Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three R's!

Readin’, Ritin’ and Rithmetic. Makes sense that a kid’s basic education should be focused on mastering these three fundamentals, right?

Not so fast.

The world has changed, and our education gurus are behind the curve. I read the other day that a modern, high-tech school has been chastised because their student’s reading and math skills don’t measure up. But measure up to what?

They are judging abilities as if it were 1911, not 2011. Who depends on memorizing the ‘times tables’ to figure out how to do math? Almost no one. We use some machine or device to do math. Who depends on a pen and paper to write? No one under the age of 30, and few of us older than that. And what is correct spelling? Is ‘you’ more valid than ‘u’? Spk better than speak? Luv superior to love? B to be?

It’s OK to have standards. But the standards should be relevant to the real world in which we live. Texting or its equivalent is not going to go away. New devices that foster shortcuts in communicating and thinking will continue to proliferate. 20th century measures are holding us back. It is a waste of time to judge how well we’re teaching our kids by relying on what worked in the past.

Dinosaurs in the educational establishment should get out of the way. Let the new rulers of the world figure out what the appropriate game is and how to play it. We might even learn something in the process.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Perry & Ponzi Schemes!

I thought I didn’t agree with Rick Perry about anything. I may be wrong about that. The screams of dismay, even from the right, directed at him for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme are predictable. They are guaranteed kneejerk reactions when anyone questions or criticizes this most sacred of all cows.

After all, doesn’t a Ponzi scheme depend on a continuing and ever-increasing flow of new investors if it is to pay the returns promised to earlier investors? How is that not an accurate reflection of the Social Security System?

To don’t back off, Rickie-Boy. Keep tellin’ it like it is.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


When I order something and then find that it will be delivered courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service I’m not a happy boy. No problem if I happen to be home to take possession of the item on the first delivery attempt. But if I’m not here I receive a little beige card that tells me what I have to do to get my package.

UPS and FedEx will attempt to deliver three times before I am inconvenienced. Not the USPS. If I’m lucky I can get a call through and ask them to redeliver. Usually I have to make a trip to the post office, wait in line, then wait again while a person goes to fetch the item, and finally take possession of what should have been delivered to my front door.

Every year we’re told that the price of stamps is going up. More inconvenience. We’re left with old stamps that require an additional 1, 2 or 3 cents under the new rates. Not long ago they came out with Forever stamps, which are purchased at this year’s price and will also work next year when the price is more. That’s a good thing, but hardly a substitute for a system that is viable and efficient for more than a few months.

Also every year we’re told that the USPS is on the verge of bankruptcy. The story is always the same: Congress needs to appropriate more funds to subsidize this badly run business. Prices need to go up. Post offices need to be closed. The number of mail boxes at the corner need to be reduced. Mail delivery on Sat. needs to stop. And so on . . .

The other day I read that 80% of the cost of running the USPS is to cover labor expenses. At UPS that number is 53%. At FedEx it is 32%. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there’s something wrong with this picture.

I’m not a ‘turn everything over to the private sector’ guy. However, when it comes to USPS I’m ready to make an exception.