Five by 8 – 3/31/10: Ode to a great teacher

1) There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about what makes a great teacher. Jaime Escalante, whose story was told in Stand and Deliver, is about as good a definition as there is…

Escalante has died at the age of 79. He lost a battle with cancer, but not before it bankrupted him.

All the odds were against Jaime Escalante making a difference in the lives of the kids he taught. But he did. Why aren’t there more Jaime Escalantes?

2) Former state lawmaker Duke Powell writes a fascinating blog about his life as a paramedic in Hennepin County. He sees a side of the health care situation few of us do. This week, he’s been writing about chronic inebriates:

I’m not claiming that every one of those 30,000 people are drunks and beyond help. But I will assert that a significant percentage of them are and it is costing a fortune. In this instance there were several thousands of dollars of medicines in that bag which will be simply thrown away – paid for with taxpayer money.

The cost of this particular program is rising at a rate of 18% a year. Simple math tells us that the cost will double every 4 years with that level of yearly increases – and it already is a $1 billion item in the state budget.

3) The United States is one of the few industrialized nations in which terrorists have not struck the rail or subway system. Why not? Fred Kaplan, writing on has one answer:

In other words, the United States isn’t the sort of place where suicide bombings are likely to take place. It isn’t occupied territory. And though terrorist acts have been committed here in protest of U.S. policies elsewhere (mainly in the Middle East, Iraq, or Afghanistan), few of these acts have been suicide bombings.

The 9/11 attacks were, of course, big exceptions. Yet as a result of those attacks, it is now much harder for groups of terrorists to board airplanes at all, much less to do so while carrying weapons of any sort. And in those instances when individual terrorists have tried to set off bombs (Richard Reid in his shoe, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear), airline attendants and passengers have been alert enough to snuff out their plans.

Which brings up the question: Is the “terrorist threat” on U.S. soil overblown?

4) Critics of the Cash for Clunkers program warned us that the government handout to people who could afford to buy new cars would come at the expense of people who couldn’t. They were right, according to a story today from MPR’s Tom Robertson. Or were they? The trade-ins had to be destroyed and now there’s a shortage of used cars, Robertson reports. While a Minnesota auto dealer blames the program for a near doubling in the price of at least one model of a used car, a national expert says it has more to do with people holding onto their cars in a lousy economy.

Have you postponed a new car purchase because of the economy?survey

5) Welcome home!


Gov. Tim Pawlenty blames the teachers’ union for Minnesota’s failure to win federal Race to the Top money. Union leaders blame the state’s application process. Does the teachers’ union play a positive role in Minnesota schools?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: One of the major claims made for health care reform was that it would bring costs down. But some say that there were lots of missed opportunities to address the root causes of our high health care bills.

Second hour: Sassy spinster Elizabeth Philpot befriends young working class Mary Anning over their love of fossils. In this historical fiction, the unlikely pair navigate the early 19th century sexism of England’s scientific community as they try to gain ownership and respect for their archaeological finds.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Joe Nathan of the Center for School Change at Macalester College talks about the federal “Race to the Top” education program.

Second hour: Retiring North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, speaking in Moorhead last week about the way Congress works.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin. An exotic expense chit challenges RNC chair Michael Steele, and Sarah Palin and John McCain — together again.

Second hour: Religious scholar Scott Korb, author of, “Life in Year One.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Two years after a mysterious illness broke out among workers at the Quality Pork Processing plant in Austin, workers still struggle with the physical and mental effects. Some got workers compensation from the company, most have not. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier looks at what’s happened to two of the workers since the illness almost left them paralyzed, and examines the legal rights and resources undocumented workers have in situations like this.

News from “God’s waiting room.” National Public Radio looks at the manufactured “town centers” at Florida’s retirement villages, created by specialists from Universal Studios.

  • John O.

    Look at your local auto repair shops. The ones near my house have full lots of vehicles that are either waiting to be picked up, or waiting to be serviced. Let’s face it, the credit market is still tight and many folks (us included) are not really interested in taking on a car payment or any additional consumer debt if we can avoid it.

  • Big Dog

    Why aren’t there more Jaime Escalantes?

    There are many more, they just don’t get the notoriety because they are very humble people.

  • boB from WA

    Nice piece about the folks in St Cloud. Up here in the Pacific Northwest we don’t see nearly as much support that these folks show, despite the fact that all branches of the service are represented in the Puget Sound area. My hats off to those in central MN.