Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, August 11, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 17



 Mountain Views News Saturday August 11, 2012 

STUART Tolchin..........On LIFE

HAIL Hamilton My Turn




Susan Henderson


Dean Lee 


Joan Schmidt


Patricia Colonello




Richard Garcia


Lina Johnson


John Aveny 


Jeff Brown

Pat Birdsall

Chris Leclerc

Bob Eklund

Howard Hays

Paul Carpenter

Stuart Tolchin

Kim Clymer-Kelley

Christopher Nyerges

Peter Dills 

Hail Hamilton 

Rich Johnson

Chris Bertrand

Ron Carter

Rev. James Snyder

Bobby Eldridge

Mary Carney

La Quetta Shamblee

Katie Hopkins

Deanne Davis

Despina Arouzman

Greg Wellborn

Dr. John Talevich

Meaghan Allen

Sean Kayden



Last Sunday night I was grabbing a bite with my wife at 
Super Burrito on Colorado Boulevard. We were sitting at 
a table next to the sidewalk wolfing down two “Supers” 
with extra guacamole and salsa when the banner headline 
of the Pasadena Star-News in the news-rack in front of 
us caught my eye. It said, “Shaking education to its core.”

 There were actually two two related stories: “Area schools to enter 
new academic era;” and a Special Report, “Radical reforms to meet new 
national standards.” So, with my interest peaked, I bought the paper and 
began reading. This was a rather rude move on my part since I was on a 
“dinner date,” a cheap one, I must admit, but a “dinner date” nevertheless.

 I’m a high school teacher and have been one for more than 25 years. 
So the headline caught my eye. I’ve seen a lot of “reform” movements 
come and go. The new reform movement is called “Common Core State 
Standards,” the goal of which is to “integrate reading, writing and math 
instead of teaching them as separate subjects.” 

 Does anybody remember the “new” math, or the “holistic” reading 
reform movements? This was back when Ronald Reagan was president and 
George Deukmejian was governor. These new pedagogues were touted as 
the “silver bullet” to help our kids learn better and perform at stratospheric 

 The “new math” and the “holistic reading” did neither. Basic arithmetic 
like adding and subtracting, changing fractions into decimals, and learning 
the multiplication tables were thrown out the window, while reading was 
taught contextually deemphasizing decoding skills. 

 The effect was to throw a whole generation under the school bus, without 
the rudimentary skills to function in our society -- they couldn’t read, 
write or do basic arithmetic. These kids (soon to be adults) couldn’t read a 
newspaper, write a business letter, or make change; they couldn’t even be 
certain they weren’t being cheated at the market.

 These “reforms” were doomed from the beginning because they didn’t 
address the three basics: phonics-based reading, grammar-based writing 
and arithmetic-based math. But this is not to say they were a total failure; 
the greedy “educators” who devised and sold these “reform” measures to 
the school districts foolish enough to buy them made oodles of money.

 Now these pork-bellied clowns are back; their fat faces firmly stuck in the 
public trough hungrily gobbling up more of our tax dollars. Our elected 
school boards, appointed superintendents, and ever-expanding army of 
over-paid administrators are about to fork out more cash to the same 
buffoons who invented all the earlier failed reform measures. You can 
almost hear the oink, oink as you drive by PUSD’s headquarters on South 
Hudson Avenue. 

 This is crazy! After 42 years of “reforms” our K-12 public school system 
is worse off than when these hucksters got control in the early 1970s. No 
Child Left Behind, with its emphasis on testing and teaching to the test, has 
done just that: It has left too many of our children behind without a high 
school diploma.

 Most of the school districts that were succeeding four decades ago are 
still succeeding: Arcadia, San Marino, South Pasadena, La Canada. 
Unfortunately, some school districts that once were the pride of the San 
Gabriel Valley, like PUSD, are failing miserably and continue to do so 
despite all the “reform” shenanigans. 

