Thursday, July 31, 2008

Problem With Blogger

Blogger's automated system has determined that this blog might be a spamblog and has disabled it--just before my Cancun trip and my planned Picture of the Day!

If you're reading this, it means they've unblocked it after determining that this is not, in fact, a spamblog. I hope you're reading this shortly after I write this.

Update, 8/1/08: Apparently this was a large problem affecting many blogs. I'm glad the folks at Blogger restored everything so quickly.

Economics 101

From Megan McArdle, via Instapundit:

"Why aren't there hordes of economists studying meaningful alternatives to market capitalism? Because we've been experimenting with various other systems--both localism and extreme centralization--for over a century, and the experiment produces the same damn result every single time: human lives that are nasty, brutish, and short. . . . The idea that Chicago should scuttle the Milton Friedman Institute because it makes other professors unpopular with economic illiterates is shameful, and moreover, something that I presume few of these 'scholars' would tolerate if the ignorant were targeting their own fields. That this should be coming out of a university with Chicago's reputation for intellectual rigor is mortifying."

Socialism was tried at the Jamestown colony and it failed miserably. When the rules changed and the settlers worked for themselves, though, hunger ended almost immediately.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Charter Schools--Better Bang For The Buck?

The Center for Education Reform, although not entirely unbiased on the subject, sure seems to think so.

Anti-Military Activists Seek Access To Schools

My sense is that these activists often use disinformation campaigns that rival what they claim military recruiters use. They're certainly not "fair and balanced" in their information. Just as an example from their web site:

How to get out of JROTC classes
Maybe you heard from a friend that JROTC was really fun, that you get to go on trips and do special stuff. So you told your Counselor that you wanted to be enrolled into JROTC. But once you got in, you found out it wasn’t like that at all...If you are stuck in a JROTC class and cannot change classes you may want to ask the JROTC instructor about why you are studying war and killing.

They study war and killing and JROTC? Most interesting.

I love this so-called lesson plan by these kooks in which students are supposed to "research" JROTC and then write a letter to the school board asking them either to maintain or eliminate JROTC. Information about and against (not for and against) JROTC is given. This is the only information given in the "against" section:

JROTC does not encourage critical thinking, for it teaches students to march, obey, and blindly follow the leader. Why do we have classes in "marksmanship" when guns are not tolerated at school? The purpose of the program is not to instill leadership, but to recruit front-line soldiers of
color for serial warfare. JROTC sets low expectations in poor communities.

All the "about" information came from Mother Jones Magazine. Clearly they expect teachers to promote their propaganda in the classroom.

Propaganda techniques include:
patriotic flag-waving, glittering generalities, intentional vagueness, oversimplification of complex issues, rationalization, introducing unrelated red herring issues, using appealing, simple slogans, stereotyping, testimonials from authority figures or celebrities, unstated assumptions, and encouraging readers or viewers to "jump on the bandwagon" of a particular ideology.

Except for the "patriotic" part, I see a lot of their definition of propaganda on their own site--and on the left in general.

Expect more anti-American, anti-military activism in our schools during the next Congress, currently predicted to be even more liberal than the current one. The Obamessiah will not help in this matter, either.

Update, 8/11/08: I just learned today that CAMS, the organization discussed above, was created by the Los Angeles teachers union. Who says so? Their own web site.

And notice this professional, unbiased quote from that web site:

Teachers from other districts interested in protecting students from military predators should use their own unions for leverage. Contact your union, start a Human Rights Committee, and write a resolution like the one below.

Predators. Is this how you want your child's teachers to refer to soldiers? Is this the kind of person you want teaching your children? Does this sound like someone who presents unbiased, factual information?

But Darren, you say, you do the same thing. I do not. I make it clear when I state personal opinions. I'm very open and honest about my political proclivities. I don't hide behind a veneer of dispassionate balance while I indoctrinate my students to how I think they should think. And I certainly don't demonize those students who disagree with me. In fact, oddly enough, I stay in touch with at least as many of my leftie former students as I do with those who agreed with me. I practice diversity, I don't just talk about it.

I am not at all like these people who say they're against propaganda yet practice it. I am not at all like these people who say they "support the troops but not the war" but refer to troops as predators. I am not at all like these people who preach peace, harmony, and tolerance, but vilify those with whom they disagree.

"People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them."--Eric Hoffer

I do not support these liberal fascists, not at all.

The Purity of the Olympics

BEIJING (Reuters) - Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted on Wednesday...

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have this week complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked...

Beijing organizers said censorship would not stop journalists doing their jobs in reporting the Games.

What more can I add, except that this is a great example of a government knowing best what you need.

Gay Marriage Pins at the NEA Representative Assembly

I don't know if this is the exact pin given to attendees at the NEA Rep Assembly earlier this month (discussed here), but sometimes it helps to have a visual cue.

The message is "Gay marriage causes global warming only because we are so hot!"

What exactly are they saying here? Since no one except Greenlanders wants global warming, is this some kind of homophobic, anti-gay-marriage pin?

I don't get it. Seems stupid to me.

Dress Code Violation Penalty

In-school suspension? Wait in the office for your parents to bring appropriate clothes? How about a jumpsuit?

Update: It's hard to disagree with this observation:

What these adults didn't factor in, was the students are clever and love the idea of "organized chaos." I PROMISE you, on day one of school, nearly 2/3 of the student body will intentionally arrive out of dress code, forcing the administration to realize they don't have enough jump suits. Those who are "lucky" enough to wear one will think it's cool and it will almost become trendy.

The students may not know anything, but they're not stupid.

Carnival of Education

This week's is here and includes my post about Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NEA Continues To Push A Homosexual Agenda

I am exceedingly tolerant about homosexuality, but I do not think that everyone else in the country should have a radical homosexual agenda pushed on them by anyone.

I would prefer the NEA concerned itself with being a labor union, focusing on Darren's pay, benefits, and working conditions, and not serving as a not-even-subtle far-left-wing social organization. No, I don't want them even concerning themselves with education--I'm compelled to pay them money ostensibly because they "represent" me somehow in negotiations with my employer, I want them representing me. Education, and the students involved, are the purview of the parents, state legislators, and school boards.

But back to the topic at hand. I've identified before how NEA gives plenty of my extorted money to gay groups and organizations (see here). Their myriad resolutions contain many pro-gay points. Let's see how they're pushing the agenda this year:

The nation's largest teachers union, the National Education Association, attracted 9,000 delegates to its annual convention in Washington, D.C. over the Fourth of July weekend. Delegates sported buttons with provocative slogans such as "Gay marriage causes Global Warming only because we are so hot!", "Hate is not a family value," "The 'Christian Right' is neither," and "Gay Rights are civil rights."

While I can actually agree with the last message, I don't quite see why my labor union needs to use my money to push this message. It's not--or it shouldn't be--their charter.

The influence of the gay lobby is pervasive in dozens of NEA resolutions adopted by 2008 convention delegates. Diversity is the code word used for pro-gay indoctrination in the classroom.

