George Barron

When people talk about what is wrong with American education today, at the end of the day most of the answers come back as some variation of “there aren’t more teachers out there like George Barron used to be”.

George Barron was my high school chemistry teacher…sort of.  He passed away late last month.

I say he was “sort of” my chemistry teacher because it didn’t really go well.  I mention this lest you think that this is going to turn into one of those Pollyanna-ish stories about teachers – Stand and Deliver or Mister Holland’s Opus or Watch Misplaced Teacher Turn The Meth-Heads Into Math-Heads or whatever –  where some plucky teacher triumphs over the recalcitrant kid (and the system that keeps them down, natch) and teaches everyone the Big Lesson by the end of the story.   It’s not.

Well, not directly.  Indirectly, it very much is.  But we’ll come back to that.

A solid generation before I took his chemistry class, George Barron was – or so I was told – a Navy dive-bomber pilot.  He didn’t talk about the war – none of the small group of teachers that were WWII veterans ever did – although he did make sure we knew that, during the war, he trusted his life to a tailgunner not much older than we.  Us, on the other hand?  He didn’t trust us to fetch donuts from the bakery. We had a way to go before we got there.

Judging by old high school annuals, Mr. Barron got out of the Navy, came to Jamestown, and became a chemistry teacher.  I know he was teaching when my father was a student, back in the fifties; he was still there when my dad came back to teach in the mid-sixties, and he was still teaching in 1979 when I was a sophomore in high school.  His legend preceded him; you learned a lot from his classes (Jamestown High School produced an inordinate number of doctors and scientists in those days, all of them alums of Barron’s classes), but he was tough.  .

I was not.  Not academically, at least.  I’d spent 9th and 10th grade bored out of my skull; English was a mind-numbing reiteration of grammar classes; History was taught by football coaches who had read less of the material than I had; but for languages (three years of German), Orchestra and Stage Band, I had pretty well checked out.

Which wasn’t a great start.

Toward the end of my sophomore year, as we were signing up for next year’s classes, we got a mimeographed sheet from Mr. Barron explaining that:

  • People who wanted to go to college took Chemistry.  People who wanted to go to Vocational school took “Practical Chemistry” from Barron’s associate, Mr. Scherbenske.  People who wanted neither, took neither.
  • He was tough, and made no excuses for it.  He had standards, and if you didn’t measure up, you’d get an “F”.

The page included a list of students who’d succeeded, and students who’d dropped the class – which struck me as a little odd at the time.  But I signed up anyway.

Of course, on top of everything else my junior year, Chemistry hit me like a truck.  Oh, Mr. Barron’s class hit everyone like a truck – but I was really, truly not ready for that.   I was disorganized, didn’t really have the math down, and just could not keep up.

I’d love to say there was an inspirational speech, or some moment standing at the blackboard trying to calculate a reaction where I had a blinding flash of epiphany that would be presented in a movie with a montage of late-night studying, slow improvement, and cutaway shots of Mr. Barron’s implacable grimace slowly softening into the hint of a smile.

But that’s Hollywood.  Me?  I cratered.  After my first six-weeks’ grade (a solid “F”), I dropped the class.  No, I didn’t switch to study hall; I managed to talk my way into Latin I; I started seven weeks behind the rest of the class, and caught up by the end of the semester.

My other classes?  I jumped from the C’s and D’s and occasional F’s of my first two years of high school to mostly A’s and B’s.  This was also my first year at the radio station – and I threw myself into that as well, and learned a lot of radio by the end of the year.  Part of it was that I was finally taking classes I cared about, and taking them from teachers who actually cared about the material themselves – my dad’s speech class, writing and a few others in particular.

Part of it was to not only live down, but expunge the stench of “quitting”.

Toward the end of my junior year, a sophomore friend handed me a copy of Mr. Barron’s mimeograph for the next year’s class. My stomach fell down my leg in an icy ball of confusion; I was listed among the kids who’d dropped the class.

My first reaction was to hunt him down and make him eat a bunson burner.  But the girl who’d sat behind me in class – let’s call her Lori – said “he’s just putting you out there as an example of a smart kid who didn’t gel with the class”.  It may have been BS, but I felt a little better.

The main point being, I spent the rest of that year, and the next, living that scarlet “Q” down.  And through four years of college, where I averaged over 20 credits a semester.  And the decades since, where in trial after trial, “don’t quit” has been the only real palatable solution.

And I owe that to Mr. Barron.

His “practical chem” colleague, another former Barron student, and my dad’s chess partner, Mr. Scherbenske, wrote a memorial to Mr. Barron in my hometown paper that sums the man up pretty well.

What Could The Explanation Be?

A friend of this blog, who works in the healthcare industry, emails:

Per this study, stroke death rate began to increase from 2013. Mostly Hispanics and Black Americans. Article concludes that these people are just adopting an unhealthy lifestyle, though I think it is possible that unhealthy lifestyle was around for a longer period of time. Could implementation of Affordable Healthcare Act have played a role? Of course no mention of that in this CDC study.

The odds that suddenly black and Latino stroke rates coincindentally started spiking right after the ACA passed seems…self-indulgent.

Muted Victory

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The First Amendment does not protect a candidate for public office from errors made in campaign material.

This candidate said the judicial committee “endorsed” her but the Office of Administrative Hearings scrutinized the records and found the committee merely “supported” her.  So that’s a false claim of endorsement and the candidate broke the law.

Granted, this candidate is a nutcase and everybody hates her so it’s fine that she’s being slapped down.  But she’s also a Republican in a Democrat state and that gives me pause.  I wonder how many times the OAH has scrutinized DFL candidates’ materials to search out errors and what lengths it went to making sure the public wasn’t misinformed?

Joe Doakes

Good point. Never underestimate the depth of the double standard.

Of course, it’s the pol in question’s involvement in this particular poo-show that really gets me exercised.

When Making Your Weekend Plans Two Months Out

It’s the working cover…

Looking for an early Sunday night out?  Block out the evening of November 12 at O’Gara’s in Saint Paul for my band, “The Supreme Soviet Of Love“, and the album release party (and only live date) for our first (and maybe only) album, See Red. 

Doors open at 5PM.   The opening act (“Elephant in the Room”) opens the show with a set of covers from the ’60s through the ’90s.   The SSOLs set begins at 8PM sharp.

Need a sample?  Here  you go

Anyway – I’ll post the EventBrite later this month.

I’m not quite gonna call it “The MOB Winter Party” – but if any Mobsters wanna show up for a drink or two after the gig (and before teardown), I’m totally there.

Creative Clash

Distort the economy of a sector, an industry or a city to benefit an industry, a policy or a class of people, and you’re going to cause unintended consequences – almost all of them bad, at least for someone.

Fifteen years ago, the NPR-listening, Whole Foods-Shopping, Volvo-driving set nodded and snapped their fingers to the beat of Richard Florida, who wrapped up a bunch of toxic economic interventions in a bunch  of artisanal wrapping paper and slapped a name on it – appealing to the “Creative Class” – that was marketing genius, making the children of America’s upper-middle-class feel like their apps, their hedge funds and their vegan restaurants were part of something Big and Important.

Cities – or rather, city planning wonks (who love to see themselves in that Creative Class – fell all over themselves to engineer cities to draw this class, on the promise that they’d spur economic growth.

The results?   Well, I predicted this – and now, Richard Florida himself is acknowledging it:

The rise of the creative class in such cities as New York, Washington, and San Francisco did produce economic growth—but mostly just for those who were already wealthy. The poor, and especially the working class poor, were right out of luck. They were priced out of the city and driven out to the suburbs, where they created the kind of urban problems known only to the cities. The modern city is the greatest economic engine the world has ever known, but these days it seems to run only for the aid of those who need its benefits least. When the rich, the young, and the bohemian revitalized Austin, Boston, and Seattle, they induced a cycle of soaring prices and class replacement. The creative class brought an income inequality that hadn’t been predicted. Florida could call them a new class all he wanted. They proved to be merely the children of the old white-collar meritocracy, grown doubly rich from the rising tide of urban renewal.

So, in The New Urban Crisis, Richard Florida takes a long second look at the nation’s cities. He doesn’t admit that he had been wrong in 2002 with The Rise of the Creative Class, mostly because he doesn’t think he was wrong. The city progressed just the way he described. But what he has called the “externalities” have mounted to such an extent that they now outweigh the gains he saw 15 years ago. The creative class triumphed, and his prize cities have turned into wealth preserves—the old gated communities of the suburbs, transplanted to the urban core.

The whole thing is worth a read.

Tribes

The Big Media complains that America is just too tribalistic.

And I have to ask myself – why, oh why?  Why does half of America seem to hate the other half with a fury beyond Dodgers vs. Yankees?

Stephen Colbert’s contribution to civil, de-tribalized discussion in this country. Yes, he’s “Sieg-Heil”-ing Trump.

Why on earth would half of America distrust the other half?

Blackshirts of “Anti”-Fa in masks attacking unarmed Republican demonstrators.

Why would half of America think the other half is not only imposing itself on the rest of the country, but doing it on behalf of ideas that have failed miserably?

The book that asked “why don’t Red states vote for their ‘best interests'” – like the people of Baltimore, Newark, Trenton, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Stockton, Saint Louis, Camden and Minneapolis did.  Notice the cover, by the way; like any good delusional, the author thinks the donkey is carrying the elephant.  

