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About D. Wayne Dworsky

D. Wayne Dworsky has been composing stories since he was nine years old. From his early twenties he has traveled all over the world in 23 countries and all 50 states in the US. He's hiked the Alpse, The Rockies, Adirondikes and The Catskills. He's written over 100 professional book reviews, has authored more than 30 feature articles and podcasts an Internet radio talk show.

Now D. Wayne Dworsky enjoys the platforms that support his work in a monthly column, book reviews, feature articles and blogs.

He's climbed Grand Teton in Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1983, the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland in 1985 and most of the established technical rock climbing routes in the Shawangunks in New York State from 1982 to 1985.

Links to his Social Networks:

He has three books in print, which are available at Amazon.com, Barns & Noble and Bookmasters

Author's Spotlight features a book promotion of his work.

His blogs are located at: Alpha Centauri & Beyond. and Bloggers

Links to His Book Fairs:

Book Fair 2007 and Book Fair 2006

D. Wayne Dworsky's Feature Articles

Live life by participating or it will pass you by.

This site shows how D. Wayne Dworsky's vast travels and life-long explorations have contributed to the rich nature of his feature articles. Other areas of the site reveal his interest in aviation and fascinationn with science. You can find over 30 articles that were published by American Chronicle and The Currents in Science & Nature Column published in San Francisco Book Review.

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Reviews



Creating Exciting New Worlds
By D. Wayne Dworsky

Since early movie-making, special effects methods utilizing photographic tricks have been employed in scenes to thrill a wide variety of movie audiences. Over the years, many new ideas have passed over the big screens theatres, each new method outdoing older methods. Consequently, we have benefited from the creative talents of countless artists to augment exciting and intriguing story lines with bold, new images. Some of the more memorable cinematographers include directors like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Stanley kubrick and many others, who put us in a special arena where we witness the results of their magnificent efforts. From Alien to Avatar, to Lord of the Rings to the 2005 remake of the 1933 version of King Kong, we are engaged as viewers to the exciting new yarns that incredibly creative and talented people produce for us to enjoy.

One of the more intriguing camera tricks came from a star trek episode in which a strange subspace phenomenon occurred that caused some members of the crew to sink into the ship’s solid flooring. Other ghostly depictions were utilized. One of them was achieved in Jerry Zucker’s flick, Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore. In this picture, Swayze’s character, Sam Wheat, flitted in and out of solid objects, until he learned how to push them with an inner force. What brilliant, special effects!

During the golden age of cinema, special effects in cinematography were nothing new. One of the classic examples is how the ghosts appeared in Leo G. Carroll’s 1950’s TV series, Topper. Even as early as the Laurel and hardy movies of the 1930’s and the famous Charley Chaplain shenanigans of the silent movie era, certain tricks were employed that fascinated the audiences even then. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick wrote and directed Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The special effect shots, ingeniously making you feel as though you were riding alongside Discovery One as it flew in space, were a real treat.

In Avatar, 10 years in the making, director James Cameron takes technical tricks to a new level. In The Science of Avatar by Stephen Baxter, the author unveils all the tricks Cameron used to produce the film. Click here to see the review of the book. According to Baxter, Cameron went to extremes to find the most exotic scenes to incorporate in Avatar. The floating mountains were purported to have come from photography Cameron acquired from China.

Although James Cameron’s Avatar remains his most significant work to date, don’t forget the work he did on Titanic in 1997. To achieve this landmark special effect, he practically rebuilt the ship to portray the realistic effect of a sinking vessel in the film. In 1989 Cameron’s Abyss was launched. He wrote and directed the film, which featured dazzling special effects with the nature of water. In his 1986 sic-fi horror movie, Aliens, Cameron never shrank from the excitement the monster in his work displayed. Even though there were four Alien movies, James Cameron only directed the second and probably the most thrilling and scary one of them all.

His latest fascination with water was achieved this past 2012, when he took on a bold, new mission where few have treated to explore the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean in a submersible. See the National Geographic close-up.

Probably the greatest tricks of special effects will delight even the most elite of this area of movie making for ages. I certainly applaud the efforts of those whose creative genius will live on in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere by creating exciting new worlds.


You Want Quiet? Follow the Birds…

By D. Wayne Dworsky

Ever wonder why birds flock to certain areas more than others? Is it for food? Perhaps. Is it for shelter? Maybe. Or is something else inviting them that most people simply overlook? All through history people have attempted to domesticate birds much the same way as cats and dogs. But unlike their four-legged counterparts, birds navigate in three dimensions. This gives them a distinct advantage in the wild. Consequently, they possess a considerably more aggressive wild side making these vibrant animals a poor choice as pets. Not only is it more difficult to keep track of them and maintain a good relationship so that they return to the coop, but it allows them to rule the roost.

The real reason that birds tend to flock to certain areas more than others is that they try to avoid people and people’s business. Human beings are noisy, clumsy, threatening and in the way. They drive cars, trucks, buses, pilot ships, airplanes and rail lines choking the skies with heavy and super-fast aircraft and crowding the landscape with dwellings and commerce. This is not bird habitat.

Most birds are incredibly intelligent even with their tiny brains. Ironically, birds are amenable to a certain amount of training. Carrier pigeons have been trained for years to carry messages over difficult terrain. Almost every big city sustains a population of pigeons. They take refuge under bridges and other man-made structures. Not only do birds possess a unique way of obtaining food and raising their chics, but they are master predators, terrific scavengers and clever foragers. This gives them a distinctive edge in the wild, but what does city life offer birds? How do they manage in a metropolis? Very well. The only exceptions occur in the cities that feature extremely tall buildings, such as those in New York City. The problem here is that eagles and falcons have been known to reside high up on skyscraper ledges. When they spot a pigeon in flight they can descend at over 100 miles per hour and snatch unsuspecting pigeons on the wind using their enormous talons.

Birds, however, do live in cities. Why? It’s just like the argument for the city mouse and country mouse. They are opportunists. They find food and safe places to raise their brood. Furthermore, They find all sorts of nooks and crannies among the skyscrapers of a city and sanctity among the many city parks and cemeteries. They find ledges in remote places on tall buildings, where people cannot easily reach them. They actually discover more food-gathering opportunities than in areas that inhabit fewer humans.

Birds really prefer quiet regions—regions that allow them to tune in to nature. Just consider for a moment, walking along a trail in the Catskills, Adirondacks, Sequoia National Park, Teton National Park or the Everglades. Listen to the burst of life in those places. Think of the food chain and where we are in it. Think of the birds and where they would prefer to be. Remember, they did not encroach on our land; we encroached on theirs.

Back in the city, we see all kinds of neighborhoods. The big question is, which ones suit birds best? The answer is a resounding quiet. But birds are not always so quiet. It’s a well-known fact that whenever birds congregate they can make a lot of noise at certain times, particularly early in the morning, just before the sun rises. Although these loud chirping sounds are annoying, compared to the grind of trucks and buses on the road birds are relatively quiet. Those locations inhabited with more trees, parks, gulf courses, and cemeteries, are most likely bird sanctuaries (not literally sanctuaries). These are the places that offer the most uncluttered and quiet spaces. If you want quiet, follow the birds. Look for them in the sky. Watch for them in the trees, on your lawn, atop street lamps and other structures away from people.

That means, for those of us who prefer quiet, like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, (circa 1953) who sings about enjoying the silence of his room, follow the birds. Judy Garland, as Dorothy, finds faith in the birds in The Wizard of Oz when she sings, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The character, Marian the librarian, in Music Man, marvels over the fact that she never heard birds singing…until…. The Bird Man of Alcatraz shows that even criminals condemned to a life sentence can find solace with birds.

To learn more about birds and understand what birds are really up to try, The Private Lives of Birds By Bridget Stutchbury, A terrific read. Please see my review in Sacramento Book Review.


A Brief History of New York City Schools
(And its effect on learning mathematics)
By D. Wayne Dworsky

History is getting ready to repeat itself.

No one wants to assume the responsibility of troubled students. Parents think the school is to blame. Schools think the parents are to blame. And the politicians think they can fix the system. Let’s examine the history.

In the Beginning. Back in the 1950’s, before the drive of the Civil Rights Movement, children attended the public school system of the City of New York with purpose and dignity. With the end of World War II came stability, making people feel secure. Both children and pedagogues enjoyed a prosperous period of learning and discipline. It seemed to be a tranquil time. Most could never see the turmoil that festered deep within pockets of society. Some of these concerns echoed through the Korean War. Most noted was the Montgomery Bus Boycott December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. By the end of the 1950’s, the civil rights movement began to take shape and grew.

Early Unrest. During the 1960’s, unrest everywhere in society began to disturb the tight discipline network of nearly every system nation-wide. For the first time in the history of the US, students began to challenge the authority of teachers. The societal unrest seeped into homes all over America. It was as though the precursors of a civil war were taking hold. Only this time, the war was racial, pitting the black population against white, and in New York City, against the Jewish population as well. Gradually, discussions and concerns in the home filtered through their children and found expression in classrooms. During this time, the teaching force in New York City was primarily composed of the Jewish population. Very few teachers were black. This disparity further exasperated the unrest.

History Defined. If a single moment in history could define the turn of events, it would be the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Demonstration School District, which was sparked by the firing of 19 teachers of the Ocean Hill Junior High School on May 9, 1968. The issue raised concern for white teachers teaching in a black school. (Treiman, 2008). The local superintendent, Rhody McCoy, envisioned an all black teaching force to deal with the challenge of teaching in a predominantly black setting. The ensuing teacher strikes protested this kind of discrimination, and in that same year rattled the core of the public school system for years to come. The public was still reeling from the upset of the assassinations of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963 and Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. These only fueled the turmoil that followed in the late 1960’s by racial polarization.

Around the time of Nixon’s impeachment proceedings and the Watergate investigation, inappropriate and disruptive student behavior plagued the New York City Public Schools and reached epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, confidence in government had declined alongside schools’ decline. Financial troubles added to the public school blight, resulting in a demoralizing situation for everyone. Coupled with very low pay and the threat of layoffs, no one wanted to be a teacher, at least no one who was qualified to teach. There were many new college graduates who thought it would be easy to land a teaching job. They were right, but most were under qualified and could not pass the harsh strictures of the Board of Examiners Licensure Qualifying Exam.

