While I have had comments from time to time, I would like your feedback on the posts. So please take time to respond with your comments. Thank you.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
The current cast of Presidential hopefuls constantly complain about the “Gotcha questions” posed to them by the reporters who are chosen to conduct the debates. The problem is their complete lack of knowledge regarding the Constitution, the branches of government, and the specific functions of each branch. They were not taught in school that whining to their teachers and parents will not work especially if they have not read their textbooks on the subject assigned to them. I used to tell my students that the only excuse for lack of effort was to be hit by a beer truck on the way to school.
Here is a partial solution to overcoming the complete ignorance for a person running for a political office. Every candidate running for political office would be required to attend a class and pass that class before being allowed to place their name on a ballot in any state whether running for a local, state, or national office. Passing such a course with or without local help or attendance for formal instruction would be required. Party affiliation would not matter since governing in our form of government should be color blind, blind to religious affiliation and blind to political affiliation. Supreme court justices for both state and local offices would not be exempt because we need to have well educated political official officers at all levels. As an example, our local city council has ignored our state’s open meeting laws whereby it is required that the public attendees be allowed to ask questions during regular scheduled public meetings.
We have not been well served by this self centered group.
The present Supreme Court of the United States also has not served our nation well by allowing rich benefactors to buy their influence through the passage of the Citizens United ruling which essentially allows money to set aside
political ethics and endorse corruption as a way of life in our great nation.
I subscribe to a newsletter which reviews the best stocks to buy with the best dividends and returns. In the last newsletter the author described the plight of state owned prisons compared to privately owned prisons. He wrote that state owned prisons were old and decrepit, underfunded and had poor employees. I question the practice of privately owned prisons just as I question the practice of privately owned public schools including Charter Schools funded by the Federal Government. When one considers prisons, there are many people in those prisons who were sent there for petty crimes such as smoking pot. If a prison is paid for by a private company, what incentive is there for the company which operates the prison to allow the person who commits a petty crime to go free in a short period of time? The incentive would be to keep that person in prison as long as possible by adding more time on the sentence for behavior while in prison.
With charter schools, the tendency is to select only the best students and allow the public schools to educate the rest. The other problem is that students who come from poor homes would very likely overlooked for charter schools. I grew up in a rural community where many of us had to work on farms with dairy cattle which had to be milked night and morning. This meant that we had to get up by five thirty a.m. finish our chores and catch a school bus by seven thirty a.m. and try to get a some breakfast in the two hour time period, plus we had to walk three fourths of mile to catch the school bus. School was dismissed at four p.m. so by the time we got home it was five thirty p.m. I remember being very hungry so I had to get a snack before going out to milk the cows. We had our evening meal between eight and nine in the evening, so by that time I would go to bed and did not even look at any home work. We also had another group of students in competition with us and that was the group of students living in the town and those farmers who raised row crops such as lettuce, onions, sugar beets, and potatoes. If one only raises row crops, after the crops are harvested there is nothing to do until the following planting season. This group of students could concentrate on school and school activities such as sports. So it wasn’t until I went to college that I escaped dairy farming and could concentrate on studying and activities that interested me. By the beginning of the 2nd year of college I was admitted to the men’s scholastic fraternity.
The other problem with private prisons and private schools is leadership. When a young person has committed a minor crime, that person is rarely rehabilitated because long term hardened prisoners are well schooled in advanced criminal activities so that the young person is exposed to people who can and do teach them the latest versions of criminality. If a state needs a new prison they need to finance and build it with public monies and then examine the activities of the young prisoners it sends to prison and determine if there are other means of rehabilitation. Since junior college is much less expensive than prison, maybe that could become an alternative to prison.
As far as public schools compared to charter schools, public schools are much less expensive and the leadership of the students stays with the community via the public schools. The southern states are a good example of a solution gone wrong. With desegregation, the white residents who could afford a private school sent their children to all white private schools. Later, the more affluent black families did the same thing, and by the time my wife and I moved to the South in the early 1990’s both the affluent white and black families were sending their children to the same private schools which they labeled academies. This activity left the public schools with the poor white and black students minus the leadership one gets when the children of all races and backgrounds are mixed together in one public school. California is an exception in that the public schools were required to provide instruction in the native language of the parents which was a bad idea. It created schools in which all the students were taught in chinese, korean, spanish, etc. There was a problem finding fluent bilingual teachers in all these different languages. The other problem is that we as Americans came to this country and had to learn to speak English. By the second generation most of the population spoke English as their first language which tended to meld all of its citizens into a new Nation. My ancestors spoke one of the native indian dialects, the dialect of Scotland, England, and the dialect of the South which I still have in muted form, but which returned in the five years I lived in the South. I tried to explain to a friend that I was born in Oregon, but raised in the South, because of my mother who had the traditions she learned in Arkansas. When I married my second wife she renewed my Southern education except from a Mississippi point of view which varied slightly from that of Arkansas.
I spent the last eleven years of my teaching career teaching in three public schools where I had a mixture of students–One public school had two versions of Russian spoken, Spanish which was referred to as Spanglish because their parents had merged the two languages, Portugese because one group of Russians were referred to as Old-Believers, because of their religious beliefs, when they left Russia through Siberia and emigrated first to Brazil, then to Texas, and finally to Oregon, where some went to Alaska to fish. We also had another group who had emigrated from Russia to Oregon, but did not have much to do with the Old-Believer Russians.
The last public school in which I taught was in Corvallis, Oregon the home of Oregon State University which I attended while completing my doctorate. We had students from China, Japan, Vietnam, India, South Africa, and many other countries. I got many of these students because mathematics is a universal language, and I taught in what was called a Mathematics Learning Center in which I had students in Algebra II, College Algebra, Trigonometry, Analytic Geometry, Calculus, and Probability and Statistics. This was a self-paced, non-lecture course with all the students in the same class. I taught four periods of these classes which were a challenge for the first year until I became familiar with all the different students and texts. These classes were melting pots of students from many nations who got along very well. So I believe in Public Schools because in the mixture of people the on finds in a Public School because I think the experience enriches us all.
I had one student I remember the most and also one of my favorites. I had her as a freshman with two of her friends who spent much of their time talking. She told me one day that I was predjudiced against her because she was black which I did not know because I did not pay any attention to the color of a persons skin. She complained to her father about me so we had a conference with her father who was the Athletic Director of the other High School in Corvallis, Oregon. When we met he was indeed black and a very nice person. He listened while his daughter told me of all the trouble I had caused her because she was black. He listened her and when he had heard enough of her complaints he told her that she was to go back to my class and behave herself. I found out that her mother was blond and had blue eyes. Fast forward two years. We had a Business teacher was Philipino and came into the cafeteria steaming because this same girl told him he was predjudiced against her because she was black. His comment was that this was nonsense because he as darker than she was. I left the cafeteria knowing that she was going to ask me if she could transfer into my class. When she asked me I told her she could, but that I did not want to hear anymore of that nonsense I had heard when she was a freshman. She assured me that she would not so she went to work and did very well in the class. I would see her father every once in a while and tell him what a good student she was, and he was as pleased as I was.
Walter L. Bell Ph.D.
While listening to the news of a passenger train derailment, I remembered a conversation with an engineer for one of the major railroads in which we discussed why passenger trains had difficulty on tracks built for freight trains. This conversation occurred about fifteen years ago, but what surprised me were the changes that had been made in the length of sections of the rails. He told me that the length of the rails much longer than they had been in the years when both kinds of trains were common until after World War II, and when the railroads owned both passenger and freight trains. The freight trains traveled as did passenger trains on short sections of rails in order to accommodate the higher speeds of the passenger trains.
Once passenger trains were phased out in the 1960’s, the railroads slowly lengthened the sections of rail because the freight trains carried much greater loads at much slower speeds. Also, as the temperature changed from cold to warm from winter to summer, the longer sections of rails expanded greatly because there were less spaces in the longer sections of rails for expansion. This did not affect the freight trains because of their slower speeds and greater weight. The passenger trains tended to derail due to this expansion because they were lighter and traveled at much higher speeds. The passenger trains tended to derail during the warmer months when the expansion of the rails were the greatest.
We were parked by each other in our RV’s so we had time to discuss this problem in detail, plus there had been some passenger trains that had derailed along one of the railroads in a Southern State. I wondered at the time if Amtrak was aware of the problem, because the only passenger trains were operated by Amtrak. Also, the engineer told me that with the longer rails there were no longer the click and clack sound of the train rails while traveling over the shorter rails. Since I last rode on a passenger train once in 1958 and on an Amtrak train in 1987, I liked the sound over the short rails especially at night because the sound tended to lull me to sleep. I doubt that very many passengers on the trains east of the Mississippi know about the changes in the rails that affect the safety of its passengers. Since Amtrak discontinued its rail service from Portland to Salt Lake years ago, the length of the rails is no longer a concern for this rail system. At present, one has to travel to San Francisco and then take the train east over the mountain pass through Nevada to reach Salt Lake, so the Amtrak system in the Western States is greatly compromised thanks to our Congress which will spend money on anything except infrastructure.
I would like to have two dedicated high speed rail systems built from the Mississippi River to the West Coast. One rail system would end in Portland, Oregon and the other in San Francisco or Los Angeles. We could then build the third dedicated high speed rail system from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C. This would provide the vast Western States with an alternative means of transportation. The definition of a dedicated rail system means that the railroad is enclosed with an Australian fence which will keep out large animals and people, since these trains travel at very high speeds.
Walter L. Bell Ph.D.
Since John Boehner has not been able to accomplish anything in his role as the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives in the last six years, he has appointed himself as the Secretary of State, which is an Office of the Executive Branch of Government. First, he invited Benjamin Netanyahu to give a speech before a joint session of the House and Senate before he was re-elected as the Prime Minister of Israel. Prior to his re-election as Prime Minister, Netanyahu proclaimed that he would never consider a two state solution whereby the Arabs would be given back part of the land taken from them when the State of Israel was formed after World War II. After the election, and after much criticism from the rest of the world, Netanyahu proclaimed that he would consider a two state solution, which leads one to believe that he lied just to get re-elected as Prime Minister of Israel.
Boehner has now said that he was going to lead a delegation of House and Senate delegates to visit Netanyahu in Israel. It would be better if he tried to get legislation passed in the House of Representatives which is his role at present and allow Senator Mitch McConnell to complete the task of appointing a new Attorney General since Eric Holder has stated repeatedly that he would like to go back to civilian life. The unstated issue in this whole drama is that a woman who President Obama has selected for the office is black and Republicans cannot and will not confirm the appointment of a black person to serve a half black and half white President.
Neither John Boehner nor Mitch McConnell have any desire to work on legislation which would benefit the working class in this country. They both claim that we need a balanced budget, but neither has passed any legislation which would update the infrastructure such as freeways, bridges, schools, and manufacturing which would provide jobs for the working class of this country. For example, the amount of money they will use to send a delegation to Israel to socialize with Benjamin Netanyahu could be better spent on improving the lives of American citizens.
After all, the amount of money spent by a young congressman to redecorate his office and travel expenses are small compared to the amount which will be spent for Boehner to travel with a delegation to Israel. Also, he does not have to worry about being forced to resign from the House of Representative for wasting money and assuming the role of Secretary of State or interfering with our present Secretary of State who is negotiating with the Iranians over the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
I recently saw a movie on the Crusades which reminded me of the Isis problem in Syria and Iraq. Isis is a Muslim version of the Crusades wherein the Christians were either trying to convert the Muslims to Christianity or kill those who did not choose the be converted. With Isis, it is not clear whether they are intent on killing all of those who do not agree with their view of religion, or whether they just enjoy the act of killing much like some of the Christians in the Crusades.
It is not surprising that the members of the Muslim religion, which is primarily divided into Sunni and Shia believers, do not get along. The present day Christians have so many different factions that it is hard to keep up with all the church groups that call themselves Christians. In James A. Michener’s novel THE SOURCE, a group of Crusaders enter a village and see everyone wearing a turban so they kill all the inhabitants only to discover that the persons they have killed were Christians. The moral of this event was not to assume that people who wear turbans are Muslims.
To understand the current unrest in the Muslim areas, it is important to understand the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I by the Western Forces. The Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years and was a potent force in shaping the future of political interest in the region today. During the greatest extent it had caliphates, which are a combination of religious and political governmental forms of government. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, it encompassed parts of Eastern Europe from Bulgaria to parts of Persia(now encompassed in part by Iran), Turkey, Afghanistan and eventually expanded to include parts of the area not included in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Lebanon, Persia, Egypt, and all the African Countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
During part of the history of the Ottoman Empire, the human rights issues such as equality of men and women was one of the most inspired of any nation or empire. Women’s rights were equal to men’s rights, which we as a nation have not yet begun to equal. As the Ottoman Empire expanded, it included caliphates governed by different members of the empire, but who were under the overall ruler of the Ottoman Empire. At its greatest extent, it included most of the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It got its start with the breakup of the Roman Empire and was still considered part of the Roman Empire. As the Roman Empire began to diminish in its influence, the Ottoman Empire began to become independent and its influence on the areas around the Mediterranean Sea.