Why, oh why?

 

Grass Grown Over Collapsing Trenches

It’s 9/11 today, as most of you are aware.

If you’re younger than 34, it happened when you were still in school.  And it shouldn’t blow my mind that people who were toddlers on 9/11 have graduated from high school – but it does.

Put another way – if 9/11 were December 7, we’d be in 1956; the war would have ended 12 years ago; Elvis would be at his peak, Germany and Japan would be back from the stone age and rebuilding their economies, and we’d be on the brink of the space race.  Tempus fugit.  

After the attacks, one of the social undercurrents – which morphed, as social currents do, into comedy that often tried too hard – was the notion that if we gave up our freedoms out of fear of terror, then “the terrorists will win”.

So today, 16 years later, government goons grope us in line at airports (but miss all the dangerous stuff anyway), and we don’t complain because, well, we gotta make our flights; the whole exercise seems designed more to train people to get in line and shut up than to find terrorists.

We fill out paperwork if our bank deposits are too big.  We watch as our police departments turn into playtime special forces teams, chasing after pot dealers and trial skippers with armored cars and assault rifles.  We see our Fourth Amendment gradually being reduced to toilet paper – and, in parts of the country where the people are more amenable to presenting their papers on demand, the Second as well.

And on the campuses where the generation that has the same memory of 9/11 that I have of Barry Goldwater (hint:  I was a toddler) are getting “educated”, people are being badgered into line by social codes imposed by self-appointed cultural police no less zealous than the Wahhabi morality police, enforcing a social code that are no less absurd than the rules, and rulers, in Afghanistan 16  years and one day ago today – enforced (!), in some cases, by people whose only difference from ISIS’s morality police is that they haven’t cut off anyone’s head.

Yet.

I’m less and less sure this nation – or at least it’s self-appointed culturaloverlords – learned the right lessons from 9/11.

RIP Jerry Pournelle

I’ve never much cared for science fiction.  Not sure why – it just never took for me.

The exception was always Jerry Pournelle – pretty much the only person who ever wrote sci-fi that ever grabbed me.

That goes back almost forty years, to reading, among others, Lucifer’s Hammer – a book that probably grabbed me in the same way The Walking Dead does today.

There was more; fifteen years ago, during the heyday of the blog, Pournelle had an influential site – and he read and frequently llinked to Shot In The Dark; I’m not sure if any of you in my audience today found me through Pournelle, but I know he gave me a good boost in traffic back in the day.

Anyway – rest in peace, Jerry Pournelle.

Sins Of Our Fathers/Mothers/Other/Both/Undefined

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is filling up his gas tank, focusing on the meter, as Avery LIBRELLE rides up on a Vespa.  

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg.

BERG:  Er, hi, Avery.  What’s up?

LIBRELLE:  Trump is an idiot.

BERG:  Naturally.  Why this time?

LIBRELLE:  He wants to deport DACA kids.

BERG:  Well, no.  He’s giving Congress six months to come up with a law that passes constitutional muster; DACA did not.  Trump is right about this.

LIBRELLE:  Nonsense.  It’s not these childrens’ fault their parents came to America.

BERG:  So children are not at fault for what their parents – the previous  generation – did?

LIBRELLE:  Absolutely not.

BERG:  So White people…

LIBRELLE:  …are all still at fault, precisely and exactly, for racist acts committed by white people from the 1500s to the 1960s, even if their ancestors didn’t own slaves, didn’t live in slave states and didn’t have anything to do with the slave trade.

BERG:  Children of illegal immigrants…

LIBRELLE:  …bear zero culpability for their parents supposed misdeeds.

BERG:  White people…

LIBRELLE:  …are still fully complicit in acts that happened 400 years ago.

BERG:  Huh.

LIBRELLE:  Say, I need to put gas in this thing.  Which pump is vegan and gluten-free?

And SCENE. 

 

Judge Say Five To Ten, But I Say NARN That Again

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network – America’s first grass-roots talk radio show – is back in the studio, making talk radio great again!

Today on the show:

  • Preya Samsundar of Alphanews and Jonathan Aanestad will join me to talk about “Anti”-Fa – especially the snowflakes who attacked peaceful Trump ralliers last March at the MN state capitol.
  • Bryan Strawser of Bryghtpath will join us to talk about how you can help hurricane victims in Florda, Texas and the Caribbean.

Too much program for two hours?  In the lands of a lesser host, yes, but not me.  Tune in!

Don’t forget – King Banaian is on from 9-11AM on AM1440, and Brad Carlson is  on “The Closer” edition of the NARN Sundays from 2-3PM.

So tune in the Northern Alliance! You have so many options:

Join us!

What’s The Only Thing…

…better than watching Real Americans of all races, faiths and ideologies cutting the crap and helping each other out in a jam?

