Thursday, March 22, 2012

Benefits of Early Language Study

Texans best hurry and learn Spanish.

The Chinese People’s Consultative Conference closed in Beijing with a proposal that surprised both the locals and foreigners.

It was proposed that lessons in the study of English should no longer be give in Chinese kindergartens.

Ling Zi, a respected deputy chair of the Chinese Confucius Academy, believes that English and other foreign languages should only be studied beginning in high school. The idea is to make sure students are given enough time to develop their Chinese skills.

The Confucius Institute offers cultural and Chinese language courses in 105 countries and regions, covering 86 percent of the world’s population. And 160 universities in 62 countries are working with the Institute to advance the language study. (Sweden plans to offer Mandarin in all primary schools and Pakistani education authorities are making Mandarin compulsory for primary schools.)

China’s culture needs to be known and understood by the Han (94 percent of the population) and the other 50-plus ethnic groups. The traditional forms need bolstering, in historic buildings, language and ancient skills.

It is important to retain the old and traditional. But it is also a proven fact that the earlier a child studies a foreign language the greater will be the success.

By delaying foreign language study until their teens is not the road to take. Next to adults starting a second language the teenage years are the most difficult.

It is also unfortunate there are those who think learning a second language early is harmful to the child. Studies in all cultures have shown that learning a second language speeds up learning in other subjects, especially critical thinking and history-cultural studies.

China’s continued economic development benefits as more of the people learn English. In the tourist industry China needs thousands of interpreters in many languages.

In learning a foreign language the individual also learns about foreign culture; understanding more clearly why foreigners act the way they do.

There would be fewer wars if we got to know each other better.

The most effective way to teach children a second language is like the idiom “thrown them in at the shallow end” like a youngster learning to swim.

I did not learn to swim until I was in my late 20s. By then my fear of water was greater than when I was a child. So it is with language study. Start learning before the fear of the study gains the upper hand.

It is in the majority of American high schools that the student first encounters foreign languages. This is more than unfortunate, it is tragic. It is a lost cause to begin so late.

According to the Confucius Institute in Beijing the United Kingdom offers Mandarin language study in 5,200 schools.

All this about what others are doing should wake up Texians to study their neighbor’s language. San Angelo schools should begin the study of Spanish in kindergarten and carry it through all 12 grades of study. To do less is not fair to the student and certainly not good for the future of our city, state or nation.

China schools have made great strides in teaching English. But beginning a foreign language in the teen years is not a good decision and may yet be reversed.

Our schools have done and are doing a terrible job teaching foreign languages. With Texas soon to have a Hispanic majority, it is unwise to continue to ignore the study of Spanish.


Credit Cards: America's Tragic End

A Major Reason For America’s Economic Dilemma

To those who say America is in the dump, I ask who then is at fault? Who or what has caused there to be so many homeless; so many people out of work; so much national debt; so many empty houses; sky-high food bill; record gasoline prices and the no-longer-stretchable dollar bill?

Some are blaming it on the out-of-touch Washington crowd we voted to serve our country. Blame it on the millions who could vote but don’t.

President Barack Obama has yet to close, as he promised, the U.S. prison on Guantanamo Bay – where torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners continues. He also said he would not be hiring lobbyists -- he did that and brought into his administration many who had caused the Wall Street and bankers crimes.

But don’t lay all the blame on the White House resident. The incredibly stubborn and uncooperative, can’t-care-less congress refuses to work for what is good for the country. When was last time our obscenely wealthy congress West Texas representative did something for the good of the people he swore to represent?

There is lots of blame for America’s mess. Being lied into one war (Iraq) and going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan turned into an even longer war. Now Senator John McCain and some of his comrades want to begin a war against Iran.

We are in a fix not because of the war mentality or all the s0-called “patriots” of the Pentagon and the Halliburton-types.

One major reason for America’s disarray is not a secret, but a seldom acknowledged one. It all began with a small piece of cardboard that soon became plastic money.

It is easy to trace most of our people’s quandary to the once well-meaning and now toxic innovation: the development and promotion of THE CREDIT CARD.

About sixty years ago the curse of plastic charge plates began eating its way through the life and blood of this country.

