Young Man! Do You Want To Learn Electrical Engineering? John Young’s Blog: “Young man! Do you want to learn electrical engineering the seven passwords of the Gnomon?”

…well, you know the obligatory ingredients of a supervillian’s lair?

* Underground
* Big, heavy, inscrutable machinery
* Some kind of platform or catwalk
* LCD monitors bolted to the walls
* Some kind of big blackboard with lots of math on it.

The damp, flyblown, and utterly terrifying unimproved basement space two stories underground had ALL OF THAT, including twelve classroom chairs jammed next to a big blue boiler, facing a six-foot concrete platform, in back of which was mounted a big dry-erase board covered in capacitance diagrams. Or, er… something. It did not appear to be the plans for a nuclear-tipped drill aimed at the molten core of the very earth itself, but you never know with scary subterranean lairs. He even gave me a brief lecture on calculating capacitance.

Anthony (that’s his name) turned out to be a really interesting guy — he’s 78 years old, and teaches classes for free that would cost two grand at trade school, and his only requirements are that you don’t have any felony charges and that you show up for class. He builds a lot of his own diagnostic equipment. The idea is that the students can take their first electricians’ tests and get a leg up on a good job.

Batshit-crazy as it sounds, it’s a really intriguing idea. There are thousands or millions of man- and woman-units of skilled, valuable knowledge out there in America. Retired people in relatively good health could teach underpriveleged kids useful skills for free, using good quality but outdated equipment donated by businesses, schools, and private citizens. They could set up teaching facilities in community centers and church basements (probably not as colorfully and mad-scientisty as the original location, but still). They could give kids an idea about a skill and some practical experience and give them an advantage in taking qualifying tests or possibly small scholaships to technical schools.

They could teach fundamentals of food service and food handling, carpentry and woodworking, dressmaking and clothing repair, automotive repair, and so on. These are all things that public schools used to teach, or still teach but are unavailable to kids who’ve dropped out.

Hmm. The only requirement is that you’re not a felon, and you show up for class. Seems like a leg up to me.

As seen at Boing Boing

African Girls Aren’t Going To School Because…

…of the simple fact that most schools don’t have girls-only latrines, water to wash with, or privacy. Once puberty arrives, many girls simply stay home.

Another School Barrier for African Girls: No Toilet

The article notes that if girls and women had access to all the normal goods and services their societies offered, such as a basic education, farming supplies and subsidies, and a supply of sanitary goods, life for everyone would be better. Why? According to the World Bank:

The issue, advocates for children say, is not merely fairness. The World Bank contends that if women in sub-Saharan Africa had equal access to education, land, credit and other assets like fertilizer, the region’s gross national product could increase by almost one additional percentage point annually. Mark Blackden, one of the bank’s lead analysts, said Africa’s progress was inextricably linked to the fate of girls.

Fight Poverty With Literacy

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | Illiteracy ‘hinders world’s poor’

The regions found to have the lowest levels of literacy are sub-Saharan Africa, south and west Asia and the Arab states, where only 60% of the population are able to read and write.

Women remain more at risk of illiteracy, with only 88 women worldwide considered literate for every 100 men.

In Bangladesh and Pakistan, these figures are even less, at 62 and 57 respectively for every 100 men.

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) welcomed the publication and its focus on adult literacy, saying illiteracy was a violation of the fundamental human right to education.

David Archer from the GCE said: “Literacy is the fertilizer needed for development and democracy to take root and grow.

“It is the invisible ingredient in any successful strategy for eradicating poverty. Unfortunately, in recent years it has become all too invisible.”

Evangelicals Neither Monolitihic Nor Neolithic

Evangelicals working to break stereotypes – The Clarion-Ledger

Evangelicals have been pushing President Bush, an evangelical himself, to lead the charge on reducing foreign debt owed by Third World nations and to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa.

The debt-relief effort has been driven by the Rev. Rick Warren, author of the enormously popular book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has been mobilizing evangelicals to work on the debt issue.

Warren and others are pushing “The ONE Campaign (,” which seeks “to make poverty history” by allowing countries with heavy debts to spend money on social needs instead of interest payments. Warren also has created a separate “P.E.A.C.E. Plan,” to work on poverty and AIDS in Africa.

This is a positive development, as far as I’m concerned. The world needs as many different kinds of people to get involved with making poverty history, or working on related issues like eradicating disease or debilitating parasites.

I ran across several different stories in the last two days about parasites, for example. The Gates Foundation has given a lot of money to help eradicate parasitic worms in Africa (the Guinea worm) and they’re working with the Carter Center (yes, THAT Carter) to fight river blindness in the Americas.

Although it doesn’t specifically say so on the “about” page of the Carter Center site, I’d guess that the Carters walk the walk that their faith demands, and don’t just talk the talk like some other faith-based President I could name.

Morally Indefensible Morals

BBC NEWS | Health | Women’s health fuelling poverty

For every woman who dies, roughly 20 more suffer serious injury or disability – between 8 million and 20 million a year.

Experts agree that the majority of maternal deaths are preventable through family planning to reduce unintended pregnancies, skilled attendance at all deliveries and timely emergency obstetric care in all cases where complications arise.

And our own government’s moralizing policies are a big part of this problem. We refuse to give aid to countries and charities without strings attached. Which is morally indefensible, if you ask me (but they won’t).

My Senator

Obama: White House blind to poverty in U.S.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday night again criticized the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina and urged a black policymaking conference to make sure the poor are not left behind again.

“The incompetence was colorblind,” said Obama (D-Ill.). “What wasn’t colorblind was the indifference. Human efforts will always pale in comparison to nature’s forces. But [the Bush administration] is a set of folks who simply don’t recognize what’s happening in large parts of the country.”

MSNBC: The Other America

“I hope we realize that the people of New Orleans weren’t just abandoned during the hurricane,” Sen. Barack Obama said last week on the floor of the Senate. “They were abandoned long ago—to murder and mayhem in the streets, to substandard schools, to dilapidated housing, to inadequate health care, to a pervasive sense of hopelessness.”

Barack Obama, US Senator for Illinois

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), echoing language from Clinton, said the crisis should inspire the two parties to bridge the “false dichotomy” over whether the key to reducing poverty was more government help or greater personal responsibility among the poor. For challenges such as improving schools in poor neighborhoods, he said, both would be required.

“I think a good place to start would be for both Democrats and Republicans to say … we are willing to experiment and invest on anything that works,” Obama said.

The poverty level today is within a range common over the last 35 years, Census Bureau figures show, but recent trends are moving in the wrong direction. In the last 35 years, the poverty rate has twice peaked at about 15% — during the economic slowdowns at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s presidential term and the end of George H.W. Bush’s.

As the economy expanded through Clinton’s two terms, the number of Americans in poverty dropped by nearly 8 million, and the poverty rate fell to just above 11% by 2000. Those were the sharpest reductions since the 1960s.

Since George W. Bush took office, the share and the number of Americans in poverty have increased for four consecutive years. The overall poverty rate remains lower than during most of Clinton’s presidency. But at the same time, 5.4 million more Americans are living below the poverty line today than when Bush took office, and the poverty rate has climbed back to 12.7%.

Google: Obama + poverty

That’s my Senator. If he’s decided to tackle poverty, I’m in all the way.

US Cuts AIDS funding

Bush breaks HIV funding promise

The Replenishment Meeting was widely billed as the first significant test of the promises made by world leaders at the recent G8 meeting, during worldwide MakePovertyHistory protests.

The 3.7bn US dollars pledged by donors will be just enough to sustain current programmes. However there is no funding for new prevention, treatment or care programmes for 2006 and 2007.

It is suggested that 7 billion US dollars was needed to adequately address funding needs.

The US contribution is just 0.6 billion dollars for the next two years.

For the first time since the establishment of the Fund, the US contribution will be well below their target of one third.

“We are sorry; the President of the United States is busy ducking criticism of his political appointees at FEMA and appearing at photo opportunities with sanitized evacuees. He is far too busy to bother about poor sick immoral black people from other countries when he’s got so many poor sick white finders black looters refugees voters wet evacuees to worry about here.”

Sure saw that coming. Boy, hurricanes is dead useful for ducking inconvenient policy committments.

Every Three Seconds

Nearly 1,600 children under the age of six have died in India’s Maharashtra state, many from malnutrition, in the past four months, officials say.

Let’s see: that’s approximately 400 children a month, 13 children a day, or 1 child every two hours, in just one state of one country battling poverty.

It’s time I gave somebody a piece of my mind. God knows, he could use one.