Friday, June 30, 2006

Two Messages From The Left

One message I can support, one I cannot.

From Right Wing Nation (see blogroll at left) I learned about the International Day of Action Against Homophobia in Iran, which will fall not-so-coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of the public hanging in Iran of two gay teenagers. I blogged about that last year. From the first link:

They are calling for worldwide protests against the “murderous homophobic Iranian regime” and “in commemoration of Asgari and Marhoni, the two gay teenagers executed in the city of Mashhad on 19 July last year.”

The US coordinator of the 19 July protests, Michael Petrelis of SanFrancisco, said: "Only one American city joined last year’s the international protests against Iran's hanging of the two gay teenagers. This year, gays in at least three US cities will take to the streets on July 19. We hope more cities will join us and organise vigils for gay and lesbian Iranians. American gay rights organisations should devote more energy to tackling homophobic persecution beyond our borders. The protests on July 19 are a step towards greater US support for the global struggle for queer freedom," concluded Mr Petrelis.

All this is good. I offer my best wishes and hopes to Mr. Petrelis and all those who stand against true tyranny.

Apparently, not everyone on the left sees this protest as a good thing.

I'm sorry for what happened to those boys. However, I will not protest in the current political environment lest my actions be mistaken or misinterpreted as support for regime change in Iran (emphasis mine--Darren). I will not add any kindling, no matter how small, to the mad fires of U.S., Israeli and Western imperialism and the quest for world domination, which want very much to torch Iran to the ground, its institutions, civil society, museums, libraries, schools and mostly its people, as has been done in neighboring Iraq...

I will bear witness, here. Please forgive and understand my absence from your demonstration against Iran. On the other hand, I wonder how many of my fellow queers who will be out protesting the Iranian execution ever even once saw fit to protest the death penalty in their homeland. Why is that?

The reason, you waste of gravity, is that these youths died for who and what they were, not what they did. They didn't deny life to others, as death penalty recipients here in the US have done. Are you really so foolish not to see that, or do you just use that excuse to hide behind your hatred of President Bush and "US, Israeli, and western imperialism"? The way I read it, you hate your own government--one that doesn't execute gays as policy, I might add--more than you despise Iran's. By your own words you don't want regime change in Iran; you'd rather have the religious zealots who control that country stay in charge, whilst no doubt decrying the "religious right" here in your own country.

I don't have foul enough words to describe you.

Update, 7/1/06: I guess I could have been a little more succinct. I support Mr. Petrelis because he's putting his morality before his (probable) political convictions, whereas the second guy subjugates his morality to his political convictions. His moral equivalence argument disgusts me, as does his outright lying about Iraq and US intentions in Iran.

Great Start to the NEA Representative Assembly

Each year around the 4th of July holiday, the National Education Association holds its annual Supreme Soviet. This year, the party is in Orlando, and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Washington State sends out this notice:

Dear Friends:

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation had a little surprise for the National Education Association (NEA) this morning! You are getting these pictures only hours after delegates to this year’s NEA convention saw them on a billboard truck right outside the main entrance of their convention center in Orlando, Florida!

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Labor Policy Center is at the Orange County Convention Center right now with a professionally prepared billboard truck. The truck has three key themes: (Click on the links for hi-resolution images of the signs.)

  • “It pays to be a union boss.” When it comes to salaries, benefits and perks, union officials are better off than teachers. The average NEA employee’s salary is nearly twice as much as the average teacher’s. Further, the union spends more than $68 million on payroll, benefits and expense accounts.

  • “Fair Representation?” Teachers are a politically diverse group, but the union’s political spending typically benefits only one political party.

  • “No means No!” A stern-faced teacher reminds union bosses that “No means No” when it comes to keeping their hands off her paycheck.

Why are we doing this?

Our state Supreme Court recently said it is O.K. for union officials to raid employees’ paychecks, without permission, to collect money for their politics. The court said it would be too burdensome for an association, such as the Washington Education Association (WEA), to ask its non-members (much less members) for permission before taking money from their paychecks to pay for politics. The justices used the U.S. Constitution to back up their opinion that an organization’s free speech rights supersede the free speech rights of an individual.

We are appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and raising the profile of the case begins today! So, this truck, and a spokesman from our Labor Policy Center, will be ready to greet the delegates and the media. We’ll let you know what happens, or maybe you’ll hear about it on the news.

For more information and updates about the appeal and our presence at the NEA convention, call the Evergreen Freedom Foundation at (360) 956-3482, or visit the new website dedicated to the case,

Persistence matters, because freedom matters.

Gotta love it!

Kozol Is Still Drinking the Kool-Aid

Chester Finn has a great post about Jonathon Kozol, who's still convinced that the reason there's an achievement gap in our country is because of racism.

Do you hear that, teachers? Your racism keeps brown and black-skinned kids from learning.

And who's going to rush to Kozol's flag, since he's now set the No Child Left Behind Act in his sights? Why, those same racist teachers, of course!

He notified his mailing list that Education Action is now headquartered in a house that "we've purchased for this purpose" (but which also seems to be Kozol's home address) in a lovely, leafy neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, just off high-rent Brattle Street and a few short blocks from Harvard Square. The perfect place from which to crusade for equality.

"We are already in contact," he wrote, "with our close friends at Rethinking Schools, with dozens of local action groups like Teachers for Social Justice in San Francisco, with dynamic African-American religious groups that share our goals, with activist white denominations [whatever that may mean], and with some of the NEA and AFT affiliates, in particular the activist caucuses within both unions such as those in Oakland, Miami, and Los Angeles. But we want to extend these contacts rapidly in order to create what one of our friends who is the leader of a major union local calls a massive wave of noncompliance."

Have you heard of Rethinking Schools before? You have if you've read this blog enough. They're not--how shall I say it--my kind of people. Read here, here, and here to learn why.

I Despise Being Lied To

Two events really ticked me off recently. I was lied to, and I don't like it.

The first of the two occurred last weekend, at my city's Red, White, and Blue Parade. A college-aged guy was walking around handing out fliers, and when he got to me he handed me one and said, "Parade flier". I took one.

It wasn't a "parade flier" at all, unless you interpret that to mean that it's a flier he was handing out at a parade. I figured it was a list of sponsors or participants, maybe some advertisements, or something like that. It was nothing of the sort.

It was a religious tract, and a bad one at that.

It's not my point in this post to argue the religious points in the flier, but rather to argue against the misleading nature of the flier itself and of the person who handed it to me.

While I have no problem with evangelism per se, I would prefer if it were done as Jesus himself did it--go to where the sinners are and make yourself available to them if they want to come to you, not try to lie to or trick them. Doing what this young man did goes against what's in the tract, and one of the things it mentions in the tract is hypocrisy!

The flier points out isolated stats regarding adultery, fornication, rape, pornography, abortion, theft, greed, murder, drunkenness, and hypocrisy--and uses that to make the point "America the beautiful is no longer beautiful. Violence and sin has made her ugly." Is there ever a time when these vices did not exist in our country? Part of the Cadet Prayer at West Point reads as follows, and it would be good for Living Waters Publications to practice it:

Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won.

I'm not convinced they even tried to give the whole truth. Why would someone feel compelled to use deceit to bring people to God?

Of course the sins mentioned in the tract are bad, and our country as a whole would be better off if fewer individuals partook of those sins. However, to list some statistics with no context and use those points to state--without proof, of course--that they are evidence that God no longer sheds his grace on this country, is at least deceptive and perhaps worse.

The tract reads, "The United States of America is continually being plagued with killer earthquakes, new incurable diseases that are outwitting antibiotics, killer hurricanes, devastating tornadoes, calamitous floods, terrible droughts, and the return of once 'conquered' diseases such as tuberculosis."

While true, that's no evidence that God has turned his back on this country. These disasters have always been with us, and it's just as reasonable to assert that because so many fewer people die from them today than in the past, that God is heaping more blessings on us now than ever before!

I choose not to speak for God, as I believe that He does in fact work in mysterious ways. Trying to determine God's "frame of mind" by picking and choosing isolated instances seems sacreligious to me, something in which I will not participate.

The people who printed this tract, and those who handed it out, may in fact be well-meaning, but they're hypocrites--for all the reasons I've spelled out above. It is they, by their attempted deceptions, who actually bring scorn down upon the very God they claim to worship. I have nothing but contempt for them.

The second lie told to me happened as I was opening a new certificate of deposit at a bank I've done business with for a couple decades. I mention that last part to emphasize how much data about me that they must have stored somewhere.

I was asked for the usual information, and then I was asked for my drivers license number. Why, I asked? "Because it's required under the Patriot Act." Uh, no it's not. "Well that's the only information I have here."

I don't doubt for a moment that the person on the phone was sincere, truly believing what his computer screen told him about the Patriot Act. However, I knew it to be untrue (note to libs--that doesn't mean he was lying) and asked for a specific section of the Patriot Act that required my drivers license number. Of course he couldn't provide it, so he passed me on to a supervisor.

Apparently the supervisor's computer screen provides more information, as she was able to tell me that Section 326 of the Patriot Act required it. "Would you read that section to me, please?" And she did. Know what was missing in there? Any mention of the words "drivers license"! That section requires anyone opening an account to prove their identity to the bank--but again, I'd been banking with them since 1979! I even gave them the secret code word (mother's maiden name) to establish my bona fides on the phone, and still they wanted my DL number. Here's what I found about, in layman's terms, about Section 326. Definitely no word about drivers license numbers.

I told the supervisor that doing this is wrong. The bank's lying about the requirements of that law--which already has some people on edge anyway--only breeds contempt for that law and for laws in general. If they want the information they should ask for it, but not lie about their reasons for asking for it.

Update, 1:48 pm: A Wells Fargo rep called while I was responding to a comment on this post. Want to know what happened? Go read the comments!

Slanted Education Story

Read the first paragraph of this story and see if you can find a definite bias or slant here:

Money to help students pass exit exam OK'd

By Laurel Rosenhall -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 30, 2006

A small sliver -- less than 1 percent -- of the $131 billion budget the Legislature approved Tuesday is supposed to help struggling students pass the California High School Exit Exam.

Wow. I'm sure you can find it as easily as I can.

Let's see, 1% of $131 billion is, uh--hold on here, I can do it, I'm a math teacher--over $1.3 billion. And since California has about 37 million citizens, this author is complaining that each citizen of California isn't paying an additional $35.40 to "help struggling students pass the California High School Exit Exam." That's in addition to all the money those citizens already paid towards the education of those "struggling students".

Let's look at it another way. There were about 42,000 seniors who hadn't passed the exit exam a month ago. So again, this newspaper reporter seems to lament the fact that Californians aren't spending over $1.3 billion--that's $30,952 on each senior who didn't pass--in addition to the thousands spent on each of those seniors each year they were supposed to be getting an education!

This reporter is an idiot.

How much additional money is going to be spent? Only $287 million. Had that money been spent this past school year instead of this upcoming school year, that would have been over $6,800 per senior who didn't pass the test. That's a large percentage of per-pupil spending for an entire year of public education here in California! And that's to pass a test that's geared mostly at a 7th grade math level (there are some 8th grade Algebra I questions) and no more than a 10th grade language level.

This reporter seems to think money grows on trees or something. Or she has no math abilities at all. Maybe she even has no number sense.

Or she's just an idiot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It Doesn't Get Much Sicker Than This

Right Wing Nation tells the story of a Colorado Springs (my adopted home town) special education student who was molested by a boy who was, for some unknown reason since he was a minor and untrained, assigned to watch and/or assist the girl. And according to the parents, the school district tried to push the assault aside and then hush it up.

If the story as told at the link above is true in its specifics, then the school district people involved in this issue are bastards, every single one of them. If only they could be held individually liable for their parts in this travesty.

This story reminds me of one told in my high school psychology class by our teacher, Mr. Bettis. One day, much earlier in his career, a "retarded" girl (that was an acceptable term back then) walked up to a very popular boy on campus and laid a pretty heavy kiss on him, right on the lips. The boy was so mortified that he actually decked the girl. An investigation revealed that this boy was one of several who, recognizing the girl's mental state and knowing she'd be easy prey, had each been having sex with the girl--and as payment they'd give her a pencil. Mr. Bettis would angrily reinforce that last point, "They were screwing her for pencils!" The girl, not knowing there was anything wrong with what they were doing, saw this boy and went up to kiss him, apparently as she had done during one of their interludes. As I recall the story, several boys got in heap big trouble when the facts became known.

Molesting the helpless. Does it get any sicker than that?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

World History and English Teachers, Unite!

I've said it before and I'll say it again--history isn't a subject that often keeps teenagers' interest. At all. In fact, I dare say that most couldn't care less about history, although that changes as they grow older (and experience more history themselves!).

What often brings history alive isn't text or even movies. There are two things that get kids in history's grip--speakers with firsthand knowledge, and stuff. This post is about stuff.

Enter the Associated Press, which today has an amazing story about a small coin, a coin that will excite world history, English, and even Latin teachers. It will excite all of them because it deals with Julius Caesar.

By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 27, 6:11 PM ET

ATHENS, Greece - A rare silver coin celebrating the most famous murder of antiquity was handed over to Greek Culture Ministry officials, after a groundbreaking deal that allowed its repatriation from Britain.

The tiny coin, a denarius issued in 42 B.C. by Brutus, the chief assassin of Julius Caesar, is one of only 58 in the world. Greek authorities say it was illegally excavated in Greece, and sold last year by two Greek suspected smugglers to London's Classical Numismatic Group Inc.

Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis hailed the 2,000-year-old artifact's return on Tuesday as an important success in Greece's struggle to reclaim smuggled antiquities.

"This has great significance ... and is a forebear of future repatriations as part of our fight against illegal excavations and antiquities trafficking," he said Tuesday.

The Roman coin — which weighs only 0.1 ounces — was returned after Greek officials initiated legal action against the British dealership, based on a European Union directive on the return of cultural goods illegally removed from the territory of a member state.

Voulgarakis said the Classical Numismatic Group unconditionally handed over the denarius this month to a lawyer representing the Greek state, after Greece was able to prove it had been illegally excavated.

The coin was issued by a mobile military mint used by Brutus to pay his soldiers during the wars that followed Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C. by a group of his friends and proteges — immortalized in Shakespeare's play, "Julius Caesar."

Decorated with the head of Brutus on one side and a pair of daggers flanking a cap on the other, the denarius carries the inscription Eid Mar — short for the Ides of March, or March 15, the date of Caesar's murder.

A denarius equaled a Roman legionary's daily pay.

For as long as this link holds (I can't even find the story on AP's own web site), you can even see a picture of this denarius. Wow.

As a coin collector, I get excited over stories like this. Coins interest me like almost no other facet of history. They cover just about every topic--politics, personalities, geography, everyday life and times, you name it. They're often inexpensive antiques you can hold in your hand and imagine.... And they're money. They're portable. They're easy to come by. And kids love holding them. This AP story is, pardon the pun, a gold mine.

But we don't get to see this coin, Darren; how does this help us teachers? I'm glad you asked! Enter Ancient Coins in Education, a generous academic program if ever there was one. These people will actually give you ancient (Roman) coins to use in your classroom--that the students can keep! And they won't just dump this on you with no background knowledge--no, there's plenty of information supplied so that you can effective use these coins to augment your state-approved curriculum in history! Even more, their web site has additional teacher-supplied resources and activities. And you have to appreciate this more-than-reasonable comment at the bottom of their main page: Through the generous help of ACE sponsors we strive to supply first-time participating schools with all necessary coins and materials at no cost. The nominal fees charged for continuing participants may be waived, or financial aid may be available for those schools finding it too burdensome.

