Thursday, November 19, 2009

Put Up or Shut Up

This health care debate gets more and more exciting every day. Now it's the Senate's turn. Who needs Pacquiao vs. Cotto when you get to see Harry Reid whipping the rest of the Democrats to vote for his bill? The best part is that the vote is going to be on another Saturday night. Prime time! There's nothing else on Saturday anyway, and I guarantee you the networks are pissed they won't be able to charge for advertisements on C-SPAN when the vote is taking place.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion over ten years. That's also probably a conservative estimate based on how CBO actually calculates the figures. Taxes are also going to be raised by the insurance companies who charge more then $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families, which will help key costs low.

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed in the name. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That's boring. The bill should be called Put Up or Shut Up.

In 2006 Republicans lost control of Congress mainly because they didn't get anything done, they didn't get their act together. Some Democratic Senators (Lieberman, Landrieu, Lincoln, and Nelson) are threatening to not even let the bill come to a vote. If that happens it won't just look bad for Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership, it sends the message to the American people Democrats don't have confidence in their own policies. And if they don't, why should the the American people?

The bill to be voted on Saturday has a public option which states can opt-out of. And a public option is the best way to control costs, the majority of the American people know this. The foundations are in both the Senate and House version for the Democrats to be confident in the bill.

When Vice President Biden was on The Daily Show the other night, he was asked, and I'm paraphrasing, "Why is it that the Republicans are able to stop legislation when they are in the minority, and the Democrats can't get anything passed when they have the majority?" Biden's reply: "That's a good point."

So Democrats, it's time to put up or shut up, because that's what this bill represents. You can either show the American people you are capable of running the country or you're not. The outcome of this bill will be the answer.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Learning from Sesame Street

I love Sesame Street. Before going to pre-school I would watch it and while being fully entertained, I would also be learning from Big Bird and all his friends. It's the shows 40th anniversary this week, which should remind us how teaching is one of the most important parts of our society but unfortunately can sometimes be taken for granted.

When trying to hold teachers and schools accountable within their districts, politicians and policy makers always go for the simple answer, standardized tests. Their argument is that these tests can give them data for them to see which schools are doing well and which ones are not.

Now don't get me wrong, I love data. I would never think of any policy or even try to without looking at some statistics because that would be irresponsible. But what sometimes is forgotten is how one size does not always fit all, and there could be multiple reasons why students may or may not do well on standardized tests.

When students take these tests, they become anxious, nervous, and frustrated over what may happen if they don't do well. Even worse is that by teaching to the tests, it takes away from actual learning from the classroom.

These tests narrow the curriculum to what will be tested. Teachers have to do this because they feel the pressure to make sure their students do well because in the end it will be a reflection on them.

I went to The Beacon School in New York City. It is considered one of the best public schools in the city and it started as a place where students were exempt from taking the New York state regents exams. Now however, they have to take them. So while President George W. Bush was touting immigration reform in his last term in office, there used to be (1999-2000) only two questions on immigration on those regents exams.

The most well known of these standardized tests is the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). After World War 2, soldiers coming back were given tests to see where they should be placed in the job market.

The problem was that the Army Tests were ridiculously slanted, rewarding anyone with a knowledge of brand names, baseball trivia and cuts of beef.

But Carl Brigham (the man who invented the SAT and founded the College Board) convinced Princeton University that these tests should be mandatory for students entering college. The test have changed over the years, but the fact of the matter is there is no correlation on how a first year student does in college and the SAT.

Engaging students is hard, Sesame Street has found a great way to do so and should be celebrated for it. Holding teachers feet to the fire is not the best way for students to learn, or for that matter teachers to teach. My prediction is that next year Nancy Pelosi is going to want to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, but eight years after its signing 8.7% of students are still not graduating high school.

In sum, while having all students take a test may seem fair, in reality someone is still getting less. Another lesson that can be learned from Bert and Ernie.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who Wouldn't Want To Show Off The White House?

If I were President, I know all my friends would be asking: "So when's the party?" You could just imagine a kegger on the Rose Garden right?

The White House released a list of some of the visitors that have come since President Obama has taken office? It didn't get a lot of attention with Afghanistan, the economy, and healthcare taking up most of the news time, but some of the people who visited kinda worry me.

The first one was Michael Jordan. Now I know the president likes basketball, played for the Chicago Bulls, and is the greatest that ever played. But did you see his speech when he was inducted into the hall of fame? It's hard to say that I actually ever liked Michael Jordan considering all the times he came into MSG and trounced the Knicks. But I was a fan and to see how much of a douchebag he really is, is really shocking.

Who the hell tells their kids he would hate to be them?

My concern is that his douchbaginess will infect the White House, and all of a sudden Obama will quit being President and try a career as a day time talk show host. I know he's capable of doing it because he's a great speaker, and when people ask him questions he always knows exactly what to say. Plus I'm sure his ratings will be high if no one has a job.

Another name that stood out to me was former Presidential candidate John Edwards. It's safe to say this guy is on everyone's a-hole list right now. But according to the list, he's been to the White House four times.

Is this the guy Obama really wants to listen to? Forget all the stuff about the affair. Edwards was saying there were two different America's when then candidate Obama was telling people there's one and brought everyone together. There was an article about how the strategy Obama used to get this far in the health care debate has worked. Why, all of a sudden, would he want to be taking advice from someone who had no leadership position and didn't pass a single piece of legislation when he was in the Senate?

I guess having a blowout with all my friends wouldn't really be a good idea. But if Stevie Wonder wants to perform at my house he's more then welcome. And in the end these people are just visitors, and who wouldn't want to show off the White House?