Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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7th Grader mimics Nature

April 30, 2012

Came across this today, it is simply amazing and just goes to show the importance of making sure science  programs keep a predominant place in schools.  The more we interest students in science, the better off we all will be.

7th Grader mimics Nature.

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Right Brain – Left Brain?

March 23, 2012

Left Brain/Right Brain Test

I have been told I am a smart man.  I remember in grade-school being given some test and it being “suggested” to my parents that they put me in a school that could challenge me.  I am very grateful they did not follow this advice.  School was very boring to me and I never studied, in hindsight that may not be such a bad thing.  I received good grades even without applying myself, as was pointed out to me time and time again.  I received some bad grades too, but that was due to my lack of caring to even try.

Now that is not to say I did not study, I studied and read all the time.  It was just on things that held my interest and not what someone else thought I should be working on, of course this led to problems.  I never could take the easy path.  I use to love reading the encyclopedia.  I do miss having a large gilded-edged set at my disposal.  Something is lost not having them around.

I have been asked often if I was a right brain or left brain person.  Right-brain people tend to be dreamers and artistically creative.  Left-brainers are technically astute and able to take on monumental tasks and get them done.  Given my nature, I sought to left-brain the matter and study the issue.  To that end, I have taken many tests to answer the question.

Both!  I use both ides of my brain equally well. Of course I know a few people that would say I don’t use my brain at all but that is another essay.  I am told that people are mostly one or the other but a rare few of us have a holistic method of thought.  The question is why, why is that so?  I have my mother to thank for it.  All those years ago had I been carted off to some school, I am sure I would be a left-brained, burned-out genius that was of little use to anyone. As it is, Mom took the time make sure I was exposed to all kinds of mental stimulation.  I can see both poetry and mathematics with equal value.  If fact, I see a sort of poetry in mathematics and sure see mathematics in poetry.

The interesting thing is I have met a few other people that are “both-brained,” and we do have one thing in common for sure – exposure to science and the arts at an early age.  Think of someone like Leonardo da Vinci, he mastered both.  It is my feeling that he would have not master either without both playing an important role in his early life.

We tend to think of life in terms of right and wrong, black and white with no gray.  Or right and left to put in terms more suited to the topic.  Absolutes in life are rare, hardly anything is 100% one way or the other.  We live in the gray. God gave us a brain, not half a brain, we need to use it all – right and left!  In the end, what would art be without science?  What would science be without art?  I do not know that answer but I do know it sure would be one boring world.

Have you a right-brain or a left-brain, it matters not.  What is important is to keep in mind a whole-bran requires both artistic and scientific input.  It requires and education in both.  It is something to think about for sure when the local school board seeks to cut funding for arts programs.

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The Good ol’ Days… Really?

July 25, 2010

Often conservative news organizations promote the idea of returning the United States to the values held decades ago.  Liberals are quick to point out the inequity in civil rights of that time but in fairness to conservatives, that is not the aspect they put forward.  No, it is the improving social and economic situation of the middle-class back then conservative talking heads promote.

Let’s take them at their word.  The question is understanding the values of the times.  Unless you lived through the daily turmoil, it is impossible to fully grasp the nuances that motivated the conversation.  We can however, look at stated conservative objectives.  To that end, the Republican Party’s 1956 national platform[i] sheds some light.

It is not fair to paint all conservative with the Republican brush, but the platform does point to the majority conservative view held.  While it has many parts we would recognize today as purely republican, there are many points that show how far right the Republican Party has moved.  The below bullet points are taken from the published platform.

 

From their declaration of faith:

  • We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations.
  • We hold that the major world issue today is whether Government shall be the servant or the master of men.  We hold that the Bill of Rights is the sacred foundation of personal liberty.  That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.

These two statements do not reflect were the conservative movement is today.  Conservatives tend to loath and fear the United Nations.  While they do stand for individual rights, the current conservative trend is to sacrifice civil rights in the name of national security.

On taxes:

  • Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle-income families.
  • Continual study of additional ways to correct inequities in the effect of various taxes.

While conservatives of today still seek lower taxes, the focus on low and middle-income families is lost.  Moreover, anyone addressing “inequities” today receives  bombastic tirades from Rush Limbaugh, Glynn Beck and other commentators that are closer in belief to fascism than a Republican political policy.

On business and economic policy:

  • We have eliminated a host of needless controls.  To meet the immense demands of our expanding economy, we have initiated the largest highway, air and maritime programs in history, each soundly financed.  [emphasis added]
  • Legislation to enable closer Federal scrutiny of mergers which have a significant or potential monopolistic connotations;
  • Procedural changes in the antitrust laws to facilitate their enforcement;

Yes, our big-government, federalized national highway system was dreamed up by Republicans.  Imagine trying to undertake the national highway system in today’s political environment.  These same Republicans sought to limit corporate influence and power.  If only it worked, perhaps today’s government would not be owned by corporate and special interests.

On Labor:

  • Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers;
  • Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;
  • Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;
  • Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;
  • Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex;
  • Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;
  • Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.

Conservatives of today would run a candidate out on a rail if he or she dared promote such socialistic “welfare” programs and pro-union laws.

 

On Human welfare and advancement:

  • Republican action created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.
  • Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.
  • We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease, and other dread diseases.
  • We demand once again, despite the reluctance of the Democrat 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.
  • We have encouraged a notable expansion and improvement of voluntary health insurance, and urge that reinsurance and pooling arrangements be authorized to speed this progress.
  • We have strengthened the Food and Drug Administration(FDA), and we have increased the vocational rehabilitation program to enable a larger number of the disabled to return to satisfying activity.
  • We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.
  • We initiated the first flood insurance program in history under Government sponsorship in cooperation with private enterprise.
  • We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system.

Republicans created: the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education), the program that grew into the National Flood Insurance Program 12-years later, fully funded the FDA, increased funding for medical research and hospital construction, funded low-income housing and sought to extend the social security system.

The platform is full of ideas that today we label as liberal.  With the relevant names removed, the document seems more Democratic than Republican in thought.  Any fair-minded liberal could easily support a candidate promoting such ideals. So there it is, Democrats today are the Republicans of the 1950s.  There is no good definition to describe the metamorphosis the Republican Party has endured.  The creature it has become is beyond words.  The best I can put it, when I hear pundits like Anne Coulter push the Republican message of today, I am reminded of the Sinclair Lewis quote “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

In looking at it, we might be better off if we follow through on the thoughts of our Republican leadership from decades ago.  Of course, to do that, it seems Rush, Glenn, Anne, and the rest of the conservative talking-idiots are suggesting support for the Democratic Party.  As much as they would like to deny it, the ideals Democrats put forward today are the same ideals of Republicans in the “good ol’ days.”


[i] John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25838.

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Freedom: Individuals, Corporations, and the Constitution

July 2, 2010

Throughout history there are few, very few, documents or phrases known worldwide.  The opening three words of the U.S. Constitution, “We the People,[1]” is such a phrase.  Another is the Constitution’s first amendment.  It reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”[2]

While the exact words are not universally known, its parts most certainly are.  From it, citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and the right to protection from an over zealous government through the courts, public hearings, and demonstrations.  It is these freedoms known around the world.  It is these freedoms that make the United States different from all other countries.

That is not to say our freedom is unlimited.  For instance, a religious belief that calls for human sacrifice simply is not tolerated.  Nor is speech that proves harmful, as in someone shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, unless, of course, there really is a fire.  The fact is the penalties for stepping beyond our limits of freedom are severe.  In the case of human sacrifice, we would charge a person with murder.  In the case of shouting “fire,” the charge would be something like reckless endangerment.

The protection afforded citizens of the United States follows common sense.  Stating it as a protection is the correct way to think about it.  Our constitution does not limit the rights of citizens; it limits our government’s ability to interfere with citizens.  Poignantly, our constitution includes an amendment that makes that abundantly clear, the tenth amendment.  It reads:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”[3]

Our federal government is limited to only the powers granted in the Constitution.  States retain their sovereignty and the powers granted in the various state constitutions.  More importantly, each citizen retains all other powers.  The ninth amendment reads:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”[4]

Another way to think about this is we do not have laws telling us what is legal for a citizen to do; we have laws telling us what is illegal.  The Constitution, and its amendments, specifically limits the power of government regarding the particular rights addressed.  It does not limit citizens to only those rights.

Just what is a citizen anyway?  The Constitution, in its original form, did not address the issue specifically.  It does speak to the mechanics of counting people for determining representation, but not to the requirements to become a citizen in the first place.[5] Granting citizenship through immigration simply was not a priority as the nation was taking its first steps.

After the Civil war, with the end of slavery, the fourteenth amendment was adopted.  It states being born in the United States carried with it citizenship, but left the naturalization process for immigrants up to the legislature.  Clause 1 reads:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”[6]

How a person becomes naturalized is still not addressed within the Constitution.  Currently, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 covers naturalization.  According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website[7], to gain naturalization an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 5 years  immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
  • Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application
  • Have continuous residence in the United States as a permanent resident for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application
  • Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application
  • Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization
  • Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).
  • Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law

Becoming naturalized is a long and involved process.  There are exceptions, for instance individuals that join the military have a fast track to citizenship.

A person must either be born in the United States or go through a process to gain citizenship.  We have citizens by birth and by naturalization, but there is a third type of citizen, a corporate citizen.  As strange as it sounds, corporations in the United States enjoy many of the same rights as citizens of flesh and blood.  For example, if a corporation wrongs you, you sue it and not the stockholders.  The corporation, in this case, has the same legal standing as an individual.  When you think about it, it makes sense – just because a person owns a single share of IBM stock is no reason to drag them into court over an issue regarding the corporation.

Corporations may be citizens but they are limited ones.  If a citizen-person breaks the law, they go to prison.  There is no corporate body to send to jail.  The normal course of action is to levy a monetary fine.  This sort of issue highlights the problem of rights regarding corporations.  How rights apply to corporations and the constitutional implications affect all citizens daily.  A quick search of the Constitution shows the words corporation and business do not appear.  Given that, what makes a corporation a citizen?  Ironically, it is the same amendment that defines citizenship by birthright, the fourteenth amendment.

In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled on the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company[8]. The case dealt with a taxation issue.  California changed their state constitution to prevent railroad companies from deducting outstanding mortgage amounts from property values for tax purposes, something individuals were allowed.  The court sided with the railroads on the tax issue.  Part of the claim by Southern Pacific was the fourteenth amendment guaranteed them equal protection.  Technically, the court did not issue an opinion on the merits of that argument but found the state was wrong to apply such a tax.  Regardless, from that date on, corporations have claimed corporate “personhood,” and some of the rights of citizenship protected by the Constitution.

If ever you needed proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, this perversion of the fourteenth amendment provides it.  An amendment meant to protect the most vulnerable and disenfranchised citizens is used to protect the interests of powerful corporations.  That decision, 124 years ago, still affects every citizen today.  Its reach goes beyond the mundane issues of corporate taxation and interferes with the rights of real citizens, the ones with a heartbeat.

Corporations use this decision to remain beyond the reach of state governments regarding business regulations on many levels.  More directly, corporations claim a right to the first amendment protection of free speech.  Most recently, in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the court found that corporations (both for profit and non-profit) and unions cannot be limited in political speech as specified in The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002[9], also know as The McCain-Feingold Act.  The result being by granting corporations the same right of free speech as individual citizens, they can spend virtually unlimited amounts of money to promote a particular point of view to the benefit of a particular candidate.

In effect, by granting corporations unfettered free speech rights, based on corporate personhood, individual citizens or candidates that do not hold a popular corporate or union view will receive no such support, effectively killing their right to equal access to the public.  Election costs are already out of control, this decision will drive them unbelievably higher still.

One solution is to treat corporations as individuals.  Simply throw away the corporate tax code and tax them as individuals with the same limited deductions real citizens face each tax season.  No longer allowed to write off expenses such as investment property or office space leases, billions of dollars would flow into the federal and state coffers.  Money used to pay for election related materials would remain taxable income.  People are not allowed to claim a non-profit status, remove it from corporations too, and tax them accordingly.  If corporations wish to be treated as people, they need to be taxed as people too.  Maybe then, they would have other matters to attend to than interfering with elections.

Of course, that idea is outrageous, but it further illustrates the problem with classifying corporations as citizens.  If they wish the rights of citizenship, they must carry the burdens of citizenship.  At the very least, limited corporate citizens should not enjoy rights real citizens do not have.  The right to raise and spend an unlimited amount of money to influence elections and policy matters undermines the very fabric of democracy.  It prevents real citizens from full and fair participation in elections and violates the first and fourteenth amendments by institutionalizing a “who can yell the loudest” mentality, thereby drowning out individual voices of dissension.

Only people born on the soil of the United States have a constitutional right to citizenship.  All other forms of citizenship are granted through legislation.  That legislation requires years of time and study for individuals to become citizens.  Corporations simply have to file some paperwork and pay a fee.  One has to wonder if a person here illegally gains the limited rights of citizenship by simply purchasing stock.  At the very least this Supreme Court decision granting unfettered first amendment rights to corporations gives foreign investors the means to legally influence U.S. federal elections.  They simply form a corporation, collect huge amounts of overseas money, pay the tax on it, and spend it.

In the end, by granting rights to corporations, rights of individuals are restricted.  Only extremely wealthy citizens like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have the ability to compete with our corporate citizens’ spending.  From now on, free speech is only for corporations and the super rich.  It’s been sold out from under the average citizen.  Do not act surprised when you wake up one morning to find the Constitution has changed to read “We the Corporations,” and it is the people with limited citizenship.


[1] “The Constitution of the United States,” Preamble.

 

[2] Ibid, Amendment I.

[3] Ibid, Amendment X.

[4] Ibid, Amendment IX.

[5] Ibid, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3.

[6] Ibid, Amendment XIV, Clause 1.

[7] “USCIS – Citizenship Through Naturalization.” USCIS Home Page. Web. 02 July 2010. <http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=d84d6811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=d84d6811264a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD>

[8] “SANTA CLARA COUNTY V. SOUTHERN PACIFIC R. CO., 118 U. S. 394 :: Volume 118 :: 1886 :: Full Text.” US Supreme Court Cases from Justia & Oyez. Web. 02 July 2010. <http://supreme.justia.com/us/118/394/case.html>.

[9] H.R. 2356, 107 Cong., Congressional Record (2002) (enacted). Print.

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If We Punished Adults Like Kids

May 8, 2010

Click Image for more info

Imagine you’ve had a hard week at work with lots of overtime, it’s late on a Friday night, and you are finally heading home.  You get into your car, turn the radio on, and play it loud for the ride home.  You hope the music along with the breeze of the top being down will help put the stress of the week behind you and you start to drive.

Maybe it was because you were tired, perhaps the music had a beat that demanded a little speed, whatever the case, there they are behind you – the ubiquitous flashing blue lights that say the local police department does not share your enthusiasm for going home so quickly.  As soon as the officer approaches your car, you can tell your taste in music volume is even less appreciated.  Needless to say, your stressful week has just been capped off with a stressful speeding ticket – 50MPH in a 35MPH zone.  You sign the ticket and drive the rest of the way home in disgusted silence.

Rather than do the simple thing and pay the ticket, this one’s gotten under your skin.  You decide to fight it in court; surely, the judge will listen to reason and at the very least reduce the fine.  After all, there is insurance to think about.  In court, you make your plea with passion and reason, you feel good about the whole thing.  That is until the judge begins to speak.  Rather than being impressed by your logic, he’s angry with you wasting the courts time and intends on making an example out of you.  Instead of a monetary fine, he sentences you to a whipping by his bailiff right then and there.  Next thing you know, there you are bent over a table receiving twenty strokes from a paddle that looks more like a boat oar to you.  As painful as it was, it was your pride that hurt worse; it humiliated you.

If ever such an event took place, who among us would not feel abused?  Who would not feel their civil rights had been violated and the punishment was both cruel and unusual?  In fact, the Constitution states, “Excessive bail shall not be required… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.[i]”  For a speeding offence it would seem unusual at the very least as most motorist pay a monetary fine.  Certainly, if the corporal aspect of it left a permanent mark it would be cruel.  Maybe that’s why courts don’t use corporal punishment in the United States.

Though the circumstances are somewhat different, it is the same sort of dilemma children face in the twenty states that allow corporal punishment in their public schools.  A minor rule infraction can bring swift retribution in the form of a spanking at the hands of an administrator or teacher.  Everything from chewing gum in class to talking back is eligible for such treatment.  What qualifies a person to do this?  It is doubtful than any university included in their various teaching programs the proper technique for inflicting just the right amount of pain without damaging the flesh.  It all depends on the school personnel involved on how much is enough.  How is it we allow our children to receive a punishment at the hands of government officials we see as abusive for adults?

If your boss were to paddle you at work for talking back, it is a crime called assault.  How is it any different in a school setting?  Your boss has other tools to use, everything from a warning to outright firing you.  Schools need other tools, better tools.  We need to engage students rather than beat them.  School systems respond to discipline in various ways with a wide-range of results.  We need to see what works best and replace the draconian response of paddling with something better suited to the twenty-first century.

Our nation has grown morally since the days when corporal punishment was part of everyday life.  Our laws have grown with that morality.  We simply need to extend that thinking to the classroom environment.  We don’t brand adulterers with an “A” in the center of their forehead, nor should schools raise welts on the rump of a gum-chewing child.


[i] “The Constitution of the United States,” Amendment 8.

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Corporal Punishment – Does it Add Value to Education?

March 31, 2010

Corporal punishment, as a means of discipline in public schools, is currently employed in twenty states.[1] In 2006, over 223,000 students received some form of corporal punishment.[2] Using a national average of 180 school days, that works out to be over 1,200 spankings each day.  Even if you believe in the “spare the rod” statement from the Bible,[3] it does not say you get to delegate that authority to the public school system.

Proponents of spanking point to the need for discipline in our school systems as justification for the practice, while opponents see it as child abuse.  To avoid the argument, it helps to look at the effectiveness of  the practice as it relates to discipline in educational settings.  First, there can be no question for the need of discipline as it promotes a healthy learning environment.  Second, rules must have consequences when they are broken or they effectively do not exist.

Much debate takes place over what constitutes a healthy learning environment and just how to enforce rules to promote education.  Again, avoiding entanglement in the argument and looking at results sheds some light on the effectiveness of corporal punishment.  Figure 1 shows the states allowing corporal punishment.

Figure 1 – States Allowing Corporal Punishment
(click for larger view)

In looking at the states involved, several stereotypical “theories” are often put forward as to why these particular states allow it:

  • Only “Biblebelt” states can justify corporal punishment, it is part of their evangelical teachings
  • States that employ it are run by backward thinking people
  • States with right-wing agendas use corporal punishment to control the young population
  • Only states with large minority populations use it

The list goes on and on.  There is little use in addressing the veracity of the points as doing so does not address the problem of discipline in education.  Truthfully, the one thing the points have in common, they are all irrelevant.  The reason for the use of corporal punishment has little, if any, bearing on its effectiveness.

In the end, looking at the results of systems that use corporal punishment against those the do not puts its effectiveness into perspective.  Using data from U.S. Department of Education’s  2009 National Report Card[4], on the performance of eight-graders, one of two grades tested, state results can be averaged and ranked.  Figure 2 shows the states shaded with regard to that performance.

Figure 2 – States Ranked by Performance Percentage
(Click for larger view)

The states are shaded yellow to red with yellow representing the top 20% and red the bottom 20% and the others scaled between.  No state that allows corporal punishment scored in the top 20%.  In fact, 60% of states that allow the practice scored below average or worse.  In fact, 12% scored in the bottom 20% of all states.  Figure 3 shows the same data only for states allowing corporal punishment.

Figure 3 – Only States Allowing Corporal Punishment
(Click for larger view)

While there is no direct correlation between the use of corporal punishment and poor performance (as densely populated states that do not allow for it, like New York and California also scored poorly), there is correlation that corporal punishment does not enhance the educational performance of students – no state that allows corporal punishment scored in the top 20%.  Of course, many other factors come into play, but if corporal punishment does not add to education, just what purpose does it serve?

