Thursday, May 31, 2007

Human Shields In Iraq

I love this comment from this post:

Substitute every trash-talking lefty for that boy, and you get a stark demonstration of their moral worth.
The picture is worth at least a thousand words.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another Reason To Dislike the ACLU

The ACLU is the stopped clock that's right twice a day. Here's one of those times it isn't right.

NEW YORK — A Boeing Co. subsidiary that may have provided secret CIA flight services was sued Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three terrorism suspects who claim they were tortured by the U.S. government.

I wonder what law was broken. Is the ACLU going to sue American Airlines and United Airlines for allowing terrorists on board in 2001? No, they're more likely to sue US Airways for the way they handled the "flying imams" situation.

So here's what the ACLU genius says about the Boeing subsidiary:

The ACLU said the company "either knew or reasonably should have known" that they were facilitating the torture of terrorism suspects by providing flight services for the CIA.

Companies "are not allowed to have their heads in the sand, and take money from the CIA to fly people, hooded and shackled, to foreign countries to be tortured," ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said.

This has got to be some sort of publicity stunt. Even the ACLU folks can't be this stupid, can they?

"American corporations should not be profiting from a CIA rendition program that is unlawful and contrary to core American values," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Corporations that choose to participate in such activity can and should be held legally accountable."

Neither the CIA nor the U.S. government is named in the lawsuit. Wizner said the executive branch has evoked a state secrets defense in similar lawsuits.

Definitely a publicity stunt. If this activity is truly unlawful, they'd try to sue the US government. I'm sure the calculus is they can get more mileage out of doing it this way.

Math Texts, Then and Now

This next year at my school we'll be piloting textbooks for several math courses, including Algebra 1.

All the choices are disappointing. For one thing, they're all huge. The one I've (fair use) borrowed from below is slightly larger than 8-1/2" x 11" and is well over an inch thick.

When you look at the pages here on the blog, they don't look too bad. But they're so big that they accost the eyes. Why are they so big? Well, so much of the pages are intentionally left blank! Look at the first page, which instructs how to do mixture problems. The top third and left third of the page have no content knowledge at all for the students!

I kid you not, looking at the pictures here on the blog doesn't do justice to how brash they are. The colors and the large type just jump out and attack your eyes.

Contrast those two pages on mixture problems with the same topic from another algebra book I have. The book measures 5-1/2" x 7-1/2" and is less than an inch thick. It was originally copyrighted in 1913, and again in 1941.

A couple things become immediately obvious. In the new, huge textbook, the student is considered to be an idiot. It's assumed that the student is ADD and hence must be assaulted with color and pictures or he/she will be incapable of understanding. My opinion: the book contributes to the very ADD that is assumed!

The old textbook, however, was made for utility, not beauty. It has only absolutely necessary pictures in it, and most of those are graphs, and uses color (black, brown, blue) very sparingly. It's also assumed in the older book that the student can read and understand not only the explanation in the text, but the math behind it.

The older book is about a third of the size and weight of the new book, and hence is about three times as convenient to carry. It would fit nicely and easily into a backpack, and wouldn't have to be shoved into a locker. About the only think it lacks is the stuff that students don't need or want anyway--useless, unrelated pictures, and lists of state standards.

So we're going to buy one of the behemoths, since no publisher would dare submit anything so small and utilitarian. How could they--kids raised on MTV don't have attention spans to be able to use such a book effectively, or so we're repeatedly told. I'm more inclined to believe that publishers make more money on the huge, overblown books, and states are willing to spend more money on something that looks so exciting--and that's why textbooks these days are so big.

But wait, there's more. In addition to the textbooks comes a teacher's box that's probably 10 cubic feet in volume. It contains the teacher's edition, booklets of practice worksheets, review worksheets, reteaching worksheets, and several different types and versions of tests for each chapter. Each student can be given his/her own "consumable" workbook, and the teacher chest has booklets with all the answers to the problems in the student workbooks. It also has answers to the "note-taking guide" workbooks that the students are given. The chest has enrichment exercises, lesson plans, activities, and booklets on differentiated instruction. It also has all of these booklets and plans in Spanish, for those teaching English Language Learners.

Then there are the cd-roms and dvd-roms. These might contain lesson tutorials, ideas for extending lessons, and PDF copies of all the booklets and such mentioned above. There might even be a quiz or test generator, so you can have as many versions of a test or quiz as you want--all at the tap of a keyboard.

I'd be more impressed if I wasn't so disappointed at the hoops the publishers are jumping through to get us to buy their stuff--and the price they're going to charge us for all that stuff.

And by the weight of it all.

Update 6/12/07: It gets worse. Shortly before school got out last week, all math teachers received an email stating that those who are going to pilot textbooks this coming year must attend a "training session" in early August. Are you kidding me? First, you want me to do extra work to evaluate a textbook, and in addition you want me to go to a meeting--during my vacation time!--to teach me how to use all the supplemental materials and how to fill out evaluation papers?

Let's try this. Since I'm a college graduate, why not assume I'm at least moderately bright. Write down how you want me to evaluate the book and materials--give me a checklist or something--and trust that I'm capable of completing it correctly. As for the publisher's supplemental materials, I have a few comments. First, if I need training on how to use them, they're obviously not user friendly and should be improved. Second, if you just want to "wade through" all the materials and let me know what's there, email me a short list of cool materials and perhaps some instructions on how to use them. Again, I'm at least moderately bright; I can take it from there.

I told the district math guy regarding the meeting in August, and further meetings throughout the school year, "Single dad don't play that game."

Good lord, if anyone in education knows how to conduct a meeting that isn't a waste of time, I've yet to meet him/her. We learned how to do so in the army--not everyone practiced what they preached, though!--and it amazes me that so few people know how to conduct effective meetings. I'm be darned if I'm going to waste my time attending meetings regarding books that we may or may not buy. Either trust me to evaluate the book, or don't, but don't treat me like an idiot.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted here. Go check it out!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Want My MTV

I have resisted blogging about the protests in Venezuela over Chavez' refusal to grant a license renewal to one of Venezuela's most popular tv stations--it just happens to be one that, among other things, is often critical of the government. Large free speech protests have erupted, but since I don't know if they're politically motivated or motivated by missing out on their favorite soap opera, I've avoided mentioning them.

Until Hugo's boys start shooting students.

I haven't watched mainstream US national news broadcasts for the past several days. Is this being covered at all? It doesn't look like it's major news, judging from what's on their web sites.

Where's The Common Sense?

Harry Potter books can stay in the school libraries in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

Seriously, it took a judge to determine that?

Laura Mallory, who argued the popular fiction series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft, said she still wants the best-selling books removed and may take her case to federal court...

The ruling by Superior Judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld a decision by the Georgia Board of Education, which had supported local school officials.

County school board members have said the books are good tools to encourage children to read and to spark creativity and imagination.

Well, duh. Ms. Mallory, you give all Christians a bad name when you act like such a zealot.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Favorite Sections of Ed Code

7/24/09: Somehow this post just disappeared. I don't have all the comments that were attached to it, but here's what I had saved:

I've always tried to make it a point to know about the rules that govern my job, and to follow those rules religiously. Additionally, I enjoy being a resource people can come to when they want accurate information and not just the rumor mill on a topic. This knowledge, and my insistence on following rules, has saved my hide on more than one occasion. Sometimes it makes me a pain in the backside to my bosses who knowingly violate such rules or allow rules to be violated.

But that's a topic for another post.

Tonight I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite sections of the California Education Code, both serious and humorous, along with applicable commentary. Conveniently, much of California's law can be found online by going to and clicking on "California Law". It's amazing, the things you learn when you actually read the law. (Want a real surprise? Read what the law says about Gifted and Talented Education and see if your school complies. It probably doesn't.) So now, without further ado, here's what the law actually says on certain topics.

48908. All pupils shall comply with the regulations, pursue the required course of study, and submit to the authority of the teachers of the schools.

Read it again, boys and girls. It's not just a class or school rule, it's the law. This means you could actually be cited for failure to comply. This one isn't funny, it's serious. Let me add, however, that teachers should exercise their authority in a responsible manner or risk breeding comtempt for authority and for the law from which it emanates. I wonder, though--is there a separate section that deals with submitting to the authority of principals and vice principals? I haven't looked!

49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.

I discussed my standards in my February 7th post called Grading. I also stated that I don't change grades because of parent complaints, student tears, or personal convenience. This law says I don't have to. Really aggressive/overly protective parents, this means that a call to the principal won't be effective, either.

52720. In every public elementary school each day during the school year at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled class or activity period at which the majority of the pupils of the school normally begin the schoolday, there shall be conducted appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy the requirements
of this section.

In every public secondary school there shall be conducted daily appropriate patriotic exercises. The giving of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America shall satisfy such requirement. Such patriotic exercises for secondary schools shall be conducted in accordance with the regulations which shall be adopted by the governing board of the district maintaining the secondary school.

Can you believe there was vicious opposition at my school to implementing this law and saying the Pledge of Allegiance, so we settled on a daily patriotic quote instead?

51530. No teacher giving instruction in any school, or on any property belonging to any agencies included in the public school system, shall advocate or teach communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism.

In prohibiting the advocacy or teaching of communism with the intent of indoctrinating or inculcating a preference in the mind of any pupil for such doctrine, the Legislature does not intend to prevent the teaching of the facts about communism. Rather, the Legislature intends to prevent the advocacy of, or inculcation and indoctrination into, communism as is hereinafter defined, for the purpose of undermining patriotism for, and the belief in, the government of the United States and of this state.

For the purposes of this section, communism is a political theory that the presently existing form of government of the United States or of this state should be changed, by force, violence, or other unconstitutional means, to a totalitarian dictatorship which is based on the principles of communism as expounded by Marx, Lenin, and Stalin.

Mr. McCarthy? Your wife's calling. There's something under the bed.

Seriously, this has to be a leftover from the 50's. So here we are, 50 years later, and that law is still on the books. This tells me it's never been challenged (I find that hard to believe, especially here in lefty/litigious California) or that's it's constitutional. I must admit, I support the intent of this section. While some might cry that it runs afoul of the 1st Amendment, I assert that no one can reasonably claim that a government entity should be required to continue to employ individuals who seek the overthrow of that government! So while this section appears anachronistic, its genesis is in the very serious topic of just how much dissent a worker can demonstrate while on the job and on the public dime. Still, I have a few colleagues whom I believe cross this line, who in my opinion advocate for Communism--or at least for extreme socialism. I'm not the school's chief law enforcer, though, and there are other issues on which I'm more willing to plant my standard and fight. But I know, and they know I know, and we watch each other through binoculars from across the border. Still, we're more than civil to each other. In the 70's we called that detente.

49050. No school employee shall conduct a search that involves:
(a) Conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument.
(b) Removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil.

I have to ask. What exactly was going on in schools such that this law had to be written? And freakin' instruments??? Dear God!

Unfortunately, part of this law is no longer applicable. On any given day I can see, with no rearranging at all, the undergarments of dozens of my students. Why do boys want me to see their boxers? Why do girls want me to see their thongs? Parents, why are your 16-year-old daughters even wearing thongs? Ewwwwwwwwwww!

When I started writing this post, my intent was to make it funny. Now that I reread it I find that I've failed miserably. I guess I'll have to content myself with the hope that you, the reader, might at least have learned something from it.

I have in mind a future post about laws that schools violate on a regular basis. For a sneak preview, go check out Ed Code Section 38118.

Good night.

Climate Change

Kerplunk nails it, yet again.

Here's a question. If billions of dollars were spent developing financial forecasting models so we could tell what the markets would be like in 50 years' time and they had almost no ability to predict what happened in the past then should politicians bet trillions of dollars of the world's economy on their accuracy?
Climate modelling is non-trivial stuff. It's clear that none of the models are anywhere near getting it right in spite of the billions of dollars that have been spent on them.

There's just too much information out there disputing the Church of Global Warming catechisms that the only ones who are blind are those who will not see.

Hate Crime At High School

I don't believe in the concept of hate crimes. I don't care why you commit a crime; if you do the crime, you do the time. I'll accept some circumstances in extenuation or mitigation, but I can't see increasing a penalty because of what a person thought. The crime itself is what merits the punishment. Having "bad thoughts" shouldn't increase the punishment, as the crime itself is what merits the punishment!

I would prosecute this under whatever assault (battery? deadly weapon, perhaps?) statutes already exist.

Perhaps, though, it'll be interesting watching the liberal "hate crimes" lovers explain why these "boys" shouldn't be charged with hate crimes :-) How would the social justice people address this?

Update, 5/29/07: Here's some interesting commentary on proposed hate crime legislation. See if it makes sense to you.

Fake But Accurate

It's like hate crimes that turn out to be faked so as to "draw attention to" real hate crimes. link link link link link link

It seems the war in Iraq must be going rather well for the Americans, because someone has decided to forge yet another document (a la Rathergate) to make our military look bad.

Update, 5/28/07: Crow doesn't taste like chicken, it tastes like crap--and I'm eating it. Turns out the memo was real, but it was in fact from the embassy, not the military--so that's some distinction with regards to how it was originally portrayed.

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

Twenty years ago today, I walked across a stage at Michie Stadium (pronounced 'mikey') and received my diploma from the retiring Chief of Staff of the Army, General Wickham. On that day I was committed to serving 20 years in the army. I was committed to serving until today.

Obviously I changed my mind. And I'm not going to dwell on what might have been, but today, 20 years later, I can't help but think back to who I was then and what the world was like. My class is just starting to make full colonel, and I never thought we'd hit 20 fighting Islamic terrorists in the Middle East. Then again, the world's quite a different place:

1. The big threat was from the Commies.
2. Germans used marks, French used francs, and everyone thought we were going to be using yen.
3. You could tell a soldier in public, because he was the one with short hair.
4. Madonna was just starting her climb to stardom.
5. When was the last time you heard of the Fulda Gap?

So on this Memorial Day weekend, I offer my salute to those of us from the Class of '87 who are still on active duty, those who are serving or have served in the Middle East wars, and those who have paid too high a price.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Socialism Is Not Compatible With Diversity

That's one of the most amazing quotes I've read in quite some time, and you can find the justification for it in this post.

And since we're a relatively diverse society....