By the 1974 fiscal crisis, the stage was set for total collapse. Although records are a little contradictory, the shortsightedness of the city to lay off thousands of teachers launched a massive instability, which led to one of the greatest pedagogical staff shortages in mathematics and science the city had ever seen. Shortly after, the city was desperately seeking teachers to fill the growing teacher shortage that grew out of the fallout. (Walton, 1982). At its lowest ebb, (Heard, 1982), unqualified and inexperienced teachers filled the void to endure ridicule, harassment and abuse by students on a daily basis.

Consequently, the late 1980’s saw that most mathematics classes in a typical New York City Public School program were managed by unlicensed, unqualified mathematics teachers, many of whom were new to the system. Some possessed only a bachelor’s degree with no major in mathematics. By 1987, the then Board of Education decided to give the teachers who failed the Board of Examiner Licensing Exam, a special test that was designed so that those on the list would be properly documented.

Further degradation of the system was aggravated by the initiative of a minimum eighth grade mathematics level, which led to the Regents Competency Exam, also known as RCT, rendering the student who passed it competent for the 8th grade, but incompetent in high school mathematics. This meant that most under-achieving schools were remanded in teaching to an eighth grade level. The RCT class mentality was born. The lack of motivation on both students’ and teachers’ part led to a massive learning decline that haunted the system until 1995, when the RTC was finally phased out by the State Department of Education.

Republican Power. In 1993, when Rudolph Juliani was elected mayor of New York City, his administration took sharp action with every department in an effort to transform the way the city governs. He threatened to dismantle the Board of Education and turn it into a department of the City of New York, which would give all the power of control to the city. His actions coincided with a change in state policy as conservative republican, George Pataki, defeated liberal democrat Mario Cuomo, who had served as governor from January 1, 1983 to December 31, 1994.

In 2001, Juliani was succeeded by another staunch republican, Mike Bloomberg, who actually succeeded in turning the Board of Education into the now known Department of Education. With the change came the power, and with his newly found power, Mike Bloomberg single-handedly turned the education system into a business.

The Welch Way. Flyers began to circulate which professed the Welch way. Jack Welch described a philosophy in which a business will succeed. It is based on an idea Jack Welch called, differentiation. (Welch, 2005). A company will perform much better if the management identifies and fires the bottom 10% performers of a workforce. In a business, such a system works very well, maximizing resources and minimizing waste, but in a school system, it functions in a disparate manner, undermining its staff. The criteria used to define this group in the pedagogy of a school was rather subjective and was carried out by a single individual who was given the power to act. In 2001 and later, principals and assistant principals convened for weekly meetings with the superintendent. During some weeks, the meetings were daily. What happened during these meetings? One can only speculate, but one thing was for sure: they came out of those meetings different people.

The consequence of the new city power served to “weed out” so-called bad teachers. Unfortunately, power begets political jockeying forcing many experienced teachers to retire in the wake of the business of education. The new powers of the principal included casting their budget in real dollars instead of teacher units. The advantage of this method allowed principals to decide which teachers would be cost-effective. The result of this policy propelled principals to fire senior teachers for the flimsiest of reasons. Instead of a teacher’s tenure serving as a protection and security so that the teacher can concentrate on professional issues, the principals’ newfound power allowed them to evaluate the teacher in a very subjective manner, thereby undermining the system and making the teacher feel very insecure by virtue of reprimands. With this state of mind, senior teachers became more concerned with their employment security than student achievement.

The only thing that reprimands accomplish is resentment. By the late 1990’s, superintendent’s offices were flooded with reprimanded teachers awaiting superintendent hearings for disciplinary actions. Someone looking at this from the outside would wonder why such a spike in disciplinary action enforcement occurred at this time?

The Department of Education’s new directive was driven by performance and accountability, putting the burden of student performance on the teacher and making the teacher accountable. It appeared that supervisory personnel were operating under a clandestine plan. Principals and assistant principals with the back up of superintendents started threatening teachers with dismissals. Pedagogy, who had been teaching for 30 years are, all of a sudden, put on the chopping block. While it is a fact that The Department of Education can hire two young teachers fresh out of college for the pay of one senior teacher, no one ever expected that the plan would be carried out. The experience that had been brought to a classroom and once revered now served a negative purpose. The sensitivity and understanding to educate students was lost. It appeared that the city had mortgaged their elders to save money.

The manifestation of the conservative policies in Albany As the base for conservative policies grew, so did the nature of the mathematics curriculum. As early as the start of the Pataki administration, subtle changes began to appear in the classrooms of lower grades. All of a sudden, elementary school teachers began to feel the pinch to do more with mathematics in their classrooms. Unfortunately, most of those teachers were not equipped to administer the directives that slid down from Albany. Traditionally, elementary school teachers were never taught the precise dictates of mathematical procedures and logic. Consequently, many found that entering the new pedagogical arena overwhelming. These strictures were soon followed by exam initiatives. In 1998, two big guns were fired from the state capitol: The Mathematics Assessment and the English Language Arts initiative. They emerged under the banner of the New Standards in Assessment.

