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An Open Letter to John Boehner

November 9, 2012

 

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Speaker Boehner ...

Step down as Speaker of the House.  Now.  We're in a fight.  Literally.  A fight - for the future of this country.  And you're not the person for the job.

The most important aspect of a fight is recognizing you're in one.  You don't.  You've immediately reached out to the Democratic Party, announcing you're ready to talk on major issues.  You've announced "ObamaCare" is the "Law of the Land", and said, basically, there's nothing that can be done.

Speaker Boehner - your understanding of the Constitution is much different than mine.

We have a system of checks and balances for a reason.  And this system operates at many levels.  The Federal vs. State level.  State vs. Local.  And of course, at the federal level, we have the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches of government.

Speaker Boehner - you seem to believe because Republicans hold only the House there's only so much that can be done.

Nonsense.  Does not the House have "the power of the purse"?  USE IT!

But you choose not to.  Worse than losing a fight is negotiating with the thug before the fight has begun.

Speaker Boehner - you're not a fighter, and we need one.

And we need the fight brought out into the open.

Have you read the provisions of ObamaCare?  I'm not talking merely about the highly publicized individual mandate, but other provisions as well?  I've documented the detrimental effects this law will logically have on the private insurance market, as well as the medical profession.  As these are logically predictable, they cannot be unintended.  The destruction of the private insurance market is the goal, as President Obama has said in the past - he wants single payer!

This doesn't mean one opposes legislation for the sake of opposition.  If legislation is good, support it!  If it's not good, say why - AND PUT THE INFORMATION INTO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN!

Speaker Boehner - the goal of your job is not merely to lead, but lead in the right direction.  You've proven yourself incapable of doing both.

There's a lot of work to be done in the Republican Party.  There's a lot of work to be done in this country.  Step aside.

Mike Round

Overland Park, Kansas

 

The Health Care System

November 9, 2012

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 The Health Care System

The Nature of Dealing with a Problem Apart from the System

     

CMS Guidelines (1362 pages)

Including an Announcement of a 26.5% Fee Reduction

 

Physician payments under Medicare are, once again, under attack.  They are subject to a 26.5% reduction January 1, 2013..

Let’s suppose you’re a legislator, and it’s your job to vote on this.  Up or down.  Yes or No.

Why would you vote “No”.  You know Medicare payments to physicians are already low, and cutting them another 26.5% will be disastrous – to the physicians.

Why “Yes”?  You know the Medicare budget is out of control, and there comes a time when, to reel in costs, payments must be reduced.

You and your fellow legislators are caught in quite a dilemma:

 

 

 

Unsure which route to take, you choose the middle ground:  maintain the current fee schedule, and kick the issue down the road for a year. 

Problem solved.  Or perhaps “Problem Ignored” is a better way of saying it.

But A is A.  Reality cannot be ignored – forever.

And the next year, the issue is on your plate once again, only this time the necessary cuts are even greater!  They include not only the cuts you didn’t pass the prior year, but also the cuts necessary for the current year!

       

So here you are, in 2013, facing a 26.5% cut.  What do you do?

Let’s say you bite the bullet.  We either deal with this problem now, or we’ve lost the war forever.

Fine.

You in the legislature have done your job.  Let’s see how it plays out in the Physician’s Office.  Let’s consider the average physician, going about their daily business, doing good work.  You come in for a visit.  How much will the physician be paid for your visit?

This depends on what type of insurance you have.

If you have typical Private (Commercial) insurance, let’s suppose the physician gets $100.  If you’re a Medicare patient, the physician gets only $60.  And if you’re a Medicaid patient, they only get $50.  Round numbers, of course, but let's assume they're close:

 

Now picture yourself – as the physician – doing your books at the end of the day.  How much money have you been paid?  To do this calculation, you obviously need to know how many private, Medicare, and Medicaid patients you’ve seen.  Let’s make an assumption, and break this into thirds:

 

 

In this example, you’ve been paid $7,030 for your services.  You check the local paper and see your Medicare payments are going to be slashed.  You quickly run the numbers to see how this will affect you:

 

 

Your revenue is down about $500!  Are you going to sit idly by and do nothing?  What can you do?  The payments are the payments – at least for Medicare and Medicaid.  There’s not a whole lot you can do about these.

