Sunday, April 30, 2006

Newsweek's Top 1000 High Schools

The Complete List: 1,000 Top U.S. Schools

Public schools are ranked according to a ratio, devised by Jay Mathews, that is the number of Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2005 divided by the number of graduating seniors. All of the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000; they are in the top 5 percent of public schools measured this way.

That seems a ridiculously simplistic way to rank high schools across the country. I thought it might be a fun little exercise to identify all the schools on this list that are in the Sacramento area, and list both their Newsweek rank and their state-calculated Academic Performance Index (API). Here goes:

Newsweek Rank........School...............API (higher is better)
(lower is better)
241........................... Mira Loma........... 750
589 ...........................Davis.................... 845
672........................... Granite Bay ...........814
702........................... Rio Americano.......777
893............................Elk Grove..............761

Admittedly that's a very small sample size. California had dozens of schools listed in the top 1000, though; it would be interesting to see if there's any correlation between Newsweek's ranking, which looks only at AP and IB tests, and a school's API, which factors in performance data from all students.

Did I miss any nearby schools? If so, let me know and I'll add them.

Dissent and Patriotism

I haven't worshipped at the altar of Mark Steyn lately, but since we're in another round of "Don't you dare question my patriotism!" I thought I should share some tidbits from his column.

For starters, there's no truth to the liberal hymn that Thomas Jefferson said something along the lines of "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." How patriotic was Jefferson being to the crown as he wrote the Declaration of Independence? It doesn't make sense that he'd have said such a thing.

And apparently he didn't.

According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "

So let's stop that one in its tracks right now. And the fact that Steyn quotes so many Democrats who've attributed that quote to Jefferson shows how bankrupt their views are.

What does it mean when so many senior Democrats take refuge in an obvious bit of hooey? Thomas Jefferson would never have said anything half so witless. There is no virtue in dissent per se. (emphasis mine--Darren) When John F. Kennedy said, "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty" -- and, believe it or not, that's a real quote, though it's hard to imagine any Massachusetts Democrat saying such a thing today -- I could have yelled out, "Hey, screw you, loser." It would have been "dissent," but it wouldn't have been patriotic, and it's certainly not a useful contribution to the debate, any more than that of the University of North Carolina students at Chapel Hill who recently scrawled on the doors of the ROTC armory "F--- OFF!" and "WE WON'T FIGHT YOUR WARS!"

But the high holiness of dissent for its own sake is now the core belief of the Democratic Party: It's not what you're for, it's what you're against. Their current denunciations of Big Oil have a crudely effective opportunism but say to them "OK, what's your energy policy?" and see what answers you get: More domestic oil? Ooh, no, we can't disturb the pristine ANWR breeding ground of the world's largest mosquito herd. More nuclear power, like the French? Ooh, no, might be another Three Mile Island. Er, OK, you're the mass transit guys; how about we go back to wood-fired steam trains? Ooh, no, we're opposed to logging, in case it causes global warming, or cooling, or both.

The Democrats stand for nothing except being anti-Republican.

Debra Saunders on Immigration Protests

Before I link to Newsalert's snippet of Saunders' article, I have to ask: is there really anyone (besides Pat Buchanan) who is against immigration? Are there still people who do not understand the difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration?

Will the nutjobs who are stoking these protests admit that it's possible, just possible, for Americans to want our borders respected and our laws obeyed and not be racists?

Now, Debra.

The bottom line is that while these demonstrations, I am told, are supposed to make me feel better about illegal immigrants, I feel angry when I see thousands of people who knowingly break American law, yet somehow feel entitled to do so and outraged that they have not been sufficiently rewarded for it.

And I'm someone who wants to find a compromise that accommodates working families that have put down roots in California.

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., represents a district that includes suburbanites angry about the lack of enforcement, as well as agricultural interests desperate for guest workers. As he sees it, the recent protests, especially marches that featured the Mexican flag, "really did harden up people's positions. It really politicized the whole issue. It took away any hope we have of having a workable policy."

Now: "I don't think that there's a political solution that makes sense from a policy standpoint that can possibly come out of this."

Even Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer has told demonstrators that while she supports their right to boycott, the demonstrators have made their point, and now it's time to cool it.

I heart Debra. She thinks clearly.

One Last Post About the April 2006 CTA Rag

On page 24 is an article called "Hey, Arnold, the Alliance is ba-a-ack!" This would be the alliance of teachers unions, nurses unions, firefighter unions, and police unions that kicked in so many hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat a few initiatives in last November's special election.

There's a picture on page 24 of an alliance rally, and in a classic display of stupidity, hypocrisy, or both, one of the signs says, "$$$ Out of Politics".

Go figure.

Boss Kerr at CTA Says Something Good

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, assuming it's a clock with hands. Well, CTA President Barbara "Boss" Kerr, she of the tobacco-and-whiskey-voice, also has hands, and in her column in the April 2006 union rag actually says something I support. In one paragraph out of nine.

I've written several times about the Windfall Elimination Provision, a piece of federal law that will severely limit how much Social Security I'll draw in retirement because I'm currently covered by state teachers' retirement. The idea is to stop "double-dipping" as far as pensions go, but it's a killer for us mid-career changers. Put simply, I paid into Social Security from the time I was 18 until I was 32 years old, at which time I became a teacher and stopped paying into Social Security. Because I now have a pension plan, Social Security won't pay but a small fraction of what it would pay if I had completely stopped working!!! It's an injustice, especially when you consider that for 7 years of the time I paid into Social Security, I was in the Army. That time is now discounted as far as my retirement benefits are concerned.

I've written before that CTA and NEA should concern themselves only with the pay, benefits, and working conditions of teachers. When they do so directly--and not indirectly by backing Democrats for almost all political offices--I generally support them. In fact, if that's all they concerned themselves with, I'd be a member again. Anyway, according to Boss Kerr:

CTA and NEA are supporting the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 147 and S. 619) which would eliminate both of these provisions [Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset].

Unfortunately, I see no chance that this concept will ever pass, no matter which party runs Congress or the White House. I've even been told so by a lobbyist. Of course the Republicans won't pass it--why should they do anything to help the NEA? And the Democrats will never pass it because they already get money from the teachers unions and are going to continue getting it no matter what, so there's no need to give those union members additional money from the Social Security fund. Apparently, it's always the minority party in Congress that raises this issue, just to make some political hay out of it. Neither sides expects, or wants, elimination of the WEP and GPO to pass.


CTA Says I'm A Racist

Being a Republican, I'm sure they've called me worse.

I still get their union rag, and what do I find on page 32 of the April 2006 issue? Why, an article entitled "Could dealing with hidden biases help address the achievement gap?"

Apparently such articles are common for April issues of CTA's magazine. Last year we apparently didn't talk about race enough, this year all of California's teachers are racists.

And people willingly pay money to this organization. Amazing.

Here's the first paragraph, so you can see where they're going.

Everyone has hidden biases, but instead of keeping them that way, educators in Davis have been delving deeply into their prejudices to make themselves more aware of them--and to become better teachers in the process.
I have to say from the start: if you don't know what your biases are, how do you delve deeply into them?

Davis is a college town, a stereotypical hippies-who-never-grew-up-and-are-now-college-professors town. It's an artsy, bohemian town--one where the cost of living is egregious. There's a tunnel under the freeway so frogs can get from one side to the other without getting run over. Seriously. Oh, and it's a "nuclear-free zone." You get the idea. Berkeley-lite. But back to the article:

"This is definitely fresh ground that we're exploring, and it hasn't been totally comfortable for everyone involved," says Tim Paulson, a Davis school psychologist.