While it is hard to object to a parent giving a little hand a quick “pop” as its reaching for the hot stove, applying the practice to the normal disciplinary actions of our public school system seems extreme.  The use of such practices well illustrates the duality within conservative groups that argue for individual rights and responsibility while promoting a state sanctioned punishment that should not exist beyond the realm of parenthood, if at all.   Of course the other side is just as guilty of duality by not acknowledging a lack of parental control feeds the problems of discipline but screaming to high hell when a child is punished.  Both sides are wrong and prove that dealing in extremes is never the preferred course of action.

Our system of education needs improvement.  A reasonable path involves looking at that top 20% , the states in yellow, and see what they do differently than the bottom 20%, the ones bleeding red.  Only then will we begin to understand how to improve.  Even the top 20% need improvement, but until we reach a level of parity,  it seems the best actions are to follow their lead.


[1] “U.S.: Corporal Punishment and Paddling.” The Center for Effective Discipline. Ed. Nadine A. Block and Robert Fathman. The Center for Effective Discipline. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
<http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=statesbanning>.

[2] “2006 National and State Projections.” Civil Rights Data Collection. U.S. Department of Education. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
<http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Projections_2006.aspx>.

[3] Proverbs 13:24. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1976. Print.

[4] “Reading 2009 Report Viewer.” NAEP – Nation’s Report Card Home. Ed. Richard Struense. United Stated Department of Education, 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 30 Mar. 2010.
<http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_2009/reading_2009_report/>.

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The Power of Earthquakes

February 27, 2010

Last night a powerful earthquake struck the country of Chili.  It registered 8.8 on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS), making it much more powerful than the recent quake in Haiti that registered 7.0MMS.

News coverage shows the devastating power a 7.0 earthquake possesses, a large portion of Haiti is in ruins.  Still, understanding the scale is not as straight forward as other scales we use, like the ones on thermometers.  Growing up, I remember earthquakes measured in points on the Richter scale.  Now, the Moment Magnitude Scale, for major quakes, replaces that system.  Only a scientist is really interested in the difference between the two, for the general public, its best to simply understand the new scale provides a higher degree of accuracy.

What does a one digit increase, or the case of Chili vs. Haiti, a 1.8 digit increase, mean?  The numbers really don’t hold value on their own.  Unlike the thermometer, starting at a number like zero and increasing incrementally to something like 250, the measurement for earthquakes is measure with a logarithmic scale.  A logarithmic scale uses an index based on a formula rather than simply increasing in whole numbers.  In the case of the Moment Magnitude Scale, an increase of one number means the power increased 31.6 times.  That is difficult to conceptualize, think about it applied to measuring gallons of water.  If 1MMS equals 1 gallon of water, 2MMS equals 31.6 gallons or 31.6 times as much water.  3MMS does not double to equal 63.2 gallons but increases 31.6 times again to about 1,000 gallons.

If MMS Measured Water

MMS        Gallons

1              1.00
2              31.60
3              998.56
4              31,554.50
5              997,122.07
6              31,509,057.53
7              995,686,217.81
8              31,463,684,482.92
9              994,252,429,660.36
10             31,418,376,777,267.50
11             992,820,706,161,653.00
12             31,373,134,314,708,200.00

Another way to look at it, the average home swimming pool in the United States has about 22,000 gallons of water. In the gallon example above, that equals 3.7MMS.  It is easy to see that a one point increase in scale equates to a huge increase in volume.  To increase from one to over twenty-thousand gallons takes less than a two-point move.

Of course, the scale does not deal with gallons of water but the power of earthquakes.  Perhaps the best thing to remember from all this is a small increase up the scale means a huge increase in power.  Across the planet, there are a dozen or so earthquakes a day people can really feel, in the 4.0 to 6.0 range, they barely make the news.  A 7.0 quake destroyed much of Haiti.  The damage to Chili by this 8.8 one, though not known, is expected to be major.  Therefore, when the news reports an earthquake, remember there is more to the number than you might think.  It is not the same as increasing the temperature in your home by a degree or two.  A one point increases in the Moment Magnitude Scale can have disastrous results.

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