But the private market – the commercial market.  There, you might be able to extract a bit more.  Sure, the negotiations are tough:  insurance companies want to make a profit as well, while keeping premiums low for their members.

But if you want to be a profitable physician’s office, this is where you must go.  And the amount of increase you need to seek to return to be “revenue-neutral”?  15.44%.

You shutter.  You know no insurance company is going to approve such a massive increase in the fee schedule.  But you also know this is what you need – just to remain revenue neutral!  You quickly review your work and logic to make sure the numbers are right.  A logical summary:

 

 

You go to the commercial carrier to negotiate the rates.  In your mind, you need 15.44% to maintain your current amount of revenue.  This is “pie-in-the-sky” dreaming, you’re told.  “Do you know how much pressure we’re under to keep premiums down?  15.44%?  We can give you 2.5%, tops.”

You head back to your practice, head down, knowing revenue will be down, significantly.  You also know the next year – and the next – and the next – will be much of the same.

What to do?

“This Medicare market”, you mumble.  “These government programs are bleeding me”.  “These government programs ...”

And then it dawns on you, like it has so many other physician practices.  Quit worrying about the fee schedule for Medicare, and instead concentrate on the patients you’re seeing with Medicare insurance.  More specifically, refuse to accept any more patients.  Yes, you’ll continue to see those you have been seeing, but no more.

Knowing you only have so much time in a day, cutting Medicare patients frees up time to see more private-insurance patients.  You rush back to the office and model the possible membership change, with the change in patients seen, and the new 2.5% private-market fee schedule increase:

 

 

 

It will work – for now – you realize.  But the impacts to the system, due to the Medicare budget crisis, are numerous – unintended – but nonetheless predictable!

 

 

       

 

What to do, you, as the legislator?  You started with a noble goal, you thought – “Have a viable Medicare system for senior citizens”, but now this noble goal has put you right in the hot seat!  You seem damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, and things are only getting worse! 

Compromise?  Or recognize you’re faced with a contradiction?  At a minimum, when confronted with such a situation, remember the words of Ayn Rand: 

 

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

       

Medicare as an issue will only get worse.  Physician payments.  Doctor availability.  An aging population.

How to address the problem - the core problem?  Recognize ideas have consequences, and the undesirable effects in the system - whether intended or not - are part of a system. 

 

This is a serious issue.

 

This is just one of several articles in "Broken Wings".  You can download a draft here:

 

 

The Politics of Power

November 9, 2012

 

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A closer look at the 21st century reveals an interesting - and unexpected - result.  Despite George Bush being president in 2007-2008, the Democrats actually had a governing majority!

 
 
DEMOCRATIC vs. REPUBLICAN 
21st CENTURY POLITICS
PARTY CONTROL OF THE HOUSE, THE SENATE, AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

The Rationale for the "Effective Governing %" Below: Things start in the House, and move to the Senate. Therefore, the Senate is "worth more" than the House. Things end up on the Presidential desk. They can be signed or vetoed. Therefore, it seems, the President has more weight than the Senate.

 

 

Connecting the Dots:  Part I

Some Thoughts on Benghazi

November 10, 2012

 

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It's instructive to look at the timeline of the Benghazi embassy massacre to get a feel for what actually happened, and who knew what - when.

FactCheck.org has done a pretty good job integrating what happened with what somebody said.

One can also get bogged down in details, looking at details, and lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Let's look at this from a different perspective.

 

What is really odd about this story?  Four things in particular stand out:

 

1. the embassy requested additional security several times before the 9/11 attack.  One would expect, particularly leading up to the anniversary of 9/11, such a request would be a no-brainer.  Why were these requests denied?

 

2. ex-Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glenn Doherty were not part of the embassy security team, but nonetheless requested permission to get to the embassy and help the Americans there.  They were told to stand-down.  They disobeyed, joined the fight, and sadly lost their lives.  Why were they told to stand-down, and where did they come from in the first place?

