Sunday, July 31, 2005

Here We Go Again With Hiroshima

I'd like to ask, "Where are the historians here?" "Where are the history teachers?"

So on the upcoming anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, we're going to be treated to another round of anti-Americanism and knee-jerk support of the "innocent" Japanese civilians who were "wrongly" bombed by imperialist Cold Warriors whose true goal was to make a show for the Soviets blah blah blah.

This view is supported in this AFP piece via Yahoo News, a story about yet another memorial to be built and dedicated in Hiroshima. A few classic quotes are in order.

The privately funded monument was dedicated by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who came up with the idea of 10 gates symbolizing Dante's nine circles of Hell plus one more: Hiroshima.
"After the world commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, I found it impossible to do nothing to pay tribute to Hiroshima's dead and remind people what barbarism men are capable of," Halter said.

Then we turn to the Guardian, bastion of conservative political thought and militarism. Interestingly enough, they have a somewhat different view.

Plentiful evidence is available to both schools. In the spring of 1945, Americans fighting in the Pacific were awed by the suicidal resistance they encountered. Hundreds of Japanese pilots, thousands of soldiers and civilians, immolated themselves, inflicting heavy US losses, rather than accept the logic of surrender.

It was well-known that the Japanese forces were preparing a similar sacrificial defence of their homeland. Allied planning for an invasion in the autumn of 1945 assumed hundreds of thousands of casualties. Allied soldiers - and prisoners - in the far east were profoundly grateful when the atomic bombs, in their eyes, saved their lives.

Yes, let's not forget the millions of Chinese civilians, the numbers of whose deaths make Hitler's mass exterminations seem trivial. Let's not forget the kamikazes, suicide bombers that they were. Let's not forget the Bataan Death March, the bayonettings and sport beheadings, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Let's remember who the enemy was, and the depravity they were capable of.

Japan's occupation of China had cost 15 million Chinese lives. Civilians had been raped, tortured, enslaved and massacred, while British and US prisoners were subjected to hideous maltreatment. The Japanese had been waging biological warfare in China. Their notorious Unit 731 subjected hundreds of prisoners to vivisection. Many captured American airmen were beheaded. Some were eaten. A B-29 crew was dissected alive at a Japanese city hospital.

Americans, in their turn, showed themselves reluctant to take prisoners. They subjected Japan's cities to the vast fire-bombing raids which began in March 1945, killing half a million people. Lawrence Freedman and Saki Dockrill, in a powerful analysis, argue that the nuclear assault must be perceived in the context of the deadly incendiary raids that preceded it: "Nobody involved in the decision on the atomic bombs could have seen themselves as setting new precedents for mass destruction in scale - only in efficiency." More people - 100,000 - died in the March 9 Tokyo incendiary attack than at Hiroshima.

This next quote struck home with me.

In August 1945, amid a world sick of death in the cause of defeating evil, allied lives seemed very precious, while the enemy appeared to value neither his own nor those of the innocent. Truman's Hiroshima judgment may seem wrong in the eyes of posterity, but it is easy to understand why it seemed right to most of his contemporaries. (emphasis mine--Darren)

Dropping the atomic bomb killed people and did damage, no doubt about it. Was it justified? I don't see how a reasonable or dispassionate person could, given applicable facts, argue that it was not.

And it's high time it was taught this way rather than pushing some multi-culti, moral relativism crap that ignores context and the times and seems intent on casting aspersions on America's use of a weapon that effectively ended a war that cost the lives of at least 8 digits' worth of people, well on the way to 9 digits' worth.

Sandy Smith, This One's For You

Apparently I have a reader who wants to report me to the CTA (tee hee), of all organizations, for my "crass" post about the Breasts Not Bombs rally in (deep sigh) Berkeley. Read her comments--I get no indication of humor and joking from her.

So Sandy, this link is for you. I especially like the third picture, the one a commenter says looks like "a horny ewok."

Friday, July 29, 2005

I (Literally) Go Crazy!

Here's a web site devoted to improper uses of the word literally. It's not just a synonym for really, you know.

Topics For Upcoming Posts

I have a few ideas for education-related posts. Do any of my readers have education-related topics you'd like to see addressed here? Feel free to leave them in the comments section!

Breasts, Not Bombs

I struggled with whether I should post this or not, but finally decided to in an attempt to learn something.

Follow this link and you see pictures of nekkid people in Berkeley (where else?) protesting something, probably the war in Iraq or President Bush or greedy capitalist pigs or something like that.

This is what I don't understand: how does getting naked strengthen your political message? What exactly is meant by "breasts not bombs"--that federal money should go to breasts? How, augmentation? I admit to being a little slow on the uptake here.

And then there's the "smaller" (hehe) component of this protest, "D**ks not draft". Again, what does this mean? Who, besides Democrats in the Congress, are talking about a draft? What is the point here?

I think the point is to get naked and walk through the streets of Berkeley in order to see what we can get away with. If I'm wrong, educate me.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Doing Anything This Saturday Night?

I got this email from Protest Warrior, of which I am a member:

I got this email from Melanie Morgan (from San Francisco's KSFO):

Friends, today on Air America's affiliate, Talk City 1240, it was announced that Air America listeners will be mobilizing to counter our "I LOVE AMERICA" art exhibit and pro-American rally.

That rally is set to take place in Downtown Sacramento THIS THURSDAY, July 28th from about 3:30 PM, concluding at 10:00 PM. [Location of event is 1300 I Streets at the corner of 13th and I]

+ 3:30 PM The "I LOVE AMERICA" Exhibit Opens
+ 4:30 PM "I LOVE AMERICA" Rally Begins
+ 7:00 PM Event begins live broadcast on "Night Talk Live with Mark Williams" - KFBK 1530 AM

We have a choice here - either we can turn out a giant crowd of pro-American and pro-military supporters, or else we can sit back and allow the "Blame America First" crowd to AGAIN dominate the news media coverage.

I won't let that happen, and I am asking you to do your part and join me. I will be driving from San Francisco to Sacramento to be there.

WE NEED AT LEAST 500 PEOPLE THERE - Please help us build that crowd!

I am asking that every one of you reading this make the effort to get there as well. Whether you come by car, bus or plane, please do what it takes.

We have been receiving media inquiries from news outlets throughout the nation. This has become a national story - the most recent front line in the battle over whether Americans will continue to stand strong and support the war against terrorism here on the home front.

So - please, make your travel arrangements if you have not already done so. And bring as many people as you can with you.

Bring your American flags. Bring your children. Bring your extended family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers. Each one of you coming should be able to convince at least 1 or 2 people to join you.

If you know of ANYONE within 200 miles of Sacramento, California - please forward this email to them and explain how important it is for them to attend.

You can find !
more information about the event by going to the front page of!
our web

Finally, remember to bring patriotic artwork to be included in our "I LOVE AMERICA" art exhibit.
*****end email*****

You may be aware that this rally is in response to the California Attorney General's having, in his cafeteria, a display of America being flushed down a toilet. Said display was made by the same "patriotic American" who hung a US soldier in effigy from one of his rental houses (not his own house) in Sacramento a few months ago.

You lefties who claim you're really patriots--now's your chance to demonstrate it. War or not, sticking a red, white, and blue outline of the US in a toilet cannot be considered patriotic by any definition of the word. Stand against this travesty or quit whining when the rest of us call you what you really are.

Mexican Radio

A local radio station (Flash 103.9) only has a few days left--its frequency will be turned over to a Spanish-language station next week. Flash has been mounting a campaign to take over the frequency of (93.1?) of a small local station I've never heard of, called Bob. BTW, when did radio stations start getting these cutesy-pie names and not go by their call letters?

Anyway, for the last several hours at least, Flash has been playing Wall of Voodoo's one hit, Mexican Radio, over and over and over.... I think someone has either a great sense of humor or a serious case of the ass!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Conservative Comic Strips

The City Journal has a great article about the rise of right-leaning comic strips: Mallard Fillmore, Prickly City, and Day By Day (available on the web only) are mentioned by name. It's a wildly interesting story, entertaining and well-written. I thought I'd copy a few paragraphs here not because they're representative of the whole article (which really is all about the rise of conservative comic strips), but because they represent my political beliefs!

Stantis’s aim with Prickly City, now running in 75 papers, is to “turn against liberals the tools they’ve been using to batter conservatives for decades—irony, sarcasm, humor, and belittlement.” He adds: “It’s wonderful how much it pisses them off; they just go nuts—I get hundreds of vicious e-mails a week. I mean, the crudity and intolerance of the Left these days is unbelievable; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a Nazi. But that’s what happens when you don’t have any ideas and the only thing left is anger.”


But the tenor of the strip tends more to be gentle than angry, reflecting none of the bitterness so common today on the Left. Indeed, Muir’s girlfriend, the primary model for one of his characters, “is a total liberal.” As it happens, the same holds true for Mallard creator Tinsley, whose wife is a civil rights lawyer. There’s perhaps a lesson here. “It’s a funny thing,” Tinsley says. “All her liberal friends are incredulous that our marriage works, but none of my conservative friends have any trouble with it at all. They understand you can think differently about things and still be civil to one another.”

Almost immediately, this observation leads Tinsley to reflect on something else. “You ever notice how often liberals seem to think that, because they hold these lofty social views, it excuses them from having to be civil to bellboys and cabdrivers? I really think that by and large conservatives are just much nicer.” He pauses, thinking it over. “One of these days, I’ve gotta do a cartoon about that.”

I've often expressed similar views. Glad to see someone's got my back!

Oh, and notice that word Tinsley used in the quote above. Civil. Root word of civility. For those of you who read the comments on this blog, you know how much I insist on civility in discourse here. Based on what's written above, I wonder if that isn't a basic conservative trait? :-)


Some people don't think that the war in Iraq was necessary. They probably didn't like the war in Afghanistan either, but they're smart enough not to say so.

Let's see if I can find a potential war we can all get behind.



Got it! War between Canada and Denmark! It's in the offing! Go read about it here! and here!

By the way, did you know that France still "owns" a couple of islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland, Canada? Seriously! Maybe after the Canucks kick some Danish butt they can invade the French islands. Manifest destiny for Canuckistan!

And then it occurred to me. There's one other spot the Canuckians might want to invade. Get out a map and check out either northwest Washington state or the southwest corner of mainland British Columbia. Point Roberts, Washington, US of A. Not even an island, just a few acres of land attached to Canada.

They wouldn't dare try!

Would they?

Barfing On Someone Is Assault

The kid is proud of barfing on his teacher, and did it intentionally? I'm not exactly sure what a just punishment would be for such an act, but at least the judge in this case tried:

OLATHE, Kansas (AP) -- A high school student convicted of battery for vomiting on his Spanish teacher has been ordered to spend the next four months cleaning up after people who throw up in police cars.

This AP report brought to you by CNN.

Extracting A Square Root Manually

In high school I was taught how to calculate square roots manually. The lesson was more for exposure and historical interest than anything else, and of course I've long since forgotten the procedure. I've relearned it once or twice in order to show my own students, again more for exposure and historical interest than as a practical tool.

Darn those calculators, which I refer to as devil boxes!

There are subtleties to be learned by doing things the old fashioned way--any master craftsman will agree with this statement. Note that I didn't say that we should ignore technological innovations; I'm no Luddite. I said there are subtleties to be learned.

This web site lists a few algorithms but the site itself is pretty dry. This site is much better. My favorite, though, is a mnemonic device in the form of a poem, found here:

From "The Poetical Geography" by George Van Waters, 1857

Square root

Divide into periods of two figures each,
The number you know, as the pedagogues teach,
- In the left hand period find the greatest square,
Which from it subtract, and to what remains there
Bring the next period down for a Dividend (fair):
Place the root of the square at the right hand of all,
And two times the root a Divisor we call.
Then try the Divisor, see how many times
The Dividend holds it (by prose or by rhymes).
Of its right hand figure exclusive, you know,
And write in the root the number't will go,
Then to the Divisor the same figure tie,
And by the same figure the whole multiply;
The product then take from the Dividend (penned),
And of that which remains, make a new dividend;
By bringing the period that's next, along side,-
And for a Divisor that's new and untried,
Just double the figures that stand in the root,
And work as before, till the answer is got.

Isn't that wild? Multidisciplinary education--poetry and math :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Two Interesting Thoughts On The War On Terror

From Normblog, which I've linked to before:

In circumstances he judges not too risky, Bob, an occasional but serial rapist, is drawn to women dressed in some particular way. One morning Elaine dresses in that particular way and she crosses Bob's path in circumstances he judges not too risky. He rapes her. Elaine's mode of dress is part of the causal chain which leads to her rape. But she is not at all to blame for being raped.

The fact that something someone else does contributes causally to a crime or atrocity, doesn't show that they, as well as the direct agent(s), are morally responsible for that crime or atrocity, if what they have contributed causally is not itself wrong and doesn't serve to justify it. Furthemore, even when what someone else has contributed causally to the occurrence of the criminal or atrocious act is wrong, this won't necessarily show they bear any of the blame for it. If Mabel borrows Zack's bicycle without permission and Zack, being embittered about this, burns down Mabel's house, Mabel doesn't share the blame for her house being burned down. Though she may have behaved wrongly and her doing so is part of the causal chain leading to the conflagration, neither her act nor the wrongness of it justifies Zack in burning down her house. So simply by invoking prior causes, or putative prior causes, you do not make the case go through - the case, I mean, that someone else than the actual perpetrator of the wrongdoing is to blame.

And more from Mark Steyn:

And in the broader sense, the pathetic public execution of an innocent man on July 22 joins the events of July 21 and July 7 as a reminder of why a narrow, reactive law-enforcement approach to terrorism will always penalise the populace more than the terrorists. You win this war militarily (in the badlands of Pakistan and elsewhere) and culturally (which is a much tougher battle). Shoot-outs on the Tube aren't going to be much help - though, if they advance from Brazilians at Stockwell to theatregoers at Leicester Square, overcrowding at the Olympics isn't likely to be a problem.

Just food for thought, is all.

Math For Social Justice, Part III

Here's an excellent article from US News and World Report that shows exactly what can happen when people try to combine math and politics. Not sure what I mean? Read Parts I and II.

Godspeed, Discovery.

Come home safely.

Monday, July 25, 2005

WE Know What's Best For YOUR Kids

Trust us, we're the professionals. You parents, get it through your thick heads that you don't know enough to raise your children or to teach them anything of value. If you did, we teachers wouldn't have to teach your kids manners, social justice, etc, not to mention the three R's (reading, ruminating, reproduction). It's obvious you don't know enough about enough to do your children any good.

Or so says the NEA in this column on their web site. Yes, I know the disclaimer says that it may not represent the views of the NEA, but it *is* posted on their web site. I wonder, will they post any of my articles on their web site? I didn't think so, either.

For the final bit of "ohmygawd", notice who wrote that article. There's a brief blurb about him at the end.

Thanks, Joanne (see blogroll at left), for letting us know about this.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Steyn On Multiculturalism

I quote Steyn so much that I ought to to find some permanent link to all his essays. Like this one, from which comes the following:

That's the great thing about multiculturalism: it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures - like, say, the capital of Bhutan or the principal exports of Malaysia, the sort of stuff the old imperialist wallahs used to be well up on. Instead, it just involves feeling warm and fluffy, making bliss out of ignorance. And one notices a subtle evolution in multicultural pieties since the Islamists came along. It was most explicitly addressed by the eminent British lawyer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thought that it was too easy to disparage "Islamic fundamentalists". "We as western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don't look at our own fundamentalisms."

And what exactly would those western liberal fundamentalisms be? "One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I'm not sure that's true."

Hmm. Kennedy appears to be arguing that our tolerance of our own tolerance is making us intolerant of other people's intolerance, which is intolerable. Thus the lop-sided valse macabre of our times: the more the Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily round the room.

Thank you, Mark.

Multiculturalism is dealt with this way in schools, too. Unfortunately.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Abbott and Costello On Math

I subscribe to an emaillist of "traditional" educators (we believe in teaching real math and phonics), and some of the emails I get from that list are priceless. Both of the following "problems", the first from Abbott and Costello and the second from Gilbert and Sullivan, are variations on standard Algebra 1 problems.

Abbott: You're 40 years old, and you're in love with a little girl, say 10 years old. You're four times as old as that girl. You couldn't marry that girl, could you?

Costello: No.

Abbott: So you wait 5 years. Now the little girl is 15, and you're 45. You're only three times as old as that girl. So you wait 15 years more. Now the little girl is 30, and you're 60. You're only twice as old as that little girl. ?

Costello: She's catching up.

Abbott: Here's the question. How long do you have to wait before you and that little girl are the same age?

Costello: What kind of question is that? That's ridiculous. If I keep waiting for that girl, she'll pass me up. She'll wind up older than I am. Then she'll have to wait for me!

Gilbert and Sullivan wrote:

Ida was a twelve month old
Twenty years ago
I was twice her age I'm told
Twenty years ago
Husband twice as old as wife
Argues ill for married life
Baleful prophecies were rife
Twenty years ago
Still I was a tiny prince
Twenty years ago
She has gained upon me since
Twenty years ago
Now she's twenty-one it's true
I am barely twenty-two
False and foolish prophets you
Twenty years ago

Excusing Terrorists

I grow tired of hearing how we "deserved" the September 11th attacks--which, incidentally, happened before the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq!--and how the British "deserved" the London bombings and how the corrupt Egyptian government "deserved" to have tourists blown up at Sharm-el-Sheikh and how....

Lefties, pay close attention now. I'm going to try to explain how stupid it is for you to try to blame anyone but the terrorists for these actions. And to do this I'll quote from this Debra Saunders article:

Imagine, as I've written before, if anti-abortion terrorists began killing innocent civilians and said they would stop only if the government outlaws abortion. (After all, if terrorism wins for Islamic extremists, why shouldn't U.S. extremists adopt it?) The Left would not fault pro-abortion policies. The Left would not blame the government for legalizing abortion. The Left -- correctly -- would denounce the terrorists, the violence and any attempt to extort policy by threatening innocent lives.

Does that make it any more clear to you?

Well, at least I tried.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Harry Potter = Sexual Freedom?

I just purchased Half-Blood Prince today. I don't know if I'll finish it before school starts or not--I'd have to bump my Clive Cussler book, which is next in line after I finally finish reading Tocqueville's Democracy In America, in order to fit Potter in.

Here are two interesting and short posts about the Potter books, showing you can find sexual innuendo anywhere if you try hard enough ("Short" and "hard enough" are not intended to be innuendo!).

First one
Second one

Update, 7/23/05 10:43 am: Ok, I finished Democracy In America last night and bumped Clive Cussler. Then I was up till some ungodly hour reading the first 200 or so pages of Harry Potter. This, of course, after reviewing the last few dozen pages of Order of the Phoenix yesterday so I could remember what happened, since I read *that* book 2 years ago. At the rate I'm going, I'll get to Cussler's book in a couple more days :-)

Update #2, 7/26/05 6:45 pm: I finished Half-Blood Prince a day or two ago. I'll probably start Cussler's book tomorrow. I guess all I needed to finish de Tocqueville was some motivation, and Rowling certainly provided it.

Teacher Fired For Being Republican?

I've heard of stranger things. The Education Wonks have a story about a Republican teacher who claims she was fired, in part, because she had a picture of President Bush on her wall, amongst pictures of other presidents. Interestingly enough, the principal is the wife of a local Democrat Assemblyman.

The Education Wonks bring up some very interesting points about the teacher's proven teaching ability, or lack of documentation thereof. I hope they follow this story through to its conclusion.

During the year I have two pictures of President Bush hanging over my desk. I also have a picture of me standing in front of the White House giving two thumbs-up. No, I never had a picture of President Clinton over my desk. But that's no reason to say I can't have a picture of the current president in my classroom if I so desire. When I was growing up, every classroom had a picture of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, sometimes one of President Jefferson, and often one of the current president at the time. We've lost something, given that in 8 years of teaching as well as visiting my own son's classrooms I've not seen such pictures except in a few history classes.

I also have banners from West Point (my alma mater) and the Air Force Academy (where I spent a semester and currently have a former student attending) hanging on the walls. I keep a picture of me and my son on my desk. I think this coming year I'll have my cardboard Master Yoda cutout as a teacher's aide.

Oh yeah, I have lots of educational stuff on the walls, too, including my section of "math in the comics". I guess my point here is my classroom reflects a lot of what's important to me but doesn't force any particular view on my students. It would be an interesting fight if someone were to tell me I couldn't post a picture of the current president in my classroom, or any other US president for that matter--yes, in a math class. That, not my having a picture of President Bush, would be injecting politics into my classroom.

Ever See Someone Get Hanged?

I don't mean old pictures from the Civil War, from Nuremberg, or even from the Civil Rights Era. Those pictures are usually black&white, grainy, and don't seem real.

Check out this article with picture from the conservative website GayPatriot. Those are real people there, still living and breathing before the ropes get taut. Their crime? Being gay in an Islamic Republic.

I have to agree with this comment, quoted in the link above:

"Whew!… For a moment there, I thought these boys had been deprived of their right to marry. Luckliy they were only slaughtered by a hate-filled ideology hell-bent on bringing their form of ‘justice’ to the rest of the world.
Gee, if only someone would stand up to them, huh?

It’s called ‘perspective’, Western Gay Community. It’s called the War on Terror, and just because you both hate W, don’t think the enemy hates you any less."

Let's reiterate for all the lefties: the Islamofascists don't care if you hate President Bush or not. They want you dead, too. You are an infidel, and until you flop down towards Mecca and ensure "your" women are covered head to toe, you deserve to die. Are you gay? Die. Drink alcohol? Die. Go dancing? Die. Women walk outdoors unescorted by male relatives? Die. Breathe air? Die.

And the Human Rights Campaign, in response to the article linked above, stated they support a strong war on terrorism (1 sentence) and sent a letter to Secretary of State Rice saying

Atrocities committed by foreign governments against all people must be condemned swiftly and forcefully by the world's greatest democracy. We urge you to do so.

That must have pained them, that comment about standing up to foreign governments. I note the one (1) sentence about terrorism and the several (more than 1) paragraphs about gays in other countries is about par for a lefty group like HRC, but hey, welcome to the ball game guys! Glad to see you're starting to wake up to the real threat in this world, and I'll give you a clue, it isn't President Bush.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I Can't Believe This Article Was In The Guardian

Among the leftiest of newspapers is The Guardian from Britain. Somehow this commentary slipped past their editorial board. I want to quote the whole thing, but I'll limit myself to finding 2 (two) paragraphs to reproduce here that should whet your appetite for following the link.

It needs to be seen and said clearly: there are, among us, apologists for what the killers do. They make more difficult the fight to defeat them. The plea will be - it always is - that these are not apologists, they are merely honest Joes and Joanies endeavouring to understand the world in which we live. What could be wrong with that? What indeed? Nothing is wrong with genuine efforts at understanding; on these we all depend. But the genuine article is one thing, and root-causes advocacy seeking to dissipate responsibility for atrocity, mass murder, crime against humanity, especially in the immediate aftermath of their occurrence, is something else.
There are apologists among us, and they have to be fought intellectually and politically. They do not help to strengthen the democratic culture and institutions whose benefits we all share. Because we believe in and value these, we have to contend with what such people say. But contend with is precisely it. We have to challenge their excuses without let-up.

The end of the Guardian article tells us that a longer version of the article can be found at the author's own website. I recommend it to you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I was only 4 when Armstrong first walked on the moon. I don't remember that specific event, but I do remember getting up early several mornings to watch "the rockets". A dozen or more years later I would get up at 3 am or so to watch the shuttles take off. I grew up idolizing Armstrong, but the astronauts I remember seeing were Crippen and Young, Engle and Truly, Lousma and Fullerton, Mattingly and Hartsfield. And America finally joined the Soviets when Sally Ride went into space, something Valentina Tereshkova did in 1963.

The suburb I grew up in, North Highlands, had a Moonwalk Parade each year to commorate the big event. I remember marching in it myself once, with my cub scout troop. I'm only a few miles from North Highlands now, but I've heard nothing about such a parade. In fact, I've lived here for 8 years now and haven't once heard reference to a Moonwalk Parade. I hope it hasn't gone the way of the dodo but I fear it has. What a fantastic event to celebrate!

Update, 7/21/05 12:16 am: Here's an interesting article that says that the Apollo program never was designed for true exploration, and the shuttle sucks.

Local Boy *Might* Make Good

And if he refuses it in order to keep his American citizenship he'll earn the highly coveted (and very first) Right On The Left Coast Patriotic American Award.

If he accepts it, who can fault him? Even *I* could be tempted by such an offer. Tempted.

Math Hottie

Ok, that's about as sexist a thing as a person could say, but who among us didn't notice that, even at an early age, Danica McKellar (Winnie on The Wonder Years) would grow into a very attractive woman? Here's just one of many pictures of her I was able to find with a popular search engine. Anyway, Joanne Jacobs (see blogroll at left) points out that young Danica was a math major at UCLA--oh yeah, a math major--and has helped prove some theorem I've never even heard of! And did I mention she's attractive? Apparently, physical attractiveness is a common trait in math majors :-)

On her web site is a math tutoring page with, among other things, advice to students to show every step when they solve a problem.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Black Kids Learn Differently

That is the basis of ethnomathematics, which I discussed here. The author of this article from Community Advocates, Inc, of Los Angeles shares my view that the White/Asian and Black/Hispanic achievement gap is not caused by racially- and culturally-insensitive white teachers, but on...actually, you go read it yourself :-) Here are a couple of my favorite paragraphs, though:

It has not been helpful that LAUSD officials, as well as members of the school board, have allowed the district to become a sounding board for all sorts of suspect theories related to children "of color." Just one of those theories that have gained traction is that "black learners" react in different and unique ways to teaching -- different, that is, from the way other students react. This argument makes the claim that black students think in ways that are distinct from ways white students, in particular, think.

But isn't this a twist on the pseudo-science of old, which claimed that efforts to educate blacks would be fruitless because their capacity to learn was different from that of whites? Why is this argument acceptable today simply because it is being advanced by minority "multiculturalists"? The view that blacks and whites somehow interpret learning differently is -- in part -- a holdover from the silly debates surrounding "ebonics" that raged throughout the 1990s and that continue to handicap discussions of urban education to this very day.

Can I have an "amen!"?

Thomas Sowell on Education Dogma

What is especially revealing is that it is the young black students who have made the largest gains while older minority students "scored as far behind whites as in previous decades."

In other words, the children whose education has taken place mostly since the No Child Left Behind act show the greatest gains, while for those whose education took place mostly under the old system, it was apparently too late to repair the damage.

Do not expect either the New York Times or the education establishment to draw these conclusions from these data. Nor are black "leaders" likely to pay much attention, since they are preoccupied with such hustles as seeking reparations for slavery.

"By their fruits ye shall know them" may be an ancient adage but results take a back seat to dogma when it comes to the education establishment. That is why there has been so little to show for all the additional billions of dollars poured into American education during the past three decades.

Go read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Math For Social Justice, Part II

Here's Part 1.

Rethinking Mathematics is nothing more than an attempt to politicize the teaching of math. In this I hope it fails, because too much of our curriculum has become politicized already.

Let's take some snips from the web site and comment on them, shall we?
In a "rethought" math class, teachers make mathematics more lively, accessible, and personally meaningful for students, who in turn learn in more depth.
This is a common misperception in education today, one I want to dispel right here and now. By "personally meaningful" these authors mean that we should teach math using examples from the students' own lives. Isn't the purpose of education to expand their horizons, to teach them about what's beyond their noses? We need to teach them about what they don't know, not just reinforce what they already know. As for the remainder of their claims, I don't know why a "traditional" math classroom cannot be lively and accessible to students. Even though I stand in front of the class and teach most of the period, I'd like to think that my classes are nothing if not lively. These Rethinking Schools people (from here forward known as RS people) have set up a false dichotomy. Rapport and instructional delivery make a class lively and accessible, not necessarily the political applicability of the course.
The articles in this book provide examples of how to weave social justice issues throughout the mathematics curriculum and how to integrate mathematics into other curricular areas. This approach seeks to deepen students' understanding of society and to prepare them to be critical, active participants in a democracy.

What exactly is "social justice"? Is it the belief that people should work and earn their own money and not be mooches on society? Is it the belief that everyone is entitled to exactly what they earn, and nothing more? Is it the belief that despite our perhaps humble beginnings, we all have the same legal footing to pursue life, liberty, and happiness? Is it the belief that welfare payments should be limited in duration, thus providing impetus for a person to seek meaningful work? Or is it the belief that the rich are the cause of all troubles in society, and class warfare is the foundation of our society? If I were placing money on this, I know which of these options I'd bet the RS people would choose. The RS people wouldn't teach students to be critical thinkers; rather, they'd teach them to criticize. There's a big difference.
When teachers weave social justice into the math curriculum and promote social justice math "across the curriculum," students' understanding of important social matters deepens. When teachers use data on sweatshop wages to teach accounting to high school students or multi-digit multiplication to upper-elementary students, students can learn math, but they can also learn something about the lives of people in various parts of the world and the relationship between the things we consume and their living conditions. (See "Sweatshop Accounting," page 53, and "Sweatshop Math," page 160.)
I assert here that a math class is not the place for social science. Math is a "hard science"--that is, it's replicable and predictive. I know that every time I add 3 + 4 the answer is going to be 7, no matter what. Social science is a "soft science"--different people, in different conditions, will act in different ways. Three plus four will always be seven. This attempt to politicize the math classroom, and to politicize with an unambiguous leftward bias, is another in a long string of attempts to water down the math curriculum so that "every student can succeed." What it really does is ensure that no student succeeds because no one learns any real math! The left doesn't believe in absolutes, it doesn't believe in standards, it doesn't believe in individuality. No one is better than anyone else, no one is more capable, we're all one big mass. This is why the left preaches about "group" identities (racial, ethnic, sexual orientation) while the right preaches about individuals. The left thinks we're all equal--hence the union mentality--the right says we all have an equal opportunity to pursue our potential. This is yet another big difference.

Social science should not be injected into a math curriculum. Rather, math (as a hard science) should be injected into the social science curriculum (a soft science)--that would truly be teaching "across the curriculum". Don't bring your politics into math; rather, use math to justify (or disprove) your politics. A wonderful example of someone having done this is Bjorn Lomborg, the environmentalist I wrote about here. Somehow, though, I don't think the RS people would want to use math in quite the way Lomborg did, as his conclusions don't match their politics. For example, he found the following, which he published in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist in 2001:
1. There is more food today, and fewer people are starving.
2. Life expectancy world-wide has risen from 30 to 67 years in the last century.
3. Poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than it was in the preceeding 500.
4. Air pollution in the industrialized world has declined--in London the air hasn't been cleaner since medieval times.
5. We're not losing forests. (That doesn't mean Brazilians should clear-cut the Amazon.)
6. Oil won't run out.
7. "The world is not without problems, but on almost all accounts, things are going better and they are likely to continue to do so into the future."

I wrote this in that same post: "Lomborg doesn't say or even imply that man should perform any activity he wants and ignore the environment. Instead, he presents information that allows us to make informed choices about courses of action rather than reacting to rhetoric, emotion, and anecdote." This is the right way to do things. Gather the facts, use the math, and draw conclusions--don't draw conclusions first and then see how you can use math to justify your conclusions. I propose that we live by this quote attributed to Sherlock Holmes: When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts. Lomborg did; I doubt the RS people would.
Rethinking Mathematics spotlights several examples of student activism. These include fifth-grade Milwaukee students writing letters to social studies textbook publishers based on their mathematical analysis of slave-holding presidents and textbooks' failure to address this issue (see "Write the Truth," page 140); New York City students who measured their school space, calculated inequities, and then spoke out against these inequities in public forums (see "‘With Math, It's Like You Have More Defense,'" page 81); and students who used math to convince their school administration to stop making so many obtrusive PA announcements (see the activity "Tracking PA Announcements," page 130).
I ask, does a 10-year-old truly have the capacity for independent, critical thought on the subject of slave-owning presidents? Do they truly have enough information, enough knowledge? Cognitive scientists tell us that algebra is difficult for younger students because most aren't able to think abstractly until around age 14. They can't figure out that x=5.5 if 2x+3=14, but at age 10 they can offer political opinions about slaveholding presidents? This is the type of political indoctrination I stand against, this is the dilution of math that I fight. Save that kind of fight for older students in a social science class--5th graders should be learning this material (at least in California) in math class. And there's a quote, the source of which I don't know, which is apropos of this discussion: "Context is often the first victim of activism."
Rethinking math also means using culturally relevant practices that build on the knowledge and experiences of students and their communities. Many of these approaches have been developed by teachers and then described and theorized by researchers of color, such as Gloria Ladson-Billings and William Tate. A guiding principle behind much of this work is that teachers should view students' home cultures and languages as strengths upon which to build, rather than as deficits for which to compensate. In "Race, Retrenchment, and the Reform of School Mathematics" (page 31), Tate offers the simple example of a teacher's failure to reach her students because she uses story problems that are not grounded in the students' culture; while Luis Ortiz-Franco ("Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood," page 70) encourages teachers to teach about the base-20 Mayan number system as a way to emphasize, to both Chicano students and others, that math has deep roots in indigenous cultures in the Americas.
This sounds much like so-called ethnomathematics, which I addressed in this post. There's no such thing as "culturally-relevant" math, not if you're trying to teach math in a way to prepare students for the rigors of college and to compete in a world economy. And teaching base-20 numbers? It may be "cultural", but how "relevant" is it? How will it help students learn more complicated math? I again quote from my Ethnomathematics post: Young people need to be shown that they need to accomplish something in their own lives and be proud of that, not to be proud by dubious association with a group hundreds of years and thousands of miles removed from them. Can it be more clear?
Engaging students in mathematics within social justice contexts increases students' interest in math and also helps them learn important mathematics. Once they are engaged in a project, like finding the concentration of liquor stores in their neighborhood and comparing it to the concentration of liquor stores in a different community, they recognize the necessity and value of understanding concepts of area, density, and ratio. These topics are often approached abstractly or, at best, in relation to trivial subjects. Social justice math implicitly tells students: These skills help you understand your own lives — and the broader world — more clearly.
Those sound like social science lessons to me--and that's where they belong.

It's unfortunate that some people are trying to impose their political views in the science classroom--creationism and intelligent design, bogus environmentalism, etc. Let science and math serve as tools, not weapons. Are nuclear weapons "wrong"? That's not a science question, that's a philosophical question. How many liquor stores there are per square mile in a certain area is a straight-forward computation using math; interpreting the meaning or impact of the resulting number is not a math problem, it's a social science problem. And it's probably not an elementary school issue, either.

I'm curious. What's next? Engineering For Social Justice? Of course not. No one wants the bridge to fall down. They want the hard science there, same as they want the rigorous training for the pilot of the airplane on which they're flying. There are absolutes there, and there's no way around them--the bridge either collapes or it doesn't, the plane either flies and lands safely or it doesn't. They can't go after these fields. But math education--it doesn't have a direct and immediate impact on life like the examples above do, so the lefties will try to dilute it.

Let's be blunt. The RS people openly stated that "Rethinking Schools emphasizes problems facing urban schools, particularly issues of race." This tells us immediately that they're looking at the achievement gap between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other. While that's good and important--it's what the No Child Left Behind Act does--the RS people take exactly the wrong approach. Instead of working to improve the math knowledge of blacks and Hispanics (the stereotypical urban school students), they want to feed into the culture of victimhood and self-esteem by making the students feel good about themselves without really learning the math that they'll need to move ahead in education. In other words, the RS people will be creating students who have "thought without learning" (referenced in Part I), which is in fact "perilous."

Certainly working in a school that has a conceptually strong foundational mathematics curriculum is helpful. Teachers cannot easily do social justice mathematics teaching when using a rote, procedure-oriented mathematics curriculum. Likewise a text-driven, teacher-centered approach does not foster the kind of questioning and reflection that should take place in all classrooms, including those where math is studied.

{inserted 2/14/08: this page has been intentionally damaged, how and by whom I don't know. There was a script running here, something about which I know nothing, but several paragraphs are missing. For example, I quoted a RS math problem that dealt with buying candy bars, and how bad that is for someone. Then I spoke against the problem. I pick up here where the text seems unmolested}

Again, it's the interpretation that makes the politics. Notice the value judgements the RS people assign to the first problem--"consumerism" (bad), and unhealthy eating habits (bad). What if, instead of candy bars, the students were buying apples? Does the "politics" of the problem now change?

{other paragraphs are missing here}

The first problem is a straightforward application of mathematics. The assumption I would make, however, is that students would be familiar with multidigit multiplication before transitioning to this word problem. The very basic nature of the word problem is designed to use some knowledge the students most likely already have (they probably all understand what is going on in the problem) to extend their use of mathematics, to show them a type of problem in which multiplication is useful. This type of problem promotes mathematical understanding, which should easily be transferable to other types of math problems.

The second example is entirely different. The second example, by its very wording and nature--indeed, by its design--causes the mathematics to be secondary to the social goals of "global awareness" and "empathy", neither of which is a valid subject for mathematics.

Let me give another example. The first problem would be like a shop teacher's teaching the use of a saber saw. Students would already know the basics of how to hold and power the saw, and the problem causes them to extend this knowledge by actually using the saw to, perhaps, cut a curved line in wood. The second problem assumes from the start that we're going to make a shelf, and it will be a great shelf, and the focus is on the shelf, not the saw. The focus of the lesson in shop class should be the saw, not the uses of the shelf.

Elementary students need the building blocks of knowledge, which include rigorous math instruction. We don't build skyscrapers without starting with the foundation, and master piano players learn scales and Chopsticks before concertos. It amazes that these same people (lefties) who think that these children have the intellectual capacity to solve the world's problems don't think they can handle the memorization of times tables or the stress of taking a standardized test. Hold them to a measurable, identifiable standard? Perish the thought.

In closing, the RS people have things bass-ackwards. We should teach the math first, then the applications, then interpret the findings. Don't try to do it all at once, that only confuses the issue (and the students!). This is an ideal time to point out that we math teachers already do enough cross-curricular instruction in our courses--readings and writings about math and mathematicians, applications to art and science, history of math, etc. The RS people make no secret of their desire to use mathematics for social purposes, so let them do it. How fun would it be to watch social studies teachers apply mathematics to their courses of instruction?! I wonder if they'd gain a new appreciation for having an actual knowledge of math....

Press Release From Iraq (and Video!)

Official Media Release

Media Release
256th Brigade Combat Team
Camp Tigerland
Baghdad, Iraq
APO, AE 09326

RELEASE 20050705-01

256th BCT Soldier survives sniper attack
Spc. Chris Foster
256th Brigade Combat Team PAO

BAGHDAD -- Being able to react to and maintain control of a situation in a combat environment can be a difficult task for Soldiers. They must be able to quickly react and assess a situation, in order to ensure their survival and the safety of those around them.

"Stay alert, stay alive" is the reminder that is driven into the minds of Soldiers since the first day of basic training and echoes throughout their military careers.

This axiom was driven home for at least one Soldier on June 2. Pfc. Stephen Tschiderer, a native of Mendon, N.Y., and a medic with E Troop, 101st "Saber" Cavalry Division, attached to 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, was shot in the chest by an enemy sniper, during a routine patrol in west Baghdad.

While Tschiderer was relaying information to the truck commander of his M114 Humvee, an enemy sniper team prepared to engage him from inside of a cushioned silver van being used as a mobile sniper's nest. This nest was lined with numerous bed mattresses to muffle the sound of a Dragonoff sniper rifle fired through a hole just big enough for the shooter to engage his target of choice.

Tschiderer was knocked to the ground from the sudden impact of the sniper's bullet. The bullet only seemed to have fazed this Soldier as, adrenaline pumping, he sprang right back up in order to take cover and locate the enemy's position.

The sniper was unsuccessful in his mission, due to the stopping force of the Tschiderer's daily wardrobe, his protective body armor, which saved his life. "I knew I was hit, but was uncertain of the damage or location from the hit," Tschiderer said. "The only thing that was going through my mind was to take cover and locate the sniper's position."

"The shot came from my 12 o'clock position from a silver van parked across an intersection about 75 meters from my location." said Tschiderer. After Tschiderer alerted his fellow Soldiers of the enemy location, they immediately began to pursue the terrorists.

Due to his heroic actions and quick decisions, Tschiderer located the enemy while he took cover and alerted the rest of his team on patrol. As the Saber team engaged and disabled the sniper's position, two terrorists fled on foot, leaving a blood trail that came from the wounds of the enemy sniper.

A cordon and search was immediately set up and Tschiderer assisted his team in the search of the two terrorists. The driver of the silver vehicle was detained by a team from B Co. 3-156th Inf. Bn. while Tschiderer and a team from B Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade, continued to follow the blood trail which led them to the yard where the wounded sniper lay in pain.

As Tschiderer secured the terrorist with a pair of handcuffs, he gave medical aid to the wounded terrorist-the same one who'd tried to take his life.

You can see video of this attack here.

Convention Hypocrisy From The NEA

The Education Wonks bring us this story about new Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who wants to get rid of local control of school districts by appointing the school board and superintendent himself. Could this be the same Antonio Villaraigosa who was welcomed at the NEA Convention in Los Angeles a few weeks ago to raucus applause? (click here and scroll down to meeting highlights or here and scroll down to July 3)

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Happy Birthday

Today is my son's 9th birthday. We've cleaned this morning and picked up his birthday cookie--he's not too much into cake, so we got a 16" decorated chocolate cookie from Mrs. Fields. For the party we'll have that and root beer floats. Low key, but yummy!

As a result, blogging will be light to non-existent for the rest of the day. And I'll be out hiking tomorrow. Fear not, though--Math For Social Justice, Part II is in the works!

Friday, July 15, 2005

THIS Can Happen To You...

...if you drop out of high school.

Staley, 18, is accused of taking the [American] flag from a residence and setting it on fire. His father said the teenager "has no reason for anger against the United States" and could easily have ignited a garbage can instead of a flag.

"He was brought up in church, and he knows right from wrong," Doc Staley said.

Doc Staley said his son has been "floundering around" since dropping out of high school. "This is where the drinking came in. And he's not very good at it," the father said.

It's pretty bad if you can't even be good at drinking.

Read the whole thing here.

John Howard of Australia Gets It

Via Instapundit (see my blogroll at left) I learned of this ABC (Australian Broadcasting) interview with Prime Minister John Howard. I can only say that he gets it and the reporter does not. My favorite part:
MAXINE McKEW: Prime Minister, if as you say you can't rule out that possibility that we could have potential bombers right here in Australia, what if today's announcement, this redeployment to Afghanistan and our continued presence in Iraq is all the provocation they need?

JOHN HOWARD: Maxine, these people are opposed to what we believe in and what we stand for, far more than what we do. If you imagine that you can buy immunity from fanatics by curling yourself in a ball, apologising for the world - to the world - for who you are and what you stand for and what you believe in, not only is that morally bankrupt, but it's also ineffective. Because fanatics despise a lot of things and the things they despise most is weakness and timidity. There has been plenty of evidence through history that fanatics attack weakness and retreating people even more savagely than they do defiant people.

Update, 7/19/05 10:59 am: Here are two interesting articles that relate not only to what is excerpted above, but to the comment thread of this post.
Understanding Terrorism? Ridiculous
Terrorists and the smell of fear

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Zarqawi Before The War In Iraq

I don't recall ever hearing his name before the Iraq War. But General/Secretary of State Powell had, as reported by CNN on February 5, 2003.

No, no one's saying Saddam had anything to do with the September 11th terrorist acts. But he was complicit enough in worldwide terror to make Iraq a front in the Global War on Terror. That's why we're there.

And Zarqawi was there before we were.

Update, 7/15/05 7:54 pm: Here's an interesting ABC News report, kept at, documenting ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda. Notice what Clinton-era officials were telling ABC News then. Hint: it sounds a lot like what President Bush's officials say now.

Update, 7/17/05 5:02 pm: Here's more information about Saddam's links to international terror, including al Qaeda.

Eminent Domain in California

Tomorrow a constitutional amendment will be presented in the California legislature that will restrict eminent domain takings in light of the Kelo decision.

Math For Social Justice, Part 1

Nineteen years ago, a group of Milwaukee-area teachers had a vision.

They wanted not only to improve education in their own classrooms and schools, but to help shape reform throughout the public school system in the United States.

Today that vision is embodied in Rethinking Schools.

So begins the self-righteous Rethinking Schools website. Of course, any decent person would have to ask what is wrong with such a vision? The sarcastic me would point you to the location of the teachers and indicate that should tell the reader where the teachers are going. The scholarly me is going to walk you through their website and point out the pernicious belief structure that permeates it.

As I read through the Rethinking Mathematics component of the website, a thought kept recurring to me--this sounds like Paulo Freire. Freire was a Brazilian educator who wrote a book entitled Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which he opined that the "filling the brain" model of education is oppressive and that students should learn within the context of doing social good for their communities, a model of education he called "problem-posing". There is much to attack in applying Freire's work to American schools, but the American left is as enamored with this man as I am of Starburst candies. I read the Rethinking Mathematics section before reading The History and Philosophy of Rethinking Schools, which I linked to above. Had I read the History and Philosophy first I wouldn't have had to use my brain so much to find the link to the leftist Freire:
Brazilian educator Paulo Freire wrote that teachers should attempt to "live part of their dreams within their educational space." Rethinking Schools believes that classrooms can be places of hope, where students and teachers gain glimpses of the kind of society we could live in and where students learn the academic and critical skills needed to make that vision a reality.
It was all there for me. But at least I had these Milwaukee educators pegged.

Now don't get me wrong and create a false dichotomy here, with Waldorf-type schools on the one hand and the stereotypical gray-concrete-Soviet-factory-type of school on the other. As I've stated before I believe that education is a social process, one that is greatly facilitated by rapport between teacher and student and by working with other students. I'm all about "academic and critical skills" that prepare students for the trials (and triumphs) of adulthood in our society. However, I very much disagree with Rethinking Schools' social view and the leftward direction in which that would lead students, to the detriment of us all.
Schools are integral not only to preparing all children to be full participants in society, but also to be full participants in this country's ever-tenuous experiment in democracy. That this vision has yet to be fully realized does not mean it should be abandoned.
While I question whether our 229 years of American independence from Britain, or our 218 years of living under the Constitution (counting from 1787), as an "ever-tenuous experiment in democracy", I'll not debate that point. What I would like to bring up is a quote from the Chinese philosopher Confucius, a quote I think apropos of this discussion: "Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous." If I may be so bold as to interpret his meaning, Confucius instructs us that before "thought", before "critical thinking", must come "learning", the mastery of facts, agorithms, etc. Students must have a solid foundation of knowledge in the arts and sciences before they can apply this knowledge to solve problems. Those that have the learning but don't use it (learning without thought) have perhaps wasted their time but have done no harm, but surely the same cannot be said of the person who pontificates without knowledge of fact.

Put simply, if you pose a problem and teach students how to solve it, they learn to solve one problem. Teach them the fundamentals of solving the problem, and they're able to solve a host of related problems. Didn't someone famous once say something about giving a fish to a man and he eats for a day, but teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime? (Yes, I know who it was.)

And what type of problem do you pose? Ah, therein lies the pitfall.

These Milwaukee teachers refer to their publication as "activist", a term I'm sure has a loaded meaning for them. I'm convinced the following, innocuous-sounding paragraph has a different meaning to those who know the codewords than it does to the lay person:
While the scope and influence of Rethinking Schools has changed, its basic orientation has not. Most importantly, it remains firmly committed to equity and to the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy. While writing for a broad audience, Rethinking Schools emphasizes problems facing urban schools, particularly issues of race.
Perhaps even the lay person can see the direction the authors will take us, and it's certainly not a direction in which I'd want to go.

So far I've gone after the philosophy of the Rethinking Schools people and haven't yet discussed the text of the Rethinking Mathematics section. You can see that this post is called Part 1; in later parts I'll attend to math specifically instead of generally. My goal here is to show you the bias and danger inherent in this philosophy as a whole before getting into the details of math instruction. I'll close with one more paragraph.
There are many reasons to be discouraged about the future: School districts nationwide continue to slash budgets; violence in our schools and cities shows no signs of abating; attempts to privatize the schools have not slowed; and the country's productive resources are still used to make zippier shoes, rather than used in less profitable arenas like education and affordable housing.
I love these unsubstantiated statements that are presented as facts. While I have no doubt that some school districts are cutting budgets, the question to ask is, why? Is there no good reason ever to cut a government budget? But let's look at education spending. The EIA website, which I quoted here, gives us the following information:
The percentage increases in current spending on public education for the last 10 years are: 4.7, 6.0, 5.7, 5.7, 6.5, 6.8, 5.5, 6.6, 3.0 and 4.4. NEA estimates that total expenditures on U.S. public schools in 2004-05 were $495,235,283,000.
From the same source:
So we were treated to speeches from NEA state affiliate presidents from Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts and Ohio – decrying their fiscal situations, referencing devastating cuts to education funding and complaining about "Third World budgets."
How about devastating budget cuts? Here are the per-pupil spending estimates for 2004-05 from NEA, released just last week:
Michigan: up 3.6 percent
Illinois: up 6.0 percent
Kansas: up 3.5 percent
Massachusetts: up 5.1 percent
Ohio: up 5.8 percent
California: up 2.4 percent
Nationwide: up 3.3 percent
So the claim for "slashing" budgets is interesting. But we all know that violence "shows no signs of abating", right? Uh, not quite. According to the FBI, crimes of all types have shown a sharp decline in the last few decades. In fact, this report shows that last year crimes were down overall nationally, and in every region. I'm not one who thinks privatizing schools is bad, so let's look at the last part, that "our productive resources are still used to make zippier shoes, rather than used in less profitable arenas like education and affordable housing."

What are they saying here? That our industries should be giving away their profits to public schools? If so, what are taxes for? Or are they saying that profit is bad, that we should not have "zippier shoes" until what these educators see as societal woes are all solved?

Why does the left hate capitalism? What is it about the left that they don't understand that humans are most productive when there is a profit motive at work? They don't like monopolies, because there's no competition in industry and that's bad for the consumer. But they don't like the profit motive that breeds competition, either. Leaves only a few choices that I can see, excessive socialism or communism, and neither meets with my approval.

Future posts will deal with Rethinking Schools' painful political views as they relate to teaching mathematics.

Here's Part 2.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Next Post Will Be About Teaching Math

With school out, it's somewhat harder to come across educational items to write about. Politics has been kind of interesting lately, so I've had several posts from that field. Were it not mainly for union issues, education commentary here at Right On The Left Coast would be minimal lately.

I give my sacred vow that my next post will be a lengthy one about teaching math!

Two Opposing Views About The War On Terror

From Mark Steyn, as quoted in the UK's Telegraph:
Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if "martyrdom" were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local "martyrs" were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special "martyrdom" accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on "Why I want to grow up to be a martyr".

From Phillip Adams, in The Australian:
Unlike those humdrum bombings in Baghdad, the slaughter in London was big news. And let's be clear about it: the people who died in the subway tunnels and on the bus were victims of the Iraq war. They died because of Blair's London Bridge, the one he built from the Thames to the Euphrates.

Steyn says that Moslem culture incubates terrorism, Adams says that it's Blair's (and by extension, Bush's) fault. It shouldn't be hard to determine which view I agree with.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Who Owns The Airplanes?

In the latest round of Base Realignment And Closure activities, which fortunately for Northern California (and the nation at large) spared Beale and Travis Air Force Bases, a wing of the Illinois Air National Guard was to be moved to Indiana. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the governor of Illinois argues that some federal law, which he doesn't specify, forbids the realignment if he does not consent--and he most definitely does not consent.

My question is, who owns the airplanes?

I already know the answer, and I don't believe the Illinois governor has a case here. Then again, I also thought there was no way the Supreme Court could rule in favor of New London in the Kelo case.

Why They Hate Us

And we all know which "they" I mean.

From the UK's Mirror web site:

We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

The grievances I listed above are unappeasable, one of many reasons why the jihadists will lose.

They demand the impossible - the cessation of all life in favour of prostration before a totalitarian vision. Plainly, we cannot surrender. There is no one with whom to negotiate, let alone capitulate.

To that I can only add a loud and thunderous "amen".

Sunday, July 10, 2005

New News Director With Interesting Credentials

Local ABC affiliate Channel 10 has a new news director, Stacy Owen, who comes from San Francisco's KRON. Yesterday's major Sacramento newspaper reports:
Under Owen's leadership, KRON won many journalism honors, including a national Emmy award and a Peabody Award for education coverage and awards for coverage of breaking news, Postell said.

I'd like to find out what kind of education coverage KRON did that merited an Emmy.

Update, 7/11/05 11:41 am: Well, that was disappointing. According to KRON's own web site, here's what KRON got an Emmy for:

EDUCATION/INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAM - Bay Area Backroads: Big Sur by Land and Sea; Eunice Louie, Producer; Dave Vandergriff, Editor.

Apparently one of their reporters got the Peabody. Again, from their web site:

In 2004, Noel received broadcasting’s highest honor, the George Foster Peabody Award, for her contributions to KRON’s “Students Rising Above” series. This series also earned her a National Emmy for Community Service. Cisneros is also a three-time recipient of the John Swett Award for Media Excellence from the California Teachers Association, has been honored by the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative for her efforts to highlight inequities in urban education, and recognized nationally by the Education Writers Association with a first prize for her work on the television documentary “Separate – Unequal.”

Paycheck Protection Law

California is poised to hold a special election in November. One of the initiatives placed on the ballot is the so-called Paycheck Protection Law, which will require public employee unions to get written permission from members each year before using that member's money on political activities. Of course I support this law. As I wrote here to the CTA president a few days ago:
I love the initiative that will require you to get my permission every year before you spend my dues money on political causes. Let me tell you right now, you won't get it. Save your 37 cent stamp.
Dan Weintraub, columnist and blogger for the major Sacramento newspaper, has this to say:

The unions, and the Democrats who depend on them for much of their political money, fear this provision could seriously weaken their campaign firepower.

As a result, Democrats have left open the possibility of negotiating a truce with the governor in which he would renounce the measures he already has qualified for the ballot, plus the union dues initiative. In return, they would help him place a new slate of compromise proposals on the ballot and campaign with him for those measures.

Unfortunately, Paycheck Protection laws are easily gotten around. Apparently only Utah's is working as intended.

FoxNews has an interesting story here about the potential schism in the AFL-CIO, which I wrote about here. Their story ends with more information about the Paycheck Protection Law. Only a few states have such laws, a fact I find highly interesting.

And in a related note, however tangentially, yesterday's major Sacramento newspaper reported that the state Attorney General has filed suit to keep the redistricting proposal off of the special election ballot because one version was submitted to the attorney general and a slightly differently worded version was placed on petitions to qualify the proposal for the ballot. As you can imagine, I'll be blogging more about this as the election grows nearer.

Help Iraqi Schools and Schoolchildren

Read this article, and help if you can.

Friday, July 08, 2005

"I Just Hope It Works"

This goes along with my posts on environmentalism.

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 8, 1:54 PM ET

DALTON, Ga. - Here in the "Carpet Capital of the World," the vast manufacturing plants that supply almost half the nation's carpet also pump out reams of wasted scraps that eventually wind up in landfills.

Next month, the world's largest carpet maker plans to do something about the problem, opening a one-of-a-kind power plant that will be fueled by the 16,000 tons of overruns, rejects and remnants it turns out every year.

PETA Kills Animals

How could I not have heard about this until just now???

N.C. Counties Say PETA Euthanizes Animals

Thursday, June 23, 2005

(06-23) 08:55 PDT Norfolk, Va. (AP) --Two North Carolina counties have stopped turning over shelter animals to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, saying they were surprised the group euthanized cats and dogs instead of trying to find them homes.

Isn't it PETA that says that animals have the same rights as humans? Was it not a PETA honcho who famously said "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy"?

So is today Point Out Hypocrisy Day here on Right On The Left Coast, or what??? I need a root beer float.

Huh? Wha? Part II

On May 9th I posted this about something I thought was "intuitively obvious to the most casual observer." In that same vein I offer this warning from a bag of dry roasted peanuts from Southwest Airlines:
Produced in a facility that processes peanuts and other nuts.

Tell This To Babs and Reg

By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 8, 4:24 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Organized labor should help politicians who will advance labor's cause rather than simply supporting Democrats, says a union leader pushing for changes in the AFL-CIO.

"We can't just elect Democratic politicians and try to take back the House and take back the Senate and think that's going to change workers' lives," said Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

So says this article about a potential schism in the AFL-CIO. Babs Kerr of the CTA and Reg Weaver of NEA, are you listening???

Creativity In The Classroom

Just today I received from a fellow educator in Iowa, whom I know only because we're both on an education-related emaillist, several tests and worksheets related to her pre-calculus course. What a joy it was to go through these papers and see new and interesting ways of presenting some of the same material I've been teaching for the past 2 years! Some of the creativity that went into the word problems was remarkable. There's one I still have no idea how to solve!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: education is a social process. It's greatly aided by a rapport between teacher and student and by collaboration between teachers. Compared to schools in other countries, the average American teacher spends significantly less time collaborating with peers, which means that there are fewer opportunities to share ideas on lessons, learn "best practices", coordinate pacing, etc. Isn't it amazing that by chance of fate and the internet, I get to work with a fellow pre-calculus teacher in another time zone?

And if I were giving a daily Creativity In The Classroom Award, today's would go to the subjects of this article, who use the Harry Potter books not only to get students to read, but as a basis for the study of chemistry and other sciences.
"The kids got involved, they were using science," said Donna Hammond-Cotton of Los Angeles, senior program officer with the Honda foundation. "They were not to supposed to be good readers, but they were just reading out."
Good on them!

Former Union President

My former union President, who was coincidentally enough pictured on page 30 of the May California Educator magazine, said the following at the last union meeting of the school year (and it is a paraphrase):
I'm going back to the classroom, and boy, these new math standards--I tell
you, they're tough. I'm going to have to go back and do some serious studying...

Her term as union President is up and she's going back to a third grade classroom. I refer you to this post to discuss how much math any teacher should know, and here to find out what exactly California's third grade math standards are.

This, my readers, is our problem in a nutshell.

California Educator Magazine--June Hypocrisy

The final issue of the school year dealt with two major topics--arts in the schools (good), and rallies to protest against the governor and his policies (bad). I have no dog in the first fight, although I do support art, music, shop, and related programs in schools (who doesn't?). I'll focus my attention on the second topic, which I'm sure surprises my regular readers to no end :-)

Let's start with the president's column and hear from old cigarettes-and-whisky-voice herself, Barbara Kerr:

Despite polls showing 62 percent of voters are opposed to the idea, the governor announced he's going to waste up to 80 million taxpayer dollars--that's your money and mine--on a special election in November. He's spending that money on an election that nobody wants, that won't help improve our schools one bit, and that will actually cut school funding even more. [emphasis mine--Darren]

Where to start with that one? I guess I could point out that some people want the election, and that not every election has to be about something related to education. I could say that school funding won't necessarily be cut, not unless there's an economic downturn and the governor has to trim part of the 50% of the state budget that we call public education. Yes, I could say those things, but they pale in comparison to this point:

Barbara, why is it when the governor spends taxpayer money, it's "your money and mine", but when you spend my forcibly appropriated union dues, you don't care that I have no say in it? How come it's your money then, not mine?

Later in her column, after complaining and sniping some more, Boss Kerr has this to say:

These so-called reforms have nothing to do with what's needed to help improve student learning. They don't buy one textbook. They don't reduce one class's (sic) size and they don't provide quality teacher training. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan is simple. He wants to take CTA and others who disagree with his agenda out for good. And like any bully on the playground, he will do and say anything to get his way.
Where to start with that one? Doh! I've already used that transition just a few paragraphs above. But honestly, where do you start when there are so many fallacies and misstatements?

One of the reforms will change the way California's legislative boundaries are drawn, taking that responsibility away from the legislature and putting it in the hands of an appointed panel of (retired?) judges. That has nothing to do with education, Boss Kerr, unless you're afraid that your buddies in the Capitol will no longer draw their own legislative boundaries to keep so many Democrats in the legislature, and you fear more Republicans in the legislature. Might I recommend, Your Majesty, that you crawl out of bed with the Democrats and other lefty groups (International ANSWER comes to mind) and put some eggs in the Republican basket? Especially when you consider that about 30% of your membership classifies itself as Republican....

The tenure and due process initiative--well, I kind of agree with you on this one. But wasn't it CTA who sold out new teachers several years ago by agreeing to get rid of so many of the due process rights that untenured teachers had? Chickens are coming home to roost.

The "Live Within Our Means" act, the one which adjusts state spending based on economic conditions, seems sensible to me. We can't have half our state budget go to education and not expect cuts when tax revenues decline.

I love the initiative that will require you to get my permission every year before you spend my dues money on political causes. Let me tell you right now, you won't get it. Save your 37 cent stamp.

And as for taking CTA "out for good", let me remind you of one of our little chants from the May 25th rally that has been lauded in the last two issues of California Educator:
Hey hey, ho ho
Schwarzenegger's got to go!

Somehow, Your Majesty, your complaints ring hollow.

So, these initiatives don't reduce class sizes, improve student performance, or buy textbooks. Do CTA's proposals do this? Does the Tax Fairness Act of 2005, which will increase property taxes on businesses? How exactly does reregulating our deregulated electrical service improve student performance? How many books will we get by having the state get involved in negotiating prescription drug prices, or ensuring that used car buyers can return their cars within 3 days? How will education improve, how much more money will be available for education, with SB 840, which will create a single-payer health plan? By the way, that's "progressive" talk for socialized, state-run health care.

It's sad that you complain about the governor's doing exactly the same thing that you're doing. There's a word for that, and we all know what it is, Boss.

One final interesting thing I noticed--I've never seen the word "Republican" so often in California Educator. It's almost as if they recognize that there are Republicans in their midst, and every once in awhile they ought to throw us a bone. Of course, the references were like "Democrats and Republicans in my area support teachers" or "Even in a heavily Republican area this person has received lots of support and encouragement"--it shows you what their stereotype of a Republican is. They don't even see their own nakedness.