The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Some thoughts on last night’s final debate

I micro-blogged last night some thoughts I had on the debate. This debate left me with a few questions, which I’ll try to address here.

1. “$3M for an overhead projector in a planetarium? I wonder if he means one of those super-expensive star projectors? Sounds like education.” (

This sounded fishy to me. I checked out [1] and found the answer. This money was requested in order to replace the star projector at the heart of the Adler Planetarium, one of the premiere public educational facilities in the Midwest. Adler, located on the Chicago lakefront, attracts thousands of people every year to come and learn about our place in the universe. I’m proud to see public money spent helping this institution. Of course, the request never made it past the Senate committee and never came to a vote on the senate floor. Ergo, nobody – Obama included – could vote for it.

2. “Why did McCain feel the need to mention the husband of the woman who is his running mate? Why does he matter?” (

As the husband of a successful physicist, also a physicist myself, I don’t think my wife needs my name dropped in order to seem successful. This smacks of a kind of modern sexism, a reassurance to a crowd that might contain people who need to know she has a husband to feel better about voting for her on a ticket. I just can’t see why this non-political husband of hers needs to be mentioned in the same breath where McCain is selling Palin to the crowd. His exact quote was [2]:

“She understands that better than almost any American that I know. I’m proud of her. And she has ignited our party and people all over America that have never been involved in the political process. And I can’t tell you how proud I am of her and her family. Her husband’s a pretty tough guy, by the way, too.”

So what. Who cares? He won’t be leading the country, so he’s pretty irrelevant.

3. “Which is it: $5800 or $12000 for the average health plan in America. Fact check please!” (

OK, so let’s go to the fact-checking sites! [3] indeed reports the average cost of a health-care plan for a family in 2008 is $12,680. So McCain is way off. On the other hand, Obama is wrong about McCain’s tax credit. The $5000 tax credit for a couple is enough to pay off the taxes on the plan and have money left over for a health savings account.

4. “Uncertified ex-military going straight to public school teaching?! Is McCain losing it?” (

I went to the transcript for this one. Here was the quote from McCain:

MCCAIN: We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which — or have the certification that some are required in some states.

OK, so he was talking about “Teach for America” and “Troops for America”. What are these programs, and do they require ANY certification for teaching? He also catches himself at the end and says ” . . . or have the certification that some are required in some states.” So, he seems to have recognized the lunacy of his first statement.

Still, what are these programs? I found their sites [4]. “Teach for America”

. . . is the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates and professionals of all academic majors and career interests who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity.

“Troops to Teachers” describe themselves as providing ” . . .  Referral Assistance and Placement services to military personnel interested in beginning a second career in public education as a teacher. The DANTES Troops-to-Teachers office will help applicants identify teacher certification requirements, programs leading to certification and employment opportunities.” In other words, they help ex-military who want to enter teaching to navigate the certification requirements and other aspects of becoming teachers.

That’s a lot different than having them ” . . . go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations . . . ”