Tuesday, March 28, 2017

People Still Do This?

I'm surprised to learn that people still counterfeit coins:
The U.K.’s Royal Mint has released what it describes as the “most secure coin in the world.” The bimetallic £1 coin, which entered into circulation Tuesday, boasts a hologram-style image, micro lettering and a “hidden security feature” designed to beat counterfeiters...

Approximately one in 30 £1 coins in circulation is a counterfeit, according to the Royal Mint.
I'd think you'd want to counterfeit bills, which are worth much more, but then, I'm not a counterfeiter and obviously don't think like a counterfeiter.

And the last paragraph of the article is entertaining:
The U.K. is earning a reputation for innovation in currency technology. Last year the country introduced a new, highly durable “plastic” £5 bill, its first ever bill made from polymer. The bill, however, upset vegans when the Bank of England confirmed that it contains traces of animal fat in the form of tallow.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Priorities

If you think instead of just feel, you get some very interesting comments on this post from Joanne's.  Here's the thrust of the post:
“Close to two-thirds of community college students work to support themselves and their families while in school, and they may be facing homelessness and hunger,” write Collins and Vargas. “Many are single parents, and more than a third are the first in their families to attend college.”

Remedial reforms should include non-academic support services for low-income, first-generation and minority students, argues College Completion: Focus on the Finish Line, by the National Center on Developmental Education.
Here's the first comment.  It's not heartless, it's logical:
While I’m sympathetic to anyone struggling to keep body and soul together, I think it’s more than a little bit crazy to prioritize college in these situations. *First* you see that their physical needs are met, *then* you attempt to nurture their educational needs. To try and do both at once isn’t likely to work, IMHO. How in the world can someone who is worried about where their kid’s next meal is coming from possibly concentrate in a classroom? Lots of people can work their way through school, sure, but not when they are simultaneously the sole parent of young children. Has it become sacrilege to suggest that their first duty should be to the parenting of the children, with education delayed until that duty has been met?

Here’s a simpler statement of the problem: what is *my* obligation towards my fellow humans when they choose behaviors (such as having children and going to school) beyond their means? Are all of us charged with providing all of our fellow citizens with whatever means their lifestyles demand? If *I* want to drop everything and pursue a PhD, who supports me and my mortgage? Why are some animals more equal than others?

I’m willing to assume the obligation of supporting children, since they in no way caused the problem. Supporting the wildest dreams of their parents, however, seems impossible and plainly unfair.
The next several comments are in a similar vein.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

College and Career Readiness

If "equality" means everyone is equally dumb and unprepared, to heck with that kind of equality:
While ersatz “credit recovery” and grade inflation devalue the high school diploma by boosting graduation rates even as NAEP, PISA, PARCC, SAT, and sundry other measures show that no true gains are being made in student achievement, forces are at work to do essentially the same thing to the college diploma.

Observe the new move by CalState to do away with “remediation” upon entry to its institutions and instead to confer degree credit for what used to be the kinds of high-school-level content and skills that one had to master before gaining access to “credit-bearing” college courses.

The new term for these bridge classes for entering college students is “corequisite” and California isn’t the only place that’s using them. One study at CUNY—dealing with community colleges, not four-year institutions—says greater success was achieved when ill-prepared students were placed in “regular” college classes but given “extra support” than when they were shunted into “remediation.” Perhaps so. Perhaps placement tests aren’t the best way to determine who is actually prepared to succeed in “college level” work. But that’s not the same as saying—as CalState seems to be saying—that anyone emerging from high school, regardless of what they did or didn’t learn there, deserves entry into “regular” college classes.

That essentially erases the boundary between high school and college, and not in the good way being undertaken by sundry “early college” and “Advanced Placement” courses, the purpose of which is to bring college-level work into high schools. Now we’re seeing high-school-level work being brought into college, there to count for credit toward bachelor’s degrees.
But, equality!

I despise the term "college and career readiness", as if the two parts are synonymous.  One need not have completed Algebra 2, or a lab science, or a visual/performing art to be career ready, depending on the career.  Take a look at any list of what constitutes "college and career readiness", and you'll see it slants heavily to the college side.  Not everyone can or should go to college, and we (college graduates who work in education) do students a terrible disservice by, in effect, telling them that if they don't go to college, they're failures straight out of the gate.

Maybe, just maybe, many of the students in the article above shouldn't even be in universities in the first place (community colleges are the places for such students).  And Common Core standards, with their myriad misguided emphases, will only exacerbate the problem:
Vince Bertram, president and CEO of an organization called Project Lead the Way, argues that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos must focus less on controversial issues such as school choice and Common Core, and more on the goal of education — which he identifies as straight workforce-development. “DeVos’ most important task,” Bertram writes, “will be to cast a vision for what education can be for our next generation to meet the demands of a global economy.” He uses a litany of progressive-education buzzwords — “critical thinkers, collaborators, and problem solvers” — to describe the types of human products our schools must turn out for industry. If there is any other purpose to education, Mr. Bertram doesn’t acknowledge it.

But is developing a workforce for corporations what schools should be about? Such a constricted view of the purpose of education is in fact a central tenet of the utilitarian Common Core (to which standards Bertram’s organization aligns the curricula it creates), but it ignores the deeper purpose that underlies traditional, classical education. That purpose is to offer students the best in human thought so that they may assume their place as knowledgeable citizens, able to cultivate their own gifts and participate wisely in governing their society. It is to educate children so that they can appreciate life, understand others, and fully exercise their liberties.

Common Core’s “workforce development” view is less about education and more about training. The idea is to teach students skills that transfer directly to the modern world of work. By implication, anything that doesn’t contribute to that goal is less important and should be minimized if not discarded. It is the latest iteration of progressive education philosophy. But make no mistake about it, this is not the type of education to which elitist propagators of Common Core — people like Bill Gates or Barack Obama — subject their children. As Woodrow Wilson argued:
We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class… to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
Bertram and Project Lead The Way apparently focus exclusively on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines. It’s thus ironic that they would support Common Core — which, as renowned mathematician Dr. James Milgram has repeatedly warned, is so deficient that it cannot prepare students for future STEM studies.
Common Core, coming as it did with a push from the Obama Administration, is fixed in concrete here in California. And of course, we teachers will be asked to jump through even more hoops to try to unscrew what the state government has screwed by adopting these standards, universities will twist into ever more elaborate contortions to keep paying but grossly under-prepared students in their seats.

Essentially, education in California is screwed.  Before too long I wonder if we'll be preparing kids for college or careers.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Results Are In

I scored 96% on my last test, after having failed (yes, literally got an F on) the homework set over the material covered on the test.  Even when I took the test I thought it was much easier than it could have been, which is why I was cautiously optimistic about getting a good grade.

I hope the roughest seas are behind me.  I didn't like experiencing a complete and total lack of clue.

Cool Coin

Fridays are now switching from "cool currency" day to "cool coin" day.

Coins aren't as easy to make "pretty" as paper money is--there just isn't as much room!  And today in the US, we have to have Liberty, In God We Trust, and United States of America on each coin.  Also, the denominations of all of our coins are spelled out in words--the coin says "quarter dollar", not "25 cents".  By the time you get through all that essay writing, there isn't much room left!  Some of our 50 State Quarters (and the 6 territory quarters) looked nice, but the side with Washington was just crowded with verbiage!  I do like our newest cent, though, with the shield on the reverse.  On the other hand, can you even tell me what's on the back of a dime?  And if you look, still I ask if you can tell me what's on the back of a dime!

Countries with monarchs--and even the Commonwealth, many of whose members still put the British monarch on their coins--essentially limit themselves to one side of a coin, since the monarch takes up the other side.  Still, there are many beautiful and interesting coins in the world, and you'd be surprised at what's displayed on them.

So with that introduction, here's our first "cool coin":


8 shillings from The Gambia, in western Africa.  The US quarter is used for size comparisons.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I Got A Funny Email Today

I sent out a mass email today to the parents of about 100 of my students.  I told them that the most recent test scores had been entered (go check your kid's grades online!) and also mentioned that I'm legally required to notify them if I think their kids might fail, and suggested that if their student currently has under a 75% in class then it might be cause for concern (the final exam, which takes place in 2 months, is 20% of a student's overall grade).

One parent replied to me three times--each time suggesting, using slightly different terminology, that I'm, uh, a part of male anatomy.  The fourth email was apologetic and included what I call a "hummada-hummada", which is the act of trying to explain why you did something you're not supposed to do.  This parent tried to suggest that he/she thought he/she was responding to a different email, to someone with a name close to mine--despite the fact that the email I had sent was at the bottom of the three (three!) replies.  Far more likely is that the parent actually intended to call me such a name, but rather than forwarding my email--with genitalia commentary--to a friend (perhaps one with a similar name), hit "reply" instead.

