Sunday, November 30, 2008

Diversity or Death at Canadian University

Via Critical Mass comes this disturbing story:

The Carleton University Students' Association has voted to drop a cystic fibrosis charity as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, supporting a motion that argued the disease is not "inclusive" enough.

Cystic fibrosis "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" said the motion read Monday night to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it...

The motion was forwarded by Donnie Northrup, who represents science students. Mr. Northrup did not respond to a request for an interview.


That's scary, and here's part of the reason why it's so scary:

The rationale for dropping cystic fibrosis as the beneficiary is not correct, she said. CF is diagnosed just as often among girls as boys, although the health of girls deteriorates more rapidly, she said. It is commonly considered an illness that affects Caucasians, but that includes people from the Middle East, South America, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent.


This story is more proof that education does not equal intelligence.

Obama, Hypocrisy, and Sidwell Friends School

While I don't agree with everything Jonah Goldberg says in this opinion piece, it makes for good reading:

Hypocrisy is an overblown sin. Better to be a hypocrite who occasionally violates his principles than a villain who never does...

The Obamas will send their two daughters to the expensive private school, Sidwell Friends. Yes, that makes him something of a hypocrite because he is a vocal opponent of giving poor kids anything like the same option.

But you know what? Who cares? Personally, I would think less of the Obamas if they sent their kids to bad schools out of some ideological principle. Parents' first obligation is to do right by their own kids.

As I've said before, I don't fault the Obamas for sending their kids to private school. Even though they don't support school choice except for people like themselves who can afford it, I believe they should be able to send their kids wherever they can.

The good stuff in the article, though, comes when Goldberg discusses why the Obamas chose a private school.

Michelle Rhee, D.C.'s heroic school chancellor, in her 17 months on the job has already made meaningful improvements. But that's grading on an enormous curve. The Post recently reported that on observing a bad teacher in a classroom, Rhee complained to the principal. "Would you put your grandchild in that class?" she asked.

"If that's the standard," replied the defensive principal, "we don't have any effective teachers in my school."


OK, the schools are bad. But why don't the politicians do anything about it and just send their kids elsewhere?

The main reason politicians adopt a policy of malign neglect: teachers unions, arguably the single worst mainstream institution in our country today. No group has a stronger or better organized stranglehold on a political party than they do. No group is more committed to putting ideological blather and self-interest before the public good...

The Democratic Party continues to tolerate this sort of thing because public school teachers continue to be reliably liberal voters. And their unions cut big checks.


Thus endeth the lesson.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heat Running Out of Global Warming?

There is both growing public reluctance to make personal sacrifices and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the major international efforts now underway to battle climate change, according to findings of a poll of 12,000 citizens in 11 countries, including Canada.


You don't say.

link

No "Us vs. Them" For University Athletes

I don't object at all to a university sports program's ensuring that its athletes get the tutoring they need so that they can succeed both in the classroom and on the fields of friendly strife. But I question whether they need such tutoring in the Taj Mahal.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- At the University of Illinois, being an athlete gets you access to a $6 million facility with oversized leather chairs and Oriental rugs.

But it's not a fancy country club - it's a tutoring center.

The Irwin Academic Services Center helps only about 550 of the school's 37,000 students. And places like this in schools across the country leave critics fuming...

"A student who is not an athlete will say, 'I'm working nights to get through school - why don't I get free tutoring?'" Sack said.

In addition to the University of Illinois, at least four other schools have multimillion-dollar tutoring centers just for their athletes. Most are funded by athletic departments.

Proponents say the centers prepare athletes for life after sports, but other students want the same help available for everyone. The University of Michigan student newspaper is pushing to have their school's $12 million athletic tutoring facility open to all students.

I'll bet long-time reader EllenK will have some interesting comments on this.

Sour Grapes, Miscommunication, or Bad Spin?

The way this is written, it sounds like the soon-to-be-former Congressman needs to grow up a little bit.

The presidential transfer of power may be going swimmingly, but things are not so smooth in Pennsylvania's 3rd Congressional District. That's where Rep. Phil English, a Republican who has represented the Erie area since 1994, lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper. And he seems to be taking it hard.

This week, English shuttered his offices and has been turning away constituent work, even though he and his staff remain on the federal payroll until January. English closed up shop before he could finish one of his most important December constituent duties: interviewing and recommending candidates for the military service academies.

Anxious and angry parents of high school seniors have been calling Dahlkemper's campaign office asking for help getting their children's applications processed. The families "were in a bit of a panic because evidently Congressman English's office sent back their applications," said Tina Mengine, Dahlkemper's campaign manager. "For these kids, this is their future."

English spokeswoman Julia Wanzco said her boss has "ceased all casework because we're going to have limited access to federal resources." Beginning Dec. 1, English will work out of a "cubbyhole" with access to just one computer, phone line and printer, Wanzco said, adding that other departing lawmakers will have similar accommodations during the transition.


I do hope there's more to this story that was reported at the link above.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving For Our Troops

From the news accounts I saw, Thanksgiving in the Middle East included a full and sufficient meal for our troops. That's as it should be.

I recall eating Thanksgiving meals with my soldiers when I served at Fort Carson. Below is the menu from such a dinner my grandfather had back in 1946.

click on pictures to enlarge



For reference, the folded menu is only 4.1x4.9".

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Pathetic Parents Ruin Kids' Thanksgiving Feast

From Joanne Jacobs' site:

Little kids dressed up as Indians and Pilgrims drew protesters and police in Claremont, California, reports the Los Angeles Times.


Joanne says it best:

Massassoit and the Pilgrims kept the peace until the first generation of leaders died. Then things went bad. Can’t we celebrate the good parts of American history any more?
I'm sure that to many of our history teachers, there are no good parts of American history.

Nekkid Pics

Teenagers:

I remember what it's like. The budding sexuality, the sleek bodies, the chance to do something that's a little bit naughty and a lot of fun. Yes, I'm talking about gettin' nekkid, preferably with someone you're attracted to.

Just so you know, it's just as fun when you get older--only when you're older, you're a little bit smarter and know better how to handle it.

This is not the way to handle it:

A 17-year-old Chippewa Falls High School student has been arrested for showing friends nude photographs of his ex-girlfriend stored on his cell phone.

Don't take naked pictures of yourself or others, or allow such pictures to be taken. There's next to no good that can come from doing so, and a lot of bad.

How Bad Does This Look?

Boneheaded move.

General Motors Corp., criticized by U.S. lawmakers for its use of corporate jets, asked aviation regulators to block the public’s ability to track a plane it uses.

“We availed ourselves of the option as others do to have the aircraft removed” from a Federal Aviation Administration tracking service, a GM spokesman, Greg Martin, said yesterday in an interview. He declined to discuss why GM made the request.


