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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Facebook Foments New Education Rant

Today a Facebook friend shared this post, Bob D. commented, and I responded.  (See below.)
Sad! ♥

Last week I purchased a burger at a fast food restaurant for $1.58. The counter girl took my $ 2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies, while looking at the screen on her register.

I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.

Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s:

1. Teaching Math In 1950s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

2. Teaching Math In 1960s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Math In1970s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Math In 1980s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Math In 1990s

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20.  What do you think of this way of making a living?

Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it's ok. )

6. Teaching Math In 2009

Un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho?

7. Teaching Math In 2013
Who cares, just steal the lumber from your rich neighbor's property. He won't have a gun to stop you, and it's OK anyway cuz it's redistributing the wealth."
  • Bob D. Who is responsible for this unfortunate evolution other than ourselves for allowing it?!?!?
  • Duncan C. McDougall Did you allow it? I sure as Hell didn't! That is why my PSU students in the 1970s nicknamed me "Flunkin' Duncan," even while rating my teaching highly. In my humble opinion, the problem is grounded in the "feel good" principle in education. Never give a zero on a mid-term even if the student doesn't show up, because it makes her passing the course so improbable; never keep a student back a year because he hasn't learned to read, etc. "The agony of defeat" was a part of my childhood, and it helped me to grow stronger. C'mon, Bob. Let's put the blame on do-gooders, that huge class of fatuous grapes that "knows better than we" how education is supposed to feel. As if kids do not know who's bright and who's prepared, and who's lazy and who's unprepared! For over a generation the educational system in the US has been in the hands of people who think that self-esteem can be given to kids, rather than earned by them in fair competition. And that competition may not be with others... it may only have to be with their own previous best! You know why education is failing? It is failing because the good students are not getting diplomas that represent a distinctive accomplishment. Damned near every student graduates today, and a college degree today can be earned by a person with less learning, skill and culture than an average high school graduate had twenty-five years ago, let alone fifty years back! The very term "do-gooder" makes me want to vomit. How about some standards?!?!
  • Duncan C. McDougall Continuing the theme: Universities treat graduation rates and retention rates as goals, on a higher-is-better scale. That would be valid if the academic expectations of those universities were high, and if their grading standards were consistent with those expectations. But since grading is subjective, and since teachers' expectations have been drastically reduced over the past thirty years due to the pitiful preparedness of many, many high-school graduates, higher retention has come to mean a weakening mix of students in the higher level courses, and therefore a sadly degraded bachelor's degree. If you want to find a great institution of higher learning, ask not what is its graduation rate, ask what is its rate of attrition from the first year to the second. Those schools that take in three times as many first-year students as they expect to have in the senior year probably are doing their jobs. Want to know where that happens in New Hampshire? It happens in the business programs at some of the community colleges! I served for ten years on the advisory board of one such community college, where the business program would admit 65 students per year, and graduate about 25 per year. That is why transfer students who have earned associates' degrees from those schools are so much sought-after by the four-year schools!
  • Duncan C. McDougall But please, Bob, do not get me started!

Friday, February 22, 2013

URAL Adventure Part 3: Help Offered in St. Petersburg

Ural Patrol
From: Aleksei Gagarin
To: Duncan C McDougall
Hello, Mr. McDougall.

It's fine for me. In our company it's one of the terms to speak English.

We encourage such adventures like yours and trying to provide as much help as we can. Our location (the distribution headquarters) is in Saint Petersburg, largest city of north-western part of Russia. So i think it's a good place to start.

By the way you can buy the bike only at the dealer store. Sadly the factory sell Urals no more by itself. At the moment we're only dealership at SPb. Every motorcycle produced by the IMZ is legal to the USA, so you'll be supported with the every documents you'll may need. And to the final part of your letter, the answer is yes. We can. But such is consultations is not on the our profile, to be honest. So we should plan step-by-step. And I suggest you to start with the visa issuing.

Regarding the export papers you should consult with the authorities of the your country. We'll provide with the every thing you may need.

With best regards,

Alexei Gagarin.
Deputy officer Russian Motorcycles LLc

On 22.02.2013, at 2:51, Duncan C McDougall wrote: 
Dear fellow motorcyclists at URAL,  

I apologize for writing in English, but I have yet to begin my Russian lessons. 

I am a 69 year old American with 50 years of motorcycling experience.  At this blog link, in the posts of 16 and 18 February, you will read of a plan that a fellow touring rider and I are contemplating for the summer of 2014. Ideally, it will involve our buying either one or two Ural bikes, and riding them across your beautiful land to Vladivostok, then shipping them to a West Coast port in the U.S.  

Is such a plan one that you could help us make happen?  Could we buy new Urals at the factory, of a type that will be legal in the U.S.A?  Any help that you could provide regarding a recommended city and dealer at which to pick up a Ural, a sidecar model, its price, a recommended delivery point, registration, insurance, and export paperwork, etc., will be much appreciated. 

Sincerely yours, 

Duncan McDougall

Monday, February 18, 2013

Planning Inputs Re: Russian Tour

I was delighted to receive prompt replies from both sides of the Atlantic to the e-mail messages found in my last post:

AW: Urals for Tour of Russia

Hello Professor McDougall, great that you enjoy riding motorcycles and with Ural you have the best possible motorcycle for travelling in Russia .
You are right, you are not the first one, who has the idea to cross Russia with the Ural combination.
First of all, I only can talk about Ural in Europe, I don’t know how to purchase a Ural in Russia .
The European specification of Ural is different to the US specification, we cannot deliver US legal Urals.
The prices of Ural with sidecar are from EUR 8.100,-- (cheapest model “Ural T”) up to EUR 10.400,-- (best model for your purpose “Ranger”).
Depending on which country you want to purchase, you must add 19% VAT (for example in Germany ) up to 33% (for example in Austria ).
Biggest problem for you as citizen from the USA is, that you are not able to register a motorcycle in Europe , when you do not have a domicile here.
So whenever somebody from the USA wants to buy a Ural for driving in Europe we recommend to rent a Ural instead of buying.
I don’t know if you can buy and register a Ural in Russia .
Generally I think the best is to buy and register in the USA and then drive this bike through Russia .
Best regards
Hari S.
Ural Motorcycles GmbH
ATU 56984008

Congenia GmbH

Albrechtstraße 26
A-4614 Marchtrenk
Telefon:           +43/7243/21515
Fax:                 +43/7243/21519

Facebook: Ural Motorcycles Europe

Re: AW: Urals for Tour of Russia

Dear Herr S.,

Thank you very much for the swift reply, and for the sound advice.  I shall continue to investigate my alternatives, including the purchase of a Ural in Russia, the rental of a Ural, and the transporting of my own rugged old 1969 BMW R60US (in the attached picture) to Europe to share the adventure with me, as it has so often done in the past.  Though it has no sidecar, my old R60, with a 7.0 to 1 compression ratio and magneto ignition, has a way of running well on poor fuel, and of always bringing me home.

Beginning that aforementioned investigation, suppose I were to rent a Ural sidecar rig from your company for a tour of two months, and roughly 22,000 Km.  What might that cost?  And if afterwards I were to buy the machine, would you be willing count the rental as part of its price?

I note that your address is Marchtrenk, Austria.  My wife Shirl and I may be driving that way this coming May on our way from Fellbach, DE, to Cluj (Klausenburg), RO.  If so, with your invitation, I should like to stop and meet you.


And then, following a telephone conversation:

Hi Duncan,
It was nice to talk to you. Thank you for the phone call.
Dmitry B., General Manager
978-263-9000 Ext 111
AlphaCars & Ural of New England

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A New Dream


 Fw: Urals for Tour of Russia

Dear "Sales" at Ural of New England,

I met a bunch of URAL riders last summer at a cafe between Fairbanks and Denali in Alaska.  A BMW motorcycle owner since 1963, I have long been interested in the Ural.  I am forwarding the message below to you, so you know about the plan that I have in the formative stage.  I figure you might end up playing a helpful role.

It is probable, but not definite, that if I do this trip, I will have another veteran American touring rider along, and that we will be buying two bikes in Western Europe, or in Russia.

I look forward to hearing from you.


----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Duncan C McDougall 

To: "xxxxx@ural.xx"
Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2013 1:14 PM
Subject: Urals for Tour of Russia

Dear folk at Ural Motorcycles,

In June I will celebrate my 50th year of motorcycling.  Last year, at age 68, I rode my 1982 Honda GL500I from New Hampshire to Fairbanks, Alaska, and back, my third transcontinental ride in North America.  I rode 10.872 miles (17.500 Km) in 41 days.  I am a serious touring rider, and have in mind a trans-Siberian tour in 2014.  I am also an experienced camper, and envision carrying with me a tent and full camping gear.  Hence, the Ural sidecar models have caught my eye.

Unfortunately, as a teacher at a small state university, and as the father of six children, I have not become rich, so this plan will be made on a limited budget.

Please reply with your recommendation as to the U.S.-legal Ural model that you would recommend for such an adventure, where you would recommend I pick it up (I will be flying from Boston to Europe), and what price I should expect to pay for the bike in Rubles (if bought in Russia, or at the factory), or in Euros (if in Western Europe).  Also, I envision booking a sea passage for myself and the motorcycle from Vladivostok to a port on the U.S. mainland.  If you know of a common carrier for that trip, please let me know.

Finally, I have spent considerable time during the past four years living and teaching in Romania.  I am experienced at meeting people and learning of their cultures.  Meeting the Russian people is one of the objectives of my idea of a trans-Siberian tour. 

I suppose that I am not the first to write to you with such a dream, so please also give me whatever advice you feel I should have about a land route to Vladivostok, and any general advice for doing such a tour.

Thank you very much,


Duncan McDougall 
Dream tour: St Petersburg to Vladivostok,
 stretching 9.748 Km. via M58.  We will meander and camp, see Lake Baikal, etc.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fiftieth Year of Fulbright-Romania

[Written in June of 2010, for some reason this post has remained unpublished until discovered today.]

I was honored to be asked to represent, along with David Banville, the recent set of American Fulbrighters to have spent time here in Romania.  I shall try to describe simply what the experience has meant to me.

First, Fulbright Romania was the cause of the last enthusiastic words of approval that I received from my father, Dugald (Mac) McDougall.  I was visiting Mac in his Florida home in June of 2007, as at age 91 he was preparing himself for his imminent death. When I mentioned the Fulbright project to my Dad, he said, "Romania!  Oh my God, son, isn't that wonderful?"

So for me the Fulbright began as a blessed experience, and so it has remained.

I knew only a little about this country before coming here: only that it had been through great hardships under Communism, and that it was known still as among Europe's poorer nations, economically, but that it had recently entered the European Union.  I also knew that my Plymouth State University and Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai had a cooperative agreement, and that a few of my colleagues had been to Cluj, and described it as a beautiful city.

Beyond that, I knew I had a lot to learn.  What has since transpired has led to a transformation in my self-image, as much as to an increase in my understanding of Romania.

I discovered in Romania that my style of teaching was appreciated, even though unconventional in its pedagogy of case study and class discussions, rather than theory and lectures.  I learned that the UBB Englishline students were well-taught and broadly exposed to classic literature, to ancient history, and more mathematically competent than most of my American students.  I relearned the art of walking.  I walked and walked, and suffered painfully as a result from arthritis and from plantar faciitis, but endured to walk still more.  I toured in my car, Klaus, from the Prut River Valley to Calafat on the Danube, from Satu Mare to Constanţa.  and from Oradea to Iasi.  I saw Romania's beauty, its diversity, and observed its rapid modernization.

I contacted my wife and our four grown children, and urged them to come to see Romania before the modernization had gone too far, for the charm of Old Europe is alive and well in this country, and one of Romania's greatest opportunities and challenges will be to grow economically without losing that charm.  Three of the four were able to come for a nine-day visit in April of last year.

Fulbright has given me an opportunity to meet many Romanians on both personal and professional levels.  I treasure the friendships I have now with my former students and with my colleagues, as well as with the staff here at Fulbright Romania.

The Fulbright experience has given my life new interest, and provided a new purpose that I do not yet fully understand.  But, without a Fulbright grant, and in spite of the recent national salary cuts for faculty, I will again be teaching in Cluj in October of 2010.  So, the effects of my Fulbright year are ongoing.

How has the Fulbright experience changed my life?  In the words of an old Bob Dylan song, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." 

Thank you, Dorina, Mihai, Corina, Anca, Loredana, and all the rest of you who, through your embodiment of the Fulbright spirit and loyal support of its mission have made this program possible.

Cluj Napoca - European Youth Capital - 2015

Cluj-Napoca, as seen from the Hotel Belvedere
Hanna Ugron is my former UBB student at EURO, in the American Studies Program, rather than at FSEGA.  I was chatting with her online a week or so ago, and learned that her time had been divided for the past year between her work and her volunteering in the effort to win for Cluj recognition as the European Youth Capital for 2015. 
Englishline graduation at FSEGA, Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai, 2009
Hanna Ugron
Congratulations to you, dear Hanna, and to all your fellow volunteers.  In my opinion, it is an honor richly merited by your fair city, the heart of Transylvania! (Please see the link!)

Răul Someș Mic and the Strada Horea bridge from the Roland Garros veranda.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maria Helen DeMaggio Baptised in Meriden

Maria and Miki (Fera) DeMaggio, taken December, 2012
(Photo by Rod Wendt)
Do not be confused, dear reader, for today's Mother and Child are not the same as those featured just three days ago in this blog, though again, these two represent the melding of Romanian and Italian bloodlines.  Here is the story.

Today Roxana (Roxy) Fera and I drove to Meriden, New Hampshire to attend the baptism of her new niece, Maria.  Maria is the third child of Mihaela (Miki) Fera DeMaggio and her husband Gus.  Miki and Roxy grew up in Sibiu, Romania, where their parents always encouraged the girls to participate in sports, with the result that Miki became her country's foremost downhill and slalom skier.  Today, she and Gus are both ski coaches at Kimball Union Academy, a renowned private secondary school in Meriden.

