Thursday, May 31, 2007

Oh The Irony !

As DCF persecutes homeschoolers in CT how ironic that we have a homeschooled boy - Joseph Henares - in the National Spelling Bee semi-finals representing CT!

He is one of the top 15 spellers in the nation at this point!
To get there he had to win a local homeschool spelling bee sponsored by Greater Woodbury Home Educators (GWHE) .. then the CT spelling bee sponsored by the New Haven Register, and then go on to pass the twenty-five written word test
and then he spelled the following words correctly in the beginning rounds of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee:
Round 2: Recommended
Round 3: Sieve
Round 4: Kiddush
Round 5: Furfuraceous
Round 6: Schiavone

He participated in the ESPN broadcast of the semifinals from 10 AM to 1 PM and will be on the ABC broadcast from 8-10 PM tonight, May 31st.

You can also follow his progress by going to the Spelling bee website website and click on the round results.

Go get'em Joseph!

Homeschoolers Under Attack By Department Of Children And Families (DCF) In CT

This article by Jennifer Abel of the Hartford Advocate demonstrates the abuse of authority and downright persecution of homeschoolers and those wishing to remove their children from government schools in CT.

You must read this article. You would not believe how these families are being abused - as if having sick child is not enough to deal with. Approximately 25 families are now facing this type of harassment and heavy handed coercion in CT.

Parents who have had it with the school system and then attempt to withdraw their children - even after filing Notice of Intent forms or writing a letter to withdraw their children from school, are being reported to DCF on trumped up charges of educational neglect as well as other claims in order to prevent them from homeschooling.

To date, about 25 families who have attempted to disenroll their children from public school in order to homeschool them, are now being investigated by DCF. Even if they signed a Notices of Intent, or have written certified letters of withdrawal to the school, it doesn’t matter. The new accepted practice is that a child is not removed from school unless the school says so. 5 families have been substantiated, which means that DCF has found reason to find them educationally neglectful or have made other claims against them. Many are being coerced into giving access to medical records or getting mental screenings, under threat of losing their children. Some families are now afraid to remove their children from school. This is quite disturbing news.

The problems have steadily been getting worse since legislation that would prevent this type of thing has been blocked by legislators like Education Co-Chair Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a Progressive Democrat. Fleischmann has long been a foe of homeschooling families in CT despite his claims of "wanting to help end this problem" when we go speak with him on the issue. As co-chair of the Education Committee he has blocked every attempt to stop these abuses, no doubt working in conjunction with the State Department of Education.

Representative Arthur O'Neill has been an incredible legislator on the side of homeschoolers, and has introduced legislation that would end this abuse. He has garnered much support for us in the chambers, but his bill this year never made it out of committee thanks to Rep. Fleischmann.

Deborah Stevenson has been to the Governor's Office, spoken to DCF officials, spoken to the Lt. Governor's office, the Attorney General's Office, the Commissioner of Education, Legislative leaders, and others in government ... to no avail. They all say the same thing... this is terrible.. this should not happen... we want to help you... And then they do nothing. She has written letters, she has been to hearings, and the governmental abuse continues. She has even been to the police to have school officials arrested for making false complaints, but the police refuse to arrest school officials. Now she's gone to the press.

The opponents of homeschooling in CT, specifically those in the education cartel, have not been able to make restrictive laws regarding homeschooling - so now they are doing everything they can to prevent children from leaving the system.

These actions by the school administrators and DCF are despicable. The schools are using DCF, and their power to remove children from the home or gain custody of children, as a nuclear weapon to prevent parents from withdrawing their child from school.

A few thoughts about how schools are holding children and families hostage.....

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to give them permission to talk to your child’s physician, or be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to agree to their special education plan, or be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to get approval of your curriculum, or you’ll be reported to DCF.

If you try to disenroll from school to homeschool, you’ll have to sign the Notice of Intent, or be reported to DCF. The NOI is not statutorily required. parents are being coerced into signing documents that they are not required by law to sign.

If you do manage to withdraw from school, two years later, you’ll have to sign a Notice of Intent or “register” with the school, or be reported to DCF.

If you do get out, and then you re-enroll in a public school, you’ll find that the school never took the child off the “enrollment books” and gave the child failing grades on his report card for the time he was out! The schools are keeping withdrawn children on their enrollment lists!! and then charging them with truancy!

If you do get out and you sign a Notice of Intent, you’ll have to attend a portfolio review or be reported to DCF. Again attending a review is NOT REQUIRED by law!

Is this the policy adopted by the State Board of Education in 1990? Is this what parents agreed to in 1990? No it isn't.


Those instances happened to real parents just in the past month alone. 25 families are now being threatened with removal of their children for bogus charges of truancy or educational neglect..DCF has substantiated a handful, when these families have done nothing wrong.

The Governor knows this - DCF knows this, the Attorney General knows this, the Education Commissioner knows this, Legislators know this, and no one wants to stop the harassment of parents,even though they have all said to us - this is terrible and should be stopped.

All parents must support the ability to withdraw your children from school without any conditions, threats or reporting of parents to DCF - and government officials say that they also support that ability yet they refuse to act to protect parents from the harassment and the coercion that they are experiencing.

No parent or child is immune from the arbitrary abuses of the school system, especially not when administrators are being encouraged to report families to DCF by the CT State Department of Education. (A charge they will deny).

Parents are ready to sue the state for harassment and coercion... as this has got to stop.

Homeschoolers in CT need to get in touch with Deborah Stevenson and perhaps we need to all show up at DCF offices in Hartford, as 1500 of us did in 2002 to protest restrictive proposed legislation. Perhaps it is time for every homeschooler in CT to express their outrage to their legislators in the CT State Senate and CT State House.

Contact Deborah Stevenson for more information at "info at nheld dot com".

UPDATE: Another homeschooling family was just "substantiated" today; one of the families mentioned in the article.

The Thinking Mother has also blogged about this
issue as well.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Consent Of The Governed

Ever since I began this blog, my son has chided me about the name I chose for this blog. In fact, he has wanted me to change it. His claim is that our government cannot really be considered "Consent of the Governed" because we do not all consent to all the laws that we live by. Interestingly enough, I had a comment a while back, to a post that was unrelated in topic to the comment, by someone who wanted to express that same sentiment.

I want to share with you his comment and my response.
Peter Namtvedt said...

This is not a comment on your most recent blog entry, but on the name of your blog and phrases reflecting it elsewhere: was there ever a real consent to this government? Is such a consent possible? What if the Declaration of Independence had worded it "unanimous consent?"

If true consent is really not feasible, what is it that makes our government legitimate and that makes us liable to obey its laws?

Peter April 14, 2007 3:39 PM

Well ... This is what I replied, in case you missed it.
Ah Peter - My son and I have had this discussion once or twice.. he thinks I should change the name of this blog..because there really cannot be total consent of the governed in a real sense ... LOL..
but read on...

I guess it could be said that the American Revolution was a consent to form this government.. the Founders, and their supporters, clearly desired something different than the form of government that they fled from. And thus, the notion of "consent" is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings, which typified the way things were run in Europe at the time. People wanted to have more of a say in government.