 

3. General Petraeus, CIA head, has now resigned, due to an affair lasting several months, and including several months of follow-up e-mails.  The FBI was outraged President Obama did not fire him immediately.  The possibility of blackmail is huge.  Why did Petraeus resign when he did?

 

 

 

CONNECTING THE DOTS

A First Pass

 

ISSUE #1:  Denying Security to the Embassy

We know the embassy had requested increased security several times before 9/11.  Each request was denied.  Why?  Doesn't that seem very odd?  If the people on the ground have judged the situation as "vulnerable", why would the request be denied?  Why would the administration deny this request?

 

 

 

The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi is a year-old.  The "Arab-Spring" has put north Africa on uncertain footing.  The Libyan people likely are not only suspicious of new dictators, but foreign powers dictating to them as well.  Therefore, a heightened US presence in the middle of the second largest Libyan city may be "asking for trouble".  Plausible?  Maybe.  I can see the reasoning in it, not that it's right or wrong.  But remember, there must be a reason here, because the permission was denied!

 

 

 

ISSUES #2 AND 3:  The Stand-Down Order

The story of ex-Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glenn Doherty is I can only imagine.  The scene that comes to mind comes from Black Hawk Down, where the downed helicopter - and pilot Michael Durant - are being swamped by Somali militia.  Two Delta Force snipers, Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon, ask to be inserted into the site.  They're eventually killed. 

Remember, Woods and Doherty were NOT part of the embassy security team, but nonetheless requested permission to get to the embassy and help the Americans there.  They were told to stand-down.

Something comes to mind: if they were not part of the security team, then where did they come from?

The CIA "annex".

Though both were ex-SEALS, they were now part of the CIA contingent residing at the "annex" close to the embassy.  Why was there a CIA presence in Benghazi? 

I don't know the answer, but let's now couple the CIA's presence with the "stand-down" order to Woods and Doherty:

 

 

The conclusion - the "why" - is pretty clear:  you don't send in help because additional help only brings attention to you.  You reveal yourself.  And the CIA doesn't want that to happen.

 

 

The interesting thing about this is all media reports and time-lines already recognize the CIA presence in Benghazi, and Woods as CIA contractors, but I have yet to see one ask "Why was the CIA there in the first place?"

 

And this new revelation has me think the administration's denial of additional forces to secure the embassy.  I was generous above.  I've quickly become cynical.  The CIA is in the middle of this, and their mission is secret.  That's already unmistakable.  This must be playing a role in the decision to deny additional security to the embassy:

 

 

 

 

A RESET

There's a secret CIA presence in Benghazi.  Why?  I hope we'll find that out during the House investigation hearings.  Did Ambassador Stevens know about this CIA presence?  Yes or no, he knew the embassy was not secure, and requested additional security.  There was a fear additional American presence would divulge the CIA annex, and the request was denied.  The request was made, remember, because there was a real threat, particularly with the looming 9/11 anniversary.  And this risk played out.  The embassy was under attack.  CIA contractors Woods and Doherty, as ex-SEALs, requested permission to help their fellow Americans.  The CIA knew this will surely give their presence away, and told the two to stand-down.  Multiple times.

They disobeyed orders, joined the fight, and were killed.  So were Ambassador Stevens and another American, Sean Smith.  And now it's panic time.  How do you tell this story to the American people? 

 

And what is Petraeus' role in this?

 

Stay tuned for Part II, and the "Chain of Events" ...

 

 

Connecting the Dots:  Part II

Some Thoughts on Benghazi

November 11, 2012

 

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THE BENGHAZI COVER-UP

I didn't start with this as the title, but the reasoned evidence has pointed in this direction.

And this helps explain the discrepancy between "coordinated terrorist attack" and "spontaneous anti-Muslim film uprising" as dueling explanations for the attack.   To admit is was a coordinated terrorist attack would invite questions about preparation.  To blame it on a spontaneous anti-Muslim film?  That might work:

 

 

The story crumbled, of course.  Quickly.  We knew quickly there was no spontaneous uprising.  None.  Only heavy artillery fire.

But on September 28th, over two weeks after the 9/11 attack, on a Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence put out a statement saying:

 

"The office’s position on the attack evolved. It was first believed that 'the attack began spontaneously,' but it was later determined that 'it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack.' "

 

Where did this come from - and why?

This leads us to the last anomaly:  CIA Director Petraeus' resignation.

He knows all of the above, of course.  But the administration is now under fire for the obvious cover-up.  It needs cover itself.  And the administration came to Petraeus demanding he put out an official story saying the CIA first thought the attack came from a spontaneous uprising, but after careful review, now realize it is a terrorist attack.

But Petraeus is waffling now.  He's a proud military man with a decorated past, and four Americans - including two ex-SEALs - are dead.  Lying is one thing.  Watching fellow soldiers die is another.  Continuing the cover-up might be the final straw.

But the statement went out anyways.

Why?

Petraeus had a secret that wasn't much of a secret.  He was having an affair.

The FBI knew it.  They'd been tracking e-mails for months. Such an indiscretion is not just a moral failing.  It's a security issue.  Blackmail.  What did the administration do about this? Nothing. 

Why?

 

 

 

They held this over Petraeus' head.  It's the most logical explanation.  And it's also an explanation for the September 28th Friday-afternoon surprise statement above.  "Get the heat off us ... say you guys first thought this was a spontaneous uprising, OR WE WILL REVEAL YOUR AFFAIR!"

FBI field-agents were furious.  Rightfully so.  All they knew was Petraeus was still the CIA Director.  They knew he should be fired immediately.

And now we arrive at the post-election resignation of Petraeus.  Why this timing?

Petraeus was about to testify - under oath.  And he knew he couldn't.  Not under oath.  Not in good faith.  And not allow the administration to hold this threat over his head the rest of his life.  Get this out into the open now:

 

 

 

 

DENOUEMENT

French for "Untying"

What's not been discussed here is the reason for the CIA presence in Benghazi.  This lies at the heart of the embassy attack.  This must come out in the House investigation.

Whatever the reason, it must have been secret.  Secrecy led to the denial of additional Embassy security.  Secrecy led to the stand-down orders of Woods and Doherty.

We're now told Petraeus will not testify, as he's no longer the CIA Director.  This is the administration talking.  Petraeus can clear all this up, of course.  He doesn't even have to wait for hearings.  He can call a local news program.  He can hold an interview.  He can post it online.  It's in his hands now.

Is this story correct?  I don't know.  It ties together several anomalies in a reasonable fashion.  Andy any valid explanation also reveals other issues.  Here's a few:

 

1. Petraeus' affair was known for months.  The FBI was furious he wasn't fired.  9/11 happened several months after the affair was known.  Was the administration holding this card in the event something went wrong?

 

2. FBI field-agents were furious about Petraeus remaining as CIA Director.  What did FBI Director Robert Mueller do about this?  And why did the FBI investigation team wait nearly three weeks to investigate the site, and stay only a few hours?

 

 

I'm not naive.  Counter-terrorism and intelligence operations take place all around the world.  They got us information on bin Laden.

But there is a point when we must push back, when secrecy and evasion together become the rule.

 

 

THE UNFOLDING STORY

The CIA had covert operations in Benghazi, and it must have been very, very important.  It lies at the heart of the chain of events above.

To keep it secret, additional security requests from the embassy were denied - multiple times.

Woods and Doherty were told to stand-down - multiple times.

The administration lied about the attack.

Petraeus has now resigned.

 

What was going on there?

 

General Petraeus - you can put a stop to this, right now. 

 

 

Was it "Mutiny" on the Bounty?

November 12, 2012

 

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Hurricane Sandy claimed many lives.  A great deal of property.  And a famous ship.  And there's some relevance to the real story of Fletcher Christian, Captain Bligh, and current events!

What was the story of the Bounty?

In a nutshell, the British wanted breadfruit from Tahiti to plant in the West Indies.  What constituted a "sailor" in the late 1700s? 

 

"Ship life in the British navy was not easy.  The work was hard and the discipline was harsh.  The crew consisted mainly of men who were hiding from the law or common riffraff kidnapped off the streets and forced into naval service by gangs hired for that purpose."

 

One can only imagine what it takes to keep a crew like this in order:

 

"Severe treatment was sometimes the only way a captain could keep his ship sailing and his men healthy."

 

I bet.  And the two men in charge of this 'severe treatment' were:

 

 

There are two sides to what happened, but that isn't even relevant.  In Christian's eyes, he was seeing mistreatment of sailors above and beyond "normal" treatment.  He raised his concerns with Bligh.  And?  Nothing.  What should Christian do?

 

 

 

How does one get unstuck from this conflict?  Let's verbalize the reasoning that leads to being "stuck" in the first place.  Why would you want to mutiny?  You've seen enough.  The mistreatment of men is one thing, but like everything, one can go too far.  After all, at root you want to be a good person.  But to be a good person requires you to follow orders.  Following orders means don't mutiny.

And you're right back where you started!  A viscous circle!

 


 

 

 

Does there come a time when "enough is enough"?  Of course.

General Patraeus: you're probably wrestling with this dilemma, more so because it is coupled with your indiscretion.  Should I "Tell the Truth", or should I "Obey my commander"?

General Patraeus, or any other person in the know:  you may serve under the President, but more importantly, you serve under the people of the United States of America.  And we have a right to know what is going on.

Release the information.  Under your name if you can, under "anonymous" if you must, but somebody ... release the tapes!

And a final note: General Patraeus: I understand you may now be facing charges.  Be aware charges are being filed to keep you quiet.  People want you to plead the fifth amendment.

Don't.

This offends my sense of propriety.  We, the American People, have a right to know.

This last sentence, incidentally, is not mine.  It's borrowed from two sources.  They're here:

 

 

 

LEGACY

James Michener

A Conversation between Norman Starr and his Father-in-Law.

"The sense of propriety on which society must rely had been offended."

My father-in-law's narration hit me like a round of mortar fire. The sense of propriety had been offended. I looked at this grizzled fighter, survivor of the dreadful wars of Central Europe, patient teacher of young Americans who were striving to formulate their own judgments of right and wrong, and I suddenly understood what he was saying:

"You think that for United States military officers to stand before the public in full uniform and take the Fifth Amendment offends the rule of common sense?"

"Norman, you have every right to take the Fifth. Tens of millions of people in Europe and around the world wish their governments gave them such a right. No more tortures, no more of what the Soviets did to my brother and me to make us incriminate ourselves.' 'But for military officers whose job it is. . .'My voice trailed off. ‘Yes, it is offensive. Your job is to protect the nation, not yourself.'

 

Norman Starr Concludes

I now saw the Constitution which my ancestors had helped create, interpret and enlarge as a treasured legacy whose provisions bind the various regions and interests of our nation together. Philosophically as evanescent as a whispering wind, structurally more powerful than steel cables, that superb document will be effective only if each new generation believes in it -and keeps it renewed.

 

 

 

24

 

Season 7

Jack Bauer: Senator, why don't I save you some time. It's obvious that your agenda here is to discredit CTU and generate a series of indictments...
 

Blaine Mayer: My only agenda is to get to the truth.
 

Jack Bauer: I don't think it is, sir.
 

Blaine Mayer: Excuse me?
 

Jack Bauer: Ibrahim Hadad had targeted a bus carrying 45 people, 10 of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
 

Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
 

Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to save innocent lives.
 

Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you are saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means and you are above the law.
 

Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason. And that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
 

Blaine Mayer: ...Even if it means breaking the law.
 

Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don't care about your rules. All they care about is a result. My job is to stop them from completing their objective, at all costs. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, 'Am I above the law?', no sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please sir, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because, sir, the truth is... I don't.

 

==========================================

Agent Kilner: Mr. Bauer... what they're making you go through at that Senate hearing... it's wrong.
 

Jack Bauer: (smiles, but hesitates) No, it's not. It's better that everything comes out in the open. We've done so many secret things over the years in the name of protecting this country, we've created two worlds. Ours, and the people we promised to protect. They deserve to know the truth. And they can decide how far they want to let us go.