Contact them, see what they can do to help you make your instruction even more valuable to your students. Bona Fortuna!

Update: 3/9/07: The Yahoo link is dead. Here's a link to a picture of the coin.

I Met A Fellow Blogger Today

I've already met Polski of Polski3's View From Here and Joanne Jacobs from her self-titled blog. Today I met Mr. Chanman of Buckhorn Road. He's ex-military, a teacher, and father of two young'uns--and a tremendously nice guy to boot.

I truly do need to work harder to bring some CaliEduBloggerCon to fruition. The people who would be involved are all top-notch.

The Making of A West Point Cadet, Day 1

Yesterday was R-Day, Reception Day, for the Class of 2010. Reception Day has such a pleasant, cheery, friendly ring to it, no?

No. Not if you're there, it doesn't.

I have only the vaguest of memories from my own R-Day. It's not that time has faded them--it's that the day was such a whirlwind of activity, where your only thought (if you can spare a moment to have one) is to not get lost in the maelstrom. Look at the faces of this year's new cadets on these two sites--I'm sure they look like we did back on July 1st, 1983.

Three years later it was my class wearing the white and gray uniforms with the red sashes. A picture of me, uh, welcoming a new cadet made it on the back cover of our alumni magazine, and I still have both the picture (probably taken by the public affairs unit) and the alumni magazine. The look of resignation on the kid's face--don't get lost in the maelstrom--is a classic. I love the picture, primarily because I looked so good in that uniform because I was so darn thin!

You want to see it, you say? Fine, you've talked me into it.

OK, so they got me in the act of making a strange mouth movement, but that was only because I was enunciating so clearly so the beanhead could understand me. =)

We were there for weeks before R-Day, training ourselves and making sure everything was in order. We spent a lot of time just preparing for R-Day, including at least one "dress rehearsal" with members of the local community pretending to be our new cadets to help ensure our instructions were clear, our locations clearly marked, etc. In fact, I can still recite, verbatim, the spiel I had to give to new cadets who reported to me for the first time that day (they would come back several times to be directed to new stations and events). It's conceivable that I was reciting that very spiel when the picture above was taken.

Well, enough of that little trek down memory lane. I'm sure the "kids" in the pictures in the links above will make fine additions to the Long Gray Line.

They have no idea of what lies before them....

University of Colorado Chancellor Recommends Ward Churchill Be Fired

And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Lefties will scream that it was Churchill's leftie (DQTP) views that got him fired, but that's obviously not so--especially in the People's Republic of Boulder. His leftie (DQTP) and anti-American views brought a lot of attention to Churchill from outside the university--and this attention turned up several instances of academic wrongdoing. It would have been wrong for the university to ignore the overwhelming evidence against Churchill just because of his speech. He can say and believe whatever he wants, but that doesn't excuse him from plagiarism and falsifying his curriculum vitae (academic resume). I congratulate Chancellor DiStefano for having the integrity and courage to do what's right in this case. Here are the key parts of his announcement:

Nine allegations of research misconduct were sent to the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct. The nine allegations were reviewed by an Inquiry Subcommittee, which dismissed two of the allegations because they did not fall within the definition of research misconduct. The Inquiry Committee referred the remaining seven allegations to an Investigative Committee to explore them in more detail...

After conducting the due diligence I felt was necessary, I have come to a decision regarding the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct pertaining to Professor Ward Churchill. Today, I issued to Professor Churchill a notice of intent to dismiss him from his faculty position at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

What follows is a type of appeals process, although I haven't yet found information on whether Churchill will avail himself of that or not. I'm sure a school like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or some other Berkeleyesque school, is already preparing an employment offer for Ward "Little Eichmanns" Churchill, though.

Rather than review the many flaws of "Chutch", I'll just give links to three stories/commentaries so you can get some more colorful views than just the dreary facts about this leftist...thing.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fair, In and Out of School

As a teacher I'm often told that something's not "fair". As a conservative I'm told that certain governmental policies aren't "fair". As a white I'm told that American society itself isn't "fair".

Just what is "fair"?

My post about the institutional racism displayed by a Seattle school district has been revisited recently by a commenter who wants to tell me about an "egalitarian progressive" utopia he hopes for. I told him that definition is the same as that of "communism", and we all know how that turned out--unless you're an ardent leftie, in which case you claim that true communism has never really been tried so we don't really know if it would bring about the worker's paradise or not. This commenter seems only to want to talk about color, race, prejudice, and racism. In it he describes what he doesn't see as "fair".

Let's talk about fair.

Here's a story about fairness that I probably got from an economics book:

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack makes $10,000 a year and pays 10%, or $1,000 a year, for the use of the well. Jill makes $100,000 a year (note the political correctness of having the woman make more than the man) and pays 5%, or $5,000 a year, for the use of the well. Is this fair? And if it's not fair, in whose favor is the benefit? Is there any charge that everyone would conclude is indisputedly fair?

Today I read over at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) a post John wrote about fairness as it applies to civil rights. Needless to say, I agree with John 100% in this case.

I have complained here a number of times (most recently earlier today) about “the transformation of ‘civil rights’ from its traditional concern with individual rights to the newer belief in group rights....” It should come as no surprise that at the core of the debate over the proper meaning of “civil rights” is a disagreement over what fairness requires.

At the heart of the traditional notion of civil rights is the belief that fairness requires judging all individuals by the same standards, without regard to race, creed, or color. The newer, “diversity”-based notion of civil rights, by contrast, requires “taking race into account” to ensure that all groups receive rewards in direct proportion to their numbers.

There's a related term in education circles--"equity", ensuring equal outcomes across the races.

This is one of the differences that I keep pointing out between the views of the American Left and American Right today--they see people only as members of groups, whereas we see people as individuals. Sometimes I'm (wrongly) accused of racism because I refuse to take people's race into account in my teaching, as if your skin color determines how you learn. There's a great quote from the movie Stand And Deliver, which I'll paraphrase here: "There are two types of racism, Mr. Escalante. Singling people out because of their race, and not singling people out because of their race." Promoting Thurgood Marshall's and Dr. King's dreams of a truly colorblind society--not one that ignores race, but one that doesn't allow race to separate people before the law--would alleviate both kinds of racism.

Update on the High School Exit Exam

Here's a telling paragraph from a story in today's major Sacramento newspaper:

The dashed dreams (of those who didn't pass the exit exam and couldn't graduate) were the result of California's experiment in shifting the meaning of a high school diploma. Once a document students received for attending 12 years of school, the high school diploma -- beginning this year -- is supposed to be restricted to those who demonstrate they can read, write and calculate.

Imagine, it's an experiment to ensure that high school graduates can "read, write and calculate"! However, look at the very next paragraphs:

Changing the rules has shined a new light on the state's education system. Trends that have long plagued California public schools in ways that were tough to quantify are now starkly obvious, not only through the experiences of five Hiram Johnson seniors The Bee followed through their exit exam journey this year, but through hard data.

Statewide and local exit exam results prove that social promotion is rampant, standards-based education -- supposed to be the great equalizer of public education -- is trailing expectations and the distribution of experienced teachers is lopsided. Lower pass rates among students who are African American, Latino, low income and non-native English speakers highlight that the efforts to reform education have come slowest to schools serving California's neediest children.

So we admit that there have always been troubles in education, we admit that social promotion is rampant, we admit that the exit exam (and other standardized tests) are shining a beacon of light on these troubles and compelling us to address them--yet the fact that some students fail the exit exam is apparently a bad thing, and this whole positive process is an experiment that forces our poor, overburdened students to actually prove a minimum of academic ability.

And this paper isn't even the most left-wing paper there is! Can you imagine what the stories must be in the LA Times or the SF Chronicle?

Not all kids graduated this year. It's hard to have sympathy for this student, however:

Like 26 of the 36 Johnson students who didn't graduate that night because of failing the exit exam, Linda is categorized as an "English learner." She was born in the United States but speaks Vietnamese at home and has always attended classes geared for students who are not native English speakers.

The bilingual lobby wants to keep things this way, too. It ensures their future--at the expense of each student's future.

Some parents, though, are glad that the new focus compelled their children to learn.

"It's a good thing that our education system says you have to learn something," she said. "What kind of impact will they have on all of our futures if they don't?"

For years, she had been frustrated as she watched Brandon advance from grade to grade without learning very much. Reynolds saw all along what the exit exam now is making California educators acknowledge: the prevalence of social promotion.

Sacramento school officials say that, by extension, they've learned another lesson during the exit exam's first year.

"Don't wait until after they (fail) the test," said Maggie Carrillo Mejia, superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District. "Let's work to make sure they're prepared the first time."

To think that there was ever a time when this wasn't so is a scary thought indeed. Seriously, did our educational system here in California really just move people through 13 years of seat time, never caring if they learned anything or not? I honestly genuinely truly believe the answer is yes. And I give former (Democrat) Governor Gray Davis a large share of the credit for standing up to the entrenched interests of the status quo and implementing our state's Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) System, which predates NCLB by a few years and is more rigorous.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I *Do* Miss Colorado

At the end of this post I mentioned that I miss living in Colorado. Now I learn what I'm missing there!

BENNETT, Colo. -- Colorado conservatives gathered yesterday to smoke cigars, drink adult beverages and wield firearms, all in the name of the Constitution...

The Independence Institute's fourth annual Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gathering lived up to its billing as the "most politically incorrect party of the year" as revelers engaged in a series of highly regulated activities without permission or apology. ..

"We're doing this to celebrate individual freedom. And to hack off the left," he (president of a free-market think tank) added. "Whenever the left sees responsible adults having fun, they go into nanny shock"...

Craig Green, a water-rights engineer who attended the event in cowboy regalia, said he came "to celebrate diversity."

"People who do things other people find offensive have the right to do those things as long as they're not hurting other people," Mr. Green said.

I like his kind of diversity.

Iraqi Fulbright Scholars

This web site from 2004 indicates that the Fulbright Program is up and running again in Iraq.

This one shows that it's still operational.

Combine these programs with our International Cadets/Midshipmen programs at our service academies, and I'd say we're doing a good thing.

Whatever Happened To...The Survivors of Columbine?

Here's the story of one of them, currently serving in Iraq.

(Lance Corporal) Feiler was a freshman at Columbine High School during the infamous 1999 shooting, in which two students killed 12 others and one teacher before turning their weapons on themselves. He joined the Marine Corps to build up his experience for a career in law enforcement.

“I wanted to help people and maybe pave the way for a career in SWAT to help people out of situations like (Columbine),” Feiler said.

Obviously a warmongering automaton, no?

I like this quote:

He recalled sitting in his math class when the shooting started.

I'll bet he'll never forget that math class!!!

The article ends thusly:

After the Marine Corps, he plans to join the Aurora Police Department in Denver to begin his law enforcement career and live closer to home.

“I really miss Colorado. I didn’t realize how cool it was until I left,” he said. “I want to get back into the mountains and do some snowboarding.”

I really miss Colorado, too. That's partly why I'm taking my son there for our big vacation this summer.

A 110-year-old View of Government

I genuinely enjoyed this story about the 1896 election and Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech, which many of us know about but don't understand in the least. The linked story finally explained to me why the Populists wanted to switch from the gold standard to a gold and silver standard--to increase the money supply so prices would go up. Why would they want prices to go up? Because the Populists were primarily farmers, the producers who would benefit if prices went up!

The author's great-great-grandfather was a "gold man" in a sea of Populists in South Dakota, and gave a speech in which he said the following:

“The federal government is like a fence around a farm. The fence raises no crops of wheat — no fields of corn. It only protects the farmer while he raises his crops, he giving a good portion of his time to keep the fence in repair. Just so we give a good share of our taxes to keep the great government fence in repair. I beg of you to keep this thought in mind that government has not a dollar to give any man…not a bed, not a cow or calf. Nothing but protection while you are at work for yourself…Government has nothing to give anybody.”

A man living in the hinterlands in the days before the Wright Brothers could see government for what it is (and isn't), yet so many today cannot see what that man's wisdom allowed him to see.

I have a familial bias, but that’s poetic in a “pull your sleeves up and get to work” kind of way.

I think Ronald Reagan would have approved.

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Dead, An Apparent Suicide

From new blogroll entry NewsAlert (see blogroll at left) comes this San Francisco Chronicle article about UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton, who died after jumping from a building in San Francisco Saturday morning. The article said she was despondent about both personal and professional issues.

Denton made news with her hiring at UCSC, in part because there were several "interesting" requirements she had as part of her acceptance.

Denton had been provided a 2,680-square-foot home on the UC Santa Cruz campus, the subject of a story in a Chronicle series this spring examining perks and pay in the UC system.

Before she moved into her university-provided house on campus in 2005, she asked for dozens of improvements -- everything from a new fence for her dogs to new wiring, speakers, amplifier and CD player for a built-in sound system, according to university documents. In all, a $600,000 upgrade was made to the home, though it is not clear how many of the improvements were at Denton's request. Denton's annual salary was $282,000...

In 2005, UC unions protested the hiring of (Gretchen) Kalonji, a former University of Washington professor of materials science, into a $192,000 UC management position. UC also provided Kalonji, then Denton's partner of seven years, a housing assistance allowance of up to $50,000.

I would assume they'd live in the same house. Why would her partner need $50,000 in housing allowances?

I think NewsAlert hit the nail on the head by saying, "You haven't heard the last of this story. Denice Denton's financial situation was becoming news."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

ACLU Tackles "A Girl's Sport"

I don't even know where to begin on this story. There's so much that's wrong....

DETROIT, Michigan (AP) -- The American Civil Liberties Union wants Michigan's governing body for high school athletics to reconsider a policy keeping boys out of the postseason tournament for competitive cheerleading...

When Michigan high schools start the 2006-07 year in August, boys will no longer be able to participate in the competitive cheerleading postseason tournament. The ACLU says that violates federal law.

No boys are allowed to participate in any girls' high school sport in Michigan postseason tournaments, a decades-old rule, Johnson said. The rule hasn't been enforced in cheerleading, which was instituted as a girls sport in the 1993-94 school year, he said.

Under the 2003 policy change, boys may still compete in regular-season competition if competing schools agree.

Lobbying The Legislature That Should Be Helping To Deport You

I wrote this post yesterday--and today it was gone! I'm not sure what happened at all, but I'll attempt to recreate it here.

The major Sacramento newspaper reported on some college students that have a lot of nerve:

Like generations of citizens before them, California State University, Chico, students Alba Miranda, Hector Najera and Rene Ochoa descended Monday on the Capitol in Sacramento to petition members of the Legislature.

Except the three honor students aren't citizens -- they're illegal immigrants, who under state law have a right to in-state tuition at California state colleges and universities but are not eligible for financial aid.

So let's see if I have this straight, even though we all know I do. These people are here illegally, and they're already getting a tuition discount that's not available to 90% of Americans (non-Californians), and they're asking for more?

I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees there's something wrong with this picture.

"I just don't believe in rewarding those who have entered our nation in defiance of our laws and sovereignty," (State Senator and Republican Lieutenant Governor candidate Tom) McClintock said. "That not only encourages illegal immigration, it's an insult to the millions of legal residents who obeyed our laws."