In any case, consent of the governed is a political theory. It is based on the idea that a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is, or ought to be, derived from the people or society over which that power is exercised. To that extent I think we do have some say in what our government does - being a representative form of government.

Do we all agree on all the laws we live by? Surely not..

Some say that consent is given by your desire to remain here and live under the rules we have decided to live by. Otherwise you have two choices really, leave and go live somewhere else (which people do), or try to get the laws changed. So it can be said that as long as we are free to emigrate, and we have voting rights, that consent of the governed is legitimate.

I should probably do a whole blog post on this.. theory versus reality is always interesting to explore.
So I am doing a blog post now about this. It certainly makes for interesting discussion.

There are some good websites which discuss this political theory as it relates to practice and reality. One page says this:
John Locke was a philosopher who lived in England in the late 1600’s. He is especially famous for his writings on how governments should operate. Many ideas contained in the Declaration of Independence can be traced directly to Locke’s writings.

When Thomas Jefferson stated that…governments derive (get) their power only from the consent of the governed, he was almost quoting Locke word for word. Locke believed that every individual person had a right to defend himself and his property. He also believed that people had the right to band together in groups to protect themselves more effectively. According to Locke, that’s what was happening when a majority of people in a community agreed to give up some of their individual power to a government that would protect their lives and property from criminals or other communities. The key was the idea that a vote by a majority of people was necessary for a government to take power for itself. As long as a government did only what it was given power to do, the government was on the right track. The “consent of the governed” was in the government’s hands when citizens elected officials freely, and stayed in its hands as long as those officials did their jobs in a fair and legal manner.

Did the King and Parliament of England have the “consent of the governed” in America? Well, certainly the King had never been elected. Members of Parliament in the House of Commons were elected, but not by persons who lived in the American colonies. This was what angered many Americans—they felt that they had a right to participate in making decisions that affected their lives and property. They also felt that the English government had no intention of allowing them to participate. Since the House of Commons made all laws concerning taxes, the Americans were outraged, believing that they were being taxed without their consent. “No taxation with out representation!” was the slogan used to describe their feelings.

The funny thing is that the Americans frequently taxed themselves both before and after the American Revolution. They even taxed themselves at higher rates than the English in many instances. Americans understood that taxes were necessary for governments to operate—but they expected to be involved in all decisions that affected their lives.

Basically, Locke believed three things:

1. All people have rights.

2. Governments exist to protect people’s rights and property.

3. When governments don’t do their job, the people have the right to begin a revolution and establish a new government.

So, when you have to obey someone else’s rules, you might ask yourself where the rulemakers got the right to make those rules. Do they have the consent of the governed?
Yet another website says this With regard to deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed:
The second question addressed by the Declaration's third self-evident truth is, how should government operate? The answer: by the consent of the governed. Consent means agreement or choice. The government must, in some way, have our agreement, or else it has no "just powers" over us.
Consent has two forms: consent in establishing government and consent in operating government. The first-also called the "social compact "-was well defined in the Massachusetts state constitution of 1780 as an association "by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good."

After the people join together to form a government, they must also give their consent, upon a regular basis, to its operations. This second form of consent arises from the fact that the right to liberty is unalienable. One cannot rightly consent to a government that rules without going back to the people for their ongoing consent. The right to vote and freedom of speech are means necessary to ensure this second form of consent. Thus the Declaration speaks later of a people's "right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only." It denounces the king of Britain for keeping among us "standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures," and for "imposing taxes on us without our consent."

The Founders generally used expressions like "republican" or "popular" government for government by consent. "Democracy" is the term preferred today. The Declaration's third self-evident truth means that what we call democracy is the only fully legitimate form of government. As Jefferson wrote: "the republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind."
The right to vote, to speak freely, to write and express one's views and to participate in government, to assemble freely and to protest are the tools which we use to contribute to how we govern ourselves. Some people also argue that the ability to leave this country is also a tool that people have also used.

When our voices are ignored, and government wrests control from us, curbs our ability to participate and debate, it then travels down the road to Tyranny, as was the case in European monarchies, as well as in Totalitarian regimes. Sometimes apathy leads us to the same place because when people do not participate, then others just move right in and take over completely.

I won't be changing the name of this blog anytime soon. I like the theory of consent of the governed, and while it may not in reality ideally or totally be realized, it is an ideal that strives to insure that everyone's voice be at least counted in making the rules and decisions which we live by, and in some way choose to accept. It also then behooves each of us to be informed of what our laws are, how they can be changed and what changes are being proposed.

I do, however, intend on reading "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty", by Randy E. Barnett, as my son has discussed with me some of Barnett's interesting thoughts on the subject.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Homeschooled Winners

Vocabulary Whiz - 12 year old spelling ace and homeschooler Matthew Evans of New Mexico. Matthew won the National Word Power competition which was sponsored by Reader's Digest. He received a $25,000 college scholarship.

Geography Whiz - National Geographic Bee crowned its latest champion, Caitlin Snaring, age 14. She won a $25,000 scholarship.

Spelling Whiz - If you recall... CT has a homeschooler representing CT in the National Spelling bee.. that will be held Thursday, May 31: LeapFrog will present the Semifinals of the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee live on ESPN from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT. The Championship Finals of the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee will be live on ABC from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. EDT. Good Luck Joseph Henares!

FYI: Of the 286 students who will compete in the National Spelling Bee next week, 36 are home schooled. While only 3 percent of all students in the US are homeschooled, they typically make up 10 to 15 percent of contestants in the national bee. Read more here in Washington Dateline.

UPDATE 5/30/07 : I have great news!!! Joseph Henares, has spelled his words correctly and will be progressing to the fifth round of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. The semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN from 10 AM to 1 PM this morning and the finals from 8-10 PM on ABC 5/30/07.

You may also follow his progress by going to the spelling bee website and clicking on round
results.

Way to go, Joseph!!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Gathering Of Eagles

The Gathering Of Eagles
We come as a gathering of Eagles
We are warriors of sorts every one
We have flown from the far horizons
To rest from our days in the sun
We have spread our wings over oceans
Swept the earth with our gaze
Answered the call to our duty
Given the world our best days
History stands as our witness
To battles we have fought and won
The staff that carries our banner
Is bloodied by the deeds we have done
We left our comrades on foreign soil
Their souls now rest in God's hands
They are the spent generation
Their blood is mixed with the land
Though our feathers are ruffled and gray
The beat of our wings is not stilled
Now we must fly to the end of the sky
To see the dream of peace fulfilled
(c) James W. Ferris

God Bless the USA... and those who have fought, died, or were wounded, while protecting and defending our country and our freedoms.

Friday, May 25, 2007

CT Pandemic Legislation - Is It Anti-Homeschool?


