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The Hidden Fears of High-Tech Learning

IN THE 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge declared, "The business of America is business." In the 1990s it might be at least as true to say that the business of America is learning. Constant adjustment to change - coping with new facts and ways of doing things - has become the norm in commerce as computer hardware and software is introduced, adapted and, later, replaced. Now the high-tech revolution is coming to education. You might think that everyone would be thrilled. The high-tech motto of "better, cheaper, faster" sounds like an admirable aim for general school reform. But talking to many educators, business people, high-tech manufacturers, government officials and even parents, one soon realizes that below the surface many of them are as anxious as they are hopeful. There are new software products that recognize what kind of learning style works best for a student and adjusts accordingly. Some, for example, can help kids get over very specialized reading problems. On the other hand, for the established scholar and writer there is the entire three-volume Oxford English Dictionary on disc for a third of the cost of a hard-cover copy, and the manufacturer throws in several other reference works for good measure. Dozens of new products like these are appearing monthly, many of them produced in the Seattle area. Read More ›

Pass National Service, Cripple Charity

Drawing on a moral tradition going back to the Bible, and wending through the American founding and the young republic described by Alexis de Tocqueville, this ideal has created what some call a "mediating" institution between the profit sector and the government. Now the government proposes not only to compete with this sector (as in the Vista program), but to invade it directly. Under President Clinton's national service bill, politically appointed boards chosen by state governors would funnel federal funds for service jobs to selected private and civic groups. Imagine you run a private charity. If it is chosen to participate in the national service program, you've hit the jackpot financially. But if your charity, like the great majority, is not chosen, your cause will find itself trying to compete with the federal treasury. Americans familiar with the notorious Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of the 1970s should find the prospects for unabashed political patronage, and even corruption, obvious. Incapacitating the nongovernment charitable sector further, the national service bill allows (read, "encourages") the programs it backs to raise additional funds from private sources. Imagine trying to raise money for a private charity when the government's endorsed charities, blessed by your state's governor, can offer donors federal "matching money," prestige and public recognition as incentives to fund them instead. Read More ›

‘Let’s Draft Everybody’ – National Service vs. Real Service

THERE she is, a sweet, but emotionally overcome young woman from the New Jersey Youth Corps, being consoled with a hug from the president of the United States. Onlookers in a flag-decked classroom beam at this latest exciting moment in the new political production, "The Selling of National Service." It is the kind of scene repeated in photo-opportunities nationally as the White House hustles its plan to have college loan recipients pay off Uncle Sam with government-approved service. The consequence is a distinctly American tradition of committed, creative and effective community service. As figures from the Gallup Poll and the respected group Independent Sector show, in recent years Americans actually are giving more money and time to charities. And because they give it as they wish - not as they are directed by government - the voluntary service sector is more popular than either the profit sector of society or the government sector. Read More ›

National Service Promise Should be Broken

The idea, whose father was military conscription and whose mother was the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, was incubated in the Progressive Policy Institute in the '80s, placed in the foster care of the Democratic Leadership Council and then adopted by the [President] Clinton campaign. "Maintain the Pell Grant program but scrap the existing student-loan program and establish a National Service Trust Fund to guarantee every American who wants a college education the means to obtain one. Those who borrow from the fund will pay it back either as a small percentage of their income over time, or through community service as teachers, law-enforcement officers, health-care workers or peer counselors helping kids stay off drugs and in school." Would taxpayers really think they were getting a bargain by paying for students' college loans and then paying again to hire these same people in government-financed jobs? Would workers now in health care and education jobs be happy to see the cheeky new government-paid "volunteers" arrive, eliminate private-sector growth in low-skill jobs and drive down the private-pay scale? Would the volunteers really serve society best in such artificial, temporary posts, expending tax revenues, or by getting on with their own careers and contributing to tax revenues? Read More ›

Welcome to the Dawn of the Age of Victimhood

IN ONE of those "new studies" that repeatedly illuminate the medical news, we learned recently that genes may be responsible for disposing some people to smoking. This is a development beyond the hopes of America's weed addicts: Suddenly smokers are on their way from being seen as practitioners of a disagreeable vice to becoming the unfortunate victims of a genetic disorder. In America, once that kind of opinion switch is made a freshly established class of victims can start winning arguments and lawsuits. They are no longer accountable for their actions. In the Age of the Victim, society is always wrong. Some say that a nation founded on individualism is becoming a society of finger-pointing interests, each trying to score off the whole. Actually, we still believe in individualism, it's just that it's an individualism of rights, not responsibilities, and, paradoxically, those rights are now the products of group membership. For example, our tattered code of individual responsibility would have it that a chronically late employee might expect, eventually, to be fired. But, in "A Nation of Victims," a new book by Charles J. Sykes, the case is related of a Pennsylvania school employee fired for constantly arriving late at work. It seems that the worker then sued for reinstatement because his therapist said he suffered from "Chronic Lateness Syndrome." He won the case, too, though it later was lost on appeal. Read More ›