This event has made for a great laugh.  I don't mind if someone thinks ill of me--I don't like everyone I have to deal with, either.  It's perfectly natural and OK.  What I found hilarious was the attempt to walk the insult back and the attempt at explaining what occurred.  Clearly this parent is mortified at having sent the emails (three of them!) to me instead of to a friend, and now is trying to cover his/her tracks.

And I just laugh.  It's a great story--better in person, though, because I have to clean it up a bit here and not put in any possibly-identifying remarks (hence, the non-gender-specific pronouns).  But this story was the Belle of the Lunch Table Ball today, that's for sure!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

They Must Really Think We're This Stupid

Here in California the sheeple will believe anything.  We teachers say we want our students to "think critically" but then we feed them crap like this and expect them to accept it unquestioningly.
One in five people in California do not have access to food every day. To help lower this rate we are asking people in the community to do what they can to help. The (school program name redacted--Darren) is holding a food drive starting March 23rd ending April 5th. Please bring non-perishable foods into your classroom, such as canned foods and grains. If you would like to donate perishable foods, such as fruits and vegetables, please bring them on the night of open house when we will be collecting food and monetary donations.
That was the first announcement in our school bulletin today.

Now, there's nothing wrong with having a food drive.  Charity is a wonderful thing, and dare I say it, is the Christian way to solve local problems.  But what's up with that first line?  Does anyone really believe it?

I would like to know the source of that statistic.  Yes, California has among the highest rates of poverty in the entire country.  However, our spending on health and human services is second only to our spending on K-12 education (click on Summary Charts here).  Our schools will feed poor kids not one but two meals a day, and we give parents EBT cards to buy food.  If there's any child that doesn't "have access to food every day", it's because of that child's parents' actions and not because of any lack of empathy in society.  You can't fix stupid.

In fact, genuine hunger is so rare now that activists had to create a new term, "food insecurity", in order to have something to rail against.  Isn't it funny how we can simultaneously have an obesity epidemic as well as one in five Californians' not having access to food every day?

I just don't believe the statistic.  I want some evidence.

But, because I'm open-minded and all, let's say the statistic is true.  Let's grant that one in five people in California do not have access to food every day.  Isn't that the most stinging indictment there is against the one-party-rule state that California has become?  What does it say about the socialist "6th largest economy in the world" if 20% of its people are going hungry?  What does it say about a state in which there is at most a single Republican serving in statewide office, and everyone else is a Democrat, socialist, or communist?

And why, if one in five people in California do not have access to food every day, does this state want to throw open the door to even more illegal aliens--who, I hope we can all agree, are probably the least likely people as a group to be able to support themselves?  Wouldn't welcoming more illegal immigrants just make the hunger problem in California worse?

This is the problem with today's Democrats.  Their views aren't even consistent.  They throw a bunch of crap on the wall, see what sticks, and hope we don't notice it's crap.  They're buffoons, and they're running this state into the ground--patting themselves on the back for their "progressive" views while doing so.

And they're brainwashing the kids to think that the pain caused by the broken arm they get from patting themselves on the back is a wonderful thing.

UpdateHere's a link I used previously, showing that health and human services gets more money in California than K-12 education does.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It's A Good Start

I'm glad to see Harvard picking up the ball and running with it:
Eleven Harvard professors and one fellow have signed a statement affirming a commitment to engaging with—and opposing efforts to “silence”—those with opposing views.

The statement, entitled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression” is co-authored by African and African-American Studies Professor Cornel West and Robert P. George, a Princeton professor. It was published on the program’s website on March 14, and over 600 professors, students, and college affiliates have signed the statement as of Sunday...

“It is all-too-common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities,” the statement reads. “Sometimes this is done by questioning the motives and thus stigmatizing those who dissent from prevailing opinions; or by disrupting their presentations; or by demanding that they be excluded from campus or, if they have already been invited, disinvited"...

“This is an issue of broad national significance,” (former Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey) Flier said. “It really is pretty focused on the core issue of what should be the approach of the universities in particular to freedom of speech even on issues that would be seen as controversial or a source of major disagreement.”
I hope this message travels all the way to Berkeley, home of the campus free speech movement a generation or two ago but now home  to fascist attempts to stifle the free speech of those with whom the liberal students object.

California, the New--and Improved!--Lake Wobegon

How good is your neighborhood school?  Who the heck knows?
After three years without a school accountability system, California Superintendent Tom Torlakson lauded the California School Dashboard as “a high-tech report card for our schools.”

The new color-coded system “paints a far rosier picture than in the past,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

“Nearly 80% of schools serving grades three through eight are ranked as medium- to high-performing in the new ratings,” even though the majority of students failed to reach English and math standards in last year’s state testing, according to the Times‘ analysis. “More than 50 of those schools whose average math scores fell below proficiency receive the dashboard’s highest rating for math.”

Why? The dashboard combines achievement with growth.
I teach in a well-to-do area; our students are mostly going to do fine even if we teachers coast.  I like the old system, which can let you know if your school is coasting or not:
For years, the Academic Performance Index gave each school a number, based on test scores, and two decile ratings: Parents could see how the school compared statewide and to schools with similar demographics. It was possible to track improvement.
For years we were in the top couple of deciles--among the highest performing schools in the state. However, when compared to schools with similar demographics, we didn't look so good.  It was an eye-opener.

Now, who can tell?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nazis

This struck home with me:
And note that the rank and file GOP – of numerous races and religions – were gathered in Saint Paul, Minnesota in early September of 2008 to nominate former war hero John McCain to be their presidential nominee, a man left permanently crippled after being tortured while a captive of real life national socialists in North Vietnam.

60 million people voted for John McCain. Another three million voted for Trump. If you believe they’re all Nazis and Klansmen, it might be time to open the airlock and leave the bubble for a while to see what lies outside the bio-dome. The first step is the hardest, but you might be surprised at what’s out there once you take it.

No Test Grade Yet From Last Thursday's Test

Still standing by, anxious as heck.

If nothing else, I'm sure I did better than the flunking grade I received on the homework assignment that was associated with the test.  Need a high test grade to balance out that low grade.

We shall see....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Does Someone Work In An Environment Like That?

My students may not all be going to Stanford, but most of them put forth some effort, even if only a little bit.  I'd feel helpless and hopeless if I had to teach more than one or two of these:
What I got was "I tried" - like that matters when you are unable to correct your erroneous attempts. So I drew the tree diagram. And he quit doing any work for the rest of the period.

I could not get him to see that 1) he needed to write it down 2) he needed to learn it and 3) there is no participation credit in his grade.
Teachers need to prepare high-quality lessons outside of class. But inside class, students need to be working harder than the teacher does.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Liberal Logic: Fix One Government-Caused Problem By Creating Another One

Why are housing costs in California "skyrocketing"?
Amid California's housing crisis, several state lawmakers want to give cities the ability to dramatically expand rent control, including imposing the kind of strict limits that once existed in Santa Monica and West Hollywood but have been barred since the 1990s.
Those who don't know economics are doomed to repeat the mistakes of other liberals. Don't forget this post.

What About Chocolate Milk?

What's scary is that this person expects to be taken seriously:
When you think of milk, what first comes to your mind? If you’re a millennial, you probably think of strong bones, Got Milk? commercials, or maybe eating your favorite cereal while watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. 

What about racism? White nationalism? If you’re having trouble finding the connection between these institutions and milk, you’re not alone. You, along with the rest of the nation, have been so accustomed to hearing the benefits of milk that you probably didn’t even realize the subtle racism hidden in our health facts. 

It may not surprise you that the United States was founded on racism. That every institution we uphold has racist roots that are sometimes difficult to catch and even harder to fight against. This phenomenon affects our voter ID laws, state testing and,  yes, even our federal dietary guidelines. But how can our health guidelines, a system meant to be built upon scientific fact alone, have racist messages? Where there is a deep-rooted tradition to suppress an entire race’s existence, there’s a way. 

The federal endorsement of milk in American diets contributes to the problem by uncritically pushing people to drink milk, despite the potential detriment it has on non-white people’s health.
Yes, it's scary that this person expects to be taken seriously.  What's worse is that I'm helping fund her so-called education.

I Absolutely Do Not Like Hearing This

Reports of sexual assaults increased at two of the three military academies last year and an anonymous survey suggests sexual misconduct rose across the board at the schools, The Associated Press has learned.

The new data underscore the challenge in stemming bad behavior by young people at the military college campuses, despite a slew of programs designed to prevent assaults, help victims and encourage them to come forward. The difficulties in some ways mirror those the larger military is struggling with amid revelations about Marines and other service members sharing nude photos on websites.

Assault reports rose at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, while dropping at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. The Air Force decline was sharp, going to 32 last year from 49 in 2015, contributing to an overall decrease in the overall number of reported assaults at the academies. The total reported cases fell to 86 from 91 in 2015, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.  link
This isn't good for anyone.  And it's just plain foul.