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April 20, 2013

What's the Republican Endgame for Michigan Schools? 30% less paid per student

It has nothing to do with test scores or education or the kids. It's all about the money. A leaked memo reveals that Gov. Snyder wants to spend 30% less on public school kids. Presumably all the kids that matter to his constituents attend private schools. Snyder defends secret project to reform education system | The Detroit News | detroitnews.com
Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday defended his administration's involvement in a secret project that is trying to develop a cheaper way to deliver public education through a voucher-like funding system. The education reform advisory team's existence had been secret until The Detroit News reported Friday about a months-long "skunk works" project to design a new "value school" that costs $5,000 per child annually to operate — $2,000 less than the state's minimum per-pupil funding. The group includes employees of software companies, charter school advocates and five state employees. "There's people in the executive branch and any parts of government, actually in the general community, that get together and try to come up with new ideas and try to innovate and bring those ideas forward," Snyder told reporters Friday after the 14th annual Leadership Luncheon at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. "That's what I would view a group like that — just working together to say they want to come up with new ideas and throw them out there. That's how you come up with new ideas. Most of them don't go anywhere, but you don't want to discourage people from trying and being creative." Four state government employees, including the state's chief information and technology officers, were directed to use private email accounts to correspond on the project, according to records obtained by The News.

April 19, 2013

"Why Gandalf Never Married," a talk by Terry Pratchett

This is just lovely. Why Gandalf Never Married
I want to talk about magic, how magic is portrayed in fantasy, how fantasy literature has in fact contributed to a very distinct image of magic, and perhaps most importantly how the Western world in general has come to accept a very precise and extremely suspect image of magic users. I'd better say at the start that I don't actually believe in magic any more than I believe in astrology, because I'm a Taurean and we don't go in for all that weirdo occult stuff. But a couple of years ago I wrote a book called The Colour of Magic. It had some boffo laughs. It was an attempt to do for the classical fantasy universe what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns. It was also my tribute to twenty-five years of fantasy reading, which started when I was thirteen and read Lord of the Rings in 25 hours. That damn book was a halfbrick in the path of the bicycle of my life. I started reading fantasy books at the kind of speed you can only manage in your early teens. I panted for the stuff. I had a deprived childhood, you see. I had lots of other kids to play with and my parents bought me outdoor toys and refused to ill-treat me, so it never occurred to me to seek solitary consolation with a good book. Then Tolkien changed all that. I went mad for fantasy. Comics, boring Norse sagas, even more boring Victorian fantasy ... I'd better explain to younger listeners that in those days fantasy was not available in every toyshop and bookstall, it was really a bit like sex: you didn't know where to get the really dirty books, so all you could do was paw hopefully through Amateur Photography magazines looking for artistic nudes. When I couldn't get it -- heroic fantasy, I mean, not sex -- I hung around the children's section in the public libraries, trying to lure books about dragons and elves to come home with me. I even bought and read all the Narnia books in one go, which was bit like a surfeit of Communion wafers. I didn't care any more. Eventually the authorities caught up with me and kept me in a dark room with small doses of science fiction until I broke the habit and now I can walk past a book with a dragon on the cover and my hands hardly sweat at all.