Also attending the event were Miki's and Roxy's mother, Ileana Fera, and Gus's parents Gus Sr. and Helen DeMaggio, as well as Maria's siblings, Caiyu and Elena, and Gus's sisters and their offspring.

The baptismal service was held at the Meriden Congregational Church.  It was a lovely event on a bright and cloudless day, following immediately after the heaviest snowfall of the winter.  The world today was sparkling white.  Maria uttered not a peep throughout the service, and smiled broadly when presented by the minister to the parishioners, a newly Christened child of God.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Brit's Comment: "Romania is a Country Worth Staying Friends With"

I do not generally post links to others' writings.  But this one, taken from the Huffington Post, was sent me by Valer Şuteu of Satu Mare, an MBA student here at Plymouth State University.  It is current, relevant, and quite eloquent.

Thank you, Tessa Dunlop.  We see Romania and Romanians much the same!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sasha Buiatti Born Today!!!

Mama Melinda Pleșcan (-Buiatti) and proud Papa Silvio Buiatti have announced the arrival of their son Sasha Buiatti, born this 7th day of February, 2013, near Venice, Italy.  Bravo!  Hallelujah!  Welcome, dear one!  We cannot wait to get to know you, as we know that you will be amazing!!!

Posted with love,

Duncan and Shirley McDougall
Campton, New Hampshire, U.S.A.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kathleen Brennan's Art (And a Non-Coincidence)

In My Class

In the spring of 2011, an MBA student named Matthew Brennan enrolled in my New Ventures & Entrepreneurship course at Plymouth State University.  In that course, Matt wrote a business plan for his wife's business, Kathleen Brennan Fine Art, which is located at their home here in rural New Hampshire.  Kathleen is a versatile artist, though her most significant awards and recognition have come for her sculptures.

After the course had ended, Matt and Kathleen kindly invited me to their home to see her studio.  I accepted, and rode down there one day on my old 1969 BMW motorcycle.  We had a wonderful lunch, and I, a fine art major at Amherst many years ago, got a huge kick out of seeing how one made bronze statues, a multistage process involving many different manual, tactile, spacial and visual talents.

At the Show

Last month, while Shirl was in Colorado, a group of friends and I attended the original musical production "Marking the Moment" at PSU.  Each year the Educational Theater Collaborative (ETC) puts on a January musical, casting talent from local schools, high schools, and community members, as well as from the University.  This tradition is now approaching twenty years old.  In the past they have done popular shows for kids, such as "The Wizard of Oz."  But this year they created a special show, written and scored to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Town of Plymouth, New Hampshire, back in 1763.

PSU graduate student Roxana (Roxy) Fera (din Sibiu), who is presently living with us, was a dancer and chorus member in the show, so all the resident Romanian students joined the party, as well as my Spanish professor friend Eric Cintrón, and Prof. and Mrs. Michael Fischler.  Fortunately, Roxy's sister and mother were also able to attend, as were her nephew and two nieces, as that branch of the Fera/DeMaggio family is now living in New Hampshire, as well.

It was a grand show!

After the Show

On the way out of Silver Cultural Arts Center, I stopped into the room just off the lobby where there were a number of fundraising efforts underway.  The ETC is a non-profit organization, supported by ticket sales and donations from well-wishers, and from the sale of T-Shirts and the like at their event.  So. I bought a $12 T-shirt, and told the ladies to keep the change from my $20 bill.  "Oh, no!" one of the ladies exclaimed, let us give you eight raffle tickets, instead.  I looked around the room, and put all eight of my tickets into the bucket next to this statue, which I recognized as Kathleen Brennan's work.

On Tuesday of last week I received an e-mail telling me that I had won "Synthesis," by Kathleen Brennan.  I am thrilled to have it here, on display at Hotel New Hampshire.

Lucky?  Maybe.  But, I do not believe in coincidences.
"Synthesis" by Kathleen Brennan

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Isla Contadora: Serena the Sloth

One of the rumors heard last year on Isla Contadora, Panama Bay, was that the small, lovely island had a resident sloth.  'Tis a rumor no more.  The following e-mail message has arrived today from Marion MacGillivray, whom I mentioned here, just over a year ago.


February 5, 2013 10:28 AM

"Marion MacGillivray"   
To:"Marion MacGillivray"

Attached is a photo of Serena the sloth, perezozo, in front of Hibiscus House.  Now that it is dry season and the trees have few leaves she is easier to see.

From Allan:   We saw the elusive sloth in the tree in front of the house a couple days ago.  Made the guests very happy and I have attached his picture.