Sunday, December 16, 2018

I've Seen This Coming From A Mile Away

Liberals like to control language, practice groupthink, and punish doubleplusungood behaviors.  Orwell's 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a how-to manual, but the lefties have learned well:
A Virginia high school teacher who refused to use a transgender student’s new pronouns has been fired...

It’s not suggested that the 47-year-old West Point High School French teacher deliberately referred to the student using female pronouns in the student’s presence, but in conversations with others.

Witnesses described a “slip-up” when the student was about to run into a wall and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming made it clear he would not use male pronouns, a stance that led to his suspension referral for disciplinary action.
That's what's so insidious about this pronoun flap--this man was fired because he used the student's biologically-based pronoun to others.  Not to the student, but to others.  If teachers are going to be fired for how they refer to students when those students aren't even present, then board up the staff rooms and turn out the lights, school's closed.

Friday, December 14, 2018

A Novel Use Of Mathematics

Can Scrabble be improved?
You can find Lynda Woods Cleary playing Scrabble every Tuesday at a Panera in Princeton, NJ. Cleary, a 68-year-old retired financial consultant, has been playing every week for 20 years since founding the Princeton Scrabble Club in 1998. When I asked her if she’s ever disappointed to draw certain tiles, she looked surprised, even hurt. “Oh no,” she said with an Alabama twang. “I want each and every one.”

It’s a sweet sentiment, but according to a 2014 statistical program written by Joshua Lewis, then a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, San Diego, it isn’t a sensible one. His study showed that there are “lucky” tiles in Scrabble: A “Q” is harder to place on a board than a “Z,” and yet both are worth 10 points. Therefore, it’s luckier to draw a “Z” than a “Q.” Lewis argued that the traditional values associated with each letter diminish the role of skill in the game, and recommended changing them to make Scrabble scores more indicative of skill.
Read the whole thing :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Taxing Air

When I was a child I heard it said that if the Swiss could find a way to tax you for the air you breathe, they would.  I haven't been to Switzerland since 1975 or 76 but I remember it was quite an expensive place.

California is giving Switzerland a run for its money.  California isn't considering taxing our breaths yet, but something that doesn't even require air to operate:
California state regulators have been working on a plan to charge mobile phone users a text messaging fee intended to fund programs that make phone service accessible to the low-income residents, reports said Tuesday...

Charges may also be applied retroactively to messages sent in the past five years, which has raised questions concerning the proposal’s legality, Rufus Jeffress, vice president of the Bay Area Council, told the San Francisco Bay Area's KNTV-TV. The “alarming precedent” could chalk up to a bill of more than $220 million for consumers, the Mercury News reported.

The wireless industry argues that the fees would put carriers at a disadvantage since competing messaging services like Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp would not be charged the new fees, FOX11 reported.

Those against the proposal said that wireless customers already pay into the state’s Public Purpose Programs, which they call “healthy and well-funded” with nearly $1 billion in its budget, the Mercury News reported. But state regulators disagree, saying the budget has increased more than $300 million over six years, KNTV reported.
Socialism is expensive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Baby, It's Not Cold Outside. It's Cold In Your Heart.

Today at lunch a fellow teacher was talking about how rape-y Baby It's Cold Outside is.  I suggested he think for himself and quit following the herd of leftidiots who try to take all pleasure out of anything.

Seriously.  Baby It's Cold Outside is about rape?  Really?  Really?  Everyone's grandma loves that song!  "That's because they didn't listen to the lyrics", he said.  Really?  You don't think it's possible they listened to the lyrics and decided that, rather than forcible and unwanted sex, the song is about canoodling and a little (consensual) nookie?  Persuasion is very different from coercion.  Unless you want to claim that the song, when written, implies the drink was spiked, rather than the more obvious "I want an excuse to say yes so I'll suggest this drink is strong", well, if you're the one who's always hearing dog whistles, then you must be the dog.

I wrote the following years ago, and it rings true in this current manufactured brouhaha:
Christmas certainly started out as a religious celebration, but it now has a secular component. Until someone can show me in the Sacred Scrolls passages about a fat man in a red suit living at the North Pole with his flying reindeer and elves, that part is secular.

Yet some will still scream. It's like they think they have power in a politically-correct world, and want to use it. It doesn't really matter what the outcome is, only that they precipitated that outcome.

I think that's the way many who "oppose" the Pledge of Allegiance are--they just want their pathetic existences to have some meaning, even if it brings no good at all.

So when someone (who, interestingly enough, chooses to remain anonymous) tries to get Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer removed from the kindergarten Christmas show solely because the song has the word "Christmas" in it, you have to wonder--evil, stupid, pathetic, or some mixture of all the above?
Lefties should lighten up and try, just try, to enjoy the world a little bit.

Fortunately, some people have realized that the lefties have gone too far with BICO and are returning it to the airwaves.

My favorite conservative response to the imbroglio:  "Liberals will support misogynist, hate-filled, violent rap music, but BICO is unacceptable!"

Christmas Songs

About a year ago I wrote about Christmas songs I don't like.  Know which one I woke up to this morning?  Freakin' Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.

Sheesh.

At least I've never heard that NKOTB song on the radio!

Monday, December 10, 2018

What Constitutes Good Civics Education?

One author has an opinion:
One perceived upside of the Trump administration has been an increase in political and civic engagement, especially among liberals. This change has trickled down to schools: As The New York Times reported in June, there has been a revival in civics courses in middle and high school over the past year and a half. For someone passionate about civics education, this should be a source of optimism. But the subject matter of these civics courses is what matters, and a significant share of these new classes have been focused on increasing civic activism. “Getting out the vote” and engaging in activism should only come after students have weighed the arguments on every side of each issue.

In civics courses, once students have a basic understanding of how the U.S. political system works, the next step should be teaching them how to think about political issues, not how to act. Activism is meaningless if it’s not backed by a well-informed understanding of all sides of an issue. An ideal civics program would teach students the principles, facts, and proposed solutions associated with each issue, and then allow them to come to their own conclusions...

In order to train the next generation of citizens and voters, we need a serious approach to civics education that focuses on critical thinking before action.
And that means knowing something. As I've said so often, you can't think critically about something about which you don't know anything.

Virtue Signaling vs Vice Signaling

Gotta love those "hate has no home here" signs that some people put in front of their houses:
What’s up with that, you might wonder. This is a peaceful, upscale, decidedly un-diverse neighborhood. The greatest threat to suburban peace is the lone homeowner whose lawn looks a tad overgrown. There’s nothing to suggest that anyone is a racist or bigot. So again: What’s going on?

Someone came up with the label “virtue signaling” to describe the psychological impulse behind these signs. The idea is that people who put them up want to tell you how noble they are. But that doesn’t sound right. Virtue-signalers aren’t in any way in doubt about their own virtue. What they really want to do is signal how depraved others are.

It’s about vice signaling, not virtue signaling.

A couple of people on the block are Trump supporters. Those signs are likely meant for them. There’s no interaction between the two groups, and the signs are meant to keep it that way.

A couple of years back there used to be Fourth of July street picnics there. But the shindigs haven’t happened the last couple of years, and I don’t think I’ll see them again soon. Vice signaling breaks up communities, and there’s a lot of it today...
After a few examples:
Rather than blame themselves, it was much easier to transfer the guilt to conservatives. That’s how vice signaling became the language of liberal politics.
Then let's move on to universities:
Those toxic-masculinity classes aren’t really about protecting women, however. They never could do so, but that’s not the point. Rather they’re about vice signaling, about telling us that people on the wrong side of the gender gap are by nature evil.

All this reminds us that the demand for sensitivity can be employed for strategic and partisan purposes. And so it is in the transgender wars.
Conclusion?
And if you’re a conservative, how should you respond? Not by being defensive. Instead, tell them you have nothing to apologize for. Tell them to look into their own souls.

A Good Night's Sleep

For several nights I didn't feel like I was getting restful sleep.  Late yesterday afternoon I thought that perhaps the waterbed wasn't warm enough, so I upped the temperature about 2 degrees.  Except for waking up at 1am after a particularly bad dream, I slept like a baby and felt great when I got up.

They may be 1970's chic and 1970's technology, but I do love waterbeds!

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Influential Green Leftist Speaks The Truth

I give the moonbat credit for being intellectually honest:
George Monbiot of the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian has a must-read column in which he admits that because of a whole series of intellectual mistakes, the global green movement’s policy prescriptions are hopelessly flawed.

Read the whole piece for a thoughtful and brutally clear expose of the intellectual bankruptcy of the green movement from one of the smartest people in it. This is what I’ve been getting at for more than a year here: regardless of what is happening to Planet Earth, the green movement does not have coherent and workable solutions.

Greens like to have it both ways. They warn darkly about “peak oil” and global resource shortages that will destroy our industrial economy in its tracks — but also warn that runaway economic growth will destroy the planet through the uncontrolled effects of mass industrial productions. Both doomsday scenarios cannot be true; one cannot simultaneously die of both starvation and gluttony.

Monbiot gets it, and furthermore concedes one of the main arguments of the anti-green case. The ‘problem’ is not a shortage of carbon rich non-renewable futures. The problem is the abundance of these fuels. We are not running out of hydrocarbons; shale natural gas, tar sands and coal offer enormous reserves that can cover our needs for the foreseeable future. We have an abundance of fossil fuel. Moreover, it seems likely that for a very long time to come, fossil fuels will be substantially cheaper and more abundant that expensive renewables. (One should also note that these new fuel sources are found in places like Canada and the United States rather than Saudi Arabia and Iran.)

More, Monbiot also acknowledges the contradictory and inconsistent nature of the green solutions. He acknowledges that there is no prospect for democratic politics to impose the draconian limits on consumption and economic activity that green dogma requires. Every ‘solution’ the greens have come up with has a fatal flaw of some kind; none of it works, none of it makes any sense.
As the smart man says, "read the whole thing."

Saturday, December 08, 2018

In Other News, New Study Again Finds That Water Is Wet

This "learning styles" myth just refuses to die:
For years, psychologists and neuroscientists have questioned the idea of "learning styles"—the theory that students can process information best when teachers tailor instruction to students' strengths. These frameworks often rely on grouping students into categories, like auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners, or concrete versus abstract learners.

Now, a new study in Frontiers in Education offers further evidence that these designations may be unreliable: When it comes to an individual student's preferred learning style, teachers and students don't agree on how students learn best...

At this point, many researchers consider learning styles to be a myth. Prior research has shown little evidence that learning-style theory holds up. A 2009 meta-analysis of thousands of articles published on the subject found that most didn't test the concept in an experimental setting. Of those that did, several offered results that contradicted the theory...

And Papadatou-Pastou said that learning styles aren't only ineffectual—they can also have real consequences for students. Categorizing students by their perceived or self-reported strengths could discourage them from seeking new challenges, she said.
And multiple intelligences?  I'd be happy if more people demonstrated at least one intelligence.  (Wow, I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age!)

Male Privilege

How about that toxic masculinity?

Liberals who believe in those two faux concepts are idiots.  They just are.

My 2 Favorite Words In The English Language

Touchdown, Army!

Update, 3 1/2 hrs later:  It was closer than I'd have liked, but a W is a W!

A Silly Idea

One of the stupidest ideas in a long time to come along in education is the idea of "interventions", specifically interventions during school time.

Here's how they're supposed to work:  since it's not "equitable" to expect some students to come before or after school for extra assistance, we're supposed to cut instructional time in order to carve out time during the school day for students who need extra assistance ("interventions" or "remediation", in the new educational parlance).

If you're asking how having less time to teach and learn is supposed to help all students, you're not alone.  If you think that cutting teaching and learning time risks creating even more students who don't do well in class, you're not alone.

Not everyone has drunk this particular flavor of Kool-Aid, though.  Just like the "magic of summer school", whereby students can somehow master in 6 weeks all the material they couldn't learn even minimally in 37 weeks, or remedial classes that promise to catch students up (especially) in the math that they're so far behind in, some wonder what magic takes place during remediation/interventions:
Let’s define “remediation” as any process which promises to teach a topic in a short time to an older student to an achievement level comparable to that of a peer student, who started younger and spent a longer time, being taught the same topic via a more traditional process.