 I know there are many factors that negatively impact our schools. 
Segregation -- PUSD is now nearly 60% Hispanic, 20% African-American, 
10% other ethnicities; Language -- again, nearly half of PUSD’s students 
are English-learners; Social-economic factors -- PUSD students are for the 
most part from poor to moderate income families. That in itself should 
raise concerns since PUSD’s population does not even come close to 
reflecting the larger community that pays the bills.

 There is still a large diverse population of kids in PUSD elementary 
schools, but more affluent parents (regardless of race or ethnicity or 
language) have opted out of PUSD’s middle and high schools, despite 
PUSD’s open-enrollment policy that allows parents to choose the school 
their kids attend. Affluent parents are focused on success. They want their 
kids to succeed and go on to college. If that means sending them to private 
school, so be it.

Finally, I must give credit where credit is due. The primary source for both 
Star-News stories are PUSD’s chief academic officer, Brian McDonald, 
and LAUSD’s deputy superintendent for instruction, Jaime Aquino. These 
clowns have got to be two of the most ignorant Bozos in the history of 
public education. 

Any administrator who doesn’t know that reading, writing and arithmetic 
have always been integrated into the curriculum of our schools is an 
administrator who has spent very little time as a classroom teacher.


 Have you been at all interested in the extraordinary scientific 
achievement which occurred late Monday night? The Jet 
Propulsion Laboratory located right up the hill in Pasadena has 
built and supervised the Mars landing of a robot the size of an 
automobile. This feat had been called “the Super Bowl of Planetary 
exploration” and culminates a project that has been in the 
works for about ten years. The entire project is designed to uncover 
information about life-forms that may have inhabited Mars. This robot which 
is described as a Rover and named Curiosity has probably received a great deal of 
Publicity but I was pretty much disinterested in the whole project until I read Bob 
Eklund’s description in the July 28, 2012 issue of the Mountain Views News. The article 
got my attention and now I was curious about Curiosity and viewed the on-line 
videos and learned as much as I could.

 As the landing hour approached my wife and I managed to find the NASA 
station on our Television and I really got excited. I started calling people on the 
phone to alert them to the landing and was extremely disappointed to realize that 
of the first five people I called no one cared very much about the whole thing. Oh 
yes they were sort of aware of the landing but they were just too busy to care. It was 
a Sunday night and lawyers were busy preparing for their Monday hearings. Another 
person had just obtained a rescue dog and was highly involved in the process of 
teaching proper domestic behavior to their new pet.

 Even in our house there were great distractions as the sump pump overflowed 
and the carpet was soaked. There is no point I guess in detailing the responsibilities 
and activities that were taking people’s attention but the fact is that many of us are so 
overwhelmed by our own lives that we just don’t have the time to be curious. Another 
factor is that many of us view scientific projects as being the sole province of “brainiacs”; 
people who are different from us common folk. 

 I have been told by a few of the people that generally read my articles that as 
soon as they realize that the articles are about science their eyes glaze over and they 
just stop reading. I realize now that there is a great difference perceived between the 
geniuses, the scientists and the rest of us dummies. It is okay to admire these folk but 
we really don’t want to know much about what they do or why it is significant. I guess 
I have some of these thoughts myself which is why I was so surprised to read about 
Adam Steltzner.

 Steltzner is a local Alameda guy who in high school earned a failing grade in 
Geometry and was told by his father that he’d never amount to anything but a ditch 
digger. Steltzer says “I was sort of studying sex, drugs, rock and roll in high school”. 
Afterwardsl he played bass and drums in new wave bands and one night, returning 
late from a gig, he became fascinated by the movement of the stars in the night sky 
and decided to take an astronomy class of all things. He took astronomy and then 
physics and somewhere along the line he had a revelation: nature could be understood 
and predicted. He started devoting himself full time to School and eventually 
earned a PhD in Engineer Physics.

 Today Adam Steltzner is the lead engineer of the Mars Science Laboratory 
Curiosity rover Entry, Descent and Landing Phase (EDL). The point about Steltzner 
isn’t that he’s a genius—maybe he is, I don’t know. The point is that more than he is a 
genius, more than he’s a scientist, he’s really just another guy who is one of us, He is 
married with one daughter and another child due any day now. He is someone who 
almost missed out on the great satisfaction of finding work that he loves and dedicating 
himself to it and making a difference in this world.

 There is a Yiddish concept called luftmenschen which describes a 
kind of impractical person who would rather sit around and discuss airy concepts 
rather than do anything practical like earning a living. Today we might call it just 
kicking back and occupying ourselves with a kind of busy-work trivia. I think many 
of us “busy people’ are just keeping ourselves busy so as to obliterate the fact that 
we are not doing anything very satisfying. Maybe we are just afraid or spoiled or 
depressed. Really the world needs us just like it needs Adam Steltzner. Maybe we 
should look up at the night sky or even scarier, allow ourselves to be bored without 
diversion so as to see what we can discover about ourselves and our world or even 
learn more about our potentially new planetary home. Maybe next time some extraordinarily 
significant scientific achievement is occurring TV stations may be curious 
enough to broadcast the event on a channel that could be easily located. 

 That too is pretty curious, don’t you think? 

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A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder


It is funny where you pick up an idea. I know I was not born 
with a truck full of ideas like some people. Take, for example, 
the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage. She has more ideas than 
you can shake a stick at, and believe me; I have shaken many a 
stick at her, behind her back, of course.

 I have to scrap around for an idea and then when I do find one I am so exhausted 
from the search that I am not sure what to do with it.

 Then an idea comes looking for me. That is a strange phenomenon.

 I was watching the news with my wife when we heard the lead story of the day about 
the Chick-fil-A appreciation day. I'm not sure I know all the political ins and outs of 
that sort of thing. Everything seems to have some kind of political overtone to it these 

 What was once a matter of morality has become a matter of policy. Politics have invaded 
every aspect of our life, and I am so looking forward to heaven where, someone 
told me and I cannot reveal the source, but the word is out, there are no politics in 

 Whenever you have an opportunity to go out and buy some chicken, I say take it. It 
was not hard to convince my better half to go out for supper. We do not do it too much 
anymore. What with the traffic and the finances, it hardly seems worthwhile. That is 
why I always brag on my wife's cooking.

 "Oh, boy," I will say after a meal, "you can't get anything this good at some restaurant."

 She smiles, but I suspect she knows what I am saying.

 Well, we did try to go to Chick-fil-A but we could not get within 17 blocks of it. It 
seems everybody and their third cousin was out getting chicken for supper. Oh well, 
you cannot participate in everything, but at least we tried.

 As we circled the block for the 19th time, the idea came to me. If we can have a Chick-
fil-A appreciation day because the head of the company said he believed in some traditional 
values, then why can't I?

 I believe in everything traditional. I am the most traditional person you will ever 
meet. Before there was a me, there was not much that was traditional. I go back so far 
I can remember when dirt was clean.

 I want the whole world to know that I believe in tradition and I am not just fiddling 
on the roof.

 I know it is old fashion but I believe in the Bible. If it is in the Bible, I believe it, although 
I must confess I do not understand everything in the Bible. But then, nobody 
understands everything in their world. The smartest person knows he does not know 
everything. I built my life upon the values stressed in the Bible and I take it as the 
Word of God.

 I believe in singing hymns in church. Most people in America have never heard a 
hymn let alone singing one in a congregational setting. If you would go to the average 
person on the street corner and ask what their favorite hymn was, they would not 
know what you are talking about.

 I know tradition is old-fashioned, but I still embrace it. If it is traditional, I probably 
believe it.

 Some people believe that if it is new, it is okay and if it is old, throw it away. Experience 
teaches us that it is the exact opposite.

