Monday, July 30, 2012

Tim Reviews: Books

The Bee Eater, By Richard Whitmire

This book is about a woman who was the chancellor of the schools in Washington D.C.

It was very interesting to read about how the D.C. school system "worked" before and during her time as chancellor.  It sounds like Michelle Rhee made dramatic reforms and improvements.  Finding the best teachers and principals, and improving the bureaucracy.

Washington D.C. schools had, and still have, lots of problems and poor teaching records.  It sounds as though the fight to improve the schools was against the teacher's unions and government rules and regulations.  Apparently many teachers are teachers are teachers so that the can be government employees, which means to them they can be lazy unaccountable and have a very secure job.  Living in Wisconsin during the past year has shown what teachers, and their unions, will do when they are asked to help balance the budget and improve in their teaching.

The book also highlights some of the achievements of Teach for America.  Whose goal is to make the education system in this country better and to do a better job of educating kids.

We can certainly use more people as passionate about teaching as the people from Teach for America are.

It is a very interesting book, but I do need to note that because the book was rushed to completion to coincide with Michelle Rhee's firing the book was edited really very poorly.  I had not before ever really noticed editing in books, but in this one you really can tell that it is lacking.

Heart of Asia True Tales of the Far East by Roy Chapman Andrews

This book is about many of the adventures of Roy Chapman Andrews in east asia.  One remarkable thing about these stories is that if anyone remembers RCA they won't remember him for the stories in this book.  He was famous in the twenties and thirties for his adventures in Mongolia after the stories in this book.

He worked for the American Museum of Natural History in NYC and was asked to become the world's first expert on whales.  So one thing he did was to arrange to travel to Japan where whaling was still practiced and in addition to being the first scientist to study whales he even risked all the money he had in order to harpoon one himself.

He explored what is now North Korea before nearly any white man had ever done.  And he accomplished many things while avoiding having the porters abandoning him in lands that they were constantly scared of.

He explored parts of southern China.  Hunting the native wildlife, and collecting many plants, insects, and animal specimens that were new to science.  He had a few close calls with violent natives.  One of which he escaped by drawing on his limited doctoring skills to repair his enemies and then to escape.

If you want to write an action adventure story for a movie but you are having a hard time coming up with a script.  I suggest that you open this book at random, read the chapter you stopped at, and then expand it until you have your story.

This book is excellent.

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