“Forget wars, religions, famines and poems for the moment.. This is history’s greatest theme: the metastasis of exchange, specialization and the invention it has called forth, the ‘creation’ of time.”
– Matt Ridley
“The modern world is a history of ideas meeting, mixing, mating and mutating. And the reason that economic growth has accelerated so in the past two centuries is down to the fact that ideas have been mixing more than ever before.”
– Matt Ridley
“We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason”
– Thomas Babington Macaulay
In the New York Times, John Tierney offers a solid review of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.
I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book.
– Groucho Marx
Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.
– Anne Herbert, The Next Whole Earth Catalogue
“The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy, and unacceptable for our children, and we cannot afford to let it continue.”
– President Barack Obama
“All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered.”
– President George W. Bush
Among all fourth graders who took the National assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test last year, two-thirds (67%) read at a level below proficiency. One-third (33%) could not even read at the minimal level and scored “below basic.” In Kansas, which ranked 17th among the states in the test, 65% of all fourth graders scored below a proficient level in reading.
These absolutely dismal results have implications beyond the elementary grades. As the authors of the new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation suggest, “Reading proficiently by the end of the third grade matters – a lot.”
“Reading proficiently by the end of the third grade . . . can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development. Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in the fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level, according to the Children’s Reading Foundation. And three quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, according to researchers at Yale University.”
The consequences, for the individual child and for the larger society, are grim. “Not surprisingly, students with relatively low literacy achievement tend to have more behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades and higher rates of retention in grade. The National Research Council asserts that ‘academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.”
And what does that mean? “In 2007, nearly 6.2 million young people (16% of the 16-24 age group) were high school dropouts. Every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes, and productivity.”
For much, much more, see the 62-page report Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters.
The Washington Post also offers a brief analysis of the report in Study Says More Students Struggling With Reading at End of Pivotal Third Grade.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 12% of Kansas children ages 1 to 5 were read to less than 3 days a week by family members in 2007. That’s 22,000 Kansas children who are likely to have diminished vocabularies, reduced ability to communicate, and inadequate preparation for the crucial early years of schooling.
Nationwide 3,132,000 children were read to less than 3 days a week, and will likely suffer similar disabilities.
This Friday evening at 7 pm Nashville producer and author Gabriel Farago will appear in the Haysville Community Library Community Room for a seminar based on his new book Secrets to Success in Country Music.
The two hour program is free and open to the public, and applies to all genres and styles of music. Included is a ten minute ‘artist development’ video, on-site talent evaluation, and an open question and answer period following the detailed presentation.
For more details, see this earlier post or ask for information at the front desk.
Truly beautiful and captivating imagery, accompanied by illuminating explanation are the key aspects of a special gallery of cloud formations viewed from above by satellites and spacecraft in Wired last week. See Weird Clouds Look Even Better From Space. It’s excellent.
(For an interesting sidelight on Alexander Selkirk Island, see our earlier post Robinson Crusoe Unearthed.)
At 8:32 AM on May 18, 1980 – thirty years ago today — Mount Saint Helens, 100 miles south of Seattle, Washington, exploded in the largest volcanic eruption in the contiguous United States since that of Mount Lassen, California, in 1922.
More than 220 square miles of forest were smashed flat, 57 people were killed, and much of the Pacific Northwest was choked by clouds of gritty volcanic ash. The mountain, previously 9,677 feet in elevation, blew away 1,312 feet of that height.
Photographs of Mount St. Helens as it appears today are featured in NASA’s Earth Science Picture of the Day, along with some commentary on the eruption.
YouTube offers this short video of the Mount Saint Helens eruption (among numerous others).
Update: Boston.com displays an absolutely phenomenal collection of images from the Mount St. Helens eruption here. You really shouldn’t miss it.
See also the US Geological Survey’s collection of Mount St. Helens images.
Another Update: Scientific American features an interesting slideshow on 11 Surprising Natural Lessons From Mount St. Helens.
Yet Another Update: Here’s one resource I failed to note that is of significant interest, the US Geological Survey’s Cascade Volcano Observatory page on Mount St. Helen’s 30th Anniversary.
In particular, note the USGS poster of 30 intriguing facts about Mount St. Helens, a couple of downloadable videos (6 to 7 minutes in duration), and this photo archive, and a great before-and-after pair of photos, among sundry other items of interest.
Before and After:
Writing in the National Geographic blog, paleontologist Hans-Dieter Sues describes the research of a Danish zoologist and American paleontologist into the characteristics of the extinct cat most frequently referred to as the “American lion,” Panthera atrox. As Sues suggests in The ‘American Lion’ is Not a Lion,
“A new study by the Danish zoologist Per Christiansen and the American paleontologist John Harris has recently clarified the relationships of Panthera atrox to other big cats (Pantherinae). The two researchers employed a variety of methods for statistical and shape analysis to compare large samples of skulls of present-day and extinct pantherine cats.
“Their analyses confirmed that the skull of Panthera atrox shares similarities with those of lions but also revealed many differences. The lower jaw of the extinct cat was more similar to those of the jaguar and tiger but also had features not found in any of the present-day big cats.
“In a comprehensive analysis of 23 skull dimensions, Panthera atrox emerged as quite distinct from lion, tiger, and jaguar. A separate study of the evolutionary history of pantherine cats by Christiansen placed the ‘American lion’ closest to the jaguar (Panthera onca).
“The work by Christiansen and Harris makes a compelling case that Panthera atrox was, in fact, a kind of giant jaguar rather than a lion.”
For more, see the post.