In the wake of Katrina many people turned to homeschooling to educate their kids.. and some never went back to the government schools..
It looks like CT wants to prevent that from happening.. especially as people are worried about things like a flu pandemic.
Neither rain or snow or pandemic, no matter what emergency arises you must still "do school" as the administrators demand it to be done. Seems to me they don't want parents to make their own educational choices in a crisis, but instead will promote doing government school at home, or some other remote location. I think logging into some remote site in order for junior to complete worksheets and "word-finds" might be somewhat low on people's "to do" list when they are fighting for survival. Also, do they honestly think people will have electricity to get their lessons on the Internet or cable TV? But I guess this type of legislation makes the legislature "feel good".

Here is the bill and it is wending it's way through our CT legislature.

It says this:
AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROVISION OF EDUCATION DURING A PANDEMIC OR OTHER CRISIS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (Effective July 1, 2007) (a) The Department of Education, in consultation with Departments of Public Health, Information Technology and Public Utility Control, shall study and make recommendations for developing a plan to provide instruction and other educational services on a remote basis to students in grades kindergarten to twelve, inclusive, in the event of school closings or mass student or teacher absences due to a pandemic or other crisis in the state. The study shall:

(1) Assess how the state's current emergency plans address instructional issues, including the role of state and local education officials in those plans;

(2) Analyze alternative systems for delivering remote instruction to students outside of school facilities, such as through the Internet or broadcast or cable television, along with the technical and infrastructure requirements for each delivery system;

(3) Evaluate the educational issues raised by remote instruction, including the type and duration of the instruction, the state and local agencies and educational personnel involved, the curriculum to be used, the suitability of existing public or private on-line or broadcast educational programs, how students and teachers would interact and how students' work would be evaluated; and

(4) Estimate the cost of providing remote instruction during a pandemic or other crisis and identify sources of funding for planning for and delivering such services.

(b) Not later than February 6, 2008, the Department of Education shall, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, report its findings in accordance with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section and any recommendations for legislation to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to education.
These State agencies simply must have a plan to maintain control over kids' education even during a crisis. Can't have these kids turn to homeschooling in an emergency.. they might not ever go back when things return to normal.

By the way .. homeschooling families did an incredible job pitching in with relief efforts.. kudos to them all! and thanks to Ann Zeise for posting the relief efforts on her website. Even if it is a bit of old news, it's nice to see how many programs were established to help Katrina victims.

Your thoughts on the issue?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Quote Of The Week


"Money doesn't make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger

Congratulations to Jordin Sparks!


This American Idol happens to be homeschooled!

Homeschooling allowed her to focus on her singing career.
Pursuing your dreams while getting an education.. that's what it is all about.

Good for her!

Extra: She even has a Wiki entry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Functionally Illiterate In DC - I Wonder If They Included Congress?


This article reported on a study which was done in the District of Columbia that found that one-third of the people living in our nation's capital are functionally illiterate, compared with about one-fifth nationally. Adults are considered functionally illiterate if they have trouble doing such things as comprehending bus schedules, reading maps and filling out job applications.

Can you imagine? One Fifth of this country is illiterate in this day and age? And how much do we spend on education? How many billions? How many government sponsored reading programs do we have? Is anyone asking whether they are effective or not? or are we just throwing more money at it in hopes of something will work?

The study was done by the State Education Agency, which is a quasi-governmental office created by the U.S. Department of Education to distribute federal funds for literacy services. The study was requested to be done by Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 2003 as part of his four-year, $4 million adult literacy initiative.

The study found that a growing number of Hispanic and Ethiopian immigrants who aren't proficient in English contributed to the city's high functional illiteracy level, which translated to 170,000 people. I don't think they ought to be confusing the issues of recent immigrants learning English as a second language with functional illiteracy. That's just totally misleading, and makes me think that this was inserted as a ploy to get more education funding.

The report says the district's functional illiteracy rate is 36 percent and the nation's 21 percent. The report also found that adults age 65 and older had the lowest literacy score of any group.

The District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which contributed to the report, said the city lost up to $107 million in taxes annually between 2000 and 2005 because of a lack of qualified job applicants. Hmmm.. I wonder if they were counting in those folks over 65 - who may just not be looking for a job at the moment. Somehow I think parts of this study may be flawed.

Another report also cites these statistics:
Nationally, the rate of functional illiteracy is 21%. A study done in 2000 showed a similar rate of functional illiteracy in Great Britain, where over one-fifth of the population -- over seven million people -- were found to be functionally illiterate.

A study done by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development in 2003 compared literacy and numeracy rates in Bermuda, Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States. Among this group, the United States came in fifth out of six. Only Italy had a worse rate of literacy/numeracy.
Looks like clarion call will go out for even MORE education funding in DC, as well as for the rest of the country. The question remains... is the money we are spending on literacy in DC or in the rest of the nation being used effectively on programs that work?

(H/T Leann S.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

OMG!


My 15 year old daughter just finished her English course at Tunxis Community College receiving an A- for the course. Not bad for her first venture into college coursework, and certainly not too shabby for a 15 year old. Her teacher's comment on the final exam essay question read, "This was by far the best piece of writing I have seen from anyone this semester". This was the same teacher who at the beginning of the semester made it quite clear to her, and to me, that he was not going to make any exceptions for her age, and that he expected her to do all work required in the course. She turned out to be his best student.

She liked the course - but hated the Annie Dillard book she had to read..as well as the infusion of liberal politics into some of their discussions.. but she handled it very well.

While working on her high school curriculum, she'll be taking more college courses next semester.... with confidence.

She has always been homeschooled. Homeschooling works. OMG!


Note: OMG - For those of you not in the IPod and Instant Messaging world, that's teen speak for "Oh My God"

Monday, May 21, 2007

Don' t You Just Love Technological Advances?


New fuel for 21st century -- aluminum pellets?

This is so cool.. and I really think hydrogen will be the fuel of the future even though there are some problems that researchers are still trying to tackle, like what would be the most efficient way to produce and store it. But for now researchers have developed pellets made out of aluminum and gallium that can produce pure hydrogen when water is poured on them. According to some scientists, this can offer a possible alternative to gasoline-powered engines.

Jerry Woodall, is an engineering professor at Purdue University in Indiana who invented the pellet system. The reports quotes him as saying:
"The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it," He said the hydrogen would not have to be stored or transported, taking care of two stumbling blocks to generating hydrogen.
Purdue scientists think the current system could be used for smaller engines like lawn mowers and chain saws. They think eventually it would work for cars and trucks as well, either as a replacement for gasoline or as a means of powering hydrogen fuel cells.

On its own, aluminum will not react with water because it forms a protective skin when exposed to oxygen. Adding gallium keeps the film from forming, allowing the aluminum to react with oxygen in the water. This reaction splits the oxygen and hydrogen contained in water, releasing hydrogen in the process. Hydrogen is seen as the ultimate in clean fuels, especially for powering cars, because it emits only water when burned. What is left over is aluminum oxide and gallium. In the engine, the byproduct of burning hydrogen is water. No toxic fumes are produced in the process.

Some of these great discoveries happen by chance.. listen to this:
"I was cleaning a crucible containing liquid alloys of gallium and aluminum," Woodall said. "When I added water to this alloy -- talk about a discovery -- there was a violent poof."
And just think, it could be quite inexpensive to produce as well, according to the article.

The Purdue Research Foundation holds title to the primary patent, which has been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. An Indiana startup company, AlGalCo LLC., has received a license for the exclusive right to commercialize the process.

Congratulations Purdue and Professor Woodall! Now where can one invest?

Carnival Announcement


Dana at Principled Discovery is hosting this week's Gonzo Education Carnival with a theme of "What's The Point?". Do go have a look - there are some great posts there and she even gives a mention to a man who lived in my town.. Noah Webster.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Homeschoolers: Proms And Graduations



Homeschoolers are an independent lot. They do their best to cling to their originality and not get swept up in "what everyone else does". Many have even gone to great lengths not to "replicate school at home". Doing their "own thing" is one of the hallmarks of homeschoolers in general. So where does that leave us when we start talking about homeschool high school as we think about proms and graduations? Does it mean we have to abandon the notion of marking a milestone in our kids lives simply because we don't want to "replicate school at home"?

Over the years there has been much written about this subject in homeschool circles and even in the mainstream media. Even Miss Manners once had a piece about proper etiquette for homeschool graduations. (sorry I don't have a link)

When people think about homeschooling these are serious issues that come to mind: "Will my child miss having a prom? Will my child not get the benefit of enjoying a graduation ceremony? Will my child feel that somehow their teen life is lacking in not participating in school sponsored milestone marking events? Will my child feel like I am depriving them of these things?"

While Miss Manners wrote that only large formal graduation ceremonies done at a school are appropriate for marking these kinds of occasions, I think that we can safely say that is total nonsense. There is nothing wrong, whatsoever, in choosing to have a party and ceremony of your own design to mark a special occasion such as completion of homeschool high school. Additionally, homeschooling families are awfully capable of planning and executing delightful parties that would be the envy of any school prom. I have participated in both.

There are homeschool groups across CT (and indeed the nation) who have put together some wonderful prom parties (minus the sex, alcohol and drugs… thank you), where our kids have had a lovely evening and fond memories to cherish. Yes, just like any other party it takes planning and ingenuity and sometimes some "pull the sleeves up to the elbow" work, and it is wonderful to have parents and their teens work in concert to make it all come to fruition. One thing is clear, one does not need a school gymnasium to make it an official prom!

As for graduations, I can safely say that the graduations that we had for our sons were both wonderful. Home was the most natural place to have an event to mark the closure of home study before going off to the world of college, and even if they weren't leaving home it still would have been very appropriate. For both boys we planned an outdoor Bar-B-Que with family and friends and we made sure to take plenty of photos.

Here is an account of the party we threw for our first graduate, and oldest son. We chose and ordered a cap and gown from one of the many online suppliers, and we printed up a lovely diploma that was presented to him publicly. We played "Pomp and Circumstance" and presented a few short speeches that expressed our love and pride for our son's job well done.

Now, was this "replicating school at home?" I suppose one could argue yes, but because it was so personalized I could also solidly argue, no. I would like to share with you my husband's speech, which read as follows:
When we began homeschooling five years ago, we read in the homeschooling literature, and were told by homeschooling veterans that if we wanted to get free educational materials from publishers or other companies, we had to establish a school name and make up school stationery. They don’t deal with individuals. It took only a few hours of discussion amongst our family and Aron Academy Homeschool came into existence. Aron Academy has the ring of a small private school, yet the Homeschool at the end honestly tells others what we are all about. During this same discussion the children decided that if Judy was the head teacher, “Dad, you must be the principal.” It is in that capacity that I am up here today.

As I present this diploma to David, some of you may be thinking, “Aron Academy Homeschool is not accredited by anyone, that piece of paper doesn’t mean anything!”

I have to agree with you on the first point. Aron Academy Homeschool is not accredited by anyone. But I strongly disagree with you on the second point. This “piece of paper” is much more that a fancy document I produced on my computer. It represents the four years of hard work, study and dedication that it took David to reach this point so that he could have this graduation ceremony today.

Even if not one employer or college recognizes this “piece of paper” as a legitimate diploma, it doesn’t make one bit of difference because this diploma is priceless to those people who matter most. That is David, our graduating senior, we, his parents and teachers, and you, his family and friends.

Imagine two ceramic vases. They are both similar in size. They both hold water and flowers. They both look good on your table. The first vase was made in a factory along with hundreds of others. The second vase was carefully and painstakingly hand crafted. Which one do you think is more valuable? So, while Hall High School of West Hartford is issuing hundreds of diplomas this year, Aron Academy Homeschool is awarding only one.

David Aron, please come up and accept your high school diploma…
David received both an accredited diploma from American School, as well as a "home grown" diploma from us (which included more than the required coursework from American School). He framed them both and cherishes them both, along with the subsequent diploma that he received 4 years later from Boston University.

My advice to parents of graduating homeschooled teens is to not be shy about honoring your child and yourselves for a job well done. Mark the milestones and make some memories and don't worry about what anyone else thinks. You are not copying school, you are recognizing your child's accomplishments and you are celebrating life.

Note: The above graduation photo above is of Son #2 - Not Son #1 of whom I spoke.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Holy Cats Batman...There's Truancy in Hartford CT!


Sorry - but this will be a long post.. and it just has to be that way...

The Hartford Courant printed an article about "The Truancy Epidemic" in CT and how officials in Hartford are struggling to curb chronic absenteeism. Apparently every day about 2,000 kids skip school, and that represents about 10% of the total student enrollment.

Here are some snippets:
Adriana Reyes didn't feel safe at Hartford Public High School last year after girls beat her up in a bathroom, so she stopped going to school. She tried ninth grade again this year, but, distracted by drama in her friends' lives, she began skipping school. By March, she had racked up 28 unexcused absences -- the equivalent of nearly six weeks of school.
OK - so there is one reason.. kids are scared to go to school for fear of getting beat up. The top four reasons why kids are skipping school appear to be:
They don't feel safe at school.

Students who must walk to school think their route is dangerous.

Other walkers, many without suitable outerwear, find the trek too arduous on very cold or rainy days.

Teenage mothers don't have day care.
Aside from that, even the little ones are skipping school.
Nearly 9 percent kindergartners also were absent. Through January of this school year, 6.5 percent of kindergartners had been truant 20 or more days - the equivalent of a month or more of classes.
Educators are all upset because that kindergarten year is so important - it is no longer about "play". Well, maybe they ought to get a clue and make it about play so these kids will enjoy going. Most of what kids learn is done during play. Maybe they ought to be having some serious conversations about education with the parents and guardians of these kids.

Officials blame the fact that Hartford is a city with one of the nation's highest child poverty rates, and that efforts to curb truancy are complicated by a host of complex social problems. They say there is eroded parental supervision and that about one of every six kids have at least one parent in prison. Most households are headed by struggling, single mothers. Now, I won't dispute the fact that there is poverty and families may be in disarray..but last I checked we still have truancy laws for children enrolled in government schools, and I suspect they aren't being enforced. That is evident by this statement:
Truancy in kindergarten is the fault of parents, Hartford Police Chief Roberts said, and under state law parents can be arrested for not sending their children to school. "I don't want to arrest a parent for not sending a child to school, but that is a parent's responsibility, and parents will be held accountable," Roberts said.
Umm.. no it isn't a parent's responsibility to send a child to school.. it is a parent's responsibility to see that the child is educated (according to CGS 10-184). Of course there are many ways to accomplish that without government schooling. However, if a child is supposed to be in government school to get an education, then their parents ought to make sure that they attend, or disenroll them and do something else. (Although, now parents are being prevented by schools from disenrolling them as well, and that's a topic for an upcoming post!). I don't think these parents ought to be arrested, or reported to DCF, but I do think that truancy laws should be changed or removed from the lawbooks entirely. Maybe parents ought to be fined, or have their welfare benefits cut off, or be required to do community work, but not arrested and jailed. In light of the fact that truancy laws are being routinely misused by authorities to hassle people who remove their children from school to homeschool them (which is not a truancy issue), I think there is definite need for truancy reform including the way in which DCF handles allegations of educational neglect.

And yes, single parent households are challenging, but I know many single moms and dads who seem to get their kids educated no matter what, and that goes for inner city families as well.

Hartford spends over $13,000 per year to educate a child. It seems incredulous to me with all of the administrators and social workers and health care people in those schools, and all of the other social programs which these families have been made dependent on, that they still cannot seem to get their arms around this problem.

Here is what the article says has been done so far:
Educators, volunteers and police have stepped up initiatives to get children back into school, including truancy patrols, mentoring programs and interventions with parents. They have had limited success, but even some of those efforts are foiled by policies that clash.

As volunteer mentoring programs expand, school budget cuts are eliminating the jobs of people who track truancy. Police take children off the streets and deliver them to schools, only to have some suspended for skipping school in the first place. Rules that call for referring chronic truants to the courts are enforced irregularly.
This is so typical of the approach of government schooling..hit these folks over the head with the law and more compulsion, punish them with suspension from school or court and jail time. Why aren't they finding out what would make these kids come back? Why aren't they doing something to make education meaningful for these kids so they will want to come back? Why aren't they changing the school environment to demand safe and habitable schools so kids will have a decent environment to learn. Why aren't they making the curriculum engaging and worthwhile to these kids? It's been done before by people like Jaime Escalante and Roberta Guaspari, and many others. Just because someone is poor and has a hard family life does not mean they cannot get a decent education. Many people, in all walks of life, and in all historical time periods have been able to rise above it, and I do not see Hartford doing anything meaningful to help people to do that. Instead, they either hit them over the head with legalities or make them more dependent on the system for help, so they cannot do anything for themselves nor are they motivated to do so.

As for the issue of teenage pregnancy... that's a social problem that have not been easy to solve especially with Pop Culture in the USA the way it is. Educators decry the fact that in Hartford nearly 400 teenage girls had babies in 2005, and that most spots in a day-care programs at one high school are taken by children of adults, not teenage mothers. Well, maybe they ought to think of a different way to approach this problem. Maybe they ought to allow these girls to do coursework at home or do online courses with a loaned home computer. Maybe they ought to get all these girls together and run a co-op daycare so they all take turns watching each others kids and doing classes. And where are the fathers? Why aren't they involved in this?

Oh and yes, let's not forget getting the legislature involved in this "crisis". Of course the remedy is to have them throw more tax money at the problem. They haven't done anything to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs, which apparently are not working, and they haven't done anything to change the way they do things - yet they want to spend more money on these programs.
Ya gotta love Government solutions!

So with the $13,000 per student that Hartford spends, this is what they get for their money:

- A staggering dropout rate: just 29 percent of Hartford freshmen graduate. And experts say high school truancy can be traced back to kindergarten.

- Last spring, only 30 percent of Hartford third-graders were proficient in reading; only 29 percent of ninth-graders were reading at grade level.

The "experts" at the Center for Children's Advocacy, part of the University of Connecticut Law School, have come to the brilliant conclusion that academic deficiency in high school was consistently linked to poor attendance in lower grades.
Whodathunkit? They needed a whole study of 91 chronically truant high school students and found that 26 percent showed patterns of absenteeism as early as kindergarten and first grade; one student, by eighth grade, had missed the equivalent of more than two years of school; and 84 percent tested far below their grade levels on Connecticut Mastery Tests in grades 4, 6 and 8.

No great surprise to me.

Meanwhile,
Hartford police and children's advocates are launching programs aimed at returning youngsters to school and keeping them there. After he was appointed last year, Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said getting kids back in school was his top priority. But locating hard-to-find children - most of them failing - and returning them to school has had limited success. Of 99 children police had brought back to school by April this year, about half of them now attend regularly, Roberts said. He has directed patrol officers to pick up children on the streets and take them to school. Two full-time detectives and two school resource officers are assigned to visit the homes of habitual truants to investigate and point families to the help they need to get kids back in school.
Well, that's no great surprise to me either...
Hey Chief Roberts..They don't want to be there!!!!
They probably hate your schools and find them useless and mind dumbing.
Why don't you give them something meaningful to do? How about jobs or community work with some education thrown in? How about figuring out what these kids happen to do well and then feed those strengths? Maybe you could even show them how to start their own businesses that don't involve street drugs! Get some community leaders to mentor a few of these kids! Do SOMETHING meaningful to make the schools and the walk to schools safe! A bigger question is why are highly trained, and highly compensated, Hartford Police playing round-up crew for the schools? Don't they have better things to do? The school perhaps should hire its own truancy patrol if this is such a chronic issue.

There seems to be some progress made in some areas - so they say.
One volunteer program making strides is the Truancy Court Prevention Project, which monitors attendance, provides case managers for chronic truants, and informal, in-school talks between students and judges from state courts. At a recent truancy court session at Quirk Middle School, Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa R. Cofield, looking commanding in her judge's robe, mixed hugs and empathy with instructions. She told some students to keep an accounting of why they missed school and what they did with their time. She told them to join after-school programs.
Yeah, you could get a judge to speak to the kids authoritatively.. but I think what really matters is to get academic programs the kids will be challenged with and enjoy doing. Maybe have them get involved with community leaders and positive role models. Perhaps we should have every judge take a kid and give them an internship clerking or doing some sort of office work in lieu of going to school for a time.

Hartford's biggest problem is exemplified in this:
One boy, whose father is "mostly in jail," is afraid to walk home from school because he was attacked. He is getting F's in math and science and a D in reading. What he enjoys, he said, is playing video games.
The message again is make the walk to school safe. If that can't be done then give the kid something worthwhile to do online via computer. If a kid can invest a lot of time and concentration on video games then why can he not do that with his studies? Obviously they are not capitalizing on something, because surely this child can concentrate and can reach high levels doing that. They need to funnel that talent into something more meaningful. But it appears no one wants to take the time to do that one-on-one with a kid.