Is Fortune’s Blessing Justified? Well, Yes and No We’re Even Better Than They Think

Editor's note: Is Seattle really "the best city for global business in the U.S."? In the current issue of Fortune magazine, a survey of 900 business executives suggests that the answer is yes. By various criteria, Seattle ranked highest among 60 American cities. Of the top five cities on Fortune's list, Seattle surpassed Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based public-policy organization, is at work on a project called "International Seattle: The Making of a Globally Competitive Community." Examining the Fortune findings in light of this area's international strengths and weaknesses, Bruce Chapman, Discovery's president, and John Hamer, senior fellow, arrived at two different - and provocative - conclusions. For the past few years the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau has been compiling export trade statistics on a "state of origin" basis. We now can tell with greater accuracy which states are generating the most exports. And, since metropolitan Seattle accounts for a great bulk of state exports, we can assume that if urban area trade figures were available, we would perform even better in those. We know that the Seattle and Tacoma ports, together, are now the second largest in the United States, after Los Angeles/Long Beach. Read More ›

International Region Shares A Common Destiny

Once more a good idea is taking on a life of its own. The idea is "Cascadia," the concept that the Pacific Northwest of the United States and the two Western provinces of Canada are in reality one international region with a common destiny. There will be many false starts and half-steps. No body exists to convene this new entity, though the legislators of the Northwest states and Canada's Western provinces have organized the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) that is helping to set out much of the agenda. But even among those who are enthusiastic about greater regional cooperation - which is most of those who have thought about the subject - there is no agreement yet about certain fundamentals: -- How does regional cooperation express itself in spheres outside of government, such as education, the arts and, of course, business associations? Some of the most interesting moves for collaboration have come through business, including the creation of "PACE" (the Pacific Corridor Enterprise Council), which seeks to lower barriers to cross-border commerce. The Seattle-based nonprofit issues journal, The New Pacific, was bought out by a Vancouver group that is revising its format but expects to keep alive a regional perspective. In sports, fans (and business people) in Portland and Vancouver have rallied to the cause of saving the Seattle Mariners, while many in Seattle, as well, aspire to an eventual "regionalization" of the team. This is not just to build a stronger business base, but to make baseball a tangible example of the growing regional affinity of spirit. Read More ›

Seattle Tells Nintendo: Let’s Play Ball

Wall Street Journal; New York; Jan 29, 1992; Chapman, Bruce; Edition: Eastern edition Start Page: PAGE A12 ISSN: 00999660 Subject Terms: Syndicates & syndication Professional baseball Prejudice Companies: Seattle Mariners Nintendo of America Inc Nintendo Co Ltd Abstract: Bruce Chapman chastizes the hasty reactions of some in Seattle to the offer by a syndicate that includes the family that owns Read More ›

The People’s ‘Right’ to a Show

Wall Street Journal; New York; Dec 2, 1991; Chapman, Bruce; Edition: Eastern edition Start Page: PAGE A12 ISSN: 00999660 Subject Terms: Public figures Privacy Journalism Personal Names: Smith, William Kennedy Abstract: Bruce Chapman discusses the vaguaries of the “right to privacy” as it applies to people caught in the news. He offers the example of the William Kennedy Smith rape Read More ›

Partisan Politics Needed in New County Government

THE King County Council is about to recommend to the voters that they merge the county government with Metro and make the expanded government "nonpartisan." Bowing to nonpartisan municipal officials, an apparent council majority thinks that ending the role of parties in the county will improve the political process. Nonpartisan politics makes sense in a small constituency where the voters may be able to keep track of a few candidates, or in narrow-purpose entities such as the port. Even the City of Seattle, at about 500,000 population and growing very slowly, is still more or less comprehensible for voters and elected officials alike. In King County we are so far from a party-machine system that our two dedicated, but avocational, party chairs have to plead with folks to become precinct committeepeople. They have few inducements to offer in a system with almost no patronage and little recognition. Now the parties stand to lose even their present role in recruiting and sponsoring regional candidates. Read More ›