Thursday, April 29, 2010

What happens to "drill, baby drill" now in light of the BP Gulf disaster?

Well, the following clip from MSNBC just covers the effect of the BP oil spill on fisheries around the Louisiana Coast, and the effect on the food chain (and the “Fertile Fisheries Crescent”). Higher level animals, even cetaceans like dolphins, could be affected. CNN is now reporting that the spill could actually reach as far east as Mobile. Compared to the Exxon Valdez, there seems to be no end in sight.

What happens to the arguments for off-shore drilling (drill, baby drill) now?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NBC Nightly News has fun with Senate hearings in Goldman Sachs

NBC Nightly News played the sadism game itself tonight with Brian Williams, showing many clips from the Senate hearings about Goldman Sachs, with chairman Lloyd Blankfein taking the biggest heat. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) repeatedly interrupted him with questions laced with expletives. Reuters has a story on MSNBC by Steve Eder and Dan Margolies here.  The session went on for 10-/12 hours and sounded like "Fun with Dick and Jane", R-rated style.

Blankfein characterized himself as a “market maker” and it was not up to him to tell investors what to do. I don’t know what he thinks of financial planners.  He tended to evade questions that the company bet against its clients and indicated that it was good for its clients.   Another executive "regretted" the emails, on how to sell "junk" that he sent.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New York, California consider ditching seniority rules with teacher layoffs; the whole system would discourage "career switchers"

The issue of teacher layoffs was given front page billing in the Sunday New York Times, April 25. Jennifer Medina has a story “With teacher layoffs coming, battle turns to seniority rules”. On line, the title is “Last teacher in, first out? City has another idea”, link here.

New York City is planning for 8500 teacher layoffs, and both New York and California legislatures have bills allowing teachers to be retained on performance, rather than seniority.

If communities were to continue to depend on a seniority system for teachers, it would be much riskier for people in mid-career to invest in teacher certification with “career switcher” programs that were being widely touted at the beginning of 2003.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Many law professors call AZ immigration law "dead on arrival"; states cannot take up federal powers

Is the Arizona law, making it a crime against state law to be in the country illegally and that requires immigrants to “carry papers” unconstitutional?

Jeffrey Toobin of CNN hinted that on Friday night. The Wall Street Journal blogs, in an article by Amir Efrati, seem to concur. States cannot have their own foreign policies, and cannot pass their own legislation to implement federal law. The WSJ url is here. Several major law professors said that the law was “doa” and would never go into effect.

Still, states can pass laws to enhance public safety from a more generic viewpoint.

Arizona governor Brewer (R) says that the federal government has “refused to fix” the problem in her speech. But she wears that racial profiling will not occur.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of University of Phoenix in Pheonix.

Update: April 28

In Texas, state representative Debbie Riddle has introduced a similar bill. The story by Emily Friedman on ABC News is "Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle Introduces Similar Anti-Immigration Bill as Arizona's; Riddle Says Her Proposed Bill Is Not Racially Motivated", link here.

Update: May 26

Check this NBC story by Alex Johnson and Glenn Counts, "Facing deportation for stopping crime: Local police enforce immigration laws, leave many in limbo", link here.  The html title says "he did the right think and faces deportation".  Abel Morino reported an assault to police in Charlotte NC, and now police are required to report him to immigration, where he could get deported back to Mexico.  What happened to "see something, say something"?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

NYTimes has major piece on underground coal mining safety

Whereas recently the Obama administration and EPA clamped down somewhat on mountaintop removal, the dangers of underground mining have gotten much more attention recently because of the recent Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion in Montcoal, West Virginia, Massey Energy (United States Mine Rescue Association report (web url) here ).

The New York Times has a major front page story April 23 by Dan Barry, Ian Urbina, and Clifford Krauss, “Dealing with the dangers of coal: Safety practices differ sharply at 2 Appalachian Operators”, with a comparison between Massey and TECO in Hazard, KY. Both mines are non-union. The link for the story is here.

There is a slide show including a picture of a mancar taking workers into the mine.

Remember, in the film “October Sky”, back in the 1950s, future rocket engineer Homer Hickum has to deal with his coal miner father , who insists he remain "loyal" to his family and his town, and follow his footsteps as a coal miner, a job which Homer already sees as self-sacrificial and dead-end. At one point, when his dad gets hurt, Homer has to drop out of school and work in the mines (although the older brother insists that going to work his "my responsibility").

Friday, April 23, 2010

An argument against slavery reparations, and a bit of a surprise

Back in the 1990s, I remember occasionally hearing arguments for reparations for past slavery. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times on April 23, “Ending the Slavery-Blame Game”, link here

I do recall the book and movie “Amistad”, which I saw in Minneapolis in 1997 shortly after moving there, as I was becoming active there in libertarian circles. Gates says that 90% of those eventually placed on slave ships were actually captured by other Africans, without whose complicity the slave trade could not have occurred on the scale that it did, driving so much of American history as we learn it in school.

That, he says, certainly affects the arguments for reparations.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Parallel parking: if you aren't good enough at it, you can get a ticket -- a "public safety" issue? a "recession" issue?

Well, here’s a good one for “public safety”, probably not rising to Oprah’s concern about texting or even talking on cell phones hands free while driving.

Yesterday, in Princeton NJ, I had to parallel park on the main street, and couldn’t easily get completely in the lines. When I came back from the campus 20 minutes later, a police officer was writing a $40 ticket for “parking outside stall”. That means, not close enough to the curb.

I’m not good at parallel parking, and rarely have to do it. But in 40 years, I’ve never gotten a ticket for this before, not even in the District of Columbia, which is supposed to be so strict. I suppose some states, like Massachusetts, are probably stricter about this than even many towns in New Jersey. (In fact, a Bing search shows that some towns on Long Island, NY charge $90 for a stalls ticket.)  It makes some sense from a safety point of view. If the car isn’t close enough to the curb, the next car has to jut out just a little more to pull out, or the driver (me) getting out of the car runs a slightly greater risk of being struck.

Most states require a parallel parking demonstration as part of a first-time driver's license test.

The stuff I find online suggests you don’t have to pay out-of-state parking tickets unless you return to the state. In these days of FICO scores, that doesn’t sound smart. Any municipality could easily turn over an unpaid out of state ticket to a collection agency. I used to work for such an agency.

Is this a bona fide "public safety" issue, or more a matter of municipalities looking at every way possible to balance the budget with fines -- even from visitors.

Update: April 23

Check this story from WJLA about Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty and school chancellor Michelle Rhee about unpaid parking tickets, "Fenty, Rhee Owe Hundreds of Dollars for Parking" by Malachi Constant, link here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New York State looks at simplifying teacher certification, allowing alternate programs

I’ve covered before the growing interest in reducing the “education-course-specific” requirements for teacher licensure, and the New York Times ran a story by Lisa W. Foderaro on the effort to do so in New York State on April 19, link here.

New York is one of several states that actually requires a masters in education in a some time period for teacher certification. But the New York State Board of Regents is looking at allowing alternative programs, such as Teach for America, to create their own work-study graduate programs that would allow candidates to earn more money while gaining their degrees.

There is more concern now with the practical issues in classroom management and interacting with students, such as the use of eye contact, discipline, class participation, and when teachers should expect students to give more complete answers in classroom exercises.

I can remember from the early 1960s that students in New York used to worry about Regents exams, much like SOL’s under NCLB today.

Picture: near the "Yankee Stadiums" in the Bronx on 161 St

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day on Washington Mall opens, with NASA offering an interesting "short film" as a java application you can download

Today I also visited the semi-opening of the Earth Day exhibit on the Mall in Washington.

The most interesting working exhibit was the NASA Tent Cinema, where a scientist from JPL in California demonstrated a “film” from a Max Computer running an application called “Eyes on the Earth”, in Firefox.

The visitor can download this application from NASA on either the Mac or PC presumably in any major browser. I did it in Firefox, which had been updated with the latest java yesterday (you have to download the viewer before the data loads, but the website doesn’t say that). The website URL is this.

The “film” shows the “gravity density” of various portions of the earth as viewed by triangulating between two satellites. The film shows how rainfall varies in various basins such as the Amazon, since water is relatively dense (remember chemistry class?) The film shows how, with gravitational analysis, we can determine that the Greenland ice cap is melting with disturbing speed.

By the way, on the way home, I noticed this interesting sign on Metro, which did not want to name another famous subway system. (I also saw transit workers on the tracks at Rosslyn, something I’ve never seen before.) Why don’t they set up the Smart Card so it works on multiple transit systems?

2nd Amendment Rally held near Washington Monument today, another near Reagan National Airport

I did go to the “Second Amendment Freedom” rally on the “opera stage” area next to the Washington Monument this morning. Weapons were not allowed, but reportedly people could take them to another rally at Gravelly Point in the Potomac River in Arlington, ironically just north of Ronald Reagan National Airport. My "snazzy" mountain bike is broke and was in no condition to make that trip (with “Adventuring” I’ve ridden from Gravelly to Mount Vernon), so I went in to the “safer” rally.  And this is "Patriot's Day" in many places (like Boston). It is also an anniversary of Oklahoma City, and Waco (1993 -- I heard Pat Buchanan describe the final conflagration on the car radio as it happened).

The Arlington rally was possible because Congress recently passed a law allowing visitors to land under control of the National Park Service to carry weapons in some circumstances, in some states (including Virginia). Congress may gut what remains of the District of Columbia's gun laws when it passes a voting rights reform law.

I heard a woman from Texas describe the loss of her parents to a home invasion a number of years ago, before Texas reportedly liberalized concealed carry laws. The rally was attended by several hundred people, mostly sporting signs making the usual libertarian arguments for respecting the Second Amendment as an individual right (rather than the right to belong to a militia, as sometimes viewed in colonial times – we’ve covered the legal arguments on that point before).  I know of a case where a gay man owning a home in the Capitol Hill area of Washington thrwarted a burglarly because he was armed at home, probably illegally at the time (in the 1990s).

I do recall attending a LPVa convention on a Saturday in May 1995 in Richmond (and a similar one in Manassas in 1996), and the Second Amendment and the IRS were the two biggest items on the agenda.

Some one (from LPVa) said, the rally might not mix well with Earth Day across 14th Street.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldman-Sachs subprime "aggregation" scandal affects ordinary people and retirees

MSNBC and NBC Nightly News have a diagramed explanation of the SEC complaint of subprime fraud against Goldman-Sachs, which sounds like an answer to an essay question of a B-school final exam. In general, the scheme has a lot to do with how securities were aggregated and packaged and then deliberately shorted.

What followed was an explanation of who gets hurt: Bond holders in general, fixed income security holder, largely retirees, and public employee pension funds.

Some of these concerns show up, at least indirectly, in an AARP Magazine (May June 2010) article by Lynn Brenner, “How bonds can bite”, link here. The article explains the three components of bond risk: (1) default (2) interest rate (3) inflation risk, and how interest rates are inversely related to prices. Arguably, the Goldman-Sachs fiasco can affect the stability of many previously safe bond funds.

Check the New York Times, Business Day, April 17, Joe Nocera, "A Wall Street Invention that Let the Crisis Mutate" (link). He describes "investment structures -- synthetic CDO's, they were called -- that were primed to blow up. They did so, reportedly, because some savvy investors wanted to go short on the subprime market" especially as mortgage companies started to run out of new customers to sell to (even before existing loans started to balloon out of control).  Totally unsustainable.

Federal judge strikes down National Day of Prayer on First Amendment grounds, but ruling does not take effect now

Judge Barbara Crabb of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled April 15 that the “National Day of Prayer”, as currently implemented (36 USC #119), violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. A summary of the opinion is available from the American Center for Law & Justice, (web url) here. The ruling will not affect the National Day this year since it does not take effect until appeals have been heard.

The case is “Freedom from Religion Found. V. Obama”, case 08-cv-588. The plaintiff’s website is here.  and has an enormous number of press releases for Apr. 16.  Ronald Reagan Jr. is one of the organization's supporters.

Josh Rosenau has an interesting post about the case on “Science Blogs” here.

Texas city brings back corporal punishment in school system

The city of Temple, Texas (near Fort Hood) has brought back corporal punishment as an option in the fourteen schools in its district, according to a story Friday April 16 by Michael Birnbaum, “Texas city revives paddling as it takes a swat at misbehavior,” link here.

Only administrators can wield the rod, and it’s been used only once so far, but the school district says that behavior has improved. It’s curious that the story focuses on classroom behavior problems in high school.

As I indicated on my main blog (especially the July 25, 2007 entry) I experienced a lot of discipline problems in middle school, but rarely in high school, but in one case the influence of gangs drove me out. Paddling hardly sounds relevant; suspension and police arrests do.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

NYC: World Trade Center reconstruction slower than had been expected

The World Trade Center reconstruction in New York is going much slower than had originally been expected back in 2002. I paid a visit to the site today, including the temporary memorial on Vesery Street. There was a short film there "Coming Back Together" on the rebuilding after 9/11.

One of my screenplay scripts, "American Epic" (2003), has, as a subplot, a lawyer involved in the redesign of the new WTC and memorial.

The "stump" of the new tower is made of red iron (to make it very "disaster proof"), and looks rather curious. It's shaped right now about like the centerpiece  (or kaaba) in Mecca around which the hajj revolves.

There is a viewing balcony from the World Financial Center on the waterfront.

The main web reference right now for the 9/11 Memorial seems to be this.

The curious thing is that Yankee Stadium was duplicated across 161 Street for no reason (I like the stadium as it was in the 1950s), quickly, while the WTC lags. Make sense?

Update: Oct, 17, 2011

Information on tickets for the Memorial as completed by Sept. 11, 2011, for the ten-year anniversary, is here.  I plan to visit soon.  It appears that most days have available passes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Illinois school finds that early morning P.E. raises academic test scores considerably

David Wright and Hanna Siegel have a report on ABC World News Tonight about the role of physical education in raising test scores at an Illinois school, where every day starts with physical education. Physiologists say that early day education starts the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, and claim that student reading and math scores are way up. The link is here. The story title is “Bikes, Balls in Class: How Phys Ed Transformed One School: Flab Is Down, Test Scores Up at Illinois High School That Puts New Emphasis on Physical Education”. The emphasis is on treadmills and individual conditioning as in a spa, not on team sports or fun. It seems that the typical physical education units of touch football, basketball, and softball (may not track and field) are out. No chance for the next Stephen Strasburg to shine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Washington DC schools: Michelle Rhee's accounting "discovery": do fired teachers get their jobs back?

Well, there’s a real flap again about Washington DC school system chancellor Michelle Rhee. She now says she found a budget surplus, early in 2010. As a result of this accounting adjustment, it seems that the shortfall that led to the layoff of 200+ teachers in October was in error.

Will the teachers get their jobs back? Especially the one about to give a lesson on purple potatoes on a Monday morning?

Of course, we know that what Michelle said about the laid-off teachers was not complementary.

Read the blog entry by Valerie Struass, “The Answer Sheet: A School Survival Guide for Parents (and Everyone Else), link here.
Imagine the discipline problems I would encountered as a sub in the DC schools. I was spoiled. Not an authority figure, not a male role model, it seems.

Is it time to get out of stocks again?

Daniel Solin wrote a pseudo-alarmist piece for Daily Finance, “Three Reasons to Get Out of the Stock Market Now” yesterday, here .

The headline caught eyes on Yahoo! yesterday and reminds one of an alarmist interview in early October where Mad Money’s Jim Cramer told Ann Curry on the Today show that stocks could drop 20% in the near future, but look where they’ve gone instead. (The Dow has risen 68% since the low in March 2009). At the time, Cramer told investors they needed a five year time horizon to stay in stocks. (The link to that story Michael Inbar had been here ) Cramer believes that the debt implicit in the bailouts and deficits will catch up with us.

But Solin’s reasoning is that most amateur investors don’t have the expertise to predict stocks without a great amount of risk. They are better off with bonds and money markets.

Early Tuesday morning reports indicate that earnings for the first quarter may not be as good as expected and stops could drop today significantly from Monday's 11000+ close.

Monday, April 12, 2010

MLB Union clauses keep Nats' top pitching prospect in minors until June: a "lesson" about unionism in general?

I’ll get off public policy for a moment and go to sports – where union rules complicate things – and point to stories to the effect that Washington Nationals superstar prospect Stepehn Strasburg, with the 100 mph fast ball, has to spend about seven weeks in the minors so that the Nats can control him for one more year with less money. Steven Henson of Yahoo! Sports has an article “Double-A is the right place for Strasburg”, link here.

He actually gave up some runs in his first AA start, but has also proven to be a “good-hitting pitcher”, an asset in the NL.

He’s due with the Nats in early June. But had he started Opening Day against the powerhouse Phillies, sorry, no 1-0 win. The Phillies are that good.

Strasburg got his first professional baseball win, 6-4, for Harrisburg, at Altoona (near the Horseshoe Bend curve) Sunday. He struggled a bit.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Do "great teachers" make for a social equalizer?

When I was in the Army, there was a private joke that a razor blade was the great equalizer. (Some of you buddies from 1969 who find this post, I was the “Chicken man”.) Well, the Washington Post has an op-ed by Joel I. Klein, Michael Lomax, and Janet Murguia, on p A19, “Teachers: The Great Equalizers”, link here. The online title is instructive, “Why great teachers matter to low-income students”.

Teaching low income students is a very different proposition than teaching AP Calculus or AP Chemistry, which I have done as a sub. (In fact, Arlington County VA televises some of its AP classes on Comcast cable.) It involves much more personal engagement at a gut level, with a degree of pseudo- or substitute parenting. Preparing excellent teachers for these needs involves much more than just new academic tracks in universities.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

US birthrate dips, and do teen pregnancies: it's good news and bad news; demographic winter?

The “Politics & The Nation” secion on p A3 of the Washington Post on April 7 has a major story by Rob Stein, “Nation’s overall birthrate falls 2 percent; Researchers say data support link to poor economy,” link here.

The nation’s overall birthrate dropped by 2% from 2007 to 2008. The drop was larger in some states with bigger economic and foreclosure problems, such as Arizona.

2008 also marked a return to a decline in teenage pregnancy, after a couple of years of increase.

Officials are pleased with the decline in teen pregnancy. A spot on the NBC Today show on April 7 depicted a 15 year old mother (who probably could not be so legally) as having lost her childhood for having 100% responsibility for another human being, because of her acts.

Sorry, but given the eldercare crisis and the tendency in some families to expect older siblings to raise younger ones, that kind of hype (as on the Dr. Phil show often enough) doesn’t tell the entire story. The right wing is probably going to cite today’s report on the drop in overall birthrate (more in higher income populations) as an example of “demographic winter.”

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Underground coal mine disaster could focus more attention on stripmines, mountaintop removal

The media has covered the underground mine disaster since yesterday, but one more point will come up: coal companies may be able to argue that stripmining and even “mountaintop removal” is actually “safer”.  This disaster occurred just days after the government announced new restrictions on mountaintop removal. Coal companies are quick to point out that we depend on the labor of their employees for our lifestyles.

But coal companies here, as with previous accidents, are on the hook for their safety practices. In this case, there is talk that there was an accumulation of methane gas, and there had been multiple safety citations. Some are questioning whether the company should be in business.

I remember that in the film “October Sky”, the young Homer’s coal miner father developed a lung disease, and a brother was willing to go work in the mines because it was his family responsibility!

A mother told her adult son, "I don't want you to ever go back into the mine again", and the son said "This is what I do."  This accident apparently happened with a technique called "long wall mining" where the mountainside collapses into the mine behind the miners.

I also recall back in the 1970s that the Sierra Club had argued that some kinds of underground mining for some minerals, including uranium, would be immoral because it could not be done without taking the lives of workers.

I visited an underground mine in Beckley, W Va in 1991.

Monday, April 05, 2010

"Second method of constitutional amending process" suggested by conservatives to repeal Obamacare!

Once again, conservatives are raising the idea of using “Method 2” of amending the constitution, starting with state conventions, to try to repeal “Obamacare” with a constitutional amendment. You can read all about it in an op-ed by Gary Palmer and Harold See called “Constitutional convention: Another strategy for fighting health care reform law” in the Commentary Section, B, of The Washington Times, Friday, April 2, 2010. The link is here.

The basic contention is that the federal government does not have the power to order people to buy something (outside of a privilege like driving) and many states are trying to override the mandatory purchase requirement as a states rights issue. Similar concerns could come up with new rules for car emissions, which will make cars more expensive again -- but, after all, driving is a "privilege."

Method 2 was tried in the 1970s with a balanced budget amendment, but there were never enough states.

I suppose that the reason for suggesting Method 2 is that Method 1 will never get anywhere in a Democratic Congress.

In my draft of my first book I discussed the call of the People’s Party of New Jersey back in the early 1970s for a constitutional convention, and my proofreader caught the typo “constitutional conventional”!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Utah group quibbles on the words "democracy" vs. "constitutional republic"

Here’s a weird one from Mormon country: some parents in the Alpine School District in Utah County are protesting an announced school curriculum mission statement with the D-word, “democracy”, namely “Educating all students to ensure the future of our democracy”.

But “Utah’s Republic: A Constitutional Right” says that our nation is a “constitutional republic”, not a democracy, and that the term “democracy” implies migration to government-run socialism. Families and communities should take care of their own, in this thinking.

The story by Rosemary Winters in the Salt Lake Tribune is here and it was printed today(April 4) in the “conservative” Washington Examiner on p 30.

Utah’s Republic (link ) has a webpage that explains its version of terminology “democracy” v “constitutional republic”, viz “What is a Republic? Is it a government based on law and elected representatives that examine issues and vote on our behalf. Supreme power resides in the citizens to vote in their representatives.

“What is a Democracy? A Democracy is a form of government where everyone gets a voice on every issue and it always ends in mob rule. A true Democracy only works on a small scale. It is unreasonable to have every citizen vote on every issue, and where this has been practiced in the past, it always destroys the peace of the people.”

It’s interesting that the previous Bush administration tried to sell the idea of “democracy” in Iraq, and for a long time, it indeed saw mob rule.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Brigham Young University in Provo.  My last sojourns in the area: 1981, 2000.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Obama administration orders coal industry to cut back on mountaintop removal

On Friday, April 2, the Washington Post, on p A4, ran a story by David A. Fahrenthold, reporting that the Obama administration has promulgated new environmental guidelines that will scale back the practice of mountaintop removal, a destructive form of strip mining practiced especially in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The link is here.  The story title is “Environmental regulations aim to curtail mountaintop mining.”

Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that most valley fills will be stopped. Most valleys have streams that would be polluted to a now legally unacceptable leve.

The Post story has illustrations that show that reclamation efforts can actually flatten the landscape even further.

The news release from the EPA is here. The title of the press release is "EPA Issues Comprehensive Guidance to Protect Appalachian Communities From Harmful Environmental Impacts of Mountaintop Mining".

Recently, I’ve reviewed the films “Coal Country” and “Burning the Future” on my movie reviews blog; check the “coal issues” label there.

Picture: Reclaimed strip mine along Highway 93 near Mt. Storm, W. Va.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Anderson Cooper takes on school bullying, real world more than cyber

On Wednesday and Thursday, March 31 and April 1, Anderson Cooper’s 360 program covered the problem of school bullying.

The point was made that today the Internet and cyberbullying makes the possibility meaner than it was a half century ago, when the attitude was that everyone had to learn to take some hazing. But many of the incidents in the recent past, particularly in Massachusetts, involved “real world” bullying outside of cyberspace.

Anderson Cooper interviewed Gus Sayer, a superintendent a Phoebe Prince’s school district, last night. Anderson seemed to express a degree of personal outrage at what had happened in two or three recent tragic cases.

The New York Times today (Apr 2) has a front page story on the problem by Erik Eckholm and Katie Zezima, "Extent of the torment was not known, officials say," link here.

I was “bullied” somewhat in junior high school in the 1950s (then grades 7 to 9). I lost my own bearings and in 9th grade made a very inappropriate comment to a classmate who had experienced a seizure in another class. I certainly heard about it afterwards, as I should have (actually, the school nurse called me in and balled me out, starting with “I want this stopped” when I didn’t at first know what she was talking about). I think teenagers (boys and girls both, but in different ways – with girls it is more “relational”) develop a certain callousness, a certain idea of “survival of the fittest” which, as we know, sometimes explodes into history or politics with tragic and globally cataclysmic results.

When I was substitute teaching, there were a couple of bullying incidents in my classes that were beyond my ability to control. One occurred in a special education class (middle school), and I had to call security. Another incident occurred in an eighth grade science class, generally good (80% of the kids did their work well and a number of the kids surely became academic stars in high school and college later – I could tell), but a boy wrote an anti-Semitic comment on a Post-It stickypad and stuck it on a girl. I could not see it happen, but I was banned from the school (it might have happened in the call). Another teacher showed up the next day and said he was there to “protect” a few of the students. The insinuation was that I did not “connect” with a few students enough to serve as an authority figure.

Anderson’s report focused on why the administration looked the other way for so long in these recent cases. Regular teachers in practice have difficulty with the demands of the most troubled students, but in practice some administrations want to “pass the buck” onto subs. I’ve talked about this before, particularly on my “BillBoushka” blog July 25 2007 (use Blogger Profile to navigate).