Not that I think they shouldn't have the "right" to do it, nor do I think it was a big deal that the heads of the American car companies flew in corporate jets to Washington. But others manufactured this "issue", and now that it is an issue, this move just appears stupid.

Leaving On Our Terms

The war in Iraq is won. Sure, there may be some shots and bombs from some bad guys for awhile, but it's essentially over--no thanks to our patriotic fellow-citizens who did everything they could to cause us to lose it, and you know who you are.

Having won, now there's a timetable for us to leave.

BAGHDAD – Iraq's parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years — setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion.


Well, not exactly.

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year.
Our troops will be there until 2012 under this agreement. 2012. All you Americans who wanted them to come home under fire without having completed their mission, look at that date. 2012. Nine years. I've read that it usually takes about 10 years to quell an insurgency, so this sounds good.

Will a President Obama be able to keep his campaign promise of "a brigade a month" if the Iraqis approve this pact? Does President-elect Obama even know how big a brigade is?

I don't foresee helicopters on the embassy roof this time.

A Great Wal*Mart Piece

I'm a fan of Wal*Mart for many reasons. Many liberals are just as strongly not fans of Wal*Mart, but I doubt they can articulate two or three good reasons why. This piece in Investors Business Daily was fairly positive regarding Wal*Mart, and I link to it here because it's been awhile since I've done a Wal*Mart piece. Here are a few key points:

The difference is that Wal-Mart expanded without ever losing its focus on operating efficiently, nor ever eschewed its custom of passing savings along to consumers. That's because Wal-Mart, which produced huge savings when it revolutionized the distribution and delivery of goods to stores on a massive scale starting in the 1970s, has never forgotten the lessons that it learned during its early years...

Still, the Wal-Mart Effect circa 2008 is different in several crucial ways. Two years ago, for instance, Wal-Mart saw an opportunity because of rising prescription drug prices, and it kicked off a campaign to sell generic drugs for $4 for a 30-day prescription.

The move, which the company eventually expanded to all of its pharmacies, sparked a pricing war around the country as big pharmacy chains slashed their own prices on generics. Wal-Mart estimates that Rx customers at its stores alone have saved more than $1 billion.

That might be chump change, however, compared with what's happening in the grocery business. Once primarily a general merchandise discounter, Wal-Mart embarked on rapid expansion of stores selling groceries when it noticed that local supermarket chains were taking a bigger and bigger bite out of consumers' pocketbooks — in some markets doubling their profit margins during the 1990s.

Today, Wal-Mart operates some 2,500 stores selling food items, and food prices at Wal-Mart's stores are typically from 10% to 25% lower than at competitor stores, depending on the food category.

Even if you don't shop at Wal-Mart you're likely to save 5% on your food costs when the retailer enters your market...

(Few of Wal-Mart's general merchandise competitors, like Target or Kohl's or Kmart, are unionized)...

That battle, with Wal-Mart as the subtext during a presidential campaign, helped to galvanize every anti-Wal-Mart constituency.

This disparate group united in their single-minded loathing of the chain includes: (long list follows)

Members of Wal-Mart's founding family, the descendants of Sam Walton, have also angered activists and made the business a target because they have used their fortune to support conservative and free-market causes, especially the choice movement in public education.

Apparently, it's one thing to use the family fortune to back anti-smoking initiatives in the developing world, like New York Mayor Bloomberg's foundation has done, or to advocate for the rights of prostitutes in Africa, as George Soros' Open Society has done, but quite another to promote free-market principles here in the U.S.

Still, despite the unique ability of Wal-Mart to drive a certain type of activist into a frenzy, consumers have mostly just yawned at the anti-Wal-Mart hysteria.

Now, let's talk about pay and benefits:

He notes, for instance, that calls by activists that Wal-Mart pay its entry-level workers more fail to acknowledge that Wal-Mart's overall margin of profits-to-revenues is small, as are its profits-per-worker, and that other retailers with higher salary scales serve a different, more upscale customer.

Furman also disputes the notion that Wal-Mart benefits from "corporate welfare" because some of its workers (4.5% to be precise) are on Medicaid, noting that for entry-level workers, the choice of Medicaid over a company-sponsored plan that requires co-pays simply makes economic sense, and that the benefits of the program accrue to the worker, not Wal-Mart.


I do enjoy shopping at Wally World.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ROTC To Return To Columbia? Don't Hold Your Breath

From FoxNews:

Columbia University students will vote this week on whether to bring the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps back to Columbia's New York City campus after a 40-year ban...

Columbia's ban includes ROTC for all military branches, but this week's vote determines the future of NROTC programs because Columbia students who are Air Force and Army cadets have access to programs at nearby universities...

This week's vote is not entirely up to the students. If they vote yes, the issue will go once again before the school Senate, but ultimately it is Columbia's board of trustees that will have the final say.

The issue came up during the presidential campaign.

"Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?" said McCain.

"I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy, but the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren't offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake," said Obama.

McCain didn't make a strong argument, if that was his best line. He could have mentioned diversity and tolerance. And anyone who thinks that "don't ask, don't tell" is the reason people oppose ROTC on campus is naive. It would be like believing that people oppose saying the pledge of allegiance in high school because it contains the words "under God."

How Low Can So-called Reality TV Go?

I just saw a commercial for a new tv show that's going to start in January, if I'm not mistaken. It's called Secret Millionaire. The premise is sick.

According to the commercials, exceedingly rich people pretend to be exceedingly poor people and do jobs, live amongst, and hang out with poor people for a certain (probably short) period of time. At the end of that time they identify a poor person they deem "worthy", reveal their true identity to that person, and give them a big fat check--with cameras rolling, for everyone to see.

I find most so-called reality shows to be insipid at best, but this? This is nothing more than using poor people for one's own personal satisfaction. Seriously, judging if someone is worthy or not? What kind of person would you have to be to participate in something like this? It's bad enough if someone does this, but bad is taken to a whole new level when it's all filmed and we're supposed to come away with the view that the rich person has actually done something good and righteous. What kind of person lies to others to determine if they're "worthy", and then shows and celebrates this deception on television? And what kind of people determine that this is something that should be on television?

If you want to do something nice for someone, even give them large sums of money, there must be a better way of doing it than by using them and making a fool of them on television--and making yourself out to be some kind of hero in the process.

This is truly sick. I'd ask how much further we could go but I'm afraid I wouldn't like the answer.

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the Education Wonks and includes my post about backpacks and lockers.

Why Higher Education Costs Should Be Coming Down

Has anyone thought to ask why higher education costs are rising so much faster than education? We know the reasons in health care--liability, new drugs, new equipment and advanced procedures--but exactly what is causing education costs to go up?

Colleges are perfectly capable of becoming more efficient and productive, in the same way that countless other industries have: through technology. And increasingly, they are. One of the untold stories in higher education is that the cost of teaching is starting to decline, but virtually none of those savings are being passed along to students and parents in the form of lower prices. Instead, colleges are pocketing the difference, even as they continue to jack up tuition bills.


Go read the article, and pay close attention to Virginia Tech's "Math Emporium". It reminds me of the I CAN Learn math program which I've savaged before, but in this case it's implemented correctly.

It’s tempting to see the automation of college teaching as educational malpractice, a ploy to water down instruction and put professors out of work just to save a few bucks. But there’s persuasive evidence that the opposite is true—properly used, technology can make higher education better, not worse. NCAT has been spreading the gospel of course transformation since the late 1990s, when it secured an $8.8 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to pilot the process with thirty colleges. The results were unequivocal: twenty-five colleges saw learning results improve while the other five saw no change. All thirty reduced costs, some by over 70 percent. As the number of NCAT institutions has expanded, they’ve found similar—or even greater—success. (boldface mine--Darren)


What's proper? I could write an entire essay on it--and show how what I saw of implementation of the I CAN Learn program was totally improper and this method seems OK. For the sake of brevity, though, I'll say that proper would include
1. still having significant professor-student and student-student interaction, as education is a social process,
2. designing a quality course that utilizes the best features of the available technology, not just using computers for their own sake, and
3. use technology in courses where students can reasonably be expected to be self-directed.

The article explains:

The key is letting computers do what they do best—grading multiple-choice tests, providing 24/7 access to text, audio, and video, connecting people to one another at a distance—while retaining the human element when only real people will suffice. The Virginia Tech Math Emporium is staffed twelve hours a day with a combination of upper-division math majors, graduate students, and faculty, each of whom is prepared to help students with any of the Emporium-based courses.


Sadly, though, while this approach has driven down the cost of delivering instruction, VT's tuition has continued to rise. To use a term popular today, this situation is "unsustainable".

Blogging's Nigerian Scam?

In the last couple days, seemingly out of nowhere, I've started receiving solicitations to host advertisements on my blog. They all follow the same format:

1. Tell me how great my blog is
2. Talk about how I could make so much money with such high-quality writing
3. Ask for contact information so they can tell me how to start raking in the bucks

I'm glad it's not the Widow Abacha offering this service to me, as previously she's offered to share her millions with me whilst keeping my blog out of it. But I digress.

Do people really fall for these things? I guess they must or scammers wouldn't try them, but dang. Maybe people who do fall for them get emails written in reasonably good standard English. I don't know about you, but I'm unsure exactly what my "URL address" is such that these fine people could send me a contract and pricing information there.

It's good that scammers aren't adept enough to scam me. I hope they don't improve on that score.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Dare You Teach Mere Girls!

I try to be more "evolved" than to espouse the eye-for-an-eye doctrine, but truth be told, that doctrine can bring with it a certain amount of satisfaction.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A 23-year-old teacher burned in an acid attack on 15 schoolgirls and instructors wants the Afghan government to throw acid on her attackers and then hang them. Kandahar's governor said Tuesday that authorities had arrested 10 alleged Taliban militants for the Nov. 12 attack in this southern city and that several confessed to taking part.

Tell me they don't deserve it--assuming they're guilty, of course.

link

Math Teachers Only A Chapter Ahead?

According to this report from the AP, poor and minority (read: inner city) students are more likely than others to have a math teacher who might not know much more math than the students they're teaching.

It's hard to believe but apparently true--despite the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, which so many educators poo-poo--that about 40% of poor and minority students are still taught by teachers who have neither a degree nor certification in mathematics.

I'd wonder how people could teach high school math without a degree or certification, but then I recall that I have no doubt I could teach several high school classes in which I don't have certification. I, however, would consider social science courses--history, government, geography--where it's not assumed that, as is so often the case, you either "get it, or you don't". Here in the US we assume that anyone can learn history, government, or geography, but only a chosen few can learn math. Maybe, though, there are people who are quite good at math and just didn't major in it or take a certification test--but they're fine teachers. I'm not here to say it can't happen.

I can definitely believe this, though:

The teaching problem is most acute in the middle grades, 5-8, the report said. That's a crucial time for math, said Ruth Neild, a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.


In California, junior high teachers can teach with a "multiple subject", or elementary, credential. As such, they probably weren't the ones who took physics and calculus in college, although I'm painting with a very broad brush there. It's entirely possible that they're weak in fractions, decimals, and negative numbers--the very skills that are so vital, often in the same math problem, in Algebra 1.

Fortunately I've never encountered these almost-innumerate math teachers of 5th through 8th graders, but I'm sure they're out there.

Free Speech In Canada

I have greatly enjoyed my visits to British Columbia. I have nothing but fond thoughts of the people, land, and creations I've encountered. Vancouver and Victoria could hardly be nicer vacation destinations.

That doesn't mean I view Canada as our perfect, lily-white neighbor to the north. No, I don't support their socialism, I don't support their going soft militarily, and I don't like Orwellian Canadian (so-called) Human Rights Commissions. Free speech has been heading towards being a thing of the past in Canada.

There are signs, though, that Canadians may be taking a step back from the free speech abyss.

But to the surprise of critics like me, Moon recommended that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act — the so-called “hate speech” provision, which empowers the CHRC to censor the Internet and other electronic media — be repealed. Instead of a whitewash, Moon’s report was the opposite — another nail in the coffin of the thought police.

The CHRC was surprised, too, and obviously not pleased...

Ordinary Canadians accept some very limited infringements on speech, but only in extreme cases — such as when the speech is a real incitement to violence. That’s already covered by the criminal code, however. We don’t need redundant prohibitions in our human-rights law.

The fact that the CHRC continues to cling to its censorship powers — even after Moon’s dramatic rebuke — shows how out of step with Canadian values the CHRC has become. When it was created in 1977, the CHRC was designed to be a shield, protecting the civil rights of Canadians. A generation later, they’ve mutated into a sword, violating our freedoms. And their Kafkaesque conduct violates our norms of natural justice, too.


I wish the Canadians good fortune as they recover the rights stripped from them by their government.

Sidwell Friends

The Obama daughters, like Chelsea Clinton before them, will attend Sidwell Friends School.

I do not fault the Obamas for sending their daughters to private school, nor do I fault them for accepting the money, support, time, or homage of teachers unions. It is the teachers unions that show their hypocrisy when they support candidates who send their children to private school, not candidates themselves.

Mike at EIA gives us some very interesting (and no doubt sarcastic) information about Sidwell Friends, and one wonders how the NEA folks can look themselves in the mirror while supporting two Democratic presidents in a row who send their children there.

A better question is why the Obamas would choose Sidwell Friends, a school sorely lacking in many of the elements we are told are required for educational excellence. It would be a shame if the Obama kids were to miss out on all these benefits, so we humbly submit these additions and subtractions to make Sidwell Friends the type of school the experts want all schools to become:

Add a unionized workforce and a collective bargaining agreement. NEA asserts "that the attainment and exercise of collective bargaining rights are essential to the promotion of education employee and student needs in society." How can the Obama kids have their education needs filled without agency fee, release time, grievances, binding arbitration and strikes? ...

Add diversity. The Obama kids will become part of the 39% of Sidwell students who are racial/ethnic minorities. But the DC Public Schools are 95% racial/ethnic minorities. How can the Obama children be denied so much of the rich cultural mix our nation's capital provides?

Subtract religion. The Quaker tradition is part of daily life at Sidwell Friends, including weekly worship meetings for all students, Quaker or not. This isn't very inclusive of the Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans and animists among the student body. Religious beliefs should only be studied from an academic standpoint and never practiced within a school's walls.
Can I get an "Amen!"?

A Longer View On Today's Economic Situation

I can't imagine that there are many people out there arguing that these are the best of times, economically-speaking. However, all this talk comparing today to the Great Depression is just silly--today isn't even as bad as the 1970s. We may get there, but we're nowhere near there yet. Thomas Sowell gives us some comparative data:

Amid all the political and media hysteria, national output has declined by less than one-half of one percent. In fact, it may not have declined even that much-- or at all-- when the statistics are revised later, as they very often are.

We are not talking about the Great Depression, when output dropped by one-third and unemployment soared to 25 percent.

What we are talking about is a golden political opportunity for politicians to use the current financial crisis to fundamentally change an economy that has been successful for more than two centuries, so that politicians can henceforth micro-manage all sorts of businesses and play Robin Hood, taking from those who are not likely to vote for them and transferring part of their earnings to those who will vote for them.


And that, boys and girls, is what we call socialism, or perhaps even Marxism.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Extreme Environmentalism?

Having a "garbage police" talk to students about the food they're throwing away? If they didn't like or eat it, would it have been thrown away anyway?

This is a bit too extreme for me.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

High School Latin

Latin and ancient history in high school? I agree with Victor Davis Hanson:

Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education.

Like so much else that is supposedly intended to "help" the underclasses.

Backpacks and Lockers

When did using lockers go out of fashion?

When I was in school, we were assigned lockers. The locks were built in and the school could set the combinations, meaning that the school administration could have immediate access to any locker at any time.

At the school at which I teach, we have plenty of lockers for students. Students are required to provide their own locks, which simultaneously prevents and creates different problems, but the lockers exist. We also have a schedule that is conducive to using the lockers: an extended break (about 13 minutes) between 2nd and 3rd periods, and lunch between 4th and 5th periods. With a 6-period day, students should never have to carry more than two classes' worth of materials because they have plenty of time to get to their lockers.

But that isn't how things work out. Some students refuse to use their lockers. Some share lockers with other students, and then wonder when their books or other materials go missing, even if only temporarily. They bring huge, overstuffed backpacks into class, which I then have to maneuver around in the aisles.

When did using lockers go out of fashion?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Chinese Car For White People

Nice looking vehicle, but check out the name.

Porn Star on the Playground

I always laugh, then sigh, when I read stories like this. Why, exactly, should this woman be fired? Because she used to be a porn star? That's not a good enough reason for me, and apparently it's not a good enough reason under New Jersey law, either.

Some parents in Vineland, N.J., as well as the board of education president, want Louisa C. Tuck fired, but district officials were advised by their lawyers and those from the New Jersey School Board Association they have no legal grounds to terminate the 32-year-old from her $5,772-a-year part-time job as an aide in the lunchroom and playground, The Daily Journal reported.

"We have no real legal stance or legal right to do anything for two reasons — one, it's not illegal, and two, it's not on school time," Superintendent Charles Ottinger told the newspaper.

Tuck, who went by the name of Crystal Gunns when she starred in adult movies, performances and photos, told the newspaper it's been five years since she was involved in the adult entertainment industry. She now also works with children at the local YMCA.

A Deeper Message, Perhaps?

The symbolism is just too much:

Europe's Online Library of Culture Crashes On First Day

Sexual Harassment Training at the University of California

From a UC Irvine professor regarding mandatory sexual harassment training:

I proposed the following: I would take the training if the university would provide me with a brief, written statement absolving me of any suspicion, guilt or complicity regarding sexual harassment. I wanted any possible stigma removed. "Fulfilling this requirement," said the statement I asked them to approve, "in no way implies, suggests or indicates that the university currently has any reason to believe that Professor McPherson has ever sexually harassed any student or any person under his supervision during his 30-year career with the University of California."

The university, however, declined to provide me with any such statement, which poses the question: Why not? It is a completely innocuous, unobjectionable statement that they should have been willing to write for any faculty member whose record is as free of stain as is my own. The immediate reply of the administration was that if I didn't comply with the law, I would be placed on unpaid leave.


The professor is both right and wrong. He's wrong to attempt to circumvent the law that was passed by the government that pays his salary. He's also wrong to expect the university to accede to his request for some declaratory letter prior to his following the law.

But he's absolutely right when he says:

I believe the training is a disgraceful sham. As far as I can tell from my colleagues, it is worthless, a childish piece of theater, an insult to anyone with a respectable IQ, primarily designed to relieve the university of liability in the case of lawsuits. I have not been shown any evidence that this training will discourage a harasser or aid in alerting the faculty to the presence of harassment.

What's more, the state, acting through the university, is trying to coerce and bully me into doing something I find repugnant and offensive. I find it offensive not only because of the insinuations it carries and the potential stigma it implies, but also because I am being required to do it for political reasons.


Absolutely correct.

Were I required to attend such training, I'd insist it be done while I'm on the clock and would either not pay much attention or would have entirely too much fun with it.

How Times Have Changed Regarding ROTC

The author of this piece is a graduate of both West Point and of Yale Business School.

On April 1, 1944, the Yale News Digest published an report titled “World War II: 14,491 Yale Graduates Now Serving. Casualties: 218.” Times have changed and so has Yale, but liberals, conservatives and independents remain dedicated to serving others, including the nation.

Years ago Yalies said, with full seriousness, “For God, for Country and for Yale.” It’s time to revisit that commitment (to) country to the forefront of Yale’s consciousness.

My, how times have changed.

Want to hear the high regard our leftie betters have for the military?

While I was at Yale an undergraduate in a class where I served as a teaching fellow said to me, “Why are my taxpayer dollars ‘wasted sending you here, you are just a soldier.’ ”

An Ivy League student said that--before our current wars, and when Clinton was President. Can't pin his view on President Bush.

The author supports the return of ROTC to Yale, and I can't argue with his logic:

I don’t see ROTC as some lock step stepping stone as this e-mail suggests. Yale students don’t herd toward anything they don’t support. I suggest a simple free-market scenario. What I advocate is giving them that choice, not drafting them to sign up for ROTC. Universities are intellectual buffets of ideas, so why not add some diversity to that buffet?

I'm all about diversity.

I hope we can return to the days when the military was seen as an honorable calling by a large cross-section of society, and not just primarily by those of a conservative political bent. As the author said, it's a volunteer military run by our elected civilian government, "not some fringe militia with its own agenda."

Friday, November 21, 2008

AFT President Supports Obama's Children's Attending Private School

The hypocrisy of teachers unions never ceases to amaze me.

President-elect Barack Obama and his wife Michelle “have every right” to send their children to public or private school, and no one should “criticize” their decision, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said in an interview with CNSNews.com on Monday at the National Press Club.


They can, because they can afford to. Poor people, though--tough! Go to crappy inner city schools!

And the teachers unions will still pour money into Obama's political pockets, whether he supports their agenda or not. Remember, he stated that he supports merit pay (who knows how long that will last), he sends his kids to private school (heresy!), and he doesn't support gay marriage (sacre bleu!)

OK, I don't know how to spell the French term. But you get my point. Why exactly do these people stumble all over this man? I'll tell you why. It's not because of his views on education, or because of his views on teachers unions. It's because teachers unions are leftie political organizations that have little to do with teachers or education, and it's all those other (liberal) topics they have in common with Obama that cause the unions to adore him.

It was the same with Clinton.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don't Know Much About Civics

From the USA Today:

From high-school dropouts to college graduates to elected officials, Americans are "alarmingly uninformed" about the USA's history, founding principals and economy — knowledge needed to participate wisely in civic life, says a report scheduled to be released Thursday.


This ignorance helps explain our march towards socialism. You know what should be required reading in every high school US history or civics class? Democracy In America, by Alexis de Tocqueville. The lefties should like him because he was French, and the righties should like him because he was, well, right.

CTEN President's Op-Ed About CTA's Political Expenditures

Read it here.

While a prior $250,000 donation from the CTA to Equality for All (a coalition of gay advocacy groups which opposed Proposition 8) got some media attention, the general response from the public was mild. However, something about the $1 million infusion seemed to galvanize many, especially teachers.

It seems that the public has awakened to the fact that teachers unions donate millions of dollars of their members' dues to issues that have nothing to with education on a regular basis.

While I agree that it's egregious for CTA to spend extorted dues money on political causes, I disagree with the implication that it would be OK if CTA spent that money on causes related to education. Such expenditures might be more palatable to some, but not to me.

It's the California Teachers Association. Since I have to pay them for the privilege of being a teacher, they should be limited in what they can spend that money on. I assert that they should spend money only on the causes of teacher pay, benefits, and working conditions.

There are enough other interest groups out there with an education agenda, and plenty more with a liberal social agenda. Leave my money out of all of it. Yes, I'm an agency fee payer, so theoretically my money doesn't support these causes anyway, but I have a hard time believing it costs the CTA over $600 a year to "represent" little ole me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Carnival of Education

This week's carnival is hosted at I Want To Teach Forever, and includes my post about the pledge of allegiance.

Another Dumb Teacher

Usually when you read a news story about inappropriate adult/child relationships, they usually involve a teacher, a cop, or a member of the clergy. Why? Because the story wouldn't be interesting if one of those three groups weren't involved, it would just be some garden variety inappropriate conduct story.

But in this story, we almost get a two-fer!

A 27-year-old woman has been arrested on charges of distributing harmful material to a minor after a 14-year-old's parents found a topless photo of her on his cell phone.

Victoria Ann Chacon, a former middle school teacher, allegedly met the boy at their church, where she was a Sunday school teacher. Authorities at Somerset Independent School District said they found no evidence of any inappropriate relationships with students; the 14-year-old attended school elsewhere.

A Sunday school teacher. A teacher and a churchgoer, but not a member of the clergy. So close to that two-for-one.

What Is The Purpose of College Entrance Requirements?

I believe in merit. I think the best students should get into the best colleges. Academic ability and promise should be the key points in any school admissions program.

So I'm somewhat dismayed to read that the University of California system is considering lowering its standards.

Now, the UC president and regents are weighing changes to the admissions process that include dropping the SAT subject tests, loosening course requirements, and lowering the minimum grade point average.


If the SAT subject tests don't demonstrate academic ability or promise, get rid of them. If course requirements don't directly relate to success in the course, but instead serve as some sort of artificial buffer, then get rid of them. If GPA doesn't correlate to academic success in college, don't consider it.

I'm forced to wonder, though, why schools would want to lower admissions requirements when already, too many of our college and university students need remedial math and English courses.

I also have concerns about this point:

Students who meet admission criteria now and are deemed to be in the top 12.5 percent of high school students are guaranteed admission to at least one UC campus – usually less-competitive UC Riverside or UC Merced.

That guarantee has been in place since 1960.

The plan endorsed by Rashid and other faculty members would limit the guarantee to only the top 9 percent of students.

Finally, it would make all students who meet the minimum UC criteria "entitled to review" – an assurance that admissions officials would look at more than just their grades and test scores, Rashid said.


In other words, UC would be creating a program that would exclude some higher-qualified students in favor of lesser-qualified (specifically lower-income and minority) students. This sounds to me like it might be an attempt to circumvent Proposition 209 and create another affirmative action program.

I have a solution for this point, brought up in the first article linked above:

"Many thousands of high-achieving students are failing because of a trifling variance from the eligibility policy – they didn't take a subject test or missed a (required) course," he said.


That's why California has so many community colleges.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Upcoming Star Trek Movie

See the trailers here.

Pathetic High

Planners of Pride Campus never shied away from touting their proposed high school as a haven for gay youth seeking refuge from sometimes hostile traditional classrooms.

But under mounting pressure from ministers and gay activists alike, the name has changed and the focus broadened to create a school that would be one of the nation's largest to serve any students victimized by bullying and harassment.

If approved by the country's third-largest school district Wednesday, the Social Justice Solidarity High School would join several smaller U.S. campuses aimed at serving students who have been tormented for everything from their religious beliefs to their weight.


The fact that such a school is even contemplated shows how little schools are doing in Chicago to manage the anti-social behaviors of students.

"Pride Campus"? "Social Justice Solidarity High"? How about "Crappy Administration Made This School Necessary" High. Or perhaps "You Should Have Taught Your Kid How Not To Be A Bully, You Loser" High. Or if you want to blame the victim, I guess, "Thin Skin" High.

How about this for a bumper sticker: "Your cretin beat up my honorable kid, and it's my kid who had to change schools."

Laugh, or cry?

Attacking Teachers Unions

Randi Winegarten, newly elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, had this to say recently:

On Monday, Weingarten said that when people attack teachers unions, they are attacking teachers who stay up late to prepare lessons, spend their own money on school equipment, or spend weekends at debate competitions away from their families.

There is no way around it--that statement is a total lie. Teachers unions, especially at the state and national levels, are political entities, created and sustained by legalized extortion. That they hide behind teachers while going about their political business makes them even more disgusting.

Randi, you're either a liar or a fool--and neither speaks well of you.

False Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

I would prefer not to imagine the hell that comes from a teacher's being falsely accused of sexual misconduct with a student. It's not over yet for this teacher, despite the following:

Prosecutors today dropped charges against a Halls High School teacher accused of having sex with a student.


How can it not be over?

DeHart's employment status was not immediately clear. He had been on unpaid leave.


I don't know if there's a way to right this wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Suing Students

This is a most interesting story. Talk about a chilling effect.

After you’ve been called racist by some students, can you sue to get your reputation back?...

“When I started teaching 10 years ago, I thought universities were the quintessential market place of ideas. I was so na├»ve, and so, so wrong,” he said. “It’s not an open market place of ideas — I hope we can get back to that notion because our society desperately needs places where we can have truly free discussion. I just can’t say I see that in the American university today.”

The demands for Peltz to be punished and removed from teaching required courses came from the Black Law Student Association at Little Rock and from a local group of black lawyers — groups whose leaders Peltz sued and who did not respond to requests for comment either now or when the suit was filed. The complaints concerned a series of class discussions in his constitutional law course that touched in some way or another on race or affirmative action. The complaints started after Peltz participated in a campus debate on affirmative action — at the invitation of the black law students’ group — and argued against it.

I have some experience with false accusations by students and parents. Perhaps I should resort to a lawsuit....

So-Called Fairness Doctrine

Here's one view that says that a President Obama will not try to impose the so-called "fairness doctrine" directly--but will impose it nonetheless.

"Alinsky jujitsu" as applied to conservative talk radio means using vague rules already on the books to threaten any station which dares to air conservative programs with the loss of its valuable broadcast license.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule in question is called "localism." Radio and television stations are required to serve the interests of their local community as a condition of keeping their broadcast licenses.

Obama needs only three votes from the five-member FCC to define localism in such a way that no radio station would dare air any syndicated conservative programming.


I don't see this going gently into the night.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pledge of Allegiance

It genuinely bothers me that saying the pledge of allegiance in public school classrooms can be controversial. It certainly was at my school, when on the first day of school a couple years ago the pledge was read over the announcements. The hue, cry, and holler from our staff was loud and it was violent. When I pointed out that state education code requires a daily patriotic exercise at each school each day, and that it specifically states that the saying of the pledge of allegiance satisfies that requirement (even though students are not required to speak or even to stand), one teacher got in my face and said rather loudly, "I will not allow the pledge of allegiance to be said in my classroom." People got so angry about this that our compromise was to have a "daily patriotic quote" read over the announcements each morning.

It seems that Sacramento isn't the only place that experiences this antipathy towards the pledge of allegiance. Are people really that upset about it, or has this issue become yet another faux "us vs. them" thing with liberals taking the "anti" side and conservatives taking the "pro" side?

School Nurses? I Remember Those!

We used to have a school nurse when I was in high school. She had her own office, wore a white coat, everything. I don't know if she was an RN or an LVN or what--not that I knew what those were back then--but she was a valuable, respected member of the school staff.

When I first started teaching almost a dozen years ago, the junior high at which I taught had a nurse. I think she was an LVN. I don't recall if she was there all day, every day, or not. The next junior high at which I taught, in another district, did not have a nurse.

We have a nurse on our high school campus, but she's not a "school nurse". At our school site is a program for some severely physically and mentally disabled students, and she works in that program. While several of us on the staff know who she is, I'll bet our "general population" students have no idea that she exists.

Given that backdrop of information, I found this article interesting:

Judge Lloyd Connelly sided with the California School Nurses Organization, the American Nurses Association, the California Nurses Association and other nursing groups in their challenge to a 2007 rule that enabled trained school staff – not just school nurses – to administer insulin shots to diabetic kids...

The California Department of Education settled with parents in 2007 and sent an advisory to districts throughout the state urging them to allow trained, unlicensed school staff to give the shots if a nurse or parent wasn't available.

Friday, Connelly ruled that the advisory is in conflict with state law that says only licensed nurses can administer injections.


Since I don't see that this ruling is going to cause all of our schools to get nurses--the article says there are 2800 nurses in our 9800 public schools--what are the children to do?

In addition, we have had students at school with some interesting physical ailments (e.g., seizures). If they were to have gone into seizures, the teachers were told that they might have to give shots. Seriously. Can you think of anything more stupid?

Card Check

It's coming, but hopefully there's enough sanity in the Senate to keep it bottled up for good. When the LA Times hints that now might not be the best time to institute it, that's something.

But if the president-elect pushes for the legislation, he risks alienating business -- which also contributed heavily to his campaign and his party and will be crucial to his efforts to fix the economy and overhaul the healthcare system.


Just to be clear, they're not saying that card check shouldn't be implemented, just that now isn't the best time to do so.

To me, card check is fundamentally un-American. Even arch-liberal George McGovern calls it undemocratic. But if that isn't enough of a reason for you to be against it, try this:

We're not children here. We know how those majorities can be reached. There's repeated harassment, bullying and more inventive tactics, such as getting workers drunk, then sliding sign-up cards under their noses. Meanwhile, any strong-armed tactics by employers can be dealt with.

Unclear is why unions even want to go there. Their decline is one reason for the falling fortunes of American workers, particularly those without college educations. Unions have an interesting product to sell. Surely, they can persuade workers to support them in the privacy of a voting booth. That's how Obama and the enhanced Democratic majority in Congress got where they are. (Boldface mine--Darren)


I'm compelled to ask here: what is it that unions do for workers today? Yes, they did great things in the past, but now it's government that enforces overtime pay, work safety standards, holidays, and minimum wage. All unions can do is ask for more, until, like the parasite they are, they kill the host. Your Honor, we present Exhibit A, the United Auto Workers Union.

In principle, I'm not against collective bargaining--especially at the local level. I am against behemoth organizations whose primary purpose is their own power, not the welfare of the workers from whom they extort tribute on payday.

Hottest October Ever?

It wasn't here in Sacramento, I don't think, but it's a big world out there. Maybe it was the hottest October on record.

Or maybe not:

A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs - run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious "hockey stick" graph - GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year...

If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change. (He was recently in the news here for supporting the Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminally damaging a coal-fired power station in Kent, on the grounds that the harm done to the planet by a new power station would far outweigh any damage they had done themselves.)

Yet last week's latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in question.


Oops.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Black College Football Coaches

John at Discriminations hits the nail on the head, as he so often does, regarding the hiring of black football coaches:

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this morning that black college football coaches are increasing the pressure to hire more ... black college football coaches...

What the black coaches’ complaint asks us to believe is that colleges that eagerly lower their standards in order to give preferential admissions to black students and hiring preferences to black faculty and that energetically recruit the best college athletes, a “disproportionate” percentage of them black, refuse to hire the best qualified coaches because of racial bias. Presumably they care about excluding potentially winning black coaches more than they do about winning games.
Kinda hard to argue with such logic.

Getting Rid Of Tenure

Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of the DC Public Schools, claims tenure only helps adults but doesn't do anything positive for students. Given that view, it's no surprise that she's out to get rid of ineffective teachers, tenured or not (why should that even be controversial?), and has plans to offer teachers higher pay if they voluntarily give up tenure.

It'll be interesting to see how this experiment goes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Might A School District Assign FAKE Social Security Numbers To Teachers?

It's almost too stupid to believe, even for school district administrators, but it's true.

Years after being advised by a state agency to stop, the Dallas Independent School District continued to provide foreign citizens with fake Social Security numbers to get them on the payroll quickly.

Some of the numbers were real Social Security numbers already assigned to people elsewhere. And in some cases, the state's educator certification office unknowingly used the bogus numbers to run criminal background checks on the new hires, most of whom were brought in to teach bilingual classes.

If Joe The Plumber did this, he'd be behind bars--and justifiably so. I'd be willing to bet that no one will go to jail for this.

It's not just the social security numbers, which is bad enough. But hiring illegal aliens for government jobs. Texas doesn't have a teachers "union". Who will protect the jobs of these illegal aliens?

Who could possibly have thought this was a good idea? Who is responsible?

The Tolerance of the Left, Higher Education Version

I think that some people are either blissfully ignorant, or choose not to recognize, how toxic so many of our universities have become:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that an 18-year-old freshman at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Annie Grossman, was assaulted by four young women on election night. The attackers called Grossman a "racist" because she was wearing a McCain/Palin button. Grossman was diagnosed with blurred vision and a concussion...

Bruce Grossmann said a "PETA person" had to be removed from her dorm room because he was upset by a photo of her with a black bear she had shot. Also, he said, she attended an icebreaker on campus and was booed when she identified herself as a Republican.

This is not an isolated case. It may not be systemic, but it's certainly widespread.

I'd like to believe that the story above is a hoax, but it doesn't bear any of the hallmarks of hoaxes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Tolerance of the Left

When you have the children, you have the future. Some famous dude said that (yes, I know who).

Somebody sure has these children.

As the media keeps gushing on about how America has finally adopted tolerance as the great virtue, and that we're all united now, let's consider the Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment.

Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching "inclusion," and she decided to see how included she could be.

So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:

"McCain Girl."

"I was just really curious how they'd react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters," Catherine told us. "I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be."

Immediately, Catherine learned she was stupid for wearing a shirt with Republican John McCain's name. Not merely stupid. Very stupid.

"People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn't be wearing it," Catherine said.

Then it got worse.
You might be interested in reading the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Presidential Election, County By County

I find this map exceedingly interesting.

School Work Is A Priority!

I find this story rather entertaining. Steal my wallet and guitars? That's one thing. Take my laptop with all my school work on it? No way!

Follow the link, if for no other reason than to see the beaten up face of the would-be robber :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I've written often about Veterans Day (type it into the search engine at the top of the page), usually something looking at the big picture. Today I'm going to bring it down to the local level.

As it so often does, my American flag is waving in the breeze in front of my house. My house isn't the only one.

Participating Applebee's restaurants are offering free meals to veterans:

Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants invite all active duty and veterans to one of 164 participating restaurants nationwide to pull up a chair for a delicious meal and heartfelt thanks this Veterans Day. With gratitude for their service and sacrifice, active duty and veterans will eat free at participating locations on Veterans Day (November 11, 2008) during regular business hours.

I'll probably go.

JROTC students from schools in my district will participate in a Veterans Day parade:

Cadets from Casa Roble and Del Campo high school Air Force JROTC programs will be participating in Folsom's 2008 Veterans Day Parade on Nov. 11. “We Must Never Forget” is the theme for the parade that begins at 9 a.m. in the Mervyn’s parking lot on East Bidwell Street. It follows East Bidwell, Coloma and Natoma streets to the Folsom Community Center. After the parade, a brief ceremony will be held at the Veteran’s Memorial behind the Folsom Public Library.


It's more than just a day off work.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NEA Talks Out Of Both Sides Of Its Mouth

Mike at EIA (see blogroll) nails it perfectly:

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel lauded the victories. "NEA members played a vital role in critical congressional races across the country that helped expand margins in the House and Senate for pro-public education allies," he said in a press statement. "As a bipartisan organization, the National Education Association was pleased to return many friends from both sides of the aisle to Congress and elect new ones as a part of a growing Democratic majority."

Aside: If you parse that last sentence, you get NEA "as a bipartisan organization" being pleased about "a growing Democratic majority."

I might be able to have the slightest respect for them if they could be honest once in awhile.

Free Speech in the "New" America

Perhaps there's more than the video shows, but you can watch almost 3 minutes and see no reference to anything other than wearing the wrong t-shirt.

I wonder if all the lefties who have been so vocal about the so-called loss of civil liberties during the past 8 years have any problems with what's shown in the video. I somehow doubt they do.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I Thought Democrats Didn't Like The Concept of the "Unitary Executive"

Perhaps they've changed their minds now that one of their own will soon be in the White House:

President-elect Obama plans to use his executive powers to make an immediate impact when he takes office, perhaps reversing Bush administration policies on stem cell research and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas.

John Podesta, Obama's transition chief, said Sunday Obama is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on those issues and others as he works to undo policies enacted during eight years of Republican rule. He said the president can use such orders to move quickly on his own.

Socialism Can't Save Your Retirement

It just means higher taxes for everyone:

This turmoil on Wall Street likely will result in taxpayers making up for investment losses within the state's public-employee pension systems either with higher taxes or through state spending cuts. (boldface mine--Darren)

State pension assets dropped almost $14 billion in the period from Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30.