An aggravating task with which today’s students are confronted involves complex problem solving utilizing analytical thinking skills, or as they used to call them in the olden days, multiple step problems. For example, in the olden days a student was asked to find the sum of a disbursement. Susan spent $3 for notebooks, $2 for pencils, and $1.50 on erasers. How much did Susan spend? Today, that student would be asked to work backwards to solve the problem. Susan had $5 left after she purchased notebooks for $3, pencils for $2, and erasers for $1.50. How much did she start with? How about the infamous fish problem? A student would have been asked to observe an image of a fish lined up against a ruler at the left end. How long is the fish? Today, the student would be asked to find the length of the fish, where the fish lined up to an arbitrary position on the ruler. Or, more insidiously, a student was asked to measure the length of a pencil with a ruler broken at the initial end. These modern students are forced to rethink the nature of the question. They are asked to analyze the question in order to respond with the appropriate answer. The State of New York gave this method of thinking an interesting name, critical thinking. In addition, the state evaluates response attempts of the students comparing them to a template that approximates what the state determines an appropriate answer. They coined a cleaver name for this also. The state wants those graders of student performance to limit their divergent thinking using what they call a rubric. This is a handy device that prefers to shelter students’ responses by allowing them to think inside the box. With the state taking up some mental slag, many topics that have been traditionally taught in high school have become directed to appear as material as early as fourth grade.

Most things we do we improve with practice. The more you practice, the more comfortable you become executing the task. Eventually, it becomes second natured to you. The knowledge is assimilated. We can perform a complex task without giving it much thought, much like walking, riding a bike or driving a car. In fact, during most activities, we can even do other things while we are performing the assimilated task.

The problem with acquiring math skills is that it requires a unique and fresh mind in each approach to a new problem. It involves more than assimilation. It involves critical thinking skills. (Schafersman, 1991). Mental Set (Luchins, 1940), which is fondly coveted by teachers, has limitations in critical thinking efforts. Researchers believe (Paul, 1990) that during mental set, we acclimatize our brains to the nature of the task, not the task itself. Acclimatization is more useful in areas that do not utilize critical thinking. We engage a predisposed mental set whenever we attend a class or put ourselves into a learning situation. This also includes self-learning. Unfortunately, critical thinking skills do not subscribe to mental set.

What Motivates Us? Let’s just take the simple case of a boy who does not like to eat his vegetables versus his desire to go to the airport to watch planes land. Now, the reader may ask, why would not eating vegetables be such a horrible experience for the boy? And, what is so compelling that would fascinate a boy to simply watch an aircraft land? When you stop to think of it, you become hard-pressed to arrive at a single reason to eat those vegetables. Of course, as an adult, you can conjure up dozens of reasons, but from the boy’s point of view, you cannot think of even one. Yet, youngsters as well as adults would have no difficulty arriving at scores of reasons for watching an airplane land. It all boils down to our natural make-up. It is a fact that boys generally love to play and tinker with mechanical devices. Motors, machines, mechanisms and complex devices all intrigue the young, unprogrammed mind of a boy. He needs to know how and why these things work. He is fascinated with watching them function. The larger and faster the machine, the more intrigued he will become. Consequently, he will learn whatever is necessary in order to tinker with a machine. The state is trying to utilize this energy in the new teaching paradigm. The New Standards in mathematics education is an attempt to harness the potential of such motivation.

When Did All This Become a Problem? The city published Performance Standards Mathematics. These were copyrighted by the Board of Education of the City of New York in 1998. Although many see it as a major adjustment for pedagogues, the state sees it as a new era.

Critical Thinking Learning Style Emerges In the past, educators emphasized the importance of rote learning and memorization. This strategy worked very well until the population diversified, creating varied learning styles that challenged the old system. Many came along, such as (Beardsley, 1992), who advocated the new system that de-emphasized the importance of rote memorization and unintegrated knowledge. Instead, they proposed that all learning elements be integrated in a similar manner as every day living. Having corrected this deficiency, why then do children still fail math? The answer is simply that the problem is deeper.

In addition to the inquiries as to why children fail math, one should be prepared to ask why children succeed in math. That is actually a more intense discussion since learning involves various kinds of motivation and perseverance. At the very outset, these are lacking elements in a failing student’s repertoire.

We have arrived at a turning point. Fourth graders are struggling with concepts that used to be part of the high school domain. Literacy plays a more vital role than ever as we find our children immersed in the information age. Our measure of success will be determined by our willingness to support our children and continue to explore the many-faceted realm of education. Let us hope that our wisdom will minimize the disasters from history and not allow them to repeat.

References

Beardsly, T. (Title?) Scientific American (Oct., 1992)

Luchins, A.S., The Effect of Einstellung (Mental Set) on learning, 1940, 133-136; Mechanization in problem solving, Psychology Monog., 54, 1942, No. 248,1-95.