If the remediation process or method worked, why would we NOT use it with ALL the other, younger, students for the shorter time? Why would we teach most students years worth of algebra or critical thinking skills or whatever, starting in middle school, when we could (via the magical remedial methods) teach them just as much in a single year? If “remedial” methods work, why do we NOT replace replace “traditional” methods entirely and use ONLY remedial methods with all students?
That snip is a comment on a post about remediation. Read the post itself and let me know what you think.

How Does This Happen In The People's Republik?

If this is the "progress" that so-called progressives want, count me out:
The state Department of Education deemed more than 61 percent of California students socioeconomically disadvantaged in 2018 as schools continued to lag in English and mathematics, according to a Thursday report on the state’s public education system.

The department updated its California School Dashboard to reflect that schools maintained test scores just below the standard in English and worse in mathematics, marking continued substandard testing from last year.
How can Shangri-La have 61% of its students be “socioeconomically disadvantaged”? Are the unicorn farts with which we pay for all our social benefits not fixing all the state’s problems?

What The Heck Was This Teacher Thinking?

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs:
A high school teacher in central California was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment after forcibly cutting the hair of one of her students while singing the national anthem, authorities said.

Margaret Gieszinger was arrested Wednesday after videos posted to social media showed a student at University Preparatory High School in the city of Visalia sitting in a chair at the front of the classroom as Gieszinger cuts his hair.

In a video obtained by KFSN-TV, the 52-year-old science and chemistry teacher is heard belting the “Star Spangled Banner” while cutting chunks of the boy’s hair and tossing them behind her. The circumstances of what led the teacher to cut the student’s hair were not immediately known.

After cutting the boy’s hair, Gieszinger grabs at a girl’s long hair before the students make a run for it out of the classroom, the video shows.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Political Violence

The vast majority of the political violence in this country is committed by those on the Left.  Here's a shamelessly lifted post from Instapundit just so we don't forget these specific acts:
ANNALS OF DEMOCRAT VIOLENCE: Rand Paul’s attacker: ‘I lost it and became irate.’
Flashback: Bernie Bro James T. Hodgkinson, Attempted Assassin Of Steve Scalise, Already Being Erased From History.
Plus:
● Hillary: ‘You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.’
● Former Attorney General Eric Holder: “Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”
Politico: After failing to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Democrats wonder if it’s time to be more ruthless.
Democrat Doxxer Threatened To Reveal Senators’ Children’s Health Information.
DC restaurant: We’ve received death threats after Ted Cruz, wife forced out by protesters.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ): We Are Less Than 60 Days From Totally ‘Kicking the S–t Out of the Republicans.’
Networks Silent On Attempted Stabbing of GOP Candidate By Anti-Trump Attacker.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) Jokes About Threatening Trump Supporters ‘All The Time.’
Their calls for "civility" were only expected to go one way.

Keep The Unions On Their Heels

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
--Thomas Jefferson

Yes, thanks to Mark Janus, his legal team, and the State Policy Network, among others, millions of us across the country have been freed from the immoral requirement that we pay an outside agency, a union, or else not hold the jobs we desire.  But don't expect that to be the end.  Already, unions are trying to find ways to sneak around that decision--requirements that people only be allowed to leave a union in a very short time window, for example, or trying to require people to stay in a union until the current contract expires (sometimes years in the future).  In California the unions have gone even further, shepherding through the legislature a law that allows unions (but no other organizations) unfettered access to new government employees--no doubt they'll inform such a captive audience about the right not to join or pay a union.

The Janus decision was not the end of our entanglement with unions.  Whether it was the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning, I cannot say, but it was not the end.  We must be eternally vigilant to ensure that our right not to pay is union is never infringed again.

Some will want to play defense and just swat away future union attempts to extort money from us.  Of course, though, the best defense is a good offense--so how do we play offense?  We cannot rest on Janus' laurels, rather we need to continue to take the fight to the unions!  Already there are lawsuits working their way through the courts asking that unions be required to reimburse those of us for the agency fees we were unjustly required to pay for so many years.  Here's another idea:
By recognizing the inherently political nature of public sector unions—which exist to influence government spending decisions, in addition to lobbying, political advocacy, and electing candidates sympathetic to their interests—the Court in Janus opened the door to First Amendment challenges to other common practices, such as taxpayer subsidies to public employee unions in the form of “release time” provisions...

With Abood overruled as a precedent, what’s next? If the compelled payment of agency fees violates the free speech rights of government employees, taxpayer subsidies of public sector unions should likewise be unconstitutional. In Janus, the Court compared public sector unions to a political party, and indicated that the First Amendment would not permit a state law requiring all residents to sign a document expressing support for a political party’s platform. Compelled financial support is equally problematic, the Court held in Janus...

Assuming that public employee unions are inherently political, that collective bargaining in the public sector entails political speech, and that compelled financial support of political speech implicates the First Amendment, the reasoning of Janus logically extends to direct payments of taxpayer funds to subsidize the operations of public sector unions. One of the biggest subsidies is the widespread but little-known practice of government employers paying the salary and benefits of union officials even though they exclusively perform union duties.  This practice, variously called “release time,” “official time,” or “association business leave,” is common at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—and is often sought by public-sector unions in collective-bargaining agreements.

This practice, sometimes described as “union time, taxpayer dime,” allows government employees who are also full-time union officials to collect their full salary without rendering any services on behalf of the public; to the contrary, union officials actively work against the interests of the taxpayers through labor negotiations, grievance adjustment, lobbying, and political advocacy. But for the hidden “release time” subsidy, unions would have to compensate their officers using union dues. Instead, taxpayers are forced to fund the unions’ inherently-political operations.
If they're ever given over to anything but anger, the unionistas might, just might, wonder why I want to take away so many of the privileges that unions have enjoyed over the years.  They'll accuse us pro-Janus workers of wanting to destroy unions, blah blah blah.  I don't want to destroy unions.  I believe in unions--just like I believe in voluntary associations of people.  What I don't agree with is compulsion, and the unions have been allowed to go so far with compulsion that they deserve to be slapped down, and quite hard, so that they hesitate before going down that road again.

If unions stuck to employee pay, benefits, and working conditions, I probably wouldn't be so strident.  But in the opinion of the Court in the Janus decision was a comparison of unions to political parties--and the comparison is certainly apt.  Unions are pretty much an arm of the Democratic Party.  Taking my money for all those years, and giving it to a political party I stand against?  You bet I want to slap unions down, good and hard.  It won't make them any less political--in fact, with only volunteers in their ranks now, they can justify being even more fervently left-wing--but I admit I want a little payback.  That, and I don't trust them not to try to chip away at the Janus decision (especially since they're already doing so, as I pointed out above), so I want them to pay a price, a continual, high price, for their efforts.

Keep them on their heels so they can't go back on the offensive against us.

Update, 12/8/18:  Here's another example of shenanigans.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

If California Is So Flush With Money, Why Not Lower Taxes?

Because the state is not really flush with money:
It’s become common folklore that California is booming and incoming Governor Newsom and the Democratic supermajority have more taxpayer money than they will know how to spend, save, or invest. Nothing could be farther from the truth; and it’s the California voters and taxpayers who will continue to be pay for this mistake. We literally owe trillions that isn’t being discussed. Just the estimated payments on public employee pensions in California will increase from $31 billion in today’s dollars to $59 billion in 2024; and this number is based on non-recessionary conditions or a major correction in the stock market. And California immediately needs $800 billion to over $1 trillion worth of infrastructure repairs, upgrades and new construction.

A conservative estimate of California’s total debt by the California Policy Center in a 2017 study – before new tax and bond obligations recently voted in were factored – puts California’s total local and state debt at $1.3 trillion. The Stanford University Pension Institute (www.pensiontracker.org) in 2017 calculated California’s unfunded liability at $1.4 trillion and CalPERS also with an unfunded liability of $1.4 trillion, with CalSTRS billions underwater as well to give, “real state debt of $2.8 trillion.”

