Let’s take a moment to think about the most famous and provocative opening line in all of literature: “In the beginning,” says Genesis there was...what? Well, nothing, to be exact. Absolutely nothing—not even the laws of physics. And then, inexplicably, there appeared a mass smaller than a proton that compressed, incomprehensibly, all the matter there was and ever will be. The concentrated density of this infinitesimal mass was so immense that it exploded with a force that made all the other explosions in the history of the Universe combined seem like a solitary firecracker.
Despite all this TNT, so to speak, the explosion was not big enough to explain the present nature of the Universe. In 1980 Alan Guth, a young astrophysicist, building upon some earlier postulations explained the discrepancy by hypothesizing an inflationary universe. According to Guth, in one mind-boggling fraction of a second the Universe, after it momentarily cooled from the initial bang, began expanding at many times the speed of light and presently continues to expand at a far slower rate. The phenomenal speed of this expansion (think of a rapidly inflating balloon subsuming everything in it) effectively explained why the Universe appears to be the same in all directions and why the cosmic background radiation is distributed equally --- a uniformity scientists call isotropic.
There is more than one way to make the news.
Last weekend, a couple dozen high schools from Nassau County went to Hofstra University to demonstrate their prowess at building robots in the 15th annual Long Island Regional First Robotics Competition. The teams have been working since early January, when they first got their assignment and parts kits from FIRST headquarters.
Another celebrity [Philip Seymour Hoffman] has died from a heroin overdose. With his death came public outrage, shock and disbelief. Yet, every day since and every day before that overdose, people are dying from heroin and prescription drug use. Our relatives, our friends and our neighbors are devastated from the lethal consequences of drug use; yet, here we are again. Some arrests, some finger pointing, some outrage, yet people, old and young, continue to die.
I am certain John Owens can respond to the recent critical letter faulting his opposition to the imposition of the new core curriculum in New York State schools. I support Owens’ position. The writer assumes Owens opposes excellence because he describes the psychological factors present in every learning environment. Intelligence, and the willingness to apply it are individual endowments. They need the proper atmosphere. A teacher’s job is to provide those conditions favorable to learning. Owens’ insight in this regard is commendable. Excellence cannot be imposed, least of all by bureaucratic fiat nor corporate competition.
The Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed that the greatest danger to liberty lurks in the minds of men with zeal, all those social reformers who are well-meaning but without understanding. I don’t know about the well-meaning part, but Bill deBlassio’s assault on Charter schools is certainly stereotypical of those bereft of understanding.
One of the saddest things about these school closings is that nearly all the parents of the children who benefit from Charter schools voted for that overgrown Sandinista who is now the new mayor of N.Y.C. I wrote about my fears of deBlassio’s hard left philosophy not long ago and it’s all coming true faster than I could have imagined. DeBlassio is more interested in protecting special interests, like the self-serving teachers’ unions that supported and elected him, than educating underprivileged children. The fact is that Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of the Success Charter Network, has created an education program that is superior to the public education system, which has been failing for years.
It’s easy to forget suffering in spring. When the winds blow warm and gentle, the world feels like a tender, forgiving place.
There is always an abundance of volunteers at holiday time. Starting at Thanksgiving, chill air and frost on the ground provide stark contrast to the warmth of hearth and home embodied in our year-end celebrations. Through Christmas (the giving holiday) and all the cold winter months, everyone wants to help feed the hungry (often as a kind of object lesson for children) and comfort the lonely.
I want to take a moment to clear some things up. There’s been speculation in the New York and Washington media the last few weeks that I would be running for Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy’s congressional seat here on Long Island, as she is retiring after nearly two decades of service. While I am honored by the outpouring of support encouraging me to do so, I will be continuing my work with the New York State Senate.
I admit that I am tempted to try to bring some common sense to the three-ring circus that’s set up tent in Washington. You may recall that I ran against the incumbent Ms. McCarthy for that very seat six years ago and since that time, Congress’ inability to get anything done seems to have only gotten worse. But it wasn’t that long ago that Albany suffered the same malady. Thankfully we’re turning that around but the bi-partisan progress we’ve made in our state capitol is in no way safe.
If you can read this newspaper, thank a teacher. And then get up to speed on the school budget. The annual school budget dance has begun and the Floral Park Dispatch will soon release preliminary numbers. For the next several weeks, the most active anti-tax activists and the most energetic parents of young children will wrangle over taxes and spending.
For the last several years, budgets have gotten tighter and tighter. Recently, principals and superintendents across Long Island have been saying they can’t even maintain existing programs under current limitations. The geniuses in Albany have been sending our schools less and less tax revenue, and on top of that imposed a cap that limits the ability to raise revenue on our own.
A few weeks from now, New York’s public school children in grades 3-8 will spend six days taking the poorly designed, expensive New York State Assessments. The overreliance on these tests has pushed school districts to abandon successful curriculum models and confine themselves instead to the limited, unproven and expensive Common Core standards.
“Prepping” for these dreary, mind-numbing examinations greatly reduces the time our kids can spend on appropriate, meaningful educational pursuits. It inhibits excellent teachers from bringing their inspiration and ingenuity into the classroom. The tests penalize children for their creativity and original thinking, and they punish gifted children and those with special needs even more severely. The process also channels tens of millions of our tax dollars out of the classrooms and into the coffers of rapacious testing corporations, who view our children as nothing more than a footnote on their bottom line. These companies also eagerly look forward to gaining access to our children’s confidential personal information.
We’re almost there! With years of bipartisan support, we’re now closer than ever to seeing comprehensive campaign finance reform. Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s budget includes
a small donor matching fund, ensuring that we’ll see more candidates running and more participation by small donors (a healthier democracy!) And while it’s clear that his constituents support these changes, it’s not clear why Senator Jack Martins does not. Is he listening to us or to his large campaign contributors? All eyes are on you, Senator Martins!
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