Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Starting School Later

Don't get me wrong--when I'm elected World Dictator, high school will go from 10am-5pm.  If, and it's a big if, there's still school sports, practices will be held before school.  Competitions will be held on the weekends. 

But that's just me.

I don't understand this push to start schools later.  I'm told that studies show that a later start time is better for teenagers, but I have questions that remain unanswered:

1)  Kids on farms get up early.
2)  Kids throughout history have gotten up early. 
3)  Do kids in other countries have this "late start time" issue, or is this strictly a US phenomenon?
4)  Has the problem gotten significantly worse in the age of handheld electronics?  In other words, is this partly a self-inflicted problem?

Is the problem such a major issue that it requires the intervention of the state legislature?
California lawmakers have rejected a bill to delay school start times, but the measure will likely resurface in January.
Here's an argument for local control:
The California School Boards Association, the leading opponent of the bill, argues that local school boards should be in control of start times and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for all 3,000 secondary schools in the state. The association says the bill will increase the need for supervision before school, create hardships for working families and wreak havoc on schools that purposely stagger start times to meet student demand for bus transportation. Rural districts could apply for a waiver to postpone implementation. 
Sacramento knows best.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article173547526.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article173547526.html#storylink=cpy

Who's Number One?

Is it Berkeley?
Sacramento-area residents looking for a top public university to attend don’t have to go far, according to a national report.

University of California, Davis, ranks 12th on U.S. News & World Report’s recent survey of top public schools. It’s tied with University of Wisconsin-Madison on a list of 132 schools.

The top 10 public schools list includes five other UC campuses, including Berkeley at No. 1. 
Or is it West Point?
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
Inquiring minds want to know.

Things Aren't Perfect In Socialist Medicine Paradise? Huh. Go Figure.

For whatever reason, the Brits love their National Health Service.  They know the horror stories, they know and experience the long waits for treatment, but still they love it.  Stockholm Syndrome never had a finer example.

How can medical paradise need more doctors?
American physician assistants are being enticed over to the United Kingdom amid staffing shortages - with promises of long vacations in Europe.
What, no mention of pay?  How are those working conditions?
The National Health Service (NHS) is offering £1,000 ($1,350) to cover their relocation, 41 days paid vacation a year, and free flights home during holidays.

Ultimately, officials say the plan is to recruit up to 3,200 PAs to perform minor operations and monitor wards.
3200?  Why such a shortage? 

A couple paragraphs down we get to the pay:
According to recruitment materials, foreign PAs would earn £30,000 ($40,460) a year.
That doesn't strike me as much for someone who can cut into you, but I'm not really up on the pay of medical professionals.

The article never mentioned why there's such a shortage....

Monday, September 18, 2017

An Idiot With A Degree

A university professor who doesn't believe in free speech?  Color me shocked.

I admit that the concept isn't flawless, but I defy anyone to come up with a better one.  It's like democracy and capitalism--they're bad, except for everything else.

Anyway, you need to read the whole thing in order to plumb the depths of this particular professor's insanity.  Seriously, go read it.
The lecture, given by Prof. Carolyn Rouse, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Director of the Program in African Studies, was entitled “F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist’s Take on Campus Speech Debates.”
Oh, a "studies" person.  Nice.

And here's where we learn that Professor Rouse doesn't know much history:
Towards the beginning of the lecture, Rouse noted that JMP (the James Madison Project) “censored” the lecture title by listing it by a different name on its website—omitting the vulgarity used in other publicity materials. Rouse made a point to “rub it in” that JMP made the edit “to be politically correct,” clarifying that “I use the term ‘politically correct’ deliberately, because ‘politically correct’ simply means ‘appropriate.’”
The origin of the phrase "politically correct" is Stalinist, and what might be "appropriate" if you want to stay alive in Stalin's Soviet Union doesn't quite approach anything that might be considered even marginally related to "truth", if Professor Rouse even believes in any "truth" other than what the marble that rolls around in her skull causes her to believe in at any given moment.

Propagating a Bad Statistic

No one truly believes that 1/5 of women will experience a sexual assault in college.  Such a rate would be worse than some of the most unsafe countries on the planet.  If anyone believed that, they wouldn't go to college, or send their daughters to college.

Yet here we have The Economist spreading the lie:
ANY sentence containing the phrases “Donald Trump” and “campus sexual assault” could reasonably be expected to conclude with the word “outrage”. Yet when Mr Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, announced her intention to “revoke or rescind” directives to universities on handling sexual assault issued by the Obama administration, the move was quietly welcomed by plenty of colleges. The Obama administration’s determination to discourage campus sexual assault—which is suffered by as many as a fifth of women attending college—was well-intentioned, but poorly thought out.
One could argue that technically, The Economist is correct--they did say "as many as a fifth".  They'd be just as correct had they said "as many as 99%", too, so I don't accept the quibble.

The 1-in-5 number is a bad statistic that traveled around the world before the truth even got out of bed.

According to the Washington Post:
In the Winter of 2006, researchers used a Web-based survey to interview undergraduates at two large public universities, one in the Midwest and one in the South. A total of 5,446 undergraduate women, between the ages of 18-25, participated as part of a random sample. The survey was anonymous and took about 15 minutes to complete. (Participants received a $10 Amazon.com certificate for participating.)
My introductory statistics students can pick apart the problems presented in this paragraph; toss in a low response rate, and anyone who uses that information deserves to be mocked.

Politifact tells the same story, with this tidbit tossed in:
"This ‘one in five’ statistic shouldn’t just be taken with a grain of salt but the entire shaker," said James Fox, professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University.
The author of the Economist article should be ashamed of him/herself.   The Economist should do better.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

You'd Think This Would Be Max Male-hatred, But I'm Sure There's More (and sillier) To Come

There's no indication that this article is meant to be anything other than sober and sincere:
Some of you will think we’re daft. Some will wonder what kind of jobs we have if we have enough time on our hands to dream this kind of thing up. Some of you may even think we’re having you on. Our intentions, however, are honourable.

Playful urination practices – from seeing how high you can pee to games such as Peeball (where men compete using their urine to destroy a ball placed in a urinal) – may give boys an advantage over girls when it comes to physics. And we believe there’s something we can do about it.

No doubt you have some questions, the first is probably: what could possibly lead us to believe this?
Daft? That's the nicest I'll think of them.

I was expecting their solution to this "gender gap" to be that boys should be required to sit down when taking a pee.  Fortunately, their solution is slightly less foolish:
However, we can make a change: it’s not necessary for physics curricula to begin with projectile motion. Other topics, such as energy conservation, which is more central to physics, could be taught first instead...

Girls are already at a cultural disadvantage in a traditionally male-dominated subject: let’s not add an embodied disadvantage by unthinkingly sticking with traditional curriculum sequencing.
Serious question:  why does no one freak out about not enough men in women-dominated fields?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A Rebuttal to Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you want to be a victim, you will be successful.  If you don't want to, you'll sound like this:
Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I read your book Between the World and Me, an elegant and poetic elegy written to your son on “the question,” as you put it, “of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the [American] Dream.” In the book, you reflect on your revelatory experiences, from the fears you felt growing up in your neighborhood in Baltimore to attending Howard University to visiting the South Side of Chicago to your relentless study of African history to your reckoning with the meaning of the Civil War. Many of your readers will come to know the often lonely and exilic world in which you, as an individual black man, have lived for many years. But your book, while moving, reads primarily like an American horror story and, I’m sorry to say, a declaration of war against my adopted country.

My fear is that Between the World and Me aims to reach far beyond the scope of the reader’s moral imagination and into the actual lives of Americans, black or white, who share this thing you refer to as the Dream. My concern is that you and your book function as deputized stand-ins for the black male and the black experience in America, respectively. And I believe that as stand-ins, both fail.

Because I write as a black immigrant who chose to live in the United States, whose biggest hope as a child was to become an American citizen, and who chose to embrace the American Dream you condemn, please consider these words my Declaration of Independence—an independence that only my beloved America could have given to me.
America is still a beacon of freedom and opportunity in the world, and I want to keep it that way.

Diversity Hasn't Always Been Considered An Asset

A historical perspective can shed a little light on why nirvana has not been reached in our culturally-diverse society.  I've shamelessly lifted the following from Instapundit:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Diversity Can Spell Trouble.

America is experiencing a diversity and inclusion conundrum—which, in historical terms, has not necessarily been a good thing. Communities are tearing themselves apart over the statues of long-dead Confederate generals. Controversy rages over which slogan—“Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter”—is truly racist. Antifa street thugs clash with white supremacists in a major American city. Americans argue over whether the USC equine mascot “Traveler” is racist, given the resemblance of the horse’s name to Robert E. Lee’s mount “Traveller.” Amid all this turmoil, we forget that diversity was always considered a liability in the history of nations—not an asset.

Ancient Greece’s numerous enemies eventually overran the 1,500 city-states because the Greeks were never able to sublimate their parochial, tribal, and ethnic differences to unify under a common Hellenism. The Balkans were always a lethal powder keg due to the region’s vastly different religions and ethnicities where East and West traditionally collided—from Roman and Byzantine times through the Ottoman imperial period to the bloody twentieth century. Such diversity often caused destructive conflicts of ethnic and religious hatred. Europe for centuries did not celebrate the religiously diverse mosaic of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, but instead tore itself apart in a half-millennium of killing and warring that continued into the late twentieth century in places like Northern Ireland.

In multiracial, multiethnic, and multi-religious societies—such as contemporary India or the Middle East—violence is the rule in the absence of unity.

Well, luckily we have Social Justice types to remind everyone that they’re not supposed to get along.
Yes, lucky us.

Schools That Work

The philosophy behind Success Academy charter schools is what used to guide public schools, before bleeding hearts and litigious hustlers removed any sense of discipline:
In 2006, she founded Harlem Success Academy, which grew into the Success Academy charter-school network that today includes 46 schools across the city.

Success Academy breeds success: Its inner-city students outperformed every other school district in the state in the 2017 exams. And one big secret to that success has been the application of the kinds of tactics and strategies that helped bring the city back from the brink more than once — this time, applied to education.

Both “broken windows” policing and Success Academy schooling target minor infractions that create a culture of chaos.

Writing about dealing with disruptive students in 2006-07, Success Academy’s first year, Moskowitz notes that when teachers are unable to stop even one student’s incessant misbehavior, it “can have a domino effect . . . and soon the teacher is playing whack-a-mole rather than teaching.”
Almost every teacher in the country will tell you this is so. Many will also tell you that their hands are tied in the realm of discipline.  Suspension is seen as a bad thing--and even racist!  Standards of discipline are different for different racial groups or for special education students.  Student displays of open defiance or disrespect are not considered troublesome by administration; in fact, they're seen as indicative of a failing on the part of the teacher!  And schools didn't do this on their own--no, lawsuits and investigations by state and federal departments/offices of civil rights did this, assuming that problems and disparities lie with biased adults instead of with misbehaving children.

And while we're teaching students that they can disregard rules with impunity, how is their academic performance coming along?  Anyone think America's schools are the best in the world, or are even improving?

Moskowitz isn't onto some magical secret.  Her philosophy is one based in common sense, one that recognizes reality and rejects unicorn farts and fairy dust.

Update:  School safety is more important than racial balance in suspensions.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I Figured Out Why One Of My Classes Has Me Down

My district switched to so-called integrated math a few years ago, and at my school we've added a new course each year.  We started with Integrated Math 1 two years ago, added Integrated Math 2 and 2+ last year (2+ is a fast track to calculus), and this year we added Integrated Math 3 and 3+ (students in 3+ will take calculus next year, by passing pre-calculus). 

Would I rather have stuck with Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2?  Heck yes!  And so would the vast majority of my district's math teachers.  That wasn't the input the district suits wanted, though....

Anyway, my department co-chair and I are teaching the two 3+ classes.  We've already planned out which lessons are to be covered each day for the entire school year so that we can cover the material needed to prepare students for calculus.  Not only is there no time for reteaching, there's not enough time for teaching in the first place.

I've been somewhat stressed lately, feeling like I'm not a very good teacher in that course.  These are exceptionally capable students, and I'm just shoveling information at them as fast as they can take it.  If they can take it, what's the matter, right?  Aren't I usually the person who says we should let students accelerate as fast as they can handle?  Yet here I am, in a super-accelerated class, and I feel like I'm not really teaching. Since I pride myself on my teaching, this class has me down.

Something's not right, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it--until yesterday.

As I said, I'm shoveling those students the information as fast as I can. The problem is that I'm not teaching.  I'm showing students how to solve problems, teaching them what they need to know how to do, but I'm not teaching them why what I'm teaching them works.  I'm not giving them the background information that explains an algorithm or amplifies a concept.  Here's the task, learn it, move on.

All that deep understanding, all the Common Core stuff?  That's what I'm not doing.  Believe me when I tell you that there isn't time to do so.  I've stated that I have these kids drinking from a fire hose, and that analogy isn't so extreme.  There isn't time in a 60 minute class to teach more.

That's what's been bothering me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

We're #1! We're #1!

The major Sacramento newspaper tells the truth about the 6th (or 7th or 8th, depending on who you listen to) largest economy in the world:
One in five Californians lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” factors in cost of living and shows a stubbornly high share of Golden State residents in poverty even as the national rate has dropped slightly.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article172973181.html#storylink=cpy

If It's Such A Great Idea....

Gotta give credit to this person for his creativity:
Republicans worry about vote fraud. Democrats claim that Republicans are just imagining things. But in testimony Tuesday before the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, I will suggest a simple solution that could make both parties happy: Apply the background check system for gun purchases to voting.

Democrats have long lauded background checks on gun purchases as simple, accurate and in complete harmony with the Second Amendment right to own guns. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has bragged that the checks “make our communities and neighborhoods safer without in any way abridging rights or threatening a legitimate part of the American heritage.”

If Democrats really believe that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System doesn’t interfere “in any way” with people’s constitutional rights to own a gun, doesn't it follow that the same system would not constitute an infringement on people’s right to vote? This would give Republicans a system for stopping vote fraud and Democrats a system that they have already vigorously endorsed.
Voting and owning firearms are both constitutional rights....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Another Good Showing

My alma mater looks good in the US News rankings:
United States Military Academy is ranked #12 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.
There's more detail:

Undergraduate data are based on the 2016 school year.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Time Bomb Waiting To Blow

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, our school had a nurse.  I don't know if she was an LVN or an RN or something else, but she was most definitely a nurse--wore a white coat and cap and everything.  If you needed medication, she kept it and administered it to you.  If you had a headache, you went to her office and perhaps lied down on a bed for an hour or so; when your headache was gone you went back to class.

It was an eminently reasonable setup.

Fast-forward a few decades, and my school has a nurse--perhaps one day a week.  What good is that?  She has a small office--essentially a closet in our library, no room and no beds.  What good is that?  She does some paperwork.

You know who keeps and administers medication at our school?  The principal's secretary.  You know who's responsible for knowing what to do should any student with a known medical condition have an "issue"?  The classroom teacher.  Yes, we're sent a copy of the "student health plan".  One I recently received gave step-by-step instructions on what to do if this particular student--what, I don't even remember now.  Was it a bee sting?  Was it some other allergy?  I have 165 students a day, I'm supposed to memorize those for whom I've received a "health plan", and remember what's in it?  I remember that this most recent health plan I was given included detailed instructions for using an epipen.  There's no freakin' way.  I'm not a medical professional.  You can talk all day long about how a student's life may hang in the balance unless I act, but that's expecting too much of me.  I'm not going to stab a kid with an epipen.  I'm just not going to do it, Good Samaritan Law or no Good Samaritan Law.  I don't have training, I don't want training.  If I wanted that training I'd have majored in pre-med instead of math (not that West Point had a pre-med major, but that's not the point).

