Monday, March 30, 2015

The Spammers Are Back

In the early days of this blog I got a lot of spam comments--then I switched from unmoderated to moderated comments.  I still got a lot of spam but it it was easier to avoid having it show up in the comments.

Some posts are "spam magnets".  I don't know why, but certain posts here and there, with seemingly nothing in common with each other, would start attracting spam.  I don't know enough about how spammers operate to know why they do that, but they do.

For the longest time I haven't gotten much spam--more accurately, Blogger's filters have weeded it out before it ever even shows up in my "to be approved" comment listing.  Lately, however, the spam is showing back up.  It's nothing more than an inconvenience, but I still hate it.  Given the opportunity to do mean and terrible things to spammers, I would willingly and cheerfully do so.

Brave New World of Teaching

One of the teachers at my school recently sent the following post to members of our staff:

Whenever a college student asks me, a veteran high-school English educator, about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, I never think it’s enough to say that the role is shifting from "content expert" to "curriculum facilitator." Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The "virtual class" will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers (a.k.a. a "super-teacher"), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

I tell this college student that in each classroom, there will be a local teacher-facilitator (called a "tech") to make sure that the equipment works and the students behave. Since the "tech" won’t require the extensive education and training of today’s teachers, the teacher’s union will fall apart, and that "tech" will earn about $15 an hour to facilitate a class of what could include over 50 students. This new progressive system will be justified and supported by the American public for several reasons: Each lesson will be among the most interesting and efficient lessons in the world; millions of dollars will be saved in reduced teacher salaries; the "techs" can specialize in classroom management; performance data will be standardized and immediately produced (and therefore "individualized"); and the country will finally achieve equity in its public school system.

"So if you want to be a teacher," I tell the college student, "you better be a super-teacher."

I'm not a Luddite, but neither do I see the imminent replacement of flesh-and-blood teachers.  Thomas Edison thought that the movie projector would revolutionize education because it would allow every student to have the best teachers in the world...does that sound at all like what we're hearing about the internet?

I don't think teachers are going away, and I don't hold this position not from a romantic point of view but from a practical one.  Yes, humans are social animals and yes, it's much easier to learn in an interactive environment than from a video screen (as someone earning a master's degree online, I state that last point categorically).  Teachers will remain in large part because of those two points (and I would wager that the classroom of 50 years from now won't look all that different from the way it looks today).  Do you really think Edison's position will finally hold sway because of the internet?  A large proportion of the planet has access to Harvard, Yale, and MIT professors and lectures entirely free, and yet...

The other concern at the linked article was the pendulum swing from the teacher as "sage on the stage" to "guide on the side".  That pendulum will always swing, there's no reason to believe that the teacher will ever permanently become a mere facilitator of curriculum--again, my own experience reinforces that belief.

I'm far more worried that the state teachers' retirement system is going to go broke before I retire than I am that the teaching profession itself will disappear.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mixed Messages and Mixed-Sex Bathrooms

What with all the brouhaha lately about so-called “rape culture” on American university campuses, as well as the increasingly watered-down definitions of rape and assault, one wonders why a university would want to make it easier for men to have access to women’s bathrooms:
NBC Charlotte learned Tuesday night, due to an anonymous tip, that the University of North Carolina-Charlotte campus now allows transgender students, faculty and staff to use the restroom of their choice…

UNCC posted an update on it’s website, reading, “The current policy states that any student, faculty or staff member may use the restroom that corresponds to the individual’s gender identity.”

Where Are The Howls From The Left?

If this turns out to be true, it's more than a little sick:
San Francisco sheriff’s deputies arranged and gambled on battles between County Jail inmates, forcing one to train for the fights and telling them to lie if they needed medical attention, the city’s public defender said Thursday.

Since the beginning of March, at least four deputies at County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St. threatened inmates with violence or withheld food if they did not fight each other, gladiator-style, for the entertainment of the deputies, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.

Adachi said the ringleader in these fights was Deputy Scott Neu, who was accused in 2006 of forcing inmates to perform sexual acts on him. That case was settled out of court. 
This happens in San Francisco and there's no protesting in the streets.  I'm reminded of a far less physically abusive situation at Abu Ghraib prison, which obviously generated a different response.  Why might that be, do you think?

Mastering Math Teaching

As this post shows, it's not "drill and kill" but "drill and skill":
Britain has imported math teachers from high-scoring Shanghai to demonstrate teaching techniques, reports The Guardian....

McMullen spent two weeks observing at a Shanghai primary school in September. Math lessons are shorter there, but better, he says. “I saw better maths teaching in 35 minutes than I had ever done in an hour and ten minutes.”
In Shanghai every child of the same age is on the same page of the same text book at the same time.

. . . Children have mastered their jiujiu (times tables) back to front and inside out by the time they are eight. Classrooms are bare and text books are basic, minimal, “not that appealing” to look at, admits McMullen, but of exceptionally high quality and thoroughly researched.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

So-called Rape Culture

From Instapundit:
TALK OF CAMPUS “RAPE CULTURE” IS, BASICALLY, UNSCIENTIFIC HATE SPEECH, AS REUTERS POINTS OUT:
Campus rape is a serious problem. But while public attention is focused on students carrying mattresses and the discredited Rolling Stone report about rape at the University of Virginia, the fact is that sexual assault is more common off campus than on.
Consider this: If you lived in Gallup, New Mexico in 2013, you were 47 times more likely to be raped than if you attended Harvard, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics. Yet chances are you won’t see any protesters in New Mexico. Coverage of campus rape has likely increased for a variety of reasons – the social media influence of the at-risk demographic, the ability of victims and supporters to articulate the problem and because it — like any other type of violent crime in poor communities — is more of a surprise. That’s not to lessen one or the other; just a diagnosis of the arc of public attention.
A 2014 report from the Department of Justice called Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013 found that non-students aged 18-24 were 20% more likely to be sexually assaulted than students. Also, as these Reuters graphics show, the severity of the assault was worse for non-students, the rate of completed rape as opposed to other kinds of assault being 50% higher.
Follow the link for the graphics. Also, note that 6.1 out of 100,000 isn’t the same as 1 in 5.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh emails: “I think 6.1/100,000 is the yearly attempted/completed/threatened sexual assault rate as reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and so isn’t directly comparable to the 1 in 5 assertion, which purports to measure the rate for the entire span of time in college; to make it comparable, I think you’d need to multiply it by 4 or 5 years. The difference remains vast, but not quite as vast.” A fair point. 24.4 out of 100,000 is still well below the 20,000 out of 100,000 we’d need for the 1 in 5 figure.
If you talk about “rape culture” but refuse to accept the FBI’s statistics, you’re more interested in touting your liberal bona fides than in reality--which, in this case, is really kind of sick, don't you think?

Update, 3/27/15:  Another update to the Instapundit post, correcting some math:
It looks like the Reuters story on which we were both relying got things badly wrong, and I’m sorry I didn’t catch it when I first corresponded with you. 6.1 per 100,000 would indeed be a very low attempted/completed/threatened sexual assault rate, amounting to only an equivalent of 9,000 per year for all women in the U.S. – even though women of college age are much more likely to be targeted for sexual assault than women who are materially younger or materially older. As the correspondent below notes, the original Bureau of Justice Statistics number (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsavcaf9513.pdf) is that the yearly victimization rate for college-age women is 6.1 per 1000, not 6.1 per 100,000. Again, even multiplied by 4 or 5 it’s well below 20%; but it’s about a factor of 7 or so below, not a factor of 700.

Do You Really Care About The Achievement Gap?

From Joanne:
In 41 cities, charter students learn significantly more than similar students in traditional public schools, according to a new report by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO. The average gain was the equivalent of 40 more days of learning in math, and 28 more in reading.

Disadvantaged students — blacks, Latinos, English Learners, low-income and special-education students — gained the most. Whites did worse in urban charters than in traditional schools.
If you talk about the achievement gap but don’t support charter schools despite their proven success, you’re really just interested in touting your liberal bona fides rather than actually having children learn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reading

Joanne has two consecutive post up on reading:
Finland: Girls Read Well But Not Boys, and
Boys Are Catching Up In Reading (but presumably not in Finland!).

Iraq

A round-up of Iraq topics--including video, so no one can challenge what was really said--is available here.  It's nice to have all that information available in one place.

You can't get clearer evidence that this president has been a disaster.

Then Enviro-wackos Are Going To Have To Turn Up The Heat On Americans

Why?  Because Americans just aren't buying their global warming alarmism:
Americans' concern about several major environmental threats has eased after increasing last year. As in the past, Americans express the greatest worry about pollution of drinking water, and the least about global warming or climate change.
Who says so?  Gallup.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Price Diversity?

Would you rather your kid have a teacher of the same skin color, or one that's bright?
Should we select teacher candidates for their smarts? asks the National Council on Teacher Quality Bulletin. If so, “can we raise the bar without endangering equitable access to strong teachers or limiting diversity?”
I wouldn't want to work at a place that hired me, or not, because of my skin color.

Monday, March 23, 2015

I Guess If You're Foul Enough, University Professors Will Adore You

The so-called reality-based community has never explained, at least to my satisfaction, the allure of communism, especially given its death toll in the 20th century.  In overall numbers the communists make the Nazis look like pikers, and that's not an exaggeration.


About 5 months ago I wrote about UCLA's having Angela Davis' picture on banners around campus, holding her up as an exemplar of what UCLA students should aspire to and how they should act.  I didn't mince any words in that post and I'm not going to mince them now--Davis is a sickening human being.  Yes, her ideas are "different", but that doesn't mean they hold any value for sane people.  That the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will pay her as much money for one speech as I make in three months--well, they're sick, too:
Massachusetts taxpayers are questioning the speaking fee for activist communist Angela Davis to talk to students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst this month.

MassLive.com reported on Tuesday that Davis is scheduled to deliver a talk titled “Sustaining Social Justice Movements and Intersectional Struggles” at the university’s Fine Arts Center March 30.

The announcement drew criticism from taxpayers online, who commented on Davis’ controversial past.

Davis was tried as a conspirator in the 1970 armed takeover of a Marin County, California courtroom in which four people died. Davis purchased the guns used in the tragic incident, and was on the run from the FBI for a time before she was eventually acquitted of aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder, according to Wikipedia.org.

Davis was a leader in the Communist Party USA in the 1960s and reportedly had close relations with the Black Panthers. She was fired from her teaching position at UCLA in 1970 for repeated references to cops as “pigs,” and other “inflammatory language,” according to media reports.

MassLive commenter seekthetruth posted that he didn’t appreciate the public university using tax dollars to finance Davis’ speaking engagement.
What value can she possibly bring to university students?  What redeeming qualities does this thing have to merit such money and feting? 

I'm glad there's someone in Massachusetts willing to challenge this.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

California Governor Beclowns Himself

Governor Brown said today that Ted Cruz' stance on global warming should be disqualifying for president:
Responding to comments made by Cruz on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," Democratic Governor Brown said of Cruz, "That man betokens such a level of ignorance and a direct falsification of the existing scientific data. It's shocking and I think that man has rendered himself absolutely unfit to be running for office"...

Brown said the drought being experienced in California could be traced to the buildup of carbon from coal and other sources, and that leaders need to take measures to prevent dire consequences. 

          
"Could be"?  If Brown likes science (and government) so much, perhaps he should pay attention to NOAA:
Natural weather patterns, not man-made global warming, are causing the historic drought parching California, says a study out Monday from federal scientists.

"It's important to note that California's drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state," said Richard Seager, the report's lead author and professor with Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal but was reviewed by other NOAA scientists.

"In fact, multiyear droughts appear regularly in the state's climate record, and it's a safe bet that a similar event will happen again," he said.
That he has been elected to so many offices in California, so many times, shows that the drought isn't necessarily California's biggest problem.

The Purest Science


Reverse Midas

Can you come up with one foreign policy success of the Obama Administration?

It certainly wasn't his Grand Apology Tour.

Iraq, which in 2010 had been touted as a success (video here), is now run partly by IS and partly by Iran. 

President Obama thought Afghanistan was the right war and Iraq the wrong one.  How are things going there?

Remember when the American Left was going nuts over President Bush's mythical preemptive war against Iran to keep it from getting nukes?  Is that worse than a fake deal that would essentially allow Iran to develop nukes?

President Obama backed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's elections.  That didn't turn out well for the US, for Egypt, or for the Muslim Brotherhood. President Obama offered to meet with the incoming president of Egypt but couldn't bring himself to make a phone call of congratulations to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel this past week after he won the election there.  After Morsi was overthrown the standing of the US in Egypt was greatly diminished.

President Obama chose to "lead from behind" in Libya and then wanted to tout our great success.  That hasn't turned out well for the US or for Libya, which isn't even a real country anymore.

