And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market-
(from the poem, Perfection Wasted)
Archive for January 2009
And another regrettable thing about death
As hard as it may seem to give Muammar Qaddafi credit for anything at all he’s right in his op ed remarks about the Israel Palestine conflict. The solution is. as he argues, a single state. Anything else including the American favored two state solution would not bring an end to the conflict.
And as Qaddafi says the two peoples have in the past and are now in the present cooperating in a number of ways. There are more than one million Muslim Arabs in Israel, and they possess Israeli nationality and take a part in political life with the Jews, even forming political parties.
There are Israeli settlements on the Arab West Bank. The Israeli economy is dependent upon Palestinian labor. And, if and when the conflict allows it, there is the constant and necessary exchange of goods and services between two peoples, peoples who are in important respects as alike as two peas in a pod.
Israel, and also Hamas, would do well to read Barack Obama’s inauguration speech of last Tuesday, and in particular ponder these two passages:
“…our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, … power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
…we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself….”
The message to Israel, your power alone is not enough. The message to Hamas, the old hatreds between you shall pass and your common humanity will begin to show through.
OK, it won’t work. Not a solution, but it should be said, even if Qaddafi is the one to say it.
Steven Pinker writing above behavioral genetics in today’s, January 11, NYTimes Magazine says this:
“Behavioral genetics has repeatedly found that the “shared environment” — everything that siblings growing up in the same home have in common, including their parents, their neighborhood, their home, their peer group and their school — has less of an influence on the way they turn out than their genes. In many studies, the shared environment has no measurable influence on the adult at all. Siblings reared together end up no more similar than siblings reared apart, and adoptive siblings reared in the same family end up not similar at all. A large chunk of the variation among people in intelligence and personality is not predictable from any obvious feature of the world of their childhood.”
I’ve always felt if not said that our four children, products of a shared environment, seem to have mostly escaped the influence of that environment in respect to what they are now. In other words, they are now almost entirely themselves, and in only a few, but probably not measurable, ways the products of that shared environment.
So the question is, as Pinker frames it, what is the principal source (sources) of who and what we are? The answer is still and will be, if ever, a long time in coming. The still satisfying mystery of who and what we are remains. And this gives us hope in respect to what we may yet become.
“The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
(Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002)
A new study demonstrates that Boston charter schools significantly outperform Pilot Schools as well as the city’s traditional schools. The study examined state standardized test scores for students of similar backgrounds over a four-year period.
In particular Boston Pilot school proponents, because of the “ambiguous or disconcerting results” posted by the Pilots in the study, need to take a second and hard look at what they created initially in response to Charters. Whatever they did, whatever program they adopted, was clearly not enough.
It’s noteworthy that the Pilot proponents include the school department and the superintendent of schools, the Teachers Union, the Center for Collaborative Education and its executive head, Dan French (a particularly loud and talkative Pilot School champion), and even Paul Grogan, the president of the Foundation carrying out the present study.
And furthermore Governor Deval Patrick’s recently announced public education overhaul program, created in collaboration with Paul Reville, the state’s education secretary, and which would include the creation of new pilot-like “readiness schools,” now becomes highly questionable, and not only because the State has little or no available funding.
In short this study shows that Charters (it was clear to many of us well before the study) have successfully and significantly reduced the achievement gaps between different races and classes, as well as between the inner cities and the suburbs. Most important this study supports the long held position of the Charter leaders that poverty isn’t destiny.
And how have they done this? By holding the kids themselves accountable, by laying on the kids the principal responsibility for their own education. The Charter kids are told there are no excuses for their not learning.
Not the school, not the teacher, but the kids themselves, by being made accountable for their use of their own time, by undertaking longer school days, additional homework, by adopting disciplined behavior in the school and classroom, by accepting shorter summer vacations and more, are learning, and as a result are moving ahead of their peers in less rigorous public school settings.
I read today about Israel’s ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Now remember that the total land area of Gaza, as well as the size of the population, are about the same as the area and population of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Will the Israel ground forces be able, as the air forces were not, to stop the rockets still being fired into Israel? Concluding from our own unsatisfactory, if not failed experiences fighting well-hidden insurgent forces in Mogadishu, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, probably not.
No caves or mountain terrain in Gaza but there are, at least, several hundred thousand cement block structures, mostly places people call home, behind and within everyone of which there may be men and women, children too, with Kalishnikovs, and/or ready to blow themselves up in their enemy’s face.
The causes of Israel’s anger are evident. Editorialists in the developed world have not ceased to point them out. Plenty of reason for both air and ground wars now taking place.
Yet, we remain troubled. For, as we have learned again and again, in the words of Marcus Aurelius: “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
KIPP schools are “no excuses” public charter schools mostly for disadvantaged kids from impoverished neighborhoods of our inner cities. In regard to raising kids’ achievement in class the KIPP program of tough love, including longer school days and a shorter summer vacations, has been enormously successful.
Malcolm Gladwell in his new book, the Outliers, sees KIPP as an example of how we have introduced a “Chinese” work ethic into American inner cities. About how many “rags to riches” stories might we not say the same thing? Nature yes, but also a lot of nurture.
“No one who can rise before dawn 360 days a year fails to make his family rich.
(Malcolm Gladwell citing a Chinese aphorism in Outliers, 2008)
Forever we have been asking ourselves where to draw the line between allowing free reign to individuals in order to promote innovation and growth, and establishing strong central governments in order to insure structure, discipline, security, and an expanding bundle of entitlements.
Russia’s answer turned out to be incorrect, as did those of most failed states. What about Fidel Castro, in this year, 2009, the 50th. anniversary of the revolution? What about his line drawing? Was it well placed?
Even today there are those who say that Castro was good for Cuba. For example, Ignacio Ramonet, the editor of Le Monde Diplomatique. But there are probably many more, both inside (especially in the prisons) and outside (especially in Miami) Cuba who would not hesitate to call his answer bad.
Now there are the two much larger countries, China and India. The one, China, has always tried to control everything. The other, India, seems unable to control anything on a national level, quite powerless to keep thousands of groups and hundreds of thousands of individuals from doing their own thing.
Both China and India are experiencing rapid levels of growth. Now how can this be, in countries so different? Does this mean that rapid economic growth doesn’t depend on government, but on something else?
Will we see at some point in the future that India’s people, having been allowed freedom to develop in any number if ways, will push rapidly ahead and leave China’s people, having been kept in line by an autocratic government, far behind?
Gurcharan Das in an op ed piece in today’s Times believes that the latter is in the cards. How can this be, given the poor condition of India’s roads, its dilapidated cities and the constant blackouts and other such miserable life conditions. A Chinese friend of Das asks, “With all your problems, and without strong leadership to address them, how did you become the second-fastest growing economy in the world? I wonder what will you do if the day ever comes when you do have strong leadership. Our leaders fear the day when your government will get its act together.”
Das says that the answer to his friend’s question may lie in a common saying among Indians that their economy grows at night when the government is asleep.
Here’s a question no one is asking. Which, public health or public education, should receive the lion’s share of tax payers’ dollars? Or are the education of our children and young people and the health care of our citizens equally important, equally deserving of our resources?
Frame the question in anyway you like. Should my aged parents or my children in college be receiving the largest share of my salary? Should my medical insurance payments be higher or less than my property taxes, a good portion of which, if not most, go to supporting the schools?
In any case both health and education costs, in absolute terms and as percentages of our gross national product, are rising. Medical expenditures in 2005 amounted to nearly $2 trillion, about one fifth of GDP for the year.
Total educational expenditures are also rising and in that same year were one half that amount, or nearly $1 trillion, one tenth of GDP.
Together these expenditures make up one quarter of the gross national product, and the consensus is at this time, when Barack Obama is about to take offce, that this is not enough.
The question we’re not asking is how much of our national wealth, all of which is created by inventive and hardworking men and women, can we place in non productive, non wealth producing industries?
No one disputes the importance of health and education for the safety and prosperity of the country. But what are the limits to our expenditures in these two areas? Are there any limits? To listen to the promises of the politicians as well as the claims of the citizens too often it seems there are none.