 

 

The Whiskey Rebellion

The Real Lessons Learned

November 13, 2012

 

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THE WHISKEY REBELLION

A Short Story - And Most of it is False!

 

 

Not only is most of this story false, it leaves out the most important parts:  THE CRUCIAL LESSONS LEARNED!  The true story of "The Whiskey Rebellion" to follow shortly ...

 

 

Escalation

The Nature of Conflict - and Conflict Resolution

December 3, 2012

 

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The brilliant documentary on the famed Hatfield / McCoy feud recently aired.  A remarkable 3-part series on a feud known mostly by name, but not detail.

Generally, one family is wronged.  Feeling wronged, they retaliate.  The first family, now feeling wronged, relaliates.  And ---- ESCALATION!

The specifics are important, and they're being researched.  Here, I want to try and bring to the surface the general nature of "escalation", noting differences between examples, how conflicts erupt, and more importantly, how they resolve themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Recurring Nightmare

Math - and How NOT To Think About Systems

December 4, 2012

 

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THE FRACTAL NATURE OF MATHEMATICAL HISTORY

“The repetition of a similar structure in a different context on a different scale”

 

You've been put in charge of solving a problem.  The financial crisis.  The housing crisis.  The student-loan crisis.  The education crisis.  There are enough crisis' to go around, so pick one you're familiar with.

What's the first thing you would do?

Since you're just one person, you need help.

But who do you invite to help you solve the problem?

Let's suppose you've made your selections, and have many representatives around the table.  Let's be concrete, now:  we've chosen to work on the housing crisis. 

Person X is from the government, and blames the private sector.  Person Y is from the private sector, and blames the government.

Can both be right?  How would you know?  How can they prove their assertions are valid?

 

Keep this discussion in mind when you think about the "math crisis".  Math crisis?  Of course there's a math crisis!  There's been one for over half-a-century!  And now you're in charge of the task-force to solve the problem!

Step 1:  invite people.  Who do you invite?  You think about it.

Step 2:  get thoughts from invited people.  Here are the thoughts of Person X and Y:

 

Person X:  Focusing more on the core curriculum is the solution, allowing us to fix math woes.

Person Y:  Focusing more on the core curriculum is the problem, allowing math woes to continue.

 

 

What do you do?  They see something wrong, and offer a solution.  I see something wrong, and think not only is your solution bad, but it will make things worse!

What can be done?  Who is right?  How would we know?  How can we prove out claims?

 

 

HOW TO PROCEED?

A COUPLE THOUGHTS

In a moment ... but first, a bit on the "new math".  Just reading that one word - math - elicited an internal response suggesting something's wrong.  Very wrong.

Let's take a look, just at the curriculum. 

 

The New Math, implemented in the 1960s, had noble origins and good intentions. The 19th and early-20th centuries had seen the erosion of “certainty” from the once-solid foundations of math. Euclidean geometry, the calculus, and set theory were under assault at the ground level for inconsistencies, contradictions, and non-intuitive results. As a result, a paradigm shift in mathematics took place, the goal: shore up the foundations of math. We're still arguing about what constitutes "good" math.

But it's interesting to see the results of the "revolution".  Consider these typical errors on simple math problems:

 

Moreover, many adults are not only mathematically "illiterate", they proudly announce it!

We're past 1/2 a century now!  Thirty-years ago, we were called “A Nation at Risk”. Now, the motto is “No Child Left Behind”. Have any of these programs done anything to help the students? Why has math lagged behind all other subjects?

Or has it? As soon as this subject is brought up, experts jump into disputes about the data and the meaning of the data. But when you look at the problems these students get wrong, it does not make sense. Not in this age of graphing calculators, specialized attention to math problem-solving, the many techniques to solve problems, etc.

But does all of this help – or hinder – the student? An interesting question.

 

I partially digress.  I talked about the "New Math" above.  It came into vogue following the launch of the Soviet Sputnik.  A strong emphasis was placed on math education. 

And it was shown, pretty quickly, this "new math" wasn't so good.  Where did this math come from?  Why was it not good?  We'll get there.

For the moment, I want to focus on this issue:  the math we have now is different than the "new math", right?  In fact, haven't we been told the math curriculum is constantly changing?