President Obama asked Russian president Medvedev to let Vlad Putin know that after the 2012 election he would have more "flexibility" to deal with the Russians because he wouldn't have to run for election again.  That hasn't turned out well for the US or for Ukraine.  A missile defense system sound like a good idea right now, especially to Eastern Europeans.  And remember this comment from the 2012 debates?  It was a witty zinger--but who ended up being right?

President Obama drew a "red line" in the sand regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Syria used such weapons, Obama responded with silence.  Actually, no, not with silence, he denied ever having made the "red line" threat in the first place and tried to say that the world did so by passing a "no chemical weapons" treaty--when, after World War I?  Anyway, his stance hasn't turned out well for the US or for the Syrian civilians who were killed with chemical weapons.

President Obama, a mere 6 months ago, touted Yemen as an anti-terrorist success story.  That hasn't turned out well for the US or for Yemen, which this past week fell to Iranian-backed rebels.  All that was missing from the US withdrawal was an iconic picture of a helicopter on the roof.

Where in the world is the US better off today than it was in 2008, when this disaster of a president was elected?  Where in the world is the US more respected and more valued today than it was in 2008, when this disaster of a president was elected?  Where in the world have US actions contributed to peace, stability, and a better life since 2008, when this disaster of a president was elected?

Where has our stature been diminished?  The list above is a good start.  The Instapundit has been saying since 2009 that a "Carter rerun is a best-case scenario" and, sadly, he could not have been more correct.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Joke, Or Real?

I'm not one who believes that racial jokes should never be made.  On the other hand, when such a joke is made it should be very clear that it's a joke--and in the video here I can't tell at all whether he's joking or not:
A principal at a middle school in Fresno, Calif., has come under fire for saying “I just don’t like black kids” in a video taken on the cell phone of a student.

Scandinavian Middle School Vice Principal Joe DiFilippo was put on paid administrative leave while an outside investigator gathers facts and makes a “credible determination,” according to the Fresno Bee.

After the investigation, Fresno Unified spokesman Jed Chernabaeff says administrators will decide DiFilippo’s future with the district.

In the video that was posted on YouTube, DiFilippo wears dark sunglasses and stands casually against a pole outside the school cafeteria talking with a student. A young voice is heard asking, “Mr. DiFilippo, who at this school do you not like?” Another voice responds “All of us.” Following a flurry of inaudible comments, DiFilippo says, “I just don’t like black kids.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Truth Is No Defense

How do you even deal with people so nuts that they think that that banning a college student from class for being right is entirely acceptable:
A student at Reed College has been banned from class for denying the existence of “rape culture” in the United States and arguing that the oft-repeated statistic that one in five women are raped at college is bogus.

Jeremiah True, 19, received an email from professor Pancho Savery on March 14 telling him he was making his classmates so uncomfortable that he was no longer welcome to participate in the “conference” sections of his Humanities 110 class, a course which focuses on the art and literature of classical Greece, according to BuzzFeed News.

True says he sparred with his classmates on a variety of issues, but says it was his criticism of the 1-in-5 rape statistic that ended up being the tipping point.
The 1-in-5 statistic has been debunked more than just about any other statistic in recent memory.  Facts are never an impediment to the left, though.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Months From Today

The flights have been paid for.

Hotels have been booked.

Yesterday I went to the bank and picked up two different foreign currencies.

Today I made the final payment on the cruise.

Three months from today, baby.  Stuff is getting real!

People Like This Are Exactly Why We Need A First Amendment

For starters, she's so stupid that she thinks Bill Maher is a right-winger:
In the US, however, no such laws exist.  Right-wing hatemongers like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Bill Maher, and Sarah Palin (to name just a few) are allowed to freely incite hatred and violence, oppose human rights, and undermine progress with impunity.  When people like this are allowed to sway public opinion against the common good, it can have disastrous consequences.  Just ask the millions of people killed due to wars pushed by right-wingers, even though propaganda for war is illegal under international human rights law (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that all countries outlaw propaganda for war).
Freely incite hatred and violence?  Really?  Read her entire piece and see who you think is inciting hatred (as well as who you think is bat-crap insane).

She would limit free speech to those who think like she does.  That's no freedom at all.

I'm thankful every day for the First Amendment.  And I hope that author gets the mental health help she needs.