Whichever calculation is used California owes trillions and doesn’t have a plan in place to address this issue. What should be clear is that California does not have a surplus or anything near a surplus factoring in total debt and infrastructure for a basic, functioning society California citizens and non-citizens expect.
The liberals will tell you, though, about the worker's paradise here in the Iron Pyrite State. We have so much money that community college will soon be "free", as will the pony provided to every resident of the state on his/her/zer/xer 10th birthday.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Why "Free" Community College Is A Bad Idea

To be paid for with unicorn farts:
Californians could soon get two years of community college for free, enough to earn an associate’s degree.

In 2017, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California College Promise, waiving the first year of community college tuition for full-time students. Assembly Bill 2, announced Tuesday, would add a second year to that program.

“When we started this bill, we came up with a very simple concept: One (year) is such a lonely number. So we came up with two,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, said at a Tuesday press conference.

The program applies to first-time students enrolled in 12 or more credits, provided that they have completed a federal student aid application or California Dream Act application. It is not restricted to California residents, Santiago said.

Why is this such a bad idea?
1.  Tragedy of the commons
2.  Three words:  free high school (and how does that work out?)
3.  No skin in the game
4.  Everyone doesn't need to, nor should they, go to college.  I know that's anathema to say, especially for someone who works in education, but it's true.
5.  California already has a spending problem, we don't need yet another nonessential entitlement.
6. Two can be as sad as one, it's the loneliest number since the number one.
Add more reasons in the comments.

UC Berkeley Loses Free Speech Fight

Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement, is currently the home of the censorship movement--at least against conservatives.  Even the 9th Circuit couldn't support Berkeley's current stance:
Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a conservative youth organization founded in 1969, secured a landmark victory against the University of California, Berkeley, after more than a year of gritty litigation in the conservative-hostile Ninth Circuit.

The school agreed to YAF’s settlement terms, according to a release by YAF’s Spencer Brown on Monday.

The notice of conditional settlement was filed with the court on Monday.

“This is a landmark free speech victory for all students at UC Berkeley,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, the attorney for YAF, told LifeZette on Monday...

The terms of the settlement include paying YAF $70,000, rescinding unconstitutional and events-related policies that marginalize conservative students, and abolishing the “heckler’s veto” — a process that allowed protesters to quash conservatives’ freedom of expression.

Electrons vs Dead Trees

Electronic schoolbooks may be the wave of the future, but they don't necessarily bring improved student performance:
Teachers, parents and policymakers certainly acknowledge the growing influence of technology and have responded in kind. We’ve seen more investment in classroom technologies, with students now equipped with school-issued iPads and access to e-textbooks. In 2009, California passed a law requiring that all college textbooks be available in electronic form by 2020; in 2011, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring public schools to convert their textbooks to digital versions.

Given this trend, teachers, students, parents and policymakers might assume that students’ familiarity and preference for technology translates into better learning outcomes. But we’ve found that’s not necessarily true.

As researchers in learning and text comprehension, our recent work has focused on the differences between reading print and digital media. While new forms of classroom technology like digital textbooks are more accessible and portable, it would be wrong to assume that students will automatically be better served by digital reading simply because they prefer it.

Our work has revealed a significant discrepancy. Students said they preferred and performed better when reading on screens. But their actual performance tended to suffer.
The authors begin their conclusion thusly:
There may be economic and environmental reasons to go paperless. But there’s clearly something important that would be lost with print’s demise.

Aliens and Welfare

When the facts contradict your expectations (or, at least, the expectations of liberals), believe the facts:
A majority of “non-citizens,” including those with legal green card rights, are tapping into welfare programs set up to help poor and ailing Americans, a Census Bureau finding that bolsters President Trump’s concern about immigrants costing the nation.

In a new analysis of the latest numbers, from 2014, 63 percent of non-citizens are using a welfare program, and it grows to 70 percent for those here 10 years or more, confirming another concern that once immigrants tap into welfare, they don’t get off it.