Tuesday, March 03, 2015

9 Hours of My LIfe I'll Never Get Back

I don't know if this is state law or merely negotiated into our contract, but we're required to obtain 18 hours of "professional development" each school year.  For this year, 9 of those hours were determined by some committee of teachers at our school to be Unconscious Bias training, conducted by none other than the CTA.  If the CTA were a labor union, what need would they have of a "human rights department"?  Something is either related to pay, benefits, and working conditions, or it's not.  But let's skip over that.

Given the subject matter and the presenting organization, I'm already consciously biased against it.  Let's just put that out there right up front.

Here are some statements that were made today, do they seem at all contradictory to you?
"This is only a conversation, there's no need to be judgemental."
"Realize that your perspective is not the only 'right' one."
"It's hard to change."
"The training is supposed to bring about change...hopefully you will want to change."
"We all have unconscious biases.  We all have biases that are hidden."

Here's the best line of the day:  "In this training we are focusing on race."  Of course we are.

Activities.  Videos.  Commentary.  *sigh*  It's bad enough that the last people I want to listen to are the  CTA, but holy crap--after an hour I was dying.  And we had 3 hours today, and 3 hours for each of the next two Tuesdays.

I have no desire to sit through compulsory navel-gazing.  I know some people find value in excessive introspection, but I'm not one of those people.  Not every piece of lint that you pull out merits pondering.

I'm bothered that I do 9 hours of professional development per week with my master's class but for some reason, that doesn't get to count towards my "professional development hours".  And which is going to make me a better teacher, learning more about math or learning to see myself as a racist?

Update, 3/4/15:  I should make clear that the quotes above were directed to the group as a whole, not to any individual.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Psychodrama, Or Just Psycho?

I'll just repost the entire Instapundit excerpt here:
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: “Lately liberalism has gone from psychodrama to farce.” Plus: “The liberal left got what it wanted in 2009 with a supermajority in the Senate and large majority in the House, a subservient mainstream media, the good will of the American people, and the most liberal president in American history. It only took that the liberal hierarchy six years to erode the Democratic Party to levels that we have not seen since the 1920s. Almost every policy initiative we have seen — whether climate change, foreign policy, health care, or race relations — has imploded. The answer to these failures has not been introspection, humility, or reevaluation why the liberal agenda proved unpopular and unworkable, but in paranoid fashion to double-down on it, convinced that its exalted aims must allow any means necessary — however farcical — to achieve them. The logical result is the present circus.”

Scylla and Charibdis

Should high schools pay for the cost of remedial education of college students?  No.

First, not everyone should even go to college.  It's not for everyone, and we shouldn't pretend that everyone should or could go to college.  Believing that everyone should sends the wrong message to academically lower-performing students that they're failures.  Yes, our schools should turn out students with at least a minimum proficiency level, but that's the opposite end of expecting everyone to go to college.

Second, imagine the untenable position high school teachers would be put in if the above suggestion were implemented.  On the one hand we're already pressured to water down courses, either so graduation rates improve or because students today can't handle the work their peers of 10 years ago could handle, but on the other hand we'd be chastised for sending too many unprepared kids to college.  Lose-lose.

My solution is much more reasonable and puts the responsibility mostly on the student, where it rightly belongs.  No remedial classes should be taught at universities.  Remedial classes should be taught at community colleges which, in California, are still a bargain (although not as much of one as 30 years ago); students had one "free" chance to learn, now they pay for it.  This would have the added beneficial effect of reducing university populations to such a degree that programs would no longer be impacted, and students would be able to get the classes they want/need and would be able to graduate on time.

Unions And Charter Schools Don't Mix

Teachers unions don't like charter schools.  Charter schools, so the story goes, siphon off the "best and brightest and most well-behaved" and leave public schools with the leftovers (tell your public school students that they're mere leftovers, and see how well that goes over).  Also, charter school teachers need not be unionized, and that is the real problem the teachers unions have.

Attacking charter schools has not gone over well with the public so unions tried a different tack--let's run our own charter schools!  Free from silly administrative requirements, and free to do what we know is right, we'll have all our students going to Stanford (or singing the Internationale, one or the other).  That didn't work so well in West Sacramento, where a charter school run by the UC Davis school of education was recommended for closure by the California Charter Schools Association due to the poor performance of its students!  I wrote about that just over a year ago, and a comment at that link mentions a school run and eventually shut down by Stanford.

So imagine my (lack of) surprise when I read that the same thing is happening in New York City:
Running a charter school is harder than the United Federation of Teachers thought. The New York City union will close its failing charter school’s elementary and middle school, but ask for authority to continue its high school.

“When the school opened in 2005, then-UFT President Randi Weingarten said its success would demonstrate that unions could play a starring role in efforts to improve the school system,” write Geoff Decker and Sarah Darville on Chalkbeat NY. Weingarten also hoped to show that a union contract was not an “impediment to success.”