That seems pretty clear.

I admit there's some validity to this next point:

"I can see this from the other side of this issue," she (one of the illegal alien student lobbyists) said. "But by helping us, you're helping us contribute to the country."

However, if instead of giving her a highly-discounted education, we gave that education to an American, one whose mere presence isn't an affront to our laws, we'd be helping an American contribute to his or her own country. Isn't that at least as good?

Friday, June 23, 2006


A student of mine from two years ago--who stepped into my classroom mere days after arriving (legally) from Southeast Asia, sent the following to me. It's entertaining enough to post here:

What is the exact definition of globalization ?

- the Death of madam Diana. - Why? - She's an English lady, going with an Egyptian boyfriend, got in an accidence in a tunnel in France. Their Belgian driver was driving a German car which had an engine from Holland. They were chasing by the Italian parrazzies who were riding Japanese motorbikes. An African man has sent this message, using the technology of an American company (Microsoft). You know this because of a Vietnamese friend and you reading this message on a computer which main parts are from Taiwan or China and which was developed by Indian computer engineers.

A (small? moderate?) Win For Property Rights

Via Instapundit (see blogroll at left) comes word of this Executive Order, which says in part:

It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.

When it takes the President to protect us from the Supreme Court....

I Agree With This View Of the New Mayor/District Relationship in Los Angeles

As usual, EIA (see blogroll at left) has the best information.

Update, 6/25/06: Jill Stewart has a great column on the goings-on, called Illiterates in the Education War. Yep, that pretty much covers it.

Whoa, everybody. Forget those breathless newspaper accounts about the fight over California's schools waged by the Three A's - Arnold, Angelides and Antonio. So far, each of the Three A's gets a big, fat "D" when it comes to fixing the schools.

Antonio and Arnold yearn to do what's right, but it is painfully clear they don't know what that is. Angelides is a different case, being not so much interested in fixing schools as in propping up his race for governor.

The Three A's--that's a good one!

I just have no words. Sight-unseen, the governor is supporting Sacramento lawmakers who have zero legislative track record - none whatsoever - in fixing a single school in California?

Can't say she doesn't call 'em like she sees 'em.

Education Myths

I found an American Enterprise article about so-called myths in education. Whether you agree with their take or not, and I'm not sure I do in several of the areas, there was one statistic in there that, if true, was rather surprising to me.

Few people are aware that our education spending per pupil has been growing steadily for 50 years. At the end of World War II, public schools in the United States spent a total of $1,214 per student in inflation-adjusted 2002 dollars. By the middle of the 1950s that figure had roughly doubled to $2,345. By 1972 it had almost doubled again, reaching $4,479. And since then, it has doubled a third time, climbing to $8,745 in 2002. (boldface mine--Darren)

West Point Accepts First Iraqi Cadet

West Point has a long history of training selected individuals from foreign countries; it's produced two US presidents and three presidents of foreign countries (Philippines, Nicaragua, Costa Rica). Last year it accepted its first Afghani cadet, and this year has accepted its first Iraqi cadet.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The U.S. Military Academy is welcoming its first cadet from Iraq, a 19-year-old who wants serve his country's army after witnessing violence in Baghdad.

Incoming Cadet Jameel acknowledged Thursday that attending West Point posed potential dangers to him and his family in Iraq. But he said it was worth it for a chance to serve at the school, which he called "the best military academy in the world."

Jameel was interviewed on the condition his first name be withheld and no pictures were allowed. West Point officials said the conditions were set by the U.S. Army to provide security for the cadet and his family.

"If you live in Iraq, you get this determination with everyone you see dying in front of your eyes and every child slaughtered," said Jameel, whose school in Iraq was once struck with an improvised explosive device.

"You are at risk when you're walking down the street," he said. "It's better to die holding a rifle than to die walking down the street as a civilian."

Jameel comes to West Point under a long-running program that allows foreign students to come to the U.S. service academies. The Air Force Academy also is taking in an Iraqi citizen this year.

West Point is taking in 13 other foreign students this summer from counties including Cameroon, Malaysia, Rwanda and Thailand. The Air Force Academy in Colorado enrolled 20 international cadets this year, including the first from Iraq and Afghanistan. And the U.S. Naval Academy is taking in 12 international midshipmen.

The international slots, set by law, do not take opportunities away from domestic students, said Maj. Robert Romans, head of the academy's international cadet program.

Jameel on Monday will begin West Point's six-week basic training course with 1,320 other incoming cadets. Jameel says he's ready for the grueling ordeal, which includes long runs, longer marches, drilling and a lot of orders shouted in candidates' ears.

Romans said Jameel was one of four Iraqi candidates but the only one admitted. Jameel, who comes from a family steeped in military service, said his parents supported his choice.

He risked his safety during the application process by routinely traveling to a U.S. military compound in Baghdad to work on a training regimen of running, push-ups and sit-ups, Romans said.

Jameel plans to major in engineering and join the Iraqi military after graduation. He also hopes to someday meet President Bush, whom his family considers a hero after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. (emphasis mine--Darren)

"I'm going to help rebuild the Iraqi army because most of the officers now in the Iraqi army, they are not very well qualified," Jameel said. "I'll try to transfer what I learn here."

Sounds like a good kid to me, like the vast majority of cadets and midshipmen who attend our academies.

Here's some information I received in May from West Point's Director of Admissions, who gave me permission to post it here:

The Iraqi who joins the Class of 2010 had to meet the same qualification standards as all International cadets. He will join our first Afghani who was admitted last year and is now a yearling. Typically strong math skills and passable English. Department of Foreign Languages has acourse that is basically English as a second language now that bolsters spoken and written English as part of plebe year for those Internationals who need it. FYI AOG [Association of Graduates, the West Point alumni association] assisted significantly with the Afghani by helping fund a year in an English immersion program at the U of Neb Omaha before we admitted him. We have 14 Internationals admitted this year which will bring us to our by law maximum of 60 enrolled after R-Day [Reception Day, the day the new class arrives at West Point for Cadet Basic Training]. Class of 2010 looks good, will provide an update after R-Day, we're working hard on 2011 now. Thanks for all on the Forum who assist in recruiting the LGL [Long Gray Line, a name given to West Point graduates].
Additionally, a few weeks ago, a captain became the first Iraqi to graduate from our Ranger School.

Update, 6/24/06: Here's a New York Post story on Cadet Jameel. There were two quotes I enjoyed. This one:

Aside from getting a military education, his goal in America is to meet President Bush "and tell him that my mother thinks he is a prophet, because he took the devil out."

and most especially, this one:

"I can sense here the 'Beat Navy' thing is a big deal".
Yeah, Cadet Jameel, Beat 'em.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

AWESOME Billboard

And it doesn't have anything to do with American political parties, the war, and what not!

Democrat Gubernatorial Candidate Angelides On School Budgets

Dan Weintraub has it all in two short paragraphs:

At a press event today at a Sacramento elementary school, Phil Angelides said if he were governor, he would have the state pay the disputed $3.2 billion in education funding without adding the money to the base upon which future school budgets are built. This contradicts what he said during the primary when he pledged to add the money to the base. That statement put him ahead of what even the CTA was asking for. Now he is back in sync with the union. But since the union is also back in sync with the governor, Phil's only real difference with Schwarzenegger is over how long it should take to add that money to the budget.

On a related matter, Angelides likes to say that the governor "took the money from the schools." It's almost as if he thinks Schwarzenegger -- and the two-thirds of lawmakers who approved those budgets -- personally pocketed the money. Of course, the money they "took" was actually spent on other things they considered a higher priority at the time, like health care for poor kids, aid to the aged, blind and disabled, and public safety.

Whole Foods, Che Guevara, Karl Marx, and Friends

One of my former students honored me with a gift card to Whole Foods. If you don't know what Whole Foods is, think upscale-organic-hippie-free range-etc. They classify themselves as the "world's leading organic and natural foods supermarket". Among other things, I got some tasty green tea root beer (seriously! it's good!) and an amazing loaf of multi-grain and multi-seed bread on my trip there today.

The store is located near where I teach, meaning it's in a nice area and near a very upscale area. Still, it's Whole Foods. I expect expats from Berkeley to shop there, and I'm not often disappointed. There are plenty of people who shop there just because it's upscale and you can get "different" foods there that you couldn't get at the local Safeway, but there are plenty of Mother Earth types there, too.

It was for those Mother Earth types that I wore my "Commies Aren't Cool" t-shirt since my "Imagine No Liberals" t-shirt is in the laundry. =) Have you ever met a Mother Earth type who was a Republican? Me either!

I saw some coffee for sale there; it was from some "Stop The Embargo On Cuba" company. Now, I agree with that sentiment, but when they put a picture of freakin' Che Guevara on the package then I have no sympathy or love for that company. Put a picture of the Havana "skyline", or of someone growing the coffee, or something--not a political statement supporting a murderer. I thought of the delicious irony of my holding that very bag of coffee whilst wearing the shirt I was wearing.

I made my way to the bakery counter, where I saw some rather large cookies decorated to look like American flags. I asked the lady behind the counter for two of them. It didn't occur to me at that time that she might have noticed my shirt, but as she handed the cookies to me she said, "You're a good American."

That visit to Whole Foods was a pleasant experience for me.

Then when I got home I read a post about the left's poster boy and Guevara's political master, Karl Marx. Turns out that Karl wasn't as, um, tolerant or accepting as his adherents on the left claim to be. In fact, it turns out he may well have been a racist. Should we judge him by today's standards, and not by his own time's standards? Probably not; I grow tired of having Washington's and Jefferson's slaveowning thrown at me as "proof" of what horrible people they were. But if the left wants to play that game, I'll play a little of it, too.

Is Canada Moving Into the 21st Century?

Or just the 20th?

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) -- Seeking to crack down on sexual predators in the era of the Internet, Canada's government brought in legislation Thursday would raise the legal age of consent for sex to 16 from an unusually young 14.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WMD Found In Iraq?

I'm finding reports of this story on several conservative web sites. If it's true, what excuse will the lefties have then? Let me offer a few we might expect.

"There are only 500 rounds found. That's not enough to invade a country for."
"We probably planted them there to drum up support for Bush's faltering war blah blah blah Bush lied!"
"Took 'em long enough to find them."

Oh, and let's not forget that these are in addition to the weapons that we found that the UN knew to be there, under UN seal. Apparently not all of them had been spirited out of the country in the lead-up to the invasion.

Congressman Hoekstra and I [Senator Rick Santorum] are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons. It's a document that was developed by our intelligence community which for the last two and a half months I have been pursuing.

And thanks to the help of the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ultimately he was able to get it in his hands and I was able to look for and look at.

And I think both of us feel very strongly that this is vitally important information that the American public needs to know. And so I will read the portions of the unclassified version and then I'll turn it over to Peter to make his comments about the significance of that, and then we'll be happy to answer questions.

The unclassified version of this report states as follows. Quote: Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist...

We have found over 500 weapons of mass destruction. And in fact have found that there are additional weapons of mass -- chemical weapons, still in the country, that need to be recovered.

And so, I would suggest that this is a very important look-back. We've been focused and continue to focus on what we need to do moving forward, but it is important for the American public to understand that these weapons did in fact exist, were present in the country, and were in fact and continue to be a threat to us...

Everyone knows, and has agreed, that there was WMD in Iraq prior to the Gulf War, the first Gulf War. He used weapons of mass destruction extensively, killing thousands of his own people and thousands of Iranians.

From the Kay report and the Duelfer report, the conclusions that they reached indicated that during that period of time from the Gulf War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there was evidence of continuing research and development of WMD, an ongoing effort with various kinds of chemicals, research programs and those types of things...

But what it does dispel is the very simple notion that there was not a single weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, but that actually hundreds of these existed and continue to exist in Iraq from various time frames.

It appears that most of this was pre-'91 production, but they're still there.

The piece that still remains unanswered, or remained unanswered, was that piece of exactly what, other than the programs, existed in Iraq in 2003?

School Should Be Allowed To Get Rid Of Whatever Books It Wants

Miami-Dade schools have decided to remove from their libraries books that portray an overly-optimistic view of life in communist Cuba. Of course, the ACLU can't let this stand:

The lawsuit alleges the books' removal violates students' rights to a free press and that the volumes were removed without due process.

I've never heard a more stupid argument in my life, except perhaps the one put forth by opponents of the Solomon Amendment. Even I, a layman, know that free press isn't an issue here; this isn't a student publication being banned. And due process? People have due process rights, not books. When people try to claim that the ACLU merely supports the First Amendment and not a primarily-leftist ideology, point them to this case.

Oh, and point them to all those Second Amendment cases the ACLU has (not) supported.

But back to the case at hand.

Last week, the board voted 6-3 to remove "Vamos a Cuba" and its English-language version, "A Visit to Cuba" from 33 schools, stating the books were inappropriate for young readers because of inaccuracies and omissions about life in the communist nation...

The controversy began in April when a parent who said he had been a political prisoner in Cuba complained about the books' depiction of life under communist rule.

Here's what the ACLU has to say:

"The Miami-Dade School Board's decision to defy U.S. law prohibiting censorship and ignore the recommendation of their own superintendent and two committees is a slap in the face to our tradition of free speech and the school board's own standards of due process," said JoNel Newman, an attorney working with the ACLU.

Huh? They can't truly mean that, can they? Does anyone truly believe that?

Here's how I see it. The school board is elected by the community to oversee the school district. The board sets policy, and the superintendent and every other employee of the district implement that policy (as long as it's legal, of course). Elected as they are by the community, the school board applies the standards of the community to the schools. In this case, the board determined that the book wasn't accurate and wasn't appropriate for the community. For those who value local control of education, in this case it worked exactly as it was supposed to.

The ACLU is showing its true leftist colors here. They're trying to hide behind the red, white, and blue, but all I see is their communist red.

Now some will want to accuse me of supporting book-banning, lumping me right up there with Hitler himself. Not to be overly droll here, but lighten up, Francis. I'm not saying that any time a community wants to ban a book in schools (as was done with some Harry Potter books, for example) that it's a smart thing to do. I'm merely saying that it's a legal thing to do, and the ACLU should butt out.

Carnival of Education

This week's is guest-hosted at Why Homeschool. Go take a read--you know you don't have anything better to do!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Graduation Rates For 50 Largest Districts in the US

Thanks to NewsAlert for pointing me to this USAToday article, complete with chart showing the graduation rates of the 50 largest school districts in the country. It's pretty grim--the 5 largest districts in the country have abysmal graduation rates, with Chicago's 52.2% being the highest among them.

Is Antonio Villaraigosa An Idiot?

The answer has to be yes. What else would explain the Los Angeles mayor's drive to take over the LA school system?

That district is among the very definitions of dysfunctional. Abysmal graduation rates, leaking money like a sieve--how is that Belmont Learning Center doing, anyway?--spending millions on a math program that was rejected by the state and no progress to show for it, need I go on? OK, I will. Math nazis, making sure teachers don't actually teach math but instead follow the failed program, a bureaucracy that would put some federal agencies to shame (have you ever heard of "regions" and "mini-districts"?), violent schools, low expectations, and the list goes on and on.

