New Beginning

As of today, I'm now unemployeed. I've been listening to "Free Agent Nation" (thanks Gene) and have enjoyed it immensely. However, we're in the middle of downsizing our home and we (still) need to get a loan to buy our next home so I've been applying to both full time and contract jobs (I have interviews for one of each and a third one which might go either way). No offers yet (both for our existing home nor for a job) so I'm going nowhere fast. However I'll be busy developing a new web presense which I may or may not want to associate with my current ID. Eventually I'll come clean and tie all my internet ID's together but I'm not ready right now.

So I may have less postings for some time but I'll try to comment in other blogs as time permits...


Helicopter Parenting

I've read "Colleges Try to Deal With Hovering Parents" and had a great laugh. After 18, children are on their own. Sink or swim is the test of one's parenting. The goal of parents is to get their children ready for real life by the time they turn 18 (I'm going for 17, since in Texas, that's the age that police will stop taking run away reports).

If they're so concerned, where were they when their little johnny was in k-12? Shouldn't they invest their time and energy before their children are legally adults rather than afterwards?


Myopia and (too much) early reading

Better late than early! Or too little than too much!

I know many homeschoolers who take pride in how early their children have started reading but I see them wearing thick glasses at 5 or 8! People may write it off as a genetic problem but research proves otherwise. There are interesting studies pointed out in an Apr 2005 petition to FDA. Here are some juicy quotes:
Children now spend much of their time focusing on close objects, such as books and computers. To compensate, the eyeball is thought to grow longer. That way less effort is needed to focus up close, but the elongated eye can no longer focus on distant objects.
The argument is about why the rate of myopia is so much higher in east Asia than elsewhere. The conventional view is that people from the region have genetic variations that make them more susceptible. But after reviewing over 40 studies, Morgan and Kathryn Rose of the University of Sydney argue that there is no evidence to support this.
The pair, whose work will be published in Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, use several lines of evidence to debunk the idea that genes can explain the Asian epidemics. For instance, 70 per cent of 18-year-old men of Indian origin living in Singapore have myopia, while in India itself the rate is roughly 10 per cent.
Another study found myopia rates of 80 per cent in 14 to 18-year-old boys studying in schools in Israel that emphasize reading religious texts. The rate for boys in state schools was just 30 per cent.
In another study, researchers at Spain's Complutense University found that 31.3% of first-years were nearsighted. Among those four to six years older, in their final year, the rate was 49%. Research author Dr. Rafaela Garrido, who presented her findings to the 10th International Myopia Conference in Cambridge in July 2004, says:
Some students are spending too long in intensive near work with their eyes. It is also a problem with people who spend too long on a computer or using a microscope. It's difficult to ask students to do less reading, as it is essential to passing courses, but we have to find ways to deal with the stress on the eyes.

One of the saddest realities of contemporary "eye care" is that although there are a few vision specialists with at least a moderate interest in the cause and prevention of myopia, most of their colleagues show not the slightest interest in this work. They continue to claim that no one has ever proven that acquired myopia is not inherited, and that there is therefore no reason to believe that this problem can be prevented. It is difficult to understand how this hereditary theory can still persist in spite of decades of research proving beyond doubt that prolonged close work causes myopia.
Personally, I'm happy to report that my sons 10 & 12 are farsighted, so far. (My wife and I are nearsighted and require glasses.)


Einstein's education

Here's an Interview with Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. on Oct 2004 "Einstein Never Used Flashcards & Thoughts on The Mozart Effect" has some things to say about home education.

But the quote I like the most:
Q: Is there evidence supporting that children in highly structured homes, academically oriented pre-schools, moms and dads doing flash card drills, and educational TV,…. do these kids do better in the long term?