The UFT Charter School has been one of the lowest-performing charters in the city.
I'll be they have a lot of excuses, though, of the "those tests don't reflect what our students really know" variety.

Randi Weingarten is now president of the national-level American Federation of Teachers.  Given how wrong Weingarten was about her union's ability to run a school--remember, it's "one of the lowest-performing charters in the city"--what might we conclude in general about unions, faddish pedagogy, and student performance?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Why Do Democrats Hate Asian-Americans?

Because they're smart and successful:
This piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times recently, and it deserves a lot more notice from conservatives than it’s received so far. It’s not that it doesn’t tell us things we didn’t already know — it’s that the Left is so blatant about its prejudices, and so determined to tear down any semblance of meritocracy regarding college admissions. And, mostly, it reminds us that Asian-Americans need to recognize who their enemies are....

Prom Season Is Approaching...

...and with it comes Horribly Awkward Prom Photos!

You want previews?  I'll give you previews:
Go see them all--the bad hair, the bad clothes, the baby bump, and the actual baby!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why Americans Don't Choose Unions

There are plenty of reasons why so many Americans who don't want to be in unions are, in fact, union members--but Wisconsin has recently shown us that when they're not required to be, many opt out.  Why is that?

From a comment on this NYT article, which came to me via Instapundit via Ann Althouse:
"It is facile, lazy, and simply wrong to blame the anti-union efforts of Reagan, Walker, the Kochs, Whole Foods, Walmart and the like. If you say it is the anti-union policies of the past thirty five years, then you are simply ignoring the fact that when American unions formed in the 19th century and struggled to build in the first third of the 20th century, the anti-union sentiment of the corporations and most politicians was much stronger than today, and the lot of the average worker was harder. Lazy people blame others. If those who originally fought to create our unions had such an attitude, unions would never have been established in the first place. Part of the problem is that the Left failed to criticize unions as their leadership often evolved to having more in common with the bosses than with their own members. As the Left moved away from worker issues in the Sixties to Civil Rights, the anti-war movement, feminism, and cultural issues, blue collar workers became alienated from those who were now largely content to support labor by merely singing Woody Guthrie and Weavers songs. The Left largely came to look down their noses at workers because of attitudes regarding culture and the war, only honoring workers when their issues were tied to something else, such as the largely Mexican-American United Farmworkers Union or access to jobs for women."
People will voluntarily join unions when they believe that the union provides them with something of value.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Smearing the Authors

From Powerline:
A blockbuster peer-reviewed paper in the Science Bulletin, authored by Christopher Monckton, Matt Briggs, David Legates and Wei-Hock (“Willie”) Soon, is roiling the global warming Left. The paper identifies flaws in the computer models that predict major global warming–which shouldn’t be a surprise, since the models’ predictions have flopped. It concludes that due to mathematical errors, the models overstate the impact of CO2 on the climate by a factor of three times.

So far, global warming Leftists haven’t been able to find any technical flaws in the Science Bulletin paper, which you can download here. So, naturally, they have resorted to smearing its authors.
Lefties really don't like being disagreed with.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

School Mission Creep

There probably used to be a time when the primary function of a school was to educate students.  Nowadays we do so much more.  We feed the students, we proselytize about global warming, we teach them "values" and/or "character ed", we entertain, we enable their bad behaviors by encouraging them to use their phones in class (then wonder why they goof around with them), we teach them to "work in groups" because that's what's needed "in the 21st Century", we teach them to be good little racists by teaching them that they should classify themselves by race.  We should spend our time teaching.

What students do in their off-school time is their (and their parents') own concern.  Oh, but what if it affects the school environment, you ask?  Well, if Boy A dumps Girl B that "affects the school environment" because she's distraught but it's not really the school's business, is it?  I'm all for a very tight reading of the "affects the school environment" standard.

So this new Illinois law is one that I would absolutely not support, and if my child were punished for violating it (on my instructions), I'd fight it in court:
The crusade against bullying is entering a new phase in Illinois. In an attempt to “stop cyber-bullying,” a new law went into effect that on January 1 that forces students in all school districts and universities to turn over their social media passwords to school officials if they feel they have “reasonable cause” to believe the accounts contain evidence the student has run afoul of the school’s “disciplinary rule policy.”
Seems a little bit 4th Amendment-y to me, doesn't it?  With very few exceptions (again, there's that "close reading" I was talking about) it's not the school's business what's on a kid's social media site unless the kid is posting from school.  Schools should focus on at-school behavior and on learning, and leave the raising of kids to their parents.

(And for those of you teachers who say that "parents aren't raising their kids", that's their issue, not yours.  You just teach.)

Unions Don't Represent Their Membership

I don't do this often but I'll include the entire Instapundit post here:
AND YET NOBODY LEARNS: Walker’s Pro-Worker Law Has Crippled Labor Movement That Opposed Him.

Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers.
Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving ­public-sector unions were not just shrunken — they were crippled.
Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.
Funny that you can “cripple” supposedly representative organizations just by requiring that they raise their money from people willing to be represented.
The laws that Scott Walker signed in Wisconsin weren't anti-labor, they were pro-worker.  It speaks volumes about the labor movement that those two are not synonymous.

If labor unions offered something of value, people would want to be members.  If labor unions were responsible to their members, they wouldn't be bought-and-paid-for arms of the Democratic extreme.  If labor union membership were voluntary, as it is in the 2-dozen right-to-work states, then labor unions would both offer something of value and be responsible to their members.

I choose to be a member of the Association of American Educators.  It's not a union, it's a professional organization--and one that provides me with, among other things, better liability insurance than the CTA would if I were a member of CTA, and the policy is in my own name (as opposed to CTA's).  AAE provides me something of value so I voluntarily give them my money.  There's an object lesson there for those whose minds are open enough to see it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Who'd'a Thunk?

The surprise isn't that he's right, it's that he came to the right decision:
Los Angeles Unified won’t try to give every student a computer, said Superintendent Ramon Cortines on Friday. It’s too expensive, he said. Besides, he told reporters, “education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year.”
It's heresy to some but I'll say it anyway--because I, too, am right--and that's that kids today don't learn any differently than they did in the past.  Of course they want to, but they don't.  Our reptilian brains aren't any different from those of the students of Plato or Aristotle, and today's students would do well to try to learn as those students did.  The further we get from students' absorbing the wisdom of their teachers, the worse our students do. 

Who'd'a thunk that, either?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Circling the Wagons

It's one thing for an instructor to share his/her personal beliefs, but requiring students to state those beliefs goes beyond the line, even in college--and the university is protecting this instructor:
Administrators at Metropolitan State University of Denver have determined that a professor who forced his students last fall to recite a satirical anti-American pledge of allegiance that characterized America and Republicans as racist, homophobic, sexist and anti-poor did absolutely nothing wrong.

“The university concludes there was no violation of the students’ first amendment rights, and that the faculty member exercised his right to academic freedom, and considers this matter closed,” campus officials have determined as a result of a probe into the matter.
I have no doubt that had the views been conservative, the outcry would have been deafening and the results entirely different.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Numismatist In Me Loves Stories Like This

That's a lot of gold:
A group of divers in Israel has stumbled upon the largest hoard of gold coins ever discovered in the country. The divers reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority, and nearly 2,000 coins dating back to the Fatimid period, or the eleventh century, were salvaged by the authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit. The find was unearthed from the seabed of the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park, according to a press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The discovery of such a large hoard of coins that had such tremendous economic power in antiquity raises several possibilities regarding its presence on the seabed,” said Kobi Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in the release. “There is probably a shipwreck there of an official treasury boat which was on its way to the central government in Egypt with taxes that had been collected.”
That's a lot of history.

Two Ways of Looking At This

One way is to fret and wonder how much longer our experiment with a republic can last when people think this way.  The other way is to optimistically note that they'll come back into their right minds as soon as a Republican is elected president:
The United States prides itself on being a nation of laws, not a nation of men. But a surprising number of voters are ready to override those laws in order to have their way.

President Obama’s immigration plan and his national health care law both face legal challenges this year that could bring them to a halt. But one-in-four voters think the president should be able to ignore the courts if he wants to, and Democrats believe that even more strongly.
From Rasmussen Reports.

I just want to remind you that the primary function of the president is to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" (US Constitution, Article II, Section 3).  The people mentioned above want a dictator, not a president.

It's Not Much, But It's A Start

From the Washington Examiner:
Department of Education regulations forcing colleges and universities to create pseudo-court systems to handle campus sexual assault are interfering with schools' core mission to educate, according to a bipartisan report from a task force for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The report was designed to offer solutions for easing regulatory burdens on colleges, which have exploded in recent years.

One can argue whether "schools' core mission [is] to educate", based on any number of criteria, but the sentiment expressed above is certainly correct.

These new requirements are for colleges and universities to adjudicate accusations of sexual assault — a separate justice system that has been labeled a “kangaroo court” — which has led to lawsuits from both accusers and the accused that the system is biased.

The HELP report is careful to note that colleges should make their institutions safe for students, but the way OCR has gone about doing so has lacked transparency...

Those new standards lack any semblance of basic due process. Accused students are not allowed to cross-examine their accusers and are limited from providing exculpatory evidence. Investigators lack professional training and the ability to subpoena evidence. Neither party is allowed legal representation to speak on their behalf at hearings. Further, young men are being expelled based on little more than “he said/she said” accusations. And the most accusers can expect from a “guilty” verdict is that their rapist will be kicked off campus — not sent to jail.

Only in cases of campus rape  do people think it's entirely OK to throw out all jurisprudence and convict someone based on an accusation.  You have to wonder how people benefit from that, and what kind of people would accept that benefit if they acknowledge the cost.