Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Horrible Is Wal*Mart?

It's fashionable to pile on Wal*Mart. Here in America we root for the underdog and generally don't like any person or organization who might possibly be too big for his breeches.

Unions are anti-Wal*Mart, saying it doesn't pay its employees fair wages. Apparently they could be working somewhere else for far more money. But that isn't the point. Wal*Mart is bad, that's all there is to it. The Washington State NEA affiliate, which reimburses teachers for extraordinary expenses they undertake on behalf of students (such as purchasing winter coats for kids who don't have one), will no longer reimburse receipts from Wal*Mart. What does the NEA platform say about Wal*Mart specifically?

It's pretty obvious I'm a Wal*Mart fan. Here's yet another reason why.

Help After Hurricane Katrina

I've been wondering when help from the rest of the world would come pouring into the United States now that Katrina has devastated parts of 3 states, has flooded New Orleans and who knows what other cities, and has made refugees of hundreds of thousands of people.

I've asked all day: where are the concerts? Where are the offers of assistance from other countries? Where is the UN, especially after Jan Englund called us "stingy" during the tsunami crisis? Who is offering to help?

According to this FoxNews article, our erstwhile ally (ahem) Venezuela has offered to help, and individuals in Switzerland are asking how they can help.

The rest of the article mentions which countries have sent sympathies, and which countries/groups have somehow managed to criticize the US in the wake of the hurricane.

Foreign Exchange Teaching

I've long thought how cool it would be to take a year and teach in Britain on an exchange program. I could immerse myself in my distant heritage while also making a living. There are several programs that make such a thing possible. It would be even better if I could take my son with me, even if only for a semester, so he could experience living in another country.

But if this is how bad things have gotten in British schools, forget it. I'd better not hear the f-bomb 5 times all school year, much less 5 times in one class from one student. I hope Kimberly is right--that *has* to be a joke.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Military-Industrial Complex

In his farewell address in 1961, President and General Eisenhower warned against the "potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power" in the military-industrial complex. The wisdom of his words will permeate the ages, but the immediacy of them will ebb and flow with the times. For the lefties, this comment (from a General and Republican, no less) from over 40 years ago shrieks at us and forms part of the foundation of their anti-American, anti-military hysteria. Halliburton, anyone? I'm curious--how many people can tell me exactly what Halliburton actually does? I'd assert very few, yet people use the name and expect its mere mention to prove their point and stifle any debate.

In a speech sure to be remembered, at least by lefties, for far less time than Eisenhower's, Czech President Vaclav Klaus has issued a new warning for our time. The Brussels Journal carries an in-depth article here, while I provide Instapundit's snippets of the "good parts":

President Klaus spoke last Monday, warning for the new “substitute ideologies of socialism” such as “Europeanism” and “NGOism.” These “isms” are currently threatening Europe. “In the first decade of the 21st century we should not concentrate exclusively on socialism,” he said. . . .

As substitutes of socialism, Václav Klaus cited “environmentalism (with its Earth First, not Freedom First principle), radical humanrightism (based – as de Jasay precisely argues – on not distinguishing rights and rightism), the ideology of ‘civic society’ (or communitarism), which is nothing less than one version of post-Marxist collectivism which wants privileges for organized groups, and in consequence, a refeudalization of society […], multiculturalism, feminism, apolitical technocratism (based on the resentment against politics and politicians), internationalism (and especially its European variant called Europeanism) and a rapidly growing phenomenon I call NGOism.”. . .

He also opposed “excessive government regulation” and “huge subsidies to privileged or protected industries and firms.” He warned that Europe’s social system “must not be wrecked by all imaginable kinds of disincentives, by more than generous welfare payments, by large scale redistribution, by many forms of government paternalism.” Instead, Europe has to “be based on freedom, personal responsibility, individualism, natural caring for others and genuine moral conduct of life.”

Monday, August 29, 2005

THIS Is What Computers Should Do

http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~geoffo/humour/flattery.html

So appropriate for our self-esteem-obsessed culture!

More On Eminent Domain

Since the Kelo Decision I've been up in arms about eminent domain. If the Supreme Court can't figure out what the Constitution obviously says, it's apparently up to the people to decide. And decide we shall.

