Friday, September 08, 2006

Utah, the army of God, and the US Army

One of my more liberal friends has pointed out to me that Utah has one of the lowest armed forces participation rate, yet is one of the few remaining supporters of Bush and Iraq. The Deseret News proves her right:
total military (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) recruits per 1,000 youths in fiscal year 2005, put Utah near the bottom of all states, with 2.5 per 1,000 youths ages 15-24. The top two states were Montana and Texas, at 5.7 and 5.2 per 1,000, with the national average being 3.8 per 1,000.
One reason for Utah's low ranking may be linked to the large number of young men in Utah who serve two-year missions for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to both the NPP and an Army recruiter in West Valley City.

I don't see why that should matter. Maybe young men (and women) will be off a mission for up to two years, but that doesn't mean they can't join up once they get home. Are they saying that LDS youth get all their world traveling and being away from home and family out of their system by going on a mission?

This article is heavy on facts, and light on analysis. I think the mission explanation is used almost as an excuse for every atyptical stat on Utah. Then there is this factiod that is left hanging...
The NPP considers low- to middle-income neighborhoods to be those having a median household income between $30,000 and $55,000, a group the NPP says is "over-represented" in active-duty Army recruits. The NPP makes its comparison to recruits coming from "wealthier" areas, where NPP says the median household income is above $55,000. The latter group was already "under-represented" in active-duty Army numbers for new recruits, according to NPP's data from the previous year.

The article doesn't answer the question, nor does the NPP research director, but the answer is prety obvious. Military recruiters target poor, ill-educated neighborhoods, figuring that the military's "we'll pay for college and trips around the world" pitch will play better with people that can afford neither than those who send junior to the Ivy-League and on trips to Europe.

The poor are also those most in need of a good paying job that has low skill-level requirements. And the military offers that as well (obviously, they train people and also hire highly skilled folks as well).

Of course, people making over $55,000 and less than $100,000 are probabbly what you and I would call middle class, not wealthier. And over all, military recruiting has dropped rapidly as the Iraq war as dragged on...none of which should be surprising. It is a lot less fun traveling the world when your people will be trying to kill you along the journey.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Today I find myself in the strange position of writing my own recommendation for a supervisior at work. Obviously those reading do not know her voice, but they might reccognize mine from my cover letter. Busy people typically request you write the letter for them, and then they get to skim it and sign it.

But I have trouble say wonderful things about myself while pretending someone else. Any advise from readers out there?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

utah's schools need help

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend (thanks, Labor). I certainly did. Taking a break from blogging and catching up on family, friends and pop culture certainly was nice.

Today I spotted an article in the Deseret Morning News about a school building a yurt. And while the article is supposed to be about how cool this school is, complete with trips to Mexico and Washington DC, the fact that there isn't enough space for all the children in most Utah schools is the real story.
The circular, tent-like building will serve as an addition to the Walden School of Liberal Arts — it's cheaper than a portable classroom — while the administrators continue to raise money for a new building on 2 1/2 acres on University Avenue that they purchased for $560,000.
School administrators would like a 20,000-square-foot building by next school year, but they are discussing financing options. "We don't know if it will be ready," school director Diana West said. "It's looking less and less likely."

Charter schools often face the utter lack of a building, while normal public schools face inadaquate space.
The Beehive State has the nation's biggest classes, with an average teacher-to-student ratio of 1-to-23 students. The national average is 1-to-15.6. Teachers say those ratios don't do the problem justice: Those in big school districts say high schools can have 40 or more students per class.

And parents agree: a Dan Jones poll conducted mid-August showed that "82 percent of Davis County residents said their schools were overcrowded, with 78 percent in Salt Lake County, 79 percent in Utah County and 72 percent in Weber County answering the same way. Elsewhere in Utah, 70 percent of residents said their classrooms are crowded."

Even 39%--a plurality--said we should definity raise taxes to pay for reducing overcrowding, and 43% in another question said the surplus should go to schools. Yet what did the legislature do this session? Spend billions on bonds for construction of roads canals and the like that won't even begin for years to come. And what does Jon Huntsman Jr. want to do with any budget surplus? Create a tax break for the super rich.

I was blessed to be able to attend a school in Utah with small class sizes from pre-k to 12th grade, but the only place to find that is a private school. Even small towns now band together to create large schools.

If Democrats take back Congress this fall, then help will be on the way. House Democrats in the past have sought to give local government's favorable school construction/repair/remodeling loans, and I am sure they would propose to do so in the future. The same goes for teacher training and recruitment programs, which would forgive student loans for those who decide to teach primary and secondary school for a couple years.

Certainly, the fact that Utah has more of its population under 15 than any other state in the nation, and that Utah is also one of the poorer states doesn't help matters. But we as a state shouldn't be making the situation worse by giving new tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy and buying more roads we shouldn't build. [We need to make our urban areas more compact and more public transit accessable to reduce traffic] I urge parents to talk to their legislators who are asking for their votes this November to promise them to make reducing class sizes and overcrowding the number one priority for them next session.