A few years ago there was concern about students who had seizures.  I don't recall if there was a specific student in mind or if this was just a general concern, but that year seizures were the big bad.  Apparently there is some medication, a gel that is inserted anally, that does something good for people having seizures.  Anyway, our administration asked for volunteers to attend training on how to administer this gel to a student having a seizure.  No one took them up on this generous offer.  No teacher wants to be responsible for that.  We accepted a job to teach, not to be a surrogate EMT.

Essentially, our district is being cheap and is trying to put this extra responsibility on us teachers instead of where it rightly belongs.  You want to point fingers at me for not wanting to be medically responsible for students?  Point fingers at my district for not putting a nurse at each school!  Nurses know what to do, and in many cases they know what to do without thinking about it.  During an emergency, I, on the other hand, would have to go to my file cabinet, determine if there's a health plan for a particular student, determine if the current emergency is the one mentioned in the student health plan, read step-by-step instructions, and then determine I'm not qualified (or not willing) to do some of the things in that plan.  Time would have been better spent having the nurse rush over.

Eventually this broken system will have to change.  Know when it will change?  After some kid gets hurt by it.  Some kid who should have had a nurse available will suffer, and only then will there be pressure on the district to do what's right.  But it'll be too late for that kid, hopefully not too late for that kid.

At school we have kids with severe allergies and other severe medical conditions.  If we're going to insist that those students be at a public school, we should staff that school appropriately.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Is there a causal relationship here?  If so, which way does it go?
American high school students with poor grades are much more likely to have unhealthy behaviors -- including illegal drug use -- than teens at the top of the class, federal health officials say.

There's a strong link between teens' health habits and their academic achievement, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.

"As our nation's children embark on another school year, it's important to remember that health and academic performance are not mutually exclusive," said the CDC's director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald.
Read a little farther and my question is answered:
The study doesn't show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, "these findings highlight the connection between student health and academic achievement. Schools, parents and communities can all work together to ensure a healthy and successful future for our children," Fitzgerald said in an agency news release.
Remember back during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations, when people who had no business getting a bank loan were given loans for houses?  The thought was something like, "People who have their own homes make more money, are less involved in the criminal justice system, are more invested in their communities, and are in general more stable and are better citizens.  If we get more people to own homes, we'll have more people who make more money, are less involved in the criminal justice system, are more invested in their communities, and are in general more stable and are better citizens."  The problem is that home ownership didn't cause those things, it was a marker for certain bourgeois values that contribute to success in our society.  Owning a house doesn't confer those values, but acceptance of those values makes it more likely for a person to own a house.

The same is probably true in the article linked above.  Students whose families have certain values, mores, and behaviors--eat a good breakfast, delay some gratification, stay out of trouble--are probably more inclined to do better in school.  For example, I find that a large percentage of my upscale students live with both parents; anyone who tells you that that isn't a big checkmark in the student's favor is lying to you.  Everyone knows that it is, on the whole, better for kids.  It's a marker, an indication, of certain things (in the aggregate).

What I'm saying is this:  kids who do poorly don't necessarily do poorly because of drugs.  They might do poorly and use drugs because they do not live in a family or community with values, mores, and behaviors that promote doing well in school and staying away from drugs.

Culture matters.

The bleeding hearts will say I'm blaming the "victim".  My reply is that mine is the most obvious answer, even if it is an "inconvenient truth" for them.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

It's Booked

For my week off next February, here's what my friend and I came up with:

Option A:  Iceland.  Again.  Most expensive option, but also the most exciting.
Option B:  St. Maarten.  This was an option before the hurricane.  I assume that much will be repaired 5 months from now.  Our trip would be a valuable contribution to their economy.  Midling option.
Option C:  Mexican Riviera Cruise.  Cheapest and easiest option, also the least exotic.

After consultation today the decision has been made.  I've already booked the flight, and I've sent my friend 4 Airbnb options from which to choose.

Which option do you think we chose?  Here's a hint: