Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Awaiting the Bill Gates of Education

The JT has a reprint of a commentary by Bill Gates in today's paper. Gates argues that innovation, education and immigration are the keys to success for our country. It is hard to argue with any of that. And by immigration, Gates refers specifically to those foriegners with skills in math, science and computer science.

Gates notes that American school children are performing poorly in math. American student recently finished 24th among 29 industrialized nations in math competency. "Governments must work with educators to reform schools and improve educational excellence" says Gates. Again, it is hard to argue with that.

Here is my concern. If innovation is important, and I think it is, wouldn't it be important to have innovation in education? Does our present system of educating children foster innovation, or stifle it? Where would Bill Gates be today if we had a government run system for the research, production and distribution of technological products? Would we have technological innovation, or would it be stifled by a lumbering government bureaucracy?

Bill Gates is a billionaire in large part because we have a more or less free market for the production of technological products. We do not have a free market when it comes to education. As such, we do not have the innovation in education that we have in technology. If we had more of a free market in education, we would see innovation in education. Someone could make billions if they came up with great ways to engage and educate children. And our children would be smarter.

I look forward to the day that the US produces a Bill Gates of education.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Government Sniffing Around

Regular readers of Free Racine know that I think government gets its nose in places where it doesn't belong. But this one takes the cake. I didn't read the full article in today's Milwaukee Journal, the headline was enough. The headline read: Source of fecal matter studied.

Future Not So Bright

The Journal Times today announced the winners of their speech writing contest concerning the future of civil rights in Racine. The JT did not indicate who judged the competition, but my guess is that it was JT staff or a similar collection of leftists.

A contest such as this gives us some insight into the propagandizing that is happening in our schools. I should note that this phenomenon is not limited to the public schools, as three of the winners are private school students.

The elementary school winner called for a smoking ban, a ban on cell phones when driving and increased funding for the D.A.R.E. program. The high school winner trumped up racism as a bigger problem than it is, all but calling me a racist when she wrote that "denial is a form of racism." The second place finisher in the elementary division wrote about a book that she read called Ida B. and her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster and Possibly Save the World. The book itself passed the PC test because it used recycled paper not tainted by chlorine, which of course "creates toxic by-products that can make people and animals sick." The second place finisher in the high school division called for manditory volunteerism, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

The news wasn't all bad though. Jaun Carlos of the San Juan Diego School took personal responsibility for his own pushing and shoving. He could stop glorifying violence by "telling other kids that there is nothing good about fighting or being mean to others." And finally he indicated that he could best protect civil rights if he were to get a good education. And second place finisher Natalie Frederickson of McKinley Middle school called for parental involvement with their children, teaching of good values, volunteerism and charity.

As for me, I think that our civil rights are routinely threatened, and it will be these children and others like them who will continue to destroy them. But there is hope. Most children will grow up. Many may well reject the childlike utopian dreams foisted on them by their liberal teachers. I am less optimistic about our local newspaper.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Raping Society

In a letter to the Journal Times, Kenneth Wagner makes a respectable argument in favor of RUSD paying a settlement to the six year old rape victim at the Red Apple School. Then he loses it.

Wagner says, "Let us not forget there are two victims in this case: there is the tragic occurance for the six year old boy, and there is Joshua Dyess. In the latter instance, Dyess is charged with the assault of the child and may have to pay the price, yet the accused may have been failed by his family, by society, by his teachers, the church, and his neighbors. We may have just begun to realize our failures."

As a member of the society that has failed Joshua Dyess, let me be the first to offer an apology. Please accept my sincerest apology Mr. Dyess. I regret my role in causing you to become a child rapist. I take full responsibility for your actions. It is very difficult to not rape children. I should have been there to help you to not rape the child. I have no doubt that you are disappointed in me. I fully understand. Now please Mr. Dyess, don't misinterpret my apology as an attempt to avoid or lessen the punishment that I should recieve for my failures. My apology is just the beginning. I think you should sue me. I will support your claim against me and my fellow members of society. And if there is any justice in this world, you will be compensated fairly for our failures.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Caledonia Cowardice

Caledonia politicians were flirting with the idea of asking their constituents whether they, the politicians, should study the viability of seceeding from Racine Unified. But they have now decided against polling their constituents on the question, and they will not include the non-binding, free advisory referendum on the April ballot. Instead, they will issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) to study the issue.

This is a politically effective way to shelve the issue altogether. The cost of studying the seccession issue will not be cheap. And Caledonia voters will not have put their stamp of approval on the expense, because the politicians decision not to ask them. Don't be surprised when the Caledonia politicians choose not to fund the study.

But when and if they do this, as quietly as possible, be sure that you understand the full significance of their inaction. They will have eagerly engaged with the administration of Racine Unified, while completely rejecting the voices of their own constituents. And this is what passes for representation in Caledonia.

It's 2007, Do You Know Where Your Students Are?

I contacted Racine Unified about ten days ago seeking some demographic information in the hopes that I could introduce some facts to the Caledonia seccession debate. Among the information that I need for my analysis is the number of RUSD eligible students from Caledonia and Racine who do not attend RUSD schools. However, Unified does not have this information.

I find this fascinating. By some estimates, 60% of Caledonia schoolchildren do not attend Unified schools. Now I would think that if the mission of RUSD was to educate children, they might need to know that huge numbers of people are balking at a pre-paid (as opposed to free) education. And more importantly, RUSD might want to know just why these people have chosen to forgo the pre-paid education, so that they could address their concerns if possible.

Or maybe it isn't Caledonia students they want, only Caledonia dollars.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stick em up Peter

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial calls for some "bold, new initiatives" to improve Milwaukee's transit system. No surprise there. But how to pay for the improvements?

No problem. "No robbing of Peter to pay Paul need occur, particularly if new funding sources can be tapped..."

If I am not mistaken, funding for government comes from taxes. And transit users do not pay enough to cover the costs of the transit system. So the difference is payed for by taxpayers who do not use the transit system. How is that not robbing Peter (non transit users) to pay Paul (transit users)?

Journal Times Eliminates Content

Is it just me or has our local newspaper been even more content free than usual, if that is even possible?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Will They Print It?

I sent the following e-mail to the Journal Sentinel after reading their editorial wherin they propose a year long community wide discussion on quality of life issues. I hope they print it.

I am delighted that the Journal Sentinel Editorial Board is initiating a series of discussions on quality of life issues concerning our region and state. Clearly there are problems in the areas of crime, education, economic opportunities, and health care to name a few. I share your urgency in addressing these problems.

However, I am dismayed by the following paragraph of your editorial: "We know that there is no silver bullet for what ails metro Milwaukee. We also know, however, that nothing can be accomplished unless done collectively and collaboratively."

I am quite certain that many of your readers share the view that some form of collectivism is the answer to our quality of life issues. But you may count me as one who sees collectivism as the cause of many of the problems that plague our area.

As a practical matter, I wonder what contribution opponents of collectivism could make to your important community discussion if you have already concluded that you "know" that they are wrong.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Feeling Political

An anonymous contributor to Free Racine accused me of formulating an opinion based on my feelings as a business owner. The assertion is ridiculous but I began to wonder what my political views might be if I allowed my feelings to supersede my thoughts on political matters. So the following is my best guess as to what my policy preferences would be based only on my feelings.

I feel that war is bad because people get killed so we should not participate in any wars.

I feel like the environment is very important. We only have one after all. Pollution is bad for the environment and can cause asthma and resperatory problems. We should eliminate all pollution.

I feel that children are very important and so is education. I feel that we should spare no expense in helping our children learn because they will be in charge some day.

I feel bad that some people are sick and can't afford health care. I feel as though health care should be free.

I feel sad when I think about poor people. I feel as though some people have more money than than they really need. I feel like poor people should get money from rich people.

I better stop now. I am starting to feel like a liberal. I don't like this feeling.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blacks in Racine Should Seek School Vouchers

A meeting is scheduled for Saturday to discuss the issues facing blacks in Racine. Among the issues to be discussed is the public school system and the disproportionate failure rate among black students.

The greatest problem facing Racine in general and blacks in particular is the quality, or lack thereof, of public education. So far, the most outspoken leaders in the black community focus their efforts on improving the public school system, invariably through referendum support and desegregation efforts.

Perhaps it is time they rethink this strategy and focus their efforts on escaping the public school system. To do so would not be easy. Blacks would have to reconsider their support for the Democratic party and unionism, both of which would vigorously oppose the movement to free black students from failing schools.

On this issue at least, blacks are inexplicably aligned with a political party that opposes the only education reform that has actually helped black students. The black parents in Milwaukee are happy with school vouchers. Blacks in Racine would be as well.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On Free Trade #3

Speaking of Harleys, we stopped in a Harley store in Chicago the other day. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that Harley Davidson is a clothing and accessories company.

I don't know if it is true or not, but I have heard that Harley Davidson sells more in clothing than they do motorcycles. I pointed this out to my son and added that Harley Davidson is essentially selling the value associated with their name. For many people, HD stands for something that they want to be associated with, be it quality, luxury or a perceived lifestyle.

Now not just any company can sell their brand name. I won't be rushing out to by the latest Enron T-shirt. But if your name is associated with something positive, you can sell it.

My point to my son was that a companies reputation is valuable. And likewise, an individuals reputation is valuable. If your name stands for something positive, you will have earned it, and you can profit from it.

I can't wait for CTW's response.

On Free Trade #2

My wife told me the other day that her cousin in India wanted a Harley Davidson. The thought of an Indian purchasing a Harley Davidson would have been laughable only a decade ago. But now it is not such a ridiculous idea.

Some years ago, India decided to open their country to foriegn investment and trade. In a relatively short amount of time, India is transforming itself from an impoverished third world country into an economic powerhouse.

Are Indian people suddenly smarter or more industrious? No, they have simply embraced free trade. And now some are thinking about purchasing luxury motorcycles from Milwaukee.

Is anyone (please lets not talk about the environment on this one) harmed by this development?

On Free Trade

In one hand I held my sons tennis racket. In the other I held a small bag of gold jewelry. Given the choice, which would you like to have? I have one condition. You may not sell or trade the item that you choose.

I knew what my son would choose. He chose the tennis racket because he loves tennis. I would have made the same choice. Under those conditions, I would choose a roll of toilet paper over a mound of gold. What use do I have for gold, other than to sell or trade it?

Now what choice would you make if free trade were allowed?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fifty Years of Liberalism

OK, I am not a Racine historian, but if I may offer a conservative guess, I suspect that in the last fifty years or more, the political scene here in Racine has been dominated by big government liberalism. So liberals ought to be able to point to Racine as a huge success story, right? So what has all this liberalism gotten us?

Well, we have a government run school system that effectively drives people away from a formerly beautiful city on a beautiful lake, nestled between to huge markets. We have a large city work force with future pension and health insurance obligations that just might bankrupt us. We have a large class of unemployable, unproductive toublemakers enticed to Wisconsin by our generous welfare benefits. We have the carcasses and/or fading memories of a once thriving manufacturing sector, though in fairness, this problem is not unique to Racine. Among our business success stories are a handful of businesses that had the good sense and good fortune to resist the unionization that continues to destroy businesses throughout our country.

And todays liberals have the answer to all of these problems. If only the government would do something. If only the government would spend more on education, job training, commuter transit, government planning etc... we could return to our heydey.

Or perhaps not.

Friday, February 09, 2007

FreeRacine Supports Public Indoor Smoking Ban

Yes, it is true. I support a smoking ban in all public buildings. Public buildings are, by definition, publicly owned. As such, the rules within those buildings should be detirmined by the public, through the legislative process. So long as smoking bans in public buildings pass constitutional muster, I am all for them. I see no reason why I must be compelled by our government to participate in a jury, for example, while also being forced to inhale cigarette smoke.

Some examples of public buildings would be public schools, courthouses, city hall, public park buildings, jails and libraries, to name a few.

Buildings that are privately owned would naturally be exempted from the public legislative process. These would of course include privately owned bars and restaurants.

What is the Left Smoking?

My evidence is entirely anecdotal, but it seems that the left is behind the push for smoking bans and the calls for legalizing marijuana.

At first glance, this incongruity makes no sense.

But these issues are not primarily about smoking, health or personal freedom for the far left. The far left is all about taxes and regulations. By legalizing marijuana, the left gets tax revenue and regulation. By pushing for smoking bans, they get more regulation.

It makes perfect sense while removing the haze from the leftists agenda. The left prefers big government over personal freedom.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

RUSD Teacher Proud of Self

Tired of the "cold hard slaps in the face," Park High School economics and government teacher Anthony Arndt issued the following announcement in a JT commentary today:

"I am proud of who I am. I am proud to call myself a teacher."

Arndt failed to mention the level of his self esteem or whether he felt special.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Leave Wal-Mart Alone

I am still catching up with yesterdays news, and last Sundays as well. I just read the JT business reporter Michael Burke's article where he praises Kenosha's decision to prevent Wal-Mart from opening a supercenter in town. "An economic impact assessment concluded the area is already overserved with grocery stores and pharmacies, and that Wal-Mart would pose undue competition for existing retailers."

When businesses are protected from competition, consumers pay more. By eliminating this competition, Kenosha politicians are essentially forcing Kenosha shoppers to subsidize weak businesses that can't survive in a competitive market.

In my view, government should stay out of this entirely. Let consumers decide if the area is indeed "overserved with grocery stores and pharmacies" and if that is the case, let the consumer decide, through their patronage, which businesses should close and which should remain open.

Smoking Out Weak Arguments

The JT's arguments in favor of a smoking ban deserve a smoking out.

The JT claims that the smoking ban issue is "not an issue of personal freedom. It's an issue of public health." OK, let us assume that that is true. If true, smoking would cause public health problems wherever it occurs. In other words, any smoking would be detrimental to the public health. Therefore, smoking, anywhere, should be illegal. If the JT were to be logically consistent, they would argue for the complete prohibition of smoking.

The JT's other main argument is that everyone else is doing it. The French are banning smoking, the European Union is considering a ban, many US states have bans etc... therfore we should jump on the ban wagon. I find this to be among the most disturbing argument that can be advanced by adults. Don't think, just follow.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New RUSD Propagandist

RUSD has a new propagandist, replacing the twice retired Linda Flashinski. The new hire, Stephanie Kratochvil is saying all the right things already.

"I think there is a perception problem," says Kratochvil. No, we have a reality problem. Anyone who fails to understand that does indeed have a perception problem.

Kratchvil vows to "find the good things happening in the district," according to the JT article. Kratchvil made no promises about the bad news.

Catching Up

Jan 28. I see the JT has a front page photo of a Monument Square war protest rally. No surprise there, but why must they send a photographer to the rally. Is the scene really any different from the other rallies? Stock footage ought to do.

Jan 29. Food section. There is an article, with pictures, of a black man who opened a restaurant downtown. An anonymous blogger has previously declared that our two business organizations downtown are essentially whites only organizations. Any thoughts anon?

Jan 31. Socking it to car rental companies to fund commuter rail is not only unfair but it will have unintended consequences. My guess is that some of these companies will not survive this new tax, and fewer people will rent cars, so the anticipated revenue will gradually decline. But taxing others for what you want is a tried and true method for getting a tax increase.

Feb 1. The JT endorsed a statewide indoor public smoking ban. I am shocked shocked shocked!

Today. I see a local judge has been arrested for DUI. He intends to plead guilty, he says, because he is guilty. What a refreshing attitude! I wish him well.

Excused Absence

I apologize for the lack of entries here, but I have a valid excuse. I was away on a business trip and I thought it best not to advertise that fact in advance.