Wednesday, 7 September 2011

08:45 – Merkel has gotten the most favorable court decision she could have hoped for. The German court ignored the law and decided not to drive a stake through the heart of the Euro. Although the Maastricht Treaty explicitly forbids the EU itself or any member nation from assuming responsibility for the debts of any other EU nation or nations, the court ruled that bailouts using German taxpayer funds were legal. The court’s only figleaf, and it’s a small one, is that the founding treaty made an exception for member nations providing short-term aid to other EU nations in the event of natural disasters. Treating massive and ongoing fiscal irresponsibility by the weaker EU nations as a “natural disaster” is legally questionable, to say the least, but at least the decision allows the Euro to live for another day. Ordinary German citizens, at least most of them, are disgusted by what they see as the court approving ongoing transfers of their money to wastrel southern-tier EU nations. Merkel’s party has lost the last six elections in a row, and I suspect German voters will show their fury at this decision in the next election.


PZ Myers doesn’t much like homeschooling, but he’s posted a link to an excellent resource for home schoolers: Information falling from the skies! Right into your hands!

20 thoughts on “Wednesday, 7 September 2011”

  1. Yes, but read the small print: the German Supreme Court stated that bailouts are constitutional, as long as every single substantial acrion is individually approved by the German parliament. That’s a high hurdle for Merkel’s weakened government to overcome.

  2. I have an idea, and I’m wondering what you guys think of it. I think most successful kids are home schooled, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. I’m fairly certain my daughter will wind up going to public school. I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t know how to read before she steps foot in a public school. Even after she’s in school I think my wife and I will find real world examples to teach her. For example, if we make a double batch of cookies for Christmas, we’ll have her do the math when she is ready.

    I’m not going to be surprised if by the time my daughter starts learning about computers in school, that she’ll know more computers than most of her peers. Actually, I’m not going to be surprised if by that time she knows more than most of her teachers.

  3. Yes, but read the small print: the German Supreme Court stated that bailouts are constitutional, as long as every single substantial acrion is individually approved by the German parliament. That’s a high hurdle for Merkel’s weakened government to overcome.

    No, not by the entire parliament. That was my point when I said that the decision was the best Merkel could have hoped for. Prima facie, the court should have ruled that giving German taxpayer money to the bailouts was illegal, and it could at least have ruled that German-funded bailouts must be approved by the entire parliament. Instead, it ruled that bailouts must be approved only by the budget committee, which is a much, much lower bar.

  4. Dave, it depends on the public school. I remember my time in the public schools: I was bored, bored, bored. The teachers had no time, or perhaps desire, to keep me occupied, so I sat in the back of the room and passed notes with a friend. This distracted the teachers, so they made us sit apart. I hated the teachers, they hated me, what the heck was I supposed to do? My parents (who were not well off) eventually found a way to send me to a private school. After a year’s adaptation time, I was in heaven.

    I am a professional teacher (at the college level), and I would never, ever consider home-schooling my kids. Supplement their learning in areas I know well, certainly. But try to teach them all the various subjects they need to know? Forget it! I know this is probably heresy on this board, but it’s how I feel. Here’s why:

    I know how much effort goes into good teaching, and one or two people simple do not have the time and resources to teach an entire curriculum. You cannot just take existing materials and blindly use them – you’ve got to bring your own knowledge and enthusiasm to bear. Anything else results in crappy and boring teaching. This is also why, above the primary school level, any one person just does not have the ability to educate kids in more than a couple of areas. Teachers should be expert in their areas (another problem with public schools), not struggling to learn along with the kids.

    I understand that there are home-schooling groups where parents team together. Probably, there are a few good ones, but the ones I have any direct knowledge of tend to have two problems. First, they are religiously oriented, which is already the wrong reason to home-school. Second, the selection of parental teaching skills is entirely hit-and-miss, and leaves lots of gaps. My impression is that the kids are under-challenged; too much learning time is spent on walks in the woods, and not enough hitting the books.

    Obviously, there are exceptions: Just as there are still a few good public schools out there, I am sure there are a few good home-schooling groups. However, if it were my kids, I would look for a way to send them to a good private school, staffed by teachers who hold degrees in their fields. If the school is religious, ask if they teach evolution – if they do, they aren’t fanatics.

    Just my 2 cents worth…

  5. I have an idea, and I’m wondering what you guys think of it. I think most successful kids are home schooled, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. I’m fairly certain my daughter will wind up going to public school.

    Unless you have an extraordinarily good public school system, I suspect by the time your daughter is ready to start school you won’t want her anywhere near a public school. If I were you, I’d start attending meetings of homeschool groups now, just to find out what your local groups are doing.

    One thing about homeschooling is that it is extremely flexible and adaptable (depending, of course, on state laws, which differ dramatically). Not all homeschooled kids are in a traditional homeschool environment, with one stay-at-home parent. For example, a group of homeschool parents with kids of similar ages may get together and form a co-op. If one parent from each of five families can work flextime with four 10-hour days a week instead of five 8-hour days, they arrange it so that one parent is free each weekday and teaches all the kids that day. That also has the advantages of several parents being able to offset each others’ strengths and weaknesses.

    Now really is the time to start investigating and thinking about options.

  6. Actually, what you are describing is the real traditional sense. Parents teaching through real life examples. I’ve expounded before on how baking can be math, chemistry, social studies and history, as well as the obvious home economics. Apply that thinking to other household requirements, and you’ll cover botany, biology, physics, geometry, and various other sciences. In fact, why not make two kinds of cookies, and base one on cookie that spreads (Oatmeal Raisin is good for this) and one that uses yeast, like a Rosky (let’s see if I did this right!).

    This nonsense about crowding into classrooms to hear teachers drone on and on about subjects they barely know themselves, is the experiment. And in my mind, not working all that well, right now.

  7. Brad, if this is true, how do you account for the fact that homeschooled kids simply wipe out public schooled kids by any competitive measure? Certainly, the fact that their parents are motivated to get their kids the best education possible, but that surely can’t account for all of the difference. The truth is that public schools are, on average, hell holes, with time-serving teachers, and a focus solely on boosting meaningless test scores so the public employees can keep their jobs. There are some competent, motivated teachers in our public school systems, but not many of them.

    As to expertise, I think you grossly exaggerate the necessary level for teaching K-12 students, and I also think you grossly overestimate the level of expertise among public school teachers, most of whom are unqualified by any reasonable standard to teach their subjects. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in education serves the credentialist requirements of public school systems, but says absolutely nothing about the holder’s qualification to teach, let alone to teach any particular subject. I have spoken to too many public school science and math teachers who have not even a high school level of understanding of their subjects to be convinced otherwise.

    And you seem to think that homeschool parents simply go with what they have. In fact, most homeschool parents educate themselves as they’re educating their children. It’s not unusual for a home school mom who is teaching, for example, biology to be only a chapter or two ahead of her kids in the text. Home school parents aren’t (usually) stupid. They have many resources available to them, and they take advantage of those resources. And, on average, they do a much, much better job across all subjects than public schools do.

  8. could at least have ruled that German-funded bailouts must be approved by the entire parliament. Instead, it ruled that bailouts must be approved only by the budget committee, which is a much, much lower bar.

    Hmmm…ok, you are technically right – I read the articles too quickly. However, there are still a couple of new wrinkles.Here is a pretty good (German). Under the section “Rechte des Bundestages gestärkt”, it says (pardon the quick’n’dirty translation):

    Rights of the Bundestag strengthened

    According to current legislation regarding the temporary Euro rescue package, the government must only seek the agreement of the budget committee. This arrangement is insufficient, said the top court. In the explanation of the court’s decision, the judges explain that – for all future decisions for stabilizing the Euro that required funding – the government must obtain the agreement of the budget committee.

    The court then goes on to explicitly remind both the executive and the legistlative branches of the government of what the Constitution says. This is just as it is in the USA: the Bundestag (House of Representatives) holds the purse-strings, and ultimately has the right to assert this authority regarding any and all “fundamental decisions affecting budgetary policy”. That amounts to a kick-in-the-pants to the Bundestag, telling it to wake up and do its job.

