Tag Archives: DC

1 in 10 graduates of DC schools rarely if ever attended school

The coming dark age: An investigation into the Washington DC school system has found a great deal of corruption in grading, including the fact that 1 in 10 graduates receive diplomas even though they rarely if ever attend school.

The report, commissioned by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, portrays a school system riddled by student absenteeism and teachers who feel pressured to push chronically absent high school seniors across the graduation stage regardless of whether they earned their diplomas.

The review saved some of its sharpest criticism for Ballou High School, which has been engulfed in controversy amid a graduation scandal. The report found that the school’s administrators told teachers that a high percentage of their students were expected to pass and encouraged them to provide makeup work and extra credit to students, no matter how much school they missed. Teachers received little training in a new grading system, and their annual performance reviews hinged in small part on their success in graduating students.

At the same time the report was released, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson announced that Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves, who had been reassigned pending the investigation, will not return to the Southeast Washington school.

While this kind of corruption in public schools is somewhat rampant throughout the country, it has tended to happen far more in cities and states that have been controlled for years by a one-party political machine, which in the U.S. has almost routinely been a Democratic Party machine. The problem isn’t specifically Democrats (though that party’s policies almost routinely make things worse). The problem is the one-party political machine and a reliance on a big government school system.

It would be far better to eliminate the whole public school system, including the taxes it confiscates, and leave it to the families in a local neighborhood to simply band together, hire a teacher, and start a one-room school house for their elementary school kids. These small schools could then band together to form a larger high school, all paid for directly by the parents.

Sounds absurd? It was how the colonies and the U.S. did it for their first few hundred years, until the late 1800s.

I admit that going back to the old way might not work, however. There has also been a dumbing-down of standards nationwide, by everyone. We also no longer have the moral and religious framework that dominated American culture before the mid-20th century that required all parents to get their kids educated.

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The Think Tank Culture of Washington

On Monday I attended and gave a presentation at the one-day annual conference of the Center for New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the space policy paper I am writing for them, Exploring Space in the 21st Century.

CNAS was founded ten years ago by two political Washington insiders, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, with a focus on foreign policy and defense issues and the central goal of encouraging bi-partisan discussion. For this reason their policy papers cover a wide range of foreign policy subjects, written by authors from both political parties. The conference itself probably had about 1,000 attendees from across the political spectrum, most of whom seemed to me to be part of the Washington establishment of policy makers, either working for elected officials, for various executive agencies, or for one of the capital’s many think tanks, including CNAS.

I myself was definitely not a major presenter at this conference, with speakers like Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Senator Joe Reed (D-Rhode Island). I was part of a panel during one of the lunch breakout sessions, where approximately one third of the attendees came to have lunch while we spoke about space. I only had ten minutes to speak, and used that time to outline (1) the influence SpaceX is having on the entire launch industry and (2) the vast differences in cost, development time, and results between the Orion/SLS program and commercial space. Not surprisingly, the aerospace people from the big established companies appeared to be somewhat uncomfortable with what I had to say, though the Airbus people liked it when I made it clear I thought that the U.S. should allow foreign companies to compete for American business, including government launches.

Their discomfort was best illustrated by the one question asked of me following my talk, where the questioner said that I was comparing apples to oranges in comparing a manned capsule like Orion, intended to go beyond Earth orbit, with the unmanned cargo capsules like Dragon and Cygnus, that only go to ISS. I countered that though I recognized these differences, I also recognized that the differences were really not as much as the industry likes to imply, as demonstrated for example by SpaceX’s announcement that they plan to send Dragon capsules to Mars beginning in 2018. After all, a capsule is still only a capsule. The differences simply did not explain the gigantic differences in cost and development time.

I added that Orion compares badly with Apollo as well, noting that Apollo took about a third as long to build and actually cost less. I doubt I satisfied this individual’s objections, but in the end I think future policy will be decided based on results, not the desires of any one industry bigwig. And in this area Orion/SLS has some serious problems. I hope when my policy paper is released in August it will have some influence in determining that future policy.

My overall impression of CNAS, the speakers, and the people who attended was somewhat mixed. Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area from 1998 to 2011, when I attended many such conferences, I found that things haven’t changed much in the last five years. Superficially, everyone was dressed in formal business suits (something you see less and less elsewhere), and they also got to eat some fancy food at lunch.

On a deeper level my impressions were also mixed.
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A D.C. businessman faces two years in jail because he happens to own guns and stores them legally in Virginia.

A D.C. businessman faces two years in jail because he happens to own guns and stores them legally in Virginia.

The story also describes a SWAT team raid on the man’s home, which included barging in on his 16 year old son while he was taking a shower.

Read the whole thing. You will discover what it is like to live in a fascist state, where an unelected official can make your life hell, merely because he doesn’t like you.

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Thank You, David Gregory

“Thank you, David Gregory.”

Then there’s this: Laws are for little people.

To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?

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