I'm curious. What exactly does Villaraigosa think he can do to clean up that mess? Even if he could reform an entrenched bureaucracy, there are still systemic problems that he can't address. Those problems are cultural, and are rooted in a culture of poverty that dooms so many. As mayor Villaraigosa could work on helping to allevieate that problem; he could be a leader by standing up for self-reliance, for morality, for hard work. As a Hispanic he has credibility with a part of the populace that could use a leader they can trust.

Instead, he makes a naked power grab knowing that anything he does would only be window dressing. Los Angeles has plenty of troubles its mayor could work to correct, it doesn't need its mayor trying to collect even more intractable problems.

The outgoing superintendent of the LA Unified District is former Colorado governor (and current a**hole) Roy Romer. Romer, who still insists people address him as "Governor", played martinet and accomplished little in reforming that district. I don't see how the mayor, who has so many other tasks with which to concern himself, would be able to give the job of governing that district the attention it so obviously requires.

Update, 6/22/06 9:59 am: I've got a slight factual correction to what was written above. LA uses state-approved math materials, at least in the lower grades, but all but bans the use of Saxon Math, which is among the best math programs out there (at least to us traditionalists). The district takes these state-approved curricula and supplements them with Math Instruction Guides (MIGs), which tell teachers what to teach, and when. Apparently, they have teachers skipping from place to place in the textbook, rendering the book essentially useless. Math becomes a bunch of discrete, disconnected concepts, instead of an integrated whole; it's not sequential anymore. Apparently, they're trying to use a catch-up program for Algebra I that isn't state-approved, though.

Additionally, I'm told that math training for teachers still includes videos touting fuzzy programs and procedures.

Here's the info I get on the math nazis:

Do they still use spies? Yes, they are called Math Coaches. Math Coaches are there to make sure the pacing plans are followed and that the quarterly assessments (a $5 million yearly contract, I was told) are given. Keep in mind that the quarterly assessments would not be needed if the district used the adopted materials as designed; all materials in California must have diagnostic assessments in order to be adopted. When the district changes the order of the books, all those assessments, as well as all other support materials (cumulative reviews, self-tests, etc.) are rendered useless. The books become nothing but giant problem sets.

So there you have it on just one of their problems. Now here's an update on what Villaraigosa has settled for:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa reached a compromise Wednesday with lawmakers and teachers unions that would give him some authority over his city's schools without handing him the outright control he had sought.

The deal, which follows two days of negotiations, gives the superintendent of the nation's second-largest school district more power over personnel, business operations, budgeting and other areas...

Under the agreement, Villaraigosa will be allowed to lead a council of mayors from cities within the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District. The council will have veto power over selecting a new superintendent, and the mayor also will assume a direct role in managing the 36 worst-performing schools.

But the compromise gives the mayor only an advisory role in deciding the district's budget. The school board will retain final spending authority, and therefore ultimate control over its educational priorities.

"This is a great win for the mayor, but it's also a win for the teachers," [Assembly Speaker Fabian] Nunez said. "Most of all, it is a win for the students of L.A. Unified."

Please, Fabian, tell me how this is a win at all for students. Tell me how this window dressing will change anything, starting with--oh, I don't know, how about, uh--graduation rates? exit exam passing rates? school performance improvement as measured by the API? closing the achievement gap?

I wonder how many of LA Unified's students can even spell "power grab".

Update #2, 6.22.06 3:09 pm: EIA (see blogroll at left) has many on-the-money points, but I like these:

The Los Angeles Times editorial page got it exactly right this morning: "Consider a school whose students are failing at math. Who could responsible parents see to address the problem? The teachers picked the curriculum, but they can't be voted out of office. The school didn't decide its budget; the superintendent did that. But both the board and the mayor have a say in it. The board can't hire and fire the superintendent on its own; the mayor can say the board selects the superintendent. And because the board loses power in this deal, it has little interest in seeing it succeed."

The deal does provide one critical element that all parties to the agreement want: ass-covering. When this goes wrong (and believe me, it will), no one can be singled out for blame. So, in the ultimate irony, a plan with the stated purpose of bringing greater accountability to the city's schools achieves the exact opposite.

Education Leaders Unite To Support Governor Schwarzenegger

Sacramento, CA – Today, leaders in the education community, including teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members as well as after-school program and charter school advocates, announced their support for Governor Schwarzenegger and his vision to move California forward.

Huh? Wha? Education leaders support Governor Schwarzenegger? But CTA says we have to support the Greek, not the Austrian. How can this be? Doesn't CTA speak for all of California's teachers?

Apparently not.

The press release quoted above goes on to state all the wonderful things the Governor has done to support education. Given the alternatives I back Schwarzenegger, but the press release sure seems to contain a lot of rose petals.

"Under Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership, California is investing in education at the highest level in our state's history," said Sandra McBrayer, United States teacher of the year*. "Over the past two and a half years, funding for education has increased by $8.1 billion – to more than $11,000 per student. The Governor has also put an historic plan before voters that will build and renovate the classrooms we need to ensure our students have safe and functional places to learn. I applaud this Governor's commitment to our students, teachers and parents."

I've not seen any figures that put California's per-pupil spending that high. In fact, we aren't even at the national average yet. I'd be pleasantly surprised if we were at $8000 per pupil. Somebody's numbers aren't kosher.

"These leaders recognize that Governor Schwarzenegger has made education and California's children a top priority," said Californians for Schwarzenegger Deputy Political and Coalitions Director Jennifer Johnson.

I've seen no evidence that education is his top priority.

"For years, vocational education was ignored in our state. This Governor has reversed the trend and made vocational education a priority in California by investing tens of millions of dollars into career technical education programs, providing funding to coordinate high school and community college programs and dedicating more than $124 million to expand nursing programs," said career technical education advocate Jim Aschwanden*.

Why haven't I heard about this before? It's not like I'm completely uninformed about what's going on in California's schools. Does the disconnect here lie with me, or with someone else?

Look, I support the governor--but not because of what he's done with education. Despite how much money we spend on education, I haven't seen it recognized as some tremendous priority for the state--not for the governor, and not for the legislature. In fact, Arnold has made some serious mistakes regarding education, including putting that idiot Alan Bersin on the State Board. From where I sit, education is not a strong plank on which the governor should base his campaign.

I admit, however, that it's nice to see people involved in education stand with the man instead of pursing their lips to kiss the butt of whomever the CTA tells them to.

P.S. I recognize three names from the list at the end of the press release. They're all good people.

Update, 10:04 am: Here's another group of people supporting Arnold.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to headline a fundraiser for gay Republicans in Hollywood next week in what would be his first appearance in front of a gay audience since he took office, according to the event's organizers.

The June 29 fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans comes as Schwarzenegger considers whether to veto a bill that would require chapters from gay history to be added to public school text books in California. The governor already has indicated he opposes the measure.

The governor's stock has been down with gay rights groups since he vetoed a gay marriage bill in September. The action won him the dubious honor of receiving this year's "pink brick" award, bestowed on the public figure who organizers of the San Francisco gay pride parade decide has most hurt the gay rights cause.

But the Log Cabin Republicans, a group for gay and lesbian GOP members that publicly parted company with President Bush after he supported a federal gay marriage ban, have stood by Schwarzenegger since they endorsed him to unseat Democrat Gray Davis during the 2003 recall.

This is foolish. The Log Cabin Republicans aren't taken seriously by Republicans because they're gay, and they're not taken seriously by gays because they're Republican. They have absolutely no influence in either group. Schwarzenegger isn't gaining anything by meeting with them, and he may well harm himself--although here in California, perhaps not as much as he would in other states. But allow me to be honest as well as blunt: the only group of people who vote Democrat more reliably than blacks are gays. Arnold may get six or seven more votes next November from doing this--he'd probably get more votes simply by shaking hands of passers-by in front of San Francisco City Hall. And let's be honest again, the only reason he attended this fundraiser was to seek votes.