What does that mean?

How does a curriculum "change"?

Let's take a look:

 

 

HOW CAN THIS BE?

A LOOK AT PARADIGMS AND PARADIGM SHIFTS

Consider a math classroom. 20 kids, all different. Different abilities, different interests. You're the teacher. A daunting task! What do you do? What do you teach? You teach - what you've been taught to teach - what you're told to teach. This appeals to some kids. Some kids love it. Others don't. OK - let's be honest. MANY don't! But some advance. Of all of the original 20 students, who's likely to become a teacher? Any who don't like math? Of course not. They've long ago dropped from the math scene, instead joining the growing ranks of people proudly proclaiming their dislike for the subject. What about all of those who do like the subject? How many of them will go on to become a teacher? A fraction? Fine. What does this "fraction" do? They go back into the classroom. What do they teach? They teach - what they've been taught to teach - what you're told to teach!

 

 

 

But you, as the new and energized, teacher, know something's not right. You see many students "not getting it". You probably see, by now, your OWN children struggling! You know something is wrong. What can you do? You can change things!

After all, you're a member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. They SET the standards! They help write the tests! You can make things better!

What are you going to do to revise the curriculum? You're with other similar-minded people, and you see something's not right. You're the professional. You're "in the game". You're going to change things.

 

 

And the circular argument only intensifies! Teachers taught a certain way help redesign the new system! What can they do differently? How will things be different? How do they "break out of the box"?

Evidence suggests they've been unable to do it, given the history of math education in the United States!

 

 

 

 

A CONCLUSION

What can be inferred from this?  Nothing, specifically, about the curriculum.  It may or may not be the problem.  What's clear, however, is if it is the curriculum, the professional organizations can't be tasked with revising it!  We'll talk about this in a bit.

The future seems ominous! In this system, it IS ominous! Can we break free of the educational tractor beam? Is there a shearing force we can apply, to break free?

Maybe.

But when I see something like this recent article in the January 2012 "Notices of the American Mathematical Society", I'm doubtful.  In this issue, Professor Frank Quinn goes into great length about the importance of

 

"A Revolution in Mathematics?

What Really Happened a Century Ago, and Why It Matters Today"

 

 

After a lengthy discussion of the "Importance of the Revolution", he offers "Solutions for education":

 

"The point briefly addressed here is that modern methods were adopted because they are much more effective at advanced levels. If the reasons for their success are clearly understood then some of these methods might be adaptable to elementary levels. This is the meaning of "brought into the twentieth century" in the discussion above, and at the very least it would improve K-12/college articulation. But it might do far more.

To be specific, consider fractions. Currently these are introduced in the old-fashioned way, through connections with physical experience. This is philosophically attractive and "easy", but follows the historical pattern (see the discussion in `Drawbacks') of being dysfunctional for most students. If we want students to be able to actually use fractions then core experience points a way: use a precise definition that looks obscure at first but can be internalized by working with it, and is far more effective once it is learned. Such an approach is suggested in and elaborated in some of the essays in. Similarly, in I explain how a careful understanding of the nature of modern proofs might improve success even with arithmetic."

 

 

As I said earlier, it's not surprising a university math professor would hold this position.  Above, I explained it's not only not surprising, it's expected!  The question becomes, for any organization:  how does one break out of a vicious cycle?

Professor Quinn:  let me give you a suggestion:  look around you.  Look at math scores.  Look at math enjoyment.  Look at student's inability to apply what they've learned.  Look at the last 50 years.  Don't tell me the revolution, vigorously applied, will solve problems.  Instead, check your premises.  You'll find at least one of them is wrong.

And then let's get to work.  It may or not be the curriculum.  Let's look at these several undesirable effects above, and others, and connect them via cause-effect logic, and find the core problem.

Once this problem is identified, you say, we're there!  Just solve the problem!  Not so fast.  If it were that easy, it would have been solved.  There's likely a reason it hasn't been.  There's likely a conflict - a core conflict - keeping the system in place.  Let's verbalize it.

Then we're 99% of the way there!

But we've then got to bring 'er in!