Sunday, July 27, 2014

But It's Hot Outside!

Inconvenient chart of the day: Coolest US summer on record

What Should A Teacher Do?

Barry Garelick posted the following on the US Coalition for World Class Math page on Facebook and graciously gave me permission to repost it here in its entirety:
Every now and then, I glance at what Grant Wiggins is prosyletizing (he's the originator of Understanding by Design). He has a blog. I started reading his latest which attempts to provide a definition of what a teacher does. I could only read a few paragraphs. I had a stomach bug last night and I didn't want a relapse.

This one line jumped out at me: "I have known many teachers who do little more than cause learning, yet would be found wanting on many of the components (think: Jaime Escalante or any gruff loner-but-respected veteran teacher)."

Now what in the world does he have against Jaime Escalante, the legendary math teacher who turned around an east LA high school and produced record numbers of students who passed the AP calculus exam? Let me guess: rote learning, no understanding, means to an end, not fostering the true spirit of the subject?

Then there's a list he makes of components of the job description of teacher as he would write it. I stopped after the first of four things an educator must cause:

"1. Greater interest in the subject and in learning than was there before, as determined by observations, surveys, and client feedback"

Well, OK, I admit it; I'm not really a teacher. I often tell students who express a dislike for the subject I'm teaching that "You don't have to like it, you just have to know how to do it." There. I said it.
The link to Wiggins' site is here.

One commenter on Garelick's post added:
"cause learning"? That could possibly be the most offensive description I have ever heard.
I'm probably not the only one who's heard Wiggins and his "Understanding By Design" touted as the end-all, be-all.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You Will Not Believe This

I am not a rich man.

I don't usually travel this much.  I can't afford to.  Sure, I can afford camping in Tahoe for two days earlier this week, but nothing major.  I've already done the Caribbean and Hawaii this summer.

But as of this morning, I'm going on another trip.  And I leave tomorrow.

For a 7-day cruise in Alaska.

My mother texted about 6am this morning.  Her beau is too sick to travel.  Did I want to go in his place?

It took a couple hours of hoop-jumping and we mostly got things switched over and the additional costs aren't huge given the magnitude of this trip!

It took several more hours before I nailed down someone to housesit for me for a week on 24 hrs notice, but it finally all came together.

So tonight I'm packing, and tomorrow I'm off to Alaska.

I never would've thunk it in a thousand years that I'd get to numbers 49 and 50--in the same summer!

I'm not going to pay the exorbitant cruise ship internet fees so I'll post some "blast from the past" posts each day....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Unplugging the Obamacare Fan(fare)

The left sure is trying to play up Obamacare, and on this point I encourage them to keep on talking! The more they say, the stupider they sound, the more likely Republicans will get elected. It doesn't look like the public is buying what the libs are selling. Scroll down to page 6 of this recent CNN poll:
Notice that the numbers are virtually unchanged since 2010.

These numbers will only get worse for the liberals when the following points start becoming better known.

WELL, WELL, WELL: Senate Hearing: Tax Credits are available for State Exchanges Only. Senator Baucus explains how The Affordable Care Act sets conditions where Tax Credits are available for State Exchanges Only. The discussion is a bit confusing, but he’s saying that this is under the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction because the tax credits are an incentive to adopt state exchanges.

Under the DC Circuit ruling, a state’s residents can only get ACA tax credits for purchasing health insurance if their state decides to establish and operate an insurance exchange. This creates a strong incentive for state governments to create such exchanges, thereby participating in the administration of Obamacare. If they do as the federal government wants, their residents get millions of dollars in tax credits, and their insurance companies and health care providers get lots of new business. By contrast, states would have far less incentive to create their own exchanges if they can rely on the federal government to do all the administrative heavy lifting without imperiling their residents’ eligibility for federal tax credits.

Such “cooperative federalism” arrangements under which the federal government gives states incentives to administer or enforce federal programs are very common, including in the field of health care. Many conservatives and libertarians (myself included) view them with suspicion. By contrast, left of center federalism experts often praise them on a variety of grounds: they enable the federal government to make use of state officials’ local knowledge; they provide incentives for states to promote important national policy objectives; they avoid unnecessary duplication of federal and state bureaucracies; and they enable greater sensitivity to local diversity (particularly important in the health care field, where there are many complicated variations in local conditions and relevant state regulations). State-led implementation of federal programs might also enable them to operate with greater sensitivity to the needs of politically influential local constituencies, thereby building a broader base of political support for the program. Considerations like these led Peter Harkness of Governing magazine to to suggest, back in 2012, that the ACA’s reliance on state-based exchanges could make the law a cooperative federalism “model for healthy state-federal relations.”
Watch Obamacare Architect Jonathan Gruber Admit in 2012 That Subsidies Were Limited to State-Run Exchanges (Updated With Another Admission)
For months after the official launch date of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failures in the systems involved the near-impossibility of successfully enrolling in Obamacare health insurance coverage. Some of the state websites didn’t function well enough to even set up a user account, a feat most commercial websites mastered 20 years ago. Oregon’s exchange never signed up a single user; others, like the federal exchange, made the process so slow and unreliable that consumers didn’t know whether they had coverage until they had to use it...

Now, however, the problem has expanded from failed enrollments to successful enrollments that shouldn’t have made it. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a small test of the site, which the Obama administration claims is functional now, to see whether the system could prevent fraudulent enrollments. In twelve attempts, the GAO succeeded in eleven fictitious enrollments.
Yes, it's a small sample size, but who's surprised at the results anyway?  Not me.

Someday, probably soon, when you look up "disaster" in the dictionary, there's going to be a picture of Obamacare.

Update, 7/26Fifth:
In other words, Congress did mean to use the subsidies to overcome state resistance and pressure them to set up their own exchanges. That is precisely what the plaintiffs in Halbig asserted. Of course, Obamacare’s supporters didn’t anticipate that the backlash against the law would be so intense that 34 states would actually decline the subsidies, almost as an act of civil disobedience.

On Friday morning, an embarrassed Gruber insisted to The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, “I honestly don’t remember why I said that… I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake.”

But a second speech, this time in the form of audio, surfaced this morning in which he makes the same claims before the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco at around the same time. In it, Gruber actively acknowledges that should if states revolt en masse, they’d bring down the law. But, he said, that he had enough faith in democracy to believe that even the states that didn’t like Obamacare would eventually succumb to the “ultimate threat” that “if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits to be delivered to your citizens.”

"Thank You For Your Service"

When I was growing up, the Vietnam War was being fought and then ended.  Soldiers weren't popular then, and people didn't walk around saying "thank you for your service".

I first heard that quip after Gulf War 1 in 1991 and have heard it ever since, but I've always felt uncomfortable on those few occasions when it's been addressed to me.  First, it seems a little frivolous, as I didn't do it for you, I did it for me!  I served because I wanted to do my part for the nation, nothing more, and I certainly didn't ever expect strangers to thank me for it.  Second, I don't really know how to respond--"you're welcome" just doesn't sound right given the circumstances, knowwhatimean?

I think I've come up with an appropriate response: should anyone again thank me for my service--which ended 24 years ago!--my reply will be "It was a privilege."  Its two advantages are it's not trite, and it's true.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The First Call Home

I got texts from Phoenix Sky Harbor and St. Louis today, getting closer and closer to basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.  A couple of hours ago his mother got the one phone call, and I'm told it went something like this:  "I have safely arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood."  Click.

It's getting real now!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let's Not Teach Calculus In High School Anymore

Yes, let's dumb down our curriculum so that everyone succeeds!

I love teaching statistics, and I agree with this author that statistics is more practical for most people than is calculus.  But can you spot the false dichotomy here?
Let’s get rid of high school calculus and start teaching young students the math skills they really need.
We can, and should, do both--teach kids the skills they need and teach calculus to those who are capable of learning it. 

And don't you love this comment?  Where does it not apply?  Let's just postpone every high-level class to college!
And those who do need it (calculus) – future engineers, physicists, and the like – can take it in college.
The same can be said for chemistry, biology, literature, sociology...

Let's just call a spade a spade here.  The author has written a stupid column.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Agency Fees Are In

The "impartial" arbitrator--why isn't this person an "arbiter"?--has spoken, and here are the chargeable fees for my union contribution:
local union and CTA:  71.9%
NEA:  36%

Note that that means that over 28% of my state and local union dues are not related to anything that the "impartial" arbitrator can justify making me pay for, and 64% of the national union dues are for non-chargeable activities (read, Democratic/progressive/liberal politics). 

