Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Category Archives: Education

Self-Destructive Religious Beliefs Strike Again: KY to Build Creationist Theme Park While Slashing Education Budget

Continuing with the anti-religious theme, let us now turn to Kentucky, where creationism apparently trumps education every time:

In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.” It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.” …

Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks. At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. …

In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.

This is the very definition of idiocy, and another prime example of why we need to fight against religious belief in every way we can.  It is not simply a matter of respecting the beliefs of others, allowing people to live according to their own wishes.  The problem, as anyone who has ever met a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim understands, is that a substantial percentage of religious people are not content to keep their views and way of life to themselves.  Spreading religion is built into the very fabric of their belief system, as is the case with every successful collection of memes.

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PISA Test Results: Americans Schooled by China and 20+ Other Nations

Outsourcing starts to make a lot more sense when considered in the context of the results from PISA, a comprehensive exam given to students in 65 countries:

In math, the Shanghai students performed in a class by themselves, outperforming second-place Singapore, which has been seen as an educational superstar in recent years. The average math scores of American students put them below 30 other countries.

In reading, Shanghai students scored 556, ahead of second-place Korea with 539. The United States scored 500 and came in 17th, putting it on par with students in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and several other countries.

In science, Shanghai students scored 575. In second place was Finland, where the average score was 554. The United States scored 502 — in 23rd place — with a performance indistinguishable from Poland, Ireland, Norway, France and several other countries. …

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.

The United States is losing any competitive edge that it might have had in past generations.  We used to boast about having the most intelligent scientists, the most creative engineers, the most inspiring mathematicians.  American research and technology was at the cutting edge of international progress for decades – albeit often driven by militaristic goals – and our educational standards represented the pinnacle of global excellence.

These days, we have very little to offer aside from epidemic obesity and ADHD, with a sprinkling of both physical and intellectual sloth.   Read more of this post

A Glimpse Behind the Curtain: The Truth Behind the Wikileaks Backlash

Noam Chomsky on the Tea Party:

“Well, the Tea Party movement itself is maybe 15, 20 percent of the electorate. It’s relatively affluent, white, nativist. You know, it has rather traditional nativist streaks to it. But what is much more important, I think, is the—is its outrage. I mean, over half the population says they more or less support it or support its message. And what people are thinking is extremely interesting. I mean, overwhelmingly, polls reveal that people are extremely bitter, angry, hostile, opposed to everything.

The primary cause undoubtedly is the economic disaster. It’s not just a financial catastrophe, it’s an economic disaster. I mean, in manufacturing industry, for example, unemployment levels are at the level of the Great Depression. And unlike the Great Depression, those jobs are not coming back. U.S. owners and managers have long ago made the decision that they can make more profit with complicated financial deals than by production. …

It destroys the society here, but that’s not the concern of the ownership class and the managerial class. Their concern is profit. That’s what drives the economy. And the rest of it is a fallout. People are extremely bitter about it but don’t seem to understand it. So, the same people who are a majority, who say that Wall Street is to blame for the current crisis, are voting Republican. Both parties are deep in the pockets of Wall Street, but the Republicans much more so than the Democrats. And the same is true on issue after issue. So the antagonism to everyone is extremely high. Actually, antagonism—they don’t like—population doesn’t like Democrats, but they hate Republicans even more. They’re against big business. They’re against government. They’re against Congress. They’re against science.

Chomsky’s analysis of the Tea Party is highly illuminating.  The hardcore Teabaggers represent perhaps a fifth of the population, but a solid half seems to at least approve of their message.  At its foundation, the Tea Party movement is nothing more than an abstract, objectless anger.  People are bitterly enraged over the state of our society, but they are unable to articulate precisely what – or who – infuriates them.

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An Educated Populace Costs Far Less Than War

In the chaos that represents political discourse in this nation, the fundamental task of educating our young has regrettably been all but forgotten.  While two wars proceed in the background, the nation’s attention is consumed with the stagnating economy, soaring unemployment and an unsustainable federal deficit.  Meanwhile, one of the key ingredients for a long term solution to all of these problems is myopically ignored.

Dr. C. Alonzo Peters has an article over at AlterNet in which he addresses the urgent need to reform the financing of college education.  While Obama talks about offering still more student loans – albeit at lower interest rates – Dr. Peters has a more daring proposal:  free college education for all.

“Tough problems demand ‘outside the box,’ often radical solutions. That’s why we should give serious consideration to providing free college and trade school education to all.

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A Look Back: The Foibles of American Military Policy Remain Unchanged

In searching for information for my recent post on the pervasiveness of US troops in the world today, I came across an interesting NY Times article from early 2008 entitled “Pentagon Seeks Record Level in 2009 Budget.” The article was written in the waning days of the Bush era, as the 2008 primaries were in full swing. The buzzword “change” was sweeping the nation, and the mood was one of cautious optimism: although times were grim, there was genuine hope that this time, with Obama, things would be different.

Fast forward nearly three years, and it is remarkable to note just how little has changed. The issues and concerned discussed in the article could readily be applied to the present, with a few minor changes here and there — such as replacing “Bush” with “Obama.” For instance:

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American Empire: US Soldiers Stationed in 150+ Countries

Countries with more than 100 US military personnel

Even as two wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans seem to have largely forgotten about military concerns.  All eyes have turned towards the staggering economy and the seemingly bottomless abyss of unemployment.  With the resurgence of right-wing ideologues around the nation and in Washington, the specter of tax cuts and deficit reduction have reemerged from the rubble of the disastrous Bush era, and the public is – according to the media at least – screaming for reductions in government expenditures.  Aided by the corporatist media, the American people seem to have forgotten that the poisonous cocktail of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and fewer government services represents precisely the witches’ brew which got us into this economic quagmire in the first place.

As politicians and their ignorant, teabagging followers cry out for tax relief and deficit reduction, the conversation shifts to debating which government services are to be cut.  The health care reform bill, though not yet active, will undoubtedly be the first item on the chopping block.  Next may be education, particularly funding for the fine arts.  Funding for scientific research will likely be slashed, including research into alternative energy.  A few teabag-elects have even raised the incomprehensibly stupid notion of disbanding the EPA, since clean air and water are apparently luxuries for those elitist lefties.

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Obama’s Non-Promise to End the War is a Promise to Prolong the Status Quo

I know I’m a couple of days late in commenting on this tasty morsel of a news item, but it certainly needs to be addressed:

“At a landmark NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday, Western allies agreed to call an end to their troops’ combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014.

The 48 countries of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan struck a deal with Karzai to begin transferring parts of the battlefield to his control in early 2011 and move Western troops to a support role by 2014.

While all the allies agreed to set the target date to end their offensive operations in Afghanistan, the United States warned that hard fighting remained ahead and did not rule out combat continuing after 2014.”

Our supposed ultra-left president, after sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan earlier this year, is now promising to continue this unwinnable war for at least another four years.  And given the ruthless stranglehold that the corporate media has on our national dialogue, this promise of four more years of needless bloodshed is actually presented in a positive light.  “Obama the leftist is ending the war!” is the obviously intended message.  One wonders if the pledged withdrawal of combat troops will resemble the “end” of the Iraq War we observed earlier this year:

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Climate Change Skeptics: Voluntary Human Sacrifices for Capitalism

enjoy the crumbs sucker

The Atlantic has an article about the renowned physicist Freeman Dyson and his inexplicable denial of the reality and implications of climate change.  The article provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our great “deep thinkers,” as the author, Kenneth Brower, attempts to reconcile Dyson’s indisputable genius with his apparent oversight on the issue of climate change.  As Brower mused, turning a decidedly arrogant comment by Dyson on its head, “how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?”  Indeed, it is a great challenge to understand how someone as obviously intelligent as Dyson could hold the views described in this excerpt:

Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic. Charlie Rose began his interview with questions about the climate. Dyson answered that he remained very skeptical about the dangers of global warming. He did not believe the pronouncements of the experts. He did not claim to be an expert himself, so he would not argue the details with anybody; he had not given much time to the issue and did not pretend to know the real answers, but what he knew for sure was that the global-warming experts did not know the answers, either.

Dyson did not deny that the world was getting warmer. What he doubted was the models of the climatologists, and the grave consequences they predicted, and the supposition that global warming is bad. “I went to Greenland myself, where the warming is most extreme,” he said. “And it’s quite spectacular, of course, what you see in Greenland. But what is also true is, the people there love it. The people there hope it continues. It makes their lives a lot more pleasant.”

Now, it is important to highlight the fact that Dyson is not a denier of climate change.  He recognizes that it is happening, but he disputes its supposed severity.  He seems to be under the misguided impression that global warming is potentially a good thing for our planet and the species that inhabit it, as clearly demonstrated in quoted passage above.  In matters of mathematics, physics and engineering, Dyson possesses an intellect that is almost without peer.  And yet his reasoning on the issue of climate change seems exceedingly rudimentary – childish, even.

Dyson’s opinions on the matter are shared by a large percentage of Americans, including Dyson’s belief that the fruits of science and technology will eventually save us from the worst dangers of climate change.  However, until very recently most Americans were reluctant to even admit that climate change was actually occurring.  It has only been within the last decade – and mostly within the last half-decade – that the effects of climatic shifts became so apparent that all but the most fool-hardy skeptics could continue to deny its existence.

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Hypocrisy Defined: Christians Against Universal Health Care

There’s an amusing – if tragic – anecdote circulating the blogosphere at the moment about one of the newly elected teabagger darlings inadvertently whining about the lack of a public option he had so fervently derided. Republican Andy Harris lamented the fact that he would be without health care for an astonishing 28 days; the exchange with his aids was quite telling as to the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of most teabaggers and other right-wingers:

“According to an unnamed congressional staffer quoted by [Glenn Thrush of Politico], [Andy] Harris stood up at the meeting “and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care.”

“Harris then asked if he could purchase insurance from the government to cover the gap,” added the aide, who was struck by the similarity to Harris’s request and the public option he denounced as a gateway to socialized medicine.” [ h/t Mock, Paper, Scissors ]

So this teabagger – a physician, no less – who in public rabidly denounces universal health care or anything even resembling it, then turns around and hypocritically demands why a public option is not available for himself. One wonders if he is even aware of his loathesome intellectual dishonesty, or whether he simply believes he is entitled to something more than ordinary plebes because he is an elected official.

But the fact is, we find such ludicrous hypocrisy with virtually every right-winger we encounter. Read more of this post

Adventures in Doublespeak: “Elitist”

George Orwell’s 1984 was far more prescient than most people would like to admit.  Although a thorough analysis of his benchmark novel is beyond the scope of this post, the notion of doublespeak is tragically all too relevant in the era of corporate-controlled media.  One of the most fundamental reasons why the nation continues to be dragged further into the abyss of the Right is that the media has successfully redefined a number of terms which are crucial to engaging in meaningful debate.  Shifting definitions is just one tactic used by the corporate media to narrow the parameters of our national dialogue, but it effectively prevents a significant percentage of Americans from ever even realizing that a world exists beyond those painfully restricted boundaries.

And so I would like to introduce a new feature of Failed Empire:  Adventures in Doublespeak.  Today we will be examining a word that has become the bane of liberals nationwide – the dreaded slur, “Elitist.”

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