April 2012

Working longer hours does not make you better

Although we're groomed in the workforce to believe hard work equates longer hours and less vacation, it's not true.

President Obama recently justified his plan to bring companies back to the U.S., stating that “foreign labor is getting more expensive, and American workers are more productive.” Although this is true, it’s misleading to think that the last three years of down-economy labor policy being  “do more with less” is to blame. Instead, working hard is an American cultural value. People invested in their careers feel an intrinsic pressure to work longer hours, come in on the weekends, and take little or no vacation. Of course, if home is taking a backseat to workplace, what does that mean for American families? Author and blogger Geoffrey James defends the minimum 40-hour work week in his article, Stop Working More Than 40 Hours A Week.

An Argument Against Population Control

A recent article from Robert Zubrin argues that population controls to be dangerously anti-humanistic.

As of Halloween (October 31st) of last year, the world passed the 7 billion mark in terms of population. Much of that population growth took place in asia, in China, India, and the South Pacific. However, the demands of increasing populations are being felt everywhere, and that is placing a strain on economies, governments, and our global environment. The question then becomes, do nations implement population control interventions to help to mitigate these strains, and if so, what will those programs look like?

China, which is one of the most widely recognized countries to have adopted population control measures, is a regulatory and hierarchical culture by nature. It’s population controls, which may be viewed as Draconian by some, have nonetheless allowed it to monitor and direct population growth, and to implement interventions where needed. For instance, with so many people there is an enormous demand for organ transplants, yet only about a hundredth of the viable organs needed for those transplants each year. As a stop-gap they have harvested healthy organs from executed prisoners; a practice they plan to stop within the next several years. Likewise, there are a number of government-subsidized incentives and disincentives for people to have boys rather than girls, and adoption of Chinese girls out-of-country is significantly easier than adoption of boys for that very reason.

SCOTUS: Activist Conservative Judges In "Highest Court"

Judicial ideologues like Scalia and Roberts erode public faith and faith in the U.S. judicial system.

Our judicial system has been built upon a legal oath that promises objectivity and impartiality; on the premise that written laws are the basis by which judgments are made, not ideology or politics. Of course, there are times when the law must be “interpreted” to account for occasional gray areas, but the American public still trusts that judges will attempt to maintain impartiality within that interpretation. Judges that do not, those that make decisions that reflect a particular agenda, so-called “activist judges”, are considered with contempt. That is unless those activist judges are within our own Supreme Court, and are setting the precedent by which lesser courts are to follow.

The U.S. Supreme Court, euphemistically referred to as the “Highest Court in the Land”, has been afflicted with the same ideologically motivated partisanship that the rest of Capitol Hill has experienced. A number of the judges, Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia in particular, have created a precedent by which “activist judge” is no longer a bad word. Scalia, who is prone to bouts of proselytizing from his bench, has made very clear his political ideology. During the recent hearings on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Scalia verbally accosted several of the ACA attorneys, comparing the legislation to broccoli in a strange and simplistic rant about forcing people to purchase health insurance. The result was something that sounded much more like Judge Judy than a “The Highest Court in the Land”. Judicial decorum aside, the justices have been pursuing a highly partisan agenda within the Supreme Court, and a couple of its most notorious byproducts clearly illustrate that ideology.

Education Reform: Designing The Classroom In The Boardroom

There's no question that schools need changes, but is layers of bureaucracy really the change we need?

The modern classroom is experiencing a crisis of perception. On one hand, state agencies, politicians, and others under the flag of the school reform crusade see schools in terms of spreadsheets; standards, assessment scores, and graduation rates. On the other hand, teachers and education professionals within the individual schools are attempting to meet the needs of each child by tailoring instruction, curriculum, and assessment to them. The problem occurs as those education professionals see their own judgement and intuition over-ridden by the first one's stifling bureaucracy; with nauseatingly depressive effects on students’ real education. Sure, turn the school year into round after round of test prep, and kids will bubble in the correct circle more often. What they won’t be able to do is lead, serve, think for themselves, or learn for the sake of enriching their lives.

As Philip K. Howard writes in The Atlantic, a school’s, “effectiveness depends upon engaging the interest and focus of each student,” a far more indicative aspect of a student’s academic success than a single standardized test and the preceding month of “skill and drill”. All research points to one common factor, and that is the personality of the teacher and the teacher’s ability to engage the student. In this way the teacher is more an actor, a motivational speaker attempting to reach and invest each student in their own education (a daunting task at some levels, given the ennui that is so in fashion in teenagers).