Posted tagged ‘technology’

Pause in U.S. space leadership doesn’t refresh

July 21, 2011

It’s sad to see the pause button hit on U.S. leadership in space exploration, with the landing of Atlantis today marking the end of the 30-year space shuttle era that had 135 missions.

For the time being, U.S. astronauts have no way into space other than to hitch a ride with Russia or one of the other international players. Development of future American space vehicles is being left to private industry rather than NASA, which could lead to innovation or wheel-spinning.

We need to be careful not to fall too far behind in an endeavor that for 50 years has been a major source of national pride as well as technological advancement.

Cries that we shouldn’t worry about space when we have so many problems on earth are short-sighted. Space exploration will remain a significant driver of the world economy, and it makes no more sense to abandon  leadership to other countries than in information technology or autos.

The space program started out as a military imperative as much as a civilian program as the U.S. and Soviet Union raced to develop ever more deadly ways to deliver nuclear weapons and defend against them.

Now that nuclear weapons concerns have shifted more to dirty bombs than ICBMs, it makes sense to go the route of international cooperation in space through efforts such as the space station.

But like the other major areas of scientific research and economic development, there will be leaders and there will be laggards, and it’s in the U.S. national interest to maintain leadership.

I admit to a personal attachment to the shuttle program after covering its beginnings when I worked for a national news service in Washington, D.C.

I followed the shuttle as either a reporter on the scene or the editor in charge of coverage from the first flight of the Columbia that took John Young and Robert Crippen into space on April 12, 1981 through the 25th flight — the ill-fated Challenger mission of Jan. 28, 1986 on which we lost seven astronauts including Hawai‘i’s  Ellison S. Onizuka.

Getting a vehicle this big and complex safely into orbit and back as many times as we did was one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Monday medley: teacher tenure, home runs and iPads

June 14, 2010

Star-Advertiser editorial writer Christine Donnelly continued her look at the principals’ view of the education universe with an excellent piece on teacher tenure.

In a nutshell, principals want more flexibility to hire teachers who best fit the needs of their schools and not be as bound to the seniority system.

They’re frustrated that younger teachers they’ve trained to carry out their programs can be bumped by more experienced teachers who may not be as good a fit for their schools. Some principals think tenure also breeds a sense of unhealthy complacency. From Donnelly’s article:

Farrington High School Principal Catherine Payne said the teacher-transfer process is a vestige of an outdated way of thinking that is holding back the public schools.

“You want immediate improvement in the public school system? Get rid of tenure — for everybody. The system, the way it works now, fosters a sense of job entitlement among some people. It’s not everybody, definitely not. But even if you have one or two people on the staff who act like they have a job for life and don’t have to work hard to keep it, it has a very negative effect,” said Payne, explaining that while only teachers and principals gain tenure, other school employees gain similar job security known as “permanent status.”

Payne said replacing tenure with progressively longer contracts based on fair performance evaluators would make employees less complacent while protecting their rights.

“I tell people this all the time. It would help. A lot. That said, I don’t have high hopes that it’s going to happen.”

Acting Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi and the teachers’ union are open to discussing changes to the tenure system in upcoming contract negotitions, but as always, the devil is in the details. The HSTA was also open to drug testing until refusing to implement the agreed-to contract.

In any case, it’s good to see some of the shouting about education being replaced by thoughtful discussion of the nitty-gritty ways we can improve our schools, and Donnelly has been doing an especially good job of facilitating this.

***

Stephen Tsai had a fascinating story that answered the question that was puzzling me last week about the power surge in women’s softball, which he reports is mostly the result of lighter composite bats with bigger barrels and more flex and bounce.

This takes nothing away from the NCAA record-setting home run binge of the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine this year.

It takes tremendous athleticism and eye-hand coordination to get the barrel of any bat on the high-caliber of pitching at the top level of college softball. Not to mention that other schools use the same bats as the Wahine, but weren’t able to go deep nearly as often.

***

I was watching my 6-year-old granddaughter working on an Apple iPad yesterday and it struck me that kids her age will probably never have much use for traditional computers and laptops with keyboards and upright screens.

She watched videos, browsed the Web, listened to music, played games with unbelievable graphics, drew funny pictures of her big brother and used innovative programs that drilled her on reading and math — all by gliding her little fingers intuitively across the screen with no instruction required.

By time she’s of an age where she needs to type in a lot of data, the iPad will be in its third or fourth generation and will likely have new input options that make the traditional keyboard obsolete.

I’m at the point where I’m doing 90 percent of my writing on an iPod Touch that fits in the palm of my hand, and I’m not yet convinced that the bigger iPad would be better for the task.

(I’ve heard all the cracks about how this explains my small thinking.)


%d bloggers like this: