Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free Speech Must Be Alive and Well In This Country

It must be, or else the ACLU would address the problem, right?
Is the ACLU going soft on the First Amendment? That's the troubling question raised by University of Washington law professor Ronald Collins, who notes that the ACLU just began its annual fundraising campaign and released an accompanying "National ACLU Workplan," which, in the organization's own words, "lays out [the ACLU's] plans for the year ahead [and] always addresses the most critical civil liberties challenges facing our country."

Yet as Collins reports, "surprisingly, protecting free-speech freedoms is not listed as one of this year's 'critical civil liberties' issues. Neither of the documents contains any mention of the First Amendment."

The Ubiquity of the Cell Phone

When I got to my classroom this morning, I started through my regular procedure.  I reached into my bag to check my phone for messages one last time before I put it back into the bag and lock it in the closet for the rest of the day--and my phone wasn't in my bag.  I had forgotten it.

I felt that momentary pang of anxiety.  I'm not sure that it came from not having immediate contact with anyone and everyone; as I said, I keep my phone put away all through the school day anyway.  No, it came from not knowing exactly where the was.  I mean, I was 99% sure it was on my headboard, still connected to the charger, but that 1% gnawed at me.  But only momentarily.  I put the phone-less bag into the closet and carried on with my day as usual.

Yet, I did feel that pang of anxiety.  And I'm someone who spent the first 40+ years of his life without a cell phone.  I can understand a little more why my students, who have had a phone in their hands since they were toddlers, might have more anxiety than I do when trying to live without their phones for 60 minutes per class period.  I understand it, but I don't buckle to that understanding.  That anxiety might just as accurately be called an addiction and I see no reason to enable someone's addiction. 

Still, I got the slightest peek into that addiction today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Little Laugh

It was a very uneventful day, and I'm getting behind in my master's class--and I have no inspiration for writing here tonight.  Please enjoy this guy's very poor choice of t-shirts instead!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

It's My Job, Not My Calling

I don't know if I've had a "calling" since I got out of the army half my life ago.  I've done things I'm good at, but I never felt any mysterious "this is what I'm meant to do" feeling for them, and that includes being a teacher.  Turns out I'm not the only one:
Teachers are skilled professionals — not missionaries, writes Amanda Ripley in The Washingtonian. Talking about teaching as a low-status career for the selfless drives away the smart, ambitious people the profession needs.

Snacks On Student Birthdays

I've (jokingly) told students that on their birthdays, they should bring me a cupcake or donut or something similar in celebration.

Today a girl, let's call her Susan, brought in a pink box.  It contained about a half-dozen donuts, and I thought she was offering me one.  No, she gave me the whole thing for her birthday!  In fact, on top of the box she had written "Happy Susan's Birthday!" 

I ate the chocolate one, and then received her permission to share the remaining ones in the staff lounge.

Someone had given her funfetti cupcakes.  And balloons.  And that was just 1st period....

Monday, February 08, 2016


In my current master's class, History of Educational Thought, we're reading about different educators and education philosophers, and one of our most recent ones was Rousseau.

I don't like Rousseau.

He completely made crap up, wrote it down in his book Emile, and people fawn over him/it and proclaim what a brilliant thinker he was.  Maybe, but this is a guy who left his own kids at an orphanage and was a total failure the only time he ever tried being a personal tutor.  I'm not much interested in what he has to say about children, their development, or their education.

This post at Joanne's site reminded me of Rousseau:
The classroom is outdoors at The Alaska Forest School, reports Erin Kirkland in the Alaska Dispatch News.

Lia Keller asked preschoolers if they could “find the tunnel from last time” and they led the way to a downed cottonwood, where they could play “foxes and bears” in a pit under the root ball...

The forest school idea started in Europe, but has spread around the world. It seems like a perfect fit for Alaska, says Beka Land, whose daughters are five and three. “The natural consequences of exploring the outdoors and talking through choices is so valuable,” Land said. “As a family, we like the idea of an outdoors-centered program that lets kids pick their own path.”
I'm not saying that this Forest School idea is bad, I think that kids should spend more time outdoors--especially young children.  Rousseau carried it to an extreme, though.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Should Teachers Make Men Out Of Boys?

China tries some more social engineering--because, you know, that one-child policy has worked so well for them:
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”

Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom.

In Zhengzhou, a city on the Yellow River, schools have asked boys to sign pledges to act like “real men.” In Shanghai, principals are trying boys-only classes with courses like martial arts, computer repair and physics. In Hangzhou, in eastern China, educators have started a summer camp called West Point Boys, complete with taekwondo classes and the motto, “We bring out the men in boys.”

Education officials across China are aggressively recruiting male teachers, as the Chinese news media warns of a need to “salvage masculinity in schools.” The call for more male-oriented education has prompted a broader debate about gender equality and social identity at a time when the country’s leaders are seeking to make the labor market more meritocratic.

It also reflects a general anxiety about boys in Chinese society. While boys outnumber girls as a result of the longstanding one-child policy and a cultural preference for sons, they consistently lag in academic performance. Some parents worry about their sons’ prospects in an uncertain economy, so they are putting their hopes in male role models who they believe impart lessons on assertiveness, courage and sacrifice.

The view that there is an overabundance of female teachers that has had a negative effect on boys has, perhaps predictably, led to a backlash. Parents have accused schools of propagating rigid concepts of masculinity and gender norms, and female educators have denounced efforts to attract more male teachers with lavish perks as sexist.
On the other hand, the Society of Women Engineers sent some pamphlets to our school and asked us to hand them out. I refused, as their organization is sexist and exclusionary.  I half-jokingly remarked that perhaps I wouldn't have as much antipathy towards such organizations if there were similar organizations that tried to recruit boys and men into nursing or elementary teaching.  Reading the article above, though, I realize that I would have a problem with such organizations.  Can only men teach boys?  If "feminization" is the problem, shouldn't women teachers be taught how to be better teachers for boys?

So many problems when we start imposing our own views on others.

The Good Kind of Evil

From the party that brought you "for it before I was against it", let's really talk about big money in politics:
Former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) said Friday that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) should not boast about his freedom from super-PACs given his ties with organized labor.

“I don’t hear anybody asking Bernie Sanders for transcripts of some speech he made for a labor union,” he told host Andrea Mitchell on “MSNBC Live."

“For Bernie to say he doesn’t have a super-PAC…labor unions are super-PACs. Labor unions are super-PACs Democrats like so we don’t go after labor unions.”  (boldface mine--Darren)
Hypocrisy, thy name is the Democratic Party.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Abridging Free Speech While Claiming To Protect It

"Free speech zones" are so obviously unconstitutional that universities aren't planting their streamers on that particular totalitarian hill anymore.  No, now they're trying "bias response teams":
Universities are playing a dangerous constitutional game. They’re trying to deter speech they don’t like while avoiding creating policies or procedures that are plainly unconstitutional. As a result, they often do is create a “process-is-punishment” mechanism that subjects offending students to intrusive and humiliating investigations all the while claiming to any watching free speech advocates (or federal judges) that they’re not actually prohibiting protected speech, they’re just “investigating complaints.”

Friday, February 05, 2016

Sex, Laws, and Stupidity

I think some of our laws regarding sex crimes are draconian.  And sometimes their enforcement is just plain stupid.

Years ago, when my son was young, a neighbor suggested I check Megan's List.  I did, and found out a registered sex offender had moved into the neighborhood.  There was no indication that the person had anything to do with harming children, but all sex offenders are the same, right?  Someone who flashed someone is the same as a child rapist, that's the way the law is.

I noticed that, not far from me, there was a cluster of many sex offenders.  Turns out that there are requirements about where sex offenders--who, remember, have already done their time--can't live within a certain distance of a school.  So this one apartment complex has several sex offenders, because given its location (and cost relative to houses), it's one of the few places in the area where sex offenders can live after prison.  Doesn't matter if their offense had anything to do with kids or not.  They're all the same.

We don't label murderers when they get out.  Is there anyone--besides sex offenders--whom we do label and harass for the rest of their lives after they get out of prison?  I'm drawing a blank here.  It's clear to me we want them to suffer the rest of their lives, and this is how we do it.

This topic bothers me, not just because of what I see as the injustice of these particular laws, but also because of their application.  How many stories do we have to read of teenagers sexting each other and getting brought up on freakin' child pornography charges?  I can't believe that this is how our rather stringent laws were meant to be applied:
A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.

The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges...

Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.
I work with teenagers every day.  I know of students who have sent pictures of themselves, or even of others, to other students.  It's not something wise, it's not something I condone, it's not something I recommend, but I cannot imagine for the life of me that it's something worthy of lifelong stigma and legal harassment.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Knowledge, Good.

I get so tired of the "just look up the knowledge someone else already learned" canard:
The Knowledge Matters campaign is lobbying for schools to teach a broad curriculum including history, science, geography, art and music — especially to “those least likely to gain such knowledge outside school.”

You’d think there’d be no need to ask schools to teach knowledge, but it’s being pushed aside by drill in reading skills and by the belief that kids don’t need to know anything because they can just look everything up.
Can I get an "amen!"?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Have STEM, Will Travel

The two most intelligent people I know both went to state universities.  They both majored in engineering, too:
We’ve written before about how selective colleges function to perpetuate privilege, giving students access to exclusive resources, opportunities and networks that are unavailable to students who are just as bright but couldn’t impress an admissions committee at age 17—or who, for financial or personal reasons, didn’t want to go to a elite school. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the economists Erica Eide and Michael Himler, who have tallied earnings data for students across colleges and across different majors, offer an important qualification to his phenomenon: it only seems to apply to students who earn liberal arts degrees. Students with similar characteristics who major in STEM fields earn roughly the same wherever they go to college....
They've both done well for themselves.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

It's A (Post-)Christmas Miracle!

It doesn't matter what day of the week I give a test or a quiz on, there will be an inordinate number of students absent.    It's gotten out of hand.

Statistics classes, being all seniors, are especially bad at this.  So last week I put out the word:  the make-up quiz will be inordinately more difficult; so much so, I taunted, that I'll savor giving it.  I smiled a lot as I spoke.

Today we had our weekly "block schedule", having only odd-numbered periods.  Tomorrow we'll have even-numbered periods.  First period is especially bad, what with absences and tardies, but today not a single student was missing or late.  Third period was also 100% present.  Fifth period I teach a different class andt that class also had a quiz, but no one was absent--and I hadn't even threatened them with a harder make-up quiz!

My third stats class is tomorrow.  I'm curious to find out if everyone will be there to take the quiz.

It's clear everyone knows that I meant what I said.  Credibility pays dividends.

Update, 2/3/16:  The only two students that were absent today have been sick for several days.  Everyone else attended classes today.   Let me restate that:  in two days, I've had only two students miss class.