Still Waiting For An Apology At Duke University

There are many people owed apologies from that horrible travesty of justice, and the Duke Conservative Union, which for some reason took heat for the lacrosse team, speaks out with a full page newspaper ad a la the Group of 88. Here's from the linked commentary:

The advertisement is a response to the original ‘Group of 88’ advertisement which, along with other narrow minded and prejudicial pap, was plastered all ‘round Raleigh in an effort to condemn the lacrosse players using the popular academic cant of “social justice,” “privilege,” “community,” and so on. All of this occurred before the trial even started. The 88 radical professors were engaging in something they claimed to detest: prejudice.

Oh look, there's social justice again, one of my favorite topics.

There is nothing distinctly liberal about accusing an entire class of students of being racist would-be rapists. In fact, to do that is entirely reactionary, and indicative of the use of unthinking heuristic ideology that academics purport to detest. But because students with well meaning liberal sympathies so often allow progressivism to be radically redefined by their professors, it tends to fall to campus conservatives to parry outrages like that perpetrated by the Group of 88.

Good on the Duke Conservative Union.

I agree. Good on them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Media Bias? What Media Bias?

If it makes our enemies look bad, it gets covered up.

If al-Qaeda were to take naked pictures of our soldiers, that might make the American left, with it's fifth column fourth estate, think they were the bad guys.

Let's Impeach The President

The way the Anchoress presents it, it's a great idea!

Air Force Academy Cadets Are Wussies

From the local Colorado Springs (God's country) paper:

“The snow is still waist-deep in places, and we just got more today,” Taylor, the caretaker at Barr Camp, said Wednesday. Every day, she warns people that the trail is buried.

Some climbers listen — she persuaded a dozen Texans in jeans to turn back Sunday. But some climbers don’t. Two Air Force Academy cadets headed up to the summit Tuesday. They became stranded above treeline and had to be rescued by helicopter Wednesday morning.

As the friend who sent me the link wrote, "I blame global warming! :) ALGORE where are U! :))"

Freedom (of speech) Isn't Free

From The Right Coast (hat tip to Instapundit):

Freedom isn't free, and if you had any doubt whether the first amendment was free, I offer you Michael Moore.
And Rosie O'Donnell. And Alec Baldwin. And Noam Chomsky. And Cindy Sheehan. And plenty of others.

I guess the President's jackbooted thugs aren't doing such a great job of crushing dissent and curtailing civil liberties.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

This Is Why American History Education Sucks

I have to agree with much of what leftie James Loewen said in Lies My Teacher Told Me: the teaching of history is boring and fruitless because it's devoid of passion, balance, and humanity. I quote from page 4, "None of the facts is remembered, because they are presented simply as one damn (sic) thing after another." From page 9, "(T)hrough this process, our educational media turn flesh-and-blood individuals into pious, perfect creatures without conflicts, pain, credibility, or human interest." From p. 60, "(T)extbooks should show that neither morality nor immorality can simply be conferred up on us by history. Merely being part of the United States, without regard to our own acts and ideas, does not make us moral or immoral beings. History is more complicated than that."

A friend offered me the book Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim To Help. I've enjoyed the book, especially the last chapter (on education, of course). In it, Mona Charen echoes Loewen's complaint. From pp 234-235:

This is America through the eyes of liberals. It is the horror of slavery without the uplift of the Abolitionist movement. It is the greed of the "robber barons" without the ingenuity of the Edisons and the Wright Brothers. It is the shame of the Japanese internment without the glory of Iwo Jima. America's children are fully versed on the stain of slavery in American history but not on the great benevolence and sacrifice that that evil brought forth. Youngsters know about Sojourner Truth, but not about William Lloyd Garrison, the Underground Railroad, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Frederick Douglass...Every nation has moral stains in its history, but American children should know that their ancestors struggled to--and largely succeeded in--overcoming theirs.

When some people advocate teaching "warts and all", they often forget the "and all". Back to Loewen, p. 88: "The antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history but honest and inclusive history."

Update, 5/28/07: Apparently, the teaching of US history doesn't have to suck.

A Replacement For My Scooter

I wouldn't mind having one of these just to toodle around in. Ok, not exactly this model, but perhaps something sportier with the same engine technology. Heck, I'd consider exchanging my Honda Elite 250 (65 mpg, 65 mph) for one!

University Bookstore Pulls Calendar of University Women

They were doing a business course project, earning money for their "company", covering all their naughty parts, but...

UW Business School Dean James Jiambalvo said a few people from outside the business school have complained that the calendar objectified women. An associate dean will be meeting with the course instructor to discuss the group's project.

Of course. Objectified women. I think we can all pretty much guess what any woman complainers might look like, and what kind of hair style they might wear.

Go check out the slutty capitalists here. See if you think these student volunteers are being objectified.

I would like to learn that the business school dean told those whiners to pound sand, but I doubt that's the case since the course instructor will be appropriately chastised and reeducated. That's the Seattle way.

I'm encouraged by one point, though:

Although the students would like the bookstore to keep them on the shelves, they are willing to take the calendars back for a fee that would help cover the costs of producing them, Meissner said.

The students and the bookstore have a purchase contract, he said, and students would like it to be honored.

Let's hope it is.

More Global Warming Skeptics

Makes for a fun read.

Too Bad It's Only Finger Length

...or I'd have the highest possible SAT score =)

A quick look at the lengths of children's index and ring fingers can be used to predict how well students will perform on SATs, new research claims.

Kids with longer ring fingers compared to index fingers are likely to have higher math scores than literacy or verbal scores on the college entrance exam, while children with the reverse finger-length ratio are likely to have higher reading and writing, or verbal, scores versus math scores.

There's more, but who knows how long the Yahoo News link will stay available. If it doesn't work, try, even though I can't find this report there today.

This Is Not Your Father's ACLU

Here are the first and last paragraphs of a great piece from

"ACLU Defends Nazi's Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters," the humor magazine The Onion announced in 1999. Those of us who loved the ACLU, and celebrated its willingness to defend the rights of Nazis and others who had no regard for our rights, considered the joke a compliment. Today it's more like a reproach. Once the nation's leading civil liberties group and a reliable defender of everyone's speech rights, the ACLU is being transformed into just another liberal human-rights group that reliably defends the rights of liberal speakers.

This is not the same organization that once took pride in its costly, principled decision to defend the rights of neo-Nazis to march in a community of Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Ill. Of course the ACLU hasn't definitively abandoned its defense of speech: Large, national organizations change incrementally. But people should no longer depend on the ACLU to defend what they preach (especially at a cost), if it disapproves of what they practice.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

California Student Press Protections

I've had to deal with this a bit myself in the past; it's good to see the law being enforced as written.

Teachers Union Mentality

If you think this is the attitude only in Michigan, you're being struthious.

Asked by the LSJ Editorial Board for the MEA (Michigan Education Association) strategy, (MEA President) Salters said tax increases, while demurring on any actual budget framework.

Pressed on the question of teacher health benefits - long a budget problem for school districts - Salters said, "I'm not sure our members have benefits that are superior to what's found in the private sector."

And asked MEA's top non-budget priority at the Legislature, Salters said it was ensuring local school districts could do payroll deductions for union members to contribute to union political activity.

Michigan's schools are under budgetary assault. The state economy teeters. And the message of the teachers' union is raise taxes and protect our prerogatives?

Hat tip: EIA (see blogroll at left).

Here's A Kerrey That Doesn't Sound Totally Nuts

Doesn't sound like he's lying, either.

Bob Kerrey (D-Nebraska):

The critics who bother me the most are those who ordinarily would not be on the side of supporting dictatorships, who are arguing today that only military intervention can prevent the genocide of Darfur, or who argued yesterday for military intervention in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda to ease the sectarian violence that was tearing those places apart...

American liberals need to face these truths: The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it. Al Qaeda in particular has targeted for abduction and murder those who are essential to a functioning democracy: school teachers, aid workers, private contractors working to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure, police officers and anyone who cooperates with the Iraqi government. Much of Iraq's middle class has fled the country in fear.

With these facts on the scales, what does your conscience tell you to do? If the answer is nothing, that it is not our responsibility or that this is all about oil, then no wonder today we Democrats are not trusted with the reins of power. American lawmakers who are watching public opinion tell them to move away from Iraq as quickly as possible should remember this: Concessions will not work with either al Qaeda or other foreign fighters who will not rest until they have killed or driven into exile the last remaining Iraqi who favors democracy.

This is what Democrats used to sound like.

There's plenty more at the link above.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Two Americas

Edwards is right, there are two Americas--one that sees value in paying him a $55,000 speaking fee, and one that doesn't.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who as a Democratic presidential candidate recently proposed an educational policy that urged "every financial barrier" be removed for American kids who want to go to college, has been going to college himself -- as a high paid speaker, his financial records show.

The candidate charged a whopping $55,000 to speak at to a crowd of 1,787 the taxpayer-funded University of California at Davis on Jan. 9, 2006 last year, Joe Martin, the public relations officer for the campus' Mondavi Center confirmed Monday.

That amount -- which comes to about $31 a person in the audience -- included Edwards' travel and airfare, and was the highest speaking fee in the nine appearances he made before colleges and universities last year, according to his financial records. (emphasis mine--Darren)

The earnings -- though made before Edwards was a declared Democratic presidential candidate -- could hand ammunition to his competition for the Democratic presidential nomination. The candidate -- who was then the head of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina -- chose to speak on "Poverty, the great moral issue facing America," as his $55,000 topic at UC Davis.

CTA to Members: Think For Yourself, Then Do As We Tell You

I received one of CTA's mass emailings today. Here's the text:

Two Issues to End the School Year: Health Care & No Child Left Behind
As the year comes to a close, we are reminded that the fight for decent benefits and working conditions continues.
On the health care front, we are currently engaged in an important project with the California Health Care Coalition (CHCC). In an effort to control health care costs and improve quality at the local level, we are organizing health care purchasers (employees, administrators and employers from the public and private sectors) into a coalition to discover what local hospitals are charging us for care and what levels of quality they provide. Armed with this research, we will then pressure the non-performing or high-charging hospitals to conform to reasonable standards of care.
If you would like to know more about the California Health Care Coalition, please visit their website ( And, if you are interested in becoming involved in our efforts, which you are encouraged to do, please email Dan Koen, with CTA’s Negotiations Department/Natomas Office (, for more information on an upcoming May 31 meeting as well as other future events.
In a surprise move, key members of Congress have decided attempt to “fast track” the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and its main component, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
We all know the great damage NCLB has done to our ability to teach to the whole child and to show progress beyond the “one size fits all” testing approach that NCLB mandates. Well, now is our chance to weigh in on the future of this law. It is critical that each of us quickly writes (not calls or emails, but actually writes a short note) to our member of the US House of Representatives. To do so, please go to the CTA website for your Representatives mailing address (, review our talking points regarding the problems and suggested fixes to the law (
_ Fact+Sheet.htm
) and speak from your heart!

Here's the response I sent them:

We should review CTA's talking points about NCLB, and then write from the heart? Please. CTA may fear accountability, but I sure don't.
And teaching the "whole child"? How did that go in the 90s, during the fuzzy math and whole language days, when apparently kids felt good about themselves but couldn't perform academically?
CTA should decide whether it's a labor union--in which case it should focus on my pay, benefits, and working conditions--or a PAC of the Democrat Party. If the former, quit meddling in left-wing politics and work for me. If the latter, you're not entitled to even a "fair share" of my hard-earned money.

Usually I chastise CTA on the health care front, because they're pushing for socialized medicine. What they talk about in this particular email seems entirely reasonable to me, a market approach to lowering health care costs. Since health care is one of my benefits, I have no qualms with their using my money to pursue these ends.

NCLB is not one of my "working conditions". NCLB is no more of a "working condition" than is the state-approved curriculum, the requirement to abide by IEPs, or my status as a mandatory reporter for child abuse. As a result, this is not something a labor union should be addressing, especially with my money.

Why I'm Against The New DMV Driver Test

From today's major Sacramento newspaper:

Over at the Department of Motor Vehicles, an interesting -- and, for some, scary -- experiment is in progress.

Officials are trying out some new eye charts and reaction-time tests on drivers renewing their licenses...

At first glance, those eye charts are downright spooky. There are six lines of letters. The first line looks like it's fading away in tule fog. The second is worse. The sixth? Forget about it....

Before you even take the eye test, DMV workers will ask you to write your social security number by memory down on a piece of paper. They say there is a correlation between memory loss on rote numbers, like a Social Security number, and crashes.

You're forewarned before you step up to the counter that you'll be asked to write your Social Security number. In fact, they have you write it on the back of a form that has on its front, yes, your Social Security number, written a few minutes earlier by you.

If you don't remember it, or if you do poorly on the eye test, you must take the perception and reaction-time test.

You sit at a computer and watch a silhouette of a vehicle flash for a few milliseconds on the screen. You must identify whether it was a car or truck. You do this repeatedly. The flashes get shorter...

If you don't score well enough on the computer or eye tests, the DMV will require you to take the dreaded road driving test...

DMV officials say the new tests aren't really a get-tough move. They hope the new system can help some drivers become more aware of their limitations and find ways to compensate for them.

I am completely against this new testing regime for the following reasons:

1. It stifles the creativity of drivers.
2. It's not testing the "whole driver".
3. There's plenty that goes into driving that can't be evaluated by a machine.
4. This is just "drill and kill"--why aren't they testing critical thinking skills, which the research shows is more important to driving than merely being able to see?
5. This is a one-size-fits-all, high stakes test.
6. Why should we test, anyway? Testing doesn't make anyone a better driver.

Have I made my point yet?

Teachers and Students Don't Show Open-mindedness Towards Those Entering West Point

The New York Post has a story about New York City members of West Point's Class of 2007, the first graduating class that entered West Point after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Unfortunately, the article had to be called "Cadets Battle on the Home Front".

"Everybody was all busy protesting the war at the time," Marya Rosenberg, of the Upper East Side, recalls of her decision to go to the USMA after her graduation from elite Hunter HS.

"I had one girl ask me what I was thinking about doing for college, and when I told her, she said, 'How could you do something so immoral?' They made fun of me in the yearbook."

The yearbook. That's not a free press issue, it's the freakin' yearbook. Where was the adult in charge when the decision was made to mock a student in the yearbook? Ah, the open-mindedness, the compassion of liberals.

Mark Zambarda, 21, a Staten Island resident and son of an NYPD narcotics detective, found even his mother hoping that he would quit West Point.

"I encouraged him to get out if he could," said Nancy Zambarda, a Merrill Lynch administrator who wanted her bright son to apply to medical school. "As the reality of it started setting in, as a parent, I really got scared."

Nothing like having your parents support you in chasing your dreams, I guess.

"One of the teachers, when I walked down the hall in my uniform, yelled, 'No blood for oil!' " she said. "Then I talked to my old art history teacher . . . and I wanted to tell him I'm taking a bunch of art history courses now. He was, like, 'Oh, so you'll know what [the] buildings are before you drop bombs on them.' "

Words fail me. Well, the four-letter ones don't, but the ones I can write here do.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Education Creates Wealth--And Inequality

The Only Republican In San Francisco writes about education and how it creates inequities in society.

First, if our goal is to improve lives, we must focus fundamentally on economic progress, ie, wealth creation. A shorthand for this is to increase the size of the total pie. The mechanisms that increase the total pie (education, good salaries, low taxes) also have the effect of increasing inequality.

Secondly, and relatedly, when one talks of reducing inequality, what one typically means is clipping the high-flyers, as if they were the problem. High income earners, pretty much by definition, are the ones creating wealth -- read, jobs and products. To argue that their success should be limited in the name of equality is to argue that a smaller pie will serve our needs better than a larger one...

If a person really believes that inequality must be reduced, then it follows that having a four-year degree contributes to the problem. Can one live with that on their conscience?

Most arguments which advocate equality over progress, when you look at the evidence, are similarly self-defeating.

There will always be those for whom formal education isn't the most effective use of their time--and they are the ones who will, because of a lack of education, create the inequalities in society.

Liberal Paradoxes

I often point out to libs how silly some of their ideas are, such as: "If the President knew in advance about the 9/11 attacks, then wasn't his '7 minutes of deer-in-the-headlights looks' that Michael Moore-on played up so much really just an Academy Award-winning performance?"

There are more here.

Update: and for a brilliant--and I do mean brilliant--piece on how today's liberalism isn't really liberal at all, click here and scroll down to Worthwhile Reading.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Searches That Bring People To My Blog

One of the nice things about having Stat Counter installed here at RotLC is that I can see the search engine searches that bring people here. It's rewarding to find that one of the most common searches is one of the many variations on the theme of "thank you note for teacher". There are obviously plenty of thoughtful people out there.

Unfortunately, I have no information about that topic on this site! The search engines direct people to my post about giving thank you notes to my students who brought me Christmas presents!

Good Mom, Dumb Kid, What's Up With The Teacher?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A woman whose son was suspended from school for roughhousing with a teacher punished him by making him wear a sign and pick up litter while walking five miles down a city street.

Travis Griffin earned the 10-day suspension from Creston High School after putting a teacher in a headlock while horsing around Thursday.

If it was "roughhousing", that indicates that the teacher willingly participated, even if it "got out of hand". If the teacher didn't consent, it wasn't roughhousing--it was assault.

I like the way the mother addressed the situation, though. No making excuses, no trying to smooth it all over.

"I know I am not going to do that again, put teachers in a full nelson," Travis said. "Although, I was joking around with him and he took it too seriously."

Again, there's no indication whether this was roughhousing, which would represent a poor decision by the teacher in the first place, or assault. But all sides are apparently satisfied, since there's as yet no report that the teacher will sue or press charges.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Why Not Just Sell Drugs?

Our principal sent out an email today, complete with pictures, showing how certain types of sandals are designed and made for children to smuggle alcohol or drugs.

Some might say that's ingenious, that it's merely filling a market niche, that the the students and not the company are what's really at fault here. If that's so, why not just sell the kids drugs?


And no one cares, because the rocket was fired by the peace-loving Palestinians against the evil, money-grubbing, apartheid, Bush-backing Israelis.

Nope, no bias in our media. Nothing to see here, please move along.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Unbiased, Un-hypocritical Media

Wherever and whatever it is, it's not the Associated Press.

Wisdom From Australia

From Ker-plunk:

As I've pointed out before, when the answer is socialism you should be extremely suspicious of what the problem is that's trying to be solved. When it relates to the environment then your suspicion should be raised to the proverbial eleven out of ten given socialism's catastrophic impact on the environment wherever it's been inflicted upon the poor, unsuspecting, about-to-be-immiserised masses.

UC Santa Cruz

They rank right up there on my list of favorite campuses to pick on, and for good reason. Type "Santa Cruz" into the search engine at the top of this page and you should find several of the posts I've written about this head shop of a university.

John at Discriminations, though, links to yet another reason not to think too highly of UCSC.

Update, 5/19/07: Consider the above when you read this post.

Struck A Nerve

In this post I took the Educator Roundtable to task for their reasons for being against the No Child Left Behind Act. I submitted the post to the Carnival of Education, where it got wider dissemination--and today I started receiving comments from the Chair of that very same Educator Roundtable.

If you find give-and-take enjoyable, I encourage you to go take a read.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Double Standards For Student Journalists

If it weren't for double standards, the Left would have no standards at all.

Last fall, ABC News and New York affiliate WABC enlisted students to help them in a similar gotcha game with recruiters. They armed the kids with hidden video cameras for visits to ten Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The journalists accused the recruiters of misleading the students to get them to enlist. The ABC News sting came on the heels of a Colorado student’s undercover operation in Denver in 2005. David McSwane, a high-school honors student, posed as a dropout and druggie. “I wanted to do something cool, go undercover and do something unusual,” he told the Rocky Mountain News. McSwane deliberately failed a high-school equivalency test, caught recruiters on tape driving him to purchase a detox kit, and reported that they urged him to obtain a phony diploma. A local CBS station picked up the story — prompting the Army to shut down its recruiting stations nationwide for ethics training.

McSwane earned a “laurel” from the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review “for conduct most becoming” and announced he was headed to journalism school. His reporting garnered attention from the New York Times to Editor and Publisher — and spawned copycats like those at ABC News.

No such laurels have been awarded to Lila Rose, however. And none will be forthcoming, I predict. Rose is an 18-year-old student journalist at UCLA. Like McSwane and his breed of undercover reporters, she surreptitiously infiltrated a massive organization that enlists young people. Like McSwane and his breed of undercover reporters, Rose exposed deceptive practices. Rose posed as a 15-year-old seeking the services and advice of her target. Like McSwane and his breed of undercover reporters, she caught her targets urging her to lie and evade the law in order to sign her up.

But Rose’s target was the Left’s beloved Planned Parenthood, not the military. And that has made all the difference in the nonexistent national coverage of her undercover journalism. Rose edits The Advocate, a pro-life campus publication of the student group Live Action. She posed as a minor impregnated by a 23-year-old boyfriend and caught a Planned Parenthood employee advising her to lie about her age to relieve the abortion provider from a legal obligation to report statutory rape to the police.

“If you’re 15, we have to report it,” the staffer told Rose in a secretly taped video. “If you’re not, if you’re older than that, then we don’t need to.” “OK, but if I just say I’m not 15, then it’s different?” Rose queried. “You could say 16,” the worker helpfully suggested. “Just figure out a birth date that works. And I don’t know anything.” Other than coverage from a few pro-life groups and conservative websites, Rose’s stunning revelations have received virtually no mainstream media attention. And no calls from lawmakers for investigations of Planned Parenthood’s predatory tactics and practices — which have been also caught on tape in other states by undercover citizen investigators.

Instead, Rose faces threats of a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood, which sent her a cease-and-desist letter and had the appalling nerve this week to lecture Rose about the need “to be more respectful of California laws,” according to the conservative Cybercast News Service.

Where are the muckraking champions when you need them?

They're probably out on the Hamptons with all the other libs.

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the EducationWonks--and my submission is near the top!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Teacher Free Speech

It's an interesting argument. Should teachers express personal views in class, or should they be "neutral"?

I lean towards the former for a few reasons. First, I'm not sure how one can remain neutral about many topics--say, the war in Iraq. If a teacher were to go beyond mere names, dates, and places, could that be considered violating neutrality? And what about the names, dates, and places that a teacher chooses to discuss, or not to discuss--aren't those also influenced by the teachers personal opinions?

I don't view students, especially high school students, as flowers to be treasured. They're people whose minds are growing at an amazing rate, and they're capable of processing tremendous amounts of information. I assert, without any evidence to back me up here, that they should be able to hear information, both facts and opinions, that disagree with their own, without having an emotional or intellectual meltdown.

In fact, I've said it several times before: teenagers are capable of so much thought and analysis, but what they lack is real-world experience. Until they get that for themselves, they can and should learn from the adults in their life. That is what will give them so-called critical thinking skills; they can't think critically about something until they have some facts about which to think.

So I'm very concerned about the content of this San Francisco Chronicle article about the apparent lack of ability for a teacher to share even a personal opinion in class. I don't agree with the teacher who, in response to a student's question, answered that she always honks for peace, but I can't imagine her being fired for such an admission, either. That's almost Orwellian in its implications.

Here are some key, if chilling, excerpts from the article:

But legal analysts said the Mayer ruling was probably less important as a precedent than as a stark reminder that the law provides little protection for schoolteachers who express their beliefs.

The Mayer ruling was disappointing but not surprising, said Michael Simpson, assistant general counsel of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union. For the last decade, he said, federal courts "have not been receptive to arguments that teachers, both K-12 and higher education, have free-speech rights in the classroom."

On the other hand, said Francisco Negrón, lawyer for the National School Boards Association, if teachers were free to express their viewpoints in class, school boards would be less able to do their job of determining the curriculum and complying with government demands for accountability.

That's complete and total crap. I'd throw it back on Mr. Negron and ask him to list exactly what I can and cannot say, then, because he obviously doesn't trust me to use any judgement at all. Continuing:

"Teachers hire out their own speech and must provide the service for which employers are willing to pay," a three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 24. "The Constitution does not entitle teachers to present personal views to captive audiences against the instructions of elected officials."

Fine. Elected officials should tell me what to say, then. Perhaps my local legislators or school board would like to write my script for teaching trigonometry. Good luck with that.

Mayer, the court said, was told by her bosses that she could teach about the war "as long as she kept her opinions to herself."

How, exactly, is she supposed to do that? Horrible instructions.

In 1969, the Supreme Court upheld a high school student's right to wear a black armband as a silent protest against the Vietnam War and barred schools from stifling student expression unless it was disruptive or interfered with education. The court retreated from that standard somewhat in a 1988 ruling upholding censorship of student newspapers, and will revisit the issue in a pending case involving an Alaskan student who was suspended for unfurling a banner outside the school grounds that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

The Supreme Court has never ruled on teachers' free speech. In lower courts, teachers have won cases by showing they were punished for violating policies that school officials never explained to them beforehand or invented after the fact. A federal appeals court in 2001 ruled in favor of a fifth-grade teacher in Kentucky who was fired for bringing actor Woody Harrelson to her class to discuss the benefits of industrial hemp, an appearance that school officials had approved.

y, Tinker v. Des Moines, the 1969 ruling referred to above, specifically addresses the issue:

First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. This has been the unmistakable holding of this Court for almost 50 years...

In order for the State in the person of school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, it must be able to show that its action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Certainly where there is no finding and no showing that engaging in the forbidden conduct would "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school," the prohibition cannot be sustained.

And that was in the majority opinion of the court, the part that matters.

Even still, this Sword of Damocles hangs over the head of teachers. However, there's hope for sanity in California, of all places, again according to the Chronicle.

Beverly Tucker, chief counsel of the NEA-affiliated California Teachers Association, said she doubts that federal courts in California would take as conservative a position as the court in Mayer's case. But she expects school districts to cite the ruling in the next case that arises.

"If I were a public school teacher, I would live in fear that some innocuous remark made in the classroom in response to a question from a pupil would lead to me being terminated" under such a ruling, Tucker said.


I understand the argument that "you're paid to teach the curriculum." There's no "nothing more" at the end of that statement. Assuming I teach the curriculum, why not discuss current events with some students if they so desire? Why not answer their questions about something outside of the curriculum, why not open their minds to other, not unreasonable, ways of viewing the world?

Teaching is a social process. It requires interaction between teacher and student to function most effectively. I talk about a variety of topics in class; it helps build rapport with students. They know and respect me as a person, not some mythical being that doesn't exist outside of the school walls. How could you operate any other way?

But let's look at realistic example. At my school is a counselor who wears a Star of David necklace daily. With responsibility for over 400 students, she no doubt has some students who are, to put it delicately, of a nationality or religion that isn't positively predisposed to being around Stars of David. Could she reasonably be told not to wear it at school? Could I be told not to wear my red, white, and blue elephant lapel pin? Just what are the limits to these prohibitions?

I don't think it's ok for a teacher to be fired for saying "I always honk for peace." It's ok for her to be mocked and ridiculed for saying it, but not fired.

And you can quote me on that. In class, if need be =)

The Interstate Voting Compact

Some people just don't like the Electoral College.

True, it's not "one man, one vote". It was never designed to be. This nation was founded as a republic, not a democracy. The Congress isn't "one man, one vote", either, since each of the states has the same number of senators. The electoral college, like the twin-house Congress, was a compromise necessary to create our nation. It's served us well for over 230 years.

It's happened before, but in 2000, George Bush won in electoral votes but not in the popular vote. Democrats have never forgiven President Bush for winning according to the rules, and neither have they forgiven the Founding Fathers for creating the system that allowed President Bush to win the election.

So they want to change the rules by creating the Interstate Voting Compact.

The Constitution gives to the states the authority to choose their own presidential electors, and with this compact states would agree to give all their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. It's an attempt to get around the Constitution, and this post spells out some of the legal pitfalls of the idea.

I have a better idea, one easier to implement and less fraught with Constitutional peril. Why not just have the state allocate electors in proportion to the vote count in that state? In other words, if Candidate X gets 43% of the vote, Candidate Y gets 38% of the vote, and Candidate Z gets 19% of the vote, just designate 43% of the state's electors to vote for X, etc. That's much more "one man, one vote"-like than what California and many states currently do, which is to allocate all of the state's electors to whoever wins the popular vote in the state.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Does the CTA Practice What It Preaches?

Via the May 14th EIA Communique (see blogroll at left):

Quote of the Week. "In the past few months, CTA has ignored clear contract language, the intent of contract language, the basic tenets of a union member's rights, and employer's obligation. The procedure of due process is constantly disregarded by CTA management." (emphasis in original) – from the latest grievance committee report of the California Associate Staff, the union representing support employees of the California Teachers Association. (May 2007 CAS Connection, page 19)

If you're a California teacher and you're still a member of the CTA, shame on you. (Updated link here.)

Universal Health Care in Illinois

This article is so well-written that excerpting it would be a crime. Perhaps I should just take the first sentence from each of the first several paragraphs to give you a flavor.

Read on to see what happens when you play chicken with the concept of taxpayer-funded health care--someone blinked.

"Universal" government health care has once again returned as a political cause, with many Democrats believing it's the key to White House victory in 2008.

The Democratic House in Springfield killed the proposal, 107-0, after Mr. Blagojevich came out against his own idea when it became clear he was going to be humiliated.

Easily re-elected in November, the Governor used every trick in the "progressive" political playbook to sell his proposal.

Mr. Blagojevich also pitched his plan as a moral imperative, unveiling it while standing in the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago and saying it was necessary to force businesses to pay their "fair" share of the tax burden.

But a funny thing happened on this road to Canadian health care.

As tax increases go, this was one of the worst.

Mr. Blagojevich tried to soften this impact by creating an exemption for business with annual revenues of less than $5 million.

The Tax Foundation estimated that Mr. Blagojevich's proposal would have been the largest state tax hike in the last decade, as a share of state general fund revenue--at 27% nearly double the next closest, which was Nevada's 14% increase in 2004.

All of this piled on top of the $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees that the Governor imposed in his first term.

Remember, those are just the first sentences from the first several paragraphs. The sentences which follow them are detailed, well-written, and entertaining, giving a picture of how close Illinois came to the precipice before stepping back.

I hope my legislators and governor in California are paying attention.

Anti-NCLB Arguments

The following liberal talking points were hanging above the copy machine at school. I thought it would be fun to make a copy and post it here on my blog.

Click on the document to enlarge it so that you can read it easily.

These are the points raised by the Educator Roundtable against the No Child Left Behind Act. These are the very points a former Teacher of the Year merely questioned, thereby becoming persona non grata in her union.

There are 16 points. I thought it might be fun if we, my readers and I, each took two of them and demonstrated why the points are, to put it gently, not quite reasoned or reasonable.

Since it's my blog, I get to choose first. The competition was tough and the voting close, but I choose numbers 1 and 11.

#1. "Misdiagnoses the causes of poor educational development, blaming teachers and students for problems over which they have no control." Actually, it does nothing of the sort. It holds schools, which receive federal money, responsible for actually teaching children. It also requires that schools teach all children, and not let certain groups of kids (e.g. special ed, blacks) languish while the school looks good "on average".

No doubt the Education Roundtable believes that if there's a problem in education today, it's caused by insufficient funding. I don't accept that. There are many causes for our relatively poor performance on international measures: educational fads (implied in points 11 and 12), a culture that doesn't value education as much as other cultures do (and all its attendant problems), and teachers who'd rather "change the world" than actually teach--right there are three culprits among a multitude of others. But NCLB doesn't accept excuses; it insists that schools keep up their end of the bargain, even if the other participants (students and parents) don't. I'll agree that NCLB places all the responsibility on the schools, though, and that's a flaw I've discussed in other posts. But to say it misdiagnoses the problem? How?

No, complaint #1 doesn't pass the common sense test.

#11. "Neglects the teaching of higher order thinking skills which cannot be evaluated by machines." I assert that such skills cannot be evaluated by teachers, either, but let's start with a more basic response. You can't teach higher order thinking skills without some fundamental basis of knowledge. While that would seem intuitively obvious to most of my regular readers, it's a point of violent disagreement with plenty of people in the education community. I guess they think everyone should build the skyscraper before the foundation. Does it not occur to them that in every field of endeavor, we start with fundamentals before getting "creative"? When learning the piano, children learn Chopsticks before learning concertos. Doctors learn anatomy before they pioneer new procedures. People learn to swim before joining the Olympic swimming team. You start as an apprentice, work your way up to journeyman, and eventually become a master after much hard work. You earn a bachelor's degree before earning a doctorate.

OK, you may think I've misinterpreted #11. Perhaps #11 merely means that the tests themselves are bad. I disagree. While the tests do test the fundamental knowledge I've discussed above, and perhaps not higher order thinking skills--whatever those might be, and however those might be assessed--is that the fault of NCLB? No! The law allows states to choose their own tests. It's not the fault of the federal law if states choose poor testing instruments. Personally, I'm pleased that California has eliminated canned, off-the-shelf tests (like the ITBS, SAT-9, etc) and has moved to subject matter tests aligned to our state standards. Teach to the standards, and test to the standards; that sounds like a reasonable plan to me.

You know what all 16 of those points in the petition have in common? I'll tell you. Whoever wrote them committed a classic mistake--they didn't think, they felt. Read the list again; isn't it a bit whiny? Can you find any facts in it, or just assertions? Is there any logic or reason to it, or is it just a mishmash of unhappy emotion splattered on paper? Answer: the latter.

And that's part of why this list is so easy to mock.

OK, readers, find a pair of points you like and feel free to dissemble them in the comments =)

John Edwards Is (Still) An Idiot

I didn't think too highly of him in the last election, and I certainly don't think too highly of him now.

Substitute Shows 'Brokeback Mountain' In Class?

Claiming that a substitute teacher showed the R-rated “Brokeback Mountain” in class, a 12-year-old Chicago girl’s family has filed suit claiming she suffered psychological distress from watching male cowboys (OK, shepherds) have sex with each other. The girl and her grandparents are seeking more than $400,000 in damages. That’s a lot of trauma.


Can any adult conclude that that movie is appropriate for 12-year-olds? If so, are there any movies that are not appropriate for 12-year-olds? (I await lefties and their listings of any patriotic-themed movie.)

Stupid Teachers Do Stupid Things

While shootings on public school campuses get plenty of media attention, I dare say that well over 99% of our students will never face such a situation.

Why, then, would teachers want to stage a fake attack, and then try to justify it as a learning experience?

Staff members of an elementary school staged a fictitious gun attack on students during a class trip, telling them it was not a drill as the children cried and hid under tables.

The mock attack Thursday night was intended as a learning experience and lasted five minutes during the weeklong trip to a state park, said Scales Elementary School Assistant Principal Don Bartch, who led the trip.

"We got together and discussed what we would have done in a real situation," he said.


New Postage Rates

I didn't learn until yesterday that new postage rates went into effect today.

Imagine my surprise when I read's headline, complete with double entendre, as well as the story about how increased postage rates will affect food prices in rural Alaska.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Conference On Math and Social Justice

The so-called social justice math conference took place last month, and City Journal has the appropriate take on it.