The NEA's diversity resolution makes clear that this means teaching about "sexual orientation" and "gender identification," words that are repeated in dozens of resolutions. The NEA demands that "diversity-based curricula" even be imposed on preschoolers.
Homosexuality is still a hot-button issue in our culture. I would prefer that parents pass on their own values to their children, not have left-wing values--even if I happen to agree with some of those values--forced upon children by their teachers in government education centers. When it comes to the values our schools should teach, I side with teaching tolerance as opposed to acceptance; let people think what they want. Schools shouldn't be taking a stance on moral issues that are still controversial. The schools should enforce appropriate codes of conduct, not thought.

The NEA is pushing plenty of other left-wing issues, too:

NEA resolutions cover the waterfront of all sorts of political issues that have nothing to do with improving education for schoolchildren, such as supporting statehood for the District of Columbia, a "single-payer health care plan" (i.e., government-run), gun control, ratification of the International Criminal Court Treaty, and taking steps "to change activities that contribute to global climate change"...

NEA resolutions include all the major feminist goals such as "the right to reproductive freedom" (i.e., abortion on demand); "comparable worth" (i.e., government control of wages according to feminist ideology rather than the free market); full funding for the feminist boondoggle called the Women's Educational Equity Act; and "the use of nonsexist language," i.e., censoring out all masculine words such as husband and father.

Keep in mind: I disagree with the author above in that I don't want a labor union worrying about the education of schoolchildren. If parents, legislators, and school boards are not looking out for children, and some other private organization is needed to do so, then let that organization live off of private donations and not via money extorted from my paycheck.

There are already plenty of pro-gay organizations out there. The NEA doesn't need to carry this (rainbow) banner. What do I think they should do? They could get their Democrat buddies in Congress to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision. Now that would be just, would restore fairness to our retirement system--and would directly benefit Darren. I wonder how much time and money the NEA spends on that compared to pushing a radical homosexual agenda.

Update, 7/31/08: Dr. Pezz attended the Rep Assembly and says that while the pins were for sale, the NEA was not pushing this particular message. The linked article implied that delegates were given these pins, and that might not be the case.

Paying Kids For Good Test Scores

I accept the argument that if we want better information from our standardized test scores, we have to make the tests meaningful to the students. One way of doing that is to pay them for doing well.

Want kids to score well on statewide tests?

Reward them.

Before they ask, "What's in it for me?" offer a prize for performance.

That's the thrust of a proposed state law passed this month by the Legislature and sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"What we're really looking at is recognition and motivation and incentive to achieve," said Sen. Elaine Alquist, a Santa Clara Democrat who proposed the measure.

Senate Bill 1709 would authorize and encourage school districts to provide nonmonetary incentives to middle and high school students for achievement or improvement on standardized tests.

Absolutely a stupid idea for reasons intuitively obvious except to the most stupid.

Local businesses could be asked to donate prizes, such as tickets to movies, concerts, restaurants or sporting events.

Few will try harder because they think they'll win a movie ticket. Kids who think they won't do well anyway certainly aren't going to try any harder.

This is one more data point for why we need a part-time legislature; the bill was sent to Governor Schwarzenegger. Fortunately he vetoed it.

In a veto message, the governor didn't reject the idea of doling out nonmonetary payola to kids who score high marks or show significant improvement on state tests. But he said no new law is needed...

"This bill is unnecessary since nothing in the current law prohibits a district from creating their own nonmonetary incentives for students today, even in the absence of this measure," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message.

At least Alquist isn't a total loser:

"This bill sparked the type of debate we need to have on the paradox with the STAR testing program – which is that schools, but not students, are held accountable based on the results," Alquist said in a statement Friday. "While I am disappointed the governor vetoed the bill, I plan to continue looking at ways to ensure that STAR tests are meaningful to both students and schools."

I'm not holding my breath, though.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why We Need Better Science (and History) Education

One thing my son and I do periodically is watch tv series together during dinner. We've watched Earth 2, tried to get through Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and are currently almost through with the first season of SeaQuest DSV. It's one of our bonding rituals. I cook dinner, and he sets the tv trays and gets the appropriate dvd ready.

While at Sam's Club today I saw a set for a series I'd never before heard of, Space: Above And Beyond. It looks just cheesy enough to garner our attention, so I decided to read the summary on the back.

"It's the year 2063. After 150 years of deep space exploration, the people of Earth feel certain they are alone in the universe..."

Deep space exploration since 1913? *sigh*

Sunday, July 27, 2008

25th High School Reunion--Bizarro World

I attended mine today. I freely admit that I thoroughly enjoyed myself; I almost didn't go, having had such a horrible time at the 20th. It occurred in three events spread over the weekend, and I chose to attend the family pool party today. It was a wise choice.

High school's over, and has been a long time. We don't have to reminisce anymore, instead we talked about what we're doing now, and took pride in showing off how good-looking and well-behaved our children were :-) I made a pointed effort to just go up to people, introduce myself, and start talking, something that doesn't come naturally to me. And if all else failed, there would always be burgers, drinks, snackies, and a huge pool.

The biggest hit of the party, though, was when our old counselor showed up. You'd have thought the Pope or a rock star had arrived, as popular as he was.

It was a good time. I'm glad I went.

Does This Sound Like Your District Administration?

I found this on my hard drive this morning. It's always good for a chuckle--the best humor often has plenty of truth to it.


The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered by investigators at a major US research university. The element, tentatively named administratium, has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have one neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons and 111 assistant vice neutrons, which gives it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by a force that involves the continuous exchange of meson-like particles called morons. It is also surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since it has no electrons, administratium is inert. However, it can be detected chemically as it impedes every reaction it comes in contact with. According to the discoverers, a minute amount of administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete what would normally have occurred in less than a second.

Administratium has a normal half-life of approximately three years at which time it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons, vice neutrons and assistant vice neutrons exchange places. In fact, an administratium sample's mass actually INCREASES over time, since with each reorganization some of the morons inevitably become neutrons, forming new isotopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to speculate that perhaps administratium is spontaneously formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass".

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Online Schools

While this particular article is vacuous, I'm convinced there's a bright future for online high schools.

Required Morning Calisthenics Are Next

The nanny state gets a little nannier:

California will be the first state to ban trans fats in restaurants and bakeries under legislation signed today by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The measure requires restaurants to quit using trans fats by January 2010, and for bakeries to follow suit one year later.

"Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 97, was proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Tony Mendoza of Artesia and opposed by most Republicans.

Notice which political party fought to allow Californians to make their own choices, free from government interference. Note also why Schwarzenegger is referred to as a RINO--Republican in name only.

Conservative Messages In Movies

I don't know if the conservative messages in 300 and The Dark Knight were intended or if we conservatives, desperate for something positive out of Hollywood, are reading our own hopes and dreams into those movies. I'd like to think it's the former, but sometimes I wonder if it's the latter.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting take on The Dark Knight.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

It is interesting, though, that 300 and The Dark Knight made beaucoup dinero, while the recent spate of anti-war movies has essentially flopped.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."

Values, morality--complexity, thy name is man.

"This Is Your Captain Speaking"

My pilot friend has passed on some more pictures.

He called this "Mushroom cloud over Chicago." Not very PC, but very descriptive.

Leaving LAX for COS (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite cities--Darren).

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.

Half Dome and Nevada Falls.

Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls

A non-traditional view, looking down Yosemite Valley. Half Dome is the high point near the center of the picture. This was taken from 16,000', and you can clearly see the smoke from the recent wildfires from across California.

Traditional view of Yosemite Valley. Tuolumne Meadows in at the top left, and Mono Lake is barely visible at the top right.

Tuolumne Meadows.

A distant view of Monument Valley.

The Grand Canyon.

Lost Wages, Nevada. I have a 6MB copy of this picture, and zooming in on it you can see the hotels on The Strip. Still, the heat and dust combine to obscure the vibrant colors, and this picture looks much, much more drab than does reality.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My First YouTube Video

It's a two-parter showing several veterans monuments here in Sacramento--California wasn't always so anti-military. If you watch them at the YouTube site, be sure to watch them in high video quality (the option is available in the rating box immediately under the video).

I give myself a C or C+ for this video. The choice of music is good, the videography needs improvement. And it looks much better on tv via DVD than it does on YouTube, even in high quality mode.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hypocrisy, Press Bias, Etc.

I could not care less about John Edwards. As long as he stays out of politics, his impact on my life is exactly zero.

So this post isn't about John Edwards, it's about the press and its lack of coverage of his love child--if, and I want to make it clear that nothing is proven yet, if what the National Enquirer is reporting is true. But how will we know it's true if reputable press won't investigate?

Slate, no conservative shill, says it best:

The angle taken by most reporters and commentators wasn't that Craig's restroom conduct was particularly shameful. The press doesn't object to same-sex sex at all, nor should it. Craig's true offense, said the press and the clowns, was hypocrisy, which they consider an inexcusable crime. Craig had supported both federal and Idaho bans on same-sex marriage, had opposed hate crime legislation that would extend protections to gays, and had earned a perfect 0 rating (PDF) from the Human Rights Campaign, a gay lobby. And he had denied and denied any and all gayness while trying to recruit some action in a bathroom!

Although the Craig story and the John Edwards story, currently unfolding thanks to the National Enquirer, aren't directly analogous, they have a bit in common. Edwards, too, may be a sex hypocrite. The tabloid called Edwards a cheater last October and the father of a love child in December, and last night the Enquirer posted a story about Edwards' visit to his alleged mistress and child at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night.

When the original Enquirer story about the affair with Rielle Hunter came out, Edwards categorically denied the relationship, stating: "The story is false. It's completely untrue, ridiculous." As he rejected the Enquirer's charges, Edwards was making his wife and their marriage a central component of his campaign. If Edwards had had no affair, he wasn't a hypocrite, not then and not now.

But if Edwards had an affair and lied about it, shouldn't he suffer scrutiny akin to that of Craig?

I await reasoning from the mainstream press about why this isn't a story.

Update, 7/25/08: First they came for the bloggers....

LAT Gags Blogs: In a move that has apparently stirred up some internal discontent, the Los Angeles Times has banned its bloggers , including political bloggers, from mentioning the Edwards/Rielle Hunter story. Even bloggers who want to mention the story in order to make a skeptical we-don't-trust-the-Enquirer point are forbidden from doing so. Kausfiles has obtained a copy of the email Times bloggers received from editor Tony Pierce.

Update #2, 7/28/08: Cracks emerging in the wall of silence?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It Doesn't Even Stop During The Summer

A former New York teacher who admitted having sex with a 16-year-old boy has been arrested on rape and other charges after prosecutors say she continued the liaisons in violation of a court order.

I guess that's one way to spend your summer vacation.

Math and Dating

'Nuff said.

Telling the Truth From A Lie

Reading the "best of craigslist" can provide hours of entertainment. It can also provide lessons in how to tell the truth from a lie.

Just as an example, this one is quite possibly real. The content is real, the tone isn't excessive, and there are no glaring errors.

This one, however, is clearly made-up. The tone is hysterical, there author provides no details to cause us to believe she or her husband is in the military, and she sounds too much like a fool. Additionally, she made a serious factual error, one no military person would make--she said she's a Marine, but her post title says she's a soldier. No Marine would call himself or herself a soldier; it would be like an infantryman calling an armored personnel carrier, a Bradley, or a self-propelled artillery piece a "tank". Not gonna happen.

The loser who wrote the 2nd piece is clearly trying to play on emotions to make his or her point, because fact and logic has obviously failed him or her. As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon." Or as the rest of us would say, "What a loser."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Katrina and More Socialism

Here's yet another data point for why I want smaller government, why I don't want government in charge of something as important as health care, and why I trust markets to fix problems more so than I trust government:

Federal officials vastly overestimated the value of hurricane relief supplies given away earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported Monday.

The General Services Administration, which manages federal property, over-counted cases of toilet paper, plastic sporks and other cutlery, by mistakenly counting a single item as being worth as much as multiple items contained in a package of goods.

The original GSA estimate of $85 million should have been $18.5 million, according to figures released by GSA and FEMA.

The household goods were supposed to go to people whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. But the items were stored in warehouses in Louisiana, and then Fort Worth, Texas. A recent CNN investigative story exposed that those materials never made it to storm victims.

Why is the federal government giving away household supplies? Why isn't that a state or local function; where in the Constitution is there any mention of such federal responsibility?

And even if you could make up, via penumbras and emanations, some type of justification, why are we still doing this three years after the hurricane?

Add this story to this one and you and you see what a culture of socialism creates.

8th Grade Algebra

Here's a column about 8th grade algebra with which I can mostly concur.

The firestorm over California's decision to require all eighth-grade students to take Algebra 1 provides a remarkably good overview of much of what is wrong with the state of math education in the country today: The focus is in the wrong place, and the real problems remain unaddressed...

Whether we teach Algebra 1 in eighth grade or ninth grade, it won't do much good if the students don't remember (or never learned) what they were taught before. My work has led me to believe the skills learned in fifth grade are indispensable for success in Algebra 1, and too many students are progressing through the system without having mastered those. We should be asking why students are arriving in Algebra 1 unprepared, whenever they get there.

5th grade math standards for California can be found here on page 20 of the booklet, which is page 29/79 of the PDF document. The above author's anecdote about the elementary-teacher-to-be was mortifying; I continue to believe that Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics should be required reading in every elementary teacher preparation program.

Oakland Military Institute

Earlier today I had the high privilege of visiting and being given a tour of the Oakland Military Institute, a charter school in the Oakland (California) School District. Summer school was in session so I did get to see some cadets, but I look forward to visiting again some time when the full student population is present--that's the only way to get a true feel for a school.

The school board and local teachers union were hostile to the creation of OMI from the very beginning; it was only the persistence of then-Mayor Jerry Brown (former CA governor, current attorney general), that allowed the school to get off the ground. For its first few years, OMI was located at the former Oakland Army Base. But that facility became needed, and OMI had to find a new home. There was a closed elementary school in a residential neighborhood...

...and that became the new and current Oakland Military Institute. The school has a 5-year lease on the building, so it's home for awhile.

Of course, click on the pictures to enlarge them.

First I'll tell you what OMI is, then I'll tell you what it isn't.

Look at the name on the sign in the picture above. Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy. OMI's graduation requirements are the same "a-g requirements" for admission to our state's university system; clearly, these graduation requirements are stricter than those imposed by the state, and higher than any other school in the Oakland district. The reason is simple, and isn't hard to figure out if you drive around in the vicinity of the school--there aren't a lot of kids who are considering college in Oakland, and this school, like the AVID program at so many other schools, focuses kids on the goal of attending college.

OMI has approximately 600 students in 6th-12th grades. The students apply to get into this school and reflect the community from which they come; for example, in looking at pictures/names of students, I saw fewer than 5 non-Hispanic white boys in the hundreds of pictures I saw. The average student comes to OMI more than a year below grade level in some core subjects. In other words, these students are not much different from students in any other Oakland school.

Yet over 80% of OMI graduates go on to college--and I'm told that's just the 4-year colleges, that the percentage is higher when you add in junior colleges. They're doing something right at OMI, and I'll tell you what it is.

At OMI, standards are stated explicitly. There are standards of behavior, standards of academic work, standards of discipline/bearing/decorum. The students know what those standards are, and the standards are not flexible. Here's an example of one such explicitly stated standard:

There is no ambiguity there, no room for interpretation. And that's good, that's what so many students need.

Now let me stop and say that this isn't Martinet High. The atmosphere is not one of Basic Training, there aren't a bunch of automatons running around. The kids here are just like the kids in any other Oakland school, and while you can take the kid out of Oakland (at least, out of the Oakland public schools), you can't take the Oakland out of the kid. These are mostly low-income, mostly minority kids from an inner city, with everything that implies. But instead of using that as an excuse to allow kids to fail, OMI helps them succeed.

While utilizing a military model, OMI is not a soldier factory, it's not a recruiting arm of the military, and they're not teaching warmongering there. I was very direct in my questions to the commandant on this topic, and his answers were equally clear. In addition to academic subjects OMI teaches leadership, it teaches respect, it teaches self-discipline, it teaches peaceful resolution to problems--values sorely needed given the environment so many of the students come from. Uniforms, formations, military-type discipline--these are just effective tools, very efficient tools, for instilling those values in students. They are merely a means to an end, and that end is college.

I said previously that the OMI campus is a converted elementary school in an inner city. There was no "field", so they bought one:

The students play soccer, conduct parades, and have PT on a (rather soft) field that used to be the blacktop. Athletic competition is always a great motivator, and records are posted:

I don't quite understand the relationship, and perhaps a reader can clarify that for us all, but OMI is affiliated with the California Cadet Corps, a JROTC-like program of the California National Guard. Some of the military instructors are CCC officers and soldiers, and OMI cadets wear CCC uniforms. They wear the official CCC uniform (see some here) 3 days a week, and a black OMI PT uniform two days a week. Today during my visit there was summer school, and every cadet there had on the PT uniform. It's called a "uniform" for a reason.

There is no graffiti in or around the school. The walls were painted, the floors clear of debris. The building was obviously old but cared for. OMI reminds me of the Little Engine That Could.

I mentioned previously that it was Jerry Brown who really pushed for OMI, and I'm told that even today he comes by periodically to visit and see how the school and students are doing. I don't have very many positive things to say about Brown, but I give him an A+ for his continued commitment to this school and program.

The last time I looked up OMI's school accountability score a couple years ago, it wasn't that high. Let's do so now and see what we get.

Here are their scores. I'm impressed with the math scores; the lower classes' scores aren't so good, but the number of "advanced" and "proficient" students in Algebra 2 and Summative High School Math (the test taken in all courses above Algebra 2) show marked improvement over the lower courses. Here are the Oakland Unified School District scores as a whole. Pick your favorite subject area and compare the two.

This site gives the Academic Performance Index for OMI, and compares it with schools across the state with similar demographics. The information is from the school year that ended a year ago; 2007-08's information won't be posted until the end of August. If all of California's schools were ranked in order and divided into deciles, OMI's student performance would be in the 4th decile overall (better than over 30% of all schools in the state, worse than 60%). When compared only to schools with similar demographics, OMI would be in only the 2nd decile, so clearly there's room for improvement.

Overall, the Oakland District had a score of 651. OMI's score is 658. It's doing slightly better than the district as a whole, but it is helping more students get into colleges and universities.

To conclude, I'm impressed with OMI's program. I wish the school and its cadets continued success and continued improvement.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Mapping" Cadet Learning at West Point

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting piece about a long-term effort to evaluate West Point's "product"--an educated, adaptable lieutenant.

“Our graduates are likely to be stationed all over the world. They’re going to confront challenges that quite frankly we couldn’t have prepared them for. We couldn’t have known what the challenges would be,” said Bruce Keith, a professor of sociology and associate dean for academic affairs. “We have to develop in them a foundation for lifelong learning.”

With broad goals of lifelong learning and liberal education at the fore, West Point professors are diligently pursuing an ongoing effort to map where, in what classes, and how students achieve the outcomes West Point wants. Yet, even considering West Point’s heavy core curriculum — which consists of about 30 courses, Keith said, 26 of which are taken in common by all students — the circled route consists of many branching roads that ultimately, faculty hope, converge.

And while West Point is of course a unique institution, some suggest it could be a model for how colleges can become more intentional in linking all of these branches of the undergraduate experience.

I'm usually skeptical of such evaluation programs, but if any institution can do them correctly, our service academies can.

Yet Another Difference Between A Conservative And A Liberal

President Bush was exactly right in this exchange, quoted in an opinion piece about energy conservation:

A reporter, saying the energy debate will continue into the next administration, told President Bush that "one thing nobody debates is that if Americans use less energy the current supply/demand equation would improve. Why have you not sort of called on Americans to drive less and to turn down the thermostat?"

Bush responded: "They’re smart enough to figure out whether they’re going to drive less or not … it’s interesting what the price of gasoline has done, is it caused people to drive less. That’s why they want smaller cars, they want to conserve. But the consumer is plenty bright. … The marketplace works.

"Secondly, we have worked with Congress to change CAFE standards and had a mandatory alternative fuel requirement," he continued. "One way to correct the imbalance is to save, is to conserve. … I talked about good conservation. And people can figure out whether they need to drive more or less; they can balance their own checkbooks."

"But you don't see the need to ask? You don’t see the value of your calling for a campaign?" the reporter persisted.

"I think people ought to conserve and be wise about how they use gasoline and energy … and there’s some easy steps people can take. You know, if they’re not in their home, they don’t keep their air-conditioning running," Bush said, adding that "it’s a little presumptuous on my part to dictate to consumers how they live their lives."

Lefties tell me all the time that it's the right that wants to take away your freedoms and tell you how you must live. I honestly don't see it.

12 Out Of 12

Paying attention to the news paid off for me on this quiz.


If I want information on a topic, I'll sometimes start at Wikipedia. Notice I said start.

When you've been around the block a few times as I have, you're more able to notice when something's not quite right. You notice bias, for example. And there's plenty of it on Wikipedia. The more controversial the topic, the more bias you'll find there. That shouldn't be surprising.

Students, however, don't have the spectrum of knowledge, gained by decades of paying attention, that I have. They see Wikipedia as the Encyclopedia Britannica of the internet, the source of all information. It's not.

It's only a place to start. If a topic is well footnoted and referenced on Wikipedia, the footnotes and references might be useful. Start with Wikipedia, and launch your search for knowledge from there. One of my high school English teachers spent quite a bit of time drilling into us the difference between a "scholarly reference" and a "reference", and when each should be used. Wikipedia is certainly in the latter category, for a number of reasons.

Here's a story about a hacker who is helping uncover who is doing what edits to Wikipedia topics. It's very illuminating, and I highly recommend that you read it. I found two points to be very instructive. The first comes from a comment, the second from the end of the article:

1. Skeptics of anthropogenic global warming have their edits removed and if they complain, they'll get their accounts suspended. I created an entry about one of the suppressing administrators and not only was the entry deleted, but my account was ended with the comment "User hates Wiki".

Other politically left of center positions and personalities get favored treatment.

2. Instead, he argues that removing anonymity makes the site's information more accurate. "I would say that if people are anonymous, the quality of their contribution is probably much lower," he says. "Wouldn't you want Wikipedia users to be held accountable for what they change?"

Accountability. Such a versatile proposition.

Update, 7/28/08: I'm not the only one who thinks so. So does Roger L. Simon.

Too often we reference Wikipedia as if it were authoritative. It isn’t. Not even faintly.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What Is The Meaning of Life?

Mallory, in the Family Ties series finale, gave the best response I've ever heard (which I'll paraphrase here):

Be happy, try not to hurt anyone, and hope you fall in love.

"Unless you see evil up close and personal like this, it is admittedly difficult to comprehend that it actually exists."

I refer you to this exceptional post by my friend Mr. Chanman, and ask you to consider which political philosophy, current American liberalism or conservatism, is better able to deal with this man.

Now extrapolate from this one person to the world, and tell me which American political party you trust more to deal with the Saddam Husseins, the Ahmedinejads, the Dear Leaders, the Assads, the Chavezes, and the bin Ladens of the world.

They Mean To Govern

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.
--Daniel Webster

Exhibit A is the former and perhaps future governor of California, Jerry Brown:

In the meantime, Mr. Brown is taking aim at the suburbs, concerned about the alleged environmental damage they cause. He sees suburban houses as inefficient users of energy. He sees suburban commuters clogging the roads as wasting precious fossil fuel. And, mostly, he sees wisdom in an intricately thought-out plan to compel residents to move to city centers or, at least, to high-density developments clustered near mass transit lines.

Mr. Brown is not above using coercion to create the demographic patterns he wants. In recent months, he has threatened to file suit against municipalities that shun high-density housing in favor of building new suburban singe-family homes, on the grounds that they will pollute the environment. He is also backing controversial legislation -- Senate bill 375 -- moving through the state legislature that would restrict state highway funds to communities that refuse to adopt "smart growth" development plans. "We have to get the people from the suburbs to start coming back" to the cities, Mr. Brown told planning experts in March.

The problem is, that's not what Californians want.

All boldface is mine.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Textbook Downloads

When your prices are too high and people need your product, they will find a way to game the system, even if it's not legal. The marketplace is responding.

Faced with soaring prices for textbooks, cash-strapped students have discovered a tempting, effective, but illicit alternative - pirated electronic books, available for free over the Internet.

"We think it's a significant problem," said William Sampson, manager of infringement and antipiracy at Cengage Learning Inc., a reference book publisher in Farmington Hills, Mich. Sampson said that in any given month, 200 to 300 of the company's titles are posted illegally as free Internet downloads. Distributing books for free without permission violates copyright laws and deprives publishers of revenue.
What might a legal market-driven solution look like?

Is State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell An Idiot?

The answer is clearly yes. Either that, or he's off his medication or something. And I say this as someone who voted for him, a Democrat, in the last election.

Why is Jack an idiot? Two recent reasons. The first was his opposition to 8th grade algebra, giving the classic "soft bigotry of low expectations" excuse. The most recent reason, though, is this:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell announced Thursday that educators with the state's migrant education program will distribute information to farm worker families about protecting themselves against heat-related illness...

O'Connell said it is time educators do their part to help keep families healthy. (emphasis mine--Darren)

Jack? Bite me.

A more intellectual response is this one, from one of the commenters at the link above:

May I assume these state educators also will expand their workload to cover instruction on birth-control, safe driving next to irrigation ditches and canals, cooking meat without incurring food poisoning, safe home electrical wiring, drownproofing, why to not ride a motorcycle, using a ladder without falling off, choking hazards from small toys, rules for safe pedestrians, the need for smoke detedtors near residence bedrooms, safe storage of household chemicals and cleansers, skin cancer caused by excess exposure to sunlight, and the incipient hazards of global warming? Is there anything "in the best interest of our children, our families,... and our state" the Superintent (sic) of Public Instruction should NOT be teaching?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's Good To Be A Patriot!

I found a slot machine called American Original. Everything on it was some combination of reds, whites, blues, stars, and eagles, so I had to play it. I put in $50 and got bonus after bonus, eventually winning up to $105 before cashing out with $90.

It's an added bonus for loving my country!

Update, 7/18/08: Sadly, that luck didn't hold out last night. Maybe a bunch of liberals came to the casino =)


I type this post having just come in from the pool at Atlantis, and having a short time until my massage appointment. Ah, life is good.

I haven't been here in over a year and it sure has changed. A skyway is being built over the street to connect the hotel with the Convention Center, and there's been a large casino floor expansion. In fact, it's so different I got a bit lost finding the hotel desk last night--construction is still ongoing, and the main walkway was blocked off. I learned my way around before brunch this morning.

A two-day trip somewhere never hurt anyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fast Food Nanny State

I read this story--one I'm sure lefties will love.

In a proposal that is stunning in both its ignorance and arrogance, a South Central Los Angeles politician wants to place a moratorium on the construction of new fast food restaurants in her area...

“Some people will say, ‘Well, people just don’t have to eat it,’ ” said Jan Perry, the Democrat who represents the city’s overwhelmingly African-American and Latino District 9. “But the fact of the matter is, what if you have no other choices?”

It warms my heart that some of the commenters so clearly pick up on what's really going on here:

Dave Hardy:
If there are no viable alternatives to a fast food restaurant, we must conclude that if she closes down the fast food restaurants the population will die of starvation.

I dunno, maybe I’m just too cynical, but isn’t this just the SOP for these types of things? A business makes a location decision based on the belief that it will be profitable. Then, community activists raise all kinds of objections…which melt away when the business in question makes the right donation…just a cost of doing business in the city, nothing to do with nutrition or Big Brother…politicians and activists understand market forces all too well…

But the winner goes to
No, what amuses me here is this will likely receive lots of support–from the fast food chains already in the area! This is GREAT for them! No new competition while the consumer market continues to grow! This is government support of business at its finest! You’d normally need the backing of organized crime to achieve something like this–and the government just HANDS IT TO THEM ON A PLATTER!

Meanwhile, people continue to eat fast food because–gasp!–they WANT to!

Ding ding ding!

This runner up, though receives the snark award. I don't think he's serious; rather, he's trying to show how government involvement here can make things worse:

Anonymous Patriot:


how much of the money spent by residents patronizing these places comes from welfare checks (a.k.a. John Q. Taxpayer). That’s it! I’ve got the answer; eliminate the welfare checks! That way nobody can buy the “bad” food in the first place. Problem solved.


Carnival of Education

You can find this week's here, and it includes my post about government schools and the nanny state.

June 2008 California Educator

This issue is devoted to professional development, and the first story on which I'll comment is called "Unconscious Bias program explores prejudices".

Here we go again.

Whenever we have to sit down, get in touch with our feelings, and reveal that deep inside all of us--but most especially the white folk--are racists, does the thought of reeducation camps come to mind? "I used to be a capitalist, but now I understand how my selfish, greedy ways harmed the peace-loving people of my new communist homeland. I feel so sorry for what I have done, I'm so ashamed."

Usually I claim that consistency isn't a strong point of the left. I have to modify that thought--because they consistently hold views that are stupid. I addressed this same "unconscious bias" crapola in this April 2005 post--and nothing's changed. Nothing at all. Go read that post for all you really need to know about the topic.

If the CTA spent half the effort on Darren's pay, benefits, and working conditions that they spend on race issues and socialism, maybe I wouldn't despise them so much.

The next story I'll touch upon comes from page 31. A few years ago, the CTA "temporarily" increased dues $60/year in order to build a war chest to defeat some ballot initiatives. I wrote about it here. In the April issue they discussed what to do now that the "temporary" increase was coming to an end, and I blogged about that here. In the June issue, in a story on page 31 as was the April story--so apparently page 31 is where they put information about raising your dues--we find that they decided to do exactly what they "considered" in April. Since there's nothing new here, allow me to quote from my last link:

CTA wants to continue getting some of that money, so they're going to keep $20/year of that increase and let the remaining $40/year expire. That additional $20/year will continue to go to their political efforts--unless teachers opt out of it. Notice: they're not going to spend a lot of effort telling you about opting out, and they're not going to get your permission to take that money and spend it on politics. No, they're going to require you to tell them you want to keep your own money, counting on either teachers' lack of knowledge or higher priorities to ensure that most teachers don't opt out.
Is that how professionals act? Or is that how cynical politicians act?

P.S. Those are not trick questions. Way to look out for teachers, CTA!

And lastly, let's look on page 36 at the "CTA-sponsored and co-sponsored legislation for 2007-2008". Let's see how well CTA is looking after its K-12 teachers. Of the 7 bills listed, 5 of them relate to community colleges, one relates to universal health care, and one relates to a 2-year kindergarten pilot program.

Way to look out for teachers, CTA!

May 2008 California Educator Magazine

I've held on to this so long because it pains me to have to read the complete and total crap it contains. But I want to get it off my desk so I have to address the points. Perhaps I'll just offer minimal commentary and let their paranoia and idiocy speak for themselves.

The entire issue is focused on "The Value of Public Education". Conjure up the worst scaremongering that public schools are going to be sold off to Wal*Mart, and that's what you get in this issue.

Page 12, in an article called "Ways to boost awareness of the value of education": "Repeat simple, effective, positive messages about public education." Of course! Trite sayings will trump anything truthful or intellectual any day.

How about this suggestion: "Become a pro-education blogger." That's me. I'm pro-education. I want people to be smart enough to see beyond the trite sayings of the CTA's minions and sheeple.

"Don't refer to schools as 'failing,' or if you must, use quotation marks or refer to them as 'so-called failing schools.'" In other words, don't admit for a moment that there are government education centers where children don't learn.

What these fools refuse to understand is that while universal public education is sacred, public schools are not. Trite sayings and word games which protect a system in which too many kids aren't learning--if they really cared about kids they would fix the problems and not play games with them.

Starting on page 20 we get a story called "Conference warns against dismantling of public ed". Who's doing this, the Democrats who run both the Congress and the Capitol in Sacramento? Fools. I loved this part, though: "There are also 'grassroots' organizations... So-called 'professional educator' associations make it appear as if teachers support school choice, NCLB and vouchers, while opposing teacher unions. But these are bogus groups that do not represent the vast majority of teachers...." CTEN and the "so-called" Association of American Educators! I'm a proud member of both (and I'm just as capable of using the "so-called" tactic as CTA is). Apparently some teachers support school choice, et al, and there's no reason here to discuss why CTA has the advantage of representing the "vast majority of teachers". Just call those groups, and the teachers who join them, bogus. Coming from an organization that must compel dues payment with the force of law, that's rich!

On page 30 we read about something that I probably agree with, but will enjoy CTA's hypocrisy: "CTA and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) have defeated a well-intentioned but overly restrictive measure that would have jeopardized the pension board's ability to fulfill its duties to its members... (It) would have prohibited CalSTRS and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) from placing public funds in investment companies fully or partly owned by investors from foreign nations that have not fully complied with certain international treaties." Like Kyoto? =)

That's enough, as that was just the idiocy I could tolerate reading and commenting on. Have your TUMS nearby, because the next post is on the June issue.

Short Attention Spans

While I don't really believe the headline of this story, I'm sure it's more true today than it is when the economy is going like gangbusters.

"There may be a backlash against markets at the moment," acknowledged Kevin A. Hassett, economic studies director at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and an advisor to presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain. "But the backlash doesn't seem to be informed by any alternative view of how the world works."

True that. Boom and bust is a cycle here, and unless you're willing to settle for the stagnancy of a European socialist economy, I suggest riding this storm out--with apologies to REO Speedwagon.

Update: Here's an alternate view:

Two major related threats loom over the world economy: credit crises and rising inflation. What do these two menaces have in common? Bankers, hedge-fund managers, speculators and capitalism in general have been taking the hit for the economic turmoil, both for credit risk and inflation. But the looming collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Macin the United States should help change the focus a little. We are now getting down to the heart of the matter, which turns out not to be rampant capitalism but out of control back-door socialism.

There is nothing free market about the two American mortgage backers, hybrid institutions created by the U.S. government to support mortgages and make home buying easier and more affordable for Americans.

Mini-Nuclear Plants

Bring 'em on! You know that here at Right on the Left Coast we're all about safe, clean, pollutant-free nuclear energy.

Something's got to charge all those electric cars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Can They Do Anything Right In The Seattle School District?

I've written about jaw-dropping happenings in Seattle Public Schools before (here, here, here, and here, for starters). I don't know, maybe it's the rain up there, maybe it turns people's heads to mush. Or maybe the people who run the schools up there are just extraordinarily good at being idiots.

Annika and Nicole Jewett are twins who live in the same house, their beds just two feet apart. Their mother never dreamed they'd be assigned to different schools for kindergarten this fall.

Stephanie Jewett listed the same three schools in the same order on each girl's application. Made a note that the girls are twins, and told the enrollment staff the same thing.

When Annika was assigned to Bryant Elementary, and Nicole to Wedgwood, Jewett initially thought it was a mistake.

It wasn't.

In one of the stranger quirks in the Seattle School District's convoluted student-assignment system, twins can be assigned to different schools, despite the district's policy to keep siblings together.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Your Chance to Evaluate the Credibility of Nutjobs

Some folks believe everything they read. Some cling to conspiracy theories to explain a world that operates outside their comfort zone--it gives some people relief to believe in the nefarious plots of people they can identify rather than to worry about a big bad world where no one is really in charge, and bad things can happen seemingly capriciously.

Here's a lively one, and the nutjobs in the story were helpful enough to provide dates for these apocalypses. Let's see how close to reality they come--the first is only two months away.

Word has begun leaking from last weeks special, closed-door session of the United States House of Representatives.

Theorists wrote "Not only did members discuss new surveillance provisions as was the publicly stated reason for the closed door session, they also discussed: The imminent collapse of the U.S. economy to occur by September 2008, the imminent collapse of US federal government finances by February 2009, the possibility of Civil War inside the USA as a result of the collapse and advance round-ups of "insurgent U.S. citizens" likely to move against the government.

Also theorised was the detention of those rounded-up at "REX 84" camps constructed throughout the USA and the possibility of retaliation against members of Congress for the collapses and the location of "safe facilities" for members of Congress and their families to reside during expected massive civil unrest

Other answers included "the necessary and unavoidable merger of the United States with Canada" (for its natural resources) and with Mexico (for its cheap labor pool), the issuance of a new currency - THE AMERO - for all three nations as the proposed solution to the coming economic armageddon.

Members of Congress were FORBIDDEN to reveal what was discussed and ABC News via WCPO web site at the link below CONFIRMS congress members were FORBIDDEN to talk about it!

I clicked on the "web site at the link below"--well, compare the hysteria of that last paragraph with the WCPO (local Cincinnati ABC affiliate) report yourself and make your own decisions.

And stock up on ammo before September. While you're doing that, I'm going to Cancun to spend some Ameros.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Why We Need A Part-Time Legislature In California

If the legislature were in session only a few months out of the year, perhaps they wouldn't spend any time on idiocy like this:

Legislation to ban restaurants and bakeries from using trans fats in food production was approved Monday by California lawmakers.

Assembly Bill 97 now goes to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not announced whether he will sign or veto it.

Just curious, do we have a state budget yet?

You Don't Like Racism? This Is Just As Bad.

Here's a small anecdote about India's caste system, which is outlawed but still exists.

As a Dalit, the lowest level in India's complex caste system, she was a so-called scavenger, a person who collects the garbage, feces and urine of other higher caste people. In the eyes of many, that would make her too disgusting to touch.

These are the "untouchables".

"While I was a child at 13 years old, I touched an untouchable. For that my grandmother forced me to swallow cow dung, cow urine and Ganges water to purify myself," (Dr.) Pathak said.

I guess, though, that all cultures are equally valuable. Except American culture, of course.

Achieving Racial Diversity at Princeton

If John's blog Discriminations (see blogroll) gave a weekly chutzpah award, this week's would go to Princeton.

Go read it. You'll be glad you did. Then you'll be disappointed when you realize the scope, strength, and utter evil of the "diversity industry" in this country.

(Evil's a very powerful word, but I can't think of another that conveys what I'm trying to convey. Help, readers?)

UC Considering Admissions Changes

From the San Jose Mercury News:

The University of California's admissions standards would undergo their most far-reaching overhaul in decades under a faculty proposal that would allow students who have not completed the prescribed college-prep courses or earned minimum test scores to have their applications considered.

Starting with the freshmen class of 2012, the revised policy also would promise a spot on one of UC's nine undergraduate campuses for all students who graduate in the top 9 percent of their senior classes, compared with the 4 percent now promised admission.

The changes, scheduled to be discussed by the university's governing board on Wednesday, are designed to ensure the state is making room in its premier public colleges for promising students who are overlooked under current qualification requirements, said Mark Rashid, who chaired the faculty committee that developed the proposal.

Community colleges are for people who aren't quite up to UC snuff or haven't taken the minimum coursework. Considering that we already have community colleges, what possible legitimate reason could there be for this proposed change? We're given a hint in a later paragraph:

But Rashid said his committee, which is charged by the Board of Regents with revising the freshman eligibility policy, found that the current system did not produce unyielding equality, but was a model of "structural unfairness" that penalizes students from less-privileged backgrounds.

"If you are in that eligible cohort, you are visible to the university. You are guaranteed admission somewhere within the system. If you are not in that cohort, you are as good as invisible to the system. You don't even get to make your case," he said.

I guess if you don't believe in merit or in getting up to speed at community colleges, the current situation seems like a problem. To me, the current situation is the way it should be. You're invisible to a system for which you're unqualified? That's a feature, not a bug.

Stripping For Ibuprofin

Joanne has the story of a 13-year-old girl who was essentially strip-searched at school by school authorities looking for contraband ibuprofin. They didn't find any on her, and an appeals court has ruled 6-5 that her rights had been violated.

6-5. That means 5 judges thought it just dandy not only to have a completely stupid rule about painkillers, but to have a girl be required to undress in some dramatic search for painkillers. If those five judges are trying to generate total contempt for the law and for the legal process, they could hardly have chosen a better hill on which to plant their flag.

Joanne comments:

The eighth-grade girl was an honor student who’d never been in trouble. Of course, that doesn’t mean she never takes ibuprofen for her period. Most girls that age take something.

Nope. They should just suffer. If Eve hadn't convinced Adam to eat from that apple, women wouldn't have to worry about such issues anyway.

The idiocy astounds.

"New" Calculus Teaching Method Appears To Flop

I'm not a Luddite, nor do I think that old ways are always best. However, I do believe that we can learn from the past; that change isn't always progress, especially if it's change for its own sake; and that if something works, don't fix it.

Sometimes, though, people want to try something new, to see if they can improve upon what already exists--in the case of this story, professors at BYU tried a "progressive" approach to teaching calculus.

Last year, Brigham Young University professors taught experimental calculus courses with honors students to test an emerging and controversial way of teaching math. Instead of lecturing, Janet Walter and Hope Gerson, assistant professors in BYU's department of math education, had the students hash out math problems cooperatively.

They explored scenarios from the real world, such as calculating the volume of a region formed around an axis, with the hope of arriving at key math theorems on their own. The professors wanted to study how people learn math - that most abstract, yet essential of academic pursuits.

But some BYU faculty are questioning whether Gerson and Walter's students learned much calculus after they bombed on departmental exams. Even though they were teaching high-achievers in smaller classes, test scores were lower than BYU's overall averages and sunk as the experiment proceeded over the course of three semesters.

"At the end of the day, no matter how much they talk about it, they have to be able to solve the problems. That's where these programs break down," said Lynn Garner, who recently retired after nearly 40 years with BYU's math department...

Gerson and Walter contend there are multiple paths to solving a mathematical problem and students should be encouraged to chart their own way by exploring problems drawn from the real world.

"It sounds great, but it doesn't work," quipped David Wright, a veteran BYU math professor.

"When [Gerson and Walter] proposed those sections, we said it was fine with us as long as they take the uniform final and use the same textbook," Garner said. "Their object was to study how students' attitudes changed during the course. They didn't drill the skills like they do in the other sections."

When the facts contradict your expectations, believe the facts. Scores were tragically lower than traditionally-taught calculus, which is especially bad when you consider that these were honors students.

You gave it the ol' college try, now get back to what you know works.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where Should New College Grads Head For The Best Paying Jobs?

Texas, according to Forbes magazine.

When A Little Math Comes In Handy

I'm going to Cancun in a few weeks (first time!) and I'm checking out all the web sites I can find. I found this one to be exceedingly painful.

Here's an example to illustrate the point: You buy 5 beers in a bar advertised at 40 pesos each. This bar offers an exchange rate of 10 pesos to the dollar. You could either pay 200 pesos or $20.00, fair enough.

Next door, the bar is selling the same beer at the same price of 40 pesos but they have an exchange rate of 11 pesos to the dollar. Your same 5 beers, will still cost you 200 pesos but pay in dollars and instead of $20.00 it's $22.00.

In the 2nd example, 200 pesos at 11 pesos to the dollar would be about $18.18, not $22. The way I see it, you could pay with a $20 bill, and since the site says you'd probably get change in pesos, I figure that you'd get maybe 15 pesos in change (rounding to the barkeep's favor).

And in California we have people whining because 8th graders are going to be tested in algebra.

California Homeschoolers Catch A Break

A couple of months ago I wrote, however briefly, about a case that sent California homeschoolers into fits--a judge ordered a family to send two of its children to public school because the mom/teacher didn't have a teaching credential. Homeschoolers took it to mean that the judge effectively ruled that homeschooling is illegal in California.

I didn't really get exercised over it because I didn't believe it would ever stand up--the governor and the legislature both support homeschooling, and if for some arcane reason our law could be interpreted as not allowing it, that law would be corrected mucho pronto.

Well, yesterday, the original case has been dismissed, which puts the ruling about homeschooling in some sort of legal limbo.

A controversial legal ruling that outlawed most forms of home schooling in California will face greater scrutiny because the underlying family court case was dismissed earlier this week...

The issue remains in legal limbo. On Thursday, the family court judge terminated its jurisdiction over two of the eight children of Phillip and Mary Long, who were accused of mistreating some of their children. All of the children are currently or had been enrolled at Sunland Christian School, where they would occasionally take tests, but they were educated in their Lynwood home by their mother...

The Longs, the Sunland school and others appealed, and the appellate panel agreed to revisit the ruling. That panel heard arguments last month and is expected to rule by late summer on whether parents can legally educate their children without a credential.

I'm pretty sure the courts will rule that homeschooling is legal, and this issue will die the embarrassing death it deserves. At least, I hope that's what happens.

Cuba: Now With Only Half The Communism!

First China and Vietnam veered from the communist standard planned economy (how'd those work out, anyway?) towards a market driven economy. Today we learn that the last bastion of true communism outside of US academia, Cuba, may follow China and Vietnam.

HAVANA - President Raul Castro warned Cubans on Friday to prepare for a "realistic" brand of communism that is economically viable and does away with excessive state subsidies designed to promote equality on the island...

"Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income," the 77-year-old president said in a speech that was taped and later aired on national television. "Equality is not egalitarianism."

That sentiment marks a break with his brother, who spent decades saying Cuba was building an egalitarian society.

So what's left of communist countries after you take away the communism? Just the police state.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Math And Engineering Still Lead To Lucrative Jobs

Engineering tops Forbes’ list of lucrative college majors with psychology and criminal justice on the low end of the scale. (Majors that typically lead to public-sector employment, such as education and social work, are excluded from the PayScale study.)

Joanne has more.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Did you know that today, 7/11, is National Slurpee Day? Me either! Go here to check out some cool facts about 7-11 stores and Slurpees.

High Gas Prices--Good For Children

I'm waiting for someone in the "it's for the children" crowd to seize upon this report:

High gas prices could turn out to be a lifesaver for some drivers. The authors of a new study say gas prices are causing driving declines that could result in a third fewer auto deaths annually, with the most dramatic drop likely to be among teen drivers.

If higher gas prices save just one life, then they're worth it. Right?

How Can We Get Good Teachers In Schools?

The teachers unions won't like this Slate piece, but it makes sense to me.

Firing bad teachers may seem like a rather obvious solution, but it requires some gumption to take on a teachers union. And cleaning house isn't necessarily the only answer. There are three basic ways to improve a school's faculty: take greater care in selecting good teachers upfront, throw out the bad ones who are already teaching, and provide training to make current teachers better. In theory, the first two should have more or less the same effect, and it might seem preferable to focus on never hiring unpromising instructors—once entrenched, it's nearly impossible in most places to remove teachers from their union-protected jobs. But that's assuming we're good at predicting who will teach well in the first place.

It turns out we aren't.

Schools and Parents

Should parents be allowed to teach their children un-PC values? Should school employees who discover such un-PC values notify the local equivalent of Child Protective Services? Should children be removed from their parents' custody merely for being taught such un-PC values?

I'd rather err on the side of having a few kooks' teaching their kids to be racists than having government decide what values parents must teach to their children.

Student Booted From School For Creating An Online Map Of His School For A Video Game

This story's a year old but was just brought to my attention (thank you to reader/commenter/former student Eric W).

Let's see if I can cut to the chase in this story. A high school student like to play an online version of a first-person shooting game. He created an online map of his school so he and his friends could have these battles in an environment they know and love.

One parent found out about this, raised a stink, and school officials got involved. His parents consented to a search of their house where a hammer (weapon!!!) was found in the boy's room. The boy was identified as a potential terrorist, sent to the district's alternative school, and told he couldn't graduate with his friends. No criminal charges were filed.

The parent complaint coincidentally was made the day after the Virginia Tech shootings, raising the emotional stakes, but there was no indication that this kid wanted to fire up his schoolmates. I mean, really--I think it would be much more fun to play a videogame centered on somewhere I know rather than on some random location. Administrators way overreacted here, which seems to be something they teach in administrator school.

Lawyers got involved and the district backpedaled somewhat by allowing him to graduate with his class, but tried to cover their tracks by adding more layers of stupidity.

A Clements High School senior, disciplined and removed from his campus after officials learned he'd made a 3D computer game map resembling the school, will be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies if he and his parents agree in writing to several conditions (to show they've done something). (boldface mine--Darren)

But Michael McKie, Fort Bend Independent School District assistant superintendent for high schools, told the boy's parents and attorney he won't grant their request that records calling the boy a "terroristic threat" be cleared, or that the boy be allowed to return to classes at Clements...

McKie said the district will allow the boy to participate in graduation ceremonies "conditioned on my receipt of your written assurance that you have custody of all weapons in your household, that (the boy) has no violent tendencies, that he would not cause harm to himself or others during the graduation ceremonies and that he will behave in an appropriate and dignified manner at graduation."

Neither Cease nor the boy's parents could be reached for comment Monday morning. FBISD spokeswoman Mary Ann Simpson said "we have received a letter from the parents and the young man, agreeing to the terms in the letter from Mr. McKie."

"They have no choice. They are not happy about it," said Naomi Lam, a former FBISD board member and a friend of the boy's family. "I'm not very happy with the decision either."

If the injustice here isn't clear yet, try this:

The school police department's threat assessment office concluded no crime had taken place. And, according to the police report, Fort Bend County Assistant District Attorney Paul Tu told campus police “he knew of no criminal offense that had occurred; there were no threats on any specific person or people; there was no evidence found to pursue the case any further.”

Yet the boy was still sent to an alternative school for the end of his senior year.

Is common sense really not so common?