Always remember--liberals love compulsion.  It's who they are, it's what they do.  They enjoy making me pay for a union I don't want to support.  So I get back the non-chargeable fees after jumping through their hoops, but I don't want to associate with them at all.  Force, compulsion, and groupthink--that's what you get with unions.

It's A Wonder Our Schools Are As Good As They Are

If you want to read about schools of education, and what they do and don't do, go here.  It's pretty sad.
Ed schools are big on reflection, but don’t teach prospective teachers how to teach, complains Peter Sipe, a Boston middle school teacher, in the Boston Herald.

While he went to ed school, his wife was in medical school. She learned how to be a doctor. He reflected...
Pilots aren’t trained by forming small groups to discuss the atmosphere. Cadets don’t become cops by writing weekly responses to Crime and Punishment.

. . . The logic was, I believe, that we would receive our practical training on the job. And I guess I did. But it was rather in the manner one would learn by being told to find the manual after the starboard engines quit.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks So

From Community College Spotlight:
Group learning “is a waste of classroom time and an obstacle to student learning,” argues Bruce Gans, who taught English at City Colleges of Chicago...

Group projects are supposed to teach students to collaborate. Gans is dubious. “Groups are creatures of compromise, consensus, the intellectual mean, the mediocre.”

Having students evaluate each other’s writing doesn’t work if nobody’s a good writer, argues Troy Camplin, a lecturer in English at University of North Texas in Dallas.

A remedial writing student asked why we did peer review since, “I feel like I’m getting nothing but bad advice. I mean, they don’t know any more than I do.”
As a student I always hated group work.  Chances are that I had the best grades in the group, why should I have to negotiate and compromise with people who didn't get the grades I could get?  Every year the biggest complaint I get in my statistics classes is from students who had someone in their group who didn't pull their own weight.  Why are the rest of them responsible for that?  I am the one who required them to work in groups, and I do it just so I can tell my bosses that I periodically do so.

I'm sure that in certain situations and under certain situations, group work (or "collaborative learning") can be useful.  But in general you can count me as a skeptic.

If This Is All You've Got, Then The War Is Over. There's No More Racism. Go Home.

When ice cream truck music is racist, when that's all you have to complain about it, then it's over:
When you hear an ice cream truck play Turkey in the Straw, think about the racist lyrics written for the tune 100 years ago, writes Theodore R. Johnson III on NPR’s blog...

Demands for a “national conversation” on race will not transform the lives of black Americans, writes McWhorter. “Shouldn’t we focus on race as it exists in the only real world we will ever know—where there has never been a way to settle old scores perfectly, but in the end, what matters is getting over? Change happens, if slowly. As blacks in America move on, we can admit that sometimes, an ice cream jingle is just an ice cream jingle.”
And liberals say it's conservatives who perpetually live in the 50's.

"Here Men From Planet Earth..."

I remember, as a very young child, being awakened oh so early to watch "the rockets".  A decade or more later I'd get myself up at ungodly hours to watch the space shuttles take off.

But Apollo 11 was the biggie.  I sometimes wish I was older so that I could truly have experienced what it was like for mankind when Eagle touched down in the Sea of Tranquility.  It must have seemed like the end of an era, or perhaps the beginning of a new one.  Sadly, it turned out to be neither.  But that doesn't take away from what those three astronauts did on today's date in 1969.

Congratulations to Neil, Michael, and Buzz.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Last Full Day

Today is my son's last full day of freedom for a very long time.

Tomorrow his mother and I will take him to lunch and then take him to a hotel, where he and a bunch of other recruits will finish up paperwork and other routine tasks.  He'll be free again some time on Monday evening, when any friend and family member who wants to (or can make it on short notice) will meet up for dinner.

At zero-dark-thirty on Tuesday they board a plane and off they go for basic training.  I'm proud and nervous at the same time.

I realize that if I've done my job right, he'll be able to handle this.  On the other hand, this will be the first time ever where I'll be powerless to intervene to protect my son if he needs it.  Yes, I realize my apprehensions are more about me than they are about him, but that doesn't make me feel any more secure!

Update:  Everything's been pushed back a day now.   We're not sure if this is a change or if the NCO we spoke to the other day was incorrect.  Either way, he has one more day :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It Was A Long Time Ago

Eighteen years ago today I became a dad:
Today at 1:00 we go to the recruiter's office to get the "this is what you parents can expect, this is what'll be going on" talk--since he leaves for basic training next week.

Holy crap.