The conference’s organizers left nothing to the imagination about their leftist agenda. At many of the conference’s 28 workshops, math teachers proudly demonstrated how they used classroom projects to train students in seeing social problems from a radical anticapitalist perspective. At a plenary session, Professor Marilyn Frankenstein of the University of Massachusetts’ math education department proclaimed that elementary school teachers should not use traditional math lessons, in which students calculate, say, the cost of food. Rather, the teachers should make clear that in a truly “just society,” food would “be as free as breathing the air.”

That was for those of you who question why I attack the so-called social justice movement so much. If you'd like more reasons why, click on the "social justice" label at the left or at the end of this post.

Here's how City Journal ended their piece:

It’s ironic that while Bloomberg extols the benefits of the market in education, his schools are becoming rife with radical teachers using the classroom to trash the American system.

You don't say.

This movement, and the leftward lurch we're seeing by the Democrats, isn't going away soon, and this is definitely a field on which I'm willing to plant my standard and fight.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

April 2007 California Educator Magazine

(Said in my best Ronald Reagan voice): There you go again.

In the front is Boss Kerr's column, which I'll thrash in a moment. In the middle are a few articles about vocational ed, a neglected field that I support completely. At the end is the genuine union crap--who's on strike, what bills the CTA is sponsoring that will never become law, how they're wasting your dues money and the money they extort from me, etc. I'll focus my comments only on Babs' column.

"This testing mania, driven by federal mandates, is the biggest challenge to finding the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms."

Really? Driven by federal mandates, you say? I guess it doesn't at all matter that California's STAR system--Standardized Testing and Reporting--predates the No Child Left Behind Act by several years, and was signed by a Democrat governor, who received it from a Democrat-controlled legislature. If NCLB were to go away tomorrow, California's testing regime would still be entirely in place.

It amazes me how this broad can lie as boldly as she does. Clearly I have nothing but contempt for her.

"It's time to erase the one-size-fits-all doctrine of NCLB that is punishing students and schools based on a snapshot of test scores on one single day."

You don't like one-size-fits-all, Babs? Then how about freeing me from the tyranny of having to pay for your one-size-fits-all (but no one well) union?

What does she fear from testing? Does she think California's teachers are incapable of teaching students? Is she afraid that objective testing will show how rotten we are? Yes, obviously this is the woman who should lead California's teachers, a women who apparently holds these teachers in such low regard.

There are plenty of other idiocies in her column, but I see no reason to address all of them. You get the flavor of them by what I've quoted above.

If you're a California teacher and you're still a union member, shame on you. If you're thinking that the CTA doesn't truly represent your thoughts or best interests any longer, you should go amble through the web site of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

Teachers Unions Sure Don't Like Diversity of Thought

How often are we told that teachers unions represent all the best points of democratic ideals--and how often is that a lie? Here you can watch with your own eyes the mature manner with which California Teachers Association members react when someone says something with which they disagree.

And here you can read about what happens to a former Teacher of the Year who dares even question whether signing a petition against the No Child Left Behind Act is a good move.

"My state union, the Michigan Education Association, called to tell me that I will not be allowed to present at workshops and conferences in the future (something I've been doing for a decade). I am officially persona non grata with the MEA. At the moment, I am feeling pretty brave and bold."

Are you union members proud?

More on the Bathroom Controversy

Almost two weeks ago I wrote about the local story of the student who urinated into a Gatorade bottle in class because his teacher wouldn't let him leave the room. Subsequent investigations by the school district found that the student's "facts" weren't quite so, and the teacher was exonerated.

A follow-up commentary on the subject appeared this past weekend in the major Sacramento newspaper. I want you to notice how this author of that commentary transitioned from "the teacher didn't do anything wrong" to "the NAACP overreacted" to "Republicans are bad anyway":

It made national news: The student urinated in a Gatorade bottle in class, said he had to because the teacher wouldn't let him go to the bathroom. The teacher denied it.

The boy was African American; the teacher was not.

The child's family approached the local NAACP, whose leaders were quick to publicly excoriate the teacher, asking that he be fired and have his credential taken away.

And what was the outcome? Was justice secured? Were the best interests of a 14-year-old really served?

We may never know. Last week, the district backed the teacher, cleared him of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the story petered out, the media moved on, but the damage was done.

To the teacher, the student, the media, the reputation of the NAACP and the cause of racial equality -- which is more subtle and daunting than ever.

How subtle? On Friday, a Bee reader named Ray Contreras, a state worker, pointed out the image of 10 white men in dark suits on the front page of The Bee. They were Republican presidential candidates.

"This was a great picture of presidential candidates from the 1920s, '30s or '40s," he said.

"This couldn't represent the cultural diversity for leadership of America today, could it? Did I get stuck in a time warp?"

Explain to me how the Republican Presidential candidates are in any way related to the peeing in a bottle story. Since they're not, what was the purpose of bringing them into this story in the first place--if not to attempt to score a cheap shot against Republicans?

I'm not a big fan of the major Sacramento newspaper, and the writing above is indicative of why I'm not. However, I'll give credit where credit's due, and I like the fact that the paper allows comments in its online edition. As of the time I'm typing this post, most of the comments agree with the point that the NAACP overreacted. I, however, couldn't let the political slight go by:

White Republicans On Stage

Maybe, just maybe, part of the reason there were a bunch of white Republicans on that stage is that any time a non-white Republican earns a name for him/herself, he or she is pilloried as a race-traitor: Clarence Thomas, General Powell, Condi Rice, Michelle Malkin, etc.

This author tried to write a middle-of-the-road piece, but is so biased that he can't see how far from center he truly is.

How Will The NEA Deal With This?

This has got to make them uncomfortable.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) announced today -- National Teacher's Day -- that more than 4,000 teachers nationwide have received Teacher of the Year honors. The awards were given as part of the company's 12th annual Teacher of the Year program, and the winning teachers' schools received more than $4 million from the Wal-Mart & Sam's Club Foundation...

Since the Teacher of the Year program began in 1995, Wal-Mart has honored more than 25,000 teachers nationwide and donated more than $18.5 million to local schools. The company is one of the largest corporate supporters of teachers and education -- last year alone giving more than $57 million in support of educational initiatives.

But don't shop there. Right, NEA?

Via Right Wing Nation (see blogroll at left).

Carnival of Education

Get your cotton candy here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bad Math Problem

A colleague showed me a problem from a publisher-created test on the Algebra II topic of sequences and series. The problem was horrid.

It's one thing to ask for the next three terms of an arithmetic sequence or of a geometric sequence. But to give a random sequence, and then expect there to be only one approved solution, frosts me. Why? Because it instills in the students a belief that math is whatever the teacher says it is, and that the object is to read the teacher's (or the publisher's) mind in order to get the correct answer. In math, the exact opposite of that belief is reality--but that's not what problems like the following imply.

Here's the problem: Give the next three terms of the sequence 5, 7, 10, 15, 23, ...

The approved solution from the publisher is
5, 7, 10, 15, 23, 35, 52, 75
How did they get this? Like this:

The problem is, since we haven't identified what kind of sequence we're talking about, there's another easy-to-come-by solution that is just as mathematically justifiable:

Both are correct because, again, we haven't identified what type of sequence this is. The solution key gives only the first answer, even though there are reasonable answers aplenty.

Bad, bad, bad.