Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Whiners Are At It Already

It's the ninth day of school, and today the vice principal came in to talk to me about an anonymous parent complaint.

Apparently someone is now scared for his/her grade, because in a lesson about the difference between correlation and causation I briefly discussed global warming and the associated temperature and CO2 graphs. While someone might be afraid for his/her grade because they believe correlation=causation and I don't, it's not a legitimate fear that should be validated.

We're always told to "make it applicable", to find "real world examples" if possible. I find one, a good one, but someone whines because it doesn't fit their orthodoxy.

Yes, this really frosts me. The fact that some anonymous parent and/or student got offended because I didn't recite their exact belief--tough. Really, tough. Everyone gets offended sometimes. I can see that they might have a legitimate beef if, instead of covering correlation and causation, I was expounding on the great President Reagan instead, but to whine about a legitimate and applicable classroom example is beyond the pale. It frosts me just as much because my vice principal treated it as a complaint worthy of consideration. We encourage such whining when we give it more than the cursory attention it deserves.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

You're the one who calls it The Church of Global Warming. And you're using your classroom as a bully pulpit to denounce The Church. How would you feel if your child reported that his teacher was badmouthing your church in the classroom?

Tony said...

Seems like a great example to me, especially since the 90% of the debate comes down to that one issue. What's to get offended about?

Anonymous said...

This is why all teachers should just read from a script that has no outside references other than the concepts to be covered that day. (I hope you could tell I was kidding).

Darren said...

1st Anonymous: what I write here, and how I addressed the issue in class, are two very different things. I don't call socialists idiots in class, but I often do on this blog.

Apparently I gored (pun intended) your ox, too, huh?

Chanman said...

I once had a sit-down with two hippie-long-of-tooth parents whose sophomore daughter got the vapors after I used a Walter Williams column as part of a lesson about the Marshall Plan in a World History course. Never mind the fact that I balanced the Williams column with a column by Julianne Malveaux, who is a black racist and a screaming leftist. No, the parents were mad that I dared to expose their daughter to that "right-wing fascist" Walter Williams (who is also black by the way).

I just know that their daughter went on to become one of these hyperventilating college "activists". She showed all the signs.

Anonymous said...

You can always use the example of ice cream consumption being correlated with rapes. Both increase in the summer. It is unlikely that one causes the other.

This may not be the correction that the parents were hoping for, though ...

:-)

-Mark Roulo

allen said...

I don't see why you'd be surprised that an administrator puts a premium on their own discomfort without much regard to the educational question.

The administrator's discomfort is real, to the administrator, and measurable, to the administrator. The educational benefit is neither measured, or wasn't until fairly recently, nor of immediate concern to the administrator. That's why it's a pleasant surprise when an administrator places a higher value on education then on their personal interests.

rightwingprof said...

I always use one of the well-known and obviously ridiculous examples of correlations. Roosting storks in Amsterdam and birth rates. Number of times one brushes his teeth per day and life expectancy. I use them just because students get the point when they see a correlation none of them would attribute to causation.

Cameron said...

Your class would not have been as much fun without the politics. My other teachers didn't really have anything to argue about.

Anonymous said...

This kind of thing comes with the territory. Maybe if the VP was a staunch conservative who viewed liberalism as a form of mental illness, and had a degree in math or a hard science to boot, then you could count on some support. But when I reflect back upon my days in the trenches, most of my administrators and so-called superiors had "advanced" edu-degrees that compounded upon their softie undergrad degrees. In other words, they were usually not the sharpest folks-- not the sort to wonder if global warming really was bunk-- and exactly the sort of folks who seek the path of least resistance with every turn. And I'm pretty sure they were all democrats, BTW.

In their defense, the ones above them in the district hierarchy were just as excellent as living examples of the Peter Principle in action.

I felt sorry for the lot of them, actually. Especially for my campus administrators. All they did was run around handling stupid stuff like your anonymous parent complainer. My principal spent so much time hiding in her office and pecking away at her keyboard that the vast majority of students actually believed the dean of discipline was the principal because he was more visible. When she came out, I think many just figured she was just another secretary or maybe one of the faculty.

Incidentally, the district administrators seemed to prefer to promote people who were not threatening to their job security in any way. My former principal got promoted up to some district office job a short time after I bailed out.

Get yourself an MS in math and get a job at a local JC. That's the best solution to your problem. You can teach the same stuff, and no more worries about silly parent complaints.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your VP. Math class doesn't involve the, as you call it, "Church of Global Warming."

Darren said...

Anonymous, please. RTP. RTFP.

I didn't mention the Church of Global Warming in class. I brought in a relevant, real-world example to show that this topic isn't merely academic--something we're constantly told to do in order to interest the students. I added no additional commentary about how global warming adherents are socialists who seek the destruction of our way of life.

By bringing this example up without additional commentary, some might say I was actually contributing to "critical thinking skills". Go figure.

MikeAT said...

Darren

Good to see you got your version of “I want your badge number!”

Mike

Coach Brown said...

I'm going to require that my students know the difference between correlation and causation, and thats for Government! I'm very interested in how you are associating the real world issues with math. Makes me respect math teachers more :)

Darren said...

As I said, I mentioned that there's questions over whether CO2 causes temperature increase, whether temperature increase causes higher CO2 levels, or (because they're correlated) are they both caused by something else entirely?

That's apparently more than some people can handle.

Ellen K said...

I have gotten to the point that I don't say anything to parents without an administrator present. Last year, during meet the teacher night, I mentioned to a mother how much her son reminded me of one of my previous and favorite students. She took this as an insult, built up in the kid's mind that I was picking on him. What actually happened is that I moved the kid because he was talking. But of course by that point, the kid and his mom had managed to gossip me up with the other moms into a monster so I ended up with them questioning every grade, every assignment, every class. I don't mind a legitimate concern or question, but I am not a mean person, I try to accommodate students' and parents' needs, but there are some people in the system now, who want every detail personalized to their own specifications. I guess you can do it with your computer and your cell phone, so why not make it where a teacher must conform to each kids' wants. And people wonder why so many teachers are quitting.

Anonymous said...

Quick science aside...

The solubility of gases in water decreases as temperature increases. That's counter-intuitive, but true.

So when the global temperature increases (for whatever reason), the temperature of ocean water increases. Carbon dioxide dissolved in ocean water comes out of solution and into the atmosphere. In the atmosphere, it is a greenhouse gas that increases the global temperature. That temperature increase results in more CO2 coming out of solution and causing more global warming.

So do you teach the sophisticated concept of "runaway" or "cascade failure?"

You can argue over who pulled the trigger if you like. But that doesn't stop the approaching bullet.

Darren said...

No, I didn't. That would have been off topic.

And it very much matters who pulled the trigger, if you're trying to identify who pulled the trigger.

Darren said...

Anonymous, I have not posted your last comment because you're playing your usual game of choosing something tangential to what I post, and then commenting on it.

This post is not about the merits, or lack thereof, of global warming. This post was about someone complaining that I even mention the differences between causation and correlation, using global warming as a relevant example. Chooseing something unrelated to this post, and then attacking me for it, is not something I'm going to put up with from you.

Please stay on task.

Matthew K. Tabor said...

Darren,

As you know, there was nothing inappropriate about the example you used in class. The example is independent of political affiliation or one's stance on the issue.

If I had been in your shoes, the conversation with the administrator would have been over as soon as I heard the word, "anonymous." To suggest that the situation demands anonymity is to suggest that your professional ethics are so badly flawed that you would seek retribution against a student. That is deeply offensive to your professional integrity and I lament that your administrator doesn't see it the same way.

I believe in accountability in all things [unless someone is a whistle-blowing blogger or in a similar situation] - especially in education. Anonymous comments do not further the resolution of an issue. Detractors or concerned parents owe it to both you and their child to have an open, honest discussion about problems.

That's how they get solved.

Darren said...

My vice principal, whom I have much respect for except in instances such as this, retreated somewhat today from the "you might retaliate" claim.

If you read my post on the Fight For Victory Rally, I didn't even mention attending that since someone could conceivably complain about my jingoism or some such foolishness.

It's a hell of a way to build rapport, and walking on eggshells is a hell of a way to conduct a class.

Matthew K. Tabor said...

I'm glad he/she retreated a bit - that's no way to manage a staff. Hopefully you can chalk it up to first-week stress and a minor lapse in judgment.

Darren said...

I cannot. Any parent calls about anything I say, and he's on it.

I've had parents approach me at Back To School Night and try to debate me, or just get a dig on me, because I have a picture of Ronald Reagan in a cowboy hat above my desk--apparently they think it's appropriate to do so.

I'm sensing viewpoint discrimination, especially when a biology teacher shows Al Gore's entire movie and ends with, "Now you have the evidence. You can choose to believe it, or ignore it." I mention global warming in a math lesson, though....

Carson said...

MUMSY.........................
(I love how all the people that like to disagree seem not to put there names down)

Darren said...

Well, sometimes it's dadsy :-)