August 25th, 2008

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Dumbing Down Americans

I have long suspected as much, and every time that I pass an exam that I should have flunked, I wonder. How long will we continue in this direction? How empty will our educations be, by the time that we realize that we don't know how to run a free society, we don't know how to save the world, we don't even know how to save ourselves? Below you will find an 8th grade exam from Kansas in the year 1985. No doubt I would have flunked that exam, even though its contents appear to be quite important general knowledge. Ironically, the only exam that I flunked in high school was 9th grade grammar. I thought grammar was boring and useless.

Could You Have Passed the 8th Grade in 1895?
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Patience, Grasshopper

"Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished" .

... Confucius
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Measles Outbreaks Increase in the US

The CNN headline reads "Measles outbreaks may be linked to vaccine fears". It sounds like there's a correlation between children being home-schooled and un-vaccinated. Public schools require some vaccinations, but there are "pockets" of children who are home-schooled, un-vaccinated, and thus at risk. In one pocket some 30 people were infected with measles when one of their number traveled to Italy.

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is one of the few that I would actually recommend that parents get for their children...and there are a few more. Not everyone needs every vaccine... but vaccines have changed human health drastically for the better in the last century. How soon we forget.

Managing public health is a process of lowering risk for the entire "herd". Vaccination is an easy way to do that. For the more risky diseases, like the ones that cause birth defects, suffering in old age, and death, the risk of the vaccine might be worth it. Yes, the ingredients in vaccines are suspect. As this article says, people are avoiding vaccines these days because they think they could cause autism. Well, maybe they do contribute. There are lots of other things that contribute to autism. If all you do for your kid is avoid vaccines, you might as well give them a gun to play with. There are lots of ways that parents can protect and teach their children that are not being addressed. Whooping cough can kill, but so can soda pop.

Some diseases, like smallpox, are said to have been eradicated using vaccines. But most (or maybe all) diseases still exist somewhere in the world. There is even the threat that smallpox might still be used as a weapon. If we stop vaccinating our population, we will soon have them endemic here too. So where is the line between individual desires to avoid the risk of an injection, with group desires to live in a population that has less disease in general? The line is shifting.

The role of a doctor in my view is to help people find where that line is for them and their family, not to support the pharmaceuticals in saying that everybody needs all the shots all the time. Heck, I don't believe your dog needs a rabies shot every year either. It's up to you, and a little education goes a long way.
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Coquille Indian Tribe Legalizes Gay Marriage

How cool is that? Because the tribe is a sovereign nation, it is not bound by Oregon's constitution which says "marriage" is between a man and a woman. This tribe has decided to extend all tribal benefits of marriage to any couple of whom at least one is Coquille. They are the first tribe to pass such a law. The Cherokee and Navajo have passed laws banning gay marriage. The Coquilles anticipate some tests when the Defense of Marriage act comes into play. I am happy for them. Score 10 tolerance points for the Coquille natives!
Article on Oregonlive.com.