Heard, A. Enrollment Projections Suggest Teacher Shortage in Late 1980’s.Education Week. 1982, November 17

Paul, R., Binker, A., Jensen, K., and Kreklau, H. (1990). Critical thinking handbook: A guide for remodeling lesson plans in language arts, social studies and science. Rohnert Park, CA: Foundations for Critical Thinking. (Have developed a list of 35 dimensions of critical thought.)

Schafersman, S.D. An Introduction to Critical Thinking. January, 1991. Article retrieved Dec. 25, 2009 from http://www.freeinquiry.com/critical -thinking.html

Treiman, D. Al Shanker and the Strike of 1968. Forword.com. Retrieved November 20, 2008 from http://www.forword.com/articles/13438/

Walton, S. Teacher Shortage in math, Science Is Critical, Survey Finds. (1982, March 21).Education Week.

Welch, J. & Welch, S. 2005. Winning. P42: Harper Collins.

(Copyright © 2009 by D. Wayne Dworsky)


Regressive Behavior in the New York City Schools
By D. Wayne Dworsky

We think that life was bliss as a child…how wrong we are! Life for a child in elementary school is a struggle and can be a nightmare. We don’t think of it that way because we want to bury those horrible, embarrassing moments when we were driven to the edge as children. How did we handle it? We improvised.

Whenever mathematics is mentioned, many cringe recalling their childhood nightmare. The mathematics did not oppress them. It was the manner in which the subject was delivered instilling the fear and anxiety that many adults still recall. People remain in disbelief that a climate can exist which fosters fear of a subject. Since the turn of the century, the state of New York has been on a quest to increase the difficulty level on their curriculum year by year. In 1998, the state instituted the Mathematics Assessment Exam in the fourth grade as well as the New Standards of Mathematics. These, together with other reinforcement procedures have raised havoc on children in elementary school.

The lack of a wholesome learning environment is rather widespread. Between disruptive behavior and failure of parental support, many schools face a grim future, harassed by political endorsements of all kinds of new programs. Teachers are pushed beyond their capacities to control their classrooms given the encroachment of state policies and city requirements bolstered by the Department of Education. In the wake of the competitive political atmosphere with which most teachers are plagued, many are simply overburdened with new tasks initiated by the city. Still others are bulldozed by the rise of errant student behavior in recent years. Whatever the case, children are left with the fallout. Frustrated students have to find ways to manage in the labyrinth of mathematical concepts amidst the clutter of professional pedagogy. In order to motivate children to discover the wonderful world of mathematics, teachers need to impart their love of the subject in a world hostile to such love.

A teacher who exhibits a belligerent attitude towards a subject already deeply feared can and do motivate students to use a defense mechanism to deal with the pressure of their performance in class. Filled to the brim with academic tasks, coupled with the State’s new curriculum, students in grades as low as grade 4 are pushed to the brink of their endurance.

Years ago, teachers used to actually spank children to compel them to learn. Child abuse in those days was very common. It wasn’t until the Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Act of 1974, (Also known as CAPTA, Public Law 93-247), and The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 that the school system changed. Corporal punishment for the first time was banned in most states across the country. However, forms of it still exist today. Students are now haunted by verbal abuse and labeling (Clarke, 2006) Although their impact is no longer physical, the social outcry to banish verbal abuse goes on. Many teachers have a rather cavalier attitude to commanding their classes, leaving students in fear. Verbal abuse in recent years has reached frightening proportions in spite of the efforts of principals and school administrators to stem the tide and eliminate abuse in schools. Associations between verbal abuse by the teacher and child maladjustment are more wide spread than most people realize. (Olweus, 1996), and (Snyder, 2008). The effects of this type of abuse have been well documented. (Brendgen, 2006). Many children are simply scared to death of the prospect of having to learn mathematics.

When children fail, when they cannot grasp the concept, when they think success is too far away, when they feel defeated, they regress. They revert to a safer time, a time when the heaviness of responsibility did not weigh them down. They will compose with sloppy script or use simple language. It almost seems like they want to play the role of a younger child. (Holt, 1964). Often, children may appear bored. This only appears because a child faced with overwhelming mental tasks tries to fill the time with regressive behavior.

In a regressive state, a fourth grader faced with topics that were previously taught in much higher grades in the past, plus an over-bearing state exam will possess the motivation to revert back to a time when such pressure did not exist. Thus, the student performance and state of mind settle into a second grade aura, when a seven year old is barely conscious of his sentience. His cognitive (writing) skills also revert to that state of mind, making him display larger and sometimes sloppier letters. If the student had been performing his skill using script, then he would revert to print. The worst thing a teacher can do here is to show the student how poor his work is by comparing it to what the teacher supposes is adequate level work. “Why can’t you be like George?” If in fact the student knew why he could not be like George, perhaps he could approximate acceptable behavior. By proclaiming, “This is how you should do your work,” tells the student that he could never live up to that level. The fact is that the student has no idea of what being like that means, much less improving his own state of mind. Furthermore, unfortunately, in order for the teacher to feel in charge, she will select the strongest student of the class to compare the failing student to. This option provides contrast making the weak student stand out as inferior. Some writers believe that, “…labeling and demeaning only hold a student back…” (Clarke, 2006). The teacher unknowingly sets a goal so high that the poorly performing student will feel such an achievement unattainable.

Are we led to believe that the teacher unconsciously attempts to derail the low functioning student in order to prove to him that he is failing? When faced with an insurmountable task, a student creates a world in which he proves to himself that success is impossible. Experts call this a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Merton, 1968) But the student does not give up. The fourth grade student tries his best in a place where he found he could indeed compete, in second grade.

References

Brendgen, M., Wanner, B., & Vitaro, F. Verbal Abuse by the Teacher and Child. Adjustment from Kindergarten through Grade 6. Pediatrics Vol 117 No. May 5, 2006. pp.1585-1598. Retrieved December 5, 2008 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/117/5/1585

Clarke, L.W. Labeling a Student. American Chronicle,August 14, 2006. Retrieved 12/4/2008 from http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/12385?

Holt, John, 1964. How Children Fail. New York: Pitman

Merton, R.K. 1968. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press. Pp.477.

Snyder, M. Ph.D. Understanding Bullying and Its impact on Learning Disabilities or AD/HD. Greatschools.net.Retrieved 12-01-08 from:http://www.greatschools.net/cgi-bin/showarticle/2692

(Copyright © 2009 by D. Wayne Dworsky)


Ten Ways Life on Earth Could End
By D. Wayne Dworsky

(This article was previously published February 5, 2009 by American Chronicle.)

Scary new evidence suggested by the most elite scientific community leaders seem to point to an inevitable calamity.

For centuries, prophets have been heralding the end of the world. Many saw catastrophic floods, others conjured up images of fire from the heavens and still others predicted utter chaos in the midst of our crumbling civilizations. Nostradamus, one of the great prophets of the middle ages, had prophesized destruction and chaos between the years 2009-2012. Even the Mayans’ calendar ends Dec 21, 2012. Is that how the world will end, in utter chaos? It has only come to the attention of scientists in the last few decades that certain activities of the cosmos could actually end life on earth. All the experts tout the cliché, “It’s not if the event will occur, but when it will occur.” Here are ten ways life on earth can end.


1. Super Volcano Eruptions
2. Meteor/Asteroid Strikes
3. Global Warming
4. Snowball Earth
5. Magnetic Polarity Change
6. Major Solr Flare
7. Magnetosphere Loss
8. Quasars—Gamma Ray Burst
9. Black Holes
10. Galaxy collision

Super Massive Volcanoes. While geologists were looking for evidence of a calamity from the fossil record, where a mass extinction had occurred, they found a curious layer below the dead zone. They noticed that large deposits of ash had preceded extinction episodes in recent times. One of the periods that concerned investigators most was the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago, where an unusually large ash build-up occurred. This period is important because the dinosaurs disappeared right afterwards. When geologists studied this phenomenon, they realized that only a super massive volcano could have produced such extensive deposits. Could a super massive volcano have killed the dinosaurs?

They found the smoking gun in the Yellowstone Caldera. It seemed that a super massive pocket of magma beneath Yellowstone National Park is just waiting for the right moment to erupt, and according to recent geologic studies, it’s growing. Christopher C. Sanders of the Yellowstone website advised state officials as recently as January 1, 2009 that a potential state of emergency exists in Yellowstone. (Sanders, 2009) When it finally erupts, a large amount of the animal population within a substantial radius of the event center would not survive. When Yellowstone grumbles, it is a likely reminder that nature is giving us a warning. (Krajick, 2004) It is likely to spread an extensive blanket of ash around the planet, blocking out the sun for extensive periods of time, creating a global winter for years, destroying the food supply world-wide. One of these occurred just prior to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Could it happen again? Of course!

Eruptions in the Yellowstone Caldera occur like clockwork every 600,000 years or so. (Brill, 2009) The last one was 640,000 years ago, which means that we are overdue. Geologists estimate that it would be 2,500 times as powerful as the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980. (Tyson, 2008) Yellowstone is not the only super volcano. Sumatra in Malaysia (India Daily, 2007), has also shown a cyclical nature similar to Yellowstone, only its cycle is 75,000, and is ironically due in 2012. Some say, (McCaffrey, 2001) its power is even more destructive than Yellowstone, some ten thousand times bigger..

2. Meteor or Asteroid Strikes. Unfortunately, investigators disagree. Many think that another possible reason could explain the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. It seems that also during this period, a strange form of quartz, known as shocked quartz occurs in the deposition. Since this kind of quartz is only produced from a massive meteor strike investigation is justifiable. Could a giant meteor striking the earth 65 million years ago have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs?

The evidence around the Yucatan Peninsula in a crater called Chicxulub in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 180 kilometers in diameter, (Kumo, 1995) suggests that such a massive impact may have also spread a blanket of hot debris over the globe. One reason why the crater was not discovered earlier stems from the fact that it can only be seen from the air. Could a massive meteor or asteroid end life on earth today? Meteors, asteroids and comets often exceed speeds of 50,000 mph. At that rate, we would only have a few seconds warning. We would see a bright flash in the sky, followed by a massive shock wave seconds later, which would rip us apart and raise the land temperature to thousands of degrees, hot enough to melt steel and even rock, turning it into lava. We would not stand a chance. Then, hot debris would rain down, further heating the atmosphere. This might continue for months, blocking out the sun. The result of this is a nuclear winter. So, whatever the impact missed the nuclear winter will take care of. We would not survive. Scientists say, “Why not?”

3. Global Warming. Another calamity, global warming weighs in the background. Its unassuming role in the Earth’s systems fails to capture our attention until it grows into a monster. The obvious greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which we can readily see develop from our automobiles’ emissions and emissions from industry. But a much more insidious greenhouse gas is waiting to spring forth in an overwhelmingly profuse manner. Deep beneath the ocean lie massive deposits of methane hydrate, a frozen form of methane. It is only stable because of the cold ocean currents. But as global warming continues, these deposits will begin to free themselves from the depths and contribute to the global warming issue, exacerbating the problem. Aside from the obvious effect of changing climate and warming waters, which will spurn intensive storms, the ice sheets will melt. This is by far the gravest issue since most of the world’s population occupies coastal areas. A rise of only a few feet will have a dire impact. Researchers see a rise of as much as 100 feet. This condition will also decrease the living space by as much as 25%, which the world population would find intolerable.

4. Snowball Earth. Evidence suggests that it happened before and can happen again. But global warming is episodic and can and has been reversed by nature. Solar activities change from time to time, which would have an independent effect on climate. There have been extensive periods on earth during which all tendencies to warm the planet fail, plummeting the earth into mini-ice ages. One is documented during the middle ages, from 1500 to 1850, with a peak around 1800, (Behringer, 1999) causing much havoc on summer crops in Europe. If a number of facts that contribute to cooling occur at the same time, the climate of earth could reach a point of no return and propel the system into freezing more extensively than in the past. Logically, more snow and ice would tend to repel the sun’s rays inhibiting the earth’s ability to retain heat. Snowball earth can become inevitable under such circumstances, scientists say.

5. Magnetic Polarity Change. We are protected by our magnetosphere. Magnetic currents deflect solar flares and cosmic rays, protecting our fragile atmosphere. A shift in magnetic polarity would devastate many of the earth’s systems, throwing off the rhythm of nature. Studies have shown that change is a natural phenomenon. (Hoffman, 1995). Magnetic polarity change is already underway. Certain parts of the southern hemisphere have already begun to show weakened magnetic fields. (Twietmeyer, 2009)

6. Solar Flares. Solar flares are common, some have caused minor problems by disrupting magnetic fields on earth. These are temporary and localized. What if a major solar flare arrived? We would have little warning. Occasionally, however, massive flares jet out of the sun, whisking all kinds of dangerous particles along with it at near light speed velocities. Scientists calculate, (Whitfield, 2003) that occasionally massive flares jet out thousands of miles above the sun’s atmosphere. When these occur they create all kinds of havoc on our electrical systems and magnetic fields, disrupting power and navigation on both ships and aircraft.

7. The Magnetosphere. The magnetosphere protects us with a veil of magnetic energy, which deflects certain kinds of particles from entering earth’s atmosphere. Just a glimpse of celestial bodies that are not protected by a magnetosphere reveal how vulnerable they are in space. The Moon and Mars are just two examples. The pot-marked surface also tells us how vulnerable we are. Even the small meteorites that are normally deflected by the intense magnetic fields on earth would hammer the thin atmosphere on Mars and grind the Moon’s fine material on its surface to powder. Cosmic radiation is another problem that a lack of magnetosphere creates. Can the collapse of the magnetosphere on earth have a similar devastating effect? You bet!

8. Quasars. The most destructive force in the universe is what is known as a quasar. They occur when a super massive star, usually a neutron star implodes creating a massive black hole. At the event horizon, so much energy is created by the dynamic particle movement that gamma rays are blasted away from and perpendicular to the event horizon at the speed of light. These are known as gamma ray bursts. This is where Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2, takes on significant meaning. Here, matter is transformed into energy at a rate far exceeding the production of any star. Scientists claim that the amount of energy is equivalent to all the energy produced by a galaxy. See Jochen Greiner’s research. (Greiner, 2009) Imagine if this energy were focused at a target like earth. In 2001, such a gamma ray burst was located in the sky. It was visible to the naked eye. The most astonishing aspect of its occurrence was that it originated halfway across the universe! If we could see how spectacular this event was from so far away, imagine what a quasar could do from our own back yard, within our own galaxy! Some scientists say that even if it were as close as a star in Ursa Major, say, Polaris is (430 light years away), it could have a damaging effect on the surface of the earth, most likely scorching it, destroying all life. Could it happen? It may already have hundreds of years ago, but the fallout has not reached us yet.

9. Black Holes. Black holes lurk menacingly in the dark of space. Some are brightly lit, like quasars. We know where they are by their feeding habits. Matter orbits it at the accretion disc at nearly the speed of light. This much movement drives out large amounts of energy, producing intense light, which can be seen across the galaxy. But black holes that stop feeding are still moving through space and time. Could one happen to stray through our part of the galaxy and threaten our blue marble? You bet!

10. Galaxy Collisions. The most dynamic and cataclysmic event in the universe occurs where two titanic galaxies collide. There might be a way to throw a meteor or asteroid off course. There may be a way to escape the worst of a super volcano. We can prevent global warming by conservation. We can even avoid a black hole by moving the path of the earth at least theoretically. A galaxy collision is so broad and so encompassing that there is just no way that humble man could erect a barrier to stop a crash two hundred thousand light years across.

One of the paramount and possible results of galaxy collision is the potential for two black holes to attract each other. If that were to happen, they would first orbit each other until finally absorbing each other, forming one giant black hole. In the process of doing that, their movement and forces on gravity would create gravity waves or ripples of gravity through the star clusters within the colliding matter, creating further chaos. Anything caught up in this colossal gravity distortion would surely be met with weird expressions of the laws of physics assuming they would follow those laws at all. Perhaps, during such an event, all the laws of physics break down.

While Nostradamus made it very clear in his writings that one calamity can lead to the next in a series, like dominos, and imbalances in world systems can affect each other in negative ways, it was his lost book, the book of symbols that completes the prophecy. Although the work seems controversial, some scholars even doubt his authorship. Irrespective of this debate, the authenticity of the symbolism cannot be denied. Even though it may have been a copy of the original Nostradamus book, some people have gone through a lot of trouble to keep the writings alive. It would have been very risky for someone like Nostradamus to maintain ideas that opposed the church.

What is Galactic Alignment? Very powerful symbols tend to indicate, according to certain experts (Jenkins, 2009) that a cataclysmic calamity waits to show itself on a cosmic scale. It seems that the sun is moving into the final position of its 26,000-year cycle, to line up directly between the earth and the center of the galaxy. No one knows the perils that will manifest at that moment. But one thing is known: it will occur in 2012. We can also say how it can affect us. 1) The line up may affect gravity, which in turn would affect ocean tides. 2) Line up could affect the magnetosphere by weakening it or even reversing its polarity. 3) The production of solar flares is another concern that could grow out of excessive gravity wells.

We humans have only been on the earth for a very short time relative to the long life of the earth. The catastrophic geologic activities won’t cease just because humans have appeared on the scene. While these possibilities paint a gloomy picture for the future of the earth, they occur infrequently and over vast amounts of time and should not disrupt our day-to-day activities. In any event, we are relatively helpless to stop them. However, science and technology are advancing at astonishing rates, opening up new possibilities. Perhaps we can escape our demise by colonization of other planets or by developing new and powerful methods of cosmic manipulation. In any case, we must keep an optimistic attitude if we plan to survive as a species.

References:

Behringer, W., 1999, Climatic Change and Witch-Hunting: The Impact of the Little ice Age on Mentalities. Climatic Change, 43:33

Brill, Richard. Quake Swarm at Yellowstone May Signal Blast. January 4, 2009. Star Bulletin. Retrieved Feb 3, 2009 from http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20090104_Quake_swarm_at_Yellowstone_may_signal_blast.htm

Greiner, Jochen. Retrieved Feb, 3, 2009 from http://www.mpe.mpg.de/~jcg/

Hoffman, K. How Are Geomagnetic Reversals Related to Field Intensity? Vol. 76, July 18, 1995. P. 289. American Geophysical union.

India Daily, 2007. Toba in Sumatra a candidate for super volcano in 2012—increasing harmonic tremors have started after the Tsunami two yeas back. Editorial by India Daily Technology Team, Jan 6, 2007. Retrieved Dec. 15, 2008 from: http://www.indiadaily.com//editorial/15051.asp

Jenkins, J.M. What is the Galactic Aligment? Alignment202.com. Retrieved Jan 21, 2009 from http://www.alignment2012.com/whatisGA.htm.

Kamo, S.L., and Krogh,. T.E. 1995. Chicxulub crater source for shocked zircon crystals from the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer, Saskatchean: Evidence from new U-Pb data. Geology 23: 281-284.

Krajick, Kevin. Yellowstone Grumbles, July, 2004. Smithsonian Magazine.

McCaffrey, R., Wark, D.A., & Roeccker, S.W. Distribution of magma beneath the Toba caldera complex, north Sumatra, Indonesia, constrained by three-dimensional P wave velocities, seismicity, and gravity data. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, an electronic journal of the earth sciences, published by AGU and the Geochemical Society. Vol. 2, April 16, 2001. Paper number 2000GC000096.

Sanders, C., C., Yellowstone Supervolcano Getting Redy to Blow Its Cork. Retrieved Feb 3,2009 from http://www.earthmountainview.com/yellowstone/yellowstone.htm

Twietmeyer, T. Magnetic Pole Shift May Be Underway. Rense.com, Retrieved Jan. 21, 2009 from http://www.rense.com/general51/mag.htm

Tyson, Peter, The Next Big One, Retrieved Dec. 12, 2008 from Nova Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/megavolcano/bigone.html

Whitfield, J. Solar Storms Trip Magnetic Flip. Nature.com. Nov. 17, 2003. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from http://www.nature.com/news/news-features/index.html

(Copyright © 2009 by D. Wayne Dworsky)


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