Monthly Archives: November 2010

Why Women’s Rights has Damaged Education

In the last century the status of women in the workplace has risen dramatically, and never more so than in the last 40 years. While this has been great for women, and even society overall, it has been a disaster for the education of our children.

Historically, women had very few job choices, limited to roles such as home-maker, positions in the garment and food industries or teacher.

But starting with the Suffragette movement in the late 18th century, women have gone from strength to strength.  Along the way they have had some help:  two world wars, the “Pill”, knowledge based economies and even bottle feeding, have all contributed to a level of freedom never before experienced by women – and education has paid the price.

Graph going downIn 1960 about 40% of female teachers scored in the top quintile of IQ tests, with less than 8% of them in the bottom.  Twenty years later less than half that number made the top spot, and the number of teachers in the bottom quintile has more than doubled.

This fact was highlighted by The Chancellor of New York City’s public schools in 2000 when he said, “The quality of teachers has been declining for decades, and nobody wants to talk about it.”  In addition, between 1967 and 1980 school test scores fell by 1.25 grade level equivalents – a fact that John Bishop (the well-known education researcher) called “historically unprecedented.”

Of course, we can’t blame women for wanting a better standard of living, and sending them back to the kitchen is really not an option…at least not without a lot of folks sleeping on the couch.  So what do we do?

The first thing we need to do is recognize that education, particularly in those early formative years, is critical to future success.  If we are not willing to invest in education, then America is doomed to fall further and further behind, in part because the brightest women are simply following the money.

That is not to say that there are no good teachers – there are many, and teachers who have choices but stay for the love of the children should be put up on a pedestal and thanked profusely. Sadly they are not, and teaching pay scales are generally lower than many other professions, in part because most educators only work 9 months of the year.

Since we can’t force people into teaching we must raise the status of teaching to make it more appealing.  Increased pay is an obvious method to improve status, but that is only part of the story.  On a per-hour basis teachers are actually well paid, so perhaps we need to increase the number of hours worked in a year to enable teaching to become a “full-time” profession.

It has been well documented that those long hot summers are an “education eraser”.  On average our children lose about 2 months of learning during the summer, and this effect is more pronounced in the poorer families who cannot afford to send their kids away to camps to stimulate their minds.  Adding in 6 more weeks of education would boost salaries, increase learning, and allow people who could not consider a teaching profession because of the lower “per year” salary to look at it anew.  This is also a fairer way to boost pay than the typical ‘seniority’ increases that are often awarded and have proven to be of little benefit to the children.

Unfortunately the ratio of people without kids in school is increasing as people live longer – and many of those will not vote for an increase in school budgets.  Personally I feel this is short-sighted, since a good school district raises the value of their homes – but what do I know?

During the last election America came very close to seeing its first female President, so I think we can agree that women are going to take more and more of the prestigious roles in society – and rightly so.  So let’s make teaching a prestigious role again, so that the best and brightest – be they men or women – are there to motivate our children and drive them to be the leaders of tomorrow.

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Filed under Children, Education

Catching ZZZs (via Aspergers : A Mom’s Eye View)

Catching ZZZs I don’t know about you, but I am an absolute bear if I don’t get enough sleep, or even worse – if my sleep is interrupted – Beware!  My husband learned this the hard way early on in our relationship, when I lashed out at him like some evil, snaked-tressed Medusa after he woke me up one too many times during a long, late-night car ride to Washington, DC.  I shall never forget the look of astonishment, fear and horror on his face as he witnessed hi … Read More

via Aspergers : A Mom's Eye View

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Filed under Career, Children, Education, Uncategorized

Virus Scanners and Snake Oil

Biohazard SymbolThere are millions of infected PCs in the world and they are coming after you through cyberspace – are you protected?

Regardless of the machine you are using, I think the answer is somewhere between no and…it depends.

IT security is enough of a black art that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “security professional” sacrificing a chicken over the mother-board to expel its demons.  And if you put 3 “security professionals” in a room and asked them to select the best Anti-virus program you’ll get 4 answers. None of them will be able to articulate why they chose one over the other but, when pressed they, will resorting to implying  that it’s too technical for you to understand, which should probably be read as  “I have no idea, but it sounds way cooler if I choose a program no one has heard of.”

There are plenty of anti-virus choices out there, and the fact that most industry reviews won’t include the free offerings for fear of losing ad revenue, makes figuring this out all the more challenging.

Frankly, I don’t trust any company that is making money on virus scanners, mostly because if I were the CEO of McAfee or Symantec, I’d be paying people in China to write viruses that only my software could detect – thus keeping the paranoia high and my detection ratings even higher.  Just saying….

But the free security offerings do seem to do a reasonable job of keeping my machines clean, so I believe that most  of the benefits touted by the paid AV companies are in the snake oil group, designed to keep you paying them to protect you.

Fortunately, Microsoft has recently started to include their free Security Essentials (MSE) system as an optional part of its regular Windows update.  Personally, I think this is a great step forward, because there are a shocking number of PCs out there with no Anti-virus protection at all – usually  because people opted not to pony up when the trial subscription ran out – and this is bound to fill at least a few of those holes.

Those of you reading this on your Apple MAC, are probably feeling pretty smug, because viruses don’t affect your machines…right?

Well don’t go thumbing your noses at your Windows cousins just yet, because you are not immune.  Much of the reason that MAC based systems have fewer viruses has been, frankly, because they didn’t offer a big enough target.  But, with their growing popularity, that situation is changing quickly.

Unix based platforms (including MAC and Linux) may be technically more secure, but most viruses get in through social engineering and not security loopholes.  It doesn’t matter how good your security is if you open the door and invite that nasty virus in.  If you don’t believe me, watch this video and tell me you wouldn’t have installed that program.

And MAC users shouldn’t be so selfish!  Just because you are immune to a Windows virus does not mean you are free to spread it to other people like some modern Typhoid Mary.  How are you going to feel when someone calls you to say you gave their PC the ‘clap’?  If you answer ‘well then they should have bought a MAC’ then you have truly drunk the Apple cool-aid.

ubuntu-910-vs-windows-7Personally, I take a belt and braces approach.  Each of my Windows PCs has Microsoft Security Essentials as the main virus protection, and a dual-boot of Ubuntu Linux (a great, free, operating system) running ClamAV.  This gives several advantages:

  1. Some viruses are great at hiding from Windows programs, so I periodically boot into Linux and run a virus scan of the entire disk from there. It is not uncommon for the Ubuntu scan to find programs that the Windows scanners have missed.
  2. Should Windows become unusable, I can boot into Ubuntu, access my files, and run a virus scanner from outside of Windows.
  3. Some viruses are smart and protect themselves – for example, they will install multiple versions that check each other and, should one die, immediately reinstate it.  They can’t protect each other if they never start in the first place.

For any of you fellow geeks who are interested, I have included instructions on how to set up that dual-boot here.

Ultimately, the most important thing is for you to do something – ANYTHING – to protect your machine. I don’t care if you are a gold member of McAfee, run the free AVG product or never actually plug your PC into the Internet, but if you infect me or one of my friends, then I’m coming after you…in cyberspace, of course.  😉


Filed under Technology

The American Caste System


I’ve been thinking about the education system recently – and mostly about what is wrong with it. After jotting down some notes it became obvious that there is too much material to cover in a single blog post, so I will spread this one out.

First, let me start out by saying I am a huge fan of education.  I believe education should be a lifelong pursuit that does not stop with the acquisition of a diploma or the landing of that first job.

Properly structured, education expands minds and pushes people out of their comfort zones, forcing them to learn about the world as a whole, and not just a tiny subset.  In addition to the usual suspects of math and reading, classes that involve the arts (music, literature, drama etc.) and those that develop critical thinking through face to face dialog and debate should be mandatory in any general education.

But education also needs to be met by each person on his/her own terms. University and college isn’t for everyone, and there will always be people for whom college just doesn’t fit right – like shoes pinching at the toes.  Some people just learn more effectively in different environments, and we should not stifle their dreams by forcing them to do things the same old ways.

Unfortunately society (or at least Western society) doesn’t seem to agree with me.

The world of education is changing rapidly.  Where once these “institutes of higher learning” had a monopoly on information we now find ourselves in a world where virtually unlimited knowledge is never further away than your phone.

Given this quantum shift in knowledge availability, it would be reasonable to expect that the existing education system would be rapidly changing to mine these new resources.  But instead of leading the charge we find that the existing educational establishments are not even keeping pace – how can this be?

There are many answers, ranging from ignorance to profit margins.  But here I want talk about something more subtle, and far more sinister – education (or the lack of it) is a tool for keeping people in their place.  These techniques have been used around the world for centuries, and against all kinds of people:  Slaves, Women, Blacks, etc.

The status quo today mandates that most good jobs require a diploma and, as long as that situation exists, the colleges are able to make substantial sums of money supplying those bits of paper.  To get that coveted prize you must play by their rules, which include steep tuition feeds and expensive (and heavy!) textbooks.

The Caste System at WorkBut let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that, as a whole, we like it that way.  These expensive diplomas help keep the ‘riff-raff’ out, and effectively create a caste system – ensuring that the higher-paying jobs are reserved for those who can afford those hefty school fees in the first place. This creates a catch-22, and thus ensures that there are plenty of people to handle the low paying, menial jobs that most of us would not want to do.

I don’t think most people actually think of it that way, but deep down we would all prefer to compete against fewer people.  The good news is that the current education system provides a handy way to separate “The Haves” from the “Have Nots” without tweaking our social conscience.  Obviously they have lower paying jobs because they are not educated!  Q.E.D.

Unfortunately for The Haves, the Internet is spoiling this game.  Now people can educate themselves to almost any level for free.  And freed from the restrictions of the standard educational system, these outlaw students can tailor their education to where they have talent and passion – a deadly combination that can eventually lead them to create revolutionary products and services that leave the rest of us in the dust.

As one of the people who started in a lower caste (I left school at sixteen) there is a part of me that cheers this revolution and the feeling of justice it brings.  Surely any intelligent, hardworking person should be able to compete on equal terms…That’s part of the American Dream, right?

But having now spent the money to get my degree, there is part of me that says “…as long as it doesn’t affect me and my family.”  It’s tough being a rebel when it puts my livelihood at risk.

Are we educating people because they need those skills, or to separate them from the rest of the herd?  Should we give accreditation to anyone who can prove their intelligence, without requiring a college or university being involved, or should we protect what we have?  Do we even need college education at all beyond areas such as medicine and law?

Go ahead and vote – it’s anonymous, so be completely honest!


Filed under Career, Children, Education, Technology, The Human Condition

The Boy Behind the Blog (via Aspergers : A Mom’s Eye View)

Video interview with Gregory – talking about this blog, about himself, about life with Aspergers and his advice for other kids with AS.

The Boy Behind the Blog Whoever said parenting would be easy?  I think it’s one of the hardest jobs there is…and the pay really stinks!  But in spite of all the hard work, emotional angst and exasperated frustration, we parents do receive certain rewards:  Such as when our child offers up an unprompted hug, kiss, or an “I love you, Mom!”  When our child achieves a new milestone, skill or success.   Or simply when our child displays, by word or by deed, what a truly grea … Read More

via Aspergers : A Mom's Eye View

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Filed under Career, Children, Education, Uncategorized