It is difficult to determine the goals of Isis because it has grown from a group which was fighting with other groups to change the government of Syria, but then changed into a group to capture Iraq and other countries around the region and establish what it considered a Muslim country with as a Caliphate much as it existed in the Ottoman Empire. It has a goal of expanding its version of a Caliphate wherever it can establish a government of its own liking. In writing this article I do not claim to be an expert. I started this post about December 1, 2014, but I discovered that I needed to go back through history and learn about the Ottoman Empire which was broken up after World War I, because it became an ally of Germany in the war against Great Britain, the United States and others. As a result, Turkey became an independent nation and is no longer a Muslim nation. In fact Turkey is the only part of the Ottoman Empire which still exists. All the other parts of the Ottoman Empire are independent nations populated primarily by the two major groups of the Muslim faiths, the Sunnis and Shia.
I remember taking a course in Modern European History in the early 1950’s which referred to the Ottoman Empire as the Sick Man of Europe so until I spent a great amount of time researching and reading about the Ottoman Empire I could not write intelligently about its history. I urge you to look up the maps of the Empire in order to understand the ultimate goal of Isis which is to build its own Empire and to extend it as far as it is able. However, with its methods of killing anyone who disagrees with its goals, it will very likely encounter much opposition by those who wish to be left alone and determine their own destiny in a more peaceful manner.
Note: To view the Historical Maps of the Ottoman Empire go to Yahoo and type in Historical maps of the Ottoman Empire.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
There is a movement within many circles that we need private schools such as Charter Schools which are really financed with public monies. Whether or not we will have schools financed by the infamous Koch Brothers and other Billionaires, I have no idea, but to charge a poor family to send their children to a private school rather than a public school will be a repudiation to the idea that all children have a right to a public education paid by all the citizens of the United States. The issue at present is that by changing our model from public and private education we can get and retain only the best teachers in the classroom. By comparison, we have moved from state owned prisons to privately owned prisons so that we can get and retain the best criminal population for life. For example we now have many inmates who were given long sentences for smoking marijuana, and, since a prison is such a fine institution for training career criminals, we now have young men who were sent prison for a relatively minor offense that they are now career criminals with lifetime tenure.
So we now have a choice of public schools which include tenure after about three years in many states, with the idea that it is almost impossible to fire an inept teacher because of the cost of lawsuits. I have been a member of an Oregon Education Association which dealt with teachers who were in the process of being fired. As professional teachers, we took the task seriously because no one wants to work with an inept teacher. I also know that if one gets the reputation of being skilled in working with students with behavioral or learning problems guess who gets these students. The lawsuit in the State of California is claiming that poorer students get inferior teachers which really has no basis for its claim. The problem is that if one has a record of working with students from the lower classes of our society your success means that you get only these students. The decision for this practice lies with the administrators and department chairman and with the years within the school district. The class size for students with special problems does not diminish because if you are successful your reward is more of the same. We had a physics teacher in the high school where I taught who not only got the more academically advanced students but did not provide any class time to help his class with their homework or classwork. These students would come to my Mathematics Learning Center which was a self paced class, with students from Algebra II through Calculus, and ask me to help them with their physics homework. I always told them to ask their physics teacher for help because that was part of his job and not my job.
Recently I read a review of a book by a Harvard graduate, who is a Ph.D. candidate in Education, that the only way to get the best teachers was to use interview techniques so that only the persons who passed his interview gauntlet would be chosen for a job. He did not believe in Tenure because with his interview technics there would no need for tenure because his methods of interviewing would guarantee success in the classroom. I have my doubts about his system because the best measure of success is whether these teachers can maintain an orderly learning atmosphere in a classroom where the students challenge everything you do until you get the reputation that you are there to teach and they are there to learn. No interview can predict success until a teacher is able to project a sense of humour with a sense of seriousness and will not tolerate disruptions which have nothing to do with the learning process.