Update #2, 6/22/06 2:35 pm: Here's an interesting way to look at the issue of gay rights, via Dan Weintraub, blogger-extraordinaire for the major Sacramento newspaper:

Until I read this story I hadn't realized that Schwarzenegger was the recipient of this year's "pink brick" award from the organizers of San Francisco's Gay Pride parade, given to the public figure who has most hurt the gay rights cause. If that's the case, the cause must be doing even better than I thought.

He's right. If Schwarzenegger is the worst thing to happen to gay rights, then gay rights are advancing at a rapid pace.

Monday, June 19, 2006

NEA Will Introduce Yet Another Gay Marriage-Approving Resolution At It's Rep Assembly This Year

Before you libs get your panties in a bunch and fire up the homophobic name-calling machine, I'll just state up front that, absent getting government out of the marriage business altogether, I support government's sactioning the marriage of any two consenting adults.

But I see no reason why the union to which I still have to contribute money each year, despite the fact that I'm not a member, needs to put forth a resolution approving of gay marriage. Honestly, what possible impact could that have on education or on educators?

NEA can't seem to decide if it's a labor union, a leftist front group, a political action committee, or a social services organization. So part of the time they focus on education, another part of the time they focus on the educators who make up their ranks, and another part of the time they spend on things unrelated to either of those two issues. Like this gay marriage issue. Why does NEA do this?

NEA is a liberal-left organization run by liberal-left people. It will support a liberal-left agenda. The resolutions debates are often an exercise in semantics to disguise this fact.

That explains it quite well. So what exactly is this resolution that's being put forth?

This time around it is an amendment to Resolution B-8, Diversity. The resolution currently calls for "appreciation and acceptance of the various qualities that pertain to people as individuals and as members of diverse populations." The diverse populations are noted by 17 categories, including race, sexual orientation, gender identification, size, marital status, and geographic location. The proposed amendment, sponsored by the union's GLBT Caucus, adds the following language as a new fourth paragraph:

"The Association believes that legal rights and responsibilities with regard to medical decisions, taxes, inheritance, adoption, legal immigration, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and/or marriage belong to all of these diverse groups and individuals."

If you accept my premise that a union should focus strictly on pay, benefits, and working conditions, then a resolution of this type is meaningless. It may or may not be a nice gesture (like the NEA's resolution supporting veterans) but it has no purpose at all. Some would say that the incidents of marriage are "benefits" that teachers would get if gay marriage were legalized, but I counter that everyone would be entitled to those benefits, not just teachers, if gay marriage were legalized. There are no benefits that a school district could or would offer gay couples that the state would not, so this isn't really an issue of pay/benefits/working conditions. What is it, then?

Yet another nod to the far left.

Oh, and those of us who don't support this resolution, whether or not we support gay marriage? We're just intolerant. May as well fire up that name-calling machine.

Thanks to EIA (see blogroll at left) for providing a history of GLBT resolutions at the NEA, as well as commentary on this one, in the June 19th Communique.

Update, 6/23/06: EIA says there's a change in the works because the NEA is getting mambo-gobbo amounts of unhappy email on the topic. I'm curious about this quote from Massa Reg, though:

"While I understand that the e-mails and phone calls you are receiving are generating concern, we must not allow the tactics and manipulations of these divisive groups to derail our process. NEA has no position on same-sex marriages, and leadership is not seeking to establish such a position."

Then what the heck is this resolution for?

Non-profit Foundation Created To Augment School District Money

Here in California, local property taxes do not pay for schools--since poor areas could only support poor schools, the state Supreme Court ruled that such a funding mechanism was inherently unjust and hence unconstitutional. Now the state, using some byzantine rules and formulas, doles out money to school districts.

However, I doubt there's any school district in the state that thinks it gets enough funding. Some schools and districts get around this issue by simply flouting the law and charging illegal fees. In the first of those two links I proposed several legal ways for districts to get around the illegal fee issue; one that didn't occur to me was creating a charitable foundation.

Spurred by the field trips, art lessons and well-equipped classrooms they remember from their own school days, parents and community leaders are launching a nonprofit foundation to raise money for the cash-strapped San Juan Unified School District.

The charitable organization will make its debut the first day of school, sending students home with fliers asking parents to lend their support.

It's questionable whether the San Juan District is truly "cash-strapped"; there are plenty of arguments that can be made that show the district spends its money in not the wisest of fashions. Undisputed, though, is that the number of field trips and other "exotic extras" is down from years past.

So here we have parents' being asked to donate money to a foundation, the purpose of which is to provide students with more than just the basic, state-sponsored education. Is that a good idea or bad?

Some experts say foundations are a partial return to the days when districts' reliance on local property tax led to funding imbalances eventually ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

"These organizations create inequities because they're organized around schools and school districts," said Bill Koski, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in education policy. "To what extent is it appropriate for them to have tax-deductible status when they do create such inequities?"

I'm not sure about law, but I can answer that last question with some common sense. There will always be inequities between rich and poor--one of the great benefits of being rich (I just assume here, never having been rich) is being able to provide so much for your children. The state provides money for an adequate education for all students; there's nothing immoral or unfair about well-off people helping to ensure that their children receive more than an adequate education. Not receiving a benefit is not the same as being shortchanged; in other words, children in poorer areas are not being shortchanged because children in more well-off areas get more. In fact, it's quite socialist to insist that richer parents shouldn't provide more for their children because doing so isn't fair, somehow, to those who aren't so rich.

And let's remember here, the richer parents already are paying taxes to support their schools. The money they'd be giving to this foundation is above and beyond their taxes, it's a donation. The state isn't creating any so-called funding discrepancy, as it did when local property taxes determined school district budgets. Is there really a reason, other than class envy, not to support foundations of this type?

There is one, and only one reason, but it's not the reason our Stanford Law professor quoted above gives. That reason is that field trips, lab equipment, etc. are not "exotic extras" but are, in fact, valuable and integral components of the curriculum and should be budgeted by the schools, districts, and state. Fix that underlying issue, and the need for these foundations evaporates. Short of that, though, seeking voluntary donations (as opposed to charging illegal fees or just doing without) is the best approach. Here's an applicable quote from the article:

"I would rather that no foundation needed to exist at all," Wake said. "I would much rather there would be enough funding … but our kids are in school now. We can't sit down and wait for there to be enough."

But let's get back to socialism, as this concept of what's fair just won't go away.

On the other hand, it's not clear how much inequity really results from the work of foundations. Researchers at San Diego State University found only about 7 percent of California's elementary and unified districts with foundations raised more than $100 per student in 2001. And the vast majority of foundations didn't use the money in a way that promoted inequity by affecting resources such as class size and technology, they found.

In districts where income levels vary widely -- such as San Juan Unified -- foundations may help distribute donations more equally across wealthier and poorer areas, advocates point out.

Apparently, one way to sell this idea is to point out how fair it is to low-income kids within this particular district--whose schools already get Title I money. I know, I taught at a Title I school. I never had to ask more than once to spend any amount of money I wanted to. No, I didn't waste your tax dollars; at heart I'm a very frugal person. But my point remains that schools in poor areas have access to money that schools in better off areas do not.

Here's another interesting point from the article:

Eventually, Wake said the foundation will play a role in driving programs across the district, perhaps finding businesses to sponsor a theater program for all third-graders or paying for all fifth-graders to learn to type.

Apparently great minds think alike. Notice what I said in a previous post regarding ways to fund what I call "margin of excellence" programs:

Solicit corporate sponsorships. The FujiFilm Photo Lab, the Michael's (arts and crafts store) Art Gallery.

So what is the bottom line? Should we fault parents for banding together to solicit donations in order to improve education across their school district? Or should we support them for not accepting the status quo and for putting forth extra effort to ensure that students across the district receive more than an adequate education?

I think you know where I come down on this issue. Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment.