Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Great Words from Michael Mann

Michael Mann, one of the leading climate scientists, and a real expert on the topic, has published a great article on the CNN's portal, in which he discusses a terrible political climate (pun intended) he and his peers in the field face in the United States and around the world:
Imagine you are sitting in your office simply doing your job and a nasty e-mail pops into your inbox accusing you of being a fraud. You go online and find that some bloggers have written virulent posts about you. That night, you're at home with your family watching the news and a talking head is lambasting you by name. Later, a powerful politician demands all your e-mails from your former employer.
I'm glad he presses on, despite the dishonest, personal attacks on him and the science of climate research, because, as he points out:
[...] as the father of a 6-year-old girl, I want to make sure the planet we leave her is at least as beautiful and healthy as the one we grew up on. At the very least, our nation's political and business leaders deserve to have a debate about her future that is grounded in reality.
My daughter, and all of our children, deserve no less.
Yes, our children deserve a planet at least as good as we've had, if not better.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Can You See Our Precious Education Funds Going to the Lawyers?

Yes... all the lawyers across the Florida must have been jumping with joy, when they found out that our not-so-smart governor Rick Scott signed the Florida school prayer bill into law (also here), which authorizes school boards to enable students to deliver "inspirational message" (a.k.a. prayer) in public schools. This seems to be so unconstitutional, that the legal challenges will come quickly, and our school board districts will have to pay the legal bills.
You know this law has nothing to do with what its authors pretend it to be, when even prominent religious leaders are against it. It was politics at its worst, from the bill's sponsors, Sen. Gary Siplin and Rep. Charles Van Zant, to our governor (not that I expected any better from him), catering to the religious right to gain some dubious votes, and at the end our children will pay the price when the lawyers come knocking.
Maybe it's time for the sane ones to make sure the people above (let's repeat: Sen. Gary Siplin, Rep. Charles Van Zant, and Governor Rick Scott) are not allowed to represent us in the future. Let them know when the next election day is here.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Great To See Some Reason...

With all the recent economic trouble across the country (and the world), our local governments are looking to save money in all kinds of strange places. For example, our local school board is evaluating cutting the school week to four days, making them a bit longer instead.

When I first heard about this idea, I did some research and found out that there is relatively few school districts in the U.S., that decided to implement such a solution. As a result, there is rather slim amount of good data available to support its perceived value. It appears to me that there could be some benefits, but they are only apparent in very small and geographically spread out districts. For a district the size of Pasco County, the four day school week idea seems to have rather weak foundations, and might lead to more problems than it's trying to solve.

Unfortunately, when I attended a parents' forum with the chief proponent of this idea and the person who first proposed it, the School Board member Steve Luikart, my impression was that he was already convinced and all he wanted to do was to convince the rest of the board.

I'm glad to see that the issue is getting attention from some of the candidates to the school board during the upcoming elections. As The Tampa Bay Times reported today, Don Stephenson is firmly against the idea of the four day school week. Even though I do not agree with a lot of Mr. Stephenson's agenda, I am happy to be on the same side of the fence when it comes to the shorter school week. Hopefully, this will attract some much needed attention to this issue, and maybe, convince the current board to find better ways of saving money. Cutting our children's time in school is not the best way to ensure they get the best education possible.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Praying Away Our Tax Dollars

When most of our school districts in Florida struggle for every dollar out there during this hard economic times, our "brilliant" politicians keep themselves busy with more "important" things, like students delivering inspirational messages (a.k.a. prayers) at public schools' events. This new bill, just passed by the Florida House, is probably one of the worst and most useless laws recently created. Ordinarily, I would not have much of a problem with this, even though the idea of a "prayer" in a public school invites a large number of potential issues: how is this "inspirational message" given? when is it allowed? what happens if it offends anyone? who decides on the details? etc, etc...
The real problem with this piece of legislation is very simple: America was founded on a simple, yet effective principle of separation of religion and state, and any attempts to circumvent this principle will be challenged in court by someone, sooner or later, and rightly so. Such a challenge will be costly to the taxpayers (all of us). I does not take a genius to know that the first school district to enact such a policy, will be hit with a lawsuit (and, I'm afraid, the first district that refuses to bring this policy to life will be hit by a lawsuit too, just from a different side). At the end, the only winners are the lawyers, who will collect their legal fees. We, the parents, will end up paying for it, and our children will get just a little bit less of the education they deserve.
The final question is... what would the FSM do?