People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why I Became A Conservative

I've told this story before but the subject matter finds its way into the news again.

Years ago, I was reading some magazine (Time? Life? Look?) and came upon an article that was depicting the adventures of Peace Corps volunteers in some faraway land. They were constructing a well for the local natives. And they were gleeful and full of pride.

The village natives too were all smiles, standing behind the white boys and girls who were building their well for them. Everyone was happy.

Except me.

I reacted by yelling at the magazine: Why can't these people dig their own well?

I understand the need and the offer of assistance, and I realize that the poverty-stricken masses may very well have required, and were probably grateful for, the donation of the materials and tools necessary to construct the well. But why did it require that these wide-eyed Americans come in and labor for them? Why couldn't they have just taught the natives how to construct their own well? Why didn't the locals already know how to dig a well? Why hadn't they dug their own well?

What was going on? What kind of people fly half way around the world to do for others that which others should easily be able to do for themselves?

Well, that was long ago.

Let's go to July, 2007:

I received my copy of Time magazine and came upon a story entitled, "Vacationing Like Brangelina." The first paragraph of the article:

Getting in touch with your inner Angelina Jolie is easier than it used to be. The so-called voluntourism industry, which sends travelers around the globe for a mix of volunteer work and sightseeing, is generating almost as much praise and criticism as the goodwill ambassador herself. Are volunteer vacations--which have become so mainstream that CheapTickets recently started letting online customers book volunteer activities along with their vacations--merely overpriced guilt trips with an impact as fleeting as the feel-good factor? Or do they offer individuals a real chance to change the world, one summer jaunt at a time?

The article was accompanied by the photo above. The caption:

"Volunteers with the group Globe Aware dig a trench to lay a water pipe in Costa Rica."

Affluent white boys and girls, presumably from the USA, went down to Costa Rica to dig a trench for the locals. And were happy for having done it. And the natives, who stood around watching these northerners dig the trench for them were gleeful ...

"Overpriced guilt trips with an impact as fleeting as the feel-good factor."

I didn't get it then. I don't get it now.

Photo courtesy of Time.

It's All Your Fault

I'm in Richmond this morning. Wall-to-Wall Michael Vick on TV.

Apparently his problems are in fact a racist plot.

That's what I've been thinking all along.

An Idea Worth Exploring

I can tell you what will never work. What has never worked:

● A socialized health care plan patterned after that which the Canadians have to endure.
● The nationalized plan adopted by the old Soviet Union.
● The plans being touted by the various Democratic candidates for president.

Something that may work, however, is this:
Giuliani Seeks to Transform U.S. Health Care Coverage
By Marc Santora, The New York Times

Rochester, N.H., July 31 — Rudolph W. Giuliani on Tuesday called for transforming the way health care coverage is provided in the United States, advocating a voluntary move from the current employer-based system to one that would grant substantial tax benefits to people who buy their own insurance.

In his speech here, he excoriated Democrats for advocating a “socialist” solution to solving the problem of the nation’s 44.8 million uninsured, saying the party’s candidates encouraged a “nanny government” by proposing a greater government role in health care.

Instead, he proposed tax exemptions of up to $15,000 per family, allowing individuals to direct that money toward the purchase of health insurance and other medical spending. He also said he opposed any government mandates that would require people or businesses to buy insurance, which is central to the universal health care plan neighboring Massachusetts passed in April 2006 when Mitt Romney, a Republican rival, was governor there.

And to help the poor or others struggling to afford health insurance, Mr. Giuliani said he would support vouchers and tax refunds, but he gave no details about how he would pay for them. (link)
Some think tank will crunch the numbers and advise as to the viability of such a proposition.

But it stands head and shoulders above the plans that are sure to wreck the current system, put forth by Hillary, Obama, et al.

Why I Gave Up On a Teaching Career

I once thought of teaching high school-age kids. But changed my mind. Besides the lousy pay, there was one primary reason:
A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a ‘Fail’ Becomes a ‘Pass’
By Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times

Several weeks into his first year of teaching math at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, Austin Lampros received a copy of the school’s grading policy. He took particular note of the stipulation that a student who attended class even once during a semester, who did absolutely nothing else, was to be given 45 points on the 100-point scale, just 20 short of a passing mark.

Mr. Lampros’s introduction to the high school’s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technology’s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course.

That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lampros’s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.

Through the intercession of Ms. Geiger, Miss Fernandez was permitted to retake the final after receiving two days of personal tutoring from another math teacher. Even though her score of 66 still left her with a failing grade for the course as a whole by Mr. Lampros’s calculations, Ms. Geiger gave the student a passing mark, which allowed her to graduate. (link)
I remember asking a junior high school teacher, approaching retirement and burned out, how it was that he had children - 13 and 14 - in his classes who could not read. He replied, with a degree of resignation, that they had been passed up the line to him and he would pass them along as well. Their ultimate destination, he said, was drop-out status when they reached the age of 16. There was nothing he could do for them short of sending them back to the 3rd grade.

He, of course, blamed others who had come before him. I'm not sure he had any other choice.

I thought about that incident, shook my head, and walked away. I wanted no part of this process.

Public education. Then and now. In the greatest country the world has ever known.

New Orleans Is In Ruins

It's been two years and a mass of citizens in the Crescent City are just now getting around to applying for aid.
Hurricane Victims Rush to Apply for Grants as Deadline Looms
By Adam Nossiter, The New York Times

New Orleans, July 31 — Hundreds of Louisianians whose homes were ruined by Hurricane Katrina rushed to meet a Tuesday deadline set by the state’s troubled housing aid program, even as a deficit of billions of dollars threatened to leave thousands without a grant.

The program, known as the Road Home and financed with federal dollars, has so far provided grants to fewer than a quarter of all applicants. Nonetheless, in recent days applications have been pouring in at the rate of more than 1,000 per day, mostly by phone and Internet, program officials say.

On Tuesday, a handful of stragglers trickled in to sign up in person for grants of up to $150,000, at a downtown skyscraper and a suburban office park. Road Home officials said phone lines to their offices in Baton Rouge, the capital, were jammed. (link)
When the final tally comes in, it's likely that we'll find there to have been more money thrown at Hurricane Katrina reconstruction than at all other natural disasters in American history combined.

And still, people "trickle in," two years after the storm hit, to get their wad of cash from the government.

Is it any wonder that New Orleans is still a wreck?