The Truth About Vaccines

Let’s look are REAL science and not “alternative” facts.

I have to admit that I have questioned the validity and necessity of all of the vaccinations that we are supposed to get.  I’ve read about how vaccines can cause autism, and even when the scientific data definitively proved the opposite, it was difficult for me to get on board with the science behind it. 

Probably because I hate needles, it was easier for me to just pass on immunizations by stating that I was still researching the subject. Well, Nicole and her ER doc friends, set me straight.  She sent me this brilliant comic strip that lays down the history of immunizations.  Read it and get immunized to protect yourself and your community. 

If we pro-vax people get immunized, we can save everyone else – including the anti-vaxers – by herd immunity.  Seriously, do your part!


Why Facts DO NOT Change Our Minds

If you’re like me, you’re numb from the onslaught of drastic cuts to the protections that we’ve worked so hard to establish over the past half century.  We don’t know who voted for Trump and simply can’t believe that there are that many stupid people out there who would actually vote for someone who will hurt them. How can these same people watch Trump strip them of medical care, environmental protection, and civil liberties and continue to cheer him on? After pondering this for weeks, I just read an interesting article “Why Facts Don’t Change our Minds” in The New Yorker that helps make sense of this phenomenon. I’ve summarized it here:

Once an opinion is formed, these impressions are remarkably perseverant, according to Stanford researchers in 1975.  In other words, even presenting real facts – pure scientific evidence – may not change the person’s opinion.  Since Trump took office, we read about this every day.

According to Harvard cognitive scientists, Mercier and Sperber, “One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s no sharp boundary between “one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.  So when someone is influenced by the people around them, herd mentality kicks in and the entire group becomes strong advocates for their shared belief.  But when you separate the members and individually ask them to explain the impacts of their proposals, many are not able to.  It turns out that they often don’t fully understand the issues and can’t defend their beliefs without their crowd.  When they were asked to rate their opinions about the same issue again, their enthusiasm for it significantly dropped. Hmm.

That said, this type of community knowledge can be very dangerous.  Sloman (Brown University) and Fernbach (University of Colorado) suggest that we spend less time pontificating about the perils of our government, and more time working through the implications of policy proposals.  Then we might realize how clueless we really are, and we’d moderate our views. This may be the only way of thinking that can shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes and beliefs.

Naturally, this is easier to assume that the other side should stop pontificating and listen to our arguments and facts, but it’s something that we all need to do. I’m not backing down on fighting the many atrocities that are taking place today; I’m simply going to listen more carefully so I understand what is really going on.  My hope is that if everyone did this, we might join forces to ensure that the majority of Americans benefits from policies being placednot the corporations and special interest groups.


To Vax or Not to Vax...Just Kidding, VAX!

Right now, many of us feel like things are spiraling out of control and we can’t do anything to protect ourselves from the onslaught of damaging changes in our government.  However, there is something you can do to stop the coming epidemics that may occur now that many people are not immunizing their children.  Seriously.  

Since 1963, vaccines have prevented over 450,000 deaths in the US. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that immunizations have prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations and 700,000 deaths among children in the last 20 years. Besides protecting our children, consider the medical costs. It's far cheaper to pay for prevention than it is to pay for treatment.

Over 1.4 million children under the age of 5 worldwide still die every year because they don’t have access to vaccines. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to me that Americans would choose to not vaccinate their children.  It’s so easy and convenient to do.

“The reduced number of children being vaccinated in the U.S. isn’t just a problem for those -children,” said Author S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health. “It’s a problem for the country because it lowers herd immunity.”

For example, did you know that there were 4,000 cases of Whooping Cough (100-day cough or pertussis) in Texas in 2013?  According to National Institutes of Health, 12% of parents refused to immunize their children that year. This is the largest outbreak since 1959!

But what’s worse is that measles is making a comeback.  Did you know that measles can lead to brain damage and even death?  I didn’t.  It’s highly contagious and back in the 1950s, more than 85,000 were infected with the virus in Texas alone.  In 2000, Texas eliminated measles throughout the state because of their innovative vaccine program.  Sadly, now 45,000 children in Texas have opted out of the school vaccination programs and the state is bracing for a new measles outbreak.

Confusingly, many of the families that don't vaccinate their children are educated, married couples covered by private health insurance. 

So why are parents opting out of immunizing their children?

“The internet is replete with anecdotes and misinformation that leads parents to think that vaccines have caused harm,” San Diego Dr. Mark Sawyer said to the Senate Health Committee after the 2014-2015 measles outbreak in California. “What is overlooked by parents is the fact that just because an adverse health outcome occurs in the time after a vaccine, it doesn't mean that the vaccine caused the problem.”

It is ironic that in the anti-vaccination community, the very people who are denying protection to their children by foregoing vaccination are healthy and alive today because they, and possibly their parents, were vaccinated,” Olshansky said.  Hmm.

Some state legislatures are making it difficult for parents to resist vaccinating their children. In California, they limit the grounds on which a parent could opt out. In 2012, California pediatrician, Branco, set up a policy stating that he will no longer see children who haven’t received the MMR vaccine by the age of two. He wants to keep his other vaccinated patients healthy. Wake-up call!

Maybe these drastic steps will get parents to look at the facts and join their communities in continuing to eradicate diseases that we haven’t seen in decades.


Not Feeling Well? Don't Be Afraid To Go To The ER!

Did you know that heart attacks kill 5 times more women than breast cancer

That’s a sobering stat. My daughter Nicole just sent me this article to help me understand that heart attacks in women are very different from heart attacks in men. While I knew this in theory, I was surprised that just feeling clammy and nauseous could be signs of a heart attack. This 46-year-old woman thought she had the flu and would have gone to bed to sleep it off had her husband not intervene by taking her to the emergency room.  Read this fascinating article in the Washington Post: “She thought it was only a 24-hour bug.  What she really had almost killed her.”

After reading about this woman’s symptoms and her reaction to them, I feel a little bit more convinced to head to the ER to get checked out instead of being optimistic and hope it goes away.  The difference could be life or death.  As ridiculous as this sounds, my biggest obstacle to going to the ER is my fear that the doctors would think I was a nuisance or a hypochondriac.  But after Nicole (an ER doc) told me that she’d rather see me in the ER and tell me that I should go home because I have the flu or indigestion than to have me stay home and die from a heart attack, I’m going to play it safe.  And by the way, that’s advice for all patients, not just for her mom.


Check out ProjectMERIT Interviews on PlanetWatch (KSCO)

What fun it was for Logan and Pascal to share their projects on KSCO’s Planet Watch Show!

Joe Jordan and Rachel Goodman, the co-hosts of this progressive show that features exciting cutting-edge science and technology that can protect, and possibly save civilization and the planet, interviewed the students for over 30 minutes yesterday.

Both students have founded their own organizations that give individual people incentive to do their part to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere (Logan) and reduce our population on earth (Pascal).

Listen to an archive of the show here, or click here and then click the March 26, 2017 episode's "download" link to either download or play the file (different browsers will behave in different ways).

Please go to Logan’s website: to pledge to reduce driving.

Please go to Pascal’s website: to pledge to have no more than 2 children!

They make it easy for you to do your part!

Live on KSCO Radio: My Students!

Tune into KSCO’s Planet Watch Show (1080 AM) on Sunday, March 26th!  Two of my students will be presenting their projects that can very well get everyday people to change their impact on this planet.  Logan will talk about his When, Not If organization and how YOU can help us prevent millions of lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.  Pascal will talk about how having just 2 children per couple can mitigate a host of problems by lowering our population with her project Preventing Overpopulation P.O.P.  My good friend Joe Jordan and Rachel Goodman are the hosts for Planet Watch.  It’s entertaining and fascinating!

If you miss the radio talk show or if you live out of the area, just go HERE.  Archives will be available on the same page after the show airs.

How to Ensure a Successful Life and Career By Choosing the Right College

The Criteria for Choosing Colleges has changed; Make sure your child considers these factors!

6 factors to consider when choosing your college

If you have a child who is considering which colleges to apply to or if they’re already seniors and they’re weighing their college options now, consider behavioral economics instead of rankings. Forget about the US News and World Report – they collect data based on admissions yields, retention, grades, test scores, and graduation rates. While this may seem important, they don’t include career satisfaction or how prepared grads are for real life.

The Gallup-Purdue Index has surveyed 60,000 graduates (over 80 years) about their satisfaction with their college experience and preparation for a successful career and a happy life.  It lists 5 essential elements of a “Great Life”: Purpose, Social, Financial, Community and Physical Well Being.

Here is what is key in getting the most out of the college experience.

Instead of looking at rankings, prestige of college, and physical characteristics of the college, successful college grads who have a great life now consider the following elements essential to the college experience:

  1. At least one professor who made them excited about learning
  2. One professor who cared about them as a person
  3. One mentor who encouraged their goals and dreams
  4. Long-term PROJECT (more than a semester to complete)
  5. Internship or job where they applied class learning
  6. Extreme involvement in extracurricular activities and organizations

Sadly, less than 30% of college grads in the US experienced any of the above.  Seriously? Those who had a job or internship in college where they applied what they were learning in the classroom were twice as likely to be engaged at work later in life. 82% of those who experienced all 6 elements above feel that their college experience prepared them well for life after college; and by a strong contrast, only 5% of those who did NOT experience any of the above felt well prepared for life.

The US News and World Report does not consider any of these vital factors into their rankings today. Hmm. Now that Gallup has conducted behavioral economics studies about colleges and universities, we’ll see more information about what really matters when our children go to college.  So as your child starts considering colleges, ask questions about how engaged your child will be with professors, internships and student activities. Seems like these are more important considerations than the old ranking system.


Tribute to Chuck Berry; Merit style! Part Two

We had so much fun doing the first Rock ‘n Roll Revue that we did a more comprehensive production the following summer.  Naturally we covered Chuck Berry again – and this time we did “Johnny B. Goode" in our production of It’s Gotta Be Rock ‘n Roll Music: 1955-1975.

Our 8th and 4th graders gave speeches about the history of rock ‘n roll and how Chuck Berry influenced just about every musician who followed him in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. These students created a business called Merit Oldies Entertainment where they performed 30-minute and 60-minute musical performances all over the San Francisco Bay Area. 

They even opened the Frankie Valli Concert in Monterey!

Tips on UC Admissions

For all of you seniors who are waiting to hear from UCs, here’s a quick update.

- You should hear from all UCs by March 31st.

- If you receive an invitation to be placed on a waitlist, you need to respond.  You are not automatically placed on the waitlist.

- If you are on a waitlist for your #1 college, you still need to accept and pay the deposit to another college to ensure that you are going to college in the fall.  You will lose your deposit from - that college if you are accepted to and plan to attend your #1 college (waitlisted on).

- If you are positive you want to attend the UC you’ve been accepted to, submit your Statement of Intent (SIR) with your $250 deposit before May 1st.

- Sign up for Orientation ASAP; some colleges require that students attend Orientation before the start of the new term.

- Submit all high school and college transcripts, AP/IB and or A-Level exam results by July 15th.  Make sure you receive a C- or better in all classes; colleges may rescind enrollment to students whose grades have dropped below a C-.

- Withdraw your application from other campuses after you decide where you are going to college; this gives colleges the opportunity to offer enrollment to waitlisted students. 

Tribute to Chuck Berry; Merit Style!

Check out this tribute to Chuck Berry taken from Merit Academy's production of "It's Gotta Be Rock 'n Roll Music: 1955-1964."

The 7th and 3rd graders gave short speeches about what was happening in the 1950s and about each artist before performing their #1 hits.

For Chuck Berry, we performed "Maybelline." It's lots of fun -- and educational -- to watch!