Saturday, September 30, 2006

Improving Math Education

One person's view.

Alberta's Schools

Maybe they're doing things right in Alberta:

Many educators acknowledge that over the past 30 years Alberta has quietly built the finest public education system in Canada. The curriculum has been revised, stressing core subjects (English, science, mathematics), school facilities and the training of teachers have been improved, clear achievement goals have been set and a rigorous province-wide testing programme for grades three (aged 7-8), six (10-11), nine (13-14) and twelve (16-17) has been established to ensure they are met...

The results are also used to improve teaching. There is currently a citywide push to ensure that all children in Edmonton can read competently by grade three (88% now can). Far from fearing private-school competition, the city's public system has embraced it: it has already absorbed three private religious schools (two Christian, one Hebrew). “In Edmonton,” says Angus McBeath, the city's recently retired schools chief, “the litmus test is that the rich send their kids to the public schools, not the private schools.”


And even dropouts in Alberta can drive trucks for the oil industry, making up there the same amount of money I can make teaching in Sacramento. There's something to be said for having a booming economy.

Goldilocks Economy

I'm off to a wedding in Santa Cruz today, so blogging will be light. Since I have to leave in less than 2 hours, I'll just post a couple links to good stuff.

Read here about our Goldilocks economy:

"We are enjoying a goldilocks economy, not too hot and not too cold." In other words, there's no economic bubble out there that's about to go "pop..."

Rising stocks, falling gas prices, low tax rates and the Goldilocks economy are powerful pluses for election-year Republicans. With so many indicators leaning positive, the Democrats aren't even talking about the economy anymore.


That last point is rather telling, I think.

Update, 10/3/06: I'll bet the press won't be giving President Bush much credit for this, either. Granted, I don't think Presidents have that much of an impact on the national economy or the stock market, but you could be sure they'd be beating him about the head and shoulders if the news was bad.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Idiot of the Week: Oliver Stone

I've considered having a weekly award of some kind, but I wonder if I have the stick-to-it-iveness to keep it going. If I were to have such an award, though, I'd consider creating the Idiot of the Week Award. This week's would go to movie director Oliver Stone, whose intellectual thoughts on terrorism will reverberate throughout the ages.

"We did not fight back in the same way that the British fought the IRA or the Spanish government fought the Basques here. Terrorism is a manageable action. It can be lived with," said Stone.


John Kerry said something like that, and look what it got him--a big "L" on his forehead. You, Oliver, can "live with" terrorism if you so desire; I'd rather be a man about it and work to put an end to that evil. No further commentary on Stone's quote is needed.

If that last quote doesn't cinch the award for you, let's hear what Oliver thinks causes the evil of terrorism:

"That's the evil that turns its mind and ears on humanity and is able to say 'I can kill a person in the name of God or religion.' This is not a human being, this a fanatic. And I fear that fanaticism is the result of our overreaction to 9/11," said Stone.


So Islamic fanatacism and terrorism are the result of our overreaction to 9/11. Then what, exactly, caused 9/11? We hadn't overreacted to it yet! We hadn't overreacted to the Africa embassy bombings, to the USS Cole, to the Khobar Towers, to the '93 World Trade Center Bombing.

The man is obviously an America-hating idiot, or at least has a severe case of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Either way, I hearby heartily offer

The Right On The Left Coast
"Idiot of the Week" Award
to
Oliver Stone


Stick to movies, pal. Leave philosophy to people with a brain.

Video Proves Bill Clinton Tried To Kill Santa Claus

Now this is funny!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Graphing Calculators--and Tanks!

I stayed after school today to talk to a couple students. I hadn't planned to, but we just started talking after 6th period, and before we even knew it a half an hour had passed.

They asked several questions about my time in the military--which, actually, ended very near the time they were born! Still, I answered the questions and told war stories. It was a good time.

One of the questions, and I don't remember exactly what it was, launched me into a story about my rotations to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. For those of you who don't know what the NTC is: it's over 600,000 acres of beautiful desert maneuver area, complete with its own OPposing FORce (OPFOR). Back in my day, the OPFOR adopted Soviet tactics, and their vehicles were all visually modified to look like Soviet weaponry. A visiting Russian general once pronounced the NTC's OPFOR the world's best trained Motorized Rifle Regiment--how could they not be, when they fought American army brigades several months a year!

I was with the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colorado. Our mission at the time was to be prepared to deploy to Northern Europe to fight Warsaw Pact forces invading West Germany. How quaint that all sounds now! Anyway, we weren't a rapid deployment force or anything like that; in fact, we were pretty far down the totem pole when it came to getting repair parts or even fielding new equipment. When I arrived in late 1987 we still had Jeeps and were in the process of trading them in for Humvees! We still used Vietnam-era M113 Armored Personnel Carriers and M60 tanks, while the "more important" divisions had the Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1 tanks that we still see used in Iraq today.

One of the NTC evaluators once said to us that brigades from the 4th Division often performed better than brigades with M1's and Bradleys. The reason, he said, was because units so equipped expected their superior equipment to win the battles for them, whereas units from the 4th, because our equipment was not noticeably superior to the faux Soviet equipment (except in night operations), relied on our tactics and battle plans to win the day.

At that point in the war story I saw a teachable moment, and I said, "That's why I don't let you use graphing calculators in pre-calculus class." I don't want the students to rely on their equipment to get the answers, I want them to rely on their brains. It worked for us in the 4th Infantry Division, it will work for my students, too.

Study: Cal and Stanford Fail At Teaching Civics

The study was conducted by the University of Connecticut's department of public policy and the nonprofit education organization Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Researchers sampled 14,000 students at 50 schools, large and small...

Seniors at UC Berkeley, the nation's premier public university, got an F in their basic knowledge of American history, government and politics in a new national survey, while students at Stanford University didn't do much better, getting a D.



Go read more about these so-called elite universities, and the results of this study, in the San Francisco Chron.

Update, 9/29/06: Erin has more detail and commentary at her site.

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the EdWonks.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Liberal Politicians Explained

I received this in an email and am posting it here for humor only. If you're a lib who chooses to get his/her panties in a bunch over this, deal with it. =)

Many will recall that on July 8, 1947, some witnesses claim that an unidentified object with five aliens aboard crashed on a sheep and cattle ranch just outside Roswell, New Mexico.

This is a well publicized incident that many say has long been covered up by the United States Air Force and agencies of the Federal Government.

However, you may well NOT know what happened in the month of March, 1948, which is coincidently nine months after that historic incident:


It was in March, 1948, that Albert Arnold Gore, Jr., Hillary Rodham, John F. Kerry, William Jefferson Clinton, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Fienstein, Charles E. Schumer and Barbara Boxer were born.

Now that piece of information seems to clear up a lot of things.


Update, 9/27/06: I didn't expect that it was real (read my opening to this post), but a commenter has pointed out a Snopes link showing that only Al Gore is apparently of alien extraction.

Bill Cosby--Not Accepting Excuses From Students

The EdWonks (see blogroll at left) have a great little story.

US Supreme Court To Hear Case Regarding Teachers Union Dues

From the valiant teachers-vs-union.org:

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and teachers in a related class action lawsuit have appealed the Washington Supreme Court ruling in Public Disclosure Commission v. Washington Education Association to the U.S. Supreme Court.


The appeals call on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Washington Supreme Court’s restrictive ruling on the rights of employees represented by a union. On March 16, the Court ruled that the Washington Education Association (WEA) can use nonmember teachers’ dues for political activity without getting permission from the individual teachers.


Employees who are not members of a union can be required to pay dues as a condition of employment. In such a situation, U.S. Supreme Court case law lays out First Amendment protections to ensure employees are not forced to support political activity against their will. Washington’s law (RCW 42.17.760) established the additional requirement that nonmembers must “affirmatively authorize” any use of their dues for union political activity.


Wow. It seems like the Washington State Supreme Court has completely ignored US Supreme Court precedent in this situation. I hope they get their heads slapped back good by the Supremes.


As EIA (see blogroll at left) points out, that case ties into this little tidbit:

In what may be the first of many spending reports, the California Teachers Association and the state prison guard reported Monday they have bought $400,000 in campaign literature and mail as part of their independent campaign against the reelection of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


I'll keep you posted as I get information.

My Take On Air Travel

Via the Instapundit (see blogroll at left) comes this Strategypage blurb about air travel:


But the increase in air transportation security has had an impact. Fewer people are flying. The airlines don't like to discuss this, but customer satisfaction, and travel, surveys show that people, especially business flyers (the most lucrative kind of passengers) are flying less. The reason is the increased, and seemingly irrational, screening methods. These antics also have a negative effect on the security personnel. There are now 2,100 air marshals (versus 33 on September 11, 2001), and half of them are unavailable (all or part of the time) because of health issues caused by too much time in the air. The air marshals work a heavy schedule, averaging twenty flights a week. Not that it's doing much good. Until this Summer, air marshals had to fly wearing suits, despite the fact that most passengers go casual. Thus the air marshals stick out, giving any potential bad guys an easy way to identify, and take down, the law.


And I read last night that passengers can now carry up to 3 ounces of previously banned toiletries on board a flight--if those toiletries are in a 1 quart ziplock bag. As Instapundit said and I've been saying for some time, if making us act stupidly is a victory, then the terrorists have scored one.

Update, 9/27/06: Kip Hawley is an idiot. (He's the head of the TSA.)
Update, 9/30/06: A real big idiot.

Monday, September 25, 2006

ABC News Inadvertently Shows What's Wrong With Math Education

I was just watching ABC's World News and saw a report about middle schoolers--and the academic difficulties that seem to strike at that age. There was also mention of a lack of Title I money going to middle schools, and the fact that teachers are often trained for elementary or high school but not specifically for middle school.

If I recall correctly (I haven't yet found the story on their web site--hopefully it will be up soon), 33% of middle schoolers in the US are at grade level in reading, 32% in science, and 28% in math.

Then what did I see? During the report there was video of a middle school in New York State, and a math teacher was correcting a student for a mistake he seemed to be making on a graphing calculator.

What math could a middle school class be covering that necessitates the use of a calculator, much less a graphing calculator? With the exception of square roots--which don't require a graphing calculator-- I'm at a loss.

Update, 9/26/06: EdWonks (see blogroll at left) posted a link to the video here, although I haven't watched to see if it's the same as I saw on tv last night.

One View of the First Day of College Life

I was struck when I read the following two quotes in this article:

My first day of class went pretty well. I loved my playwriting and Russian class but the third one, Non-Western Art, was tediously p.c.
(emphasis mine--Darren)

and

I don’t want to seem obnoxious, but in the past few weeks, I’ve become a bit overly interested in race. (again, emphasis mine)

Why am I not surprised? When the first occurs, the second naturally follows.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Attacking Iran Before The November Election

Has there *ever* been a so-called October Surprise?

It should come as no surprise if the Bush Administration undertakes a preemptive war against Iran sometime before the November election.

Then the president will speak on national television. He will say this: Iran is determined to develop nuclear weapons; if this happens, the entire region will go nuclear; our diplomatic efforts to prevent this have failed; Iran is offering a haven to known al Qaeda leaders; the fate of our ally Israel is at stake; Iran persists in supporting terrorism, including in Iraq; and sanctions will have no affect (and besides they are for sissies). He will not say: ...and besides, we need the oil.

Ah yes, the oil card. Because we're just shipping that Iraqi oil straight to Main Street USA, aren't we?

It's statements like those above that make the American Left impossible to take seriously. And the comments to Gary Hart's column are even worse.

School Dances Canceled

I like the way this principal handled the situation:

A furor over what Concord High School administrators call an "overtly sexual" style of dancing at school dances has split the school community: There are those who defend the students'right to dance however they want and those who believe the moves are just plain inappropriate...

Asked by parents to describe the dance, Connolly offered this: The girl leans forward and the boy puts his pelvis against her backside. Then, he thrusts.


"It's feigning a sex act," Connolly said.


The students will always claim that they should be allowed to dance however they want to, and the schools will always claim that they're holding the students to a reasonable level of decorum. When both sides can't agree, just cancel the dances. That way neither side has to deal with the issue at all.

This statement, though, takes the cake:

"We were raised to dance like that," senior Kayla Bisson said.

Uh huh. You know what I think? I think that if you wouldn't dance with your dad like that, Kayla Bisson, then you know there's something sexual about what you're doing. And school isn't the place to be doing something sexual.

Here's a common sense comment from a parent:

"Eventually, things may change and this may be considered mild," said parent Cheryl Hunter. "But right now, it's inappropriate."


True enough.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Swastikas In School

To ban, or not to ban?

In some forms - on a white-power T-shirt worn by a student -the swastika should be banned in a school setting. In a quilting display, a work of art or a class on symbols, history or religion, it should be treated like any other image that humans have invested with symbolic power, as a way to consider, not the symbol itself, but what it has stood for through history.

Oops! Handout With X-Rated Fonts Given To Parents

I can't help but laugh when I read this:

X-Rated Font Used on Third-Grade Handout

The Associated Press

School officials apologized after an X-rated font was used on a third-grade spelling packet handed out to parents. The font showed male and female stick figures in provocative poses to form the letters of the alphabet.


Officials with the Monroe-Woodbury School District in Orange County apologized last week after parents at Pine Tree Elementary School were given the spelling packet at an open house.


Administrators said the teacher did not use the font intentionally.


Monroe is about 45 miles northwest of New York City.


Come on--that is pretty funny!

Leftie Views of The War In Iraq (Before The War)

In many cases these quotes came from during the last years of the Clinton Administration. If George Bush betrayed! us into war (Al Gore), then what changed between the late 90's and 2003 that turned Saddam from a bad guy, according to these lefties, to a good guy? Why was fighting him OK then, but not in 2003? Why was he definitely pursuing WMD then, but obviously wasn't in 2003--when President Bush clearly lied us into this war?

I've said it too many times to count--consistency is not a strong suit of the left.

Update, 9/24/06: What do you think about this little gem from the 1999 CNN archives?

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.


The internet is amazing. Libs can run, but they can't hide.

Update #2, 3/19/07: Al Gore--phony and wrong regarding (among other things) the war in Iraq.

Liberal Press Bias

If you won't accept that there's a liberal bias in the press (no, Limbaugh is not a member of the press) after reading this post, full of quotes from several horses' mouths, then the admonition that there are none so blind as those who will not see applies to you.

Update, 10/4/06: Here's just another example. It's obvious once you know what to look for.

Update #2, 10/4/06: And this from the Los Angeles Times, not known as a Republican rag:

A recent comprehensive study by UCLA political scientist Tim Groseclose and University of Missouri-Columbia economics professor Jeffrey Milyo found Brit Hume's "Special Report" — Fox's most straightforward news show — more centrist than any of the three major networks' evening newscasts, all of which leaned left.
I'm just saying.

And this, from the same article:

Fox's opinion-driven programming gives conservatives and liberals a chance to get a hearing for their ideas. But Democratic politicians and activists who go on Fox also must defend their views, often against tough questioning, something that happens less often on the networks, where most journalists are left-of-center, survey after survey has shown.


I repeat: Los Angeles Times.

*This* Is Why You Should Take Those Drills At School Seriously

From CNN.com:

Devin Wilburn, 12, said students at St. James Middle School had just completed a tornado drill. Then they interrupted their science test to rush back into the hallway for the real thing. The children knelt down and put their hands over their heads, he said.


"I just heard a bunch of thunder and ripping, because the top of the roof came off," Devin said.


No teachers, children or staff members were injured.


You want to do it right when it's the real thing. And as they say in sports, you play like you practice.

Grants To Improve Math and Science Teaching

Let's read this short article from the major Sacramento newspaper and see if we can find what's wrong with it:

The California Postsecondary Education Commission has awarded $10.5 million in grants to improve training for science and math teachers in the state's schools.


The grants will provide training for 620 math teachers and 900 science teachers over the next five years.


"California loses about 5 percent of its experienced math and science teachers each year on top of shortages that already number in the thousands. Addressing this issue is critical to the state's competitiveness," said Howard Welinsky, chairman of the commission, which advises the governor and Legislature on higher education policy.


That last paragraph doesn't seem to jibe with the title and rest of the story. Is the problem that our math and science teachers are incompetent and hence need better training? And is that the reason we lost 5% of our math and science teachers each year? How exactly will improved math and science training keep us from losing such teachers?


I don't follow what the point of this story is. The end doesn't seem to tie in with the beginning at all. English majors--can you find the thesis for me, and the supporting statements?

Leftie Makes Documentary To Show That Fellow Lefties Don't Like Poor People

Lefties don't like Wal*Mart--which has done more to help poor people in this country, and around the world, than any other organization or government. And please don't comment here with your anti-Wal*Mart whines, about how they run mom-and-pop businesses out of business--why exactly do you think that consumers should pay higher prices in order to maintain an inefficient market? Lefties are consistent here--they like inefficiency, which is why they like government so much. What they don't like is a successful company that helps, economically, every community it's entered.

But back to my story, which is that lefties don't like poor people.

This reporter writes about a very poor region of Romania. First he establishes his liberal bona fides, then launches into his complaint:

As a liberal European journalist, I was familiar with these stories and also knew about how Europe's miners faced similar battles to improve their working lives. These struggles meant that miners have always had a special status for us left-wingers. They were a superior breed who fought for themselves and the rights of all workers.


However in my more recent journalism, I have discovered there is a new threat to miners, their families and their wider communities...


Instead I have discovered that the biggest threat to miners and their families comes from upper-class Western environmentalists...

My admiration for environmentalists started to decline when I was lucky enough to be posted to Romania as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times. There I covered a campaign by Western environmentalists against a proposed mine at Rosia Montana in the Transylvania region of the country.


It was the usual story. The environmentalists told how Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company, was going to pollute the environment and forcibly resettle locals before destroying a pristine wilderness.


But when I went to see the village for myself I found that almost everything the environmentalists were saying about the project was misleading, exaggerated or quite simply false...


It was surprising that environmentalists would lie, but the most shocking part was yet to come. As I spoke to the Western environmentalists it quickly emerged that they wanted to stop the mine because they felt that development and prosperity will ruin the rural "idyllic" lifestyle of these happy peasants.


This "lifestyle" includes 70 percent unemployment, two-thirds of the people having no running water and using an outhouse in winters where the temperature can plummet to 20 degrees below zero centigrade.


One environmentalist (foreign of course) tried to persuade me that villagers actually preferred riding a horse and cart to driving a car...


I gathered up extra funding and the documentary Mine Your Own Business premieres Tuesday at the Denver Gold Forum at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Denver. The film will shock and upset those who, like myself, unquestioningly believed environmentalists were a force for good in the world.


I wonder if I can expect to see this film at the local indie cinema here in Sacramento any time soon. I wonder if the Left, which is so enamored of "documentaries" (mockumentaries?) when they're made by Michael Moore but not so thrilled when made by Evan Coyne Maloney or shown on ABC, will demonstrate "tolerance" towards this film.

Students Object To Theft Of Their Intellectual Property

Student essays, at least the few I've read, are not often what I'd call "intellectual", but under the law they very well might be considered "intellectual property". So I like the fact that some students in Virginia are suing an anti-plagiarism company, Turnitin, for adding their essays to Turnitin's database.

Teachers or schools subscribe to Turnitin's service. They submit student papers to the company, which compares the papers to those in its database (or, I'm sure, to those found with search engines) to spot plagiarized passages.

The students claim not to support plagiarism, but don't want their personal work added to the database. At this point in time, absent other information, I'm inclined to support them.

Thanks to Joanne (see blogroll at left) for the story.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Continuing (In)Consistency of Liberals

From Dan Weintraub, blogger extraordinaire for the major Sacramento newspaper:

The rich get richer (in the Silicon Valley)

Writing in the New York Times, Berkeley prof Hal Varian shows how just five US counties, including three in the Bay Area, have skewed the nation's income (and income inequality) numbers. All five, by the way, are liberal counties whose voters tend to favor income redistribution.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Better Late Than Never With College Journalism Law

It looks like high school journalists in California have had more protections than college journalists--until this law was just signed.

And This Guy Wanted To Be A Congressman

Via Edwonks (see blogroll at left) comes this story:

Steve White, the District 4 Democratic candidate for House of Representatives, withdrew from that race with a letter to Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham.


White wrote: "After careful consideration of the many factors involved, I have determined that it is in the best interest of my family and the Democratic Party to withdraw my candidacy as the Democratic nominee for the State House of Representative District 4. I am proud to be a Democrat and will always be a loyal and faithful supporter."


White's decision came after Monday's release of an arbitrator's ruling that upheld the Limestone County Board of Education's decision to fire him for showing inappropriate Internet material, some that had sexual content, to his eighth-grade students at West Limestone High School.


Heck, even I haven't done that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why NCLB Requires *ALL* Students To Be At Grade Level By 2014

I quote from this blog post:


It seems paradoxical but it is nevertheless true: you must dream beyond the imaginable to achieve success beyond the attainable. Are your visions of the future confined in a suffocating box of limitations? What is holding you back? How are you preventing yourself from success?


That is why the No Child Left Behind Act sets the bar so high.

Make Money Tutoring, Not Teaching

If I had a single entrepreneurial bone in my body, I'd do what this guy's done.

Carnival of Education

Find this week's at The Median Sib.

Wow. School Discipline "Responsible" For Kid's Suicide

Here in the beautiful West, here in California, a student ditched school to participate in last spring's immigration rallies. He was disciplined by the school.

That discipline is why he killed himself--or so says his suicide note. And now the school district is in federal court.

I'd say "only in California", but I have a nasty feeling this could happen many places in the US. The EdWonks (see blogroll at right) rightly recommend watching this case closely.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rookie Teacher Fired For Telling Parents She Didn't Have Enough Supplies

The Education Wonks (see blogroll at left) is covering the story of the Yuba City teacher who, at Back To School Night, told parents she didn't have enough books or other supplies--and was fired a week later.

The EdWonks then lament that here in California, a teacher without tenure can be fired for any or even no reason whatsoever. What they left out, though, is that it was the California Teachers Association that elected to throw its young teachers under the bus by agreeing to this rule change in exchange for different political concessions. Apparently this happened in 1983 and the Hughes-Hart Education Reform Act, where CTA accepted "no cause" dismissals for probationary teachers in exchange for reducing the probationary period from three years to two.

Union zealots, this rookie teacher's fate should wear on your conscience.

Update, 9/21/06: Added information about CTA's treachery. Thank you to my secret source regarding the Hughes-Hart Act.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Yesterday's Lousy TV Becomes Today's Reality With Bionics

If you're old enough to remember Steve Austin and Jaime Summers, you'll be amazed to read this article. A 25-year-old veteran can feel sensations in her bionic arm.

Let's hope we don't have to deal with an extraterrestrial-created Bigfoot, though.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Common-Sense Multiculturalism

I'm going to lift this entire piece from Instapundit (see blogroll at left) because it's so clear:

THE HOWARD GOVERNMENT ISN'T MINCING WORDS:

AUSTRALIA'S Muslim leaders have been "read the riot act" over the need to denounce any links between Islam and terrorism. The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams who address Australia's mosques that these were tough times requiring great personal resolve.


Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.


"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference.


"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem.


"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others.


"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."


We need more of this common-sense variety of multiculturalism.


Can I get an "Amen!", or would that not be multicultural enough?

Diversity Destroys Education

No, not the superficial skin-color type of diversity--but the people who believe in that kind of crap, they destroy education. Or so says Right Wing Prof at RightWingNation (see blogroll at left), in a post worthy of the ages:

Some eight years ago, I attended a series of presentations (not by choice) given by the ed school diversity police. At one, we got the party line on "learning styles/modalities," presented with no evidence to back it up because like contrastive rhetoric, there is no evidence to back it up.


A particularly grumpy faculty member — who also happened to be a Dean at the time — asked the presenter what I, and no doubt many others, were thinking. He said, "Other than the fact that you have no evidence to support this, so what? We have material to cover. We barely have enough time as it is. We certainly don't have time to present the material in each style just to make it easier for some of the students. So what do you want us to do with this information?"


Another one of these presentations was given by the feminonsense police, and covered how men are "goal-oriented," and women are "process-oriented." She and her co-feminuts, along with a few cooperative feminized males, presented a "role play," that began with a normal, goal-oriented meeting (of men) where the problem was addressed, a solution was agreed upon, and men were assigned to implement the solution. The next "role play" was feminuts having a meeting with no goal or purpose, other than to make each other feel good, and even though it was ostensibly to address the same problem as the first meeting "role play," the feminuts ended the meeting without ever addressing a solution. Finally, there was the final, two-part "role play," in which both sexes took part. In the first of the two-parter, the feminuts chose to shut up and sit there like lumps when the men insisted on having a meeting with a goal and purpose, and tackling the problem. In the second part of the two-parter, the men acquiesced to the "process oriented" meeting and nothing was accomplished (of course). The second of the two-parter was presented as how men could be more "sensitive" to women in meetings. When confronted with the fact that the "sensitive" meeting was unproductive, the feminuts accused the questioner of being patriarchal, and avoided the issue.


Ignore the man behind the curtain!


Both of these presentations illustrate why "being sensitive to our differences" (codename: diversity) is destructive to education.


Wow. Obviously the Prof and the Dean haven't taught K-12, or they'd have been to ed school and know that worshiping at the altar of "different modalities" is Commandment #2--Commandment #1, of course, pertains to the altar of "respecting" race differences.

You can, and should, go read the whole post. If you refuse to do so, then I have to spoil it all and give you this side-splitting snippet:

As knowledge systems go, math is the prototypical, linear system. Each skill builds upon others, so mastering a skill requires that one has already mastered previous skills. Math is essentially Aristotelian in nature, however patriarchal and serial raping and penis waving that may be.


Why would you not want to read a post by someone who can write like that?!

Going To The Mat--Two Good Posts About Education

Matt (see blogroll at left) has two short posts you may find interesting:

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings On RedState Radio


Liberals, Conservatives, and the Use of Racial and Ethnic Classifications

Affirmative action in education is discussed.

Jill Stewart, The California Legislature, and English Learners

Jill Stewart continues to be one of the best education writers around (along with Debra Saunders), as this piece shows:

For now, the Legislature's unseemly war on the gutsy, no-nonsense state Board of Education is over, with our unpopular Legislature abandoning Sacramento for its long annual vacation back in the home districts.


It would be nice if the public - left largely in the dark - could hurl probing questions at local "progressive" legislators as to why they are waging war on the state Board of Education, why they are trying to turn back the clock on Latino kids and segregate them again, and why they are fudging numbers to make it appear that Latino kids are not improving when in fact they're improving faster than they have in decades.


If you hate politicians, you will really despise them when you find out how low our Legislature went to serve the twisted purposes of adult special interest groups at the expense of California's poorest kids. (boldface mine--Darren)


But remember, those lefties are the compassionate ones.

There's a lot more in Jill's column--go take a read.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Muslims and the Pope's Comments

Instapundit (see blogroll at left) says it best:

Frankly, I'm pretty tired of "Muslim rage." If they're that insecure about their religion, maybe the problem isn't with the critics. I'm also pretty unimpressed with Western commentators who serve as enablers to such juvenile and destructive behavior.


"Baptist rage" certainly wouldn't get this kind of slack from the Times.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Math Professor Suspended For Test Question

Erin has the details about a math professor in Washington State who has been suspended for a week because he wrote a question that had something to do with "Condoleeza" throwing a watermelon from a building.

Is this question racist? Does it represent poor taste and/or judgement? Or do people have their panties in a bunch over nothing?

Honestly, I think the answer to those questions depends on whether Condoleeza represents a Republican or a Democrat. And I only know of one Condoleeza in the world.

As Erin notes, FIRE is on the case.

"Given the reaction of the community and the college, one might think that Ratener was guilty of committing a serious crime, rather than writing an accidentally offensive math problem," stated FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. "Everyone involved has acknowledged that Ratener intended no offense, and Ratener even apologized for the question, so what exactly is BCC trying to prove by suspending him? This punishment is not only unfair and a violation of the First Amendment, but also totally unnecessary."

On April 19, Ratener himself issued a public apology, admitting that he had made a mistake but stating that the invocation of a negative racial stereotype was completely unintentional.


Are you telling me that this guy had never heard about the stereotypes related to blacks and watermelons? I find his statement more than a bit disingenuous--but I guess it's possible. Still, did he do anything wrong, and if so, what is the level of severity?

The local Urban League (a black organization, if you didn't know) is, of course, up in arms. But some are defending this professor, either on free speech grounds or on the grounds that the question is based on a stand-up comic routine and therefore is not racist.

I wonder, though, if instead of Condoleeza he had used "Sheniqua" or "Jesse and Al", if he would have so many defenders (outside of FIRE, which is being very consistent). As I said, the severity of the offense is directly proportional to the protected status of the butt of the joke. Condoleeza Rice may be a black woman, but she's a Republican--so it's OK to target her.

Inside Higher Ed notes:

In an apology he issued — to students, colleagues and Secretary Rice — he said that he still should have realized the potential problem and caught it. “The responsibility is ultimately mine alone,” he wrote. In the apology, he talked at length about his sadness and shame at having upset so many people and embarrassed his colleagues. And he repeatedly talked about his commitment to equity and respect for people of all kinds.


The college’s investigation of the matter led to a finding that he should be suspended for a week without pay. The finding noted that in 25 years of teaching at Bellevue, Ratener had never before been accused of racial insensitivity, and that he had apologized for the test question. But the finding also said that Ratener should be held to a high standard as an educator, that he had not attended many of the programs the college offers “regarding cultural issues and the impact of stereotypical thinking on the perpetuation of racism,” that the question had damaged the college’s reputation, and that it had “created disruption.”


Ah yes, the old higher standard. And God forbid a professor says something that causes--gasp!--a disruption.

But if you want to read a very good "discussion" on the topic, click on the Inside Higher Ed link and read the comments. They are well thought out, civil, and insightful. I thought they couldn't get any better after I read the first few--but every one of them had a valuable take on the topic. I encourage you to read them.

My conclusion: if he meant harm at all, it was to a Republican woman, not a black woman. And he probably didn't mean any harm at all--it's conceivable he was just using a celebrity name in a question as a way of making the problem a little less stressful for students.

FIRE's right to get involved.

And if you haven't read the comments at the end of the Inside Higher Ed link, go do so now!

Academia Post-9/11

Harvey Mansfield is a professor of government at Harvard University and author of the book ``Manliness."

FIVE YEARS have now passed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and what have our universities been doing? I can tell you about Harvard, and the answer is not reassuring.


Harvard has just welcomed the former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to give a little talk. Harvard thinks this is free speech, but in fact the university has allowed itself to be used as a platform for sweet-talk in the service of a regime that hates, and wants to bamboozle, America...

Nor has Harvard relaxed its hostility to ROTC on the campus. The pretext is the military's policy discriminating against gays by requiring them to keep silent about being gay. Never mind what would happen to gays or defenders of gays if the Islamic fascists took over.


It's nice that some academic recognizes that last point.

What has Harvard learned from Sept. 11? Very little.

Sept. 11 was a stunning blow to multiculturalism. The attacks showed that we have enemies who hate us because they hate both our principles and our practices. They despise the way we live not because we do not live up to our principles of freedom, democracy, and toleration, but because we do. They do not think we are multicultural; they believe we have one culture, and they mean to do away with it.

The feminists at Harvard seek to remove every vestige of patriarchy in America, but they have said almost nothing about the complete dismissal of women's rights by radical Islam. To do so would be to attack Islamic culture....


I like this guy Mansfield.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Breaking News on School Fees

Today's major Sacramento newspaper reports:

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has backed the Folsom High School music boosters' practice of asking parents for donations to support extracurricular activities.

The ruling by Judge William M. Gallagher centers on the issue of whether the boosters were
requesting or requiring students to pay to participate in the school's various bands. (emphasis mine--Darren)

Gallagher's one-page judgment, issued late last week, contains no explanation for his decision overturning a small-claims court award to Donna Kinsella, a Folsom parent who has argued that students shouldn't have to pay dues to take part in the high school's band programs...

Vroom (President of the Music Boosters) said no student has been denied participation because of an ability to pay and that in some cases scholarships have been provided.


Kinsella said Wednesday that she couldn't afford to appeal Gallagher's decision.


It's unfortunate that Ms. Kinsella cannot afford to appeal this decision, as the case law is entirely on her side. The precedents are clear--whether or not a student can afford to pay, required fees are illegal. Even so-called scholarships are expressly prohibited.


This case has no bearing on my issue in my own school district, though, where we're charging students for classes taken during the school day (as well as for sports uniforms).

You Can't Negotiate With Terrorists

Neither can you appease them. But I'll get to that in a moment.

I have some very vocal liberals in one of my classes; they're fairly strong personalities, though, so I think they'll be able to tolerate the 8x10 of Ronald Reagan I have on the wall over my desk. I thought I'd make a point to them today, though, and I was certainly able to corner them.

"Do you guys think I'm flexible? Do you think I'm open-minded? Do you think you can change my mind? Do you think you can negotiate with me?"

"No!" came back the replies.

"OK. And I'm not even crazy enough to fly airplanes into buildings. If you don't think you can negotiate with me, what makes you think you can negotiate with people who will fly airplanes into buildings?"

Point made.

Now let's change the subject to France. You know, the cheese-eating surrender monkeys. The ones who secretly dealt with Saddam in order to undermine our efforts before the invasion. The ones who refused to participate in the invasion. The anti-Semitic ones who constantly look down their noses at the US whilst siding against Israel and with the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah. The ones who haven't lifted a finger against Islamic Terrorists.

Not enough. The Associated Press reports that Al-Qaeda has allied itself with an anti-French terrorist organization!

As Charles says at the end of his piece on the topic:

Poor France. They just can’t win for surrendering.

Socialists Don't Like Detroit Teacher Strike Settlement

EIA (see blogroll at left) turned me on to this story by our good friends on the American Left, the Socialists. (Is that repetition from the Department of Tautology Department?)

It has been clear from day one of the strike that the overwhelming majority of Detroiters support the teachers. Now that support must be transformed into a powerful mobilization to defend the teachers against the inevitable attacks that will be launched against them should they reject the contract and remain on strike.


What arguments can teachers expect to hear from Garrison in favor of a return to work? First, the threat—which is real—of fines and even arrests under the state law banning public employee strikes. This, however, is an argument for doing what she and the rest of the union leadership in Detroit have refused to do: turning out to the rest of the working class and fighting for mass pickets, mass demonstrations and sympathy strike action against any attempt to penalize the teachers for fighting for their rights... (boldface mine--Darren)


The real issue is the priorities of a political and social system that subordinates the social needs of the vast majority—the working class—to the further enrichment of a financial oligarchy.


That last sentence--what exactly does it mean? Socialists--indeed, Marxists--certainly have a worldview all their own.


The burning issue posed directly by the strike is the need for working people to break free of the two parties of big business and build their own, independent political movement to oppose the entire avaricious elite that is destroying their living standards and attacking their democratic rights.


Can you hear it? "Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains."

There's a reason Communism only took root in economically- and industrially-backwards countries, and not in Western Europe and the United States. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why that is.

Anyway, there's so much more in that story. Please go take a read, if you can stomach it. You may need a shower afterwards, though.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vaccinations For School

NewsAlert has a great story about a potential new Michigan law. There's no way to excerpt it--I'm going to give you the entire NewsAlert piece.

The AP reports:
Michigan girls entering the sixth grade next year would have to be vaccinated against cervical cancer under legislation backed Tuesday by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers.

The legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, said Republican state Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, lead sponsor.

The vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June for use in girls and women and has been hailed as a breakthrough in cancer prevention. It prevents infections from some strains of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

A government advisory panel said that ideally the vaccine should be given before girls become sexually active.

The American Cancer Society estimates 9,700 women nationwide will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2006, and 3,700 will die.

"We believe we can save the lives of these girls," Hammerstrom said.

Some conservatives around the country have expressed concern that schools would make the vaccine a requirement for enrollment. They have argued that requiring the vaccine would infringe on parents' rights and send a message that underage sex is OK.

Just a little taste of what's coming with "universal health care".


If the government is going to require vaccinations, it should be to protect the public from communicable diseases. It's entirely reasonable to want to ensure that students aren't going to get each other sick.

But cervical cancer isn't communicable. What business does the government have forcing that vaccination on children? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that getting a vaccine to possibly avoid cancer would be a bad thing--far from it. It's just that the government shouldn't be in the business of mandating that vaccine when the health of the general public isn't at risk. There could be an outbreak of smallpox, there isn't going to be an outbreak of cervical cancer.

And the schools should not be thrust into this.

Laws relating to education and children are insane. Here in California, I'm not allowed to give a student an aspirin (or acetominophen or ibuprofin) for a headache, but we're required by law to allow a student to leave school grounds, without parental permission or knowledge, to get an abortion. We can't ask at registration time if you're in this country illegally, but in Michigan we'll ask if you've been vaccinated against something that's not a threat to the general population. Might we be keeping children out of school if they don't have their vaccination?

This isn't the school's business. And it isn't the legislature's business, either. I keep telling you lefties who want universal health care--how much control over your health do you want a government bureaucracy to have? Do you trust President Bush and the Republican Congress enough to do what's right for you? (hehehe) Do you really want the same kind of people that currently work in the DMV or the Transportation Security Administration responsible for your health care ? If so, you're dumb enough that you probably need the government to take care of you, and you'd deserve it.

But even you lefties--can you support this Michigan plan?

Better Late Than Never--Traditional Math Teachers Can Welcome NCTM To The Party

In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published their so-called standards, which were the envy of every fuzzy-math-loving person on the planet. They were painful to read--not even clear, much less measurable. California's math standards, published about 8 years later, were the antithesis of NCTM's, with specific grade level standards and measurable tasks.

Apparently, the NCTM has seen the error of its ways--and it only cost a single generation of students who couldn't learn math. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that the NCTM is taking its cue now from Singapore math, long a darling of traditional math teachers, and is revising its standards:

The nation's math teachers, on the front lines of a 17-year curriculum war, are getting some new marching orders: Make sure students learn the basics.


In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from prekindergarten through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe schools should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division.


The council's advice is striking because in 1989 it touched off the so-called math wars by promoting open-ended problem solving over drilling. Back then, it recommended that students as young as those in kindergarten use calculators in class.


Those recommendations horrified many educators, especially college math professors alarmed by a rising tide of freshmen needing remediation. The council's 1989 report influenced textbooks and led to what are commonly called "reform math" programs, which are used in school systems across the country.


The new approach puzzled many parents. For example, to solve a basic division problem, 120 divided by 40, students might cross off groups of circles to "discover" that the answer was three.


Infuriated parents dubbed it "fuzzy math" and launched a countermovement. The council says its earlier views had been widely misunderstood and were never intended to excuse students from learning multiplication tables and other fundamentals.


Nevertheless, the council's new guidelines constitute "a remarkable reversal, and it's about time," says Ralph Raimi, a University of Rochester math professor.


Francis Fennell, the council's president, says the latest guidelines move closer to the curriculum of Asian countries such as Singapore, whose students tend to perform better on international tests. There, children focus intensely on a relative handful of topics, such as multiplication, division and algebra, then practice by solving increasingly difficult word and other problems. That contrasts sharply with the U.S. approach, which the report noted has long been described as "a mile wide and an inch deep."


Welcome to the party, NCTM. What kept you?

Class Sizes

The following information was sent to an education list of which I am a member. I've received permission to reprint the entire email here; obviously, the topic is smaller class sizes (something my school knows nothing about!).

**********
It's interesting to note that the class size effect has been measured for CA's 5,000 elementary schools. Buried in a technical report are the regression coefficients of selected variables that predict the School Characteristic Index (SCI). Among the socioeconomic variable that schools have no control over (parent education, free/reduced price lunch, ethnic composition) are two variables that a school can control - Average Class Size for K-3 and for 4-6. The coefficient for K-3 is -0.1644 meaning that a school's SCI will increase 0.1644 points if the average class size is reduced by one student.

See Coefficient Model 1 on page 4 of
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/documents/tdgreport0506.pdf

But we're really not concerned with SCI. We'd really like to know how class size might affect a school's Academic Performance Index (API). No problem! There is a formula for moving from the SCI to the predicted API. Predicted API=8*SCI -600. Therefore the expected API gain for reducing class size by one student (20 to 19) in grades K-3 is a miniscule (8*0.1644) 1.3 points.

The gain is even smaller for class size reduction in grades 4-6.

For the PA members - CA's 1.3 point gain is about the same as a 3 point gain on the PSSA.

I'm always amazed that the popular wisdom says that class size reduction is important for improving educational outcomes. If I were a school board member I'd be investigating whether it might make sense to let class sizes increase at the elementary level and invest the resulting savings on some other more effective educational initiative. (If I remember correctly, CA had a referendum passed a decade or so ago mandating class size reduction which was later reversed.)
**********

No, this is not an argument for increasing class sizes. It might be an argument for spending class size reduction money on more efficient methods of improving student performance, however.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11, And The Words of a Student

In this post we learn about September 11, 1565, when the Knights of St. John on Malta repulsed an Islamic attack.
The lessons for us today, almost five centuries hence, are equally important. The same enemy exists today. Instead of galleys he uses airliners, and instead of Janissaries he uses suicide bombers. He hates and fears western civilization, and seeks to convert or enslave us. We have to meet him and engage him everywhere he is, just as the Knights did. What it will take to win against him is what it took to win at Malta: preparation, skill at arms, leadership, and above all faith and an iron will.


In this post we see what our fellow patriotic Americans on the Left think about today's anniversary.

And then, in what I can only consider a bizarre article, CNN tells us Educators divided over what to learn from 9/11. The only reason educators might be divided is that some are members of the anti-American Left, the Hate America First crowd, and want to teach that whilst drawing their pay from the American taxpayer:

But perhaps the biggest divide has occurred between those who stress teaching values and patriotism and those who encourage questioning U.S. policies and examining terrorists' motives.


"There is a difference between 'America deserved it' on the one-hand and 'America is the beacon of freedom and equality for the world' on the other hand," says Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.


Finn's right, and there's a false dichotomy in the first sentence. It's not "values and patriotism" vs. "questioning US policies". It's moral relativism; you don't "justify" flying airplanes into buildings, no matter what beef you may have. Well, normal people don't. And normal people shouldn't try to understand or excuse it, either.


After Pearl Harbor was attacked, was there really a segment of the population that sat around the tree singing Kumbayyah asking, "Why do the Japanese hate us? We need to open a dialog with Emperor Hirohito." We didn't care why they attacked. We fought back. We killed their citizens and laid waste to their country. When that wasn't enough, we dropped nuclear bombs on two of their cities. Then we accepted their unconditional surrender. We didn't cry about those acts, and Roosevelt wasn't pilloried in the press for the intentional killing of civilians during the firebombing of Tokyo. We did what needed to be done.

Oh, if only more Americans had the intestinal fortitude to do that today. But no, their hatred of President Bush is greater than their hatred of the people who flew airplanes into buildings, of people who say they will not stop killing us until we all accept Allah and his sharia law. Why do you Lefties not believe this? Osama himself, your buddy, has said so. You don't need to believe the President--Osama keeps telling us what he wants. There's no negotiating with that. He wants you dead, too, unless and until you become a Muslim. The fact that you're against President Bush--Osama and his ilk don't care. And it won't buy you one extra day of life under the Caliphate, either, you traitors and collaborators.

Wow, now I see why Michael Savage talks and writes this way--it's a hoot!

But now on to the story of a student I spoke to today. One of my students and I were talking after school, and he told me that he visited Israel this summer. Hey, I'm building a relationship here--I learned the student was Jewish. Anyway, he told me that before that visit, he believed that you could talk to terrorists, understand them, negotiate with them. After this visit, however, after seeing Israel first hand, after talking to Israelis, after being there during the Lebanon incursion, he now accepts that there's only one solution to terrorism, which is the solution I advocate.

You have to kill them. As many as you can.

Here's a little math problem I came up with in class today. Let's determine how many jihadis we need to kill in order to make this not worth their while anymore. Let's let the line below represent the entire number of people that have lived on Earth since humans became humans. I don't know exactly what that number is, but we know it's finite:
**************************
Let's assume that half of that population has been female. So now we're down to this amount:
*************
Now throughout time, except in very recent history, childhood mortality was a very real concern.
***********
Many women throughout history have had children, or at least sex. Take them out, and here's what's left:
***

It's out of that final number that all the virgin females must be drawn. Divide that number by 72, the number of virgins each jihadi is assured in Paradise, and that's the minimum number of jihadis we have to kill. Kill more than that, and there won't be any more virgins to go around. The jihadis won't have any reason to kill anymore.

You want a practical application of math? There it is.

You know what? I'm not going to publish any anti-American, anti-Bush comments on this post. I don't care if this post gets any comments at all. Want to push some hateful, partisan crap? I won't publish it here. Not on this post, and not today. Go read the Daily Kos and hang out with your fellow traitors, while you sip your Starbucks and drive your SUV to the next protest rally. You are not welcome here today.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Solitude

Since these are the only ones I could afford on the whole planet, should I choose this one or this one?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Department of Education Backs Off On High Teacher Standards

Apparently, the inertia of the status quo was too much to overcome. From CNN.com:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Changing course, the Education Department will allow states to count teachers as highly qualified even under standards that may do little to ensure quality.


Federal law allows veteran teachers to be considered highly qualified under factors that states choose, such as job evaluations, teaching awards or service on school committees.


The department in May ordered states to phase out that system for most teachers. Watchdog groups and the department itself say many states were using this system to set weak, improper standards.


Yet Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has pulled back, telling states this week in a letter that they now are "strongly encouraged," though not required, to stop using the method to rate teachers.


And if you need any evidence at all that this is a bad idea:


The National Education Association considers Spellings' letter a victory.


And here's something just as sad:

President Bush's education law says teachers are highly qualified when they have a bachelor's degree, a state license and proven competency in every subject they teach.

States were supposed to have a highly qualified teacher in every core academic class by the end of the last school year. None met that deadline, so each must try again this year.


That seems like a fairly low standard to me. I wonder why we can't meet it. And before someone trots out the "small rural school" point, I'll accept that argument as legitimate. But not every teacher in non-"small rural school" environments is highly qualified by the minimal definition above. Why is that?

Democrats Support Censorship

By subtly threatening ABC with its broadcast license for its upcoming "Path to 9/11" show, legislative Democrats show yet again what I've said on here countless times--it's the left that doesn't support free speech, it's the left that's a danger to your Constitutional rights, it's the left that's full of hypocrisy.

As the Instapundit (see blogroll at left) posted:

MORE: ShrinkWrapped doesn't like Democratic officeholders' threats against ABC: "Not only is there is no awareness that the campaign they are running against the Disney Corporation is dangerous but they revel in their ability to use all the forces at their command to intimidate a media outlet. If Republicans did this, the howls of outrage would know no bounds, yet the Democrats, champions of civil liberties as they fancy themselves to be, propose censorship without a trace of irony." (emphasis mine--Darren)


This is generating more blowback elsewhere: "This is exactly the sort of behavior that forces me to vote Republican even when I disagree with half their platform. Hopefully, the American people still believe the First Amendment should be upheld by both parties, and will act accordingly in November."


I've already heard lefties scream about the anti-Democrat guy who made this movie. Well, I heard a lengthy interview with him on Hugh Hewitt's radio show this week. The man may be many things, but he's certainly no friend of Republicans. Yes, he said, he had to merge several similar events into one in the movie, or dramatize some point because no, he wasn't actually in the room when someone said something and he had to guess/infer how the real situation in 1990-something took place. But if certain Democrats look bad in this story, it's not because he's trying to make them look bad.

Right Wing Prof (see blogroll at left) links to a fun little read about the pathetic censorship attempt here.

Since Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, et. al. seem to be such strong advocates of literal truth in all politically-themed movies, I'll have to go through the archives and find pictures of them protesting outside of Michael Moore-on's last movie about the President. I'll get back to you when I find them.

High-Tech High

Right Wing Prof (see blogroll at left) pretty much says it all about the new high-tech school in Philadelphia.

Update, 9/10/06: OK, perhaps not all, as Joanne (see blogroll at left) adds a few comments.

Two Victories In One in Utah

Lawblog The Volokh Conspiracy tells the story of a Utah Supreme Court case that smacked the University of Utah back into reality:

Guns on University of Utah Campuses:

The state legislature enacted a law barring "state and local entities from enacting or enforcing any [rule] that in 'any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.'" The University of Utah, which generally bans students and employees from carrying guns while "on campus and 'while conducting university busines off campus,'" claimed that the state law interfered with the University's autonomy (guaranteed, according to the University, by the state constitution). Not so, the Utah Supreme Court just held: The Utah Constitution, it concluded, does not give the University autonomy; like other state government entities, the University is subject to legislative control -- "the legislature has the ability to generally manage all aspects of the University."


Can you imagine any greater arrogance from a state university than to think it's autonomous, that it's not subject to the control of the state? Man, that ivory tower got so high that the oxygen was pretty scarce.

Why do I say that this is two victories? Well, I'm actually getting somewhat more conservative as I blog and read other conservative blogs. I used to lose a lot of "conservative points" because I wasn't the biggest fan of the 2nd Amendment. And while I still disagree with the NRA's interpretation of that amendment, Mr. Heston (and his successor) might be happy to know that I'm now a staunch supporter of an individual's right to own and carry most firearms.

So this case is a twofer for me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dreams vs. Reality Regarding the EU

I had to lift this entirely from Shopfloor.org (see blogroll at left):

The EU: Hopes vs. Reality

In the spirit of offending nearly everyone, and further to our Labor Day post below, where we made some comparisons to the EU, we were reminded of a speech we attended many years ago by a conservative Member of the British Parliament. He said there what we've oft repeated, i.e., that the hopes for the EU were for German efficiency, British manners and French food.

Unfortunately, they ended up with French efficiency, German manners -- and British food.

Forging Relationships With Students

It's Thursday, which means I spent another afternoon in a meeting--this one discussing "assets" that students have to draw on, and how we can build personal relationships with students. This is what you get when you're in a meeting group that includes all four (woman) counselors and more of the peace-love-tie dye teachers on the staff =)

I'm all about building relationships with kids. I don't want kids to come into my room and consider me as nothing more than a fount of mathematical knowledge from which they can draw; they need to see me as a human, because when they do, they have to be conscious of our interactions as humans. Education is a social process, one that requires interaction between student and teacher; I'm all about direct instruction, but DI isn't the opposite of interaction. In fact, far from it.

But I digress.

We were talking about "assets", and I didn't like the list of "assets" someone put together. It had a definite political slant to it. Just as an example, one asset that a student might have was something like "The student volunteers in the community at least a couple hours a week." While that can be a good thing, I'm not sure that its absence should be considered a negative or something to watch out for. Another one was "The student believes in equity and social justice, and wants to work to end hunger and poverty." When I was a student I wanted to work hard to end Communism; does that mean I had fewer assets than someone who focused on hunger or poverty? And why those two? See, political slant.

So I had a difficult time participating in that part of the conversation. You can't give me some liberal piece of crap, tell me "the research" says it's good, and expect me to flop down and worship at this new altar. That's one of the many problems in education--we'll take anything and call it "research" and act like it's the answer to every problem we have. In the real world such things would be called fads. Or worse.

