Polyester Tires, Woven Skyscrapers

ARticle here. See the slideshow, as well. Bonnet-tip to Evangelical Outpost

Textiles are no longer just the stuff of clothing, carpets and furniture covering. Made of high-tech threads, they can also be found in lifesaving medical devices and the bodies of racing cars. One architect is proposing building a skyscraper out of carbon fibers.

“I think there’s more areas that are using textiles than there were before,” said Matilda McQuaid, head of the textiles department at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, where 150 items showing the advances of materials science are on display in a show called “Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.”

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Home Schoolers are the Real Education Reformers

In an article titled Homeschooling Alone- Why corporate reformers are ignoring the real revolution in education, Greg Beato writes:

Despite homeschooling’s increasing popularity—a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education estimates that approximately 1.1 million students are now being homeschooled in the United States—neither corporate altruists nor philanthropic foundations have shown much interest in it.

Instead, would-be reformers continue to give generously to a public school system they routinely condemn as inefficient, dysfunctional, and hopelessly obsolete. To fix such a system, they say, it will take fresh thinking, radical change, a completely new approach. So instead of dumping billions each year into the public school system, as the federal government does, today’s private-sector benefactors forge an entirely different path, dumping only hundreds of millions each year into the public school system. They promote charter schools (which boast a nationwide enrollment of around 500,000). They champion school vouchers (which are currently used by fewer than 20,000 students nationwide).

Back in 1983 a federal report titled A Nation at Risk looked at American public education and stated “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Was this one of the salvos in the war?

Beato says:

While corporate reformers often talk as if every public school failure can be blamed on the inevitable inefficiencies of public-sector monopolists, the truth is that private forces have been helping to shape America’s public education system since its inception. In the 19th century, for example, wealthy philanthropists popularized the idea that tormenting children with fractions and vowels required specialized training and certification; the teaching colleges they helped create ushered in the era of the professional instructor. In more recent years, as education historian David Tyack has pointed out, it wasn’t just fuzzy-minded progressives who sabotaged our schools with holistic curricula like metal shop and driver’s ed. For those innovations, we also have the National Association of Manufacturers, car dealers, and insurance companies to thank.

Since that 1983 report, local, state, and federal governments have poured funds into the public school system, and corporations have made donations amounting to about one billion dollars. There really hasn’t been much improvement.

According to the American Society for Training and Development, a workplace-learning trade group based in Alexandria, Virginia, a survey of Fortune 500 companies found that teaching employees “basic skills” accounted for 17 percent of their training costs in 2002. Similarly, in a 2001 survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers, 32 percent of the companies responding reported that their workers had poor reading and writing skills; 26.2 percent said their workers’ math skills were inadequate. By 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts, America will face a shortage of 12 million qualified workers in the job market’s fastest-growing sectors.

One reason why these efforts are not more successful might be that they really aren’t seeking systemic change, just more of the same thing:

To participate in IBM’s Reinventing Education program, schools must agree to work overtime, “extending the length of the school day and school year.” Charter schools, another favorite of education reformers, can be havens of Holtism, but they also often display a penchant for uniforms and discipline codes. In today’s enlightened corporations, casual Fridays and flex-time rule, but yesterday’s workplace lives on in the schools of tomorrow.

But if something already isn’t working, why would you want more of it?

Corporate reformers, says Beato, essentially just want to homogenize education. Homeschoolers tend to be more successful than their public educated counterparts, and one reason just might be that “Homeschooling… is essentially an attempt to diversify education.”

Beato thinks that education reformers and philanthropists should consider funding homeschoolers:

But in today’s education landscape, where even the most generous donors can’t hope to sustain a system that burns through $500 billion a year, philanthropists ultimately function as venture capitalists: They support good ideas with seed money and hope the best ones eventually find a market. Extending this metaphor, imagine if, in the mid-’90s, high tech’s flushest angels decided to snub Internet trailblazers like eBay and Amazon and put all their money into the proposition that Montgomery Ward would pioneer online commerce. Essentially, this is the strategy of today’s corporate philanthropists when it comes to education reform.

What makes such lack of interest especially baffling is that, theoretically at least, homeschooling seems tailor-made to the values and needs of business. It’s a private, union-free institution in which the government plays only a minor role. It’s an endlessly customizable approach to education that offers an alternative to the one-size-fits-all limitations of public school. It produces self-directed individuals who have learned how to acquire new skills without constant supervision or coercion.

The downside? It may be a little harder to mass-market Doritos, Nikes, and other articles of trade in a Southern Baptist’s living room than it is in a public school. But in an era when the phrase school choice has become the mantra of so many education reformers and philanthropists, homeschooling, a choice that millions of parents and children have already enthusiastically embraced, remains the most unleveraged asset in the education universe.

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Broad Band Obstructionism

Media Citizen writes:

We have Big Media to thank for saving Americans from themselves. Just as the notion of affordable broadband for all was beginning to take hold in towns and cities across the country, the patriots at Verizon, Qwest, Comcast, Bell South and SBC Communications have created legislation that will stop the “red menace” of community internet before it invades our homes.

Telecommunications giants have mobilized a well-funded army of coin-operated think tanks, pliant legislators and lazy journalists to protect their Internet fiefdoms from these municipal internet initiatives, painting them as an affront to American innovation and free enterprise.

Their weapon of choice is industry-crafted legislation that restricts local governments from offering public service Internet access at reasonable rates. Laws are already on the books in a dozen states. This year alone, 10 states are considering similar bills to block public broadband or to strengthen existing restrictions.Spinning broadband as theirs alone to provide, ISPs have chalked up some early victories—including a draconian law now on the books in Pennsylvania, which strips local governments of the right to choose their own homegrown broadband solutions without the prior approval of a monopoly phone company. In late 2004, Verizon dictated the law word-for-word to local legislators, who then quietly slipped it into the middle of a 72-page bill that appeared to call for improved communications infrastructure for all Pennsylvanians.

It will have the opposite effect.

Forcing public broadband networks to ask permission from Verizon before offering service is akin to forcing public libraries to ask permission from Borders before checking out books.

Interesting article full of links to other thought provoking and informative articles. Read it all.

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Zookeeper and Charges as Zoo Exhibits

If you scroll around this blog very much you will probably gain the impression that our family is a bit odd, offbeat, eccentric, strange, and possibly even weird.

We’re sorry if that’s the case. We’d rather you got the impression that we are definitely weird.

The Headmistress is going to indulge in a little bragging for a moment, but she will be brief. One of the things we like best about our family is that our children like each other. They are friends, close friends. This is also one of the qualities that most strikes others who meet us as well. More than most siblings, these seven offspring get along, care about each other, and are warm and affectionate with one another.

So we knew what an out of state friend of ours meant when he told the Headmaster that he couldn’t wait for us to come visit him so he could ‘show us’ to everybody he knew.

Knowing what he meant does not prevent us from a little playful banter, however, so the Deputy Headmistress made a bit of a mock fuss over it, and said “I’m not sure I like being Exhibit A.”

“More like exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I,” quipped Pipsqueak.

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Using sick relatives in petty revenge games?

REgarding Mae Magouirk, reports are that granddaughter Beth Gaddy has denied her grandmother’s siblings the right to visit their sister in the hospital. In fact, Suebob reports that security guards remain in Mae’s room and have escorted the relatives from the premises.

Ken Mullinax, Mae’s nephew, tells Blogs for Terri that his lawyer asked Beth’s lawyer, in so many words, “Whassup wit dat?”
And Ken Mullinax says that Beth’s reply (relaid through the appropriate layering of lawyers) is

“Beth would be willing to allow us access to Mae Magouirk, if and only if, “Kenny would not give another media interview or speak to another blogger or do anything, either passive or proactive, which will give information or shed public attention to the case of Mae Magouirk.”

Whatever Gaddy’s reasons, that seems a little impolitic.

SueBob comments on Wizbang, and points to the link where we can read the court documents, if we are so inclined. Says SueBob:

There are some court findings made part of the court order that was based on an agreement of the parties. It is already published on the internet. The petition for the siblings is also out on the internet and makes for interesting reading regarding Beth Gaddy’s involvement in Mae’s finances prior to Mae’s illness. See pages 20 through 23. The living will and POA are there as well.

I would recommend starting at page 18. Very disturbing stuff.

Paul at Wizbang notes that finally some regular print media are following the story. The two links
he gives are local papers, one of them requiring visitors to register, promise to donate their firstborn to Molok, and drink eight glasses of water per day.

Seems a little insensitive, since water is one of the things that was being denied Mrs. Mcgouirk.

(That last bit was satirical, folks- just a comment on what a hassle it was to register with that paper)

In that article we read:

A granddaughter who has been deemed her legal guardian placed her [Mae Magouirk] in a hospice, without food. Other family members disagreed, saying the woman is not beyond recovery and has not lost her ability to think.

Now a panel of three medical specialists, commissioned by a Troup County probate judge, has ruled that the woman’s heart ailment is treatable.

On Saturday, the widowed cancer clinic retiree was airlifted to UAB Medical Center in Birmingham after a week without food.

…Magouirk got sick March 13 and was subsequently moved to a LaGrange hospice, which began preparing for her death. The order had come from her physician and grandchildren Beth Gaddy and Michael Shane Magouirk, Mullinax said. He is against letting his aunt die without treatment.

“This is a little old lady who hasn’t had a single drink of whiskey, but she was on morphine, and she was loopy,” Mullinax said.

After Magouirk fell ill, Gaddy the granddaughter — a middle school teacher — told relatives that she prayed about the hospice decision, according to Mullinax. He said she told her family, “I think Jesus wants her to go home. She’s suffered enough.”

“When my Aunt Mae becomes lucid again, she’s going to be very saddened,” said Mullinax, a speechwriter and former congressional aide.

Gaddy could not be reached for comment Monday. Messages left for her and her brother at their mother’s home were not returned.

Blogs for Terri has offered to allow Beth Gaddy to tell her side of the story on their blog, but they have yet to hear anything from her.

UPDATE: NBC13.com has a story up- no new information that I saw, except obviously Ken Mullinax has definitely decided not to keep quiet in exchange for access to Mae. Probably wise. After all, what would it profit it him to gain access to her all day and all night if she lost her life because his lips were sealed?

Update 4/13/05: A Certain Slant of Light shares another news source reporting on Mae Magouirk, and also notes that this one, like the one above, has no information the blogs haven’t already noted.

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