Unconscious--or hidden--bias, Paulson says, can have a huge impact in the classroom, and teachers aren't even aware of it because it is, well, unconscious.

That statement ranks right up there with "everyone is a closet racist." But here's the clincher: the article never once addresses the achievement gap! It's a total bait-and-switch. The title indicates that all of California's teachers have hidden biases against black and Hispanic students, because that's where the so-called achievement gap lies. In other words, we're all racists. And if we could only realize and explore that, why, the achievement gap would be erased and all students would excel.

Here's where CTA is a bunch of hypocrites--well, one place. They promote multiculturalism and the like, not willing to accept that possibly, just possibly, it's culture, not skin color, that contributes most to the achievement gap. But I digress.

So the article implies through it's title that hidden biases are the cause of poor academic performance by blacks and Hispanics. In other words, the CTA is (unjustifiably) slamming all its members, and it can do so because it's entitled to their dues money. But the article never once mentions the achievement gap; no, it rambles on about how we need to address our hidden biases--why? The most direct answer I can find in the entire nebulous article is this: "Recognizing their own biases can help teachers identify how many students they're calling on--or not calling on."

See, that is the cause of the achievement gap! We're not calling on black and Hispanic students enough!

Somewhere in the haze, the article then gave a little background on how this program in Davis came into being. The movie Crash was mentioned, and an anti-semitic case that happened in Davis a couple years ago. "The entire city of Davis was already on the path of self-examination...." CTA is about nothing if not navel-gazing.

I'm not going to flaggelate (or flatulate) myself over biases of mine that exist not in my mind, but in the mind of someone looking for these "hidden" biases. I'm very open and direct with my biases: I can't stand socialists or idiots. There, that was easy, wasn't it? Redundant, perhaps (hehe), but easy.

Now the next question is, knowing that I have some socialists and idiots in my classes, can I still teach those students? When I consider that some of my socialists have been and are some of the best performers in my classes, I have to conclude that I'm not allowing their political orientation to adversely affect their grade. Even some of my idiots do well. See? Maybe I'm already self-actualized. I recognize my biases openly, and because I embrace my biases they don't impact student learning.

You think that's what CTA has in mind? I don't, either.

Update, 5/2/06 8:48 pm: Here's more about "unconscious racism" from John at Discriminations (see blogroll at left).

Update #2, 5/3/06 9:33 pm: Amazing how these things just drop in my lap. Want to read an article by a black college student, an article called White People Are Annoying--But Why? Want to read an article that has the following quotes in it?

"At this point, I believe I have become dangerously close to disliking white people—all of them. However, that is not important...."

I believe the majority recognizes that blacks and other minorities do not become a part of the community and that they isolate themselves, and they wonder what the minorities’ problem is. Well, I say, what’s your problem? Why don’t I feel like integrating myself? Now why wouldn’t I want to do that?"

I feel that there are four types of white people here: white people who are apathetic towards the race issue—and consequently me, white people who are ignorant, white people who care about race in an insincere way, and white people who care in a sincere way."

The ignorant ones, who are a lot of you, just do not know or understand the issues. You think that integrating yourself is having one black acquaintance who shares the same interests as you."

If a white person studied “abroad” at Howard or Spellman, they would have a difficult time assimilating, and they would feel uncomfortable. They would have to bring themselves into a painfully new zone, and appreciate that culture for what it is, and, most likely, that culture would accept them."

You know you want to read more. It's like that proverbial bad car wreck that you just can't peel your eyes from.

NEA Shafts Its Members Financially

Last week the Los Angeles Times (they do surprise me sometimes) published a three-part series, the third part being how the National Education Association gets kickbacks from investment companies that the union then promotes to its members--but the investments offered have high annual costs and low returns. In other words, a paper renowned for its leftward tilt was quite direct in stating that the NEA pushes these bad investments on teachers, pimping its own members just to make a buck. The EIA (see blogroll at left) pointed out that the article was written by the Times' personal finance columnist.

The story has gone national, obviously. A columnist from the Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-Review is caustic in his commentary:

Is there a betrayal more obscene than a union that will sell out its members?

The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that "labor groups have joined forces with investment firms to steer members into savings plans that often have high expenses and poor returns." It's a must-read for more than teachers; it is an eye-opener for the rank-and-file who blindly trust union leaders.

The Times story included detailed financial analysis of the union-endorsed products that indicates they are substantially inferior and very costly. And that was not the most disturbing part of the virtual scam.


A union spokesman trying to rationalize the betrayal told the reporter that, "Teachers are trained as educators, not financial managers. What we are concerned about is guided, safe, secure investments."

In other words the union claims its teachers cannot tell the difference between a good rate of return versus a bad one even though millions of employees with 401(k) accounts who also are not financial managers can.

Could that be why American students typically have the lowest math scores compared to other nations?


Wow. And isn't Pittsburgh a union town?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

UC Berkeley Students (Say They'll) Get Naked For Protest

Go view this completely child-safe photo-essay (seriously, it's child-safe) about a pathetic anti-sweatshop protest at UC Berkeley.

If the Berkeley idiots from the 60s knew that this would be their legacy, perhaps they wouldn't have done so much in the way of pot, acid, and quaaludes. They'd have taken a shower, gotten a haircut, and gotten a job.

I'd recommend the same for these Berkeley idiots, who don't even have their facts, much less their politics, straight.

Gas Prices vs. Voter Preference for President

Thanks to Coach Brown (see A Passion for Teaching and Opinions on the blogroll at left)--who says I'm his favorite blogger!--I learn about GasBuddy, a web site that tracks gas prices across the nation.

Here's the map showing gas prices.

Here's the map of the 2004 Presidential election.

Wouldn't it make an great little experiment for someone with more technical savvy than I have to superimpose those maps--and have the image click back and forth between the maps every second or so? Or even better, just use this map showing who won the state, so it doesn't go county by county.

Notice anything about the price of gas in Kerry-voting states vs. the price of gas in Bush-voting states? Sure, there are a couple of exceptions, but the correlation is quite strong.

BTW, click on the 2nd map above and look at California. Notice how much of it is colored Republican, but the biggest cities are colored Democrat? Can you use that map and find the biggest cities in the country, just by looking at the blue places? I can, too.

Great Way To Spend The Day

In very short order the weather turned from wintry to springlike, which is a good thing since it's been spring for over a month now. Temperatures the last few days have been in the 80s, and in Northern California that's Heaven.

My son wanted to go for a lengthy scooter ride today, so off we went. Here's what it looked like when I bought it a few years ago:

Don't laugh. It's freeway-legal (I've gotten it up to 72) and gets about 65 mpg. Bikenstein is a 1986 Honda Elite 250. Google Images has a few other shots of similar bikes.

We started out from our home and drove through Folsom, past the prison Johnny Cash made famous, and up Green Valley Road behind Folsom Lake. We then detoured through Cameron Park and Shingle Springs, where my dad built a house for the family back in the 70s. From there we went to Placerville, where we had a delicious lunch at a hole in the wall.

Instead of just driving home, my son wanted to take "the scenic route". So in Placerville we got on State Highway 49 (the one that goes through the Gold Country) and went through Coloma, site of the very same Sutter's Mill in which James Marshall discovered that first, earth-changing nugget of gold. We continued on 49 through Pilot Hill and Cool, and crossed California's highest bridge (730 feet above the North Fork of the American River) before dropping into Auburn.

I had planned to take the old US 40 all the way home, but part of it is covered by Interstate 80, its successor. Not really wanting to take the scooter, with a passenger, on that stretch of freeway, we took Auburn-Folsom Road from Auburn to the Roseville area. Stopped at a Starbucks, visited my grandmother at "the home", and then came home.

At 65 mpg, the entire drive cost only a few dollars. Pretty cheap entertainment, and a great way to see some beautiful countryside.

Just Say No--To Ebonics and Gangsta Rap

Joanne (see blogroll at left) links to the story of an organization that helps black students speak proper English. Founded by black professionals, the Orators was created because of the poor interviewing skills the founders witnessed from young black candidates for jobs.

My favorite quote: "Without subject-verb agreement, what you say will be discounted."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Read, Understand, and Defend

I'm taking this quote from the comments section of this post because truer words have yet to be spoken:

It's a totally natural progression from socialism to Fascism.

The "masses" will never willingly submit to the schemes of the elite leadership. So the elites naturally have to impose their will by force.

They know what's best for you, after all.

Libs like to call conservatives fascists. Let's look at my New American Webster definition of fascism: a governmental system characterized by nationalism, regimentation, rigid censorship, and suppression of opposition. Now let's compare this definition with lefty thought and practice:

Nationalism. Everything's gotta be controlled by Washington. Score one for lefties' being fascists.

Regimentation. If everything's controlled by the Washington bureaucracy, with no room for federalism, how could there be anything but regimentation? Score two for lefties' being fascists.

Rigid censorship. What with speech codes on college campuses, the so-called expressions of free speech I've commented on in the last few days, the 9th Circus Court of Appeals' recent ruling that's seemingly in direct contradiction of the Supreme Court's Tinker case--the left is no fan of free speech. Score three for lefties' being fascists.

Suppression of opposition: lefties will howl, but this one is self-evident. Of course, fanatics of all stripes will want to suppress opposition. But the moral high ground the left thinks it holds (so-called social justice, multiculturalism, racism) allows no room for dissent--and these are mainstream leftie views, not fanatical. Score four for lefties' being fascists.

Now, continuing with this little thought experiment, let's look at the two countries most often associated with fascism, Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Italy. Both fit the definition above, no doubt about it. Both also were socialist economies and governments. Socialism, is that usually associated with the left or the right in this country? Score five.

The lifted quote above deserves more than obscurity on some blog. Its essence should be internalized by freedom-loving people everywhere, it should serve as a beacon and a warning.

Summer Jobs

I don't believe in working over the summer. I may be poor, but I have my dignity! Actually, part of the reason I became a teacher was to have plenty of time to spend with my son, and summer is one of those big chunks of time that makes the only-moderate pay seem worth it.

But this post about summer jobs--specifically the ice factory details--had me laughing out loud. That's LOL to you text messagers. Anyway, go read it if you need a good laugh.

David McCullough on the Teaching of History

From the National School Boards Association web site:

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of 1776, John Adams, Truman, and The Johnstown Flood offered other examples of how Americans are ignorant about history.

The examples listed were pretty scary--and they were from history majors!

I found the following comments fairly interesting:

The quality of history textbooks, which McCullough says are filled with “politically correct mush,” is another problem. “They are so bad, they seem designed to kill the interest of the student.”

The problem has been compounded by the reading and math testing requirements of No Child Left Behind, which have “pushed history to the back burner,” he says. “It’s so stupid and so shortsighted.”

Students can improve their reading scores by delving into literature from history, not textbooks, he says. He suggested they could read Abraham Lincoln’s addresses, Martin Luther King Jr.’s letters, and “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

I agree with him about the politically correct mush, but vehemently disagree with him about NCLB. What he's bemoaning is poor implementation of the law at the local level, not any requirement in the law. Besides, he gives the solution in the next sentence--we can have reading and history in the elementary schools if we read historical works! I think his dogma got in the way of his karma there.

We've been conducting standardized testing at my school this week. We're testing in history. If I remember to, I'll confirm what history we're testing when I get back to school on Monday. I think we're giving two history tests....

Anyway, go read McCullough's entire article. It's short enough that it won't take more than a couple minutes.

Want To Help Others?

Here are some good causes.

I've already posted about one attempt to solicit my help. In the comments to that post, a fellow blogger has endorsed the organization.

Today I received an email asking me to advertise an event raising money to fight childhood cancer. Follow the link if you'd like to join the team and make a pledge.

I received another email asking me to check out a relatively new (well, restarted) blog. He'll need a few posts in order for readers to get his take on things, but go take a gander at what's there and see what you think.

I learned about the next cause in the Numismatist, the monthly magazine of the American Numismatic Association. This company sells shadowboxes containing, among other things, demonetized Iraqi coins. They subcontract the work to a company that hires developmentally-disabled people, and donate 25% of the proceeds to the families of severely wounded and fallen soldiers. The shadowboxes are kinda pricey, in my opinion, but they look very nice.

So, is pointing these out to you my good deed for the day?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two News Articles About Schools

Today's major Sacramento newspaper has two interesting stories.

Story 1: State Senate Backs Immigration Boycott

The state Senate on Thursday spoke out in favor of a boycott of schools and jobs planned by immigration activists for Monday.

Senators approved a resolution officially recognizing the nationwide protest, which will include rallies in cities throughout California and the United States.

Boycott organizers are speaking out against federal legislation that would make it a felony to be in the United States illegally and in favor of bills that would enable many immigrants to establish legal residency here.

The protests have sparked controversy, in part because organizers are asking students to stay out of school.

Need I add anymore? How does anything get done in California, with a legislature like this? Is this the kind of "critical thinking" and "social justice" and "civic activity" that we're to be teaching in our schools?

Shame on you, state Senate.

Story 2: Gay Rights Face-off

The national debate over gay rights became a divisive force on Sacramento-area school campuses this week, as religious Christian students wore T-shirts expressing their disapproval of homosexuality as others participated in a Day of Silence to honor gay and lesbian peers.

Thirteen students at Oakmont High School in Roseville were suspended Tuesday when they refused to take off T-shirts that declared: "Homosexuality is sin." The students hired a lawyer who appealed 12 of the suspensions to the district Wednesday.

Other schools in the region have disciplined students in recent weeks for refusing to remove T-shirts condemning homosexuality...

"I'm troubled by the notion that a student could perhaps come into school wearing a T-shirt that says Christian fundamentalism is shameful, and that might be OK, whereas a student wearing a 'Homosexuality is shameful' shirt is subject to discipline or suspension," he said.

Thank you, 9th Circuit, for f***ing up another ruling. The article comments:

In a section of the ruling that drew sharp dissent from Judge Alex Kozinski (dissenting judge in the case) and has troubled even legal scholars who support gay rights, Reinhardt (9th Circus idiot who wrote the majority opinion) wrote that the decision is limited to speech that "strikes at a core identifying characteristic of students on the basis of their membership in a minority group."
(emphasis mine--Darren)

And here's hope for the future, an 18-year-old who certainly has his head screwed on straight:

At Folsom High School Wednesday, expressions for and against the Day of Silence peacefully co-existed, said student Lance Chih, co-chair of the Sacramento Regional Gay Straight Alliance. Many students wore rainbow arm bands and Day of Silence shirts, while a few students wore T-shirts stating homosexuality is a sin, he said.

Chih wasn't bothered by the open expression of homophobic messages, he said, because they weren't violent or vulgar.

"If they're stating their own belief that homosexuality is wrong, that's not promoting hate or violence against us," said Chih, 18. "If I want to promote my civil rights, I can't tell another group of students that they can't do it."

Global Warming? or Global Cooling?

Crap science at its best.

When people say that they want students to be "critical thinkers", I don't believe them. Too often they want students to parrot a leftist ideology. To be a critical thinker you actually have to have some basis of fact on which to base your criticism.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lefties Won't Like It...

...but I'm going to say this is entirely believeable behavior from lefties. If someone will send me a similar story of conservatives who slashed the tires of libs to keep them from voting, I'll post it here as well.

I love the comment from the Congresswoman: "I love my son very much. I'm very proud of him," Moore said. "He's accepted responsibility." What a pathetic statement. He "accepted" responsibility (did he turn himself in? I doubt it) for not acting responsibly.

Update, 4/28/06 12:15 pm: Here's yet another example of lefties' exercising their 1st Amendment right to free (symbolic) speech. See what happens when you allow actions to be considered as speech? Again, show me examples of conservatives who have defaced Greenpeace, NEA, NAACP, or other liberal organization property, and I'll post it here.

And anonymous? Let's not try the abortion clinic bombing meme again. When was the last time that happened? Get a new story. And most people (vast percentage, I'm sure) recognize bombing to be wrong. Are there plenty of defenders of this type of graffiti? How about of people who destroy pro-life displays? You know there are.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More From The CTA

Apparently they still think I'm a member--or at least they haven't removed me from their email list. Today they sent an email containing the following:

-- With double digit increases in premiums over the past several years, combined with declines in quality and service, we all know there's something wrong with our health care system. So, the question is: what can we do about it? To find out, please attend an informative session entitled "Health Care: If It's Broke, Fix It" on Monday, May 15 from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. in the Natomas High School Multipurpose Room (3301 Rosin Boulevard, Sacramento). Sponsored by CTA's Capital Service Center Council, the session will feature an overview of the problems we face, an outline of current solutions, and an invitation to become involved (light snacks will be served). Natomas High is only about 10 minutes from the Hilton Arden West Hotel, so those attending the Central Valley Trust (CVT) meeting that same afternoon should easily be able to make both sessions.

Any guesses on whether or not the "outline of current solutions" contains socialized medicine or not? No guesses here--I already know the answer.

It also had this:

-- Speaking of upcoming events: there is another Capitol-area rally this Thursday, April 27 starting at 4:30 p.m. Sponsored by our coalition partners, the Alliance for a Better California, the rally will start on the Capitol grounds directly across from the Hyatt Regency Hotel (1209 L Street, Sacramento) and will protest the Governor's over the top fundraiser to be held there that night. The closest parking lot is at the corner of 10th and L Streets. Hope to see you there!

Oh, you very well might see me there! I had such a good time at last year's Day of Action rally at the Capitol. Scroll through the May 2005 archives, May 21st and afterward, for lots of information on that barrel of laughs.

Heckler's Veto

Erin O'Connor, thankfully posting again at Critical Mass, has the story of a heckler who disrupted a speech by Hillary Clinton--and the English professor who supports what's known as a "heckler's veto".

Erin hits the nail on the head:

In other words, as far as Keach is concerned, it's fine to shut down a speaker through heckling, just as long as the speaker's politics are wrong and the heckler's are right.

Lefties will probably agree--but then again, lefties aren't known much for their support of free speech, anyway.

Monday, April 24, 2006


The last few days I've been in somewhat of an edublogging dry spell, with not much to write about in the way of my own experiences. Sure, I can and do link to other stories, but for the most part I get the most satisfaction--and apparently engage my readers the most--when I do my own postings. But what to write about?

And just now, mere moments ago actually, the following dropped right into my hands. I received the following email, and I'll post it in full now:

Dear Darren,

I�m writing to you because I can tell from reading Right on the Right Coast that you care about education and I�m hoping that you might be interested in a new project that DonorsChoose is launching today for blogs.

At DonorsChoose, teachers submit ideas for materials or experiences that their students need to learn. Individuals can search for projects that speak to them, and then make those classroom dreams a reality. We think it�s an innovative new model for citizen philanthropy. (We also keep showing up in �Web 2.0� lists, although we�re still not sure what that

Today, we�re asking you to help improve the education of children in our public schools. Our new Blogger Challenge allows you to choose from a variety of projects and ask for Right on the Right Coast readers� help to fund them.

To learn more, please visit

In our beta test, the readers of one blog, Tomato Nation, raised more than $30,000 for New York City public schools � you can see the projects they funded at But don�t let that overwhelm you � on my own blog, Ishbadiddle, I managed to raise $500 from my readers, which fully funded a middle-school literacyproject and bought tadpoles for first graders in Brooklyn.

No amount is too small (or too large): projects awaiting funding right now range from $147 for a set of dictionaries in San Francisco to $8,578 for a new playground field in South Carolina. No matter what you the readers of Right on the Right Coast can contribute, I hope you�ll consider participating. And I�d love hear your thoughts and feedback about how we can best involve bloggers like you in this new campaign.

Thanks so much,

Mike Everett-Lane
Blogger In Chief, DonorsChoose

P.S. As our way of saying �thank you� for joining the Blogger Challenge, we�ll give you a DonorsChoose gift certificate worth 10% of the value of each completed challenge. To see classroom projects that your readers might be interested in supporting, visit (emphasis mine--Darren)


I don't know why all the apostrophes showed up as question marks, but that's a small point. But getting my blog's name wrong??? Unbelievable!

Here are the first few sentences on their web site:

DonorsChoose is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn.

We're calling all bloggers to help us raise funds for these projects. You can create a DonorsChoose “Challenge.” Pick the the classroom needs that speak to you. Your readers will be able to fulfill them. And kids will get great educational experiences.

Doesn't sound so bad.

Here's what I can't quite determine: is this a worthwhile project in which my readers and I can participate, or is this a cynical ploy that bribes me to whore out my blog for what might be good purposes? Or might it be a little of both?

I've intentionally stayed away from ads on this site. This is not a commercial site; I have no thoughts of making money here. I post as a labor of love; this is truly something I enjoy doing. I don't recall that I've ever solicited money for any organization or cause, and I certainly haven't done so for myself. It's not that I object to making a buck--I heart capitalism! But there's a time and a place for everything, and I've chosen this time and place for mental gymnastics, not for profit.

Am I being too rigid? Might the flavor of Right On The Left Coast change if a profit motive were involved rather than my own intrinsic motivation?

I appreciate any insight you're willing to provide in the comments.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bush Isn't Lincoln, But....

Here's an interesting article about Presidents Lincoln and Bush. It starts thusly:

The President "lied" us into war. Much of the pre-war intelligence was wrong. The civilian defense chief was detested as "brusque, domineering and unbearably unpleasant to work with." Civil liberties were abridged. And many embittered Democrats, claiming the war had been an utter failure, demanded that the administration bring the troops home.

George Bush? Well, yes - but also a President who looms far larger in American history, Abraham Lincoln. One is struck by the parallels in reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's masterful new book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Further parallels are mentioned.

I sent this link to a maillist of which I am a member and received the following reply, which I have received permission to repost here:

Quelle surprise.

I said that years ago. Start reading "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years", and you can see the parallels. Everything from Lincoln's overly belligerent rush to war (even though the war started before he was inaugurated) to his stupidity (he was really controlled by Seward or Chase or someone else) to his lack of sophistication (his backwoods manners were a source of ridicule, and he was considered an embarrassment to those who had to deal with the o-so-sophisticated Europeans) to simian comparisons (he was frequently portrayed as a baboon or a gorilla). It's really hard not to see the Bush parallels. As I said before, I think it says a lot more about their critics than it says about Bush or Lincoln.

And the Anti-War crowd hasn't updated their material since 1861.

Adding A Letter To The Language

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - The letter 'W' has entered the mainstream of the Swedish language, getting its own section for the first time in the country's most respected dictionary.

And it has nothing to do with President Bush :-)

Imagine State-Run Health Care

Now imagine this castastrophe waiting to happen.

Libs, honestly--do you really think government control over health care is a good idea?

Update, 4/24/06: Here's more. Do you really want the government to have this information about you posted on the internet?

Interesting Commentary on Language

The article below has application in our schools.

I'm thankful that the state Board of Education this last week did not dilute the English/Language Arts standards for English learners, thereby ensuring that those students are not kept in segregated classes learning minimal English and doomed to be second-class citizens because they cannot assimilate due to their lack of English.

I know it isn't PC to say it, but English is the de facto national language in this country. There are few opportunities to achieve the American Dream without knowledge of English--even in the Southwest.

So when I came across this commentary from San Antonio, I thought I'd link to it. Here are the telling paragraphs:

This pointed up something to me which I have never forgotten. People are not separated nearly so much by appearance or skin color as by language and culture.

Folks who talk "down home" or even Yankee and are a recognizable type within a broad American culture are, in truth and fact, "one of us." Those who cling to an alien tongue, or speak American English poorly, and who have widely divergent customs will always be "foreigners," whatever their citizen status. This is human nature.

But it is not an expressed view today. People know and think it but are discouraged from saying it, despite widespread agreement among historians and demographers that language is the most binding cement of a society and nation.

Ticked Off At A Teacher's Blog

Can't say that I envy this teacher, but I can't fault him, either.

Don't like it if your teacher thinks you're a loser and the school sucks? Then don't be a loser, and do something to ensure your school doesn't suck.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I read this article about mobbing in academe and thought, this sounds exactly like a teachers union!

It's a well-written article. Here's a taste:

Max Weber, a founding father of modern sociology, saw bureaucracy as the living embodiment of cool, procedural rationality. In Mr. Westhues's view, mobbing is a pathological undercurrent of irrationality in bureaucracies — a crabby ghost in the machine.

According to Mr. Westhues, mobbing occurs most in institutions where workers have high job security, where there are few objective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between loyalty to the institution and loyalty to some higher purpose. In other words, the ghost is alive and well in many academic departments.

Earth Day At Sac State University

I should have taken my camera.

First off, I love how much capitalism was occurring there. Lots of people there making an honest buck, even if sometimes they were selling some off-the-wall stuff.

There were some conservation organizations there (Save Our Creeks, American River Conservancy) and some municipal organizations (Sacramento's Urban Forest Services Department, for example). Alternative fuel vehicles, including cars that operate on hydrogen fuel cells (President Bush was at that facility in West Sacramento today), were displayed.

And then there were the nutjobs. It was for them that I wore my Commies Aren't Cool (with a red slash through a small picture of Che Guevara) shirt. I admit it--part of the reason I go is to watch the freaks.

The Democrats had a table signing up voters. I doubt the organizers even wanted the Republicans to have a table there. The Greens were there, as was the Peace and Freedom Party. Any guesses what/who all three of those left-of-center parties were against? I even had a guy try to convince me that anarchy was the only way to go, and we'd know how good no government at all could be if only it had ever been tried before. Interesting.

Why do these environmental events always attract the wackos? Why don't you ever see these wackos at a job fair, at a business expo, at a trade show? I mean, I'm all about protecting the environment and being a good steward of the planet, but I think those people have been inhaling a bit too much nature, if you get what I mean. They don't seem to recognize that it's wealth and prosperity that allow us to preserve our environment, and if you don't believe that you should go to a 3rd world country some time. It's the very capitalism they decry that makes it possible to create "cleaner" fuels and factories, to restore damage previously done, to preserve areas like wetlands and forests.

I went to a booth for a solar cell installer. As I've written on this blog many times, I'm a big supporter of solar power and truly don't understand why it doesn't take off in a place like California, or in Phoenix, or even Denver (with its 300+ days of sun a year and bad pollution in the winter). The first thing one of the employees manning the booth said to me? "I don't like your shirt."

Update: I like this article, which pithily (is that a word?) discusses Earth Day, the environment, and environmentalists.

Worst Song of All Time

CNN has the story.

1985 wasn't a bad year for music--heck, it was one of the best years ever for music. Money For Nothing by Dire Straits was big that year, and what's wrong with Broken Wings?

I'll agree with them about Mickey. My vote, if covers count? William Shatner's (yes, that William Shatner) rendition of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Pictures of Earth--on Earth Day

Some of these appear to be satellite pictures while others (towards the bottom) are fake--or at least composite pictures. If that picture of night falling across Europe (the fourth one down) is real, it's one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen.

Wait, it can't be real. There are no clouds anywhere. Maybe it's another of those composite pictures.

I sure wish people would be clear when they create these pictures; it's deceptive not to idenfity them as composite.

Let The Dems Have The House

I've decided--given today's Republican Party, I want divided government. Apparently I'm not the only one.

Even before reading the link above, I'd decided that turning the House of Representatives over to the Democrats would be a least-worst scenario. I want to keep the White House in Republican hands, because God knows you can't trust a Democrat on foreign policy--look at our last two Democrat presidents, Carter and Clinton. I also want to keep the Senate--treaties, court justices, ambassadors, etc. Foreign policy and the courts.

Let the Dems go nuts again in the House. Maybe they'll implode by having Speaker Pelosi. Anything radical out of the house would be tempered by the Senate in a conference committee, and even still, the President might finally use the veto pen if something crazy snuck through--well, we can hope, right?

I still support the President because I think he's done right in the greatest issue of our time--fighting terrorism. In other areas, he's made a lot of calls that I wouldn't make, and I certainly don't appreciate the Republicans in Congress who are milking what they can get from the American people before they get replaced by the Democrates who, with great vindictiveness, will do exactly what the Republicans have done.

We don't need a Reform Party presidential candidate. We need Reform Party candidates for Congress.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Can I Call 'Em, Or What?

California Democrats Take On Teacher Shortage

In this post I asked, what ever happened to the cries about a teacher shortage? I guess there's some political hay to be made by resurrecting that old story, so now someone's raising it again.

Next time I feel like I'm being prescient, it's off to Reno I go so I can pick some Keno numbers or something.

CTA Backing Losing Cause(s)

Rob Reiner's preschool initiative seems to have only two major supporters now--Reiner himself, and CTA. And CTA has already spent $700,000 promoting this stupid idea.

Read more about 'em at the EIA link above. For more reading, click on the EIA link on the blogroll at left.

The Party of Public Education

NewsAlert reports (via link to the Chicago Tribune) that of every 100 freshmen entering a Chicago high school, only 6 will get a bachelor's degree by the time they're in their mid 20's.

I was struck by this powerful comment:

The irony here is the Democratic Party which has run Chicago since the New Deal, claims to be the party of education.Look at the results.Chicago might be the worst public school system in the country.But,Mayor Daley and gang hold them themselves up as the model of reform.

Yup. And the DC public schools are pretty good, too.

Ninth Circuit Gets It Wrong Again, This Time On The First Amendment

Law professor Eugene Volokh covers all the bases, but put simply, the 9th Circuit has ruled that student viewpoints that harm someone else's self-esteem--yes, it was mentioned in the ruling!--are not Constitutionally protected.

Update, 4/23/06 10:15 am: Here's another article covering the same topic.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ruling In Favor Of "The Creative Process"

Via YahooNews and the Associated Press:

SAN FRANCISCO - Sometimes vulgarity is not just acceptable but necessary in the workplace, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday as it threw out a sexual harassment case by a former assistant on the "Friends" TV show.

The justices, ruling 7-0, agreed with Warner Bros. Television Productions that trash talk was part of the creative process and, therefore, the studio and its writers could not be sued for raunchy writers' meetings.

Well, a little sanity from the California Supreme Court.

As for the woman who brought the suit--well, my students might recognize the following words and imagine my saying them with a mocking tone: dee dee dee boo boo boo.

In other words, she was whining and thought she could make a few bucks off it. I'm glad she was smacked down.

Teachers Don't Like NCLB

Of course teachers might not like NCLB. It puts what we do to the test, makes us prove we're doing what we say we're doing.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Student Government Election

We held an interesting student government election at my school today. I'm pleased with the result.

A former student of mine, one who would probably wear the title "geek" proudly, one who had no chance of winning the election, won. And boy, are the "regular" student government denizens pissed!

"He doesn't know how hard it is." "He doesn't know how to get things done." "We've done this for three years, who does he think he is?" Of those comments and others I've heard, I'm sure it's the last one that they're really feeling.

The first election was held before Spring Break. That's right, the first election. However, the votes weren't counted because 14 classes (including mine) didn't get the opportunity to vote. A new election was scheduled for today, and the students running the election did a good job this time.

When the results were announced at the end of the school day, my class (which had a few members of the new President's "campaign staff") erupted in cheers. I was one of the cheering throng.

It's not just that I'm glad the underdog, the outsider, won. He beat an opposition that saw that student government position as their earned right. He ran a campaign, his opposition really didn't--probably assuming that they'd just win because they were supposed to. He worked; they counted on name recognition, popularity, and arrogance.

I saw the winner after school, surrounded by students not on the A-list. He was happy, subdued, a gracious winner. Those around him were ecstatic.

The little guy won today. He may even be ready for the responsibility he's worked so hard to win. I hope he does well.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fine Display of CTA Professionalism

Watch the so-called "professional" educators who want to compel everyone to give their money for left-wing political causes.

Then go to my May 2005 archives (at left), from May 25th on, and read my posts--and see pictures!--from a union rally at the California Capitol.

If you want to know why I am a proud non-member of the California Teachers Association, those posts and this video are all you need to see.


I'm compelled to lift the following from Discriminations (see blogroll at left):

The following depressing tale appears toward the end of John Fund’s most recent column on the Taliban Man at Yale:

Indeed, I was told a chilling story of another Ivy League University that had two applicants from the same inner-city high school. Both were Hispanic. One applicant was a very good student who had participated in school and community affairs. The other was a mediocre student who had frequently clashed with authorities and even had a scrape with the law. A leading graduate of the school was trying to help the former student get admitted. The deciding factor might have come during his senior year when his parents managed to save enough money to move a few miles away to a suburb. “When I heard of their move I told the mother her son was doomed, because I knew how the admissions office thought,” the graduate told me. “Sure enough the more marginal kid got in, because he was viewed as a more ‘authentic’ representative of the Hispanic community.”
“Diversity” is not only built on a foundation of stereotypes; it reinforces them.
Sad, but true.

Are you not aware of what John means by "Taliban man"? I've avoided the topic on this blog, primarily because it sickens me. You can read Fund's post which is linked in the snippet above, but to make a long story short, a former Taliban ambassador-at-large is currently studying at Yale instead of at Guantanamo.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Another Reason To Love The Unions...

...or at least the states that vote heavily Democratic. From Michael Barone, via

Public employee unions

My U.S. News column this week is about one force that threatens to gobble up our otherwise thriving private sector economy: the greater-than-economic-growth increases in spending mandated by current entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But there's another force threatening the private sector economy: public-employee unions. In many but not all states, public-employee unions have been forcing greater-than-economic-growth spending increases on state and local governments—spending that produces very little in the way of public benefit.

And the public-employee unions have been growing stronger. In California last year, they spent huge amounts of money—money that came, via members' dues, from the taxpayers—on trashing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's job rating and defeating his ballot measures. These leeches on the private sector economy are now in position to keep sucking more and more blood (emphasis mine--Darren)...

[M]any on the political left complain about the disappearance of the middle class, the alleged tendency of our economy to produce hefty income growth for those at the upper end of the economic scale and relatively little income growth for the large number at the lower end. Interestingly, this tendency toward income inequality is most pronounced in states that have been voting Democratic in presidential elections—especially New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California. Income inequality tends to be much less in many states that vote heavily Republican. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California have imported many high-income earners and low-income immigrants and have been exporting many more middle-income earners. This process is accelerated when, as in these four states, high-income earners have been eager to vote for Democrats backed by public-employee unions: The same people who have been complaining about this trend have been causing it.

Teaching Math

The following quotes come from a Seattle Times article, which I surfed to from somewhere:

Research shows kids learn math best when they begin with a thorough grounding in mathematics fundamentals and progress in an orderly sequence, with the help of similar instructional approaches, from class to class and grade to grade.

But in Washington, many kids face bamboozling instruction that can be a mile wide and an inch deep. They endure competing approaches and instructional materials. And many textbooks aren't even in sync with the material kids will be expected to know on the WASL.

Wait a minute! You mean that math should be taught in a sequential manner? That instruction should be for "mastery" and not just "introduction"? Say it isn't so!

This is why I support California's state standards. What's recommended above is exactly how our standards are constructed.

And by high school, kids have spent years marinating in a culture that disses math. Few people in this country boast about being illiterate. But it's long been a laugh line to declare "I'm not a math person." Not so in countries such as Japan and Singapore, where students are expected to conquer math — and keep trying until they do.

And in America, where are the math bees, the volunteer math tutorial corps, the math-is-fundamental public-service campaigns? As a society, we root for reading. But we expect success in math to just happen ... or not.

Ilana Horn, associate professor of mathematics education at the University of Washington, says that makes a big difference. "We have a belief in innate ability. It perpetuates this idea that you either have it or you don't, instead of that you aren't trying hard enough.

"It allows teachers to not question student failure in the same way, and it allows parents to excuse the kids' poor performance, and kids to excuse their own poor performance."

John Allen Paulos, in his groundbreaking book Innumeracy, said pretty much the same thing.

One thing about the above quote, though--should a newspaper really be using street language in an article? Dissing? Come on; a reporter should have a better vocabulary than that.

The state is ramping up its attention to math. A review of curriculum is under way to help districts make choices aligned with state standards. A small cadre of math specialists is helping teachers with instruction and curriculum. And 10th-graders who fail the math segment of the WASL this week will be eligible for extra help, at state expense, before retaking the test.

That's good.

Math matters. Mastering math means learning problem solving, abstract thinking and the ability to make connections between ideas. Math trains the mind. It also pays the bills.

It's a simple formula: The higher the math a kid can master, the higher the wage he or she is likely to earn later on. More than 80 percent of workers in professional jobs, including managers, engineers, doctors and lawyers, got at least as far as algebra II, and more than half of them completed at least some trigonometry, according to a 2003 study by the Educational Testing Service, which creates and scores standardized tests.

I'm beginning to think we should stop this utilitarian line of reasoning. Knowing math has value beyond how much money a person makes. And how many of those managers use the Algebra II or trig in their jobs? I'm sure they use an easy facility with numbers, but let's stop pretending that everyone needs trig to get rich. They need it to be able to think--to have those critical thinking skills about which we talk so much.

To close the achievement gap between whites and ethnic minorities, teachers also have to bring mathematical concepts to students from other cultures in a way that engages them. That can require not only mastery of the material, but a creative approach.

Utter crap. How is it that Asian immigrants to America do so well in our math classes? Every time I read about this subject I get the same answer--hard work. Studying. Not expecting the learning to be easy.

The secret, [Michigan State University math expert] Schmidt said, is coherence. Instruction should progress in a sequence of topics over the grades that is consistent with the inherent structure and logic of mathematics. Kids have to master the basics, such as ratios, decimals, percents and fractions before they are ready to tackle algebra and geometry.

Otherwise, kids get confused and don't see the connections between topics. Clutter — teaching kids topics before they are ready for them — and holes in the logical sequence are traps kids may never dig their way out of.

Here we're again fighting against the mile-wide-inch-deep philosophy that permeated American math instruction for so long. I still hear it at my own school: "Kids need to see this topic in Algebra II so it won't be new to them in trig." My take: they should master the Algebra II standards in the Algebra II class and master the trig standards in trig class. Wacky concept, isn't it?

"We are moving from math taught in a cut-and-dried, calculation-based fashion to more explanation. Teachers weren't trained that way, and it's hard for them to teach it that way in the classroom. It's a huge expectation, it's moving in the right direction, it's just that the students and teachers are caught in the middle."

I'm ok with in-depth explanations. That's what I do--at least I hope that's what I do. My fear here is that people will make the presentation methodology, and not the content, the focus of the class. I've heard this kind of talk before, and it sounds very fuzzy.

But let's assume they're sincere. If so, then Washington State is moving in the right direction as far as math (maths?) education goes.

Mark Steyn on Iran

I haven't quoted Steyn lately, and my readers are worse off for it. Of course, my readers could also use search engines to find Steyn's columns any time they like!

Here's what he recently wrote on Iran, and I do love his analogies:

You know what's great fun to do if you're on, say, a flight from Chicago to New York and you're getting a little bored? Why not play being President Ahmadinejad? Stand up and yell in a loud voice, "I've got a bomb!" Next thing you know the air marshal will be telling people, "It's OK, folks. Nothing to worry about. He hasn't got a bomb." And then the second marshal would say, "And even if he did have a bomb it's highly unlikely he'd ever use it." And then you threaten to kill the two Jews in row 12 and the stewardess says, "Relax, everyone. That's just a harmless rhetorical flourish." And then a group of passengers in rows 4 to 7 point out, "Yes, but it's entirely reasonable of him to have a bomb given the threatening behavior of the marshals and the cabin crew."

That's how it goes with the Iranians.

You can see how I feel about this situation.

This Is Boring

Joanne's quotes and commentary are ideal so I'll just lift them here. Go read all her posts, though--see blogroll at left.

Boredom is educational

Boring lessons prepare children for real life, say British teachers. The Independent reports:

Pupils needed to get used to the idea that life wasn't a constant "Disney ride", said delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference yesterday. "I don't have the energy to do all-singing all-dancing lessons every day, five-days-a-week, each term," supply maths teacher Zoe Fail explained, to loud cheers. "Children are not bored enough. They are over stimulated. Being bored encourages thinking skills and imaginative play."
I suspect Barry Williams, a lecturer at Hertford Regional College in Cambridgeshire, had his tongue in his cheek, when he defended his dullness:
"When they say to me: 'Mr Williams, that girl is looking out of the window staring at a tree,' I say: 'Do they not recognise the advanced stages of Zen Buddhism which I have brought into my lessons?' I am in fact producing adults who will be able to watch party political broadcasts."
Nobody gets through school without learning how to endure boredom.

I definitely agree that life isn't a Disney ride--and neither should school be. That's a statement, not an excuse.

And why do the British study "maths" while we in America study "math"? If they're shortening "mathematics", shouldn't they write "math's"?

Does This Sound Like Any School District In Which You've Taught?

From an email:

Wisdom says, "When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount." In business, government and (sometimes) education often other strategies are tried with dead horses, including the following:
· Buying a stronger whip.
· Changing riders.
· Saying things like, "This is the way we have always ridden this horse."
· Appointing a committee to study the horse.
· Arranging to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.
· Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
· Appointing a tiger team to revive the dead horse.
· Creating a training session to increase our riding ability.
· Comparing the state of dead horses in today's environment vs. in history.
· Changing the requirements, declaring, "This horse is not dead."
· Hiring contractors to ride the dead horse.
· Harnessing several dead horses together for increased speed.
· Declaring that "No horse is too dead to beat."
· Providing additional funding to increase the horse's performance.
· Funding a study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
· Purchasing a product to make dead horses run faster.
· Declaring the horse is "better, faster and cheaper dead."
· Forming a quality circle to find uses for dead horses.
· Revisiting the performance requirements for horses.
· Saying this horse was procured with cost as an independent variable.
· Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Update, 6:11 pm: Are there any others you've experienced or can imagine? Add a comment!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Sexual" Harassment?

RightWingProf has the story about a sexual harassment complaint that isn't sexual at all. An Ohio State librarian recommended some conservative books be placed on a reading list and that made some professors feel "unsafe". Feeling "unsafe" is sufficient to proceed with a sexual harassment claim.

Think I'm leaving out some very important parts? I think I've given a fairly good summary, but go read for yourself.

Update, 4/18/06 6:41 am: OSU did the right thing, thankfully.

Will It Be Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid?

Neither sounds that great to me. In fact, they both sound scary as hell. But if this is the best the Republicans can do, then we've already lost the November election.

Here are some suggestions from li'l ol' me:

1. Talk up the war in Iraq. Focus on the good things that have been done. Use historical comparisons. Americans like a winner.
2. Small government. Right now we have way too much small government--so much so that it looks like big government. We need to cut government, not continue to expand it.
3. Blast socialism. Point out the economic problems in Europe.
4. Talk tough on illegal immigration, but for chrissakes do something about it! Point out the problems France has had with lack of assimilation.
5. Talk up the economy. It's doing extremely well by just about any metric. Of course, government doesn't have much to do with that, but we'd be taking the heat if it were lousy so we should take some glory when it's good--especially in an election year. It would be nice to get away from that foolishness, but the Dems won't let it go so we can't, either.

There, see? Not so hard to come up with real ideas, substantive ideas. These are far better than that crap in the article.

College Visits

The major Sacramento newspaper reports:

[M]any high school seniors are making their final trips to the colleges that have accepted them, as the decision deadline approaches in early May. At the same time, some juniors are using spring break to start their searches.

These prospective college students are among more than 16 million students who will be enrolled in American colleges and universities this fall, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With the price of tuition, room and board having doubled since 1990, the pressure to pick the right school is greater than ever.

This is good.

By the time my senior year started, I think I'd only ever set foot on one college campus--CSU Sacramento--and that was just to see a play in 9th grade. My family had always assumed that I'd go to college but no one knew how to make that happen and there certainly were no financial plans made. I'm too embarrassed to admit the extent of my ignorance about colleges and universities, even about their freakin' locations. I'm too embarrassed to talk about which schools I applied to, and why I chose the two civilian schools I did. The counseling that students receive at the school at which I teach towers over anything we received at my old high school--and I still stay in touch with my counselor and value the impact he had on my life.

The best way to really get the feel of a college campus may be to shut off the computer and go see it.

"I tell kids, 'If you attend a college you've never visited, it's like marrying someone you've never met,' " says Pat Stokes, a guidance counselor at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento. "I feel very scared when a kid's going to college and they've never seen it."

I had only the vaguest idea of what West Point was like. Then again, that's probably a good thing!

Keep the weather in mind during your visit - could a California kid really handle a school located in a snowy or cold environment?
It was quite a change for me, that's for sure.

I consider myself fortunate. I came tenuously close to not going to college at all. I'm glad so many students today are getting a much better start than I did.

What Did General Zinni Say, And When Did He Say It?

General Zinni has joined the anti-Rumsfeld chorus. I guess he forgets that Rumsfeld works for the President and no one else, and as long as Rumsfeld has the confidence of the President he'll remain the Secretary of Defense.

But what about the claims that General Zinni has made? Is it true that, as he says, there was no real reason to go to war with Iraq? Hmm, let's see what he had to say before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2000, 11 months before President Bush took office:

• Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region. This is primarily due to its large conventional military force, pursuit of WMD [emphasis added], oppressive treatment of Iraqi citizens, refusal to comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) …

• Despite claims that WMD efforts have ceased, Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research, retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions, … Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains the scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months. [Emphasis added]

• The Iraqi regime’s high regard for WMD and long-range missiles is our best indicator that a peaceful regime under Saddam Hussein is unlikely.

• … extremists may turn to WMD in an effort to …overcome improved U.S. defenses against conventional attack. Detecting plans for a specific WMD attack is extremely difficult, making it likely such an event would occur without warning. [Emphasis added]

Lefties won't mind the inconsistency. To them, inconsistency isn't a bug, it's a feature!

Friday, April 14, 2006

First That Spelling Bee Movie, Now This

GeekOlympics are finally taking off! It's about darn time.

(So says the team captain of a 1987 Mathematical Competition in Modeling team designated as Meritorious)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Men and Women

A picture is worth a thousand words.

How Much On Defense?

I'll just copy the whole thing:

Robert Samuelson reports:
The present political consensus is crumbling. For decades higher benefits for the elderly were effectively paid for by reducing defense spending -- not by raising taxes or cutting other programs. In 1960, defense was 52 percent of the budget; in 2005, it's 19 percent. After Sept. 11, 2001, military spending won't shrink much more, but even if it disappeared, the savings wouldn't cover future spending on the elderly. The same, incidentally, is true of President Bush's tax cuts; even if they were eliminated, the resulting tax increases would only curb today's deficits -- not pay for tomorrow's spending.
The seniors know how to get a bigger slice.Can this go on forever? We doubt it.But,we've got to say it's pretty impressive rent-seeking when Warren Buffett can get free medical care just because he's over 65.

Teacher Quality

CNN has a story about the numbers of "high quality" teachers in the nation's classrooms, and what states are reporting in order to comply with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Under federal pressure, most states are close to getting teachers who are rated highly qualified in front of every math, history, language and other core class by the end of the school year. Or so they say.

Thirty-three states claim 90 percent to 99 percent of their main classes have teachers who are highly qualified. That means, based on the No Child Left Behind law, that those teachers have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.

And here's the stick:

States must prove they have:

-- Set a fair definition of "highly qualified." Although the federal law sets the parameters, states have huge leeway when it comes to qualifying their veteran teachers.

-- Provided parents with a clear picture of how many classes are taught by qualified teachers. This is supposed to happen in state, district and school report cards.

-- Given complete and accurate data about their teacher corps to the Education Department, including the disparities between poor and wealthier schools.

-- Ensured that poor and minority children do not have a higher percentage of inexperienced or unqualified teachers than any other youngsters.

By May 15, states will find out where they stand and whether they will lose federal aid, which is the government's only real enforcement tool.

Weren't we hearing, just a couple years ago, about teacher shortages, especially in math and science? What happened? I haven't heard about a shortage in quite some time. Did these teachers mysteriously appear from the ether?

Apparently they did. And they appeared highly qualified, too.

What am I getting at here? Oh, I don't know. Maybe the teacher shortage was a myth. Or maybe it's not as bad as some people want the public to believe. Or maybe that's only trotted out when it's good for the teachers unions to do so.

Some Facts About My School District

From the Education Intelligence Agency (see blogroll at left) comes data on school district expenditures across the country. I clicked on California and found the following information about my own district, current as of the 2003-04 school year:

Rank: #10 in the state with ~51,000 students (less than 1% of the state's student population, and less than 7% of the size of the largest district in the state, LA Unified)

Enrollment change since 00-01 school year: 1.27%

Per-pupil spending: $7577
California average: $7748
US average: $8287 (and let's not forget the cost of living in the greater Sacramento area compared to the average cost of living across the US)

Change in per-pupil spending since 00-01: 7.66%
California average: 11.24%
US average: 13.77%

Amount per-pupil spent on compensation: $6578
California average: $6500
US average: $6821

Change in per-pupil spent on compensation since 00-01: 6.66%
California average: 12.93%
US average: 13.87%

I'm not doing any analysis here, just posting the information.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My Retirement Money At Work

According to the major Sacramento newspaper:

West Sacramento has landed an investment powerhouse to anchor the city's ambitious waterfront development.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System, the nation's second largest public pension fund, announced Tuesday an agreement to build a $176 million to $186 million office tower for its headquarters at Raley's Landing.

I'm curious how this will improve my retirement.

Unveiled to CalSTRS employees Tuesday morning, the plan calls for building an environmentally oriented 14-story, steel-and-glass tower on 4.57 acres just north of the ziggurat, the pyramid-shaped Money Store building occupied by the Department of General Services.

Here's a picture of the area, looking roughly southeast. No image of the new building was included in the article.

Solomon Amendment Issue

UC Santa Cruz disgraces itself. The students who did this are a disgrace, and the administration that tolerates their actions is a disgrace. What are they learning in Santa Cruz, anyway? I mean, besides surfing and pot smoking?

I'll tell you what they're learning--from the Islamofascists. They're learning that if they become an unruly mob, threaten order (or maybe violence), then the cowards will give in to you. Oh, and wear black. And cover your faces--it looks both cool and scary that way.

It's time for the adults to step up to the plate here. Congress should invoke the Solomon Amendment.

Update, 4/12/06 7:15 pm: Look what I find on Instapundit! Apparently great minds think alike.

BLOCKING MILITARY RECRUITERS MAY BE EXPENSIVE: The Mountain States Legal Foundation is moving to cut off federal funding for UC Santa Cruz after the University permitted students to block military recruiters on campus. (Via Michelle Malkin). The University will presumably argue that this doesn't reflect its policy; I'm not sure how that will play out.