Irregular Reporting of Societal IssuesSM

"Get your news weakly"SM 26 March 2007

Administration Advocates Head Start Testing

This week, the Bush administration raised the concerns of some educators and social workers, when it announced its desire to test children in the Head Start program, one of the most lasting and well-thought-of social programs begun in the Kennedy / Johnson era. Critics have long contended that the benefits of the Head Start program are not outweighed by the costs. Most importantly, these same critics point to what they feel is a lack of empirical studies of the program's efficiency. Where there are limited studies, these same critics point out that Head Start does not seem to hold its own as a means to provide an early educational foundation for underprivileged students. Their claims rely on limited data showing that Head Start graduates who take their foundational education to their crack inner-city schools eventually conform to the expectations of the schools in which they are enrolled. Naturally, the critics see this as a failing of Head Start.

Head Start supporters worry that testing will focus on the wrong elements, emphasizing easily testable finite knowledge, rather than generalized skills. Just as problematic is the lack of fairness in the testing mechanism. Supporters of Head Start point out that students will likely be graded down based on their ability to stay within the lines. "Filling in those little tiny ovals with a dull crayon is not the easiest task in the world, let me tell you", says education consultant Ray Zurhand, adding, "I've tried it". Spokespersons for Irvine, California-based Scantron Corporation also expressed concerns about the testing regimen, considering that the waxy buildup from crayons may have a higher likelihood of jamming their document feeders, not to mention the fact that the readers will not accept answers with a waxy finish. "The fact that these students are not yet able to use pencils might negatively impact both the machine operation and quite possibly the testing outcome itself", says Scantron spokesperson Melanie Sopht-Grafyte, who went on to note additional concerns around clogged document feeders from the inevitable sticky peanut butter and jelly fingerprints on the sheets.

Head Start critics acknowledged the difficulties associated with testing, but remain convinced that testing is required for education to be effective. Said one anonymous Head Start critic, "Why should using a crayon be an impediment to testing? It has not been an impediment to getting elected".


Bush Addresses Auto Industry

This week, the president invited the executives of Ford, General Motors, and the U.S. branch of Daimler-Chrysler to the White House to discuss the future of the auto industry. The industry, which has been suffering greatly in recent months, has never before been invited to the White House, despite the Bush administration's passion for oil. White House insiders offered some insight into the president's thinking, noting that Mr. Bush has been seen reading the automotive treatise Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, by Richard Scary. Analysts in the energy sector assume that some information from this technical manual helped the president make inferential leaps linking the future of the oil industry and the automotive industry, though details on the linkage remain sketchy, at best.

Economic Theory Verified

Economists from Harvard Business School have established what they are calling the Exxon-Mobil Axiom. According to their ground-breaking research, gasoline prices at the pump obey an alternate economic model that seems to defy the traditionalist view of supply and demand. In fact, the paper, which will be published in the Journal of Blood Sucking Industrialists (JBSI), shows that prices at the pump continue to go up in both direct proportion and inverse proportion to the price of crude oil. "We have yet to find the mechanism, but the data are conclusive", said lead researcher Frederick Cheney, who is also on the board of Halliburton, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron Texaco, via teleconference from Dubai. The paper notes that traditional supply and demand curves are the key driver behind the directly proportional crude and pump price increases, since crude oil flows directly out of the ground and into the neighborhood gas station without further refinement, shipping, or storage. Most rewarding to researchers, however, was the corresponding inverse correlation between crude and at-pump prices. "The law-like regularity of the retail price increases shows that this is a force of economics over which the industry has no control", said Cheney, adding, "but rest assured that we are working tirelessly to figure out how to harness the properties of the Exxon-Mobil Axiom".

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© 2006, 2007 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler