New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 9, 1983, New Braunfels, Texas
4A New Braunfels HeraldZeitung Wednesday, February 9, 1983
Dave Kramer, General Manager
Robert Johnson, Editor
James J. Kilpatrick
Math and science vs. balanced education
Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico introduced a bill in the Senate a week or so ago, and by sheer coincidence, out of the clear blue sky, Adm. Hyman Rickover happened to telephone me the next day. Maybe the admiral had his vibes working; he may have suspected that I was about to charge off at flank speed in support of the Domenici bill. Anyhow, his advice was to signal my engines ; Slow.
Senator Domenici is concerned, as all of us ought to be concerned, at the parlous state of math and science education in our country. The Reagan administration also is concerned. The president will propose an extensive program for producing about 7,000 new science and math teachers annually for the next several years.
Admiral Rickover’s concerns go in a different direction. He calls himself a “technocrat.” Much of his life has been spent in science and mathematics — specifically, in nuclear physics and marine engineering. The point of his telephone call was to warn against crash programs in science and math at the expense of the liberal arts.
“Give me a high school graduate with a well-rounded education,” he said, “and the rest will come later.” Very well. The point is well taken. The scientist who knows his megatons but knows not Mozart is less than a whole person. Intellectual breadth is more to be desired than narrow specialization.
Even so, when that has been said,
there is much also to be said for the senator and the president. Domenici defined the problem on the Senate floor. Every standardized test for measuring science and math capabilities has shown a steadily declining level of achievement over the past IO years. Our high school graduates, by and large, simply are not learning their elementary lessons: At community colleges, three out of four math courses are remedial in nature.
Most colleges and universities have reacted to this sorry situation by lowering their admission requirements for both math and science. The difficulty begins in the elementary grades. Domenici cited an international study with sobering
findings: American 13-year-olds
scored more poorly on a standardized test than their counterparts from England, Japan, Belgium, Australia, France, Scotland and the Netherlands.
The root of the problem, as Domenici and the White House perceive it, lies in the scarcity of qualified math and science teachers who will stay the course in the classrooms. This past September, he says, half of all newly employed teachers were not qualified; they were put to teaching math and science only because qualified instructors could not be found — or at least they could not be found at an average minimum starting salary of $11,758.
The Domenici bill would provide
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nearly 2,700 two-year scholarships, each valued at up to $2,500, for college students who would agree to teach in fields of math and science for at least three years after graduation. A separate program would provide Distinguished Teacher Awards annually for about a thousand teachers in elementary and secondary schools. A teacher who had been on the job for up to five years could be nominated for a $5,000 award; a teacher with at least IO years* experience could receive $10,000.
The administration's slightly more expansive program of scholarships and awards would be supplemented by an effort to recruit prospective teachers from among unemployed college graduates, retired teachers
and teachers in other disciplines. They would return to college at public expense for 12 months to 15 months of new training in science and math. The price tags would range from $24.5 million for Domenici’s bill to well over $50 million for the White House plan. The money would be well spent.
“No senator worries more about the effects of large deficits than I do,” said Domenici — and because he is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee it may well be so. But the problem is critical. Either our school system gears up to turn out better-trained scientists, or 20 years down the road the Japanese will beat our brains out. In many areas, sad to say, they’re doing that now.
Tis the season for adjustments
By WALTER R MEARS
WASHINGTON - It’s the season for seasonal adjustment, and no one has been jimmying with the figures this time.
That about sums up President Reagan's latest appraisal of the sometimes mysterious ways of federal statisticians.
Seasonal adjustment is a system through w hich the statisticians try to lessen the impact of such predictable changes as harvests, changes in the weather and major holidays.
It proved a boon to the administration when the latest unemployment figures came out, showing a drop in the unemployment rate between December and January. The adjustment sometimes has worked the other way, prompting the president to complain about the system.
The employment picture also was enhanced by a change in the way the government counts, since military personnel stationed in the United States were included for the first time. All of them have jobs, so the unemployment rate was lower for the revision.
With seasonal adjustment, the
unemployment rate declined from 10.8 percent in December to 10.2 percent in January when the military is included, 10.4 percent counting only the civilian labor force. Had military personnel been factored into the December rate, it would have been 10.7 percent.
Without seasonal adjustment, the January rate for civilian workers would have been 11.4 percent.
Reagan eompllained there’s something wrong when the numbers show unemployment declining and the adjustment shows it increasing. Reagan did so when the unemployment rate showed an increase last March even though there were fewer people out of work .
It happened again last May; the unemployment rate went up even though the number of people out of work went down. “I’m not sure that we live in a seasonally adjusted w odd," Reagan said then.
The process cut the other way in January. The weather was relatively mild, so there was more work to be had outdoors. Because of the recession, Christmas business was off, so fewer holiday workers were hired than rn the past. As a result, not too many people were laid off after the holidays.
Keeping warm has its own simple pleasures
When some people fall on hard tunes I have to laugh. The people w ho sell me fuel oil for my house are friends and neighbors, arid it’s been so warm this winter that their business is terrible.
I .ast weekend I dropped into their office iii my shirtsleeves. It was so warm out, that was all I needed. They were sitting around their office with long faces, but I just laughed and laughed at them. In addition to their office staff, there were two tank truek drivers sitting around because they had nothing to do. F or anyone used to paying huge fuel oil bills every winter, it was sight for sore eyes. I don’t wish the Riggins Oil Company bad luck,
but I hope it stays as warm as it’s been so far this winter and that they continue to do a terrible business.
