Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Free Speech At Columbia

Makes you wonder what they have to hide.

Yes, I know it's a private university and they can make whatever rules they want, but I don't see anything about "controlling the message" in their Mission Statement.

Report: Technology "Immersion" In Middle School

Click here to read the report from the 2nd year of the Texas Technology Immersion Pilot program--or, if you prefer, allow me to summarize it for you:

Students and teachers in the program were significantly more comfortable using "technology", principals provided more leadership regarding "technology", and there was stronger parent and community support for "technology". Students in immersion schools seemed to like school better and had fewer discipline problems.

However, there was no significant effect on student self-directed learning, there was a negative effect on student attendance, and there was no significant effect on standardized test scores in reading, writing, or math.

Technology had a positive effect on math achievement for higher achieving students.

Do these results explain or justify further expenditures for "digital schools" and "bookless schools" and for plans in some districts to issue every student a laptop computer? I'm not sure they do.

But this is only one study, right?

What Is The True Purpose of the NEA?

Why does the teachers union exist?

I believe that a union should look out for the best interests of those who support it financially, and should focus on their pay, benefits, and working conditions.

It seems, however, that the NEA disagrees with me. It apparently sees itself as a union cum social services organization, a left-wing organization of the highest degree.

What prompts me to say this? Why, their very own resolutions, posted on their very own web site. There are some 300 resolutions there; how many of them pertain directly to pay, benefits, and working conditions? Even if you like or agree with some of the resolutions, why should a labor union--financed in part by extorted dues--be involved in these issues that have nothing to do with pay, benefits, and working conditions?

Seriously, go read just the table of contents for their resolutions.

Tell me why a labor union should be looking out for others people's children instead of (or in addition to) its members. And if you think that a labor union of teachers should be looking out for students--as if that's not the responsibility of the elected school board--explain the 2nd paragraph of Resolution B-75 to me, which punishes students whose parents pay taxes for public schools but don't want their children educated in public schools.

See if the NEA itself lives up to Resolution B-11 with regards to white people or Republicans, both of whom are specifically left out of the list of people who should be respected. Explain how the NEA can support affirmative action and other set-aside programs--and why it disliked the school segregation cases ruled up on by the Supreme Court in June--when it claims Part D of Resolution B-11.

Tell me why a labor union to which I'm compelled to give money should give a darn about "Equity for Incarcerated Persons", which is Resolution B-23.

I'll skip a hundred or so resolutions--what possible interest could a labor union have in "Statehood for the District of Columbia", Resolution H-11? or in the "International Court of Justice" or the "International Criminal Court", Resolutions I-2 and I-3? or "Protection of Senior Citizens", Resolution I-35? or in "Businesses Owned By Minorities and/or Women", Resolution I-54?

I could go on but I'll stop there. While the ideas represented by those resolutions may (or may not) be good ideas, the NEA has no business concerning itself with them--or in using my money to do so. Pay, benefits, and working conditions, and nothing else.

Want to know why I have so much disregard for the NEA? There are only two reasons:

1. the fact that I'm compelled to give them my money, and
2. the things on which they spend my money.

The second point I've addressed in this post, the first I've addressed in so many others:

Every (non-military) American has a right to join a union. Every American has a right not to join a union. Every American should have the right not to be required to support a union financially.

That NEA gets a cent from me is an injustice of the highest order.

NEA Members Are Homophobes

It's statements like the following, which pertains to gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender school employees, that just disgust me about the NEA. Quoting from EIA (where else?) in this week's Communique:

The Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification had a research problem: "One of the challenges confronting the committee was the continuing lack of empirical or even anecdotal data on the experiences and the rate of harassment among school personnel. The difficulty obtaining such data is more likely a byproduct of the extreme homophobia that makes many schools inhospitable places for personnel to be openly GLBT, rather than the absence of negative experiences among GLBT personnel. In addition, the relatively few personnel who are openly GLBT may report mostly positive experiences because they work in hospitable climates and have strong support from administrators and the community. While these experiences are valid, they probably do not reflect the experiences of the majority of GLBT personnel nationwide."

They admit that there's no data at all, assume harassment, and state outright that the reason there are no data is because of "extreme homophobia". Nope, no bias there! Certainly no left-leaning agenda.

But let's dissect that statement a bit.

The NEA is the largest labor union in the country. It has affiliates in every state, even in right-to-work states. There are few districts indeed in which the NEA is not present in some form. With well over 2 million members, including teachers and support personnel, I dare say that it's a mammoth.

That being the case, who are the homophobes that must be harassing the GLBT teachers into silence? Fellow teachers and school staff--fellow NEA members.

Who else could it be?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Smart Is Cool

Smart and hot is even better =)

McKellar should know. The actress once struggled with the subject around the seventh grade, but a teacher helped her through. McKellar eventually majored in math in college. She co-authored a scientific paper while a student at UCLA.

The book includes tips to avoid mistakes on homework, ways to overcome test-day anxiety and profiles of three beautiful mathematicians. (emphasis mine--Darren)

The referenced book is called Math Doesn't Suck.

Higher Pay For Math And Science Teachers

In this post I suggested that universities' charging more for math/science courses, for example, would have the effect of having even fewer people go into those fields, while "oppressed studies" majors would continue to flood a job market that doesn't need them. Well, if this proposal is implemented, it could conceivably counteract the effect listed above.

A group of business and university leaders proposes addressing the shortage of math and science teachers by paying higher salaries, improving teacher training, and giving first-year teachers more support...

Among teachers of all subjects, math teachers have the highest annual turnover rate (16.4 percent). Science teachers have the second-highest (15.6 percent).

We'll see if the NEA and CTA hop on board with this.

Health Care

Some companies are offering stick-and-carrot approaches to employees in an effort to reduce health care. While I don't like such approaches, they are the inevitable result of employer-paid health care.

Does anyone know why we in the United States assume that our health care costs will be borne by our employers?

Well kids, our story takes place in World War II. We got pretty close to socialism in that war, what with wage and price controls, rationing, the New Deal (under which we still suffer), etc. Companies, limited by government in what they could pay employees, found ways around the limits by offering non-taxable perks--including health care. Now, more than 60 years later, we live in a society that expects employers to fund health care coverage. What a perversion.

So what are companies doing today in order to cut costs?

Looking for new ways to trim the fat and boost workers' health, some employers are starting to make overweight employees pay if they don't slim down...

In one of the boldest moves yet, an Indiana-based hospital chain last month said it decided on the stick rather than the carrot. Starting in 2009, Clarian Health Partners will charge employees as much as $30 every two weeks unless they meet weight, cholesterol and blood-pressure guidelines that the company deems healthy.

Those of you who adore the nanny state might very well say, "Good! It's what's best for those people." I, on the other hand, don't have a problem with the market approach--those who cost the system more should pay more.

However, what happens when government runs health care and compels people to lose weight? Then it becomes an issue of the coercive power of the state versus individual freedom, and that's an entirely different game.

One California school district is looking at getting into this game:

[T]he Los Angeles Unified School District, which has 90,000 employees, is researching financial incentives and disincentives to help bring down healthcare costs.

There are some interesting issues relating to these reward-and-punishment proposals when instituted by companies; what happens when the government itself starts implementing requirements "for the public good"? Will we have Prohibition II? Will smoking be outlawed? Will we have mass public calisthenics each morning like they (used to?) have in China? Will certain foods be taxed more, or forbidden?

