Sunday, December 21, 2014

Is This Action Reasonable?

City education officials have demoted an elementary school principal days after a school board member circulated a photo showing misspellings in a large announcement sign outside one of the building’s entrances.

The sign at School 20’s side entrance listed events for “Dicember 2014.” It alerted people to the date for “progress reepor” and had the numeral one placed backwards in another instance.

Officials said the sign apparently contained those errors for more than a week, but apparently no one noticed until city school board member Corey Teague distributed copies of a photo of the errors.

“If this is how the administration takes care of signage how can we expect the students to do better? We must be held to a higher standard,” wrote Teague in an email accompanying the photo.
Here's the sign, taken from the full article:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Black Mark For West Point

And no, I'm not talking about the football team, but a deserter:
After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point near the top of his class in 2008, Second Lt. Lawrence J. Franks Jr. went on to a stellar career with three deployments, commendations for exceptional service and a letter of appreciation from the military’s top general.

The only problem: None of it was in the United States military.

After being sent to Fort Drum, here in the snowy farmland of northern New York, where he was put in charge of a medical platoon, Lieutenant Franks disappeared one day in 2009. His perplexed battalion searched the sprawling woods on the post for his body.

What they did not know was that he was on a plane to Paris, where he enlisted under an assumed name in the French Foreign Legion. It was only this year when he turned himself in that the Army and his family learned what had happened.

On Monday, Lieutenant Franks was sentenced to four years in prison and dismissal from the Army on charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer and desertion with the intention to shirk duty, specifically deployment.
The article details some of his mental demons, which you'd think would have been discovered at some time during 4 years at a military academy.

Just Words

College and career ready. High standards. Lifelong learners. Critical thinkers.

Those are just words, mere buzz phrases.  Notice there's nothing in there about intellect, about achievement.

And it shows.  In an entire neighboring county, only two schools apply to compete in an academic decathlon:
Roseville High School senior Robbie Short and his eight teammates have spent hundreds of hours this year studying and meeting weekly in hopes of winning their third straight Placer County Academic Decathlon in February.

They may not have the chance.

Last week, the Placer County Office of Education told coaches it had canceled the annual competition because of a lack of interest. Placer County schools chief Gayle Garbolino-Mojica said only Roseville High School and Western Sierra Collegiate Academy had signed up by the Dec. 5 deadline. The county office requires four teams to hold a competition, she said.
The story goes on to tell how hard the students have worked since May in order to prepare.  But let's read further and see where the problem lies:
Garbolino-Mojica said the dwindling number of teams stems from a lack of student interest in the academic decathlon, as well as budget cuts that left some schools without stipends to pay coaches. The county superintendent said PCOE staff “tried to drum up participants” and contacted district superintendents for help.

“We just got feedback that they weren’t interested,” she said, noting that some high school officials called the event an “antiquated program.” School officials reported that students are moving toward competitions that have to do with “robotics or something to do with technology,” she said.

The Placer County event, which includes the competition and an awards banquet, requires a great deal of staff time, recruitment of volunteers and $15,000 to put on, Garbolino-Mojica said...

Rocklin High’s Michael Knight, who was a competitor in high school and has coached at Roseville and Rocklin since 2002, agreed: “The academic decathlon has not received as much support in the past few years as it has previously.”
We don't want smart kids. That's why we have to dumb everything down.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Down, Five To Go!

Today I took the final exam for my 5th master's class, Discrete Optimization. 

In that class there were 5 tests, on which I earned 4 A's and a B.  My homework scores were in the 90%+/- range (I don't want to look them all up) and were worth as much as one test.  The final exam was worth two tests, and I'm thinking I probably got a B (maybe a high B?!) on it.

How will it all come out in the end?  No telling until the fat lady sings.  I'm pretty sure I got either an A or a B in the course.  Either way (and I hope it's an A!), I enjoyed learning this material more than I can recall ever enjoying a math class before.  Would that in itself make a B "worth it"?  The grade is irrelevant to how much I enjoyed the class :-)

I've completed 5 of the 10 classes for my Master of Arts in Teaching Math degree.  Now I'm free till mid-January, when I start History of Mathematics.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crunch Time

I got 47/50 on my last test--and I dispute the points my instructor took off but he's not budging!  I'm taking the final exam tomorrow afternoon so it's all on the line.

Need to get lots of sleep tonight....

"College and Career Ready"

Some people chant it like a mantra, but this author calls it like it is:
The phrase “college-and-career-ready” dominates Common Core rhetoric, as if it is the Holy Grail of educational endeavors. Even kindergarten activities are now supposed to be college and career ready.

Who could possibly argue with wanting our children to be ready for college and careers?

Obviously, no one.

Making sure our children are college and career ready is the answer to all of America’s educational woes. All we need to do is aim everything done in our schools at reaching this goal. The Common Core standards are being promoted as the mechanism for achieving this.

There is only one set of standards, which must be attained by every school and every student; therefore, there must be only one definition for what it means to be college and career ready. Logically, that would mean that there is only one appropriate way to prepare for every college, every major course of study, and every career...

“College and career ready” is a marketing slogan, just like the musical “Bam ba dum bum bam bam bum” that follows the words “we are farmers” in the insurance commercial. And just like the syllables in the commercial, they have no actual meaning. They just sound good.

In the end, they are nothing more than gibberish.
Seems right to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nuclear Energy

If Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, can support safe, relatively-clean nuclear energy, so can you.  Here are some more professors of climate science and the environment doing the same:
As conservation scientists concerned with global depletion of biodiversity and the degradation of the human life-support system this entails, we, the co-signed, support the broad conclusions drawn in the article Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation published in Conservation Biology (Brook & Bradshaw 2014).

Brook and Bradshaw argue that the full gamut of electricity-generation sources—including nuclear power—must be deployed to replace the burning of fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change. They provide strong evidence for the need to accept a substantial role for advanced nuclear power systems with complete fuel recycling—as part of a range of sustainable energy technologies that also includes appropriate use of renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency. This multi-pronged strategy for sustainable energy could also be more cost-effective and spare more land for biodiversity, as well as reduce non-carbon pollution (aerosols, heavy metals).

Given the historical antagonism towards nuclear energy amongst the environmental community, we accept that this stands as a controversial position. However, much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat global climate change (Caldeira et al. 2013), we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.
No, I still don't believe that man is the cause of earth's climate change.  However, at least I can respect these people for acting reasonably on what they believe rather than relying on "idealistic perceptions" and civilization-destroying "solutions".

Monday, December 15, 2014

Two Groups. One's A Childish Bunch of Attention Seekers....

...the other is just a bunch of streakers:
Early Thursday morning, a group of 30 “Black Lives Matter” protesters interrupted the biannual naked Primal Scream run on Harvard’s campus and tried to force the streakers “to hold a silent demonstration” for Mike Brown, reports the Harvard Crimson.

Unfortunately for them, the streakers did not want to comply. They continued hollering and chanting in preparation for their streak. This angered the protesters, who then began screaming, “Silence. Silence.” The brave streakers fought back by yelling, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!”

Life Update

No word yet on my performance on the test I took last Friday.  Studying for the final exam continues unabated.

3rd period seemed gleeful at the prospect of being allowed donuts in class during the final exam.

My signature chocolate banana pie for tomorrow's "dessert lunch" is ready to go.

My last present as Secret Snowman is ready for delivery tomorrow.  I've received two nice gifts, a Star Trek communicator and a 49ers t-shirt.

No word yet on whether or not my son will get leave to come home at Christmas, since he's still in-processing at the post and has not even been assigned to a unit yet.  If he can't come home, I'll drive up to Washington to go see him.

That's it for now!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Final Stretch

Tonight we're going to celebrate my dad's birthday.

Tomorrow after work I have to make one of my chocolate banana pies for a "dessert party" we're having in the staff lounge in which I eat.

Tuesday night I can devote entirely to studying with no other commitments.

Wednesday night I have to make another chocolate banana pie for our Thursday afternoon staff luncheon.

Thursday after the luncheon I'll take the final exam for the discrete optimization course I'm taking.  Ohmigawd, the number of proofs, definitions (and he's a stickler for perfection on those), and algorithms we have to know is phenomenal, and that's before ever even solving a problem!

If I can just make it to Thursday evening, I'll be fine!

I need to remember my 2 rules of finals week that I learned at West Point:
Well rested, well tested.
Study too long, you're wrong.
The first is self-explanatory but the second, not so much.  It merely means not to cram, but to spread out your studying in reasonable-sized chunks so the material, along with understanding, stays in your head.  To do well, make it a marathon and not a sprint.  That's why I'll start my studying tonight, before my dad's party.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Delicate Flowers

Is this new, or have university students always been such delicate little flowers?

First I learned that students at Harvard, Georgetown, and Columbia were so "traumatized" by the Ferguson and NYC grand jury decisions that they must have their final exams postponed in order to "process" what happened.   Look at the picture here and tell me if there's not something just a little silly about white students at an expensive, elite university trying to lecture the rest of us on "social justice".

Then comes this story out of UCLA:
Law school exams often present legal conundrums ripped from headlines of the day, but one UCLA law professor is apologizing for basing a test question on what is apparently a taboo subject -- the fallout from the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo.

Professor Robert Goldstein said the exam question was designed to test students’ ability to analyze the line between free speech and inciting violence. It cited a report about how Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, shouted, “Burn this bitch down!” after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

The question then asked students to imagine that they are lawyers in the St. Louis County Attorney’s office and had been asked to advise the prosecutor “whether to seek an indictment against Head” for inciting violence. The exam reads:

“[As] a recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant First Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo.”

But students complained, and writer Elie Mystal at the popular legal blog “Above the Law” opined that the test question was “racially insensitive and divisive.”
I don't see "racially insensitive and divisive", I see "real world" and "practical application".   Sometimes you need to, as former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings used to say, "put on your big girl panties" and deal with things.

Some people want to wear the badge of victimhood.  I find it sickening.

I don't see an "epidemic" of white cops killing unarmed black citizens any more than I see an epidemic of black cops killing unarmed white citizens.  I don't see the racial motives that so many others just want to see.  If you want to find problems in the situations above, I posit these two:
1) the racial problem we have in this country is not racism, it's the tremendous amount of crime committed by black citizens in this country relative to their numbers in the population, and
2) the problem we have in law enforcement is not racial, it's power itself.  Law enforcement officers are too often seen, and treated as, above the law rather than the tool through which the state enforces the law.
Both of those are serious problems and need to be addressed.  Silly little "hands up don't shoot" demonstrations, especially in light of all the evidence from Ferguson, create a fake problem while simultaneously ignoring the real problem(s).

One would think that university students in general, and law students in particular, would be smart enough to grasp that fact, but one would be wrong.

Update, 12/16/14:  Beware of the "violent language" used by one professor in refusing to postpone final exams.  I'm not as contemptuous of the student as the author of that article is:
But I don't mean to pick too much on this student, an Oberlin freshman. This is the environment she's inherited and set of social cues she's learned from people who should know far better—like professors and administrators at Ivy League law schools, for a start. 
She's still an idiot.  And a delicate little flower.  One wonders how she'll be able to handle the lawnmower of life.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hanging Chads

For as long as I've been at my current school, and who knows how long before, the students in our school's AVID program have collected presents for elementary students at a school not too far from ours.  Ours is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with many well-to-do people, the elementary school in question is not in the best of neighborhoods.  Oh, there are far worse neighborhoods in the world, but every year we're told of students who say that the present they got from the high school kids was the only one they'll get for Christmas that year.  It's kind of a big deal.

This year our 3rd period classes collected presents.  The top 3 classes in gift donations get a donut party--and if you know me, you know I want a donut.  I only agree to participate in the program, though, if my 3rd period class votes overwhelmingly to participate.  I explained that this is one of those times where it's not enough to have good intentions, that since they voted overwhelmingly to participate that they actually have to bring presents in.

Setting the example, I brought in the first one, a race car set.

We got off to a slow start, but as the deadline neared more presents came in.  Each day or two the AVID students would come in and clear out the presents, and near the end they told us that we were very nearly in the lead.  Today, the last day to bring in presents, we had a veritable Leaning Tower of Presents in the classroom and it took several students to clear them out.

At the end of 6th period today an announcement was made--we didn't win.  We weren't in the top 3.  In fact, I found out a little later that we were ever so slightly edged out of the top spot by another class, putting us in 4th.

I want a recount.  (or a donut.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is Anyone Surprised By This?

Go ahead, defend requiring people to say something they don't believe, and do so while holding their grade over their head.

Why do we never hear of conservative professors doing stuff this outrageous to liberals? 
If you’re going to be a student of professor Charles Angeletti, you’ll be required to do something unusual:
Angeletti, a professor of American Civilization at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has been making his students recite his own spoof of the Pledge of Allegiance.
It's not what I'd call a spoof, I'd call it a denigration of people who don't think like he does. 

Final Test Tomorrow

Tomorrow after school I'll take my last "test" in this course.  I've been working to understand and memorize 7 proofs, 5 definitions, 3 algorithms, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I guess I'll find out then if my studying has paid off.

Then it's on to the final exam!