In 1946 John Biggins, a Brooklyn banker, introduced a “Charg-it” card. Then Frank McNamara and Ralph Schneider came along in 1950 with the Diners Club Card.
The American Express (formed in 1850) saw the success of the Diners Club Card and in 1958 issued its first “never leave home without it” purple charge card. Theirs was the first card to be made of plastic.

Then Visa, MasterCard and a few others turned a very good thing into a monster. It has become a plague for people who cannot or will not pay off their balance each month.

It is a proven psychological fact that when using a credit card the buyer purchases more than when using cash. These companies know this fundamental shortcoming of our human nature, and use it with all their ads.

Credit card companies go beyond simple interest on their use. Ever tired to make sense of the requirements for payment on one of the demonic plastic plates? Usury is the word that comes most to mind. Usury is the archaic word for lending money at exorbitant interest rates.

No longer is a simple profit for credit card companies (and others in the retail business) but profit that that becomes greed: compound usury.

Before you think I have gone completely bonkers, remember that we ordinary folks are the laughing stock of these corporations. Every week one of these big banks or slimy plastic perverts sends me a letter “to solve all problems” with their card.

They provide plastic guaranteed to make us all paupers. American people average $10,000 worth of plastic debt. This is a greater danger than the National Debt.

"The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender" -- Proverbs 22:7. (Bible verses are common in a column about avarice.)

Benjamin Franklin is always good for a closing word. Here is one of his typical remarks: "Who goeth a borrowing goeth a sorrowing.”


The Khan Academy

The Kahn Academy is the future!

The CBS 60 Minutes television program recently had a segment that blew me away. It was about a teaching program with videos in digestible chunks, approximately 10 minutes long, and especially purposed for viewing on a computer.

Sal Khan (MIT and Harvard) is the creator of this education tool. Khan is a math, science, and history teacher to millions of students around the world. Now that the program is backed by Bill Gates, Google and others. Sal Khan wants to make learning more accessible while putting fun and intellect on a higher level.

Sal Khan writes on the web site Khan Academy "I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him."

It is a free world-class education for anyone. As soon as the 60 Minutes segment ended I looked up the web site. I fell in love with it immediately. I even scrolled down the thousands of videos and spent seven minutes of the history of algebra, with maps, markers and explanation of the earliest stuff on the subject.

Had I had such a learning opportunity in the 1940s I may have gotten interested in all kinds of math and science. I might have even made a passing grade.

The not-for-profit Academy is apparently an organization on a mission. Their goal of changing education for the better via a free world-class education for anyone anywhere is off to a good start.
The videos on world history caught my eye also. I enjoyed the short lesson and unique way it was presented. I wanted to stay at the computer all night. You might say I was impressed.

All of the site's resources are available to anyone. It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy's materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Students can make use of the 3,000 –plus video library, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web.

There is more, like helping coaches, parents, and teachers have unprecedented visibility into what their students are learning and doing on the Khan Academy.

In the 60 Minutes piece Sanjay Gupta, the interviewer, watching Khan record a 10-minute economics lesson. “It's so simple - all you hear is his voice and all you see is his colorful sketches on a digital blackboard,” say Gupta.

“When Khan finishes the lecture, he uploads it to his website - where it joins the more than 3,000 other lessons he's done. In just a couple of years he's gone from having a few hundred pupils to more than four million every month,” continues the interviewer.Khan and his now expanded team has amassed a library of math lectures that starts with basic addition and builds all the way through advanced calculus. The courses are from kindergarten to college and beyond. I may get an education yet!

Sal Khan has tackled so many subjects that if you watched just one of his lectures a day it would take over eight years to cover it all. No excuse for the world’s peoples (who have the Internet) to reap the tremendous blessings of an education.

The Khan Academy office has the intense vibe of a Silicon Valley startup. The team is working to create software they hope will transform how math is taught in American classrooms. It is not the final answer to educating folks, but it is going in the right direction.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Doonsbury Confronts Texas Governor with humor and insight

G.B. Trudeau Does It Again. Hits The Target. Reveals Truth with an artist's brush.

Like it or not: press freedom requires the exchange of ideas

If you ever wonder if America’s press was free -- just take a look at last week’s Doonsbury funny pages strip. (It can be found on many Internet web sites.)

Newspapers in this country are free to censor what they do not like or are unwilling to discuss and talk about. G. B. Trudeau, the brains behind this long-running progressive strip, is used to this kind of treatment.

If you are among those who do not know of which I speak, here is what’s going on in the comics. A number of newspapers did not run this week’s Doonesbury strip that skewers Texas Republican politicians for the law they passed requiring women to undergo a sonogram before they can have an abortion.

There is comedy (sad to say) in the reaction to this week’s strip. Right here in Texas, under our very noses, the wanta-be U.S. president, who sits in the governor’s mansion in Austin, signs a bill to be invasive of pregnant women by making them law-breakers if they do not submit to sonograms and worse.

Our middle-aged state legislators created the bill and the governor signed it some time ago. The governor of Virginia got in the same hot water and is struggling for his political life.

Our governor may not be in as much trouble because of the huge numbers of right-leaning Christians and non-believers who want to ensure we do not forget women are second-class citizens.

A mother from Seattle wrote the following on the Doonsbury pages of “I am a mother of five with three grown daughters and two daughters-in-law all of child bearing age. Thank you for trying to protect their right to choose when and how and if they start a family by bringing this issue to light for so many. You have a way of explaining things to even the stupid people.”

Another brave soul from Philadelphia submitted this wisdom born out of experience:

“Thank you so much for addressing this farcical legislation in the manner it deserves. I had a good chuckle. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, it makes me sick that many Republican politicians believe sticking probes into women's bodies for no medical purpose and against their will is anything other than a traumatic and unconscionable violation.”

Then there were those of a different opinion as this e-mail from Illinois: “Your comic strip appears to be liberal tripe masquerading as entertainment. Much like Bill "the Muppet" Maher.”

A guy in Oregon wrote: “Your "cartoon" is disgusting and way out of line. You should switch to commentary and get out of the "cartoon" business. Go to church.”

So we are free to express our impartially, our views, biases, hate or love without danger of going to jail or being run out of town. Our daily paper does not run the 40-years running strip on a daily basis, depriving (in my weird view) our readers of a minority opinion in this Texas town.

Government invasion into the private lives of “We the people…” has gone to extremes the last 20 years. It is the very political party (especially the Tea Party element) that wants to reduce government intervention into our lives, pushing this. That is the amazing part. They appear to be all for this invasion of women claiming it will prevent abortions. They are for “life.” I respect the free exchange of ideas.

It has been said that there is a reason that God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Listening is such a crucial activity yet we devote so little time to it. Listen twice as much as talking or think twice before opening the mouth, or writing a piece like this.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Former Senator Rick Santorum Does Not Have a Clue What "Church and State" means to the whole world.

Former Senator Santorum sick and tired of hearing JFK’s remarks (660 words)
As the American presidential nomination race continues to romp through our living room television sets, we learn more about the thought processes of the candidates.

Former Senator Rick Santorum, who wants to replace President Barack Obama, is “sick to my stomach” every time he is reminded of the 1960s remarks of then candidate John F. Kennedy to a bunch of Houston, Texas, pastors. JFK’s talk that day makes Rick Santorum want to throw up.
Strong language. Apparently what upset the former senator from Pennsylvania was this comment of JFK:
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

Rick Santorum saw JFK’s words as implying that “people of faith have no role in the public square.” He told a crowd later: “ You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?"

Santorum: "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,"

Kennedy, the first Catholic president, was merely informing a group of Protestant ministers in order to put to rest concerns about his faith.

Candidate Santorum, who is also Catholic, said the Kennedy speech was part of an effort to begin to "force God out of the public square." KENNEDY DID NOT SAY THAT!!!

"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?"

The issue of the church or the state having the final say in matters of religion began in England during the first half of the 1600s. King James of Scotland (the one the 1611 Bible is name for) and his son Charles II were brought to their demise due in large part to their demands to be “Head of the Church.”

Roger Williams, founder of Providence, Rhode Island, learned first-hand the unfortunate results when civil magistrates imposed their will in church affairs. That was the reason tens of thousands left England for the American colonies in the 1630s.

The magistrates of New England did not learn from history. Roger Williams, a learned graduate of Cambridge, knew the dangers of the Crown making decisions for the Church. This attitude of not conforming to civil authorities being the final “church authority,” got him expelled from Massachusetts. Conformity was central to John Winthrop’s city upon a hill. Its purpose was to advance God’s interests on earth. “Conformity was to be the perceived will of God.”

One plantation minister said: “endeavor after a Theocracy as might be to [that] which was the glory of Israel.” (Quoted in James Ernst’s “Roger Williams: New England Firebrand.”)

If not a theocracy, Massachusetts was theocentric. The week was filled with church services, including two on Sunday, each of which lasted roughly three hours. The Puritans passionate view of the Bible told them they were to build the New Jerusalem. “And those who controlled both church and state worked in unison to build that perfect society” (“Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State and the Birth of Liberty” by John M. Barry. A great new book, not just a biography.)

President Thomas Jefferson, 150 years later, read the many writings of Roger Williams stressing importance of a society having a strong wall separating Church and State.

If Rick Santorum became ill when hearing the words of John F. Kennedy on church and State, Roger Williams’ writings would have given him a stroke.


Britt Towery’s E-mail:

Conservatives thrive on low intelligence


A study in the January issue of the Canadian journal, Psychological Science, expressed the idea “that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence.”

Firm, unyielding conservatives may be set in their thinking and programs but this study is the first I have seen that suggested they were lacking in intelligence. The right-leaning conservative religious friends of mine are an inflexible sort, strict, even severe and stern in following their faith, but not lacking intelligence. It has been interesting noting how rigid personalities are always bumping into unforeseen problems and difficulties.

But, there it was in a medical journal that conservatism thrives on low intelligence. This study went on to say that conservatives also thrive on poor information.

Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia, notes that such social and political science research shows those who hold right-wing agendas are more resistant to change than those of other political persuasions. The lower the level of education, the higher the levels of prejudice.

Intelligence is the first thing to be left behind when it comes to presidential campaigns. That is true of both major parties. It is embarrassing that the United States calls itself a Democracy or a Republic and is run by only two political parties, usually in cahoots with each other. Making it impossible for anyone else to contend.

What do these democrat and republican politicians do as they run for the office of president? They spend untold millions of dollars pointing out the foolishness of the other side. They solve absolutely nothing and in the process reveal their own prejudice and ignorance of human nature, society and religious biases. With all that stupidity and sham they expect us to respect them and vote for them. That is first class low intelligence.

In spite of the findings of conservative’s lack of intelligence, it is not true of all conservatives. There are also too many stupid progressives and/or liberals among us. We could all use the infusion into our brains of some ‘flexible’ juice; some milk of human kindness, and a smidgen of that uncommon commodity: common sense.

The low intelligence study is backed up with actual events. Just one example: from the moment Barack Obama took over the ship of state every kind of lie and innuendo has been shot across his bow.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, doubts our president is a Christian but is sure the disgraced, unethical former Speaker of the House and thrice-married Newt Gingrich is. If nothing else Franklin Graham disproves the adage, “the proverbial acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Franklin must have been adopted.

The zealous religious crowd know President Barack Obama was not born in the USA, is a closet Muslim, hates Christianity and is out to destroy American freedoms. Brian Fischer, of American Family Radio, loves it when former Senator Rick Santorum calls the president’s Christianity a “phony theology.”

Santorum denies it now but back in 2008 he said there really is no such thing as a "liberal Christian." Anyone who doesn't share his right-wing views doesn't really have any right to claim to be a Christian.

Also on American Family Radio is faux historian David Barton who has a tendency to completely misrepresent early American history in order to bolster his ultra-right-wing agenda.

But as a paragon of low intelligence Bryan Fischer has few peers. He accused President Obama of “behaving like a dictatorial tyrant.” Fischer has also likened Obama to Adolf Hitler.

No political party or individual has a corner on ignorance, but advocates like radio preacher Fischer are the nearest thing to a real monopoly on ignorance, twisted Bible ethics and just plain intelligence.