Sunday, August 28, 2016

Takata, my Subaru Outback, and Education "Deform."


This week I have to take my 2001 Subaru Outback into the dealer to have one of the airbag inflators replaced as part of a huge recall of millions of cars in the U.S. from multiple manufacturers. It appears that more than 100 million dangerous air bag inflators from the Japanese company Takata were installed in cars in the U.S. At least 14 people have been killed and more than a hundred have been injured in an effort by Takata and several auto makers 20 years or so ago to save a little money on each inflator. According to a story in today's NY Times, it was not a case of Takata marketing a faulty and dangerous product to unsuspecting auto companies, but one of the auto companies actively encouraging Takata to put cost before all else. Once again the unregulated market corrupts morals and profit becomes more important than everything else. Here is the link to the story in the NY Times. It has information on how to check if your particular car is affected by this problem. The one positive thing in the story is the Swedish company Autoliv that had been supplying GM with the inflators refused to make the changes requested to make their inflators like the ones from Takata when asked to do so by GM.

The same thinking that was involved in the decision to go with cheaper airbag inflators in order to maximize profit is guiding much of the so-called "education deform movement." Here are the links to a piece by NPR reporter Anya Kamentz on the charter school chain "Rocketship" that uses computers to enable them to hire fewer teachers and to another piece on Rocketship by Barbara Miner in Milwaukee.  Rocketship is one of several charter chains that use cheaper TFA and other teach for awhile teachers to increase their "cost effectiveness."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A look at human dignity and the common good

We watched Michael Moore's latest film this weekend "Where to invade next."  The film focuses on what we in the U.S. can learn from some of the policies and practices in other countries such as the Norwegian approach to incarceration that treats prisoners as human beings, the French approach to feeding kids real and wholesome food for school lunches instead of the crap they are fed in the U.S., the Finnish approach to learning and human development in its education system, the positive effects of the leadership of women in Iceland, the availability of free university education in Slovenia... All of the cases in this film were interesting and informative. My main critique is the failure of Moore to remind viewers that although these societies have implemented policies and practices that we should indeed learn from and adopt or re-adopt (in some cases these exemplary policies were borrowed from us), these countries are not free of problems of poverty, inequities and discrimination.  One of the most interesting cases in the film to me was the discussions about the way in which drug use is approached in Portugal. Very simply, drug use is not a crime in Portugal, and despite what we often hear in the U.S. about the importance of punishing and locking up drug users, the actual effects of focusing on treatment within a free public healthcare system and not on punishment have been quite remarkable.

See the Washington Post article, Hardly Anyone Dies from a Drug Overdose, for more information about the no-arrest policy for drug use in Portugal.

We continue to pursue policies and programs in the U.S. that clearly do not help address the problems that are intended to solve, and we keep pursuing these same policies despite the evidence that they do not work.  One common characteristic that stood out for me in most of these cases was a clear concern for the common good and the welfare of the society as a whole rather than the focus on individual advancement that we see in the U.S.