Sunday, September 30, 2007

Plugging Into The World

Want to experience the world with stream-of-consciousness images? Try It's a continuous succession of pictures that are being uploaded to Blogger.

Those Wily Teenagers!

This is among the most entertaining things I've read in the past several hours. I highly enc0urage you to follow the link and read the whole thing.

My daughter is a good girl. That’s why it’s such a shame that she has hormones. Ryan, her “boyfriend,” might be a good boy too. I don’t know since he’s not allowed to call our home or really, even, to exist on the planet with my daughter because, you see, he has hormones, too. And, I have reason to believe that he is trying to turn my daughter to the dark side.

Left, Right, and Teaching

Mr. Chanman (see blogroll at left, Buckhorn Road) tells a great story. OK, it's not great, it's incredibly sublime and ridiculous, but his political instincts are, as artillerists would say, steel on target.

This is such typical leftist nonsense. Yes, leftist. Do you think conservatives would come up with a solution like this for classrooms where students won't be quiet so the teachers can do their job?

Would it be too much to expect the students to stop talking over the teacher?

More on the Columbia Debacle

Here's why Bollinger and Columbia were not just wrong for inviting Iran's president to speak, but hopeless fools.

If the blood-drenched history of the century just past had taught American academics one thing, it should have been that the totalitarian impulse knows no accommodation with reason. You cannot change the totalitarian mind through dialogue or conversation, because totalitarianism -- however ingenious the superstructure of faux ideas with which it surrounds itself -- is a creature of the will and not the mind. That's a large lesson, but what should have made Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University this week a wholly avoidable debacle was the school's knowledge of its own, very specific history.

We're then told about how Columbia warmed up to Italian fascism and German Nazism in the 1930s.

Arrogance, though, is invincible -- even to irony.

Then there's Bollinger's attack:

Bollinger clearly had an American audience in mind when he denounced the Iranian leader to his face as a "cruel" and "petty dictator" and described his Holocaust denial as designed to "fool the illiterate and the ignorant." Bollinger's remarks may have taken him off the hook with his domestic critics, but when it came to the international media audience that really counted, Ahmadinejad already had carried the day. The invitation to speak at Columbia already had given him something totalitarian demagogues -- who are as image-conscious as Hollywood stars -- always crave: legitimacy. Bollinger's denunciation was icing on the cake, because the constituency the Iranian leader cares about is scattered across an Islamic world that values hospitality and its courtesies as core social virtues. To that audience, Bollinger looked stunningly ill-mannered; Ahmadinejad dignified and restrained.

Ahmadinejad, 2. Columbia, 0. Great job, Bollinger. You were bested by an academic lightweight whom you yourself called a petty tyrant.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This School's Messed Up, Period.

Samantha Martin, 14, said she had a small purse with her at Tri-Valley High School when security guard Mike Bunce called her out of class on Sept. 19. She said Bunce told her she couldn't have a purse unless she had her period and then asked her if she did.

No purses or backpacks unless you need to conceal your tampons, huh?

In protest, some students began wearing tampons or sanitary napkins stuck to their clothing while others carried purses made of tampon boxes. Police arrested one student protester for running naked through school halls with a paper bag on his head. He said he was protesting the policy on backpacks, according to police.

I'd be willing to place a large bet that this policy isn't the only thing wrong at this school. It must be a horrible place to work--or to attend as a student.

Anti-Abortion? No School Club For You!

A Stafford County high school student is suing the county's school system for refusing to let her start an anti-abortion club...

Colonial Forge High School Principal Lisa Martin denied the request for the club, saying it doesn't relate to the curriculum.

Yes, I'm sure all school clubs relate to the curriculum at that school. That principal is an idiot.

Update, 11/11/07: The school administration has had a change of heart.

Too Little, Too Late

Duke University President Richard Brodhead apologized Saturday for not better supporting the men's lacrosse players falsely accused in last year's highly publicized rape scandal.

For not better supporting those men? Hell, he threw them under the bus. He could hardly have supported them less.

But hey, he's apologized now, so it's all over. No harm, no foul, right?

That university deserves any scorn and opprobrium that comes its way. What a disgusting place.

What's Good For The Goose...

Why was changing Colorado's electoral vote distribution--from winner-take-all to a percentage of the popular vote--a great idea when Democrats proposed it a few years ago, but California's current proposal, to do exactly the same thing, is a "Republican power grab"?

Because Colorado's change would most likely have benefited Democrats, and California's would most likely benefit Republicans.

At the time, I said that I'd be ok with Colorado's change if California also did the same--net benefit to Republicans as well as to those who want the popular vote for President to decide the election.

But it's not going to happen here, that's for sure.

I Got Your Critical Thinking Right Here!

Here's an excellent math problem, one that requires genuine critical thinking--not the critical thinking that says "if it's capitalist or Republican, it must be bad".

The solution method is provided immediately after the problem, so don't read ahead if you want to try to solve it.

Reasonable vs. Unreasonable Exercise of 1st Amendment Rights

Who among us can clearly articulate a sound, reasoned explanation why the college newspaper editor about whom I've written before, the one mentioned in this recent piece, should experience repercussions for his exercise of free speech but the teacher I wrote about in my previous post should not?

Teachers, Blogging, the First Amendment, and Professionalism

Here in my little corner of the Capital City we're 6 weeks into the new school year, and what does a new school year bring up? Why, a new issue of California Educator magazine, the mouthpiece rag of the state teachers union!

The most recent issue is about technology in education. I'm not a Luddite on this topic, but I also am not a techno-zealot--I need to be convinced that technology is good, useful, and cost-effective before it gets put into our classrooms. Still, most of the stories in that issue were pretty much what you would expect on the topic.

But there was one that caught my attention, and that was about teachers and blogging. In contrast to CTA's usual in-your-face attitude regarding teachers' rights and privileges, this very short article seemed more than a little cautionary. I may be reading between the lines a bit, but since the point was mentioned more than once, I don't think I am: Ed Code Section 44932, which discusses dismissal of teachers on "immoral or unprofessional conduct" grounds, may be interpreted by a court as a reasonable limitation on First Amendment rights regarding blogging.

I have some experience in this matter. In my first year of blogging, I posted about the Breasts, Not Bombs protest in Berkeley, and linked to pictures. A fellow teacher (and mother) chastised me for the link since her son saw it, and threatened me with job-related actions. I responded in my usual manner--derision and attack--and linked to something else I thought she'd enjoy even less. To get the full flavor of this tale, may I suggest that you go to those two links above and read them as well as the comments. I admitted in the comments that the latter post didn't represent a high point in maturity for me, but it still makes me laugh. Also in the comments, though, is a discussion of whether my post was "actionable" in any way. Here we are, two years later, and according to California Educator magazine, we still don't really have an answer.

Their current article gives examples of teachers who were reprimanded or, in the case of new teachers, not rehired, because of content on links that friends had posted on their Myspace pages. The overall tone of the article is somewhat ominous. That struck me as odd, as California is known for having such strong worker protections--and the CTA adds to that with its additional protections for teachers.

I'm reminded of a story about a South Dakota teacher who commented on this blog once. He told about how how he had written a post on his own blog about an accident that took the life of a student--information that everyone knew, and that was published in the local paper. Had anyone else blogged about it, the story would have ended there, but since he was a teacher, the parents came gunning for him. Taking the post down wasn't enough for them, they wanted his job.

He sent me the post via email. It read almost like a local newspaper account--nothing horrid, certainly no privileged information that a teacher might know about a student. But things are different in South Dakota than here in California, and the complaint wasn't dismissed as it should have been. Things didn't go his way, and while he wasn't fired, he left the district.

Recently another local student died in a car wreck, and this (former) teacher has blogged about the situation. He mentions the previous post, long since removed, at the end of his current post. And he's added commentary to this post, because he cares enough about kids to tell them the truth--you're not a hero if you endanger other people in pursuit of your own thrills, and driving too fast can kill you and others. The difference between this current post and the previous one is that he's no longer teaching, so there's no way for the newly-sonless parents to go after him for what he's posted on his blog.

I'm not usually a fan of gray areas. Are there reasonable limitations, in addition to the obvious Privacy Act issues, on what teachers can post on their personal blogs when done outside of school hours and not on school equipment? Are there reasonable limitations on what actions or activities a teacher may participate in outside of school hours? If you believe that these limitations exist, how would you square them with the First Amendment? Do you think we can or should codify these limitations, or should local "community standards" apply--the old "I know it when I see it" standard, which really isn't a standard at all? What standards should we use for "immoral or unprofessional conduct"--is being a whistleblower "unprofessional" because it might make your school or district look bad?

I don't like Swords of Damocles. Let people know the standards under which they're expected to operate. If those standards are unjust, at least they know what the standards are and can (legally) challenge them. But to have no firm standards at all, just amorphous vapors which can instantly materialize out of nowhere and attack unsuspecting teachers--well, that's no way to run a profession.

Update, 9/30/07: I received an email from the teacher whose tale I tell above, and he's given me permission to reproduce his email here. Additionally, he's provided more information in the comments.

Good post, Darren!

And yes, I am currently not teaching high school. You are right: they did not fire me. The administration was completely dismissive of the parents' demand that I be fired. The board wouldn't even let us discuss termination at the appeal before them (and that was o.k. with me!).

Do let me be clear: the board did not fire me, and there was no sort of sneaky secret "forced resignation" or anything like that. In the midst of the whole fracas, they renewed my contract. I left simply because I was offered a better job -- a research assistantship -- that (1) is
much closer to home, (2) allows me to do much of my work on the computer at home, (3) gives me the chance to complete a doctorate, and (4) pays the same as my old job would have. The fact that I no longer work for a school district that doesn't recognize the First Amendment (a position
they didn't make clear until July, two months after I'd quit) is just icing on a really good cake.

You hit two key points right on the head: we need to tell kids the truth (even if they might not listen), and schools need clear standards so teachers and everyone else know where they stand when they exercise their right to free speech. Thanks for the good writing!

There *was* punishment, but he didn't lose his job over it. Had his next door neighbor written that post, that person would have received no such punishment. What's the difference between this man and his next door neighbor? This man was a teacher, that's all.

And that's not a good enough reason.

Bans of "Junk Food"

What we call "junk food" our forebears would have called amazing, in both variety and availability. My, how times have changed. In days gone by, malnourishment was a problem; today, obesity is the problem.

California has passed a law restricting the types of food and portion sizes that can be served in schools. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and this law seems to fit that description perfectly. Why? Well, let's see. "How can I get around the law? Let me count the ways."

This article from the SF Chronicle is rather lengthy, but it delves deeply into why and how there's no such thing as a quick fix--especially for a societal woe.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind

At my math department meeting today, one of the topics was the No Child Left Behind Act and it's requirement to show adequate yearly progress towards the goal of 100% of students achieving at grade level by 2014.

Some of the attendees, one in particular I've written about before, are just convinced that the (perhaps hidden) purpose of NCLB is to destroy public education. Yet, they cannot explain why, when "Friends of Education" run both houses of Congress, the law is going to be reauthorized.

And it is going to be reauthorized. Yes, there may be some changes to it, maybe/hopefully some good changes, but the law's going to be reauthorized, and for five more years. By a Democrat-controlled Congress. Despite CTA's net of deception that's been tossed over teachers in the last couple of weeks.

A couple of people there absolutely, honestly, truly believed it won't be reauthorized. You know what they say--denial isn't just a river in Egypt.

Ann Coulter on Free Speech

In a column about the Iranian President and Columbia university, she hits a few home runs:

At Syracuse University last year, when liberal hecklers tried to shut down a speech by a popular conservative author of (almost!) six books, College Republicans began to remove the hecklers. But Dean of Students Roy Baker blocked them from removing students disrupting the speech on the grounds that removing students screaming during a speech would violate the hecklers' "free speech." They had a "free speech" right to prevent anyone from hearing a conservative's free speech.

That's what colleges mean by "free speech." (And by the way, my fingers are getting exhausted from making air quotes every time I use the expression "free speech" in relation to a college campus.)

"Tolerance of opposing views" means we have to listen to their anti-American views, but they don't have to hear our pro-American views. (In Washington, they call this "the Fairness Doctrine.")

Liberals are never called upon to tolerate anything they don't already adore, such as treason, pornography and heresy. In fact, those will often get you course credit.

You don't have to like her, but you can't say she's wrong here. Go read the whole thing, if you libs truly celebrate "diversity" (digital air quotes).

The Mozart Effect

Another no-effort, get-rich-quick type of scheme for parents, shot down.

I played classical music for my son when he was younger--we both enjoyed it. I knew it was something he wouldn't hear anywhere else. I didn't much believe in the Mozart Effect, but I figured listening to the music couldn't hurt and I was covering my bets :-)

Hat tip to Joanne (see blogroll at left).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Bionic Woman

I took an hour out from tonight's installment of The War on PBS to watch the series premiere of The Bionic Woman. It's certainly not the bright and shiny 70's series, that's for sure.

Usually, series premieres aren't that good, but this one impressed me. They packed a lot into that hour--and seeing Katee Sackhoff again, this time as the Cylon/Borg character, was most entertaining.

I haven't watched a series on TV for a long time, but I think I know what I'll be doing on Wednesday nights for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Boston Herald Opinion Piece Skewers Columbia

Is the Herald a (cough cough) conservative paper in Boston, or were Bollinger and the Columbia Crew so stupid that even a left-winger can't help but heap scorn on them?
But that’s the point. It takes Ivy League hubris to make such a shameful mistake. Nobody else would.

The SEC, the ACC - why, there isn’t a barber college or school of over-the-road trucking that would let a Jew-hating nut like President Whack-I-Job rant away on their campus. Your typical American university might offer credit in basket weaving and Science of Star Wars, but they do have their limits.

Not Columbia.
Bollinger probably thinks he acquitted himself by asking "difficult" questions of the Iranian president. What he's probably too stupid to figure out is that by giving the man the stage he was given, he's enhanced the propaganda value of Mahmoud's visit.

Today, right now, soldiers and Marines who are not allowed to participate in ROTC on Columbia’s campus are being attacked with weapons from Iran. How many Americans do you have to kill before you’re no longer welcome among Ivy League elitists?

More, says Columbia University. More.

Get this through your thick liberal skulls: you weren't the intended audience. Middle eastern Muslims were. And Columbia gave the president of a state sponsor of terror a prominent stage.

This Kid Doesn't Understand the First Amendment At All

I've previously mentioned the college editorial that read, in its entirety, "Taser This: F*** Bush". Fortunately I'm not the only one who can recognize that the person who wrote it is an intellectual lightweight.

Point #1: Exercising your rights sometimes has a real-world cost.
In a confidential memo mistakenly released to the local newspaper, The Coloradoan, Fort Collins businesses have already pulled out $30,000 in advertising with The Collegian, which relies completely on external revenue to operate, not student fees.

According to the memo, to make up for the loss, student employee wages were cut by 10 percent, the newspaper reported.

Point #2: What exactly did President Bush have to do with the tasering of that Florida student at a speech featuring Democrat John Kerry?

"Now you look at it and it's like, 'Taser this. Taser what?' The issue isn't even about President Bush. If you're going to stand up for something like that you have to have something to back it up. You have to believe in something..."

Many more students however were shocked at the paper's decision and failed to see the political stance they took. In addition to writing a column they felt lacked substance, students also were concerned of what it would do to the university's image.

"It makes the students at Colorado State look like a bunch of uneducated children who don't have anything intelligent to say," Penoyer said. "So we just yell bad words."

Of course the Young Democrats support the paper and the editor. Go figure.

Update, 10/5/07: Even though the Board of School Communications found that the paper's editor had violated the school's ethical standards, the young man will keep his editor job.

Why No New Posts?

A couple reasons, actually. One, I'm not finding stories that are just screaming to be written--although I'm warming up to the CTA's attack on Representatives Pelosi and Miller--and two, I'm exceedingly busy this week.

Is anyone else watching Ken Burns' The War on PBS? I'm warming up to it. I watched about a third of the Victory At Sea documentary series this past weekend, and kind of laughed during the first episode of The War when I saw some of the same footage there that was in the 1952 series. I guess no one's making new WWII footage :-)

So, no new posts, not even about the Columbia University debacle. When I encounter something worth posting about, you know my keyboard will resume its staccato song.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

College Newspapers

I'm sure plenty of us would like to sit back and view college newspapers as the starting point for the reporters of tomorrow. Under strong and impartial faculty guidance, our budding university reporters learn the finer points of the journalistic profession.

And then we read these:

Bush or Bin Laden, Who Is More Evil?
Taser This: F*** Bush (without the asterisks)

I had a former student come visit me at school on Friday. He's become a Troofer. Bright kid, great person, but *sigh*.

I've posted many times on here about the crazy things that go on at universities (click "higher education" at the end of this post to read more). I'm sure there were people that had 'out there' beliefs when I was in school (but they probably didn't go where I did), but was it as bad as it is today?

AFL-CIO Spending on Politics

Remember: all of this -- almost all of this -- goes to help Democrats.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Time Stopped Momentarily

It's raining ever so lightly in the Capital City again today. It looks more like December than September here.

Just outside my window I watched two hummingbirds. One hovered while it drank water trickling off my roof, the other played in the tree leaves a couple of feet away.

My computer screen is one view into one world--the window behind it often has a view that's at least as enriching.

Interesting Form of "Education" is a web site dedicated to old photographs. One can easily spend quite a bit of time there.

Check out this old picture, and read the caption.

Teachers Union Officials Enriching Themselves? Say It Ain't So!

My union's contract with my school district runs afoul of state law, and probably federal law as well.

As you can learn at the CTEN web site, teachers who choose not to be in the union have two options: become an agency fee payer, entitled to a rebate of those fees the union claims it doesn't spend of collective bargaining, and becoming a religious objector. It's in the area of religious objection that my contract runs afoul of the law.

First off, my contract requires that religious objectors present proof of membership in a church that has historic and/or verifiable objections to union membership or activities. Holy First Amendment violation, Batman! (Such requirements have been banned in some federal court jurisdictions, but not yet in Californa--see this year's Katter case in Ohio.)

Additionally, California law requires that religious objectors pay an amount equal in union dues to a non-religious, non-labor organization, and that there must be at least three to choose from (often agreed to by the union and the district). Here's the appropriate section of law, Section 3546.3:

Notwithstanding subdivision (i) of Section 3540.1, Section 3546, or any other provision of this chapter, any employee who is a member of a religious body whose traditional tenets or teachings include objections to joining or financially supporting employee organizations shall not be required to join, maintain membership in, or financially support any employee organization as a condition of employment; except that such employee may be required, in lieu of a service fee, to pay sums equal to such service fee either to a nonreligious, nonlabor organization, charitable fund exempt from taxation under Section 501(c) (3) of Title 26 of the Internal Revenue Code, chosen by such employee from a list of at least three such funds, designated in the organizational security arrangement, or if the arrangement fails to designate such funds, then to any such fund chosen by the employee.

I emailed my district personnel folks and asked about our contract provision, which mentions such charitable funds, but doesn't list any. I was told that the contract language in that section hasn't changed in 10 years or more, and that there's only one charitable organization that's approved--and it's run and administered by the teachers union! I don't care who or what they're giving money to, if it's run by the union, I don't think it can legitimately be called a non-labor organization!

That's an exceedingly long introduction to this story from Las Vegas, about union officers' making beaucoup dinero running the local union's charitable foundation.

n the 2004 tax year, the latest for which information is available, the foundation spent more than $800,000 on these worthwhile endeavors. But the foundation has also proven to be a boon for people who run it. Also in the 2004 tax year, it spent more than $600,000 on overhead costs. Of that amount, about $400,000 went to salaries -- including (union Executive Director) Jasonek's -- which comprise about 28 percent of the foundation's expenses. It might make sense if those fat paychecks went for the long, grueling hours. The clincher is, it doesn't look like top brass is burning the midnight oil. On tax forms, Jasonek is listed as working 12 hours a week for the foundation.

"It's like working a part-time job at Subway," he explains.

But others can't help but wonder whether Jasonek -- and others -- are feasting on a foot-long greed sandwich.

The foundation pays Mr. Jasonek over $129,000 per year, and that's in addition to his $135,000 job as Executive Director of the local union.

Some might suggest that's a little excessive.

"Am I supposed to be penalized for doing a good job?" Jasonek says.

Apparently Mr. Jasonek believes in "merit pay for me, but not for thee".

Please, go read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Columbia--A Strange Set of Values

From The Weekly Standard:

Meanwhile: As Columbia welcomes Ahmadinejad to campus, Columbia students who want to serve their country cannot enroll in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) at Columbia. Columbia students who want to enroll in ROTC must travel to other universities to fulfill their obligations. ROTC has been banned from the Columbia campus since 1969. In 2003, a majority of polled Columbia students supported reinstating ROTC on campus. But in 2005, when the Columbia faculty senate debated the issue, President Bollinger joined the opponents in defeating the effort to invite ROTC back on campus.

A perfect synecdoche for too much of American higher education: they are friendlier to Ahmadinejad than to the U.S. military.

Update: Instapundit quotes an email from Michael Barone.

Columbia doesn't host ROTC or (I think) military recruiters on campus, because it would be just too offensive to do so, because the military obeys the law passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Bill Clinton which bars open homosexuals from serving in the military. OK.

But Columbia does host Ahmedinejad who heads a government which executes homosexuals for the crime of being homosexuals.

So it's obnoxious beyond belief to exclude homosexuals from military service, but it's not obnoxious beyond belief to hang them from the neck until dead.

How many times must I say it? Consistency isn't a strong suit of the left, but hypocrisy is.

Update #2, 9/22/07: I heard about this yesterday--Columbia has un/disinvited Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project.

In response, Gilchrist yesterday said, "It would have been a great revelation for the student body and it would have redeemed the Columbia University student body's reputation of being comprised of a Paleolithic - a caveman - mentality."

Nail. Head. Whack!

Update #3, 9/23/07: Of course we'd invite Hitler to speak!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Much Do You Know About Civics?

The quiz

My score, of which I'm quite proud:

You answered 55 out of 60 correctly — 91.67 %
Average score for this quiz during September: 75.1%
Average score since September 18, 2007: 75.1%

Update, 9/20/07: Here's a USA Today article about the quiz. The following two snippets caught my attention:

In general, the better a college's U.S. News & World Report ranking, the less its civic literacy gain. Yale, with the highest-scoring freshmen (68.94%), along with Princeton, Duke and Cornell, were among eight schools with freshmen outscoring seniors.

"Several of the colleges at the lower end of our survey are some of the most prestigious in the country, with average tuition, room and board somewhere north of $40,000 a year," Bunting says. "These are the schools, although their stated mission is to help prepare active citizens, that are the most derelict in their responsibility."

Global Warming, My You-Know-What!

It rained for a few brief moments tonight. Rain! In Sacramento! In September! And the wind was blowing, too!

And entirely coincidentally, I was skimming through A History of Wales by John Davies (ISBN 0-713-99098-8) and came across the following passages:
The ice began its final retreat around 10000 BC (4000 BC for Liberty University students and graduates--Darren). By 8300 BC Wales was free of glaciers, and the temperature continued to rise until 3000 BC, when Northern Europe was some 2.5° C warmer than it is today. (boldface mine--Darren) The change had a revolutionary impact on the environment. As glaciers melted, vast quantities of water were released, causing Britain to become an island... that the waters between Wales and Ireland had once been narrower and shallower may represent very ancient folk memories of these changes... The climate deteriorated in the centuries following 1400 BC and the uplands could no longer sustain a substantial population. Agriculture was abandoned there, but nature failed to restore the uplands to the condition in which they had been before the interference of man.

This book was published in 1990 and 1993, well before today's climate change debate assumed its partisan and shrill tones. I just thought that information most interesting.

Dying Languages

This is unfortunate--I've always thought it would be cool to learn Welsh, or even Britonnic (if anyone even knows that language anymore).

While there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks, according to linguistic experts struggling to save at least some of them.

A "Super" Commentary on NCLB

My superintendent sent an email to junior high teachers, an email that included the following points about the No Child Left Behind Act:

As much as have concerns about the NCLB, I do give credit to this law for unveiling the performance of our subgroups, which is data that was once ignored in our profession. The achievement gap is incredibly difficult to solve, but as long as there are schools that have managed to close or even eliminate the gap (such as the Ralph J. Bunche School in Compton) then we must continue to believe that this is possible and to strive to make it happen.

The other positive of NCLB is also, ironically, a weakness in the law. NCLB does not reward improvement. A school can make great improvement but still fall into (or stay) in Program Improvement. How can I say that this obvious weakness is also a strength? In my opinion the strength is the fact that “improvement”, in and of itself, it not enough. Proficiency rates matter, and while we should rightfully celebrate improvement, we cannot ignore the level of proficiency at any given school.

All boldface is mine. Those points clearly identify why I support NCLB.

Carnival of Education

This week's is home at the Education Wonks. My post on cheating--last week's post, that is, not today's!--is included.

Breaking, Entering, and Cheating

Last week I wrote about cheating in theory, this week we get the practical application.

So, as final exams loomed and pressure built last June at Hanover High School, some students hatched a scheme for acing the tests: One evening after school was out, a group of students entered the school building, authorities say. While some stood sentry in hallways, others entered a classroom and used stolen keys to break into a teacher's filing cabinet and steal exams for advanced math honors, advanced math, Algebra II, and calculus. Five days later, another group stole chemistry finals. In total, some 50 students are suspected of participating in the thefts, either helping to plan them or receiving answers from stolen exams.

Rather than issuing suspensions or grade demotions, school officials notified police. And after a seven-week investigation, the police prosecutor handling the case brought criminal charges against nine students. Last week, the prosecutor notified the nine students' parents that if they chose to take the cases to trial, he could raise misdemeanor charges to felonies, which carry possible prison terms of 3 1/2 to seven years.

Parents of the accused are furious and frantically trying to reduce charges to violations that carry no criminal penalties, penalties they say could harm their children's chances of attending college or securing employment.

I understand the parents' motivation--no one wants their kids to go to jail. I wonder, though, if they step outside their own situation and listen to how pathetic they sound to the rest of us.

If you're planning enough to have lookouts, you know what you're doing is wrong. Breaking and entering is a felony.

Even if they survive the felony threat, at a minimum they should all be sentenced to--gasp!--community college. To mow the lawns, to clean the toilets, to empty the trash, to sweep the halls. In other words, let them give the custodial staff a little break, and in the process maybe learn a little something about the value of the education that they're trying to acquire on the cheap, the education to which they think they're entitled, the education they're willing to break the law to get.

John Stossel on Nationalized/Socialist Health Care, Part 2

Part 1 was here. Part 2 is here:

Last week I pointed out that Michael Moore, maker of the documentary "Sicko," portrayed the Cuban health-care system as though it were utopia -- until I hit him with some inconvenient facts. So he backed off and said, "Let's stick to Canada and Britain because I think these are legitimate arguments that are made against the film and against the so-called idea of socialized medicine. And I think you should challenge me on these things."

OK, here we go.

I'm liking John more and more.

Yale: 'No' To Recruiters, So 'No' To Federal Money

This I do not understand. In FAIR v. Rumsfeld, didn't the Supreme Court already rule that the Solomon Amendment, which denies federal money to schools that bar military recruiters, was entirely legal? Wasn't the vote 8-0 (Alito recused himself)?

Then why is the 2nd Circuit having to uphold denying money from Yale Law School for barring recruiters?

Apparently the Supremes only ruled that the Solomon Amendment doesn't violate the First Amendment freedom of association. Still, it's fairly generally recognized--outside of Yale Law School, at least--that the law is constitutional.

Hey, Yale: show some tolerance, celebrate some diversity, have some recruiters on campus.

Update: This didn't take long:

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Yale Law School will end its policy of not working with military recruiters following a court ruling this week that jeopardized about $300 million in federal funding, school officials said Wednesday...

They're whores. What a shock. If it were really about principle, they'd do without the money.

"The fact is we have been forced under enormous pressure to acquiescence in a policy that we believe is deeply offensive and harmful to our students," said Robert Burt, a Yale law professor who was lead plaintiff in the case.

You haven't been forced, you whore. You're selling out. Don't feel bad, though--what better reason than money is there for selling out? Here's my favorite part:

The Air Force already has asked to participate in a job interview program that starts Monday, she (a Yale spokeswoman) said.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Judge Makes News With REASONABLE Ruling

From the New York Times, of all places:

The courts do not have the authority or the expertise to decide injury lawsuits concerning global warming, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled yesterday in dismissing a suit brought by the State of California against six car companies...

In the case decided yesterday, California claimed that the six car companies produced vehicles that accounted for more than 20 percent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions in the United States and more than 30 percent of those in California.

The suit claimed that the emissions were a public nuisance and sought billions of dollars in damages.

Judge Jenkins wrote that a resolving of the questions presented in the suit was not a proper task for the courts...

Given national and international debate on the issues, Judge Jenkins wrote, “the court finds that injecting itself into the global warming thicket at this juncture would require an initial policy determination of the type reserved for the political branches of government.”

It's sad when I have to give so much credit to a judge for being reasonable, but that's our judiciary today.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A "Super" Time Regarding Illegal Fees

3 1/2 years ago I first raised the issue of illegal fees with my principal. A year ago this past summer I elevated the issue to district level. Our new superintendent asked me to meet with my principal's boss and/or the district legal counsel, and if they couldn't resolve the issue to my satisfaction, that he'd meet with me.

Today I took him up on his offer.

My boss' boss and the district legal counsel both dismissed me, hoping I'd go away. The superintendent welcomed me today by saying that if nothing else, I win an award for persistence. I apologized for taking his time, telling him that his two underlings did him a disservice by refusing to address the issue with me, forcing him to take his time to do so.

It was a very pleasant half-hour. My limited experience with him, and from what I hear from others who have met with him, seem to jibe--he's a very well-meaning, good man. I sensed nothing but sincerity from him.

I certainly didn't point fingers at my principal or my school, as we both know this is a district-wide problem. I made sure to stress that I'm not on some crusade just to cause problems, that I address this problem from three different viewpoints:

1. As a teacher, who's a part of the system that's acting illegally. We enforce all sorts of rules on kids (no cell phones, no gum in class), so we should, as a minimum, abide by the law.
2. As a parent of a student who will be in junior high next year, and junior high is when such fees often start in earnest.
3. As a former high school student in a single-parent household, who couldn't have participated in a number of activities if we'd have had to pay for them.

I offered suggestions on how we might tackle the problem. I told him we don't even need to "eat the entire shark" at once--that we could address the most grievous offenses, fees in classes, first, and next year tackle fees for athletics and cheerleading. Our athletic directors should, however, start addressing the issue now.

I pointed out, though, that if we wait for a lawsuit, we'll lose, and then the fees will stop immediately by court order, throwing entire programs into chaos.

Yes, I compromised, meaning I wouldn't raise a stink if these fees went on for just a little longer as long as there's a plan for eliminating them as soon as possible with minimal chaos.

The next step is his. I'll keep you informed about what happens.

If You Have The Children, You Have The Future

Venezuelan dictator-for-life Hugo Chavez is pulling the usual dictator stunt:

CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government, a move some Venezuelans fear will impose leftist ideology in the classroom.

All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chavez said...
But one college-level syllabus obtained by The Associated Press shows some premedical students already have a recommended reading list including Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" and Fidel Castro's speeches, alongside traditional subjects like biology and chemistry.

The syllabus also includes quotations from Chavez and urges students to learn about slain revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Colombian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, whose leftist guerrillas are considered a terrorist group by Colombia, the U.S. and European Union...

"If they attack us because we're indoctrinating, well yes, we're doing it, because those capitalist ideas that our young people have — and that have done so much damage to our people — must be eliminated," (government education official) Campos said.

I paraphrased the title quote. Who is credited with saying it?

My absolute favorite quote, though, was this one:

But Adan Chavez said the goal is to develop "critical thinking," not to impose a single philosophy.
I'm sure Orwell would enjoy Comrade Chavez.

International Justice Mission Club

I'm wrongly identified as a political idealogue by colleagues of mine who are themselves political idealogues =) Perhaps the definition of a political idealogue is "someone who disagrees with my political views".

Unlike others, though, I don't force my views on my students. I may share those views on occasion, but I don't force those views on students. In fact, former students of mine who have commented on this blog have been, more often than not, members of a political persuasion not at all like my own, and they certainly didn't fear commenting here when they were students. It's not like I can take off points on a trig test for not "recognizing Ronald Reagan's overwhelmingly positive impact on our country" =)

In fact, this year I'm taking yet another step. I was approached by a student and asked if I'd be the faculty sponsor for a new club, a school chapter of the International Justice Mission. Go read their web site--they do some good work (holding people accountable for participation in the global sex trade, for example), but they use some leftie buzz words, too (e.g., 'social justice'). It gave me pause, but I don't have to believe in everything that organization believes in any more than my students have to believe in everything I believe in. It's not like I'm sponsoring a racist club like a MEChA chapter or something.

I walk the walk as far as welcoming differing opinions. I challenge my colleagues to do the same. I wonder who will sponsor the Young Republicans Club....

$100 Laptop For Only $188

I've addressed the $100 Laptop in a few previous posts (here's the last one that I've found, and it links to earlier ones). If you want to avoid reading the links, the story is simple--a non-profit was formed to give kids in the Third World cheap laptops with built-in wireless capability (there's plenty of signal in rural Zimbabwe, I'm sure). Watch the education revolution unfold! As you can tell from my sarcastic tone, I'm not impressed, and my previous posts on the topic outline why.

Well, enter a new problem. It seems the laptops, which were originally supposed to be only $100 ea, now cost $188 ea, and production hasn't even started yet!

Wouldn't it be cheaper to get old laptops that run on Windows 98 and give them to Third World kids? At least those computers have hard drives, unlike the so-called $100 laptops. I have one I can donate--the one I have been issued by my school.

That's right, folks. Windows 98. How many operating systems ago is that?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Political Commentary in Downtown/Midtown

I went to downtown/midtown with a friend of mine today with the sole intention of taking pictures. I got some nice ones, but I thought the political commentary/graffiti was entertaining enough to make a post out of it.

click on pictures to enlarge
Apparently the owners of this market think that the world as a whole is nice enough to hold hands and sing Kumbayyah, but this particular neighborhood isn't nice enough to allow loitering outside--nor can its residents be trusted enough not to smash the windows, which explains the large roll-up window covers.

I'm sure this graffiti "artist" will be very happy to live under sharia law. Let's not forget: the fastest way to end a war is to surrender.

Apparently representations of the Virgin Mother are important enough for people to walk on.

Free Tibet by painting Sacramento's sidewalks. Why didn't I think of that? You know what I thought of most when I saw this? "They sure don't wear stylish glasses in Tibet."

THINK before you break the law, you graffiti vandal.

Are we supposed to "obey" the crying baby? Just what are we supposed to "think" when we see this display? You know what I think? "Nice house. Too bad they have that crap out front."

I'll bet these fascists would be more than happy to tell you what to do, and how to live your life. Political messages on the sidewalks are probably OK, as long as they're the right political messages, in this neighborhood. (Update: that sign was put up by the state, so it's not as ominous as I first thought. It's just stupid.)

I'm all about community standards and such, but there's something nanny-state and sinister about that sign.

This individual has an interesting political viewpoint. Bauer/Christ '08?

Notice the reflection in the window. Sacramento isn't the City of Trees for nothing, you know. Camellia Capital of the World, too.

Pacifism and Peace

One doesn't always lead to the other.

Rubik's Cube

I never got into it as a kid, when they first came out. Solving puzzles has never been my strong suit--learning and applying has.

Watch this kid. He solves Rubik's Cube blindfolded.

The Supreme Court Has Overstepped Its Bounds On This One

Though most people envision schools as quiet, sleepy places during the summer, Jay Attiya, the network manager for the 11,000-student Middletown, N.J., school district, had anything but a tranquil summer.

He spent his days putting an electronic archiving system in place in response to revised rules from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding federal lawsuits. The rules, updated in December 2006, require companies, government agencies, school districts, and generally any organization that might be sued in federal court to have systems for retrieving electronic data such as e-mail correspondence if it is needed as evidence in a federal case.

Where in the Constitution is there any federal authority to tell local school districts that they must save all emails sent through their servers?



The San Francisco Chronicle has a long article about cheating.

"It's not the dumb kids who cheat," one Bay Area prep school student told me. "It's the kids with a 4.6 grade-point average who are under so much pressure to keep their grades up and get into the best colleges. They're the ones who are smart enough to figure out how to cheat without getting caught."

There's so much wrong with that kid's thought processes that I have a difficult time knowing where to begin. I guess I'll start here: if you think you're going to do well at Stanford if you have to cheat to get in, you're probably not smart enough to go there in the first place. And if you think you're too good for UC Davis instead of UC Berkeley, who the heck wants you around, anyway?

I know cheating is rampant, even at my school. I remarked to my 6th period yesterday how "amazed" I was that their quiz grades overall were so much better than my other two pre-calc classes, both of which are before lunch.

I cheated in high school, and I'm not proud of it, but let me explain how I did it. Our physics teacher had tunnel vision, and not the greatest vision, either. He had two versions of each test, and odd numbered test and an even-numbered. Our rows were lateral, so the people on either side of you had different tests than you had.

Three of us who were pretty bright sat in the back row. We would each do our own tests, then swap tests and do the other version! Then, keeping in mind the teacher's tunnel vision, we would compare work to see who had the correct answers! When we agreed on the answers to both versions of the test, then we could pass those answers to others.

Let me restate that: in order to cheat, I had to take two tests in a class period where everyone else only had to take one.

It's not something I'm necessarily proud of, but at least I actually had to know the physics, and know it well, in order to cheat. I did find that cheating for myself often required enough work and risk that it was at least as easy to learn the material on my own. I didn't have to cheat because I didn't know the material--I did extremely well in school. If I was going to cheat for myself, it would be to save time--and often it took less time, and it was certainly less risky, just to learn the material on my own. And if you had to chat on this quiz, you'd have to learn it before the chapter test anyway (unless you planned on cheating there, too).

We didn't have AP classes at my school--no college credits, no inflated GPAs, and no belief that we were entitled to go only to the "best" universities, however "best" is defined. This entitlement complex is out of hand, and it's parents, my own generation, who are responsible. If you allow your kids to think that they're disappointing you if they go to Sac State instead of UCLA, then you, parents, own a large share of the problem.

But students, you know right from wrong. I did, too, and I regret my cheating. I'm glad that West Point instilled in me a greater sense of values than that which I already possessed, and I'm proud of what I accomplished at West Point without cheating. Besides, if you try to justify what you're doing by saying "everyone does it", you're helping drive the arms race that you're stuck in.

You really need to look at the bigger picture.

I don't expect to change anyone's mind with this post, but you know I'm right. And I want that thought to haunt you as you make your Faustian bargains to get into Stanford.

NEA--Making Teachers Look Bad Again

Massa Reg went to Iowa and said some stupid things. Here's my favorite of the bunch:

"Pay for performance has nothing to do with student achievement," said Weaver, a middle school science teacher from Harvey, Ill.

Think about that for a moment. Think long and hard. Relish the idiocy of that remark.

There were some others, and fortunately one of the online comments at the end of the article called him on it:
"We'll think about pay for performance if the president and Congress are paid for their performance"

was countered with
" The Congress and the President can be voted out of office. How many years does it take to fire a bad teacher thanks to your crappy union? "
Besides, don't you love the Congress now that it's run by so-called Friends of Education? And if Clinton gets elected, what will you say then?

This man isn't fit to lead a Girl Scout parade, yet he's the president of the largest union in America. He's legally entitled to the money of millions of teachers who don't want him to have it, but cannot be teachers unless they pay him. This is legalized extortion, and it must stop.

UAW Considers Suicide

When a parasite attaches to a host, it's in the best interest of the parasite that the host survive. If the host survives, the parasite survives. If the host dies, well....

The United Auto Workers are considering a strike against General Motors. Can't the UAW look around Michigan, with its real estate and employment markets in shambles, and see that perhaps that times have changed? The time to be a leech is over.

It always turns out this way with socialism.

If the UAW strikes, it could sound the death knell for GM. And that could sound the death knell for UAW.

This year's contract talks are considered crucial to the survival of GM and its U.S.-based counterparts, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC.

All three companies want to cut or eliminate what they say is about a $25-per-hour labor cost gap with their Japanese competitors.

The gap, the companies say, is one reason why the Detroit Three collectively lost about $15 billion last year, forcing them to restructure by shedding workers and closing factories.

It's hard to compete with a $25/hr wage difference. Some of that is the benefits package that the UAW has bargained.

Cal-Berkeley Students Submit To Violent Crime

Think like a criminal for a moment. If you could choose between two types of victim--one that might defend himself from you, and one that might not defend himself from you--whom would you choose to attack?

And if you chose the latter, wouldn't you rather commit that crime in a place that might look for reasons to be sympathetic to you, a place that might actually try to justify and/or excuse your behavior?

That being the case, where would you go to commit your crimes? Berkeley, California.

University of California, Berkeley, students are being kicked, punched and robbed at gunpoint in an alarming wave of violent crime on and around campus.

Armed robberies on campus and in the nearby neighborhood usually increase at the start of the school year, according to police. But this year, the number of robberies has gone way up since school started in August...

Both (Assistant Chief of Police) Celaya and (Police Sergeant) Kusmiss are perplexed by the increase in robberies.

"We're not certain what to attribute it to," Kusmiss said. "We're particularly troubled by some of the recent bold robberies like the one at Cafe Strada. People should just be mindful not to resist a robber. Just give your property up."

Wouldn't you want to commit your crime in a place where law enforcement is too stupid to figure out why you chose to commit your crime in their particular jurisdiction? Sergeant Kusmiss answered her own question in the last sentence.

I'm reminded of those famous words: You reap what you sow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Carl's Jr. Takes The Teacher Out Of The Commercial

EIA has the scoop, so to speak.

I disagree that the pressure put on Carl's Jr. amounts to television censorship. The company responded to market pressure, not threats (that I know of).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Dispositions" and "Social Justice"

I've written about this topic before. Here's a current article the keeps the sun shining on this shameful practice.

Still, the ideology behind disposition theory and social justice requirements is intact and strongly holds sway in the schools. It dovetails with the general attitude on campuses that promoting liberal advocacy in the classroom is legitimate and necessary.

Only A Sicko Thinks Cubans Have Better Health Care Than Americans

And John Stossel calls him on it.

NCLB--Working Just Like It's Supposed To

Joanne has a great post up about Napa High School, and how it's a California Distinguished School but is listed as "Needs Improvement" under the No Child Left Behind Act. The school's English Learners, among other groups, aren't improving enough.

Some at the school chafe under the "needs improvement" label. Pay close attention to what the language arts teacher said about reading novels. Joanne, though, knows BS when she comes across it, and hits the nail on the head with her closing statement:

NCLB is working exactly as advertised when it forces schools with good overall scores to look closely at the performance of subgroups, such as English Learners.

I've previously written about a Napa Valley school, here.

Math Is HAR-R-R-D!

Remember a few years ago when Mattel got hit for having a talking Barbie whine that "Math is hard"? It was considered fairly sexist, and if memory serves, Mattel changed the wording.

On the drive home today I heard a commercial for National University, which I'll paraphrase: "Math should be the hardest thing he deals with. Get your masters degree in educational psychology from National University."

Those people train teachers, and they're feeding the stereotype that math is hard?

How about this: "Going to real college is hard. Come to National University instead."

Good job, idiots.

Carnival of Education

This week's is here, and it includes my post on "healthy" food at school.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our Good Friends At International A.N.S.W.E.R.

Photoessayist Zombie takes us to a 9-11 "troofer" convergence in San Francisco. Look through all the pictures, and see if those people there represent your beliefs. See if you'd be pleased to hang out with those people.

Then pay extra special attention to the picture about halfway down the page, just past the pictures of all the booksellers and bumper stickers. What do you see?

Why, it's our good friends from International A.N.S.W.E.R.! Where have we seen them before? Ah yes, the Day of Action Rally! Here's a picture of their table. Does it look familiar, perhaps like they're the same people in Zombie's essay?

If you're wondering what's so bad about International A.N.S.W.E.R., read this post (chock full of links to back up my claims).

Now, CTA minions--are you happy to be associated with those people? Are these the type of people with whom we should act in solidarity?

"Fixing" Global Warming

A couple decades ago, when the scientific hoopla had us about to enter the next Ice Age, some genius came up with a way to solve the problem--adjust the fuel-air ratio in large jets so that they pollute excessively. This will cause the atmosphere to trap heat, keeping the glaciers at bay.

Today we can see what a fool's errand that would be. Good lord, imagine the unintended--and not yet even understood--consequences. Then marvel at this so-called solution to global warming.

Regarding climate change, a geoengineering fix, e.g., pumping sunlight reflecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere, might prevent abrupt and catastrophic climate change.

Code Red on NCLB!

Here's an email I received at school today:

CTA Capital Service Center Council Local Update (September 10, 2007)

Code Red on NCLB: Please Act Now!
In an unprecedented rush to reauthorize an already bad law – and actually make it worse – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative George Miller (D-CA) are seeking almost immediate renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB).

California’s teachers “have had enough of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act,” CTA President David Sanchez said. “It is hurting our students, our schools and our teachers. Unfortunately, the Miller/Pelosi reauthorization plan will only make the law worse. It does nothing to improve student learning and will place even more undue emphasis on test scores, create new sanctions for struggling schools, make it harder to attract and retain teachers, undermine local control, and erode employee rights.”

Sanchez said the proposal that mandates merit pay for teachers based solely on the test scores of students is insulting. “Test scores alone don’t measure student achievement and shouldn’t be the only method for paying or evaluating teachers.”

Instead of backing changes that punish students, teachers and schools, Pelosi and Miller should be supporting the proven reforms that teachers and parents know will help. CTA is advocating for a law that restores the federal class size reduction program, provides resources for quality teacher training, mentors for new teachers, and provides programs that promote parental and family involvement in our schools.

To learn more – particularly about how quickly this bad move may take place – please go to the CTA NCLB/ESEA Information Page.

But even more importantly
, please take action to stop the reauthorization of NCLB now! Pass this email on to parents, friends, relatives and colleagues (using your home email address) and contact your Congressperson immediately strongly urging him/her to vote NO on NCLB reauthorization.

There will be more alerts and updates on this vital issue in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned as we take on another critical fight to protect our profession and public schools!


When Nancy Pelosi is their enemy, you know CTA is going off the deep end. Some people just don't think they should actually have to show the results of their labor.

Update, 9/27/07: I forgot that the NEA gave Nancy Pelosi the Friend of Education Award at the Rep Assembly this year. She's gone from "friend" to "Public Enemy Number One" pretty quickly, no?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Federalism and Education

From this week's EIA Communique:

"The Constitution gives the federal government no authority whatsoever in education. The results of NCLB prove how wise the Founding Fathers were to keep the federal government out of schools." – Neal McCluskey, education policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

I'm sure there are many lefties who would agree with Mr. McCluskey because they don't like NCLB. Keeping in mind the "successes" of Medicare, I wonder what their opinion would be of keeping the federal government out of health care :-)

At the CEAFU conference this summer, I fired off a fairly aggressive question to a speaker from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The topic was NCLB, and his position was to get rid of the law and give education money to schools in block grants. I challenged, "What's conservative about that? Where's the accountability for taxpayer money?" His response was that NCLB is a federal intrusion into what is clearly a state responsibility, so the best thing to do would be to end it. Also, we should just disband the Department of Education, which was created as recently as the Carter Administration.

I can see some consistency in his position, but not completely. If the feds are not to be in the education business at all, why collect taxes for education, skim some money off the top, and return the money to the states to spend as they want? Why not just get out of the education business altogether? That would be entirely consistent with federalist principles.

I've long seen the wisdom in this statement: To draw an analogy from metallurgy and apply it to political principles--pure principles may be more valuable, but alloys are more useful.

In other words, I would be more than happy to give up both NCLB and the federal Department of Education. However, I don't see the latter as a very likely possibility. So my "alloy" is to allow federal interference, since it's not going to go away anyway, and bind it to accountability (another conservative principle).

Interesting, though, is that EIA reports that some see the solution as exactly the opposite from what I do:

"But letting schools off the hook is not the answer. Nor is letting them go their own way. Instead of multiple measures, the discussion should be about national measures." – Washington Post editorial board. (September 10 Washington Post)

The Washington Post apparently doesn't believe in the "democratic experimentation" the Founders envisioned. Their solution is to get the federal government more involved. To some people, there's no problem that more federal involvement can't solve. A little federal involvement (NCLB) isn't enough, so let's have more!

There are a lot of lefties who, because they think NCLB is anti-public-education, want to see the law eliminated and, as justification for their position, say it's an unjust federal interference in education. Yet, is it not these people who want more federal involvement in health care?

Back to the topic. What would be wrong with returning the Department of Education to it's pre-Carter position instead of a cabinet-level department? What harm would accrue to education? Better yet, what genuine good has come from the Department of Education in the last 30 years? I can give NCLB a "good" mark not only because of its outcome (focusing attention on underperforming students and schools) but also because of its accountability provisions, even though I dislike the law on federalism grounds. Who will defend the Department of Education, and on what grounds?

Blogging For Dollars

If you're a college student (or plan to be one), go here to learn about a scholarship for blogging!

BTW, last year's runners-up are much hotter than the actual winner.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Male Teachers

Newsweek has an article about the fact that the number of men in the education field is dropping, especially in elementary schools. The article mentioned fears or accusations of homosexuality or molestation, and how some male teachers adjust to protect themselves from such claims.

Just when I thought the article was going to change gears and discuss something else, I caught this statement in the first sentence of the very next paragraph:

This summer, Indiana University offered a seminal course on men and education.

Is that someone's idea of a joke? Or is someone at Newsweek going to dismiss the double entendre as unintended and coincidental?

Not very classy.

THIS Is Socialized Medicine

Via a link from Newsalert:

SMOKERS and obese patients are being refused elective surgery in Victorian hospitals.

Surgeons are rejecting people because of the likelihood of poor surgical outcomes linked to smoking and obesity -- and to save money...

"Surgeons should not have to operate on people who are not willing to quit smoking," Mr Quinn said.

"But it is up to the individual surgeon. There has to be some community responsibility with this, especially in terms of today's limited health dollar. (boldface mine--Darren)
If you think nationalized health care means free health care, think again.

Update, 9/10/07: Do you think it's the government's place--any government, at any level--to tell you what you can and cannot eat? Freedom means you get to make your own decisions, even if someone else thinks your decision isn't in your best interest.

NewsAlert points us to what Los Angeles is considering--limiting the number of fast food restaurants because there are already "too many".

Just What We Need

It's bad enough that California has so many EdD's, many of them pumped out of our Marxist University of California system. Now, our even worse CSU system is allowed to offere doctorates, something it could not do in the past, and what's the only doctorate they offer?

An EdD.

Imagine all the idiocy to come. I should buy stock in butcher paper companies.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Leaving Junior College

Joanne (see blogroll at left) reports:

Most students start California community colleges with plans to transfer after two years and earn a four-year college degree. But 25 percent drop out by the end of the first semester and even more lower their academic sights, according to Beyond Access, a study by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). Some 40 percent return for second semester with their college aspirations intact. Furthermore, only about 40 percent of students who persist for a full year in community college eventually transfer to a four-year institution.

Some people lament these data, and think perhaps there's something wrong, something to be fixed at our junior colleges. I'm not so sure. It's only one data point, but sometimes j.c. students leave for very good reasons.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Healthy Food At School?

A former student approached me on the quad today. "I went to get this cinnamon roll, and they made me take this other stuff, too. Do you want it?" In the small paper tray was a tiny carton of apple juice and a container of grapes. I took the apple juice and he tossed the grapes.

I didn't check the nutrition label, but I have to believe apple juice that sweet has been "augmented" a bit with some sweetener. And if the calories of a cinnamon roll aren't enough, we now compel the students to take them with the additional calories of juice and grapes!

To top it all off, a cinnamon roll used to come packaged in a napkin. Now, you get a paper tray, a styrofoam container with grapes, and the carton of apple juice.

Aren't the same people who want to control our lives, and now tell our students what they have to buy with their roll--aren't these the same people who want to cut down on waste? What, exactly, is the greater good here?

We don't sell personal pizzas at lunch anymore. The packages of chocolate chip cookies, which last year came three for a dollar, now come two for seventy-five cents--a 12.5% price increase. They've cut down on the size of the orders of nachos; I don't know if the price has been altered.

And we're not supposed to sell candy at school, and students running for student council can't give away candy with a "Vote for me" label on it--not because it's bad democracy, because it hasn't been in years past, but because that could be seen as the school's pushing candy on kids!

I don't have an issue with selling healthier food to kids. I do have an issue with compelling them to buy more than they want to buy (the cinnamon roll "bundle"), or telling them what foods they can give each other.

The next step will be a total ban on so-called junk foods on campus. Teachers will be junk food police, and there will be underground rings of students who will provide the contraband to others.

The market would correct the situation, if only the school cafeteria were subject to market forces.

Clueless Sister of a Midshipman

Go read this sob story. Seriously, go read it. This poor leftie didn't know the purpose of the Naval Academy was to prepare naval officers, who could potentially lead sailors in battle.

Before he left, my family had countless talks about what it might mean to be at an academy. While we knew that someday he would be required to serve, we also were drawn to the top-tier education he was promised to receive. We were told that the Naval Academy was first and foremost an elite college. He would be able to learn history, economics, political science, and even engineering. He would play lacrosse on a nationally ranked team and play the bugle in the marching band. He would have seminars about leadership and selflessness. He would even go to school for free.

All of this is true. Read on.

When I talked to my brother about why he wanted to go, he admitted that it was because he was drawn to the structure of the place—as a kid who did not want to sit around and drink beer during college, he liked the fact that he would be busy and have a purpose. I soon became comfortable with the idea of the academy, as if it would be a haven for my brother’s undergraduate career. And when people would congratulate me on my brother’s decision, it made me feel reassured.

Yes, honey, because it's all about you, isn't it?

When I looked at the course catalogue, which boasted seminars about leadership and selflessness, they were in fact seminars about weaponry and leading troops into combat. The reality of sending my brother to the Naval Academy began to set in: this was not a school; this was the military. While they boast a first class education, the main goal of this institution was to get my brother “combat ready.”

She writes as if attending a first-rate institution and being in the military are mutually exclusive. Having attended two of our three major academies, I can assure you they are not. One wonders if this girl is truly smart enough to attend an Ivy League school if she didn't figure this out in advance. Oh, I'm sure she fits right in at Columbia, what with her biases and all, but honestly--why would she admit to being this ignorant?

So, how does her brother feel about attending Navy?

My brother ended up liking Annapolis and he has decided to stay.

But it's still all about her.

While it has been difficult for me to accept that I have a brother in the military, I must allow him to pursue whatever path he is drawn toward, and he has admitted to me that he feels called to being there.

Her brother has already forgotten more about honor than his sister will ever know.

What's perhaps worst of all, this article was the first in what's supposed to be a 4-part series. I don't think there's enough Kleenex in the world for this chick's tears.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mt. Shasta and Global Warming

Odd that I read about Mt. Shasta, which is just a couple hours' drive from me, on an Australian blog.

Update, 9/7/07: How about Mount Kilimanjaro?

Tactless Parent

There's always one.

Last night was Back To School Night, where I gave my spiel to plenty of parents over the course of an hour and a half. I told them how I calculate grades, how I apparently don't round grades enough to satisfy some people (that elicited a chuckle each time), and how grades in my class are designed to accurately reflect a student's performance level in the course.

Each year there's one, and usually only one, parent who will ask: "So what if everyone gets D's or F's?"

My reply is usually that since that's never happened, let's not worry about a hypothetical, and instead focus on making sure our kids are on the other end of the grade spectrum. But last night a parent was prepared for that answer: "It's happened in your class before."

It's happened that on certain tests, students score generally worse than they do on others--e.g., logarithms for some reason. But her statement was pretty bold, if not rude.

"Perhaps by the time the story gets to you, everyone's failed, but that's not what happens in reality."

Fortunately she didn't push the issue any further.

But why did she raise it in the first place? If she or someone she knows had a child in my class before and she believes this child's story to be true, why ask me if it's true, especially in a public forum? And if she doesn't want to believe my answer--again, why ask? The only answer I can come up with is she wanted to make some point, or win some power play, and on both counts I don't think she was successful. In other words, she got a D or an F in tact, while all the other parents got A's.

See? I told you to focus on the other end of the grade spectrum!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


From this week's Carnival of Education I learned about a commercial that Carl's Jr. apparently is airing. It's inappropriate, it's disrespectful (to teachers and to women), and parents everywhere ought to be up in arms that Carl's Jr. would even consider airing such trash.

I myself have already emailed them at their Contact Us site and offered my opinion.

(In case they change the commercial that shows up at the first link above, the commercial is called Schooled.)

Carnival of Education

This week's is home at the Education Wonks, and includes my post about intern teachers and the "highly qualified teacher" designation.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Fight For Victory Rally

The rally was small; with only about 100-150 people, including a former student, I'd hoped it would be bigger. The crowd that was there, though, made up for in dedication what we lacked in numbers.

It was held at the California Veterans' Memorial, along N Street in the southeast quadrant of Capitol Park. Here's a picture of the memorial, a beautiful rendering in etched stone:

(click to enlarge)

I liked this particular picture on the monument...

All who attended were patriotic Americans. I thought this sign made a point, but without pointing fingers.
And no, you don't support the troops by pulling them out and letting everything they've worked for fall apart.

I liked this lady's sign and her shirt.

This woman is a proud American, and she's proud enough to go a little overboard in the hat department. Note, also, that in addition to the hat and the flag, she's carrying a picture.
Actually, the hat was kind of endearing. I love eagles.

This lady is infused with "moral authority" to talk about the war. See that picture of her son in front of the podium? He was a Navy Seal. He died in the war, just like Casey Sheehan--but this woman talks about the justness of the cause, rather than hugging Hugo Chavez and badmouthing the President and the country. She talks about how the other members of her son's SEAL team sort of adopted her, to the point where she got cards, phone calls, and flowers from several of them this past Mother's Day.
It's clear where her son learned about strength, dignity, and duty.

And lastly, I liked the magnetic signs on the Fight For Victory motorhome.

A local country radio station, 101.9 The Wolf, was broadcasting from the event. One of its employees was handing out postcards and pens, asking rally-goers to write words of encouragement to wounded soldiers. These cards were later given to the Fight For Victory team, who will be gathering more on their trek across America and will deliver them to wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in DC.

The "caravan" will be in Washington to help counter a leftie convergence there when General Petraeus delivers his report on the progress in Iraq.

Although this rally was one of the few times I left the house this weekend, I didn't mention it today when students asked what I did over the holiday. Some might get offended at the mere mention of it, and I'd have to answer to the school administration for jingoism. True story.