 Take medicine for example. Sure, many people have benefited from modern advancements 
in medicine. I am appreciative of every advancement. But then, if medicine has 
made such inroads into our culture why are more and more people sick? Why are the 
hospitals full and overflowing? Why are there not enough doctors to take care of all 
of the sick?

 I am thankful for what medicine has done, but for every cure it achieves, three more 
diseases pop up sticking out their tongue.

 Yes, I believe in tradition.

 Most people are traditional in many areas of their life. Do you realize that it was traditional 
for your great, great, great grandfather to drink water? It was traditional for 
your great, great, great grandfather to go to sleep at night... To get up in the morning... 
And the list goes on and on.

 Those things, which are traditional, are those things that have endured the wearing 
element of time.

 In light of all of this traditional head-wagging, I want to propose another appreciation 
day. This coming Sunday I declare it to be Local Church Appreciation Day. Everybody 
who believes in traditional values will show up at the church of their choice 
and make their vote count.

 I know it will be a shock and we run the danger that many church ceilings will cave 
in, but I think it is worth the risk. Of course, there is the possibility that when many 
pastors see their sanctuary filled with people they will pass out in sheer shock.

 In the meantime, I am going to stick to what the Bible says here regardless of what 
happens. "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-
ward" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV).

 Every Sunday should be local Church Appreciation Day. 


 Most of us have enjoyed the Olympics these last few weeks. 
I think about these young people and all the years of blood, 
sweat, and tears they have put into training. What motivation! 
I’m sure they sacrificed almost everything else people their age 
experience to win the chance to compete on the world stage. 
It sounds like a cliché, but they are all winners. It does make 
me wonder what fills the void following the Olympics. Particularly for those, like 
Michael Phelps, who are done pursuing Olympic gold. They not only have their 
whole lives in front of them; they have lives suddenly devoid of the 24/7 training 
regimen that has dominated their lives. What a time vacuum they have to fill!

 Speaking of motivation I am reminded of a story about a 10-year old boy who 
lost his left arm. He bravely decided he wanted to study judo and hooked up with 
an instructor. The boy did remarkably well and couldn’t understand why, after 
three months, the instructor had taught him only one move. “Sensei,” the boy 
said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, and 
this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied. And so the boy 
kept training.

 Several months later the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. The boy 
did remarkably well, winning his first two matches. The third match proved more 
difficult. After some time, the boy’s opponent became impatient and charged; the 
boy used his one move to win the match. Now he was in the finals. This time 
his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while the boy 
appeared to be overmatched. Concerned the boy might get hurt, the referee called 
a timeout and voiced his concern to the boy’s sensei. “Let the boy continue.” Said 
the sensei.

 Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a mistake: He dropped his 
guard and instantly the boy used his one move and pinned his opponent. The boy 
won the match and the tournament. On the way home, the two reviewed every 
move in each match. The boy finally asked, “Sensei, how did I win the tournament 
with only one move?”

 “You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered 
one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense 
for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.” The boy’s biggest 
weakness had become his biggest strength. Obvious lessons are there for all of us 
to consider. (Thank you to the book More of…The Best of Bits and Pieces, edited 
by Rob Gilbert, Ph.D. and published by the Economics Press, for this wonderful 

 For years I daydreamed about being in a rock and roll band. And I also dreamed 
about doing a radio show. Well I have been fortunate enough to have both of 
those daydreams fulfilled over the last year. And I didn’t do it alone. And Hillary 
Clinton was right: it took a community to help me fulfill those dreams. Let me 
thank that community: Lisa and Chuck Bowman, Jane Fuller, Amy Kafkaloff, 
Mike Gallegos, Steve Cipriani, Barry Schwam, Lydia Bangston, Holly Imler, and 
Don Eliott for helping me make all of this come true. And let me thank you all for 
being so extremely supportive of my meanderings.

RICH Johnson

Mountain Views News

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