Zach Hagadone's excellent article about nuclear Idaho demonstrates the difficulty of comparing energy subsidies when estimates differ by $50 billion (BW, Feature, "Nuclear Idaho," Oct. 20, 2010). Data shows that extreme green rants about subsidies to nuclear power fail the reality test.
Nukes provide 20 percent of U.S. energy supplies. Although the costs of nuclear power are jacked up by extreme green obstruction and extortion. Nukes get only 12.4 percent of subsidies, not much more than the subsidy going to ridiculous and destructive ethanol. (Jimmy Carter and the greens told us that pouring food in our gas tanks would save us from oil.)
So-called sustainable energy alternatives--wind and solar--provide a tiny fraction of our power but get a big fraction (7.5 percent) of our subsidies. Nukes get less than they give. "Sustainable" alternatives are sustained only by getting lots more than they give back. Do the math.
I enjoy George Prentice's work, and it's good to see him writing for Boise Weekly. But his enthusiastic review of Waiting for Superman in the Oct. 20 issue deserves a cautionary coda (BW, Screen, "Waiting for Superman," Oct. 20, 2010).
Superman is set mostly in big cities. The largest district in Idaho enrolls about 35,000 students, while the New York City Public Schools have more than 1 million kids. Obviously, solutions that work in big East Coast cities may not be the best ones for Idaho--and given this month's resignation of Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, portrayed as a heroine in the movie, they may not even be the best ideas for the big cities.
Superman cheerleads for charter schools as the catch-all solution to improving public schools, and charters have a legitimate place in public education. But in this era of scarce education funding, there's no getting around the fact that charter schools siphon money away from the neighborhood schools that most of our children attend. We need to be sure that every child has an excellent school, whether it's charter or traditional, public or private.
In heavy-handed fashion, Superman identifies teacher unions as the Lex Luthor in the tale of what ails public education. Are there teachers who should choose another profession? Certainly, but the vast majority of Idaho's teachers are committed, creative professionals working daily to help our children succeed.
In summary, Superman presents a powerful yet simplistic look at a complex issue. But viewers need to question how much its rhetoric applies in Idaho, where parents, teachers and many administrators are already working together to be sure that our schools meet the needs of every child. Here, the real enemies are historic budget cuts, long-term state disinvestment in our schools and a thinly veiled push for privatized, for-profit education.
Full disclosure: I work at the Idaho Education Association.
--Julie Fanselow, Boise