Teachers and gadgets
Readers responded to the editorial (Sept. 21) that tied poor student performance to teacher unions. They seemed to be in hearty agreement or vehement disbelief. On the other hand, most readers could agree on what the gadget was in the Sept. 24 issue, but there were some who missed the mark.

Teach your children well
Re: The Edison Learning Inc. founder you mention in your editorial (“Why Johhny can’t do algebra,” Sept. 21). Is this the same organization that established Edison Schools? And are these the same Edison Schools Inc. that lost hundreds of millions of dollars in their first 11 years and were saved from collapse in 2003 by the Florida Retirement System?

The irony in your argument is that “teachers’ unions should get a bigger part of the blame for the economic woes of U.S. manufacturing simply because they’ve put their members’ interests ahead of our children’s education. It’s the job of teachers’ unions to serve their members’ interests.”

Should it be the job of teachers’ unions to set standards for education? Or, should that be the job of school boards?

Should it be the job of teachers’ unions to make sure those standards are met? Or should that be the job of school administrators and executives?

Should it be the job of teachers’ unions to purchase textbooks and classroom supplies? Or should that be the job of the taxpayers funding the schools?

As with the economic woes of American manufacturing, there’s more than enough blame to go around. It’s just much simpler to lay it all on the unions, although the unions seem to be the only organizations in the mix that are serious about their actual jobs.

Drugs in the classroom, family abuse, old textbooks, cell phones, video games, lack of support from administration and parents, 24/7 television, junk food and stimulants in vending machines, single parents, unsupportive parents, there are plenty of things for teachers to deal with. Throw in the obvious disrespect of teachers shown and talked about by so many parents in front of their kids, and editorial comments by drive-by “experts” and the politicians who hang on their every word, and then throw in companies like Edison that pretend to be able to do more with less, and it’s not a huge surprise that teachers truly believe there’s a place for unions.

The final irony is that one side of management’s mouth says that Johnny doesn’t need to know algebra, while the other side of its mouth complains that Johnny no longer knows how.

You can’t have it both ways.

Jon Roesler

We never mentioned textbooks, supplies, or standards. The record shows, however, that teacher unions have opposed measures that would cull out teachers who were not competent in the subject matter they supposedly teach. — Leland Teschler.

The editorial was right on as to why we are behind other nations in math and science: teachers’ unions.

I have two sisters in the teaching profession and one of them is totally in the union camp. She truly believes charter and private schools are designed to dismantle public education. I counter that if public education followed the private/charter model of pay for performance, those institutions would be less attractive to parents looking to avoid having their child languish under a disinterested seniority-minded, union-member teacher on cruise control.

Name that gadget
Be the first to identify this device from a past issue of Machine Design and win a fabulous prize, along with the honor of seeing your name in an upcoming issue. E-mail entries to stephen.mraz@penton.com and put “Gadget” in the subject line.

Aerospace engineer Kyrill Shvetsov was the first to identify the X-31 airplane built by U.S. and Germany in 1990 to test thrust vectoring. It was also the first international experimental-aircraft development program administered by a U.S. government agency other than NASA and a key effort of the NATO Cooperative Research and Development Program.

Ironically, my unionized (hypnotized) sister who argues against merit pay for teachers would benefit greatly from it as she is good at her job and really tries to improve her classroom skills constantly. As an engineer, I must account for my performance annually. This has worked well is a motivator for the work force at my company. Step raises based on service time do nothing to encourage improvement in teachers.

David Andrews

I have to strongly disagree with your editorial. I will admit that there is a small percentage of teachers who really shouldn’t be teaching. However, the real problem are the parents in America, particularly those who do not participate in their child’s education.

The gradual dumbing down of America can be directly correlated with the divorce rate and all the women who have become unwed mothers.

Mark Perrillo

The price of going green
I just read about “The Ultimate Green House” (Sept. 10). The ultimate green in this is the price they are quoting: $258k for a two-bedroom townhouse. I bought a two bedroom, 2½-bath townhouse for $80K last month. I sure don’t see the extra $205K value in the zero-energy design.

Buck Hiltebeitel

Gadget guesses
As I recall it is a modified F18 fighter jet flown by NASA, to test out the concept of forward-swept wings. It was apparently inherently unstable but there was possibly significant advantages which needed confirmation.

Ron Ballantyne

This is a picture of the cancelled Israeli Lavi fighter jet.

Mark Marlinski

It looks like a prototype for the Space Shuttle.

Patti Wheeler

It’s the prototype of the Euro fighter Typhoon.

Al Mattacotti

I believe the picture shows a Saab fighter.

Kenneth O’Connor

The airplane is a Kfir. It is a reengined French Mirage built in Israe with canards added.

Glenn Seeger

Correction
The pictures on pg. 18 and 20 in the Scanning for Ideas section of the Oct. 22 issue were swapped. Here’s how the pages should have appeared.