Then you have these situations:
One boy said that he sleeps in class because he struggles with reading. He skipped science often, he said, because his teacher hurt his feelings by passing out tests to other students without giving one to him. "I feel like I'm invisible - like a ghost,". "I feel like I'm a nobody."
And they wonder why these kids do not want to engage in education? Holy crow.. one doesn't need a fancy education degree to figure this one out. But hey... let's just throw more tax money at him.

I'll say that I don't propose to know all of the answers to solving this huge education and social problem .. but I have a few good ideas of where to start.

The government school system has failed these kids miserably
. There is no excuse for it. It isn't just because they are poor and have tough lives. It isn't because there isn't enough money to solve the problems. It isn't because they don't have 5 extra case workers or truant officers. It is because these kids haven't been given a real reason to want to learn. They haven't been shown that school is giving them something that they can really use. They find government school to be a useless waste of time and irrelevant in their lives. These kids need to have a say in their own education and to be able to set healthy goals for themselves. They are obviously sick of everyone (schools, social workers, police, doctors, etc.) cramming stuff down their throats, and telling them what is good for them. They need to be able to be heard and not be treated as if they were "invisible" or like a "nobody". They need to be given workable solutions, not jail time and continual punishment. And they need to know that it isn't cool be be involved with drugs and crime, no matter how much money they can make from it. The reason I can say this is because the same "poor and disadvantaged" inner city kids who attend charter schools are flourishing - they have people there who lay down the rules and advocate for the kids, who do not hand out favors but make kids work for favors. They give them challenges to aspire to. They give them structure and purpose. They give them encouragement and hope and a way out of the slavery of poverty. They demand higher performance. With achievement comes self esteem, and with self esteem comes confidence and further achievement. That's the kind of vicious circle these kids in Hartford need to be involved in, but first they need to make their schools safe.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Crack Out the Wine And Cheese ... I May Be Ending My Boycott Of French Goods Now


Right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy will be sworn in as French president on Wednesday, a new generation of leader promising to direct his reformist drive from the front in a style starkly different from the man he succeeds.
Here's a short profile of Sarkozy:
The son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin, he was baptised a Roman Catholic and grew up in Paris. He is 52 and is married with three children. He stands for lower taxes, flexible labor markets, more freedom for innovation and enterprise, and more equality for minorities. He promises to crack down on the illegal immigrants choking his country. He is pro-America and pro-Israel. He wants to restore the status of work, authority, standards, respect, and merit. He wants to give the place of honor back to the nation and national identity. He wants to give back to the French people pride in France. He has said this:
I want to issue an appeal to our American friends, to tell them that they can count on our friendship, which has been forged in the tragedies of history which we have faced together.

I want to tell them that France will always be by their side when they need it, but I also want to tell them that friendship means accepting that your friends may think differently and that a great nation such as the United States has a duty not to put obstacles in the way of the fight against global warming, but on the contrary to take the lead in this fight, because what is at stake is the fate of humanity as a whole. France will make this battle its primary battle.
Ok - so he buys into the whole "global warming thing"... that's no biggie ... he makes up for it in other ways.

Interestingly enough, it looks like the world is getting tired of liberals and Socialists who prefer to coddle Islamo-fascists.

Germany - Pro-American Angela Merkel crushed anti-American chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2005.

Canada - Last year Conservatives swept Canada, making Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper the prime minister.

Australia - Prime Minister John Howard is both the longest-serving Australian prime minister and -- by his own account -- the most conservative.

Britain - When I was visiting, local elections were held, and the Conservatives took a huge amount of seats. Although Labour rules nationally, things could change. The incoming Labour leader is Gordon Brown.

Perhaps there is a trend developing.. do you think maybe Spain and Italy will catch on too?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Fair Tax - Support Is Growing

The FairTax Plan is a nonpartisan national grassroots campaign to replace the federal income tax system with a progressive national retail sales tax. It provides a "prebate" to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue replacement and, through companion legislation, repeal of the 16th Amendment.

See the YouTube Video that explains it very well.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Class...Can You Spell "Conflict Of Interest"?



The No Child Left Behind Scandal Widens.

This is precisely why the federal government and education do not mix.

Not only have we seen college student loan scandals but now
Joseph Rhee Reports: A scathing report issued today documents "substantial financial ties" between key advisors of Reading First, a controversial federal reading grant program, and publishers who benefited from the program.

The report, issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the findings "troublesome because they diminish the integrity of the Reading First program."

Reading First is a multi-billion-dollar program meant to boost literacy among low-income children that was adopted as part of No Child Left Behind in 2001.

The Kennedy report centers on four directors of the Reading First Technical Assistance Centers, who, the report says, were highly influential in advising states on which reading programs to adopt in order to qualify for federal funds.

According to the report, the directors had "extensive ties with education publishers" at the same time they were responsible for evaluating other publishers' programs. The report concluded that such ties may have "improperly influenced actions."
Read the specifics at USA Today which reports this:
The report concluded by recommending that Congress adopt new restrictions to safeguard against financial conflicts in federal education programs.

"Individuals serving on advisory committees or in the peer review process for the department should be prohibited from maintaining significant financial interests in related educational products or activities," the report said.
And this is what Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said: "It would be impossible to run department programs without relying on some people with ties to the private sector. "We want and need expertise as we make policy and do this work," she said.

Maybe the corruption would be eliminated if she and her department were eliminated as well. There are some Congressmen and politicians, like Ron Paul (TX), who also support that idea. Much has been written about the failure of the federal Department of Education to improve public education in the past 30 years. But most of all, the establishment of a federal Department of Education is Unconstitutional based on the 10th Amendment.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, or to the people.
The Amendment, which makes explicit the idea that the federal government is limited only to the powers it is granted in the Constitution...education isn't one of them.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!


Happy Mothers Day to all of you wonderful mothers out there! Today is your day.. so take some time off and enjoy it if you can.

Today my family is giving me a gift that I am so excited about.. they are tilling a plot of land for me and helping me to plant this season's vegetable garden, and doing some other general garden clean-up and planting! I'll have to take some "before and after" pictures to share with you ...

Then we are taking my mom out for lunch and just spending the day together.

Have a good one!

Update: Dana at Principled Discovery has a beautiful sentiment that I just had to share.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Disposable Diapers - Disposable Babies


Just open the hatch and dump the kid...no muss, no fuss, no messy human interaction or counseling required... Japan's first "baby hatch", where parents can drop off unwanted infants anonymously, opened Thursday despite opposition from the conservative national government.

Well that's some commentary on the value of life, although I guess this is better than just leaving those poor babies to die somewhere in a trash can. Just think, you can drop your baby in a box, and escape into the night. Abandoning your baby couldn't be easier... a "safe and anonymous" method with none of those rude and intimidating questions they ask down at the police station. Still, we ought to live in a world where no one should feel they have to abandon their child. The article reports this:
The baby hatch, modelled on a project in Germany, went into operation at a Roman Catholic hospital in the city of Kumamoto, some 900 kilometres (560 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

Called "the cradle of storks," the hatch is set into the wall of the hospital's lobby like a mailbox. It has a door, 50 centimetres (20 inches) by 60 centimetres (24 inches), with a drawing of two storks carrying a baby and a message reading, "Please leave something with the baby." When the door is opened, a nurse is alerted by an alarm. There is an intercom next to the door to encourage parents to contact hospital staff.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has urged Japan to return to "family values," opposed the idea but found no legal grounds to stop it. "A mother must not leave her child or abandon him or her anonymously," Abe told reporters. "I want mothers to seek help first if they have problems," said Abe, who is childless after unsuccessful attempts with his wife Akie.