Across the [area affected by Hurricane Harvey], Americans are coming together to help each other. Despite the racial divisions exacerbated by small numbers of fanatics on the left and right, (and amplified by the press), out in the real America white people, black people and Asians helped each other, men rescued women and children, and so on. The “Cajun Navy,” which had so distinguished itself in response to flooding in Louisiana, took its boats to Texas and started saving people.

Why, it’s watching Big Left crabbling about it:

People who spontaneously organize impressive responses might make the public feel as though government doesn’t have all the answers, and that self-reliance beats waiting for the government to solve their problems.  Why, that’s troubling.

Something like this mental process must have prompted New Yorker editor David Remnick to greenlight this article, titled “Why does American need the Cajun Navy?”

I saw somebody on Facebook yesterday saying “I hate it when people in low-tax states ask the Feds for help”.   To which I replied “everyone pays the same federal taxes, for the same federal “Services”, including disaster aid; if coastal states pay more per capita, it’s because incomes and cost of living are higher – and since when do you people not support progressive taxation?”

By the way – does it seem to anyone else that “low-tax, low-service” Texas’ response to Harvey, one of the great catastophes in American history, is going a lot better than high-tax, high-“service” New York, New Jersey and Connecticut’s response to the fairly mundane Sandy?

Marketing

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

President Trump got skunked in the Spring continuing resolution – no money for The Wall.  He was busy with the Supreme Court nominee so okay, let that one go.  But in this next deal, he absolutely must get some money for The Wall or he’s never going to get it.  If the Resisters beat him on his signature issue, his presidency will be lame duck all the way down.

Trump should start tweeting now, warning citizens to prepare for a shut-down if the money’s not in the resolution.  The people who elected him want that, first and foremost.  He’s got to deliver.

Doesn’t have to be much money. It could be a symbolic $1.00, just as long as Congress votes for it. Trump must make them cry “Uncle” because after that, we’ve established the principle and we’re only arguing over the amount.

Frankly, Democrats are not the problem. They continue to serve the interests of the dead people and illegals who elected them.  But the Never-Trump RINOs have no excuse so why not go after them?  Because we need them.  We need every one of their votes and as tempting as it might be to name names while kicking behinds, a different tactic is warranted on this side of the aisle.  On that side, we know Democrats will never break ranks so there’s no harm in savaging them.

Of course, Liberals will complain that funding The Wall is a budget-buster.  We can’t afford it.  There are higher priorities.  Get out in front of that argument early.  Start by proposing to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and shift that funding to The Wall.  Trump gave up his salary this year, but he could offer to redirect his salary as President toward The Wall next year.  Divert federal aid from sanctuary cities to The Wall.  Revenue neutral, no additional funding required, completely affordable if we would only make national security a higher priority than frivolities.

And blame Democrats for the shutdown, starting now.   Send a tweet every day. “Democrats make Grandma eat dog food; shut down!”

“Democrats end school lunch: shut down!” “Democrats squander dollars, pinch pennies: shut down!”

This is not a political problem or fiscal problem, it’s a marketing problem.  Trump has to rally the troops to swing the polls so finger-licking moderates can feel the change in the wind and cast a vote to fund The Wall. There will never be a better time.

Joe Doakes

Electoral fear is both sides’ best weapon.  Trump has the initiative.  Will he use it?

When Making Your Weekend Plans

I’m going to be doing a special Northern Alliance Radio Network this weekend.

I’ll be doing a show about “Anti”-Fa, the self-styled “anti-fascist” thugs who are, in point of fact, worse – more violent, more toxic, more corrupting at this point in American history – than the “facists” they pretend to “attack”…

Upper-middle-class pansy maces Republican in the rotunda at the Capitol last March. The offender – just pled guilty and allocuted to the fact that he intended to attack a defenseless group of people. This is “Anti”-Fa.

…when they’re not attacking their usual prey; workadaddy, hugamommy conservatives, Republicans and Trump supporters going about their peaceful business.

Remember – their line is “punch a Nazi” – but then, pretty much everyone they disagree with, including at one point yours truly, is a “Nazi”.  And so, by the way, are you, if you get in their way in any way.

I’ll be talking with Preya Samsundar of Alphanews – who was attacked at an “Anti”-fa even last spring – and Jonathan Aanestad, who was among those attacked at the GOP rally last March at the Capitol.

Blackshirts patrolling the streets looking for free speech to pummel.

The goal?  To completely dismiss and debunk the idea that “Anti”-Fa is any better than the Klan or the Neo-Nazis, and to take to task anyone that thinks otherwise.

Join us from 1-3PM on Saturday.  Hopefully, nobody will punch you for listening, but I can make no absolute guarantees.