China hammered by “globalization” – why students should study

May 2, 2008

Economics, history and geography, and “vocational” teachers take note:  David Brooks’ column, “The Cognitive Age,” in the New York Times today should be a warmup in your classes next week.  See why in this excerpt:

The chief force reshaping manufacturing is technological change (hastened by competition with other companies in Canada, Germany or down the street). Thanks to innovation, manufacturing productivity has doubled over two decades. Employers now require fewer but more highly skilled workers. Technological change affects China just as it does the America. William Overholt of the RAND Corporation has noted that between 1994 and 2004 the Chinese shed 25 million manufacturing jobs, 10 times more than the U.S.

The central process driving this is not globalization. It’s the skills revolution. We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked.

The globalization paradigm emphasizes the fact that information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information? Does he or she have the training to exploit it? Are there cultural assumptions that distort the way it is perceived?


Back again: Measles

May 2, 2008

Copy a couple of these articles and give them to your school nurse to pass out to people who say they don’t want to inoculate their kids.

In 1991, we could have inoculated every unvaccinated child under the age of 10, in Dallas County, for much less than $20,000. Then the epidemic hit. One of the early hospitalizations for the company I worked with was $100,000. One kid went in, and after $1 million of care, spent the rest of his life in a local hospital (another decade).

The economic arguments for measles vaccination should be clear.

Update: Bug Girl is right (see her comment below):  Go check out Orac’s post on the issue, “Antivaccinationsim versus measles in the U.S.:  Are the chickens coming home to roost.”  I was posting in a hurry; Orac is posting after visiting the issue several times.  Contrast Orac’s views as a physician with those of people who tend to get herded into panics without the facts, only through the fault of not having the facts about the dangers of the diseases they let off the hook (make no mistake: most of these people are well-meaning).

My more complete measles story, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


$1 billion boondoggle: Bush’s reading program doesn’t work

May 2, 2008

From today’s New York Times:

Published: May 2, 2008

President Bush’s $1 billion a year initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report released on Thursday.

Read the study here:

Created under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, the Reading First program provides assistance to states and districts in using research-based reading programs and instructional materials for students in kindergarten through third grade and in introducing related professional development and assessments. The program’s purpose is to ensure that increased proportions of students read at or above grade level, have mastery of the essential components of early reading, and that all students can read at or above grade level by the end of grade 3. The law requires that an independent, rigorous evaluation of the program be conducted to determine if the program influences teaching practices, mastery of early reading components, and student reading comprehension. This interim report presents the impacts of Reading First on classroom reading instruction and student reading comprehension during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years.

The evaluation found that Reading First did have positive, statistically significant impacts on the total class time spent on the five essential components of reading instruction promoted by the program. The study also found that, on average across the 18 study sites, Reading First did not have statistically significant impacts on student reading comprehension test scores in grades 1-3. A final report on the impacts from 2004-2007 (three school years with Reading First funding) and on the relationships between changes in instructional practice and student reading comprehension is expected in late 2008.


DDT linked to testicular cancers in next generation

May 2, 2008

Rachel Carson’s careful citations in her book Silent Spring have been reinforced by a recent study that shows a more direct link between DDT and human cancers, contrary to claims by lobbyists, junk science purveyors and practitioners of voodoo science.

Another study suggests DDT causes damage to the reproductive organs of children of people exposed to the pesticide.  The connection is again to the daughter product, DDE.

Danger appears to result from exposure in utero or from breast feeding.  The Reuters India story said:

Researchers led by Katherine McGlynn of the U.S. government’s National Cancer Institute examined blood samples provided by 739 men in the U.S. military with testicular cancer and 915 others who did not have it.

The link between DDE and cancer was particularly strong with a type of testicular cancer known as seminoma, which involves the sperm-producing germ cells of the testicles.

If diagnosed, testicular cancers are among the most treatable.  It generally strikes men in their 20s and 30s.  About 8,000 new cases per year show up in the U.S.  In an average year testicular cancer kills 380 Americans.  The NCI study suggests about 15 percent of cases in the U.S. can be attributed to DDT exposure.

It is possible some of the men who later developed cancer of the testicles were exposed to DDE at very young ages — in the womb or through breastfeeding, the researchers said.

“In testicular cancer, there’s a fair amount of evidence that something is happening very early in life to increase risk,” McGlynn said in a telephone interview.

DDE remains ubiquitous in the environment even decades after DDT was being banned in the United States — and is present in about 90 percent of Americans, McGlynn said.

“The trouble with these chemicals is they hang around a long time. It’s in the food chain now,” McGlynn added. People who eat fish from contaminated areas can absorb it, for instance.

The study was published on-line in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on April 29, 2008, ahead of print publication.

Image from Testicular Cancer Diagnosis page at M. D. Anderson Center in Houston, Texas

Image from Testicular Cancer Diagnosis page at M. D. Anderson Center in Houston, Texas

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