planning as an ideal though. What I write was that at one extreme, one can imagine a reasonable well-planned society that supplies the necessities of life to everyone for essentially no labor needed, leaving everyone lots of free time to do other stuff (including make more things for themselves, raise children, hang out with friends, participate in politics, whatever). There are societies like the ancient Incas that were modeled around this for centuries (explained in the Palace Economy Wikipedia article). It worked for many people for lots of time.

Even the USSR economy "worked", but with lots of problems, including the USA trying to undermine it. If the USSR had not "worked" for decades, why was the USA so afraid of it?

One question to ask is, for most people, is what we have now as a "free market" (although we don't; it is more corporatism and oligarchy), especially in a place like Greece suffering from economic turmoil, better than this planned model, especially given today's materials and automation and so on?

The fact is, so much of our economy is "planned" in so many ways in advance. How many people are involved in deciding what the next iPhone looks like, for example? Granted, it Apple guesses wrong, it may make less profits -- although Apple is a bit of a monopoly in a sense at this point as a close system of apps and such, so almost anything not terrible will sell to the Apple faithful.

However, there are other models people may like better for various reasons.

Imagine, for example, an economy where everyone used the "like" button on Facebook to control what goods would be produced. Limit the number of "likes" per person and you essentially have an economy directed by individuals with a "basic income".

I also wrote there that at another extreme, "... we could have a freewheeling diverse gift economy of local open manufacturing...".

The internet has many aspects of a gift economy. Coupled with improved 3D printing for local on-demand production, this may totally transform our economy, since even if it is hard for a planned economy to get right how many blue shoes people, it is much easier to plan to ensure everyone has a certain amount of raw materials for their 3D printers and enough electricity to run them (or 3D print solar panels or maybe someday cold fusion devices).

What would you object about, say, a plan to create a FOSS commons of free designs and to put a (futuristic, multi-material) 3D printer in every home with enough material and power to use it to print a wide range of consumer goods from shoes to car parts to solar panels? With food supplied from mostly automated indoor agriculture? What is wrong about that as a a baseline from which people could build from in a troubled Greece? Or, what is wrong with the idea, except, of course, that it might put a lot of current industries out of business and change the balance of power in Greek society (and Europe) back to the average citizen?

The Debian project is a bit like an economy controlled by email and IRC chat messages. :-) Mixed with a gift economy. And also exchange with paid workers like at RedHat working on init stuff -- unfortunately pushing stuff like systemd perhaps so RedHat can take over Linux and profit from that as suggested by someone else in such discussions on Slashdot?

There can be many virtues to the market in delivering goods people think feel want. I say "feel" because of advertising. Some people also get addicted to drugs after a drug pusher gets them to try "free" samples; it's not clear how "free" that is.

Also, a "free market" in practice needs to have regulation and transfer payments. For more ideas on that, see:
"Most importantly for our purposes, markets can be reconstructed to make it possible to plan for a more egalitarian economic future. It turns out it is possible for strong governments to use the market system for planning. Once it is realized that markets can be viewed from a governmental point of view as administrative instruments for planning, it can be seen that with a little reconfiguring they can serve collective purposes as well as the individual consumer preferences trumpeted by conservative free market economists. In this form of planning, the information is supplied by the price system that is so central to the considerable, but far from perfect, efficiency brought about by markets. ... There is thus no need for one big planning apparatus. Instead, the planning tools within a reconstructed market system are simply taxes, subsidies, government purchases, and regulation."

It's true planned economies could be done badly. But the same is true of free markets in practice, given monopolies, wealth centralization, regulatory capture, lobbying and (legal) vote buying by the wealthiest, and a host of other potential problems.

When a country runs out of tear gas, isn't that a hint that it is possible for something to go wrong seriously with a market leaving many people unhappy? What went wrong (in a deep way)? How can it be fixed? There are lots of options...

Comment: And it got started with the Flexner Report in 1910 (Score 1) 141

by Paul Fernhout (#48920317) Attached to: Young Cubans Set Up Mini-Internet
"The Flexner Report[1] is a book-length study of medical education in the United States and Canada, written by Abraham Flexner and published in 1910 under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation. Many aspects of the present-day American medical profession stem from the Flexner Report and its aftermath.
    The Report (also called Carnegie Foundation Bulletin Number Four) called on American medical schools to enact higher admission and graduation standards, and to adhere strictly to the protocols of mainstream science in their teaching and research. Many American medical schools fell short of the standard advocated in the Flexner Report, and subsequent to its publication, nearly half of such schools merged or were closed outright. Colleges in electrotherapy were closed. The Report also concluded that there were too many medical schools in the USA, and that too many doctors were being trained. A repercussion of the Flexner Report, resulting from the closure or consolidation of university training, was reversion of American universities to male-only admittance programs to accommodate a smaller admission pool. Universities had begun opening and expanding female admissions as part of women's and co-educational facilities only in the mid-to-latter part of the 19th century with the founding of co-educational Oberlin College in 1833 and private colleges such as Vassar College and Pembroke College. ...
    Flexner viewed blacks as inferior and advocated closing all but 2 of the historically black medical schools. His opinions were followed and only Howard and Meharry were left open, while 5 other schools were closed. His perspective was that black doctors should only treat black patients and should serve roles subservient to white physicians. The closure of these schools and the fact that black students were not admitted to many medical schools in the USA for 50 years after Flexner has contributed to the low numbers of American born physicians of color and the ramifications are still felt more than a 100 years later. ..."

What has happened recently though to address the shortage of doctors in the USA is that Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants are doing more of the hands-on work, and new careers like health coaches are showing up, knowledge about nutrition (the basis of health) is spreading through a variety of sources and practitioners from chefs to nutritionists to writers and movie makers, and we are all turning to the internet more for health care advice...

Doctors are becoming more and more like technicians controlling a prescription pad in the process -- which is sad for a bunch of reasons. As Dr. Fuhrman says, many prescriptions are just "permission slips" for continuing bad behavior including eating poorly.

And some specific specialties like oncology and cardiology are being called scams...
"Scientific Studies Show Angioplasty and Stent Placement are Essentially Worthless"
"Exposing the fraud and mythology of conventional cancer treatments"

"From Marcia Angell:
        "The problems I've discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.""

Programmers used to batch environments may find it hard to live without giant listings; we would find it hard to use them. -- D.M. Ritchie