It was during the course of this meeting, though, that our principal (who is also in our group) mentioned that next year we're going to have some kind of "home room" plan--it's apparently a pet project of the superintendent--in an effort to help us build relationships with students. I just don't see it. How is having some certain group of kids for a certain amount of time, with no specific curriculum, supposed to help me build relationships with kids above what I already build in class and out on the quad? Waste of time. And if there is a curriculum they want me to follow, isn't that another class I have to prep for? There must be some contractual issues there. Besides, do you think the lib, mamby-pamby, tree-hugging kumbayah types really want me leading some class discussion about some supposedly important social topic? I'm not good as a neutral moderator--you might have noticed that from reading this blog :-) Anyway, this is just something else they're going to throw at me and expect me to do in addition to teaching kids algebra or trig. Is that really the best use of our school time? But it's coming from the top, so we're going to do it anyway.

Here's the problem, one my principal pointed out today. You can't force relationship-building. You can't say, This is the time you will use for building relationships. It doesn't work that way. It's like the concept of "Quality Time" with your kids. That's crap. You don't know when the time is quality time, especially when they're teenagers. You just spend lots of time with them, building that relationship, and when they truly need you, they'll seek you out because they know you care. THAT is when it's quality time, not when you designate every Wednesday evening to be family discussion time or whatever (and the rest of the time you don't speak to them or they avoid/ignore you). Relationships are forged, over time, and are not built in some step-by-step process of regularly scheduled meetings.

You'd think our district would have learned this lesson--with the adults. Last year we rearranged all the school schedules, lengthening the other days so Thursday could be a shorter day for students. We then use the remainder of the afternoon Thursday for so-called collaboration, including this powwow we had today. I'm not sure how the elementary schools took it, but word from the union is that every secondary school hates this plan. You can't force people to collaborate, and you can't say, This is when you will collaborate. Just as an example, I can't imagine a much more painful experience than being in any meeting with our full math department, but we "collaborate" every single day--in the staff room during our morning break and at lunch. "I was covering this today and..." or "They just totally bombed that quiz..." and we discuss how we can make things better. In 5 minutes or so. We do it on our own, in our own way, the way humans always have, because that spontaneity is part of the relationship you build. Anything else, really, is foolhardy.

We can't even tolerate mandatory collaboration amongst our peers, so why would anyone think we'd do any better with a bunch of teenagers? It's just nuts. But since it's a directive, I guess it's going to happen. I envision bedlam, unfortunately.

Ok, I'm done venting. I'd appreciate any soothing comments--but I'll take any!

Bad Hash=Mad Dash (to the hospital)

And remember, these are students at the University of California's flagship campus.

I weep for the future :-)

Carnival of Education

Find this week's here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Student Excuses

Joanne (see blogroll at left) links to The Top Ten No Sympathy Lines by college professor Steve Dutch.

  1. This Course Covered Too Much Material...The Expected Grade Just for Coming to Class is a B
  2. I Disagreed With the Professor's Stand on ----
  3. Some Topics in Class Weren't on the Exams
  4. Do You Give Out a Study Guide?
  5. I Studied for Hours
  6. I Know The Material - I Just Don't Do Well on Exams
  7. I Don't Have Time For All This
  8. But you don't understand. I have a job
  9. Students Are Customers
  10. Do I Need to Know This?
  11. There Was Too Much Memorization
  12. This Course Wasn't Relevant
  13. Exams Don't Reflect Real Life
  14. I Paid Good Money for This Course and I Deserve a Good Grade
  15. All I Want is the Diploma

Yes, it's more than 10. But go read the post and enjoy watching a true artisan blast holes in those most pathetic of excuses. Dutch is a college professor, but I hear several of those excuses in high school.

Last Thursday I was in a meeting in which someone suggested that if we want students to learn the material, we should make it relevant. I'm totally against that. The whole point of school is to broaden a student's horizons, not relate everything to what's within arm's reach. And I don't think that utilitarianism is what we should be about--a broad, liberal arts education even in high school is invaluable to an educated citizenry. Diagramming sentences isn't something people do on a daily basis, but it's certainly valuable for learning grammatical constructs. Same with algebra. Same with analyzing poetry. Same with knowing the primary colors. But Dutch's response to Whine #12? Much better than everything I've written here!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Liberals/Progressives

I'm going to paraphrase something I just read from an email list of which I am a member:

Progressives aren't necessarily bad people. They might be good people, who have come to believe some very bad things.


I like that. It's quite true. I wonder how many progressives/liberals could say the same thing about conservatives.

Definitions of Edubabble Buzzwords

Illinois Loop has a hilarious list of edubabble terms, followed by "What parents think they mean" and "What they really mean". I actually laughed out loud (not merely an LOL of text, but a true outburst) when I read about critical thinking and higher-order thinking.

There's more on the topic here.

Labor Day

The Instapundit (see blogroll at left) had a few links in a Labor Day post, and a couple of them struck my fancy.

A blog from the National Association of Manufacturers about the socialist worker's paradise that is Europe:

Labor for its part laments the state of the US economy -- again -- and points in its new study to how great things are in Europe. This is almost comical, considering the per capita US Gross Domestic Product (also known as the standard of living) is almost 50% higher than Europe's. The 3.5% GDP growth noted above is 35% faster than the EU's. The current 4.6% unemployment rate is half Europe's rate. US workers unemployed for over a year account for just 12% of the total, while in Europe, some 43% of all unemployed have been so for over a year. Finally, the percent of people starting new businesses is five times higher in the US than in France. Ask yourself this question: If you open the borders, which way will people flow -- toward Europe or toward the good ol' US of A? We think we know the answer.


And to the following point I give a hearty "hear hear!":

We remain the largest economy in the world and the economic envy of the world. And that gives us all something to celebrate this Labor Day.

You know what really chaps my butt? Had horseface been elected last year, the press would be fawning over our economic numbers. Their dishonesty and bias know no bounds.

And then there's Mark Steyn, whose powers of observation, augmented by a writing style and wit that are as incisive as they are truthful, make for great reading:

The transformation of Labour Day, from a celebration of workers' solidarity to a cook-out, is the perfect precis of the history of Anglo-American capitalism...

The new received wisdom - forcefully articulated by, among others, Maude Barlow's Council of Canadians at the laugh-a-minute Johannesburg "Earth Summit" - is that the masses themselves are the problem. The oppressed masses refuse to stay oppressed. If they were down in the basement chained to the great turbines, all would be well. But, instead, they insist on moving out of their tenements, getting homes with non-communal bathrooms, giving up the trolley car, putting a deposit down on a Honda Civic and driving to the mall. When it was just medieval dukes swanking about like that, things were fine: That was "sustainable" prosperity. But now, everyone wants in.


This is why capitalism works and socialism does not. Never underestimate the power of the human ego or of greed! Giving people the opportunity to get the best for themselves is what has made America great. What people has socialism made great? Give people an opportunity to improve their lot in life--don't play Robin Hood. To paraphrase a quote from a fairly famous book--don't give someone a fish, teach him to fish for himself.

Of course, the unionists among us will point to the 19th century and the history of the labor movement. Folks, it's the 21st century. Labor unions back then won their battle--but like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, who also won their battle over a decade ago, they keep morphing into something else in order to try to stay relevant. It would be sad, really--like an aging pop star who can't let go of the glory days--if it weren't so dangerous.

Enjoy your barbeque today!


Update: NewsAlert (see blogroll at left) links to an interesting story about labor unions. Here's a snip:

A new Zogby poll has some unwelcome Labor Day news for union officials: Approval of unions is at its lowest point since 1981, and almost three-quarters of workers in the U.S. say they don't want to belong to a labor union.

Since I already said "hear hear" above, can I get an "Amen!"?