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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Double Standards We Live By


The higher standards that some of our leaders place on their constituents never ceases to bewilder me, because these same standards don't seem to apply to them.  As I was driving to drop the kids off at school this morning, I kept hearing stories about the impending FCAT.  For those unfamiliar with this acronym, F.C.A.T. stands for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which was initially intended to measure a student's academic achievement.  Recently however, it also serves as a basis to rate the quality of the education at public schools as well as the quality of the teachers at those schools.
One of the problems, as was reported in a story I listened to today is that the F.C.A.T. or at least version 2.0 which will be administered this year, has questions that are not accurate or are misleading.  An example is provided here:

* This sample question offers the following observations, and asks which is scientifically testable.

The petals of red roses are softer than the petals of yellow roses.
The song of a mockingbird is prettier than the song of a cardinal.
Orange blossoms give off a sweeter smell than gardenia flowers.
Sunflowers with larger petals attract more bees than sunflowers with smaller petals.

The document indicates that 4 is the correct answer, but answers 1 and 3 are also scientifically testable.

For answer 1, the Sunshine State Standards list texture as a scientifically testable property in the third grade (SC.3.P.8.3), fourth grade (SC.4.P.8.1), and fifth grade (SC.5.P.8.1), so even the State Standards say it is a scientifically correct answer.
For answer 3, smell is a matter of chemistry. Give a decent chemist the chemical makeup of the scent of two different flowers, and she will be able to tell you which smells sweeter without ever smelling them.

While this question has three correct answers, any student that answered 1 or 3 would be graded as getting the question wrong. Why use scientifically correct “wrong” answers instead of using responses that were actually incorrect? Surely someone on the Content Advisory Committee knew enough science to spot this problem.

Another change in the F.C.A.T. this year is that the standards have been raised substantially.  Questions will not only test a student's current knowledge, but will also tax their memories of lessons taught years prior.  Concepts such as "mean and median", which for some students would have been taught years before, will be asked without providing formulas for either.
While it would be ideal that all students remember everything they've ever been taught, it seems quite a stretch to mandate this, or at least require it to an extent that those who create the tests might not be able to adhere to themselves.  In other words, how many of those who design these tests would be able to pass these tests.
Next, it seems to me that those who are so opposed to abortion, claiming to cherish life above all else, don't seem to follow up on the lives their decisions impact or will impact.  It appears that life is only to be protected up until birth for there is little support for those women who choose to have children they cannot afford to raise.  And as far as republican leaders are concerned, these women should not receive assistance without working, even when the economy is in such dire straights.
Contrary to some republican leader's public support of all life, their policies seek to eliminate assistance for impoverished mothers who they believe should be forced to give birth no matter the circumstances of their pregnancy.  These supposed leaders say that everyone should stand on their own two feet even when the rug has been pulled out from under those feet with policies that insure the rich get richer, while the rest of us get poorer.  Here, the Republican philosophy seems to be that all life is precious, except when that life requires assistance.

And one final example of how there seems to be a double standard our leaders (especially the Republicans) have is how individuals are treated in contrast to corporations when it comes to the environment.
In the United States, we have built a society in which most people are held to a certain standard pertaining to the waste they produce.  Throughout neighborhoods around this nation, individuals, families, agencies, organizations, small businesses, etc. are required to manage and dispose of their own waste, but this same requirement does not seem to be true for too many corporations.
While the people of this country have to clean up after themselves, manufacturing plants, refineries and other businesses that spew their garbage into our atmosphere don't seem to be required to do so.  This is what "Cap and Trade", amongst other environmental regulations is meant to address and it's quite bewildering why there would be any who represent the best interests of the public would not seek to hold businesses accountable for their waste.  Actually, what's bewildering is the fact that American voters would continue to elect any politician who refused to fight for or more accurate fight against any regulations that would require these businesses to keep our air pure.
The most recent example that I can think of is the Texas Billionaire (Harold Simmons) who has put a nuclear waste facility over the Ogallala Aquifer.
This is a bigger disaster in the making than the BP oil Gulf spill, and Republican legislators in Texas looked the other way when a new map was presented which showed that the Aquifer had mysteriously moved from where it was previously located.  Whether the aquifer is where it was shown or where it is shown is irrelevant, because there was a mistake made as to its location.  Who's to say the mistake made wasn't the relocation?
As a former engineering consultant at the Miami International Airport, I have personally worked with maps that supposedly indicated where plums of discarded fuel and oil had been removed from the soil under airport property.  This oil, to my knowledge was not put there by illegal dumping, it was put there due to ignorance of its impact, but this is not the problem I am addressing with this anecdote.  The problem was that these maps were supposed to indicate "clean" areas where the oil had been removed by contractors, but monitoring indicated that the contaminants were still present.  Eventually, it was determined that the fuel and oil had migrated to those areas where remediation had occurred.
If not apparent from my example, the point is that the maps from Miami International were wrong, as could be those maps indicating the new whereabouts of the Ogallala Aquifer.  Simmons being allowed to build a nuclear waste dump in the first place is questionable and his desire to expand the types of waste that it can be stored within is scary.  If people want to store dangerous materials in their own homes or businesses that could cause a fire or poison a water supply, they can be fined or arrested.  This is illegal.  In other words there are laws that protect the rest of us from the selfish acts of others.  Why didn't those Texas law makers uphold those laws meant to protect the people of their state and country.
Their actions seem unpatriotic at the very least, because, while some may believe the decisions made by the Texas legislators and Governor Perry do not impact the rest of us, this could not be further from the truth.  The Ogallala Aquifer is a body of fresh water that crosses 8 states and supplies a third of the irrigation in the United States.

 
And, more importantly, there is currently a limit on the types of waste materials that can be stored at the facility built by Simmons, but that could all change.  Harold Simmons is currently the biggest donor of the republican presidential campaign.
Now, I realize that this is a tangent from my initial point, but what will happen to this man, if the safety mechanisms of his facility fail and impact one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the United States?  What will happen to the lives of those babies that the republicans seek to save from abortion?  What will happen to a country which allows polluting industries to self-regulate their waste, while mandating that the rest of us "Clean up after ourselves?"  Ultimately, why is there a double standard between those who legislate, their biggest donors and the rest of us?
To find out why I think this double standards persists, visit my blog: http://im2opinionated.blogspot.com/ or contact me at c_ossman@hotmail.com

* - The example sited was obtained from the following source.
http://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2012/04/17/science-blogger-finds-problems-with-fcat-questions/
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