Here's the text of an email I received today. Californians, read and act accordingly:

Tomorrow, August 30, the California Judiciary Committee will vote on Senate Constitutional Amendment 15 (SCA 15), the Homeowner and Property Protection Act. If it becomes law -- through a vote by the legislature and a vote by the general public -- this amendment will protect all home and business owners throughout the state from the abuse of eminent domain for private commercial development. It is crucial that the Committee approve the amendment so that the full legislature and the people will have a chance to enact it. If you are interested in the plight of California home and small business owners, it’s vitally important that you contact the members of the Judiciary Committee today and urge them to approve SCA 15.

SCA 15 requires that property taken by eminent domain be owned and occupied by the government entity taking it. It continues to allow condemnations for public utilities and railroads but otherwise flatly prohibits eminent domain for the benefit of private parties. This is the best legislation in the entire country to address the problem of eminent domain abuse that has been introduced since the Kelo decision. If enacted, it will not only protect Californians, but will also serve as an important reform model in other states. There is competing "moratorium" legislation that is being touted by some as a significant reform, but that bill only protects owner-occupied residences, and thus leaves thousands of people vulnerable to eminent domain abuse. Churches, small business owners and tenants, including families who are long-term residents of apartments and other rental homes, will find no protection under the moratorium bill. There are also other proposed constitutional amendments that the committee may consider, but these leave the door wide open to eminent domain abuse.

Please contact the members of the Judiciary Committee as soon as you can and tell them that you support SCA 15 and that it, not the "moratorium" bill or other watered-down constitutional amendments, is the way to accomplish real reform of eminent domain laws in California. SCA 15 has a strong chance of being passed in a vote by the general public; it should not die in committee.

The contact information for the Committee members is here: http://www.senate.ca.gov/ftp/sen/committee/STANDING/JUDICIARY/_home1/PROFILE.HTM

Joseph Dunn, Chair: 916-651-4034
Bill Morrow, Vice-Chair: 916-651-4038
Dick Ackerman: 916-651-4033
Gilbert Cedillo: 916-651-4022
Martha Ecutia: 916-651-4030
Liz Figueroa: 916-651-4010
Sheila Kuehl: 916-651-4023

The text of the amendment is available here: http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/bill/sen/sb_0001-0050/sca_15_bill_20050823_amended_sen.pdf

If you are in Sacramento, the meeting is open to the public and we’d urge you to attend it as well -- and be sure to wear any t-shirts or stickers opposing eminent domain abuse. It will be in Room 4203 of the State Capitol Building.

Call today and have your voice heard. We thank you for your help.

Best wishes,
Steven Anderson
Castle Coalition Coordinator
sanderson@ij.org

Elizabeth Moser
Outreach Coordinator
emoser@ij.org

Institute for Justice
1717 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20006
202-955-1300
fax 202-955-1329
Castle Coalition: www.castlecoalition.org
Litigating for Liberty: www.IJ.org

Immigration

California Conservative has this to say about immigration, and I can't find anything about it with which I disagree:

Immigration is a privilege. This seems to be forgotten. Thus, it’s not only fair but proper to consider that people entering a nation should understand and appreciate (dare I say adopt) the adopting country’s history and values.

Diversity is delightful, but not at the expense of national unity.

Cut The Cord, People!

This AP report tells us that colleges are now having to face what we schoolteachers have had to face for years: over-involved parents.

Before the shots start flying, let me state up front that yes, I know that they're your kids, not mine. Yes, I know that you have every right to be concerned about the quality of education, their grades, etc. Yes, I really do enjoy and see the need for parental involvement in schools, not just pay it lip service. Remember, I'm a parent first and a teacher second.

But you have to remember some things, too, parents. Yes, I really do know what I'm doing. No, I don't have it in for your kid. No, yelling and dropping the f-bomb on me will not make me more amenable to agree with you. And f*** no, threatening me, especially with lawsuits, will not cause me to cower; quite the opposite, in fact.

So what are over-involved parents? I won't address the situation at high school. Anyone who's overinvolved wouldn't see him/herself in the description anyway. And besides, using actual tales, even without names, has the potential to create problems I don't want to deal with. So go read the AP article on what some parents are doing at colleges. Some of the problems cited:

1. parents' calling college administrators to complain about their children's dorm assignments,
2. parents' calling college administrators to complain about their children's roommates,
3. students' calling mumsie every night before going to bed,
4. parents' arguing with college administrators, arguing that paying tuition entitles them to whatever they want, and
5. (one I read in another article) students' handing a cell phone to the guidance counselor during class registration and saying, "Here, talk to my mom."


I like this response from an administrator:

"We get quoted the price tag frequently," said Dean of Student Affairs Jim Terhune. "But what you're paying for is an education, not a room at the Sheraton, and sometimes that education is uncomfortable."


Cut the cord, people.

Some day perhaps I'll tell the story of my first day at West Point.

Can You Pass The Citizenship Test?

You Passed the US Citizenship Test
Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!
Yeah, that's right!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

If Only *I* Could Leave The NEA

Focus on the Family, everyone's favorite religious organization (and target), informs us about the following:

NEA Conservative Caucus to Bolt Union
By Steve Jordahl

The National Education Association’s Conservative Educators Caucus, tired of having their voice within the union ignored, is looking to leave the NEA and join a different association. The caucus could take thousands of disaffected teachers and even entire districts with them....


“What I don’t like is really quite simple. President Hillary? It just gives me the shivers. If they’re going to be involved in politics, they should ask me to be involved. But they’re not asking. They want me to pay my dues and be quiet at this point.”


Hm. Pay the dues and be quiet. We know what's best for you. Where have we heard this before?

I wish I had the option of leaving the union and not still supporting them with my money.

You know, I calculated today that my local/state/national unions take around 2% of my pay each month? Isn't that egregious? Are there any other unions that take so much money?

University of California Sets New Low, Keeps On Digging

Via the Education Wonks and Newsday.com we learn the following:

University of Calif. Sued Over Creationism

By Associated Press

August 27, 2005, 2:03 PM EDT

LOS ANGELES -- A group representing California religious schools has filed a lawsuit accusing the University of California system of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints.

The Association of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 schools, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming UC admissions officials have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution. Other rejected courses include "Christianity's Influence in American History."


They don't like the SAT because certain minorities score lower than whites and certain other minorities, they work to find ways around Prop 209 because they want to continue their affirmative action programs, and now they discriminate in admissions against students who went to Christian schools (if there is merit to this case). Truly sad. I'm glad I'm not an alumnus.

Poor Teachers Need Handouts

There are a couple of American legends that just won't go away. The first is that old people are poor and need senior citizen discounts. Any government report, economist, and advertising executive will tell you that America's senior citizens are by far our wealthiest citizens, thanks primarily to a post-WWII economy that has been kind to them for the past 50 years. Senior citizens' discounts date from the time when seniors truly were a poor segment of our population, pre-social security, and so many relied on such kind actions in order to be able to afford such luxuries as eating out.

Another such legend is that of the poor teacher. Teaching used to be a single woman's profession, and as such wasn't paid very highly. It was considered a calling, like the clergy, one that had rewards other than money. Those days are also, for the most part, long past. Now, I'm not saying that I'm overpaid--far from it. I drive a Kia Rio. :-) I'm also not saying that I can afford the same house my parents had at my age--but how many can, given today's real estate prices here in California? But I doubt that too many people in the country would hesitate to trade salaries with me, given that I work in what is probably the 3nd most expensive state in the union (I hear Connecticut and Alaska are pretty bad). Honestly, I think teachers, at least here in California, should quit whining about low pay. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make more money, or honestly feeling that, for whatever reason, you deserve more than you're getting (EdWonk, for example, has gone without a raise for the last three years). But for a teacher to complain about low pay? I just don't see it. Somewhere on the NEA web site--I can't find it, but perhaps one of my legions of readers can!--is a list of the *average* pay for teachers in each state. Check it out; you might be surprised.

Anyway, let's finally get to the point of this post. DelawareOnline.com tells us the story of a school faculty group that is actively soliciting gifts for its teachers.

To encourage teachers to spend more time rewarding positive attributes, the group is seeking donations such as gift certificates and "financial contributions" to buy teaching aids and "maybe even a small weekend getaway," the letter said.


My school PTSA has a "secret pal" program, wherein an anonymous parent "adopts" a teacher and provides gifts and tokens of appreciation thoughout the school year. It's a wonderful idea, one that has brought me no end of pleasure during the last two years at my current school. However, that program is initiated by the PTSA itself as an act of kindness and generosity, not by members of the staff to solicit presents for ourselves. I can't be the only one who thinks that asking for gifts for oneself is a little beyond the pale, not to mention just disgustingly rude!

And I'm not. One business owner who was solicited had the following comment:

"I think it's outrageous they want money for the teachers to inspire them to inspire the children," Lickle said. "Isn't that what teachers are all about? This is absolutely nuts. They even will take a small weekend getaway. Come on!"


Hard to disagree.

I wonder if I have any present or former students here who will comment that I frequently make reference to the fact that I've never been to the Bahamas (hint hint hint). The difference is that my so-called request is made in jest, and I have no expectation that any student will ever send me on such a vacation. In fact, when questioned about it by students, I remark that if a student really did give me such a gift, it would really put me in the difficult situation of having to refuse it because of the appearance of a conflict of interest, bribery, or whatever. {Note: give me the gift anonymously!} I hope that reasonable people can see the difference between what I do and what this particular faculty group has done.

Then there's this story out of Washington State, in which teachers appeared on the front page of a newspaper with picket signs claiming they qualified for WIC and subsidized health care. Turns out a member of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation did some fact-checking, something the newspaper reporter apparently didn't, and found that the married couple pictured actually earned a combined amount in excess of $90,000 and had benefits packages worth more than $10,000 apiece. In short, they lied, and the newspaper contributed to this lie. To paraphrase, have they no shame? What damage do they do to the integrity of all teachers by doing what they have done?

As the EFF article said:

Mr. and Mrs. Aston’s individual teaching pay is not outlandishly high—many professionals earn as much or more. But it is certainly disingenuous to present it as a vow of poverty in an attempt to garner support for the contract demands being made by their local union officials.

Friday, August 26, 2005

MoveOn+Ben Cohen+Others=Cindy Sheehan

This post from Instapundit, which links to this local news story, describes who's funding Cindy Sheehan's pathetic vigil in Texas. Turns out it's MoveOn.Org and Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.

For years I've told my son that we don't eat Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream because they support Democrats (and other assorted liberals). Didn't they used to donate money to peace organizations, saying something like a dollar to those organizations will buy more peace than a dollar of defense spending? I'm all for companies' making donations to whatever organizations they want, but as soon as these companies make an issue of whom they support and then seek customers based on their charitable donations, I act accordingly. In other words, don't ask, don't tell!

Anyway, back to our story. I find it more than interesting that it's a San Francisco-based ABC affiliate that's breaking this story about funding. If I were a betting man, with small holdings in a few casino stocks, I'd say that such a thing would be a bad bet. And I'd be wrong. Which explains the riches I've made in the stock market, I guess.

The woman is obviously distraught over the loss of her son, but she's gone off the deep end. She's already met with the President once, which is once more than I ever have, and she had positive things to say about him at the time. Her husband is divorcing her, and her family has issued statements to the effect that they don't support her at all. She disgraces her son's memory--and no, it's not hers to disgrace. It belongs to all who knew and loved him, and apparently the vast majority of them don't agree with Cindy Sheehan.

This woman is making a fool of herself in front of the entire world, and the press is helping her do it. How compassionate, how caring they are. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow when the "Cindy, you don't speak for me tour" and other groups arrive to confront her and her adherents.

A Modest Proposal

Those who have known me for at least the last two years are probably more than aware of my fondness for Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Each time I see something so entitled I feel compelled to read part of it to see if the author is even in the same ballpark as Swift when it comes to incisive satire. One requirement for co-opting the title should be that the proposal create howls of righteous indignation, kind of a "how dare you propose such a thing!", as did Swift's proposal. And mine.

Unfortunately, this link fails that second test. Still, it's a great idea and the post is moderately entertaining to read.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

OK, So It's Not The Coolest Video EVER, But Still....

I spent the first 20 minutes or so just watching this bird, paralleling us on the ferry, seemingly not even moving. Then, without moving his wings, he'd dart forward (we were near the stern), hang out there for a bit, and then loop around and come back. By the time I got the bright idea to take video instead of just still pictures, he'd done this loop several times. He got close enough that we could reach out and touch him--no doubt he was expecting food.

Watch the 1:20 video here, courtesy of former student Ronnie. Thanks, Ron!

(PS It's about 10.3MB so may take a minute or so to load)

Update, 8/25/05, 4:38 pm: I guess I should give some background on the video. I took it while on the MV Coho, the ferry that runs a few times a day between Victoria, British Columbia, and Port Angeles, Washington. It was near the end of the Canada trip (obviously!) and we took the 6:30 ferry out of Victoria (it actually left about a half an hour late). The stern looks dead in this video--that's because for the first 20 minutes I was trying to take still photos of this gull, like about a dozen or more other people. After they got their pictures they went back out of the wind, and only then, almost alone on the deck, did I get the bright idea to try the video function on my new Olympus D-590Zoom digital camera. What you see here is the result.

You can tell from the sound and the smoke from the smokestack that it was pretty windy. Not long after I took that video we were in a fogbank, with visibility less than 100 meters. We didn't break from that bank until we were close to the shore in Port Angeles.

Update, 6/14/07: That link no longer works. But thanks to technological improvements at Blogger, perhaps you can see the video at the end of this post!

video

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Memorizing

Photon Courier has a wonderful post about the necessity of memorization in education, a post I highly recommend to my readers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Is This The Principal's Responsibility?

Hugh Hewitt asks here, if 65 of a school's 490 female students are pregnant, should the principal or the health teacher be fired?

I hope Hugh's just trying to stir up the mud a bit. I thought we political conservatives didn't believe in social engineering in the schools, thought that schools should focus on academics, and believed in personal responsibility. To think that we should hold a school principal responsible for the off-campus behavior of students, presumably not at school functions or on school time, seems to me to represent the height of the nanny state.

The parents of the students involved should hold the individual students responsible for their actions. After all, if the parents aren't concerned about their children's sexual behavior, why should school officials be? And if the parents are concerned, why should the school get involved at all?

This is a fantastic opportunity for the school principal's bosses to do absolutely nothing. Or maybe the principal could get the Radical Reality people to come out and do a free rally for the students{bseg}. There are plenty of reasonable courses of action to take, but holding a principal or a teacher responsible for situations like this definitely not one of them.

If it takes a village, let the village deal with it--keeping in mind there will soon be at least 65 more members of the village!

Radical Reality Rally

Our school was offered a free rally by the Stockton-based organization Radical Reality. The rally was designed to be a life-affirming, positive experience that incorporated demonstrations of strength and martial arts into a narrative of life lessons.

Our school has declined this offer. I agree with this, but not for the reason cited. See, I think there's enough self-esteem "stuff" out there for our students. And I don't believe in one-time-only programs like this any more than I support one-time-only staff development speakers. Such things can be enjoyable and perhaps entertaining, but 20 minutes later are forgotten. To have more than a fleeting impact there needs to be a larger, longer-term program in place.

But that's not why our school turned it down. No, we have faculty members who are concerned about a possible "hidden message" in the presentation because of Radical Reality's "affiliation with a religious organization". I discussed this with a fellow teacher and we came up with the following two points:

1. If the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wanted to hold a rally, our lefties would probably support it in the name of "diversity training".
2. Heaven forbid that a peaceful God promoting self-esteem and brotherhood with all people be presented in any way near a public school.


What is the "religious affiliation"? RR's founder was the chaplain of the Oakland A's. He worked with the Power Team, a group (using similar feats of athletic prowess) whose performance I was compelled to attend one morning while in the Army. Learn more about the founder and RR here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

First Day of School

I'm tired.

It's not that the students wore me out, it's just that I didn't sleep well last night. First Day of School Jitters. Kids aren't the only ones who get them.

I have two Algebra I classes, mostly freshmen. They were quiet and attentive today, one of the few times all year where I can expect freshman classes to be better behaved than upperclass classes. Not that anyone was out of line; I'm lucky to teach at a school with a pretty good student population. But dang, sometimes it seems like no one ever taught many of these students about "inside voices".

I got a call during 6th period today. My son, on his first day at his new school, fell on the bars (or something boyish like that) and bloodied his nose, bit a small hole in his tongue, and loosened a tooth. Our secretary put his school's secretary though to talk to me and she asked what they should do with him. "Is he bleeding right now?" "No." "Then send him back to class." I'm such a father!

I brought home some more data entry work to do tonight. I have 41 students in one of my classes, 5 over the contract limit, and 39 in another. However, the school has a month to fix that! Guess I'd better start scrounging for desks. Last district I worked in, we were paid cash money twice a year for overages, in part because of the extra grading/data entry/attention/work involved. Not so here! So I'll be typing more student ID numbers into my grading program (I use Grade Machine) so that later in the week, after I give the first assignment, I'll have all my recordkeeping ready to go.

So, I'm off to go do my work. I'll be glad when this administrivia is taken care of!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

WASC Isn't This Bad, But....

As I said in a previous post, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) came out and looked at our school head to toe. There's a similar organization, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) that accredits schools of education. Unfortunately, NCATE is in pedagogical league with ed schools, and the closer those schools come to fuzzy education, "teaching for social justice", and just about everything but high academic standards for students, the better the school of education will come out in NCATE's eyes. How do I know this? Look at what's being taught in ed schools today! (Hillsdale College is an anomaly, I believe. But check out what's going on at Teacher's College in New York. Or any of the CSU's.)

I stumbled upon an article about a fictional NCATE visit. For the lefties who read this post, we'll say this linked article is "fake, but accurate." :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Sorry The Blogging's Been So Light

Between moving (still in progress), trip to Canada, getting ready for school to start on Monday, and completing repairs on my house, time has been at a premium. I'm sure that with school starting again, things will get back to some semblance of normality and I can return to my non-paying job, which is entertaining you, my readers.

I have some topics coming up that I said I'd write on--I haven't forgotten! Additionally, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges came out to our school for accreditation last year and we only got a 3-yr accreditation instead of the best one, a 6-yr with a small check-up after 3 years. Interestingly enough, our school is the highest performing school in our district, other schools got 6-yr accreditations, and the same week the WASC team was out we also had a visit from the Distinguished Schools team--and again we're a California Distinguished School! You can imagine the fallout from all this. If you can't, stay tuned to later posts!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Apparently she became news when I was off in the Great White North. Now that I know about her, I have to say something--but I have nothing to add to what James Lileks has said here.

Update, 8/21/05 11:53 pm: I was going to add more in the comments section, but again, someone else was far more eloquent than I am at expressing views I share. So, as usual, I refer you to Mark Steyn's take on the affair.

Update, 8/22/05 10:08 pm: Here's the view of an Iraqi.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Blogshares Stock Market

I don't know much about how Blogshares works, but I know that Right On The Left Coast has one of the lowest price-to-earnings ratios in the "education policy" blog market, making it an extremely good buy! I currently own 25% of the shares, the remainder is up for grabs! Invest now, while the price is right!

Update: a reader has purchased the remaining shares of my blog, running the price up and the P/E ratio into yucky territory. Should I sell now, while I'm money ahead?

SLAPP Back

From SemiMBA's blog I learned about this statute, one I find sadly necessary sometimes.

But let's go beyond lawsuits. Should a publicly-held (or even a private) company be able to fire you for something you publish on your blog, or for using a competitor's product, or any other such non-work-related item? In short, my opinion is yes, they should be able to. No companies as identified above should be required to have anyone work for them that they don't want to work there. Yes, it's a little different for government employees--the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to corporations, just governments, for example.

There are some legal reasons a company cannot fire you--you're too old (except in some positions), you're the wrong skin color, etc. Those are law, and companies must abide by them. However, it's important to remember that companies exist for one reason and one reason only--to make money. They don't exist as social service organizations, although too many people expect them to be.

While I personally would give wide legal latitude to companies in the arena of hiring and firing, I'd hope they'd use this latitude judiciously. But there's a tremendous difference between what companies should do and what they should be allowed to do by law.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Uploading The Coolest Video You'll Ever See

I tried to upload a video here but there were errors. If anyone can instruct me on how to do such a thing, watching this minute-and-a-half video would make your efforts worthwhile. Here's a teaser still picture:

You *Don't* Get Something For Nothing

Now here's something that disappoints me.

New parents and even old teachers have heard about the so-called "Mozart effect", wherein a child's inate intelligence is activated or augmented by listening to some of the classical music of Mozart. Researchers at the University of California (most likely the flagship Berkeley campus, although it isn't specified in the article) published a study about the effect in 1993 but no one has been able to replicate the results since. That's quite irrelevant, though, to the gushing parents of newborns who want to give their child a leg-up on every other child, and to do so on the cheap. Pop in a cd, kid gets smart, what could be easier? The same goes for teachers, who too often look for the "royal road" to easy learning instead of getting down to work with building from fundamentals.

Hard work isn't any fun. Why do it when you can take the easy way?

I'll pause for a moment and say that when Austin was born, the hospital sent home with us a cd of classical music. Mozart's work was heavily represented. It was soothing, and even today Austin enjoys classical music on occasion. And yes, I harbored hopes that it would be even slightly helpful. Still, listening to such music could do no harm and if it helped just a little, so much the better! Apparently my hopes were misplaced, but again, no harm done.

But how many other "get smart fast" fads have come and gone which have harmed kids? Whole language: just read to them and eventually they'll get it. Fuzzy math: let the children invent and discover for themselves the math that it took the greatest minds of the human race to invent and discover for us. Self-esteem: how can you expect a child to do well if they feel bad?

Here are some fads that might not do any direct harm to children, but whose effectiveness hasn't been scientifically demonstrated: small learning communities, block scheduling, ubiquitous technology, and/or multi-grade classrooms. I'm not saying any of these are inherently flawed (although, as a math teacher, I have reservations about block scheduling), but there's certainly no incontrovertible evidence that these concepts are effective, either.

Why single out education, though? Remember the split-end spark plug? or weight loss belts? or ab muscle-developing belts? or echinacea or ginkgo biloba? or stock market timing? or cold fusion? or "learn while sleeping" tapes?

Sometimes, results are achieved only through achievement, through work. "There is no royal road to geometry", nor is there a Mozart road to intelligence. Play the tapes and cd's in the nursery or the classroom if you want to, but be honest about why you do it. And know the facts, not the fads.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Profession or Skilled Labor, Redux

I was reading an article about a conference of journalism professors, and one panel was called "Things I Used To Teach That I No Longer Believe." It was an extremely well-written piece, one I recommend to anyone who has an interest in mainstream journalism. For those of us who believe that much of the press is liberal and slants news accordingly, there are some interesting observations in the article from some insiders.

One comment struck me as relating as much to teaching as it does to journalism--is teaching (or journalism) a profession or are the practitioners merely skilled laborers? Here's what one j-school professor had to say on the topic:

I used to teach it implicitly: journalism is a profession. Now I think it’s a practice, in which pros and amateurs both participate. There were good things about the professional model, and we should retain them. But it’s the strength of the social practice that counts, not the health of any so-called profession. That is what J-schools should teach and stand for, I believe. I don’t care if they’re called professional schools. They should equip the American people to practice journalism by teaching the students who show up, and others out there who may want help.


Relating strictly to education and not journalism, what are the implications of such a view?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Back From Vacation

Amazing trip to Canada--love going to British Columbia, even if I've never made it very far past the US border. Was sorry to hear Peter Jennings died, was glad to hear the space shuttle landed OK, and that's about it for the news I heard. Is the world still here?

A couple of interesting tidbits from the trip home. I stayed with a friend and his family on the western side of Portland last night and left there about 11am this morning. Setting all new land speed records down I-5, including a 1-hr nap near Lake Shasta, I made it home at around 8:25 pm. It's mapped at 12 hrs of driving :-) Also, kudos to my little Kia-mobile and the little squirrels up in the engine compartment that keep it moving. It has a 1.5 liter engine and a 12-gallon fuel tank. I filled up in Shelton, WA (on the Olympic Peninsula), and again in Roseburg, OR. I pulled into my driveway on vapors, but I got here. Washington State to my front door on two tanks of gas. Not bad!

I'll try to post a couple of pictures when I get time (have to finish moving now, and then go back to work this week) and hopefully the video footage of the seagull that paralleled the ferryboat for miles....

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Good News!

First, I'm glad the crew of the Russian submarine is alive and well. I truly did not want to learn about a Kursk II event.

In the morning my son and I leave on our drive up to British Columbia! This trip has been so long in the making that I can hardly believe it's finally happening. And coming, as it does, just a few days after moving in to our new (45-yr-old) house, all I can say is wow. I look forward to the rest!

Please check in again on August 16th. I'll be posting again then--and hopefully will finish moving, too.

Yesterday I got my "welcome back to school" letter from my principal. School starts the 22nd, and teachers report back on Friday the 19th. We'll probably spend the first half of the day in a meeting, and have only half the day to prepare our classrooms. I guess I could go in before then, but I don't want the district to get in the habit of expecting me to do free work on my own time--especially when I have my own home move to complete.

Talk to you again in a week and a half, eh?

Friday, August 05, 2005

More On The Teacher Tenure Reform Initiative

I don't support it. Here's part of the reason why.

I'm all for getting rid of some of what I call "undue process" in firing truly bad teachers, but I see some baby going out the window with the bath water here. Irascible Professor writes, in part:

While the IP supports the part of the initiative that would extend the probationary period, there are two features of the initiative that are troubling enough to cause him to recommend a "no" vote. The first is that the five-year probationary period would apply to all probationary teachers whose "probationary period commenced with the 2003-2004 fiscal year or any fiscal year thereafter." This means that probationary teachers who already have been hired with the understanding that the two-year probationary period applies to them would be affected by the new law. There is something distasteful about changing the rules in the middle of the game, and the law -- if approved by the voters -- should only apply to those hired after the date the law goes into effect.

More troubling is the section of the initiative that would allow school boards to ignore sections 44934 and 44938 of the California education code when dismissing tenured teachers for unsatisfactory performance. The first of these sections ensures that the teacher is given an adequate notice that outlines the specifics that resulted in the unsatisfactory performance evaluation. The second section gives the teacher the opportunity to correct his or her deficiencies.

If the probationary period for tenure is extended to five years, then the tenured teacher should be presumed competent unless a good case can be made for the contrary conclusion. Dismissals of tenured teachers should be made only for good cause, and only after due process. The changes proposed in the initiative would make it too easy for vindictive administrators to dismiss tenured teachers for reasons other than genuinely unsatisfactory performance.


Gotta vote "no" on this one.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Moving Today

As you might imagine, blogging will be somewhat "light". Take a day off of Right on the Left Coast. Go out an enjoy the sunshine, or whatever the local weather is at your location. We can talk again tomorrow!

Update, 8/4/05 9:23 am: I ache. Moving is physically taxing, too, not just emotionally and mentally taxing. I only got about 3/4 my belongings moved, but at least we got all the big stuff. I still don't have a kitchen in the new place--I'm not pleased with my kitchen remodel company right now.

For the next 2 days or so my attention will be focused on preparing for my trip to Canada with my son. As a result, blogging will be light for the next couple days and non-existent for a week or so after that. I encourage my legions (cough cough) of readers to check back on here on August 16th, by which time I should have a new post.

Monday, August 01, 2005

2000 Most Frequent Words Used on the SAT

I received a link to this web site from an emaillist of which I am a member. This site claims to have a list of the 2000 vocabulary words that top a frequency analysis from studies of the S.A.T. for the last 10 years. I cannot vouch for the site's accuracy, but someone sure went to a lot of trouble to put it together and they're not charging any money for it.