Critics of the lose-it-or-pay trend say that companies that charge overweight employees more for their medical coverage are turning the healthcare system into a police state and, just as worrisome, are working off of a false assumption that it's easy for people who are obese and have other health issues to change their situations...

Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a Princeton, N.J.-based employee rights group, called the trend "a very dangerous road that could lead to employers controlling everything we do in our private lives."

If you don't want your employer controlling what you do in your private life, the thought of government's being in that position should send a chill down your spine.

And do you foresee many new "disabilities" to create loopholes?

Still, some lawyers say weight-based compensation plans may run afoul of other employment laws.

"A key protection in the Americans with Disabilities Act is that employers can't discriminate against employees based on their health status," said J.D. Piro, a principal at Hewitt Associates' healthcare law group. "This is a fight that's likely going to be dealt with in the courts."

Smoking, drinking, overeating, addiction to high-calorie foods--all will become "disabilities".

In Arkansas, Deeann Gutekunst, 42, a Benton County deputy treasurer, said she understood the rationale for the county's policy.

"If you have employees who don't care about their health," she said, "what else are you supposed to do?"

Of course, the solution is to compel them. Right.

How about this solution? How about we create a "wall of separation" between employer and health care? How about we let the marketplace take care of health care, the same way it takes care of groceries, housing, cars, and most everything else we need in our daily lives?

This isn't an area that requires more government intervention--heck, it was government intervention that got us here in the first place. This is an area that requires less.

But people aren't going to want to give up their "free" (employer-provided) health care. This is exactly why we don't need to go any further down the road to socialism--because any time someone gets something for which they don't have to pay money directly from their own pocket, they think it's free. It's too abstract to realize that every cent your employer pays for your health care--or for your social security, for that matter--is money that can't go into your pocket. Our health care situation in the United States is nowhere near ideal, but I can see no improvements at all by bringing it completely under the jurisdiction of the very government that created the employer health care mess in the first place.

It gets worse under government-run health care. As NewsAlert (see blogroll at left) always says,

Socialism means waiting in line.

Private health insurance is forbidden in Canada--except in Quebec, where the High Court ruled that too many people are dying while waiting and must be allowed to get private insurance. Another case is pending in Toronto. What will happen in Canada is this: there will be a two-tiered health care system, one for the "haves" and one for the "have-nots". Everyone will have the least common denominator, government-run health care program, which requires exceedingly long waits for what we in the US consider routine exams, and those who can afford it will have better. Given that, what good has Canada's system provided?

Here's the situation in Toronto:

It started when McCreith, a resident of Newmarket, north of Toronto, suffered a seizure last year. He was told in Canada he would have to wait more than four months for an MRI to rule out a malignant tumor.

Rather than wait, McCreith, 66, quickly arranged a trip to Buffalo for a scan. The MRI confirmed his worst fears — a cancerous growth that a Buffalo neurosurgeon removed a few weeks later.

“If I had been patient, I’d probably be disabled or dead today,” McCreith said.

Now, McCreith is suing the Ontario government in a closely watched constitutional challenge that could reshape universal health coverage in the province by striking down the prohibition against patients buying private insurance.

On this side of the border, advocates of universal health insurance champion Canada’s popular public program as a fairer system that the United States should emulate, as seen in Michael Moore film, “Sicko.” Yet critics see the long waits for some services in Canada — mainly for non-emergency surgery — as an argument against an increased role for government in health care.

With Medicare, Medicaid, and (in California) Medi-Cal, even the poorest wouldn't suffer what McCreith suffered in his first-class, G-8 government-provided health care.

For those of you who think socialism will level the playing field, you're right. It brings everyone down to the lowest level. And then the "haves", especially those in government, start making exceptions for themselves. Is that really what you want?

Hat tip to NewsAlert for the two links above.

Is The Teachers Union In Mexico Worse Than NEA/AFT?

Joanne links to a story that says, "Oh yeah."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Learning Styles: Complete and Total Crap

And it's high time someone says so publicly, even if that someone is in Britain.

"The rationale for employing Vak (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) learning styles appears to be weak. After more than 30 years of educational research in to learning styles there is no independent evidence that Vak, or indeed any other learning style inventory, has any direct educational benefits."

Some of us will never forgive Howard Gardner for writing that rubbish (I'm in British mode now), nor can we forget the so-called education professionals who foisted it upon our profession above and beyond what Gardner himself posited.

Good pedagogy requires that material be taught in a way that makes it accessible to students. That way is not necessarily the way that's most comfortable for the student; rather, it's the way that's most appropriate for the subject matter. Trying to learn trig using your musical or kinesthetic "intelligence" would be a colossal blunder. Of course specific applications in specific instances can be found, but on the whole, if you want to learn trig, you should learn it as it's been effectively and efficiently learned and taught for centuries.

So kudos to Baroness Greenfield! And kudos as well to Professor Coffield, who gets the final word in the linked article and in this post:

Frank Coffield, a professor at London University's institute of education, who reviewed 13 models of learning styles, insists that the approach is theoretically incoherent and confused.

"As well as Vak, I came across labelling such as 'activists' versus 'reflectors', 'globalists' versus 'analysts' and 'left brainers' versus 'right brainers'. There is no scientific justification for any of these terms," he said.

"We do students a serious disservice by implying they have only one learning style, rather than a flexible repertoire from which to choose, depending on the context."

I've Always Said This Was A Family Blog

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

2200+ posts, and this is what they come up with? Slap? Idiocy. I hope movie ratings are determined more intelligently, but I fear they're not.

It's nice they realize that I don't use foul language, though.

Good For Brown

When I read the title of this post I experienced a sinking feeling, thinking that it was the accuser that Brown had admitted. Instead they welcomed one of the real victims of the Duke rape hoax.

With everything over but the cleanup in that case, I can't imagine why any of those young men would ever want to hear about Duke again, much less return. What a vile, disgusting place--and with professors like the Gang of 88, the university deserves any consequences that accrue.

That situation, and indeed the entire university, cry out for justice--and I for one hope that voice is heard.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The NEA and Democracy

The NEA likes to bill its annual Representative Assembly as the largest democratic assembly in the world, with a couple thousand delegates who get to vote on the major issues facing the union.

This, of course, is complete and total crap.

There's so much more to democracy than just voting--after all, Saddam Hussein got "reelected" plenty of times. Hiding behind a façade of a fair election is the most evil of lies and the most cynical of acts.

Since the left is so fond of international governmental organizations (but not multinational corporations, go figure), I thought it might be fun to explore the democratic requirements of one of the treaties we've signed. Let's see what the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States has to say on the topic.

At the beginning of the charter is a large list of therefores, whereases, and recognizing-thats. This one stood out to me:

RECOGNIZING that the right of workers to associate themselves freely for the defense and promotion of their interests is fundamental to the fulfillment of democratic ideals;

What is probably the most important word in that recognition? Freely. Well, the NEA certainly can't claim title to that. Let's move on to the articles.

Article 3
Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.

Of course these articles relate specifically to governments and not to unions, but an organization that considers itself democratic in nature should at least support these requirements, if not abide by them. NEA doesn't believe in secret elections; as a union, it supports the card check process for certifying unions (learn how a card check works here). NEA doesn't believe in pluralism, it believes in acting as a monolithic bloc representing "teachers", even though it supports politicians and organizations that a large percentage of its membership most likely does not.

Article 4
Transparency in government activities, probity, responsible public administration on the part of governments, respect for social rights, and freedom of expression and of the press are essential components of the exercise of democracy.

The constitutional subordination of all state institutions to the legally constituted civilian authority and respect for the rule of law on the part of all institutions and sectors of society are equally essential to democracy.

Transparency is not a word I'd use to describe the workings of the teachers union. And when the NEA devotes even a page of its union rag to the 30+% of its membership that claims to be Republican, or that challenges NEA's actions, I'll consider revisiting this criticism. Until then, no.

Article 5
The strengthening of political parties and other political organizations is a priority for democracy. Special attention will be paid to the problems associated with the high cost of election campaigns and the establishment of a balanced and transparent system for their financing.

Opposing viewpoints expressed in the NEA? Perish the thought. It takes outside organizations to stand up to the NEA because there isn't a fair process with which to do so internally.

Article 6
It is the right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decisions relating to their own development. This is also a necessary condition for the full and effective exercise of democracy. Promoting and fostering diverse forms of participation strengthens democracy.

I'm not quite sure what a diverse form of participation is--maybe it's supporting a Republican for president, something the NEA has never done in its 150 year history? Nah, couldn't be that!

Well, that was fun. Now let's try something domestic--the US Department of State. Here's what our own State Department, darling of the liberals, has to say about majority rule and minority rights:

On the surface, the principles of majority rule and the protection of individual and minority rights would seem contradictory. In fact, however, these principles are twin pillars holding up the very foundation of what we mean by democratic government.

  • Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.
  • Minorities -- whether as a result of ethnic background, religious belief, geographic location, income level, or simply as the losers in elections or political debate -- enjoy guaranteed basic human rights that no government, and no majority, elected or not, should remove.
  • Minorities need to trust that the government will protect their rights and self-identity. Once this is accomplished, such groups can participate in, and contribute to their country's democratic institutions.
  • Among the basic human rights that any democratic government must protect are freedom of speech and expression; freedom of religion and belief; due process and equal protection under the law; and freedom to organize, speak out, dissent, and participate fully in the public life of their society.
  • Democracies understand that protecting the rights of minorities to uphold cultural identity, social practices, individual consciences, and religious activities is one of their primary tasks.
  • Acceptance of ethnic and cultural groups that seem strange if not alien to the majority can represent one of the greatest challenges that any democratic government can face. But democracies recognize that diversity can be an enormous asset. They treat these differences in identity, culture, and values as a challenge that can strengthen and enrich them, not as a threat.
  • There can be no single answer to how minority-group differences in views and values are resolved -- only the sure knowledge that only through the democratic process of tolerance, debate, and willingness to compromise can free societies reach agreements that embrace the twin pillars of majority rule and minority rights.

  • U-bots will claim that the NEA does this, but I disagree. Vehemently.

    For starters, the NEA is entitled to my money--whether or not I want them to have it. They can vote all they want what to do with my money, but the fact that they get it against my will is tyranny.

    I do not believe the NEA will protect my individual rights and self-identity, since the very idea of a labor union is that we're all one and speak with one voice. The NEA has no outreach to people of my political persuasion--and why should they? They get my money anyway. If I had remained a union member I wouldn't have minority status, I'd have invisible status. Yet even after resigning, they still get my money.

    If you've ever seen a union at work, you'll know that dissent is never tolerated. Don't believe me? Shame on you. (Updated link here.)

    Incidentally, did you know that according to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, that during the period 1975-1993 (the last time period for which I have found data), NEA ranked as the most violent public-sector union? I didn't, either, but I do now.

    How can all this be fixed? Hayek answered that question decades ago in The Constitution of Liberty:

    [T]he coersion of employers would lose most of its objectionable character if unions were deprived of this power to exact unwilling support.

    I've said it before, several times:

    Every (non-military) American has a right to join a union. Every American has a right not to join a union. Every American should have the right not to be required to support a union financially.

    It must be this way if free will and freedom of association are to have any meaning at all.

    The Simpsons

    Have you ever wondered what you'd look like as a Simpson's character? Me either. But at this site, you can find out! And here's what I'd look like.

    I See Bad Things From *This* Market Approach

    NewsAlert quotes from the New York Times:

    Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided that the answers may be yes and yes...

    Such moves are being driven by the high salaries commanded by professors in certain fields, the expense of specialized equipment and the difficulties of getting state legislatures to approve general tuition increases, university officials say.

    And then says:

    You wonder why this hasn't happened sooner.

    You know I'm all about the market and how the market should decide things, but there are consequences. Since your black/women/gay/chicano studies majors and psychology majors and recreation majors are not going to pay such a fee, more people will go into those fields instead of the more expensive business/engineering/science majors. I'm compelled to ask: do we need more oppressed studies majors, or more business/engineering/science majors? Hmmmmm, tough one.

    In the end, though, the market will correct the problem. A glut of oppressed studies and other fuzzy majors graduates will drive down salaries in those fields, while the scarcity of graduates in the more expensive fields will drive up salaries. It's supply and demand--and the market will equalize on its own.

    Let's not find ways to perform our own form of social engineering and lower the prices for tougher majors. It may take awhile longer, but the market will resolve this issue in its own way, and far more effectively than we could ever hope to by tinkering.

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    A Canadian Doctor Talks About Socialized Medicine

    He said it, not me. Well, all right, I've said most of it, too. But here's how he starts:

    I was once a believer in socialized medicine.

    Nice. =)

    Government researchers now note that more than 1.5 million Ontarians (or 12% of that province's population) can't find family physicians. Health officials in one Nova Scotia community actually resorted to a lottery to determine who'd get a doctor's appointment.

    These problems are not unique to Canada — they characterize all government-run health care systems.

    Health care by lottery. Bet you didn't hear about that in Sicko, did you?

    Because the U.S. is so much wealthier than other countries, it isn't unreasonable for it to spend more on health care. Take America's high spending on research and development. M.D. Anderson in Texas, a prominent cancer center, spends more on research than Canada does. (emphasis mine--Darren)

    Do I need to add to that?

    The Canucks and the British aren't stupid. They didn't set out for their health care systems to be as screwed up as they are. If there were a way to avoid it, I'm sure they'd have avoided it. But they haven't. The problems they haveare entirely predictable, they're what socialism has wrought.

    Anyway, our doctor-author ends with a statement that Adam Smith would probably agree with:

    America is right to seek a model for delivering good health care at good prices, but we should be looking not to Canada, but close to home — in the other four-fifths or so of our economy. From telecommunications to retail, deregulation and market competition have driven prices down and quality and productivity up. Health care is long overdue for the same prescription.

    Hear hear.

    I've Never Understood The Bottled Water Thing

    For the time being, I have flat-rate water. Doesn't matter how much I use (not that I waste it at all), I pay the same amount each month. That's changing soon--thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger--but that's the way it is now.

    So why would someone pay for bottled water? It ranks right up there with Pet Rocks for brilliant marketing.

    OK, so you like the pure mountain spring water, fresh from nature's bosom.

    Not if you're drinking Aquafina, or (I'm sure) most other brands:

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc. will spell out that its Aquafina bottled water is made with tap water, a concession to the growing environmental and political opposition to the bottled water industry.

    There's an environmental opposition to bottled water? On what grounds?

    Critics charge the bottled water industry adds plastic to landfills, uses too much energy by producing and shipping bottles across the world and undermines confidence in the safety and cleanliness of public water supplies, all while much of the world's population is without access to clean water.

    Damn. "Big Water" sounds like communist whores or something.

    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    Done With The Potter Book

    I'm done--less than two days. I haven't done too much else but read in that time, either!

    I liked the fact that Rowling tied up every loose end--can't stand ambiguous endings.

    There was a death in the book that really saddened me. I once nicknamed a student after one character, and this character's death was so unnecessary. The character died with honor, though.

    Didn't think the story was all that great. It was certainly not the best of the bunch. I did like the ending, though--I'm a sucker for happy endings.

    Is Teacher Turnover As Bad As The NEA Says It Is?

    EIA (see blogroll at left) has a great comparison.

    Schools and Drug Testing

    I was once "thanked and dismissed" from jury consideration because I'm former military, had kicked people out of the army for drug use, and have a friend who's a cop. I'm not a fan of drug use at all, and no, I don't accept the libertarian "it's my body" argument. I do, however, think that marijuana should be legalized, and no, I don't smoke it.

    So you know where I stand on drugs.

    In Tennessee, student athletes can be tested for drug use--I'll ignore, for the moment, why only athletes are tested and not others who represent the school--but recently the state attorney general opined that testing random athletes violates state law. Specifically, he said, state law requires that there be a reasonable suspicion of drug use before students can be tested.

    The opinion doesn't bar schools from drug testing, but it could leave them open to court challenges, said Rich Haglund, legal counsel for the state board of education.

    So what are some schools doing? They're testing their students anyway.

    You can hear the leftie cries of "it's to protect the children!" all the way out here on the Left Coast. Apparently, "protecting the children" is far more important than a) following the law, and b) the constitutional rights of those children.

    Yes, I know that children have fewer rights than do adults, and even support the reasoning behind that fact. However, I don't see that reasoning as supporting random drug testing. Even children should be presumed innocent of crimes before there's adequate reason to believe they're not, and the fishing expedition that is random drug testing assumes just the opposite.

    Random drug testing is right up there with the Transportation Security Administration (the federal idiots at the airport)--window dressing so some politician somewhere can say he or she is "doing something" about a problem, but that actually accomplishes next to nothing.

    What should we do about kids' taking drugs? I don't have a complete answer to that yet. But I know the solution does not include having random students, or even random athletes, pee in a bottle.

    And schools that continue to do this now that they've been told that the top law enforcement officer in the state thinks it's illegal? They deserve to get hit with the lawsuits that will come--just like my school district deserves to get hit with the lawsuits that will eventually come from the charging of illegal fees.

    I can forgive breaking a law inadvertently. I can't forgive a government entity knowingly and willfully violating the law.

    Socialism and Capitalism

    Someone in Rhode Island has a clue.

    A Couple Links Related To Renewable Energy

    New Solar Photovoltaic Cell Efficiency Record: 42.8%

    Renewable Energy Seen As Harmful To Environment

    Interesting points in each of them.

    As I've said several times before, I don't think man is doing much at all compared to the sun with regards to global warming, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look for ways to pollute less. The 2nd link had some especially interesting points, including the point that nuclear power has the smallest environmental footprint of all.

    Nuclear power--good for the atom, good for global warming!

    Update: here's an interesting post saying that recycling isn't as fantastic as some claim. I admit that I wasn't very impressed with Penn & Teller's "debunking" of the myths surrounding recycling, but I'm pretty convinced by the points made in the linked post. Here's a point I never hear explained: if recycling is so wonderful and saves so much (including money), why do I have to pay more for it (can/bottle redemption values, forced curbside recycling costs)? Why isn't someone paying me to take my cans away?

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    Harry Potter

    I'm among the world's slowest readers. I'm one of those who pronounces each word in my head as if I'm reading aloud. I don't know any other way, and fortunately I've found ways to compensate for this inability.

    Still, I'm on page 502. So far, I'm not convinced the story is as good as any of the previous books. Here's hoping for a good ending, though.

    Carnival of Education

    This week's is here, and includes my post on cheating at an Oakland charter school.

    What Have You Done Today To Make You Feel Proud?

    I was shopping yesterday, and the very beautiful, soulful song being played over the speakers included the lyrics, "What have you done today to make you feel proud?"

    So I started thinking. My first reaction, and probably most people's, was to look back over my day and find something, anything, with which to answer the question. After all, if we can't answer that question then we're not good people--and we all want to think highly of ourselves, don't we?

    Shortly thereafter I realized that I had it all backwards.

    You see, it's not enough to look back on the day and hope you've done something to make you feel proud. Rather, you should set out each day with the goal of doing something in which you can take pride.

    At the end of the day, answering the question should be easy.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Blogging May Be Light For Awhile

    I'm starting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows tonight ($16 at Fry's Electronics), and I'm a very slow reader.

    It's About Darn Time

    Ward Churchill has been fired from the the University of Colorado. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

    I don't think he should have been fired for his 9-11 "little Eichmanns" comment, although he's earned any and all social opprobrium that comes with such a vile exercise of free speech. No, he was correctly fired for faking his credentials and for plagiarizing. That people started looking into his background only after his 9-11 comment is irrelevant, because their motivations don't change or justify his lying and plagiarizing.

    Personally, I hope he rots in Hell.

    More Union Hypocrisy

    Here's another union paying non-union (often homeless) people to picket for them.

    Being that I'm a good conservative, having just finished Goldwater's book, I'll only jokingly consider joining with those who suggest that maybe there outta be a law that says that outside picketers for unions must be paid whatever wage the union is trying to get for its own people.

    Introducing this post I said another union. Here's what I was referring to, and it's one of my favorite union stories of all time. This post has links about hiring canvassers and protesters, too, at substandard wages--by people who claim to know better.

    NEA Wants More Of Your Tax Dollars (and, of course, dues money)

    Quoting EIA, in a post on NEA President Massa Reg's speech at the recently concluded Rep Assembly in Philadelphia:

    The idea is that NEA has trouble organizing communities to support its requests for more money. Since most Americans don't currently have children in public schools, NEA hopes to get them to rally around issues they care about, like tax fairness and the economy.

    The campaign is to paint corporations as special interest shirkers, who don't pay their fair share of taxes to support public schools which, the NEA contends, is an investment that brings future dividends in the guise of creative, knowledgeable employees and entrepreneurs.

    This, I might add, from a national organization with state and local affiliates that collectively take in more than $1 billion annually and pay no corporate income taxes.

    Does this surprise anyone? Does it disgust anyone? My guess is the answers to those two questions are going to be different.

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Cheating At A Charter

    This isn't an anti-charter school post, as I'm a big fan of charter schools. I'm not a big fan of cheating and fraud, however, and when one of the good guys commits cheating and fraud, I call them on it.

    In spring 2006, teachers' records for an 11th-grade boy at University Preparatory Charter Academy in East Oakland showed an F and five D's.

    His report card for the same period featured three D's and three C's.

    His transcript -- the one received by the California State University campuses that accepted him -- glowed with three A's and three B's.

    That's pretty blatant, and there are more examples in the article.

    Let's skip the moral argument or right and wrong for a moment, because anyone who would do what was reported obviously would not be swayed by such arguments. Let's try a completely practical, utilitarian approach.

    Why would school officials change grades? One possible reason is for the school's stats to look good. No one, in the light of day, will try to defend such a proposition. Even if someone were to try, changing a teacher's grade is against California ed code. It's illegal. No argument there.

    So there's only one reason left that I can come up--we want to help the boy get into college. If you only fe-e-e-e-e-e-l, instead of think, I'm sure you can justify such behavior as doing a good deed for some poor, downtrodden soul. But is a good deed really being done? Is there any reason to believe that someone who gets D's and F's in high school is going to be able to succeed at collegiate academics? Isn't it far more likely that the student will get to college and fail there--at great emotional and financial cost? Isn't the school, then, just setting this student up for failure?

    If there's a good answer to that argument, one that would justify violating the law by changing grades, I'm listening.

    You know what would be a far better way to help the boy get into college? Teach him the material he isn't currently learning, material in which he's earning D's and F's.

    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    Meet Your Blogger

    Being tagged by Mr. Chanman, I present you with another opportunity to get up close and personal with me--or at least to learn more than you want to.

    Four Jobs I've Had
    • Sandwich maker for a gut truck (8th grade, and only for a couple days--I was too slow!
    • Army lieutenant
    • Inside sales rep/sales coordinator
    • Manufacturing manager

    Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over
    • Sky High
    • Galaxy Quest
    • The Bourne Identity
    • Crimson Tide

    Four Places I've Lived
    • West Point, NY
    • El Paso, TX
    • Colorado Springs, Colorado
    • Fremont/Newark, CA

    Four Books I Love
    • Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater (just finished it, and it's phenomenal)
    • Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler
    • Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling
    • Strength In Numbers by Sherman Stein

    Four Places I've Vacationed
    • Vancouver/Victoria, British Columbia
    • Las Vegas, NV
    • Acapulco, Mexico
    • Western Europe

    Four Of My Favorite Dishes
    • Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding
    • Tacos and enchiladas
    • Pepperoni pizza
    • Barbecued chicken

    Four Sites I Visit Daily
    Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now
    • London
    • Grand Cayman
    • On a cruise
    • Bavaria

    Saturday, July 21, 2007

    The Real Threat To Civil Liberties

    From Victor Davis Hanson:

    But at least the Patriot Act passed both houses of Congress with wide public support. In contrast, there are a variety of other assaults on personal freedoms, due process, and the sanctity of the law that leftwing moralists not only ignore, but often seem to endorse--as if the liberal ends should justify illiberal means.

    There's good stuff in there. I'd recommend you go take a read.

    Exactly What We Don't Need

    A president who would walk a picket line.

    Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

    I guess if you have to kiss the butt of your union overlords, that's what you do.

    `We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti-union, anti-worker forces we've seen in generations," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday night. "What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American."

    Two points.

    First, exactly what has the President done that is anti-union and anti-labor? Obama's sound bite sounds great to the faithful, but is it anything more than hot air contributing to global warming? Seriously, give one specific, Senator, just one.

    Second, in order to "value the labor of every American", we should value every American. Freedom is the watchword of this country, Senator, not labor. I believe in giving every American the freedom to join a union or not to, as are the dictates of his or her own conscience. As I've said before:

    Every (non-military) American has a right to join a union. Every American has a right not to join a union. Every American should have the right not to be required to support a union financially.

    When right-to-work laws are in place across the land, Senator, then you'll be valuing the labor of every American. Until then, you're valuing compulsory unionism.

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Nanny State Health Care

    If you believe the government is doing right by schools, roads, water, public safety, the budget, then you will love government medicine.

    That is what AB 840 is about, total government control of your health care, your life. This is the nanny state with your life at stake.

    Assemblyman Huff minces few words in describing what will happen to you and your family under this measure. A somewhat similar measure has just about bankrupted Tennessee and caused hundreds of health professionals to leave the State.

    The French have raised taxes and still have a major deficit from their program. You didn’t want poor health care coverage to be cheap did you?

    Want to wait weeks and months for needed procedures? You will love AB 840.

    We keep telling you, but the big government-types who want to run your life for you don't care.

    By the way, how's that Social Security system holding up financially? Are FICA taxes still 1%, like they were at the start of the program?

    Freedom isn't free. Neither is socialized medicine.

    Solar Cells

    It is my hope that continued innovation along these lines will someday help reduce the strain on our power grid here in California.

    Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. "The process is simple," said lead researcher and author Somenath Mitra, PhD, professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations"...

    "Developing organic solar cells from polymers, however, is a cheap and potentially simpler alternative," said Mitra. "We foresee a great deal of interest in our work because solar cells can be inexpensively printed or simply painted on exterior building walls and/or roof tops. Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless. "

    Sacramento Democrats Should Learn Some Math

    Under the GOP plan, education spending would go up 3.8 percent this fiscal year, from $55.1 billion to $57.2 billion. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders back spending of $57.6 billion. So by any rational definition, what the Republicans are suggesting is a modest attempt to contain spending growth as part of an overall effort to bring spending in line with revenue.

    Forget rationality from Democratic leaders. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez said “Republicans are asking for cuts that are way too deep,” and declared the GOP wanted to “eviscerate public education.” But Republicans are not asking for spending cuts – just holding the increase to 3.8 percent. Likening this to evisceration – the removal of a vital or essential part of something – is goofy. But in a Capitol dominated by the California Teachers Association, alas, it's unsurprising.

    So a 3.8% increase is a deep cut that will "eviscerate public education". What's amazing is that in California, people take such idiocy seriously.

    I like the little pun at the end of the editorial, which says that when considering math, the legislature should listen to the CPA and not the CTA.

    Update: EIA (see blogroll at left) has slightly different numbers and a slightly different take on the situation. His point: Why is the CTA told the details about the "secret" negotiations, but the rest of California isn't?

    Lawmakers shouldn't be having secret budget negotiations. Secret from whom? The rest of the legislature? The press? The taxpayers? But if they are secret, they should be secret from everyone. Californians didn't elect David Sanchez. California's teachers didn't elect David Sanchez. He was elected without opposition by some 800 teacher union activists who meet four times a year over a weekend.

    Union bashing? Replace "education leaders" with "HMO directors" or "big box store executives" or "defense industry interests" and see if you still think this is the way government should be run.

    Washington State--On Its Way To A Clue?

    Here's hoping.

    An outside review of Washington's standards for mathematics found them sorely lacking — with key concepts missing, a lack of focus and insufficient clarity, especially when it comes to the basics.

    Consultant Linda Plattner, hired by the state Board of Education, says Washington expects too little of its students in math, even though roughly 40 percent of Washington 10th-graders fail math each year on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL).

    Echoing concerns from a grass-roots parents group, Plattner also said Washington needs to be clearer about the need for students to memorize basic math facts and learn standard methods of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

    What will the Board of Education do with this assessment? That's one of those details in which the devil resides.

    High School Exit Exam Update

    According to the major Sacramento newspaper:

    State education officials and lawyers representing students who failed the California High School Exit Exam settled a lawsuit Thursday that began last year in an attempt to eliminate the test as a graduation requirement.

    Under the agreement, the test remains in place but schools must continue to educate students who fail for an additional two years after 12th grade -- if those students want to return and try the test again.

    I'm glad the exam remains. I'm not sure of the wisdom of having 20-year-olds on a campus with 14-year-olds, but I guess that's part of the agreement.

    This all started when some students who failed the exam were not going to be allowed to graduate (click on the testing/assessment tab and find some posts on this topic from Spring 2006) and filed a lawsuit. They lost; the state courts ruled that it's clearly within the purview of the legislature to dictate graduation requirements, and those students didn't graduate because they couldn't pass a test that has at most 8th grade math and 10th grade English.

    In a remarkable effort at spin, the students' attorney calls this settlement a victory:

    "For our clients, this is absolutely a victory," said Arturo Gonzalez, the San Francisco attorney who represented students in the classes of 2006 and 2007 who couldn't graduate from high school because they failed the exit exam.

    "It just means that if (a school is) going to have a special course to prepare students for the test, you may have to invite five kids from last year who didn't pass. And that's a lot better than having those five kids out on the street."

    OK, Arturo, whatever you need to tell yourself.

    Do You Feel Safer Now With Democrats Running The Congress?

    Remember when we were told to be vigilant and report suspicious-looking people and activities? Well, do that now, and the Democrats will let the terrorists sue you.

    Update: Does the stock market indicate anything relating to the Global War on Terror?

    It has been widely reported that President Bush simply refuses to turn against the surge in Iraq, or even compromise on it. At the same time, he admonishes Congress to toss out troop-withdrawal timetables and to give Gen. Petraeus' new counterinsurgency plan time to work. And you know what? While the Democrats stand against nearly all of the president's wartime policies -- and in the process court defeat -- the stock market is standing with Bush, and the chance for victory.

    Early last week, when the Democratic leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi launched their latest antiwar offensive, stocks dropped about 150 points. Then, in a press conference a few days later, after Bush discussed clear successes in Iraq's Anbar province, the Dow Jones soared nearly 300 points, marching ever closer to the 14,000-point plateau.

    I'm not saying there's any correlation, Larry Kudlow is.

    Update #2, 7/22/07: More thoughts on keeping your mouth shut.

    Update #3, 7/25/07: Apparently, those same people who need to be muzzled by the so-called Fairness Doctrine have "encouraged" the Congress to rethink the John Doe Amendment. It's may be safe to report suspicious activity again.

    Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Worth The Expense?

    A suburban Sacramento school district superintendent makes more money than Governor Schwarzenegger.


    Lefties Apparently Don't Think Too Highly Of Voting

    Which do you think is more important: purchasing alcohol, or voting for the officials of government? This is not a rhetorical question.

    Any reader of this blog will know that I choose the latter. Whatever the legal age for purchasing alcohol is in any locality, it's wise to require identification to ensure the purchaser is of legal age. But that requirement pales in significance to the importance of the vote. But apparently some don't see it that way.

    Detroit Branch NAACP officials blasted the Michigan Supreme Court today, accusing the court of turning Michigan into "the Mississippi of the North" with its ruling requiring photo identification for voting.

    I'm truly at a loss at how anyone can show even the slightest comparison to showing identification, thereby proving you're entitled to vote, to poll taxes, reading tests, grandfather clauses (if your grandfather couldn't vote, neither can you), or outright disenfranchisement. The NAACP has made itself a laughingstock on this issue and so many others. I ask: what possible affront to liberty can be accrued by ensuring that those who are not legally authorized to vote are in fact prevented from doing so, and that only those entitled to vote actually get to cast ballots?

    Another area in which lefties show outright contempt for voting is with the darling of the unions, the card check. Allow me to explain what that is.

    A card check is a way to certify a union without an election. What happens is a union organizer talks to individuals and gets them to sign a union card. When over half the employees of a company have signed the union card, the union is certified. Would anyone suggest we hold public elections that way? The reason for the voting booth and the secret ballot is to allow each voter to choose in accordance with his own conscience, free of pressure or intimidation by others. This rationale works just as well for a national election as it does a union election. Clearly, a card check law is un-American, to say the least.

    Which political party claims to be the party of the working American? And which party has temporarily halted card check legislation in the Senate? Readers of this blog will not be surprised by the answers.

    Note how the law is deceptively titled the Employee Free Choice Act. Orwell was writing about the left.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    "Real World Applications" of Supreme Court Decisions

    Here are two posts from this week's Carnival of Education, posts which relate to two of the Supreme Court cases decided this past term--the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case and the Louisville and Seattle so-called desegregation cases.

    The first was about the free speech of students at a school-sponsored event. Clearly, the school can regulate such speech. What, though, about speech that doesn't occur at school? What if the speech is on a student's own blog? This post discusses that topic and the first commenter, obviously with a brilliant mind, extends the subject somewhat.

    The next post I'll link to combines desegregation and some NCLB-like ratings for a failed school, to wit: if a mostly white (or mostly Catholic) school doesn't encourage racial (or religious) mixing, then that school is automatically labeled as "failing". If you thought such stupidity stopped at the western edge of the Atlantic, you'd be mistaken.

    Carnival of Education

    The popcorn and cotton candy can be found here, and includes my post on alternate methods of multiplication.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Democratic Congress Has A Gift For Its Union Overlords

    The new Democratic Congress has finally found a government agency whose budget It wants to cut: an obscure Labor Department office that monitors the compliance of unions with federal law...

    Union officials have publicly stated that they believe many of OLMS's requirements are burdensome and unnecessary. Since unions helped elect the current Congress, they are now seeking action on their agenda, which ranges from holding fewer secret ballot elections to cutting back on the oversight that is at the heart of the 1959 union "bill of rights" that JFK championed.

    Those are the opening and closing paragraphs in the piece. There's plenty more good stuff in the middle.

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    All You Need To Know About the NEA

    From this week's EIA Communique:

    Resolution E-9 now begins, "The National Education Association believes that federal and state mandates regarding school programs should be broad, general guidelines, must be fully funded, and must not be based on student achievement."

    Sunday, July 15, 2007

    Multiplication Method

    I've seen this done before, but it looks more complicated and less elegant than the standard method.

    Still, there's no reason not to try it if the standard method doesn't work for some students.

    Global Warming Video on CNN?

    I'll quote from Kerplunk (see blogroll at left):

    Anyhow, here's CNN Exposed with their take The Climate of Fear. Have a look at Al Gore's history with the Kyoto Protocol as Vice President. Now THAT is a real inconvenient truth for the man and his supporters.

    It's a 41 minute video that doesn't purport to be balanced. In fact, the host states outright in the first minute that the show gives "the other" side of the debate, the one you don't hear often enough (unless you read Kerplunk or Right On the Left Coast!).

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Another Reason Not To Elect A Democrat in '08

    As if you needed another one. This is about as important as the nomination of Supreme Court justices.

    Update, 7/19/07: Here are some further thoughts on the subject.

    (Not) Teaching History

    Britain's World War II prime minister Winston Churchill has been cut from a list of key historical figures recommended for teaching in English secondary schools, a government agency says.

    The radical overhaul of the school curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds is designed to bring secondary education up to date and allow teachers more flexibility in the subjects they teach, the Government said.

    I'd agree it's radical, that's for sure.

    Unfortunately, the article only mentions by name one person still required to be taught (about) in history classes, the important but unknown William Wilberforce.

    Churchill's grandson calls this decision "madness", and I must agree with him.

    From "Greatest Briton of all time" to not meriting a mention in history class in only 5 years. Amazing.

    At least most of the commenters at the article's web site have some sense about them. As one says:

    If Ghandi, Churchill, Stalin, Hitler, et al are OUT, who is IN? The Spice Girls?

    Friday, July 13, 2007

    Another Anecdote Regarding Socialized Medicine

    I was talking to my dad's wife today, explaining why I've finally entered the 21st century and gotten a cell phone. We were discussing all the utilities I didn't purchase, such as unlimited long distance, and she started telling me about the long distance plan they have at home.

    "We have that internet phone service, and get free long distance. We can call anywhere in the US, England, and Mexico for free. When I have friends over, I ask them if they want to make any long distance calls. They seem shocked, but it's free!"

    And that, dear readers, is why I don't want national (or even state) health care.

    There Are Good People In The World

    I was with a group once that put tears of joy into the eyes of a waitress, but our tip wasn't anything like this one.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    A "Good" President

    Remember when a "good" president was defined as one who got to take credit for a good economy?

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street soared Thursday, propelling the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones industrials to record highs as bright spots among generally sluggish retail sales allowed investors to toss aside concerns about the health of the economy. (emphasis mine--Darren)

    But wait, there's more! And it's not Ginsu knives.

    Incredible Shrinking Deficit
    New York Sun Editorial
    July 12, 2007

    2004 - $413 billion
    2005 - $318 billion
    2006 - $248 billion
    2007 - $205 billion...

    But as the shrinking figures above show, in fact the deficit is shrinking. When you look at it as a percentage of GDP, the decline is even more striking:

    2004 - 3.6%
    2005 - 2.6%
    2006 - 1.9%
    2007 - 1.5%

    This isn't to say that we shouldn't get a handle on federal spending--after all, a deficit is a deficit. I've used the phrase "spending money like a drunken sailor in a Southeast Asian port" to describe the last several years.

    But we've had worse spending than this (as a percentage of GDP) before and if the stock market was up, the president was fine (and got reelected). I certainly haven't heard this excellent news trumpeted on ABC World News, like they used to announce each new stock market high or milestone ending in three zeroes.

    Funny how the rules change.

    Hat tip to Instapundit (see blogroll at left).

    Biased Professoriate?

    Zogby's a leftie, and look what he's reporting.

    Zogby Poll: Most Think Political Bias Among College Professors a Serious Problem

    Nearly six in 10 - 58% - said they see it as a serious problem, with 39% saying it was a "very serious" problem.

    A New Visitor at RightOnTheLeftCoast?

    click to enlarge

    I must admit, I've never seen a reader from here before. Should I expect thoughtful consideration of my points, or goons showing up at my door?

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    Democrats for Education Reform

    Is this too much to ask for?

    I guess it's a start. I'll be more upbeat when they challenge the NEA on something big.

    Update, 7/12/07: Joanne brings up similar issues.

    Bubble In The Correct Answer

    EIA (see blogroll at left) has an excellent foil to those, like every presidential candidate who addressed the NEA convention, take it as an article of faith that standardized tests are bad.

    Any question on a fill-in-the-bubble test provides all the data necessary to come up with the correct answer. Students are then supplied with four or five possible responses. By their very nature, standardized tests inflate the scores of students on the low end of the scale. The only students who score lower than 20 percent on a fill-in-the-bubble test are victims of bad luck, since entirely random responses should raise you at least that high.

    Just the appearance of a correct answer printed on a test booklet should increase scores across-the-board. Some percentage of students who cannot correctly answer the question "Who was President of the United States during the Civil War?" with no further prompting, will no doubt choose the correct answer when it is placed next to George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Bill Clinton. There is good reason to believe that scores would plummet if tests were "fill in the blank" instead of "fill in the bubble."

    Student assessments can also include essays, projects, or oral interviews. These allow students to demonstrate a deeper and wider knowledge of a particular subject than can be measured by a "fill in the bubble" test. However, using the previous example, it's hard to imagine a student who can write a meaningful and exemplary essay about any aspect of the Civil War if he or she can't answer the "bubble" question of who the President was.

    So why would educators and their political allies criticize measurements that cast them in a better light than the alternatives?

    And the answer is:

    Because of the political battles over education and the presence of standardized tests, the tendency of school systems is to evaluate students more generously in alternative assessments. In the absence of standardized tests, very few students "fail," receive Fs, are retained, or are denied diplomas.

    Carnival of Education

    This week's is posted here. My post about compulsory unionism is included.

    A Cynical View of Poorly Run Schools

    This blog is from Britain, but how can you tell in this snippet?

    I therefore feel qualified to comment on the little flaw in this scheme: challenging schools don’t actually want bright, academically able teachers who want to make a difference.

    Now, there might be a few well run schools that count as challenging, but schools that are well run soon improve. Any school that has been “challenging” for a considerable length of time will be run, or have been run, by idiots, those too stupid to either improve the school or to leave. The last thing they want is anyone with even half a brain asking questions or pointing out when something they are told makes no sense. There is an anti-academic, anti-intellectual, anti-thinking culture in these schools.

    Anecdotes, anyone?

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007

    National Healthcare (aka Hillarycare)

    So this guy explains why all the state attempts have failed at providing universal coverage, and somehow uses that explanation to show that a national plan will succeed.

    I'm not buying it.

    Update, 7/11/07: Here's Michael Moore-on and Dr. Sanjay Gupta disagreeing about Sicko. I'm more apt to believe Gupta.

    "None of the facts were fudged." Yeah, Moore-on is known for his unvarnished integrity.

    Summarizing Presidential Candidates' Speeches at the NEA Convention

    EIA (see blogroll at left) does his usual spectacular job in this week's Communique, but two widely separated statements jumped out to me as being intensely related:

    For an organization that espouses local control and vilifies top-down mandates, NEA's delegates cheer rather loudly for candidates who want to insert the federal government into even the most mundane decision-making in their schools...

    NEA has listed as non-negotiable any provision in NCLB or other federal law that "undermines collective bargaining." But the delegates' response to the far-reaching promises of the presidential candidates indicates they obviously don't mind undermining collective bargaining if it produces the kind of result they want, whether it is smaller class sizes, higher teacher salaries, or less accountability for measurable results.

    What have I said so many times about consistency not being a strong point of the left?

    Oh Snap, Global Warming!

    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Thousands of Argentines cheered and threw snowballs in the streets of Buenos Aires on Monday as the capital's first major snowfall since 1918 spread a thin white mantle across the region.

    Wet snow fell for hours in the Argentine capital, accumulating in a mushy but thin white layer late Monday, after freezing air from Antarctica collided with a moisture-laden low pressure system that blanketed higher elevations in western and central Argentina with snow.

    Don't you just love stories like this?

    "This is the kind of weather phenomenon that comes along every 100 years," forecaster Hector Ciappesoni told La Nacion newspaper. "It is very difficult to predict."

    Really? It's difficult to predict the weather, you say? Sir, could you tell what the climate will be like in 50 years, please? (hehe)

    The snow followed a bitter cold snap in late May that saw subfreezing temperatures, the coldest in 40 years in Buenos Aires.
    The coldest in 40 years, you say? Really!

    OK, that's enough lighthearted fun directed at the global warming zealots. Now let's talk seriously--about forecasting.

    Professor Scott Armstrong is at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr Kesten Green is with the Business and Economic Forecasting Unit at Monash University. They're experts in forecasting techniques. (Many people are unaware that forecasting is a subject with many academic experts and a body of research going back to the 1930s. The website forecastingprinciples.com attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year.) Their paper is Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts. It was written for the 27th Annual International Symposium on Forecasting.

    Armstrong and Green looked at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group 1 report from earlier this year. This is the major source for the orthodoxy.

    They focused on chapter eight, which sets out the methodology used for the forecasts in the report. They found that the panel, despite its immense assembly of scientific talent, appeared to have no idea of how to make a reliable forecast. Although the chapter has 788 references, none relates to forecasting methodology.

    Armstrong and Green rated the methodology used by the panel against 89 principles of good forecasting derived from years of research. They found that the panel report breached 72 of those principles. They concluded that the forecasts the weather was likely to change in many negative ways were worthless.

    What are some of the main principles of forecasting? One involves the notion, so popular among orthodoxy advocates, of consensus. While consensus might say something about testable scientific theories, it says nothing about forecasts.

    Armstrong and Green say: "Agreement among experts is weakly related to accuracy. This is especially true when the experts communicate with one another and when they work together to solve problems, as is the case with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process."

    Another principle involves uncertainty and complexity. The more of each you have, the less sure you should be of your forecasts. Climate forecasts involve so many factors and so much uncertainty that Armstrong and Green believe they're useless.

    Many people believe these complex forecasts can be trusted because computer models are used. But so much uncertainty and subjectivity is involved in the input that Armstrong and Green say the use of these computer models is just a modern version of an old practice: the use of mathematics to make personal opinions sound more impressive. (Robert Malthus's predictions on population increase and food decline, very influential in the 19th century, were presented with a lot of mathematics. They were wrong.)

    Armstrong and Green note: "To our knowledge, there is no empirical evidence to suggest that presenting opinions in mathematical terms rather than in words will contribute to forecast accuracy."

    Update, 7/10/07: You have to admire someone who can write like this:
    I COULD not have upset the soft-left, soft-green middle classes more if I had crept in their kitchens and snuck genetically modified tomatoes in their paninis.

    And what does he say about global warming?

    So what was our conclusion, after months of research that involved talking to hundreds of scientists and wading through mountains of science papers? It's all codswallop.

    Previously we've heard it described by a well-respected climate scientist as hooey. I don't even know what codswallop is, but I'm guessing it's not good.

    Update #2, 7/10/07: When SCIENCE Magazine starts backing away from the topic, you know the lefties are in a hurtbox. Thanks to reader EllenK for pointing me to this piece.

    Monday, July 09, 2007

    It Couldn't Happen To A More Deserving University

    SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court against officials of San Francisco State University, where the administration forced the College Republicans to stand trial for “the desecration of Allah” because they stepped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags in political protest at an anti-terrorism rally.

    “America’s colleges and universities should recognize the constitutional rights of Christian and politically conservative students just as they do for all other students,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David French, who heads the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Officials at San Francisco State are required to respect the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to free speech in exactly these kinds of situations.”

    I'm not always convinced the Constitution applies in San Francisco, but I'm glad this lawsuit has been filed.

    Best (and worst) Bang For The Education Buck

    Interestingly enough, this analysis is questionable for California because our school budgets are determined in Sacramento, not on local property taxes.

    Sunday, July 08, 2007

    Now THIS Could Be Fun To Watch

    CRAWFORD, Texas - Cindy Sheehan, the soldier's mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.

    Hehe :-)

    Update, 7/12/07: Circular Firing Squad! Ready, aim...

    Saturday, July 07, 2007

    Live Earth

    I have nothing to add. Yet.

    Update, 7/8/07: Not related to Live Earth, but to so-called global warming:

    What's really interesting about the confession is that Makower very quickly goes on to reveal just how much the environment counts for with your average star environmentalist:

    ...like many of my environmental professional brethren, air travel is far and away my biggest personal and professional footprint. And it's not likely to change any time soon. This reality notwithstanding, the airline industry seems poised to finally confront its environmental impacts -- and mine.

    I find it hard to believe he's really saying "There's no way in hell I'm going to stop flying so much, so the airline industry had better get its butt in gear reducing my climate impact for me." But you could sit there staring at the quote all day and you can't make it mean anything else. It's also important to note that Joel Makower's speaking engagements are a cosmically fixed "reality"; unfortunately, your shopping, home-heating, and toilet habits don't enjoy this status.

    As Allen put it in a comment in this post, the rules don't apply to rich liberals, just to the rest of us.

    New Wonders of the World

    I don't see what makes Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue more of a wonder than the Eiffel Tower, but other than that, it's a pretty good list.

    From a link that probably won't be active for too long:

    The seven beat out 14 other nominated landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Easter Island in the Pacific, the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis, Russia's Kremlin and Australia's Sydney Opera House.


    Today I decided to go to nearby Folsom to take a few pictures.

    Folsom is an interesting place. It was founded because of gold in the American River. Its placement at the "boundary" of the Sierra Foothills and the Sacramento Valley made it an important geographic point. Folsom State Prison opened in 1880, made from the very granite that's so plentiful in the area. A powerplant, opened in 1895 and supplying Sacramento's first electricity, sealed the existence of a boomtown that would otherwise go bust.

    As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them.

    My first stop was the Old Powerhouse, which provided electricity to Sacramento for almost 60 years.

    You should really click on this next picture and admire the images it contains. The explanations are extremely interesting, too. I never knew that Sacramento owed its electricity to forced labor from Folsom Prison--yes, that Folsom Prison. I apologize for the funky perspective--it was necessary to avoid glare and keep the text readable.

    Obviously I got this image from Google Earth. It should be clear what I've added to the image, and how this picture complements the previous one.
    In this next picture, also from Google Earth, I've pretty much centered the old powerhouse. The two small bridges to the northeast are the Rainbow Bridge on the left, built in 1917, and the Truss Bridge on the right, built in the 1890's.

    Here's the exterior of the powerhouse, looking much like it did in the old pictures. The penstocks (shown below) are in the bright part of the building behind the brick.

    Here's one of four penstocks, which fed one of four turbines (at the bottom), that turned one of four generators, that each generated 750 KW of electricity. That penstock is 8 feet in diameter. That's a lot of water.

    Here are two of the generators in the brick portion of the building.

    It's a short walk from the Old Powerhouse to the old bridges. This is the view from the southern edge of the Truss Bridge. I assume the sign on it is a replica of an original from days gone by.

    This is the Rainbow Bridge over the American River. When it was built in 1917, it was the 4th largest concrete arch span bridge in the world. Try not to pay too much attention to the graffiti.

    Looking east from the truss bridge, you can see the wall of Folsom Prison in the distance, as well as the remains of the canal that fed the powerhouse.

    Moving back to historic Sutter Street, I saw this old picture of one of the street corners.
    Here's that corner today.
    Sutter Street now consists mostly of small eateries, antique stores, and similar establishments.

    I did not know this about the Pony Express. I knew it ended in Sacramento, but didn't know that the "terminus" kept moving east as railroads were built here in the Valley.

    As I said, gold is what gave Folsom its founding. Negro Bar and Mormon Island (they weren't so politically correct in naming places back then) were successful enough to bring non-blacks and non-Mormons to the area to establish the town. In any gold town, an assay office is critical.

    And of course, Wells Fargo is still around today.