Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Essays & Axe Handles

While I do not consider myself to be a particularly staunch proponent of home schooling, there certainly are many children for whom home schooling is an appropriate mode of education, and who, in fact, have done well by it. [If truth be told, home schooling was one possibility explored by our family during a period when several of the Jewish day schools in our area were undergoing upheavals and worse.] Home schooling, then, should be an available option.

[Query: Howcum the government gets all upset whenever a business entity such as Microsoft or AT&T or Standard Oil achieves monopolistic control, but the government insists that it retain the monopoly on education?]

Well, the Subway sandwich shop chain is holding an "Every Sandwich Tells a Story" essay contest for kids. And guess what? "Contest is open only to legal US residents, over the age of 18 with children in either elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted."

This is being blogged by various blogospheric institutions, including but not limited to Home Education Magazine, Michelle Malkin, et cetera. My take on it:

A. During the upheavals associated with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, an Atlanta restaurateur named Lester Maddox brandished axe handles to keep African-Americans out of his dining establishment (which gave Maddox national attention and launched a political career which eventually placed Maddox into the Georgia Governor's Mansion.).

Now, in 2008, Subway cannot discriminate based upon race. But it seems that they now are discriminating against children based upon their parents' decision to home school.

B. If you read Subway's announcement of the contest, you will see that Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine is also complicit in the contest. I am willing to tentatively give P&C Magazine the benefit of the doubt, and say that they may well have been unaware of Subway's rule disqualifying the young kids whose parents have chosen to home school them. Nevertheless, in addition to informing the folks at Subway of our dissatisfaction with their discriminatory policy, cards and letters and faxes and e-mails should also be directed to P&C Magazine.

Contact info for P&C:

Parent & Child Magazine
5th Floor, 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 Telephone: (212) 343-6100 Fax: (212) 343-4801.

The Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Parent & Child is Stephanie Izarek. Her telephone number is (212) 343-6615, and her e-mail is sizarek@scholastic.com [Please pronounce her name correctly; the “I” in her name is a long vowel (”Eye-Zay-Reck”).].

Kyle Good is Scholastic, Inc.’s Vice President of Corporate Communications. His contact info: (212) 343-4563, kgood@scholastic.com .

The Scholastic Media Room Feedback & Comments e-mail contacts are rthomas@scholastic.com, cjohnson@scholastic.com .

Another e-mail address is news@scholastic.com .
Query: Who is judging the contest anyway? Is it the Subway people who have composed the announcement a poster with its several misspelt words? Or is it the educational mavens from Scholastic, Inc.?

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Limits on Protekzia for the Kennedys

Without in any way negating my significant political differences with Sen. Ted Kennedy, I wish him and his family the best of luck in what is, in all likelihood, the beginning of a prolonged and painful struggle with his disease. I take no glee whatsoever in learning of his medical condition. All indications are that he and his family will confront his condition with dignity.

My main gripe about the Kennedy family is that they, too often, get away with infractions which would cause significant legal problems almost for anyone else. But while they can smugly disobey many laws with impunity, the Senator's almost certain struggle will demonstrate, once again, that even Kennedy family members cannot violate the laws of physics, chemistry or biology.

The laws which Teddy got away with violating at Chappaquidick, and which William Kennedy Smith got away with violating in Palm Beach, and which Patrick Kennedy got away with violating while driving drunk one night in Washington -- these are all laws legislated by human beings. But the laws of nature relating to the acceleration of projectiles, the buoyancy of automobiles, aerodynamics, and the toxicity of various chemical compounds are G-d's laws. Not even the Kennedys can get away with violating these!

That being said, my hopes and prayers are with the Senator and his family during these difficult times.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tough Noogies, Ethan!

Ethan Mirenberg was suspended from school. He "forcibly pressed his knuckles against [the] scalp" of his former teacher Sharon Cantante, "grinding them into her scalp and causing her pain." She asked Ethan to cease and desist. Ethan did it again. This was not just a casual social meeting. Ethan entered his former school without permission, walked into Ms. Cantante's classroom while class was in session, and gave her the noogies.

At his due process hearing, the hearing officer recommended a 2-year suspension. The school district superintendent cut down the suspension to 9 months (i.e., the remainder of the 2007 - 2008 academic year.

If the suspension seems a bit harsh, it must be remembered that Ethan Mirenberg had a significant prior disciplinary record.

In any event, Ethan and his parents appealed the suspension. The judge threw out the case, on the grounds that Ethan had not exhausted his administrative remedies.

Now understand that Ethan is enrolled in another school district (for which his parents, in all likelihood, are paying the going non-resident tuition rate).

But Ethan's former lawyer is quoted as saying "What was done to this kid was unfair."

Unfair? If Ethan would have ceased and desisted and left the building the first time Ms. Cantante had politely requested him to cease and desist, then it would all be done! Over with! Closed! Fertig! Finito!

Actually, what was done with this kid WAS unfair -- to the students and teachers in the new school he is now attending.

And, quite curiously, there seems to be no civil tort case filed by Ms. Sharon Cantante against Ethan or his parents -- yet.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Goons and Thugs and Airplanes

I am not particularly a booster of the government of the People's Republic of China. Neither, though, am I ready to follow the crowd with the calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics this summer.

The question that must be asked is whether the world would be better with or without a strong and controlling central government in Beijing. On this one, I am not entirely sure one way or the other. The collapse of the Soviet Union was not without some very troubling consequences because many elements formerly held in line by the strong central Soviet government are now in a position to cause mischief in the world. Can you say "Azerbaijan" or "Chechnya?"

When the Tibetans were in control, they were certainly not a benign governing power over the peoples they dominated. What would a Tibetan government free of Chinese domination do? The so-called Central Tibetan Administration, which is the Dalai Lama's political apparatus, has been quite cozy with the Muslim Uyghurs. Would such a regime be an effective obstacle to the international terror organizations?

I remember when all of the freedom-loving liberals were screaming for the overthrow of the Shah of Iran. Well, the rest is history. The Shah was deposed, and they got Khomeini, and with him, a regime far, far more oppressive and dangerous than anything under the Shah.

The Beijing government may well be, as CNN's Jack Cafferty observed, "basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." Regardless of whether or not they are, maybe we shouldn't be so quick to promote a CTA-led state in East Central Asia.

The Olympics are not the only Chinese entrée in the news. From the Associated Press today: "China Establishes Company to Make its Own Jumbo Jets."

Given the well-known Chinese industrial cultural norms of slipshod quality control practices, denial that problems exist, and falsification of records regarding quality and origin of parts, they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Successful large-scale aircraft manufacture requires a different type of management than most other industries. Given the need to continually innovate in the manufacturing process and update the specifications, all of America's major aircraft manufacturing operations have long used the so-called "matrix management" style, which approaches the process from both a project management standpoint and a technical specialty standpoint. This effectively means that the group leaders, if not the individual employees, have dual formal reporting relationships, which might grow even more complex if more than one technical specialty is involved.

And once they build their first aircraft, they then will have the problem of having a viable supply of spare parts. What about the quality controls for those spare parts?

Which brings us back to the 2008 Olympics. As noted by Ross Terrill in his Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, 22 August 2007, page 19, "In Beijing, Orwell Goes to the Olympics":

"Banished from Beijing for the Olympics will be not only fractured English, but disabled people, Falun Gong practitioners, dark-skinned villagers newly arrived in the city, AIDS activists and other 'troublemakers' who smudge the canvas of socialist harmony."

In a culture where appearances are paramount, and where problems are buried under the carpet or otherwise denied, how will the problems and issues that inevitably arise in the course of aircraft manufacture and support be dealt with? And how will this affect the quality of the aircraft that they build?

I only hope that in America, the Federal Aviation Administration will be more forthright than the Chinese when it comes to confronting the aircraft quality issues.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Close Down the City on Sharpton!

The news headlines here and here are that Al Sharpton was arrested for disorderly conduct. For the past week or two, Fat Al has stated his intention to shut down New York City. To be sure, Sharpton's arrest was relatively peaceable, and he was released after about 4 hours.

My comment: They ought to grant Sharpton his wish! The next time he and his followers engage in "civil disobedience" and get arrested, they should be taken to the precinct house or such other facility as can hold them. And then, the NYPD should shut down!! Before Fat Al and his boys and girls can be processed!! And before they can be provided food or water during what would have to be a very long wait in the holding cells!

If Sharpton wants to shut down New York City, then give the man his wish and shut down the city on him and his followers!!!

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