Government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki added: "Even at a hospital facility, abandoning a baby still should not be tolerated. "It is the government's role to help parents raise children on their own."

No babies were left in the hatch during the first hours that it was open.
Germany's program was called "Operation Foundling" or the "Baby Bank" and was begun back in the year 2000 in Hamburg. As for our country and CT in particular, I found this in the Republican-American (Tuesday, February 20, 2007):
Connecticut is one of 47 states with "Safe Haven" laws, which allow mothers to drop newborns off at police stations, firehouses and hospitals anonymously and without punishment. Since its passage in 2000, six newborns have been dropped off anonymously at Connecticut hospitals, says the Department of Children and Families. Five of the six have been adopted. One went back to the original family. During that time period, another four babies were abandoned: in Greenwich in 2001; Brookfield in 2001; Branford in 2004 and Groton in 2006. All four survived. Two of them have been adopted, the DCF says. The department did not release the locations of the hospitals to which the babies were returned.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Homeschoolers: Convention Season Is Upon Us

Spring has sprung and in New England, and across the country too, homeschoolers begin their "fair season". A few conventions have already come and gone here in New England. Conventions, conferences and fairs which feature keynote speeches, vendor halls, kids entertainment and a chance to get together with your homeschool network is a highlight of the year for many homeschoolers. These fairs and conventions recharge our batteries (so to speak) give us some new ideas and allow us to pause and reflect on the many reasons, issues, and accomplishments of homeschooling.

Whether there is a well known keynote speaker being featured, like John Taylor Gatto or Linda Dobson, or even your local homeschool advocates and activists, go and take the time to listen to what is being said. The messages are diverse and can be very helpful in planning next year as well as your overall homeschool journey. There are also opportunities to learn about the homeschool laws in your state and the efforts of those homeschoolers who work to keep you informed. Homeschool legislative liaisons need your help to keep a watchful eye on state and federal lawmakers all year long.

I encourage you to support the organizers of these events and to spread the word about them and to attend them.

Get informed.
Get inspired.
Bring a friend.

The next local fair in CT is hosted by
TEACH
June 8-9
The First Cathedral
1151 Blue Hills Ave
Bloomfield, CT 06002

The New England Homeschool and Family Learning Conference is usually in July in Boxborough, MA, and this year CT Homeschool Network will have their fair in late September.

For a list of upcoming homeschool fairs visit:
Home Education Magazine Conference calendar
A To Z
Homeschool World
The Homeschool Curriculum Fairs (make sure you scroll down the page)
Homeschooling Today List of Events search by state and month.

And here is a short list of tips to attending a homeschool fair from Beverly Hernandez.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Queen's Carbon Offset Visit To The US

Total air miles - 13,317 km or 8,275 miles
Amount of CO2 emitted based on scheduled flights - 1. 5 tonnes
Estimated offset cost per person - £13.20 to £14.18 ($26.22-$28.17) depending on type of offset package
Source: The Carbon Neutral Company carbon calculator

Following the Queen's return to the UK her carbon footprint will be calculated and offset for the first time for a state visit.

The tour of the eastern US has included visits to the Kentucky Derby horse race and the site of the first permanent English settlement in the US - Jamestown in Virginia - to mark its 400th anniversary.

Buckingham Palace will make a donation to an environmental charity to offset the plane journeys made by the royal party.

Meanwhile in London I saw this billboard from Spurt Aviation:


Of course that's caused much controversy.

The carbon offset business is something that I plan to blog more about.. basically kids, it is preparing us all for energy rationing. The whole notion of "buying" carbon offsets is a fraud and a sham.

Carbon Offset travel?
Talk about being "on a guilt trip".
(I think this one might even out do Jewish mothers everywhere).

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Made In China - What's Behind The Label

When I was away in London last week, I did some poking around in the London stores. Just like in America, just about everything in the stores, such as Marks and Spencer, was "Made In China". I have blogged about this before, but please read on.

In the long run, free trade is good. I really don't have a problem with it, because if we are trading partners with another country then most likely we aren't fighting with them. Paying jobs ultimately raise the standard of living for everyone. That's a good thing. What is disturbing to me about trade with China is exemplified by an editorial that I read in the Independent. Aside from my sense that we are fueling the Chinese military with an influx of foreign money, this article talks about how the term "gulaosi" has emerged - and it is used to describe the men and women who are literally being worked to death producing clothes, electronics and toys for you and me, under this Communist regime.

While I understand that these poor people now at least have a job and can make some money (emphasis on the word some), they are being subjected to slave-like conditions. It makes the story behind the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America seem so whiney and irrelevant. People are literally dying of exhaustion, and many lose fingers and other body parts in machinery. That's not good.

Interestingly, some new Chinese reforms have been proposed. Laws that would permit people to join trade unions and give them the right to a written contract. Workers would have the right to a severance payment and the right to change jobs freely. Where previously China's labor rules were diffuse, dispersed and barely enforced, these new laws might be drawn together and backed with big fines.
The dissident-killing Chinese Communist Party didn't propose these change out of a sudden flush of benevolence. They did it because the Chinese people have in increasing numbers been refusing to be tethered serfs for the benefit of Western corporations. Last year, there were 300,000 illegal industrial actions in China, a huge spate of "factory kidnappings" of managers, and more than 85,000 protests.

The Chinese people were showing they did not want to leap from a Maoist gulag to a market-fundamentalists' sweatshop. They demanded a sensible compromise: strong trade and markets to generate wealth, matched by strong trade unions to stop markets devouring them. They want an end to grinding poverty, but one that doesn't kill them as they get there.
Interestingly enough too, is that there is apparently something in the way of these reforms. Lobbyists representing Western corporations with factories in China have gone to Beijing to cajole and threaten the dictatorship into abandoning these new workers' protections!
The American Chamber of Commerce - representing Microsoft, Nike, Ford, Dell and others - listed 42 pages of objections. The laws were "unaffordable" and "dangerous", they declared. The European Chamber of Commerce backed them up.
The article recalls a similar lobbying action occurred when Bill Clinton's efforts to decree that trade with China could only grow if China in tandem increased its respect for human rights. That decree really upset American business executives who then subjected Clinton to massive lobbying efforts which protested that decree - so Clinton ditched that executive order after a year.

The article goes on to say this about recent lobbying efforts to prevent the new laws:
Their lobbying seems to have paid off. The (unelected) Chinese National People's Congress is due to vote on the new labor laws in the next month or so, but the proposals have already been massively watered down.

