Sunday, December 31, 2006

Coercive Power of Unions

It's no secret to anyone who reads NewsAlert (see blogroll at left) that the author isn't the greatest fan of many things governmental. I have a libertarian streak in me, but it doesn't run this far. Bartin's closing comment, though, struck me as exceedingly applicable to unions:

An institution that's financed by coercion can be nothing other than coercive.

Santa's Reindeer

Male or female? This factoid says female.

What did you expect with names like Prancer and Vixen? Unless they're related in some way to this post.....

Science The Left Doesn't Like

The Left likes to harangue the Right for not supporting science--when the science is stem cell research or intelligent design. Is there any science the Left doesn't like? How about science, conducted at Oregon State, that could conceivably turn gays straight?

The concept was addressed in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode and more recently in the third installment of the X-Men movies. Now that it's gone from the screen to the laboratory, what do we hear?

Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay.

Here is an interesting statistic, one that puts the lie to the claim that only humans are homosexual:

Approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes, reducing its value to a farmer. Initially, the publicly funded project aimed to improve the productivity of herds.

Want to read something else interesting?

"It’s a touchy issue. In fact, several studies have shown that people who believe homosexuality is biologically based are less homophobic than people who think that this orientation is acquired.”

And here's something related to what I've written before about deaf "culture":

Potentially, the techniques could one day be adapted for human use, with doctors perhaps being able to offer parents pre-natal tests to determine the likely sexuality of offspring or a hormonal treatment to change the orientation of a child.

Wild. Would this be playing God? or repairing an abnormality?

Some on the Right are against embryonic stem cell research because such research, in some degree, justifies abortion. Some want to teach intelligent design, in my opinion to "backdoor" religion into schools. The Left rails against these. So what do they do when one of their own sacred cows is gored?

Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has written to the researchers pressing them to stop, said: “I don’t believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example.

“It is typical of the US to ignore the global context in which this is taking place.”

But of course! They try to stop the science, and then throw in some anti-Americanism for good measure! I'm tempted to say "What do you expect from someone named Udo?" but that wouldn't be very classy of me, so I won't.

Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: “These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics.

Throw in the Nazis!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the pressure group, condemned the study as “a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity and a colossal waste of precious research funds”.

PETA's against it!

You know who it would be fun to ask about this? The Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Creative Improvisation By Our (Stupid) Troops

Rangel and Kerry can keep calling them stupid, but anyone who thinks of using Silly String to detect tripwires is pretty darned creative in my book.

I once repaired the broken linkage in my armored personnel carrier with a nail and some duct tape. That jury-rigging lasted until our field exercise was over.

Mama Moonbat Arrested

Now she's just pathetic. Even the liberal press has tired of reporting her, as evidenced by the fact that we haven't heard her name in months. This report? Slow domestic news day.

Update, 1/4/07: Via Instapundit comes this link, saying

The Sheehanoids managed to cow Rep. Rahm Emanuel into shutting down his press conference. And from the Angry Left bloggers who once cheered her on: silence. Browsing the homepages of the Daily Kos, Atrios, Talking Points Memo and the Puffington Host, we can't find a single mention of the erstwhile moonbat heartthrob.

It comes as a relief to realize that many of those who once treated Sheehan as a heroine did so merely out of partisanship, not hatred of country.

I'm not yet ready to give them a pass on not hating their country, but at least they're now, by their silence, forced to admit what a disgrace she is. Or perhaps she's done serving their purposes and can be cast aside.

More Teachers Killed By Thai Islamofacists

A month ago I wrote about the killing of teachers in Thailand by Muslim so-called insurgents. It turns out that adherents to the world's most peaceful religion are at it again.

I'd say the press should choose sides in this war of civilizations, but I'm afraid it already has. I think the mainstream media actually are so anti-American and so we're-above-all-that elitist that they actually want the Muslims to win this war; wouldn't their multi-cultural credentials skyrocket if that happens! No, actually, the members of the press, along with the rest of us, would be rounded up with all the other infidels.

Idiots. Bias, or incompetence? You decide.

Teacher Can't Add Fractions

And she's not just any teacher, she's the head of New York City's AFT affiliate.

I agree with Mike Antonucci that "gotcha!" questions are generally meaningless--I don't remember the name of the new President of Mexico, for instance, or even the Prime Minister of Israel. I don't recall which amendment is the 7th Amendment. There are any number of questions that someone could throw at me for which I wouldn't know the answer.

But this isn't a memorization question, it's a skill question. It's like asking the 17th letter of the alphabet--I don't know what it is offhand, but I can certainly figure it out quickly (it's q). It's pathetic that anyone with a college education, much less a teacher, can't perform an elementary mathematical operation. Notice I didn't say any adult should--I narrowed it down to a college graduate.

Sad. Ties in with this post, don't you think?

Joanne (see blogroll at left) has more details in her post on the topic. According to Joanne, Ms. Weingarden said she'd need paper and pencil to solve the problem 1/3 + 1/4.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Creating Balance in an Unjust World: Conference on Math Education and Social Justice

I'm disappointed.

I've read what Robert Moses of The Algebra Project has said about teaching algebra to poor, especially black, students, and for the most part I agree with him. Recently I wrote a post about him, concerned about the use of graphing calculators in his program.

Now I find that he's a keynote speaker at the above-named conference. If you think I'm off-base about what lefties mean by "social justice", note that one of the speakers at the conference is from Rethinking Mathematics. To refresh your memory, Rethinking Mathematics is an offshoot of Rethinking Schools. For a full fisking of their ideas by yours truly, read the following two posts in their entirety:

Math For Social Justice, Part 1
Math For Social Justice, Part 2

If that isn't enough for you, read here about the former Weather Underground terrorist who is now a teacher in the social justice movement.

The evidence is abundant and clear. This movement represents a dangerous trend in education not only because students won't learn math content, but also because they'll be indoctrinated with leftist claptrap.

Press Bias, or Merely Press Incompetence?

Instapundit quotes from, and links to, an interesting post about the "grim milestones" the press keeps dredging up in order to add some spice to its coverage of the Global War on Terror:

"Did anyone ever think to criticize World War II after the 2.303 'grim milestone' was reached (the number of people killed at Pearl Harbor)? Obviously not; back then people had the moral compass in place. Just think that as the war ended, they would have been able to count that 'grim milestone' a staggering 182 times, since in WW2 about 420,000 (American?) people died, 407,000 of them military."

Maybe the press isn't biased against this President or the War on Terror. Maybe they're just not that good at what they're supposed to do, and keep recycling the same worn phrases and stories (quagmire?) because that's all they're capable of. Neither option speaks very well of the Fourth Estate, which has become a fifth column.

New Report Due That Identifies and Fixes All of California's Education Woes

I'm glad that that the Committee on Education Excellence will soon be giving recommendations to Governor Schwarzenegger on how to improve education in California. I wonder why no one's ever thought to do that before?

{sarcasm is now /off/}

Commission president Ted Mitchell said its recommendations for reform will be bold. They will range from cutting unproductive state jobs to measuring teachers' effectiveness at raising student achievement...

If the governor and the Legislature accept the recommendations, they likely will lead to an overhaul of the state's funding system, new legislation to streamline the complicated system of special programs and perhaps a constitutional amendment in the form of a ballot initiative, Mitchell told The Associated Press.

More than half of California's annual budget is dedicated to education, with spending forecast to balloon to $57.5 billion in fiscal 2007, about $11,000 per student. Much of that money is eaten up by bureaucratic oversight.

Mitchell said it already is clear that the state spends too much money administering education programs and not enough on actually delivering them to students. Ensuring that the existing funding is more efficiently spent could go a long way toward addressing some of the most pressing problems, he said.

We've known this for years. Why has it not been tackled before?

I can state (almost) categorically that the "measuring teacher effectiveness at raising student achievement" proposal will be dead on arrival at CTA's headquarters. Current state education code forbids evaluating teachers based on student test scores, and I don't think CTA will give that one up without a fight. As for the rest? We'll see what happens when the bureaucratic in-fighting and turf battles begin.

And funding at $11,000 per student? Bull, unless someone's using so new metric for measuring how much money we're spending. That would be a few thousand more than any of the numbers I've ever heard thrown around, and declining enrollment can't raise per pupil spending that much even if there's no cut in overall spending.

Here's another CTA fight:

Scott said the state's first priority in considering changes should be teacher quality. It should ensure that all students have access to the best teachers, rather than having them concentrated in wealthier schools that already have high achievement rates, as they are now.

While CTA might agree with that sentiment, they'll fight like heck if the state wants to weaken seniority protections. My guess is that CTA would argue for "more flexible working conditions", or reduced class sizes, or something along those lines, for teaching positions in hard-to-work-in schools. I wonder, though, what Commission President Mitchell means by this next comment, and what CTA has to say about it?

"Having an excellent teacher in the classroom is the heart of the matter, and making sure that in California we re-professionalize the labor force ... It's quite critical to our success," he said.

Are California's teachers currently not professional? Perhaps union protections have turned California's teachers from professionals into skilled labor?

This could turn out to be a very interesting report.

Two Unrelated Stories About West Point

In the first, PC Magazine lists the US Military Academy as #11 on its list of Top Wired Colleges.

And the Royal Military College in Canada has been using "non-traditional students" in its hockey games, which I think is a polite way of saying they cheat. The West Point-RMC hockey game, the oldest continuous international sports rivalry, is now about to end after 80 years.

Joke About Iraq and the Press

This is obviously an old joke, as it includes the now-deceased Peter Jennings of ABC. If you think including it here speaks ill of the dead, substitute Wolf Blitzer for Peter. (warning: off-color language towards the end)

3 reporters and a Marine

Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Cokie Roberts, and a tough old U.S. Marine
sergeant were all captured by terrorists in Iraq.

The leader of the terrorists told them that he would grant them each one
last request before they were beheaded.

Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan; so I'd like one last bowlful of hot
spicy chili." The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with
the chili. Rather ate it all and said, "Now I can die content."

Peter Jennings said, "I am Canadian, so I'd like to hear the song O' Canada
one last time." The leader nodded to a terrorist who had studied the
Western world and knew the music. He returned with some rag-tag Musicians
and played the anthem. Jennings sighed and declared he could now die peacefully.

Cokie Roberts said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my tape
recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe
someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end."

The leader directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder and Roberts
dictated some comments. She then said, "Now I can die happy."

The leader turned and said, "And now, Mr. U.S. Marine, what is your final

"Kick me in the ass," said the Marine.

"What?" asked the leader. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"

"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the ass," insisted the
Marine. So the leader shoved him into the open, and kicked him in the ass.
The Marine went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9 mm pistol from
inside his cammies, and shot the leader dead. In the resulting confusion,
he leapt to his knapsack, pulled out his M4 carbine and sprayed the Iraqis
with gunfire. In a flash, all the Iraqis were either dead or fleeing for their lives.

As the Marine was untying Rather, Jennings, and Roberts, they asked him,
"Why didn't you just shoot them in the beginning? Why did you ask them to
kick you in the ass first?"

"What," replied the Marine, "and have you three assholes report that I was the aggressor?"

School Desegregation

John at Discriminations has actually read the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and came up with this gem:

I wonder if any of those advocates have taken a look lately at the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which I just did in writing the post immediately below (on his own site). If they have, they would have found Title IV, Section 401(b), which declares:

”Desegregation” means the assignment of students to public schools and within such schools without regard to their race, color, religion, or national origin, but “desegregation” shall not mean the assignment of students to public schools in order to overcome racial imbalance.
Case closed. Unless, of course, laws don’t mean what they say.

His ending cavaet, however, is his argument's undoing. Of course laws don't mean what they say. They mean whatever liberals want them to mean at any given time.

NEA--Classroom Bullies

Go read the entire article about the Washington State case going before the Supreme Court in January. I'm watching the case closely for reasons I can't yet divulge--but they're big reasons! Anyway, here's a snippet that cuts to the chase:

The case will have a major impact on the free speech rights of employees nationwide. At issue is whether unions can force employees to subsidize partisan politics against their will.

Thomas Jefferson described that act as the very definition of tyranny, and yet the Democrats look to him as a founder of their party. As I've said so many times, hypocrisy is a strong suit of the American Left. But back to the article:

“I had many objections to the National Education Association, because I didn’t feel it concentrated its efforts on workplace issues,” says Cindy Omlin, a former speech pathologist in Spokane, Washington. Instead, her union focused its efforts on a left-wing social agenda that had little to do with education. “Many times I would be working as a private citizen on political issues and find that I was paying the other side through my union dues.”

Ms. Omlin gets it right. As long as there's forced unionization, the unions should focus only on employee pay, benefits, and working conditions. Anything else represent's Jefferson's tyranny. And there's more:

A Washington Education Association lawyer actually argued in court that the union owes no “fiduciary duty” to its teachers.

That doesn't surprise me.

Unions also ostracize and harass teachers who exercise their First Amendment rights. After Cindy Omlin discovered she could opt out of the union’s political spending, she and a colleague began notifying other teachers of their rights. The union actually sued her in an attempt to silence her, and offered to drop the lawsuit if she promised not to criticize the union.
You're seen examples of that before, haven't you?

For those who wonder why I'm so adamantly opposed to the state and national teachers unions, you need to pay attention.


Did no one click on the links to the Christmas albums/CD's in the Carnival of Education post? Come on, fans of 80s music, do me a favor here!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

99th Carnival of Education

Is the wrapping paper picked up off the floor yet? Did you hit all the sales Tuesday? Did you return or exchange at least three of the gifts you received? For those of us who have celebrated Christmas this week, those are very real questions.

It's been a busy week since the last Carnival of Education, but don't think the blogging's stopped just because there were presents to open!

This holiday season is a season of opposites--not necessarily good or bad, but definitely opposite. Secular vs religious. Ham vs turkey. Coal vs presents. Cold weather vs warm spirits. Real cranberry sauce vs jellied. Wrapping paper vs gift bags.

And let's not forget the music. What kind of Christmas music do you like? Is Silent Night what you want to hear, or is it Jingle Bells--or, forgive me, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer? Perhaps you want to hear this album. Or maybe something a little more traditional?

Or maybe you just want to get to this week's posts around the edusphere.

What would define The Enlightened Student? Ask Michael at Ambitiously Inquisitive.

Sonja at Bookwink: "This is not a blog post, per se, but it is a link to my video podcast about World War II books for children. I hope you will find it a useful resource for teachers."

What would you do with a billion dollars? Nneka would open a school.

Russ at Student Help Forum gives us the 2006 School Review.

Phil tells us what zero times infinity equals. Maybe Phil should talk to Trent Lott (see last link, below).

Right Wing Prof talks about what math college business students should know but often don't. Excel is featured prominently in this post. Apparently these college students have been heeding the advice of Trent Lott.

Lisa discusses her search for determining the difference between a good school district and a great school district--because the latter is where you want to live when you start your family.

Aquiram invites us to join in a collaborative conversation in which we utilize critical thinking skills to reach our potential at ascertaining the necessary vocabulary with which we can conversate with our peers in a skills-based environment.

Tammy, at the Life Without School blog, gives us two posts about homeschooling.

Online University Lowdown writes about, amazingly enough, online educational opportunities.

Mr. Chanman presents us with a social studies teacher's review of Mel Gibson's new movie Apocalypto.

NYC Educator fills us in on Mayor Bloomberg's plan to make seat time--yes, merely sitting in a chair--a "credit-bearing activity". I'd move over on the pay scale if I got credit for all the seat time I accrue while posting to this blog!

EdWonk, founder of the Carnival of Education, sends his post about the teacher who "came out" to her class during the Day of Silence. Yeah, EdWonk, way to be non-controversial during Christmas week!

Ms. Cornelius posts on the recent news report about kids' getting high on prescription medication, and some of the potential markers for such activity.

Here's a blog making its RotLC debut: Campus Grotto, with suggestions for (college) students on how to improve themselves over the winter break.

Beth at AFT's NCLBlog lets us in the some of the concerns of paraprofessionals as regards the No Child Left Behind Act.

Dr. Homeslice gives us a pro-union post, which definitely isn't something you see a lot of here at Right On The Left Coast!!!

Ryan of Edspresso submits two posts this week: a report from the pseudonymous John Dewey, as well as a lively tale that weaves the exciting ending of Jurassic Park with the not-so-exciting teachers union reaction to the report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. I think another species went extinct in the time it took for me to write the latter half of that sentence.

Joanne comments on an LA Times story about Christmas gifts for teachers.

Mamacita has posted grades online? During break? No-o-o-o-o! (I doubt she's the only one.)

Former Carnival host The Median Sib tells us what she's going to do during this "vacation".

And your current host links to a video clip in which former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott dismisses the value of math and physics education for anyone not going into the math and physics fields.

It's been a treat hosting this week's Carnival. Thank you, EdWonk, for allowing me to do so. I wish all of this week's readers a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

And now a word from next week's sponsoring blog:

Deadline for submissions is next Tuesday 1/2/2007 by 9 PM Mountain Standard Time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

By Grapthar's Hammer, What A Savings!

No, this has nothing to do with electronics. (If you don't get the joke, you obviously don't watch quality cinema!)

Today is a friend's birthday--which must certainly suck, if you think about it. So I took him to lunch at a Mongolian Barbecue place (his choice, but not that I minded at all), and in the same strip mall is a Play It Again Sports.

Play It Again Sports is a used sports equipment store, and we went in to see the cost of treadmills. My dad told me once that I wanted a treadmill back when I was in the army--under Bush 41--so I'm apparently rather good at procrastinating on this topic. But as soon as we went in I was drawn to the skis.

I found a pair of parabolic 178's (just my size) that were former rentals somewhere for $49.99. With boots and poles, the total came to just under $100. After I go skiing three times, I'll be money ahead on rentals.

Granted, I don't ski much. In fact, I didn't go at all last year--but part of the reason is the cost! Now, each trip will only cost me about $50 out of pocket (for the lift), "saving" me $35 for rentals. And without having to wait in line for rentals and returns, I'll be a happier camper in the process. This relatively inexpensive purchase (new skis alone run into the hundreds) gives me a reason to ski more, and that's not a bad thing.

It's nice to have two weeks off for a break, as well as the ski week we get off in February.

Cops Mace Student, Lefties Squeal

McClatchy High School in Sacramento, not known for its serene environment, was the scene recently of a "disturbance" in which officers at school used pepper spray to subdue a 16-year-old student.

I sent the linked article to a cop friend of mine, who told me that mace is an "intermediate weapon" (his term), on par with a tazer or baton but obviously below a firearm on the hierarchy of usable force.

Did the kid deserve it? Were the cops abusive? Can we ever know? And won't different people come to different conclusions, even given the exact same set of facts? I think we all know the answer to that last question.

One thing I like that the major Sacramento newspaper does is it allows comments on its online articles. As I write this post there are 99 comments (a suspicious number--I wonder if they cut them off at that point). Additionally, readers can hit a button saying if they found a particular comment useful; each comment has a note at the bottom saying "x of y readers found this comment useful". It's kind of a scorecard; make a stupid comment, you'll soon know.

Some of the comments discuss our loss of freedoms, the police state in which we live (yet we can still badmouth the police state, go figure), the poor darling children, etc. The ones most readers found useful were the ones along the lines of these:

"Kids need to learn to follow the directions of law enforcement officers."
"This is what happens when we let kids run amok, especially in schools."

In other words, they're what some would consider more conservative comments.

My friend the cop, though, liked this comment:

Why did they pepper spary this poor kid? Was there something wrong with their guns?

Oddly, only three of six found that comment helpful!

Here's another comment that sort of sums up, at least to me, a non-middle-class attitude towards the police:

Some of you really think a badge is a halo and a JOB makes you GOD, it's not a passport into heaven and you do not need to be worshiped AND I would NOT allow ANYONE to disrespect me, I don't have to "OBEY". I and that young man have a right NOT to be ASSAULTED BY PEOPLE WHO ARE TO PROTECT AND "SERVE" THE COMMUNITY.

No, honey, it's not a halo. It's a sign of authority, and you are required by law to obey. If you view that as disrespect, that's your problem, not the police officer's. If you feel that officers, in the course of their duties, act inappropriately towards you, you file a complaint. I did it once with a highway patrolman who spoke inappropriately to me at a courthouse once, and because I presented myself professionally, my complaint was considered and acted upon appropriately. Present yourself differently, and your complaint might very well be considered differently. You see, police officers are people, too, and they don't like disrespect any more than you do.

How bad must it be when officers feel it necessary to pepper spray a student? I'd say, pretty bad. Here's some demographic data on the school, and there's a button there to see academic performance. Not as bad as I thought it would be on either count, and they had two shootings in the same day there earlier this year and now this. I'm glad I teach at a more civilized school.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Greetings

RightWingProf posts a perennial favorite.

Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses

Just go read about them. Be prepared to gag.

Judge Orders School To Reinstate "Teddy Bear Movie" Students

When I first wrote about this, I was concerned about "zero tolerance" and "terrorist threats" run amok. Now it's been resolved and the students can go back to school--but they have to make up all the assignments they've missed since they were wrongfully expelled in October! What's up with that? It's not their fault that they missed assignments for two months. It's the school's fault.

The judge ruled that they didn't break any laws and the school wrongfully expelled them, but also said the students should apologize for making a tasteless movie.

The judge said the movie was "vulgar," "tasteless," "humiliating" and "obscene," but ruled that school officials did not prove it disrupted school.

The judge said she did not believe it was a coincidence that the teacher in the movie had the same name as a math teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School. She urged the teens to apologize to the teacher and the school administration.

"School officials need to know you've learned a lesson," Barker said.

Hopefully the lesson they've learned is that there are limits to the power of government, especially schools. The homework requirement, and the suggestion to apologize, show this judge to be half an idiot--only half, because she did rule the correct way regarding the 1st Amendment.

Top 10 Junk Science Moments of 2006,2933,236598,00.html

Maybe Trent Lott should take a look at these and reevaluate his views on math and science instruction.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Gifts For Teachers

Joanne (see blogroll at left) has the story of parents and/or teachers being more than a little competitive with Christmas gifts. I commented on her site, but thought I should post that sentiment here on my own site.

I wish *I* had the problem of receiving overly expensive Christmas gifts!

Actually, I don’t. I’m overwhelmed with the generosity that comes with a plate of homemade cookies, an American Chocolate Bar (the wrapper has a US flag on it), my favorite candies, a calendar depicting a tv show I watch, a Christmas tree ornament from the White House (the student’s parents worked in the Reagan White House and still order the annual ornaments). One student’s parents own a Chinese restaurant, and they gave me some certificates for meals there. I received all of these gifts this year, and several others.

At my school we also have Parent Secret Santas, where a parent (sometimes one of our current students, sometimes not) “adopts” a teacher and gives gifts periodically throughout the school year. Our PTSA runs that, and the good will it engenders is significant. My Parent Secret Santa gave me a gift card to Chipotle, along with another wrapped gift addressed to my son–”from dad’s Secret Santa”, the tag says. How good a heart must someone have to do that?

I don’t view this as soliciting bribes–although the situation in Joanne’s story certainly sounds like that was the case. It’s great when people show genuine appreciation for each other. For my part, I (hopefully surreptitiously) wrote down which student gave me which gift, and each of them will receive a hand-written thank-you card the day we return to school in January. Even in generosity, there’s a teachable moment.

I've Been Tagged

RightWingProf at Right Wing Nation has tagged me with an interesting meme:

Six Weird Things About Me

1. I don't like strawberries. I like strawberry jelly, strawberry Jell-O, strawberry Pop-Tarts, strawberry Starburst, strawberry punch--in short, just about anything strawberry-flavored. Just not real strawberries. Or strawberry ice cream. Eww.

2. I have a weird fear of heights--I'm only afraid of heights when I'm connected to the ground. I don't like being anywhere near the edge of my roof, I don't like riding in glass elevators outside of tall buildings, I don't like looking down through the almost-horizontal glass in the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. However, I always ride in glass elevators outside of buildings, because I don't want to go to my grave not having faced my irrational fear. I can be outside on top of the Stratosphere Tower, and feel perfectly safe behind the anti-jumper fence. I love flying and almost always try to get a window seat. In parachute school I was the first man out of the plane on one jump, and I got to stand in the doorway of a C-141--and even lean out of it to check out the Alabama-Georgia countryside--at 2000 feet and thought that was awesome. I've flown in a Huey with the side door open, and nothing to keep me from falling out but a thin piece of cloth around my waist, with no problem. Roof? No way.

3. I'm a Republican who teaches. In California. And I'm not even masochistic.

4. I like escargots. I've been known on rare occasions to buy canned snails and cook/serve them; I even have genuine shells in which to serve them to guests.

5. After I got out of the Army I had a true crisis of faith. I studied Islam, with a desire to convert. Fortunately I gave up on that after awhile.

6. When I moved from my last house to my current one, I changed which side of the bed I sleep on--but it's still the side near the bedroom door. When I stay in hotels, it doesn't matter which side (if one bed) or which bed (if two) I sleep on.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Trent Lott Thinks Learning Physics Is A Waste Of Time

I don't know anything about The Science Network, the Beyond Belief lecture series--none of it. But when a friend sent me a link and told me where to find video of Trent Lott making an idiot of himself, I had to go see. So go to the link, click on Session 8, and cue over to 36:42.

At that point they show a C-SPAN video of Trent Lott answering the question of a young man who asked what course of study a student might follow if he wanted to be a senator. Lott essentially replied that math and physics are a waste of time for anyone not wanting to go into the fields of math and physics. Aspiring lawyers (and lawmakers), according to Lott, would be better off taking classes in music, which is better for the soul.

Please, readers, help me put into words how stupid Lott's comment (and Lott himself?) is. Out of the maelstrom that is my thought process right now, I can say that both lawyers (future judges) and lawmakers should have a good grounding in science--in part so they're not swayed by pseudo-science and babble. I want lawyers and lawmakers who understand math--how many court cases, how many laws, require more than a basic understanding of arithmetic?

I know I have an intelligent argument here, I'm just not making it. I'm in intellectual shock at hearing Lott's words. Help me out.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elementary Teachers and Math

Liping Ma, in the seminal work Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, made the not-so-surprising statement that American elementary teachers don't have a "profound understanding of fundamental mathematics", or at least lack it to a much greater degree than their (often non-college-educated) colleagues in China. This doesn't mean that elementary teachers should know calculus, but they should, for example, not only know how to divide fractions--invert and multiply--but should also know why the invert and multiply process works.

So when Teachers College at Columbia University, a school often excoriated as an example of everything wrong with teacher education, says something similar, I'm bound to take note.

For the past 20 years, studies of math achievement have shown that Chinese (and other East Asian) children consistently outperform their American counterparts in almost every area. Explanations have focused on differences ranging from number-word systems and parental expectations to student motivation and curriculum content.

Now a study published in Contemporary Educational Psychology by Teachers College Professor Stephen Peverly and former TC students Zheng Zhou of St. John's University and Tao Xin of Beijing Normal University suggests that Asian teachers simply know more about math. In a comparison of 162 third-grade mathematics teachers in the US and the People's Republic of China, the researchers found that while American teachers were more knowledgeable about general educational theories and classroom skills, Chinese teachers had stronger knowledge of the subject matter they were teaching, as well as a better understanding of the overall elementary curriculum that their students had covered and would cover in later years.

And listen to this!

Most of the American teachers in the study, when asked to about their teaching methods, rarely mentioned content. Chinese teachers, on the other hand, spoke in great detail about the content they present to students, and that content demonstrated a deep understanding of the subject matter as well as knowledge of the entire elementary mathematics curriculum.

So far the Teachers College gang seems to be on the right track. But like Radar hearing the choppers before everyone else did, I know that trouble's coming. It came several paragraphs later.

American teachers, on the other hand, were more knowledgeable than Chinese teachers about concepts covered in educational psychology texts.

Yes, because that's apparently important. Our TIMSS scores certainly show how important that is. Not. But this wasn't the biggie; I knew there had to be more.

Researchers summarized that while Chinese teachers were effective in providing instruction based on how well they knew the subject matter, their limited understanding of underlying psychological aspects of learning could be problematic. This limitation could possibly lead to problems related to student motivation, spontaneity, and creativity among other things.

I'll be honest. Student spontaneity and creativity are way overrated (at least in math), and academic motivation is almost always present in students who are actually capable of doing the work. In other words, teach them well when they're young, and they won't have to struggle so much when they're older. Whether you like less struggling because it means the students are learning better or because you think that it will lead to less psychological damage (or whatever), I don't see an argument against better elementary math teaching.

I guess I should give Teachers College some credit for at least acknowledging a problem in elementary teacher education. I wonder what they're going to do to fix the "content knowledge" part of the problem.

Schools Extend Christmas Break Due to Hispanic Immigrants

(Reuters) -- A Southern California school district where 92 percent of the students are Latino has extended its winter break an extra week, in part to give immigrant families time to travel home to Mexico and Central America for Christmas.

Officials in Santa Ana, a working-class city 40 miles south of Los Angeles that has long been a magnet for immigrants, say they decided to lengthen the school holiday after finding that many students were absent anyway.

I support this.

Here in California, at least, school districts get money from the state based on ADA--average daily attendance. If students are absent, the school district doesn't get any money for them. Excused, unexcused, it doesn't matter--not at school, no money.

In a school district where an overwhelming percentage of students are Hispanic, it only seems logical to accomodate a cultural habit (going "home" to visit family for Christmas) that's well known, predictable, and "accomodatable". So they go to school an extra week in June instead of in January--no harm done.

If the school district were 10% Hispanic and did this, perhaps I'd have a different view. I myself certainly wouldn't want to go to school an extra week in June, especially here in the exceedingly warm Central Valley of California. But in an overwhelmingly Hispanic area, and in an area where June temperatures aren't stifling, I see this extra week of vacation as a big plus. Here's an area where lefties and righties should both agree: the home culture is validated at no cost to educational opportunities.

When I was a student, we went to school Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. Honestly, that doesn't seem to pass the common sense test. So many people missed those two days due to "extended vacations" that teachers didn't usually plan meaningful instruction on those two days. In the district in which I teach, we get that entire week off--because so many people would take the whole week off anyway, and the school district would take a financial hit. The district accomodated the families, and gets more money in the process (or, more accurately, loses less money). The school district in Santa Ana has made a similar calculation, one I think is smart.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Friends of the 1st Amendment

Who is the best friend of the 1st Amendment? Why, Nancy Pelosi, of course!

The left long ago gave up any pretense of supporting the 1st Amendment--hate speech, free speech zones, etc.

Here are some more of those patriotic liberals (DQTP!) exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

"Go home," troops that we totally support. You're "not welcome," good men and women of the armed services, whose service we appreciate so sincerely even though we don't necessarily support your mission in Iraq. Riiight. Tell me more about it.

Those messages in boldface above were spraypainted on government cars outside a newly-opened recruiting station in North Carolina.

A Book For My Liberal Readers

Hey liberals, you know those judges whom you always run to when you don't like the actual law, the judges whose activism you hope will legislate what the legislature has failed to? Well, this judge wrote a book.

Citing not only Judge Dierker’s own experiences but dozens of other recent court cases, The Tyranny of Tolerance shows how the courts enable left-wing activists to ram their dangerous agenda down the throats of the American people. Consider:

• Why do the courts claim the power to tax us?
• Why is a Christian fired when he voices opposition to his employer’s favoring homosexuals?
• Why are airline pilots sued and sent to “diversity training” for recommending that suspicious-looking people of Middle Eastern appearance be kept off planes?
• Why does a judge who defends a monument to the Ten Commandments in a courthouse lose his job?
• Why are speech codes imposed on employers, university students, lawyers (and judges!), while “artistic” indecency is protected from even the mildest regulation?
• Why are peaceful abortion protesters thrown in jail, their right to free speech crushed?
• Why are white and Asian students denied admission to colleges and universities in the name of “diversity”?
• Why is an enemy fighter captured in Afghanistan granted access to U.S. federal courts, overturning judicial precedent safeguarding the president’s wartime powers—to say nothing of common sense?

I should read this book, along with Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative.

At School, Including By Excluding

Tongue Tied always has great stories about the contortions of logic that political correctness requires:

A teacher in Kentucky was forced to remove a Christmas tree-themed display from her classroom bulletin board because diversity nazis thought the phrase "Santa's Helpers" would be offensive to non-Christian kids who don't celebrate Christmas or believe in Santa Claus, accourting to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The teacher at Brandeis Elementary made the tree out of construction-paper cutouts of children's hands. Above it, it said: "Santa's Helpers." The teacher removed the offending phrase and put up the more inclusive one, "Happy Holidays."

Aukram Burton, the Jefferson County Public Schools' multi-cultural expert, said the district's policy calls for holiday displays that don't favor one religion over another.

"We want to include everyone and not to exclude anyone," he said.

Exactly which religious text discusses Santa Claus, his flying reindeer, and his northern abode? And which religious text discusses decorating a cut-down evergreen?

Multi-cultural expert? Really? I agree with the term "diversity nazi".

Or how about this situation, which happened to a high school choir?

A high school choir in California performing at an ice-skating exhibition was asked by organizers of the show not to sing Christmas carols during the show lest one of the performers, who is Jewish, be offended, according to the Associated Press.

The Rubidoux High School Madrigals had started belting out "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" at the Outdoor Ice Skating Rink in Riverside when they were approached by a city staff member and a police officer and asked to stop singing.

They were afraid Olympic medalist Sasha Cohen, who was performing, might be offended. The skater said she knew nothing of the request.

So no one asked Ms. Cohen if she would be offended. They just assumed she might be, and overreacted accordingly. Asininity apparently knows no bounds.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dependence on Government

Dan Riehl extends the Democrats' thinking on Iraq (if we stay, the Iraqi government will grow dependent on us and not fend for itself) to social programs in this country (if the government gives you welfare, won't you grow dependent on it) and wonders why they don't see the parallels.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Algebra Project

I've heard of Bob Moses and The Algebra Project before, but never have I heard about the use of graphing calculators in the program. I'd be interested in seeing how they're used, because outside of a headless Barbie doll I can't imagine a less useful tool for learning Algebra.

But Moses is definitely correct about the importance of teaching algebra to all students.

Do You Want The Feds To Run Education?

You don't if you believe that the Constitution actually means what it says. And if you don't like NCLB, how can you claim that even more federal control over education would be a good thing?

While these ideas for reform are very interesting and might be worth further study, the larger federal role in education gives me pause.

Schools *Required* To Teach Patriotism

My liberal readers are already rushing to the barricades over this title. I mean, just who does that George Bush think he is, requiring schools to teach patriotism? Dissent is patriotic, and all that! The idea that schools should pass on our civic virtues to the young is so 1950's.

But liberals, how can you object when big government dictates something? I mean, you want government to control all aspects of our lives, and before NCLB, you wanted Washington to run education (ironically, it was the Republicans who used to want to dismantle the US Department of Education). Pay attention liberals: when you put government in charge of everything, sometimes that government is going to be run by people who don't agree with you. Then, where do you turn? You're forced to try to dismantle the very government you spent so much time building, just so you don't have to do something you don't want to do that government does want you to do. Conservatives cut out the middle man--we don't want government there in the first place.

So let's go back to being compelled to teach patriotism in schools. Are you liberals angry yet? Are those veins in your temples ready to burst? Are you ready to take to the streets?

The call for more patriotism in the schools coincides with a push by some local governments to crack down on teachers and students who refuse to stand for the national flag or sing an anthem to the emperor at school ceremonies.

Emperor? Emperor George? No, Emperor Akihito.

The education measure, the first change to Japan's main education law since 1947, calls on schools to "to cultivate an attitude that respects tradition and culture, that loves the nation and home country..."

"The new education law will allow children to acquire a good understanding of their heritage and become intelligent and dignified Japanese," ruling party lawmaker Hiroo Nakashima said during the upper house debate.

Yes, American liberals, it would be good to actually understand your heritage before you trash it. Maybe the Japanese are on to something here.

Here's How Much Of A Far-Right-Wing Reactionary I Am

I just stumbled upon this post from last February. You liberal readers, those of you who want to paint me with the broad far-right-wing brush, how do you mesh your opinion with what I wrote in that post? (Hint: you can't, so you're wrong.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Can't Melt Your Pennies and Nickels

I've noted before on this blog that the cost of minting a penny has now risen over 1 cent, and the cost of minting a nickel has now risen over 5 cents. I've heard stories about people stealing copper pipes and such, just so they can sell it as scrap metal. Cents, especially those made before 1982, have enough copper in them that a few coffee cans' worth of them could bring in several dollars--certainly more than face value.

Some people, as the numismatic press has noted, are selling their coins to be melted for scrap. It hasn't been illegal--until now.

"If It's Voluntary, It's Not Segregation"

There's an Afro-centric "school within a school", as reported by the Chicago Tribune. It's open to everyone, but only blacks have signed up for it. Some question whether that results in segregation.

"There's a can-do attitude here," said Supt. Hardy Murphy, who heads Evanston/Skokie District 65. He balked at the notion that the program reintroduces segregation by race. "If it's voluntary, it's not segregation," Murphy said.

Really? I wonder if school officials in Seattle and Louisville, who are arguing modern-day busing before the Supreme Court, would agree? I mean, people can live wherever they want. Since it's voluntary, it's not segregation--so why would you bus a student across town, on the basis of his/her race, just to achieve some racial balance in a school? There's no segregation involved.

Personally, I think the idea behind this school is ridiculous. As I've said on other posts, students need to know that they can accomplish something to be proud of--not be "proud" of something that someone who might have looked like them on a different continent a couple of hundred years ago did.

But if the parents want this school, and the district provides it, more power to them. I just find it entertaining to note that Supt. Hardy's comment about segregation is completely at odds with the liberal elite today, especially in education.

Hatred and Bile From The Union Types

The California Teachers Empowerment Network has sent out tens of thousands of emails to teachers across California, informing them about its existence and letting them know about CTEN's web site (where they can learn more, if they're so inclined).

I'm sure there are plenty of teachers who couldn't care less about CTEN's existence. When they get such emails, and they're not interested in the (free) information CTEN has to offer, the simplest response would be to hit the delete button. But no, some have to email us some of the most hate-filled, bilious letters you might imagine.

And these people are teaching your children.

I love all this talk about open-mindedness and the free flow of ideas--until someone comes along and says something they don't like. Then, out come the torches and pitchforks. Eventually I'll post some of those responses, probably with the names and school districts of the individuals who sent them. I think that would be most interesting. I mean, really--how could someone read CTEN's emails, and view CTEN's web site, and come to the conclusion that CTEN is a "warmonger" organization? I understand how people can come to the wrong conclusion that CTEN is anti-union--we go to great pains to let even our members know that we're not anti-union, but we certainly are a group that "watches the watchers"--but warmonger? To use a psychological term, I think someone is "projecting" here.

One new member sent us a copy of a letter that was sent to members of his school district. The writer of the letter is obviously a local union official and is also an official of some capacity in the California Teachers Association. Accordingly, the author of this letter is a CTA u-bot.

Notice the militant attitude, the heavy-handedness, the threats. If your organization is so wonderful, why do you need threats to compel people to be members? CTEN doesn't threaten anyone that way....

So, without further ado, the letter:

And yes, the recipient has decided to become a CTEN member, even after receiving this letter. And yes, the recipient has given me permission to publish this letter here.

I'm sure that union members everywhere are proud of Mr. Triplett's letter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Teacher Retirement

One of the things for which I'm supposed to flop down and worship at the union altar is the vaunted State Teachers Retirement System, or Cal-STRS. I don't pay social security taxes, but I pay a higher percentage of my money into STRS. And STRS is a privately managed program that will provide me with a comfortable retirement on the French Riviera or something.

Except that STRS is finally admitting that there's a "shortfall".

CalSTRS is running out of time. In 10-12 years when the post 1970 era of teachers and administrators are fully retired the system goes belly up. The promises made to these folks will be empty promises, with no money to back up the contracted retirement agreements. It will be flat broke. In fact, they say the problem will last five to six decades, not years, decades.

I had planned on retiring in just over 20 years. Oh well.

This link, from which the above quote comes, includes other commentary as well as the text of an article from the major Sacramento newspaper. Maybe we'll need a tax increase to fund these obligations! Or maybe the state will require teachers to pay an even higher percentage into STRS than we already do. Which proposal do you think the STRS board is trying to sell to the legislature and governor? (Hint: it's not the first one.)

The teachers’ contribution rate would rise to 8.5 percent from 8 percent. Educators would see their payments increase an average $350 a year. As a trade-off, a 2 percent annual cost-of-living increase would be guaranteed by law.

If districts were required to give teachers the entire 2%, there would be no incentive ever to give a higher raise, ever, especially given that

School districts would see the current 8.25 percent rate increase by 0.5 percent a year until it reaches a cap at 13 percent. However, officials said employers could likely meet their obligation with an 11.9 percent rate.

The state rate, now at 2 percent, would increase by 0.5 percent annually to a maximum of 3.25 percent.

I'd say that this is a goat-screw.

Democrat Education Priorities

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Democrats say when they take the gavel from Republicans next month, they will put money in the pockets of college students and closely examine a law reforming elementary and secondary schools.

How they will pay for their plans isn't clear.

That last part certainly doesn't surprise me.

Democrats haven't spelled out how they'll pay for their promises, which may run head-on into another pledge: to require any new spending to be offset with cuts elsewhere or new taxes to avoid increasing the deficit.

It isn't until the 11th paragraph of the story that we even hear about the No Child Left Behind Act, which is up for reauthorization next year. Of course, the education establishment says more federal money is needed to improve education, and Democrats have never met a federal program they didn't like (unless it supported American military, intelligence, or business interests). I'll ignore the federalism argument.

Democrats say that the feds haven't provided enough money to meet the mandates of the law--"no unfunded mandates" is a siren call from not-so-distant past. But NCLB isn't an unfunded mandate, since no state is required to abide by it. The carrots and sticks involved with this law are that if states want to continue to receive federal dollars, then they must meet NCLB's requirements. That seems eminently reasonable to me--but then again, I'm not a Democrat or a member of the education establishment.

(Democrat Senator Ted) Kennedy and (Democrat Representative George) Miller joined President Bush to push for the law's passage, and they still support it. However, they say Republicans haven't spent the money needed. They say the administration has provided about $50 billion less than Congress called for. Republicans point out that it's common for legislation to be funded at less than the full level Congress authorizes.

Michigan Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee, who is likely to lead the subcommittee with oversight of the No Child Left Behind law, said the federal government has an obligation to boost funding.

"We have mandated to these local districts to achieve or face restructuring," Kildee said. "The schools that have the greatest problems have the fewest resources."

That's not entirely accurate, at least here in California. Other states still fund their schools the way California used to, with local property taxes. In such states, schools in poor areas have poor funding. But here in California, all school funding comes from Sacramento, so funding should be far more equitable. Additionally, schools in poor areas can be designated as Title I schools and they receive federal Title I funds--which are designed to be the "boost" needed to help poor and other underperforming students achieve. It's not the federal government's responsibility to kick in even more money just because some states have an inherently inequitable funding mechanism for schools. The solution to that problem isn't in Washington, DC, it's in Austin, and Jefferson City, and Jackson, and Lansing, and Albany, and in other state capitals.

OK, that's as close to the federalism argument as I'll get here.

Now look at Kildee's comment again. "We have mandated to these local districts to achieve or face restructuring," he said. He almost makes that sound like a bad thing. Mr. Kildee, that's not a bug, that's a feature! While I agree with those who think the penalty aspects of the law could be tinkered with to make them less draconian, I don't think it's a bad thing for Uncle Sam to expect some accomplishment in return for his money. Again, that seems eminently reasonable to me.

Besides money, a point of contention between some of the law's critics and its supporters is an unprecedented requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2013-14, a goal critics say is unrealistic. Spellings says the date should not be moved.

"Politically it's very difficult," said Michael Rebell, an expert in the law at Columbia University's Teachers College. "Nobody wants to be the one to say that I'm going to leave any children behind."

It should be difficult. I'm one who believes that having 100% of all students at proficiency isn't going to happen, but I'm not sure we should set the goal lower. If you're one who accepts that 5% of all students don't have to be proficient, then I ask: who are the children you're willing to leave behind? Your own, perhaps?

This is a situation where California's program could be mimicked at the federal level. California sets a proficiency level for each school and requires that schools improve towards that proficiency level each year. In my opinion, California's bar for improvement is set too low; schools with less than a proficiency score of 800 (on a 0-1000 system) must only improve 5% of the gap each year, an embarrassingly low amount. For example, if a school's score is 700, that school is 100 points away from proficiency; it must improve 5% of that 100 this next school year, or raise its score only to 705, in order to avoid the "underperforming school" label. The next year the school would have to improve its score by 5% of the 95 point gap.

If the federal program were to set 100% proficiency as the target, and merely require schools to improve a certain amount each year towards that goal, I'd consider that a major improvement in the law. That's one of the "tinkerings" I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.

For all the complaining about NCLB, though, I don't think anyone can deny that it's actually compelled schools to help their students improve! It requires that schools not only look at overall data, but also subgrouped data--blacks, Hispanics, poor students, English Learners, and other groups that historically do not do well--and ensure that all subgroups are improving. The draconian part is if only one subgroup doesn't improve, the school is identified as failing. They have to fix stupid things like that. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water; the basics of the law are good. It's doing what it set out to do, which is to force schools to do a better job of teaching all students.

I support this law, and I hope the new Congress will reauthorize it.

What will NEA's/CTA's take on the Democrats be if this law does, in fact, get reauthorized? Inquiring minds can't wait to find out.

Carnival of Education

Find this week's back home at the EdWonks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who Teaches The Teachers

Here's the best, most likely explanation I've yet heard for why so many teachers across the country continue to support fuzzy math:

There's a dirty little secret behind fuzzy math. The technique didn't become popular just because it supposedly made math easier to learn. It became popular because it made math easier to teach.

What a disgrace. Anyway, there's much more than that nugget in the linked column.

Monday, December 11, 2006

NEA Salaries

Education Intelligence Agency (see blogroll at left) has 'em. See the 12/11/06 Communique (or search the archives if you're viewing this after 12/17).

I Make As Much As A Sac State Professor?

Granted, I've been teaching for 10 years, but they have masters degrees (at a minimum) and I do not.

Raghuraman Trichur arrived at California State University, Sacramento, in 2002 to teach anthropology courses. The pay was modest -- in fact, low for a major university -- $46,000 for an entry-level professor...

No one has been pinched more than new faculty members like Trichur, who are making around $50,000.

There's strike talk, of course.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Did Democrats Put Congressional Pages At Risk?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The head of the House Democrats' campaign committee, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, had heard of former Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails to a former male page a year before they became public, a campaign committee aide told CNN.

The Democrats were quick to claim that the Republican leadership was partly to blame if they knew about Foley's conduct and did nothing. Do they think the same about Emanuel now?

I know where the smart money is on this one: "We've won the Congress. Let's just shut up about the Foley thing now."

Warrantless Wiretapping By US of British Citizens

During the Clinton Administration? No, it can't be!

An official British report into the crash, to be published on Thursday, is expected to find that her (Princess Diana's) death was an accident...

Among the report's findings, the newspaper said, was the fact the U.S. Secret Service was bugging Diana's phone on the night of her death without the approval of its British counterpart.

The newspaper said U.S. officials had assured Stevens the secretly recorded conversations shed no new light on her death.

Maybe the Clinton Administration thought Diana was involved in terrorism....

Update, 12/12/06: Actually, she was supposedly involved with a US billionaire who gave beaucoup dinero to the Republican Party. The plot thickens.

Update #2, 15/15/06: The official report has now been released, and according to Instapundit, who quotes Mickey Kaus:

"That official police report on Diana's death appears to be a bust, as far as alleging spying by the Clinton Administration on Republican magnate Ted Forstmann."

Our government has confirmed, though, that is has classified documents in which people refer to the princess.

Reporter Interviews Al-Jazeera Editor-In-Chief

Via Little Green Footballs comes the link to this interview of the Editor-in-Chief of al-Jazeera, the "Arab CNN". This interview shows clearly what I call the "Arab mindset" regarding, among other things, Israel:

Who is responsible for the situation?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.

Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?

I think so.

If you think this guy is a crackpot, if you think he's not representative of thinking in that part of the world, then you haven't been paying attention.

In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?

Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this.

As Charles at Little Green Footballs says:

Wrong, Ahmed. The West does understand. In this part of the world, blaming all your problems on a super-powerful fantasy opponent is called “mental illness.”

Friday, December 08, 2006

School Rallies

For reasons I won't go into, today's rally at school was apparently "the worst ever". We hold rallies right before lunch, and untold numbers of students chose to spend rally time in the cafeteria or the library rather than attend the rally. That should give you an idea of a common student attitude towards rallies.

In my day, rallies were fun. They were held at the end of the school day, yet we still attended. We enjoyed them. We participated.

I think that's part of the problem with the rallies at our school. The A-list students participate in the rallies, everyone else watches.

Here's something that happened at a rally when I was in high school. There's no way it could happen today--heads would roll, jobs would be lost, lawsuits would be filed. However, it was considered so harmless and entertaining that pictures of it were published in either our yearbook or our school newspaper (I think it was the yearbook).

A couple of male and female A-listers (sportos, cheerleaders, student council types) were called to the front of the rally for a kissing contest. The girls were blindfolded, and they had to try to figure out which sporto was kissing them. At the last moment, however, after they'd been blindfolded, the sportos were secreted away and replaced by our two male counselors--at the time probably in their 50s. It was they who ended up kissing the girls, and we roared in laughter. You should have seen the looks on the girls' faces after they'd guessed with sporto had kissed them, removed their blindfolds, and saw who it really was! The gym could have collapsed from the cheering and laughing.

To us, that was good, clean fun. I doubt the terms "sexual harassment" ever crossed anyone's mind on that day back in 1982-83. To us it was just funny, funny enough to be recorded for posterity in pictures.

I can't imagine a similar response today. Maybe that's why our rallies suck.

No, that's not true. We've had good rallies in the last couple years. One married couple (a teacher and a counselor) once donned ultra-padded sumo costumes and "wrestled" each other. Riotous! They were so padded up that they waddled more than walked, and when knocked over they needed help up--think about a turtle on its back, and that's what they were. Or some competitions--sitting on a skateboard, propelling yourself with toilet plungers in a class relay.

Things like that make rallies fun.

House Democrats Will Clean Up Corruption

Not this time.

The House voted 330-70 against a bill that would have identified which Congressional members added porkbarrel spending to defense bills.

A reason to miss the GOP majority just a bit less -- though opposition to reform here is, as usual, distressingly bipartisan. Nancy Pelosi, along with many, many Democrats, voted against the bill.

THIS Is How You're *Supposed* To Handle Differing Viewpoints at Universities

I have nothing to add to what Erin wrote.

Truant Kid? Parent Pays the Price

Joanne (see blogroll at left) tells about a Philadelphia program in which parents of habitually truant students first get a talking to by the mayor himself. Further truancy results in worse penalties.

One education commenter refers to this as "anti-poverty paternalism". To a conservative, governmental paternalism is a bad thing--so I don't see this as paternalism. This is holding parents responsible for the actions of their children, something most people, in most instances, probably see as a good thing. After all, if your kid puts a baseball through my window, it's not the kid I'm going to talk to....

I wonder, though--if a parent gets a kid to school, and then the child goes truant, is it 100% reasonable to hold the parent responsible? At that point, isn't the school acting in loco parentis? I can see where both would have some responsibility.

I like the fact that Philly's adding 400 truancy officers. Don't tolerate the problem, and the problem should decrease.

THIS Could Be Interesting

From the St. Petersburg (FL) Times:

Republican Vern Buchanan might be the official winner in a messy Sarasota-area congressional race, but Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean says the Democratic-controlled Congress should not seat Buchanan without another election...

On Wednesday, Democrat Christine Jennings said she will ask the U.S. House to take the extreme measure of conducting its own investigation into the election.

Though Jennings has filed a lawsuit asking for a revote, a little-known provision in the U.S. Constitution gives the House the final decision on who sits in its chamber.

Her decision could set the stage for a volatile political showdown at the start of the new Democrat-led Congress. Though Democratic leaders, include incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, say all options are on the table, others privately say they hope to avoid the partisan warfare.

The issue?

Buchanan led Jennings by a few hundred votes on Election Day and in subsequent recounts. But Jennings is challenging the result because touch screen voting machines in Sarasota County recorded that more than 18,000 people, or 13 percent of all voters, did not vote for either candidate, a rate much higher than in other counties in the district.

Completely missing from this story, though, is the reason they're using electronic voting machines in the first place. The reason? Why, Bush v. Gore in 2000. Hanging chads, anyone? It's the Democrats who wanted these machines in the first place, saying such machines would be the savior of democracy.

How many times are Democrats going to challenge votes that don't go their way? Gore in Florida and Gregoire in Washington State come to mind. If anything subverts democracy, it's attempts like those, and like this one. Fortunately:

The House plans to swear in Buchanan, along with other new members, on Jan. 4, according to House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Collins. The House could unseat him later, if it chose.

Let's see what happens.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Media Bias

Here's an interesting article on media bias and a University of Chicago study on the topic. It's not a lengthy article; I'd recommend reading it.

Liberals should not read it. They won't believe any of it anyway. I don't have cable so I don't ever watch FoxNews, but I hear the libs' crying about it all the time. I enjoyed reading this sentence, which jibes with what I've read elsewhere:

I disagree with those who argue that the Fox News Channel just regurgitates talking points from the White House or the Republican Party, but I don't dispute the argument that it is more sympathetic to conservative ideas than any other network.

In other words, Fox may not be biased. It just appears to be so when compared to its compatriots CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and NPR.

But, there is no media bias. Just ask the liberals. Then go read this article (and the actual study, if you're so inclined), and see if you agree with the libs.

What I Saw At School Today

I took this picture from school this morning. It's unfortunate because what I saw isn't what came out in the picture. The moon looked so large, and the sun's peeking over the horizon made the tree in the center seem to glow. Even cropping it didn't help. Bummer; I'd love to be able to share what I saw.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hot College Degrees

Engineering. Same as it was back when I was in school.

Also: accounting, and physical therapy. Foreign language skills don't hurt, either.

Taliban Rules For Burning Schools and Killing Teachers

I guess these are the ideal representatives of the Religion of Peace:

(Recently), the Taliban has put out a code of conduct for its commanders and fighters -- including when to kill teachers and how to prevent sexual abuse...

This is clear PR, Brachman says. "The Taliban recognizes that it has the reputation of being a band of brutal barbarians interested only in clubbing women back to the Stone Age. This rule sheet reads like an effort to put a kinder, gentler, more moderate and professional face on the movement."

Until you get to rules 24 and 25, which make it clear that the Taliban's current campaign of destroying schools around Afghanistan and terrorizing teachers will continue as long as schools dare teach something other than the Taliban version of Islam.

"It is forbidden to work as a teacher under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels," says rule 24. And if a teacher refuses a warning to give up his job, reads rule 25, "he must be beaten."

"If the teacher still continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him," it continues.

When schools are burned, the Taliban rules say it is important that religious texts be removed from the buildings first.

Winning hearts and minds, I guess.

Did you notice that the rules assume the teacher is a "he"? Why, of course he is! Women aren't supposed to be working!

The best rules, however, come after those about killing teachers and burning schools. After all, you can't let that be your crescendo, can you?

Along with rules about not smoking cigarettes and not allowing murderers to join the Taliban (there's a joke--Darren), there also is this entry: Taliban "are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair onto the battlefield or into their private quarters."

Sexual abuse, says Rizvi, has always been a problem for the movement, especially in some of the madrassas (religious schools) that feed recruits to the movement.

I guess it's not just the Catholics. Somehow, though, I don't imagine any Muslim archdiocese is going to be sued any time soon.


12-Year-Old Arrested For Early Playing With Christmas Presents

This is just too funny not to post.

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- A fed-up mother had her 12-year-old son arrested for allegedly rummaging through his great-grandmother's things and playing with his Christmas present early.

The mother called police Sunday after learning her son had disobeyed orders and repeatedly taken a Game Boy from its hiding place at his great-grandmother's house next door and played it.

He was arrested on petty larceny charges, taken to the police station in handcuffs and held until his mother picked him up after church.

Lest you think mom overreacted:

"It was only to teach my son a lesson. He's been going through life doing things ... and getting away with it...."

She said he faces an expulsion hearing at his school Wednesday. Rock Hill Police Capt. Mark Bollinger said the boy took a swing at a police officer assigned to the school last month. He has been suspended from school since then.

Mom said she'd rather call the police on her son now, than have someone else call the police on him for even more delinquency later on.

Missing from the entire article--any mention of dad.

This Week's Carnival of Education

You can find it at History Is Elementary.

And barring any change of plans, the Carnival will be hosted in a few few weeks at a blog with which you're all familiar....

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I've linked to at least one of Zombietime's photo essays--he's about as good as it gets with respect to citizen photojournalism. Here's an interview with Zombie himself.

Go check out his site. You'll be amazed.

SF State Passes Ban on "Flag Stomping"

Oh, but don't think they're patriots. It's the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah upon which you're not supposed to tread--the American flag remains available for stomping and burning.

It's those darned College Republicans that stomped on the terrorist flags. Why not just kick all of them off campus? It's what you want to do anyway. But if you can't do that:

Moreover, the resolution sets the stage for the College Republicans possibly losing official student group status and or ASi funding.

Good that they're so open-minded. Heck, they're not even ashamed of the hypocrisy and double standards they promote. Amazing.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where The NEA Is Spending Your Money

EIA (see blogroll at left) reports in the December 4th Communique that the NEA gave almost $5 million to (mostly liberal) advocacy groups. Form LM-2 was filed with the Labor Department last Wednesday, but I'm not sure if it deals with the last calendar year or with the last fiscal year (Sept-Aug?). But here's where the NEA is giving a lot of money:

The expenditures range from $1.3 million to Communities for Quality Education (formerly America Learns), an NEA front group created to advance the union's agenda on the No Child Left Behind Act, down to several $5,000 grants to groups such as Rainbow PUSH, GLSEN, and Amnesty International.

Here is a list of the recipients of NEA's largesse, with relevant web links:

100% for Great Public Schools - $110,000

AIDS Responsibility Project - $5,000

Alliance for Justice - $10,000

America's Agenda - $50,000

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education - $16,500

Americans United to Protect Social Security - $250,000

Amnesty International - $5,000

Asian American Justice Center - $5,000

Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund - $5,000

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies - $5,000

ASPIRA - $5,000

Baptist Center for Ethics - $20,000

Campaign for America's Future - $41,000

Center for Community Change - $25,000

Center for Innovative Policy - $125,000

Center for Law and Education - $50,000

Center for Policy Alternatives - $5,000

Center for Teaching Quality - $17,150

Center for Women Policy Studies - $5,000

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association - $52,500

Citizens Who Support Maine's Public Schools - $100,000

Committee for Education Funding - $16,182

Committee for Fair Elections - $100,000

Communities for Quality Education - $1.3 million

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. - $56,800

Consortium for Educational Change - $11,900

Council of State Governments - $10,000

Democratic GAIN - $10,990

Democratic Leadership Council - $25,000

Economic Policy Institute - $208,474

Educational Impact Inc. - $40,000

Educational Testing Service - $42,266

Everybody Wins DC - $8,000

FairTest - $35,000

Faith and Politics Institute - $5,000

Funniest Celebrity in Washington - $20,000

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - $5,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network - $5,000

Generations United - $30,000

Grassroots Democrats - $7,500

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice - $250,000

Great Lakes Inter-tribal Council - $9,500

Harvard University Office for Sponsored Research - $50,000

HEROS Inc. - $79,890

Hispanic Press Foundation - $7,500

Home and School Institute - $45,131

Howard University School of Business - $5,000

Human Rights Campaign - $30,000

Institute for Women's Policy Research - $5,000

International Civil Rights Center - $15,000

Iowa Teaching and Learning Center - $17,000

Jobs with Justice - $10,120

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies - $10,000

Latino Book and Family Festival - $6,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights - $13,000

League of United Latin American Citizens - $15,000

Learning First Alliance - $52,890

Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change - $5,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund - $10,000

NASA/PSTP - $12,500

National Alliance of Black School Educators - $5,000

National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education - $5,200

National Association for Bilingual Education - $5,000

NAFEA - $5,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund - $10,000

National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents - $5,000

National Coalition on Health Care - $25,000

National Conference of Black Mayors - $5,000

National Conference of State Legislatures - $37,000

National Consumers League - $5,000

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education - $320,160

National Council of La Raza - $8,000

National Equity Center - $15,000

National Indian Education Association - $40,800

National Parent Teachers Association - $5,000

NTL Institute - $52,250

National Women's Law Center - $10,000

New Organizing Institute - $25,000

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education - $5,000

Organization of Chinese Americans - $5,000

Partnership for 21st Century Skills - $45,000

People for the American Way - $160,805

Public Agenda - $32,351

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition - $5,000

Rebuild America's Schools - $10,000

Richard Ingersoll - $12,000

Ripon Society - $12,500

Southeast Center for Teaching Quality - $180,000

Southern Christian Leadership Conference - $11,450

Task Force Foundation - $10,000

United South and Eastern Tribes - $5,000

U.S. Action - $35,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute - $15,000

WAND Education Fund - $12,000

Wellesley College Center for Research on Women - $10,295

It was also a good year to be Robert Chanin, NEA's general counsel. Chanin's firm, Bredhoff & Kaiser, received a total of $557,433 from NEA, while Chanin personally received payments in the sum of $317,750.

Now how much of that relates to teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions? How much of that relates to liberal ideology that has nothing to do with teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions? Round percentages will do.