  9. Our small town public elementary schools are good enough. The real problem is the middle and high school happen to really suck. The state doesn’t give schools letter grades, but has 5 ratings that might as well be traditional letter grades. Last time I looked, the elementary schools got A’s, the middle school got a D and the high school got an F.

    There is one Christian private school that is K-8 in our town. From what little I know about it, I was concerned that religion might be a higher priority than academics. But I saw that 95% of the kids in 7th grade passed both parts of the ISTEP test.

    We won’t really have a problem until high school age, as the closest private high school is at least a 30 minute drive from us.

  10. Good enough for what? To go on to a worse school?

    Is homeschooling the answer? It was for my family. Is it the answer for your family? Probably not so much, though you’ve got the idea. I see lots of parents that I don’t want teaching their own kids. Heck, I see parents I don’t want even parenting their kids! But it is an answer. Most successful schooled students have parents that take an active role in their schooling, homeschoolers merely assume all the responsibility.

    You sound like a former (and now bankrupt) employer who was fond of saying “We don’t have a problem, until we have a problem”. The problem is, without a plan in place, when the problems did invariably appear, he was flatfooted in his responses. Wait and see may not be the best answer for your family.

  11. Good enough for what? To go on to a worse school?

    As I said the school is one of the better schools in the state. Even then teacher quality varies, but we know enough of the teachers to know which teachers are good, and which are not so good. We’ll try requesting the good ones, and if that isn’t what we get, we can always choose private school.

    There is not much difference in the standardized state test scores at the local elementary and the local private school. There is a more pronounced difference between the local middle school and that same local private school.

    The problem is, without a plan in place, when the problems did invariably appear, he was flatfooted in his responses. Wait and see may not be the best answer for your family.

    My daughter is currently in diapers. We’re already thinking way ahead of the game. We’ll come up with a more concrete plan as we get closer to time.

  12. Ah, early stages yet. And a daughter, so any plans will work about as well as any general’s, once the battle begins! 😀

    I cannot tell you enough how happy I am to be past the diaper stage.

  13. I cannot tell you enough how happy I am to be past the diaper stage.

    But approaching the Depends stage.

  14. I forgot to ask the most important fatherhood question when it comes to raising a daughter. How long does it take to become proficient at skeet shooting?

  15. RBT wrote: “But approaching the Depends stage.”

    Touche!

    Dave B. wrote: “How long does it take to become proficient at skeet shooting?”

    What does it matter? Boys are WAY bigger than skeets are.

    And if you have to go pulling the trigger, it’s already too late. I have only boys, and they tell me that just cleaning the gun is sufficient.

  16. If the boy has been educated properly, he understands that a gun which is being cleaned is by definition not loaded, and therefore harmless. Okay, Dad might still use a long gun as a very expensively manufactured club, but you get my drift.

  17. But the purpose is to cause an implication to be made, not make an actual threat. My sons were taught that a clean gun is an indication of prior use, and that implication is sufficient for them to behave. However, I don’t know if the threat is sufficient for the daughters?

  18. When you have a boy you only worry about one penis. When you have a girl you worry about all of them.

  19. Bill wrote:

    “I cannot tell you enough how happy I am to be past the diaper stage.”

    Just give it another 20 years Bill, and you’ll be dealing with them again… 🙁

  20. RBT wrote:

    “As to expertise, I think you grossly exaggerate the necessary level for teaching K-12 students…”

    If I had Year 12 kids and I was trying to teach them science and maths I’d want to have qualifications in that subject at least 2-3 years higher. That is, to have majored in that subject at a decent uni. I’d rather have professionals teach them than taking the time off work to get qualified and teach them myself. For the last hundred years there’s been increasing division of labour, which is a good think IMHO.

    No, I wouldn’t send any kids of mine to a state school, unless it was one of the very good ones (yes, they do exist). But I’d find a non-fundamentalist quality private school that didn’t charge the earth and send them there.

Comments are closed.