I have a wonderful problem because of the warm winter we’ve had in the Northeast. Three years ago we put a small, air-tight wood stove in the kitchen. We had to close off the fireplace to do it but we were convinced the fireplace, though attractive, was inefficient. The first year, we used the little stove a lot but there were some problems. The main trouble was that when we were in the kitchen, we were usually cooking and didn’t need a lot of extra heat. When we weren’t in the kitchen, it didn’t make much sense burning wood to
keep the room warm. We like the little wood stove though, and all summer and fall I prepared for this winter which forecasters said, might be the coldest of the century. Well, if it’s going to be a cold winter, it has to get started pretty soon now or it’ll be too late.
By the first of November I’d pulled quite a few dead trees out of the woods and cut them into 18-inch lengths. That’s as long as the wood stove will take. Not it’s February and I still have a beautiful pile of wood outside the kitchen door, all cut and split and ready. The stove, however, is cold. We simply don’t need it. One day last month I started it up because it was
nippy out and we were going to have Sunday morning breakfast in the kitchen. I burned five pieces of wood and then let the fire die. So my wood pile of hundreds of pieces of wood is only five short of what it was when I finished it. I suppose it’s the Riggins’ turn to laugh at me.
Reeping warm is a very' basic, satisfying thing to do. We wonder how our ancestors amused themselves before they had cars or television. I suspect one of the things they spent a lot of time doing was keeping warm. Doing it for yourself has a lot going for it that watching “I Laverne and Shirley” doesn’t. When you’ve finished building a fire, insulating a
house or putting on long underwear and a down jacket for a cold day on the ski slopes, you feel great. You’re comfortable and you’ve won a victory over the elements that are trying to make you cold and miserable. There isn’t a television show ever made that can match the pleasure of getting into a warm bed.
I’ve always considered myself good with fire, but of course a lot of people do who aren’t, and I may be one of them. We had a fireplace in our summer cottage when I was young and I had a lot of experience w ith that, but my real knowledge of fire came from helping my mother stoke the
coal furnace in our house in the city.
My father traveled a lot, so I learned young how to open the furnace and throw a shovelful of coal in without hitting either side of the door.
I was always scared to go down cellar alone, but I liked stoking the furnace. My mother was proud that we could afford the big chunks of anthracite instead of having to burn the smaller pieces of soft coal that some of our neighbors did.
I don’t know why I think you’ll be interested rn these petty, personal reminiscences of mine about fire and warmth. I guess I think they will remind you of warmth of your own.
John L. Hess
Reagan's 'wishful thinking' helps the rich
Looking back over his first two years, the president grinned his famous grin and said, “How time flies when you’re having fun.”
A few days later, Reagan had a little fun with an audience of corporation executives in Bedford, Mass.
“ITI probably kick myself for having said this,” he said with a grin,” but when are we going to have the courage to point out that in our tax structure, the corporate tax is very hard to justify9”
Then he had a beer with the boys in a blue-collar saloon, still grinning. But before he got back to Washington, he and his staff had to assure the
press, seriously, that he had no intention of even looking at that corporation tax.
T hat s true, the president was just shooting the breeze. It was a bit of nostalgia, really. Before an audience like that, he just tossed off a line from his dear old days on the lecture trail for General Electric.
Since then, there have been so many new loopholes that nobody cares much about the corporation tax. In fact, GE had so many deductions from its pre-tax profit of $2.66 billion in 1981 that it sold some it could not use, and ended with a tax refund of dose to $100 million.
For the government to be paying the corporations instead of vice versa — isn’t that fun? That particular gimmick was only one in the barrel of tricks put through by Reagan in 1981
Two months ago, the Wall Street Journal totted up the results of that package: a 25 percent cut in income taxes over three years, a slash in the top rate on unearned income, trimming benefits for the poor, etc. It concluded: “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” Surprise.
But there’s more fun ahead. The Social Security “rescue plan” — now, there’s a boffo title — will not only
freeze benefits at the present munificent average of $400 a month but also raise the withholding tax, which hits the mass of lower incomes.
And the Reagan budget calls for nicks at Medicare, public transportation, food stamps, welfare and poor children’s meals. On the revenue side, it proposes to tax health benefits provided by employers.
For the ordinary taxpayer, the president offered his sympathy. In his State of the Union address, he said we ought to study simplifying the tax code. Then he proposed, deadpan, half a dozen new and complicated tax loopholes.
One would be a deduction for savings against future tuition for the children. But it turned out that he meant only the interest on those savings would be exempt, not the money actually put aside.
To think of the average Joe with a family, earning $20,000 a year, putting tuition money aside under that inducement is at least worth a smile.
The nuttiness of the tax code has stirred a lot of interest in a flat tax. The idea is that a straight 14 percent or so on all income with no deductions
would raise at least as much revenue as the present income tax.
But that would put a lot of lawyers, accountants, and lobbyists out of work. More seriously, it would force a lot of Reagan’s friends to pay more than they do now. So when the president says he likes the idea, it’s like when he says the corporation tax should be repealed. He’s not proposing, he’s just wishing.
Anyway, his actual program is lots of fun. These next two years should