Scott Slipy, the director of human resources for Microsoft in China, bragged to BusinessWeek, "We have enough investment at stake that we can usually get someone to listen to us if we are passionate about an issue."

Some Western corporations are explicitly seeking a China where a tiny number of extremely rich people are free to organize, but the vast majority of poor people are physically prevented from doing so by the state.

The American and European campaigns showing that we are not all willing to accept their serfdom and profit from it have already had successes. The European Chamber of Commerce has been shamed into retracting its initial opposition to the laws. After lobbying from trade unions and human rights organisations, Nike has now denounced the position of the American Chambers of Commerce to which it belongs and backed the law. The remaining Wal-Martian corporations need to be damned one by one - and subject to legal sanctions - until they relent and accept the rights of Chinese workers.
As China brings itself more and more into the realm of Capitalism, it will find itself dealing with these pressures. I am all for Capitalism and the Free Market, but people need to have decent working conditions and the freedom to choose where they wish to work. Extreme Slavery and Exploitation should have no place in the production of goods and services.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Socialized Medicine - No Thanks


While in Great Britain I had the chance to talk to people about the National Health Service there. The truth is that it isn't so great. First of all, many people carry private pay insurance, even though they also pay massive taxes to support NHS. So the system has really created a dual system: one for the "haves" which allows them to obtain good care via private pay and one for the "have-nots" who get state care which apparently is not so great. People end up going out of the country for surgical procedures because they just can't wait forever to get the surgeries done. So you have people going abroad to have hip surgeries, etc. People who smoke or are fat are despised in society because they are potential "drains" to the system.

I came across this article which talks about the crisis in maternity care in the UK because the shortage of staff and facilities on maternity wards has reached a "crisis" point.
The Royal College of Obstetricians is warning of a lack of skilled obstetricians and a looming recruitment crisis as the number of UK medical graduates choosing obstetrics has halved in a decade. A shortage of skilled obstetricians on the wards has led to a rise in emergency Caesareans, performed because of a failure to progress in labour, which now account for more than a third of all Caesareans. (The rest are planned.) The RCOG says many emergency Caesareans could be avoided if more consultants skilled in managing difficult labours were available.
Britain's maternal death rate at 7.31 per 100,000 births in 2000-04 is above the EU average at 6.84, according to the World Health Organization. (The US actually has a higher maternal death rate though). Specialists fear that the disaster at Northwick Park hospital, where 10 mothers died in childbirth in five years, well above the national average, might be repeated elsewhere.

Regarding midwife shortages: A poll of 102 out of 216 department heads found that two-thirds said their units were understaffed and one in five said they had lost staff in the past year.

One reason why there is a shortage of midwives is this: Midwives are being underpaid by NHS. Doctors claim that only one midwife in three is working at any time, as more choose to work part-time for private agencies, which supply staff to the NHS to cover holidays, sickness and unsocial hours. A midwife working long hours could potentially earn up to £80,000 a year at agency rates compared with £24,000 to £26,000 for the NHS.

As hospital trusts have run into financial difficulties over the past two years, they have cut back on agency staff leaving their own staff to cover. Agency midwives have chosen not to go back to working for NHS rates.

Obstetrics is a high-risk specialty and there is always a fear that babies will be born brain damaged if things go wrong. Obstetrics accounts for the highest proportion of clinical negligence claims against the NHS with pay outs running into millions of pounds.

Bottomline: Staff shortages are putting pregnancies at risk. Additionally, birthrates are rising due in part to rising immigration and children being born in UK facilities to parents who are not UK citizens.

But Gee Whiz... doesn't this all sound familiar? I know CT is experiencing a huge nursing shortage because there aren't enough teachers to teach nursing and people are not getting into the field because nurses just do not get paid enough for the long hours they put in. OB-GYN doctors are also leaving the field because of the high cost of malpractice insurance because of huge malpractice awards. We also have illegal immigrants using our social welfare system and that is costing US taxpayers enormous amounts of money.

Looks like socialized medicine hasn't solved the problems, and the taxpayers foot the entire bill to boot!

I'll keep private pay.. give Medicaid (federal and state aid) to those that really really need it. At least we get the surgeries we need without having to go out of the country due to long waiting lists.

Government and medicine really do not mix.

Monday, May 7, 2007

I'm Back From London


I have returned from my trip to London and will be back to regular blogging.
Wow... I have lots to share.
I had a great time touring the sites.
The Nanny State is alive and not doing so well as I see it.
I'll be sharing my observations with you this week.
National Health Care, Security, Education, Taxes... Sharia Law In Britain.

And I have to say that I was impressed with our US border security at the airports, also American Airlines stewardesses were unfortunately quite rude.

I am glad to be home.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Homeschoolers: Wilberforce Contest For High Schoolers


This contest is being sponsored by The Wilberforce Project in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the 1807 abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is inspired by the vision and character of leading activist, William Wilberforce, and his crusade to end slavery and transform culture.
The Wilberforce Project, a division of Humanities for Education, is in post-production of a television documentary for broadcast on PBS in Fall 2007. The documentary explores the 20-year effort of William Wilberforce to lead the abolition of the British slave trade -- a business that was key to the country’s economic strength. Wilberforce and his Clapham colleagues brilliantly executed this enormous task. They managed to shape opinion without the help of mass communication technology.
What To Do: Craft a project that will make your world a better place. Enlist others to help, execute your plan, and document it online. Project areas should reflect the issues and concerns of the 69 societies founded or assisted by William Wilberforce.

Presentations: Project presentations will be submitted entirely online and can take a wide variety of creative forms, but only one or the other--either moving visual or print, not both.
Moving visual, video, and PowerPoint or audio presentations will have strict 5-minute time limit.
Written, print, or photographic presentations will have a 1000 word limit AND 5-page limit.

Project areas include, but are not limited to:

- Modern day forms of slavery
- Poverty
- Political or legislative action
- Education
- Health

Prizes: A total of $50,000 in cash prize money, which includes the $10,000 first place prize, provided by the John Templeton Foundation. In addition to an overall first prize winner, there will be prizes for projects in the other categories, and possibly a runner up for 2nd and 3rd place prizes.

Register NOW
to get the contest information ”kit” and guidelines.

Final Project deadline: March 1, 2008. Awards presented in Congress in May, 2008. Students are encouraged to register as soon as possible in order to have time to plan and organize, but registration must be made by January 15, 2008 with a final project deadline of March 1, 2008.

You can watch the trailer for the documentary film, coming in fall 2007 to national television, The Better Hour: William Wilberforce, A man of character who changed the world.
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that “every school boy” in America knew the great character of William Wilberforce. Yet today the man and his legacy is virtually unknown in the United States. The emancipation leader Frederick Douglass saluted the energy of Wilberforce “that finally thawed the British heart into sympathy for the slave, and moved the strong arm of government in mercy to put an end to this bondage. Let no American, especially no colored American, withhold generous recognition of this stupendous achievement -- a triumph of right over wrong, of good over evil, and a victory for the whole human race.”
If you do not enter the contest, I think it would be very worthwhile to do a study about Wilberforce and his accomplishments.