A: There are two pieces of data I’d like to share. Kids who go to academically-based preschools have more anxiety than kids who went to play-based preschools. And even more interesting is that the children who attend academically-based programs do no better in school than play-based children.
The New York Times ran a story Sunday, April 10, 2004. The story revealed what happens to kids who are pushed to achieve in unhealthy ways. Steven Hyman, provost at Harvard and former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said, “By the time we get these young people,” speaking of Harvard admits, “what they bring with them are often very high levels of perfectionism and a kind of fear. It’s not the joyful intellectual exploration that college ought to be about.” So putting kids on the treadmill creates kids less likely to be creative or take risks, or to have a good time with learning. They just don’t feel like they can be playful and joyful with material they’re learning. Colleges are recognizing this now and recognizing that kids are coming to them with burnout!
See what intense schooling can do to a child? College itself, in my opinion, is not much better! (I haven't put together my blog entry yet on college).


Regretting the Bombs

I've found "Blessing the Bombs" to be a great article on how one Catholic chaplain changed from pro-nuking (he blessed the two nukes that were dropped in Japan) to anti-nuke/anti-war. Father George Zabelka wrote:
As a Catholic chaplain I watched as the Boxcar, piloted by a good Irish Catholic pilot, dropped the bomb on Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the center of Catholicism in Japan. I knew that St. Francis Xavier, centuries before, had brought the Catholic faith to Japan. I knew that schools, churches, and religious orders were annihilated. And yet I said nothing.

Thank God that I'm able to stand here today and speak out against war, all war. The prophets of the Old Testament spoke out against all false gods of gold, silver, and metal. Today we are worshipping the gods of metal, the bomb. We are putting our trust in physical power, militarism, and nationalism. The bomb, not God, is our security and our strength. The prophets of the Old Testament said simply: Do not put your trust in chariots and weapons, but put your trust in God. Their message was simple, and so is mine.
The previous paragaph is where I stand now, but here's my background: I was raised in a Protestant denomination that was anti-war but I became pro-war as I became naturalized US citizen (I guess those were the days when I tried to be everything my parents weren't). My political thoughts and beliefs were closely tied to the Republican party from 1985 to 2004. My pro-war, pro-nuking stance started to change as I returned to Japan in 1989 and worked there for 3 years and married a Japanese woman (who was kind of neutral about patriotism towards Japan until she started living in the States). I've moved back with my wife to the States since 1992 and now have 2 sons who are dual Japanese and U.S. citizen. The final break in the straw was when I started reading lewrockwell.com in 2004 and at first enjoyed the economic and pro-homeschooling articles. But then I started reading political (including anti-voting) and even anti-war articles and have changed my thinking in many ways including stopped voting as a Republican during the summer of 2004 and turned anti-war over the past several months.


Public School Morality?

Austin is trying to teach morality in the schools. What are they thinking? Public schools trying to teach "character education" like:
Can you name which "characters" help the government? Or corporations (or both)?

There are two ways to get people to act: by love or by force. Non-religious (secular) government and public schools can only provide force (why do you think we have truancy laws? Because going to school is an act of love? Are you kidding me?).

Moral character can only be developed out of love, consistantly modelled by those they spend the most time with (if not home, who's molding your children's characters)?


Breaking News! Deschooling: Chapter 1 snippet

6PM update below.

I was going to read the whole thing before commenting but I had to blog this part in chapter 1:

Ivan Illich predicts the blog world:
In schools, including universities, most resources are spent to purchase the time and motivation of a limited number of people to take up predetermined problems in a ritually defined setting. The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.
And gives the 1970's version of how to implement such network:
Each man, at any given moment and at a minimum price, could identify himself to a computer with his address and telephone number, indicating the book, article, film, or recording on which he seeks a partner for discussion. Within days he could receive by mail the list of others who recently had taken the same initiative. This list would enable him by telephone to arrange for a meeting with persons who initially would be known exclusively by the fact that they requested a dialogue about the same subject.
Including Voxologisti:
I could conceive of a system designed to encourage meetings of interested persons at which the author of the book chosen would be present or represented
For a non-computer scientist author, he seems like a hi-tech visionary to me.

UPDATE 3PM: Thanks to Athor Pel's comment, here's my thought: how about ebay for education? A community of people get together to discuss and expore interests be it history or politics or science? First thought for me is how can I make money (as I look to quit my current job)? I guess google ads or other web based ads would pay for much of the ongoing costs. More importantly how can this work? I'll post more on this as I ponder on my way home (I have a phone interview to get home to). ...Maybe at my dannytech blog...

UPDATE 6PM: Here's the link: "ebay for education."


Deschooling Society

I've started reading Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society". Sounds like a good start for an unschooler like me and I will write up a review when I'm done. (Thanks Gene for the pointer while commenting on Vox's blog.)


New tech blog

For some time, I've thought about starting a tech blog under different user name (older than dannyhsdad) but I've never really started with it. Now that I have established a decent sort of "presence" with this moniker, I've decided to start a new blog: Danny's Tech or dannytech blog.

Some blog services have the ability to categorize entries so that the reader can check out only one topic, etc. but the problem is that one cannot change links and layouts to have distinct views. Having different blogs allow me to control links and layout appropriate to each topic. We'll see how this works out.....

Hiroshima 60 years

History has been always been rewritten by victors: Nuking of Japan is one example, as the opinion piece "Myths of Hiroshima" points out.

Funny how growing up in the US (from 2nd grade) I was brainwashed into believing the standard American version of the bombing ("needed to stop the war sooner" "save the American troops"). But my views have changed as I got older, living in Japan for three years and then visiting Hiroshima few times since then. Also, being bilingual English-Japanese, I have access to both sides of the "history:" American and Japanese views. And now more than ever before, alternative views are readily available due to Internet -- some call this revisionism but I welcome them all because they allow ME to choose what's true or not, rather than "trusting" some mouthpiece of the government (or big media).

Today, of course, with internet connected cell phones, visual/audio artifacts are a lot harder to hide. But then, as "War Magicians" proves, illusions can be well used to fake out even experienced "intelligent experts" such that we commoners may not even have a chance, no matter how sophisticated our cameras are....

[Full disclosure: I was born in the city of Hiroshima (20 years after the nuking) and my father (who lived in a different city at the time of the nuking) bears some ugly scars from an American firebombing so my views above may be a little bit biased :-) (minor edit @ 12:54PM)]


MS-13: just another threat

Michelle Malkin makes a big deal about Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a problem of illegal immigration but I've been largely ignoring it since I thought that they were just another gang. After watching tonight's Nightline program, I've changed my mind: they are not your "low IQ gang" but well organized paramilitary group. They not only have a large, multi-national network of members, but also have intelligence operations: counter surveillance on police surveillance.

So they are better prepared than your typical police. But then FBI and the military are probably better prepared than most police dept. The question is how can people organize to counter any and all such threats, "enemies foreign and domestic," illegal or otherwise?

Precrime 2005?

I read Wired "PC Precisely Predicts Felony" with disappointment more than anything. It's bad enough with Patriot Act but using computers to predict "profiled" crimes gets us closer to Precrime. (For those who don't watch movies, it's the basis of the movie "Minority Report." Maybe the title wasn't meant to be, but I find it very ironic. Profiling and minorities et al. Update 9:35PM: original story was written by Philip K. Dick as a short story -- I've read 1 or 2 of his books but not short stories....)

Anyway, we're taking more steps to The Police State....

Skills: which ones?

Tara of tarastotle blog asked such good questions that I've decided to post my responses as a blog entry:
So, kids don't need to learn math or writing skills and can learn whatever they need to (or what interests them) from the internet and tv? Please tell me you're kidding.
What is the purpose of education? Does writing "skills" make an adult? How much is enough? Sign checkbooks? SMS on a cellphone? Type enough to surf web pages? Most jobs do not require a lot of writing or math. And rarely do you need calculus or differential equations to solve work problems (I've been working 18 years as a programmer and I've NEVER used algebra let alone calculus in my job). I believe that the primary goal of education is for my children to self-educate themselves. Secondary is to teach this ability to others (i.e., the next generation).

On the other hand, the kind of skills I want my sons to have are: be responsible for their actions, respect their elders and be courteous to others. There are no standardized tests for these "skills." (While these skills are sorely lacking in today's society, if you ask me, but I digress.)
This is how we end up with homeschooled kids who can name every Civil War battle but who don't know the first thing about critical thinking or the scientific method.
Personally, I'm not into memorizing stuff since being able to regurgitate facts is not man's highest intellectual ability (we've created tools like index cards, PDAs and Google-connected cellphones).

As for critical thinking or even scientific method, I don't know how you can precisely test and measure these "skills." And even if they have it "down," none of these skills prevent them from lying or faking the results to make themselves look good -- or just plain lazy. See for example, Boston Globe article where about 33% of scientists engaged in questionable research practices or Public Library of Science Medicine found that pharmaceutical companies used peer reviewed journals to their favor or New Scientist report how authors never read the cited papers-- so much for the "scientific method." Unless there is a moral component reaffirmed by an absolute Enforcer, all bets are off and anything goes -- that is, none of these "process" or "skills" don't amount to a whole lot of beans.
I'm all for supplementing learning at home (God knows the French lessons and math workbooks I suffered through)
Just because someone has suffered in schooling doesn't mean other people have to go through the same abuse. At least not with my children, you don't! [My thoughts for my sons: I've gone through these abuses myself, but I'm doing my darnest so you won't!]
but my experience in meeting homeschooled kids is that they have huge gaps in basic knowledge.
This doesn't sound like a scientific statement or even a well studied one. And at first glance I thought it was about public school children -- I've had to reread that sentence over to make sure.

With that said, I ask again: what is the purpose of education? Having "basic knowledge as some authority deems fit?" How is anyone qualified to judge if one has "enough" knowledge but the parents and the society in general? If a person can interact with others in a productive and constructive way, who cares what detailed "knowledge" they have? Just as the marketplace will weed out bad companies, society will "weed out" bad people (be it jail or other forms of isolation).

Let me ask this, dear reader: do you hand out a paper exam to a new person before you start having a conversation? Or ask 20 questions before you start really talking with the caller on the phone? No! You "test" them as you interact in a polite way. That is, you don't give exams to people before you start interacting, and we would all be offended if someone gave us presceening exams. So why should every child go through the abuse (i.e., "testing" for knowledge gaps) you won't tolerate yourself or subject other normal adults to?
That public schooled kids aren't having the opportunity to learn as much has more to do with the requirements forced on them by the federal government than with the supposed ineptitude of teachers.
This statement only looks at one problem with public schooling. Yes, the fed is one problem (unconstitutional, if you ask me). But even if everything was locally controlled, you still have the problem of uninvolved parents, which turns the teachers into baby sitters and even addicted to textbooks. Which no amount of money will solve. The best way, as far as I can tell, is for getting rid of the whole public school system and making the parents fully responsible, again....

News: how schools are destroying the joy of

The news is joy of reading but I think anything educational is killed or beaten or bored out of students.

Here's the culprit:
Teachers who didn't major in science tend to "use textbooks - lean on them - more than better-qualified teachers do," Arthur Eisenkraft[...] The desire of school officials to make courses teacher-proof - to put more faith in bland compendiums than in the skill of teachers - is only getting stronger with the spread of high-stakes state exams.
Seems that teachers are bored so students are too. And doesn't help that the textbooks are filled with errors...


Why profiling doesn't work

The article "Europe Meets the New Face of Terrorism" points out the true problem of profiling: it's only good for teenagers and low "IQ" criminals. As 9/11 showed, terror masterminds are very sophisticated. They don't just keep trying the same formula over and over. Truck bombs haven't been used for some time now: USS Cole attack was with a boat, Madrid was on commuter trains, London was on subways and a bus. And the people went from immigrants to local citizens. Once they start using blue-eyed blond Muslims (like the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh) or Asian Muslims, then all bets are off. (Even the 9/11 hijackers were clean shaven, wearing your typical "western" casual clothing.)

Who are we going to profile now?