What this means is that pension systems, underfunded by the state for years, face an even bigger gap between their assets and what they'll ultimately pay retirees.

For example, in June 2007, the Illinois Teacher's Retirement System, or TRS, was at a funding level of 64 percent, making it one of the most underfunded public pension systems in the nation.

Yes, this is from Illinois, but I'd place cold, hard cash that it applies to most states--especially California.

Cutting To The Chase Regarding Math Education

I love reading an article that puts "the bottom line up front", as this article does:

Here are two of the clues to America's current mathematics problem:

1."Student-centered" learning (or "constructivism")
2.Insufficient practice of basic skills


I also like that the article mentions Mathematically Correct, an organization with which I've been affiliated for many years now:

Meanwhile, anti-reform advocacy group Mathematically Correct provides an amusing take on constructivism ("What Is," 1996):

"This notion holds that students will learn math better if they are left to discover the rules and methods of mathematics for themselves, rather than being taught by teachers or textbooks. This is not unlike the Socratic method, minus Socrates."


Hear hear.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Substitute Teachers

According to this article in the major Sacramento paper, there's a surge in the number of people applying to be substitutes.

Sacramento area school districts are reporting an increase in the number of people applying to substitute teach.

Substitutes can take home between $100 and $200 a day – nice work if you can get it during tough economic times.

"It's either directly or indirectly because of the economy," said Pat Godwin, superintendent of Folsom Cordova Unified School District. His district has seen substitute applications increase by a third this year.

Godwin said he thinks the applicants are a mix of teachers right out of college unable to find permanent positions, retired teachers supplementing their incomes, and people who have been laid off and are looking for work. For some families, substitute work offers a flexible schedule for a parent who had been staying home with the kids.

I had a very highly-educated substitute this past week. He wasn't a math major or anything but I emailed scans of the textbook to him and he was able to cover some fairly intense material with my Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus students. Subs who can teach math are difficult to find, so I got lucky. We have a retired math teacher who often subs, but he already had a job at another school when I asked if he was available.

Friday, November 07, 2008

If You Still Don't Believe Me When I Tell You They're Nuts in San Francisco

From yesterday's Chronicle:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing an upstart challenge from anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, running as an independent for the Eighth Congressional District in San Francisco, had 71 percent of the vote to Sheehan's 17 percent with all precincts reporting.


Mama Moonbat received 17% of the votes. Your Honor, the prosecution rests.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that a West Point classmate of mine has been elected to represent Kentucky's 2nd District in Congress--and he's a Republican!

The bad news is that I'm old enough to have a classmate in Congress.

Carnival of Education

This week's is here (although I can't find a way to link to the carnival itself, just the blog, so you may have to look for the 11/5/08 carnival), and includes my post about the perfect circle.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Graphing Programs

I'm not against using graphing programs in an educational setting, but I'm very concerned about limiting their use. I want students to know how to graph whatever it is they're supposed to graph, not just know how to use a computer or graphing calculator to generate a graph. As far as presenting material goes, I see that such programs have a valid place in the classroom.

It's one thing to say that all programs are not created equal, it's quite another to say that many don't graph correctly--but many don't! I have a "litmus test" function I use to determine if a program meets my minimum standards. If the program graphs it correctly, the program is probably good; if it doesn't graph it correctly, then I don't look any further.

What is the function, you ask? y=x^(2/3), or x to the two-thirds power. Some programs can't handle x being negative, others can't handle that the y-values are always non-negative. Additionally, the graph should be symmetric about the y-axis.

I know there are many such programs out there, most of them free, but one I've found recently, and one that's very easy to use, is the "Graph" program that can be downloaded here.

I think Macs come preloaded with a graphing program. If not, then please leave a comment about where you can download a Mac-based program that meets my litmus test above--same goes for pc-based programs. Have a favorite graphing program? Let us know!

Prop 8--Yes, That's the Gay Marriage One

I received an email from a reader who said he couldn't wait to see what I'd write about the defeat of Proposition 8. I fear he's going to be disappointed, though, because I have only one thing to say about it.

First off, just in case you don't know, California had gay marriage approved by judicial ruling earlier this year (rather, I think it was this year). Proposition 8 was an initiative that would add one line to the California constitution, saying something to the effect that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized by California. A YES vote on 8 would ban gay marriage, a NO vote would reaffirm the aforementioned court ruling. Prop 8 won 52.5%-47.5%.

Proposition 4 was an initiative that, with few exceptions, would have required parental notification (not permission) before a minor could receive an abortion. Prop 4 failed 52%-48%.

So back to Prop 8. Here's the one thing I have to say about it:

How can a state that's conservative enough to vote down gay marriage not approve parental notification before a minor's abortion?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today's Election

Allow me to be the first to point out that even though we've been hearing it for the past two years--only now, with a new president-elect, can President Bush rightly be called a "lame duck" president.

I echo the words of Jonah Goldberg:

(D)uring the debate over the financial crisis, Obama said that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Well, I think we members of the loyal opposition should be able to make distinctions simultaneously. It is a wonderful thing to have the first African-American president. It is a wonderful thing that in a country where feelings are so intense that power can be transferred so peacefully. Let us hope that the Obama his most dedicated — and most sensible! — fans see turns out to be the real Obama. Let us hope that Obama succeeds and becomes a great president, for all the right reasons.


We live in a great nation, as Jim Manzi points out:

Legal racial segregation was prevalent in America within living memory, yet we appear to have just elected a black man to the position of maximum honor, authority and influence in the country...There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I’m spending today proud abut what my country has overcome.


God Bless America.

Agency Fee Rebate

Last week I received my agency fee rebate from the CTA. At the risk of repeating myself (I do have over 3500 posts on this blog so far!), several courts have held that I cannot be compelled to pay for a union's activities that do not relate to union organizing or employee pay, benefits, and working conditions. I pay full union dues each school year, and in about January of the following year an arbiter decides which union expenses are chargeable to me and which are outside of the allowable categories. My percentage of those disallowed charges is my agency fee rebate, and I receive that rebate check from the CTA each fall. Please click on the agency fee label for more details in general, and read this post for more specific information.

I received almost $400 last year; this year I received only $330. These rebate amounts are calculated but by an arbiter paid for by the CTA. CTA is required by law to pay for this, and it seems exceedingly unlikely that they would pay an organization that consistently ruled against their interests. I question the impartiality of the arbiters CTA hires.

The arbiter looks at the expenses for the NEA, the CTA, and the local union, and determines which are chargeable to agency fee payers and which are not. Here are the rebate percentages from last year:
NEA--48.59%
CTA and local--38.7%

Here are the percentages from this year, an election year:
NEA--53%
CTA and local--29.1%

The figures above are percentages that CTA's hired arbiter calculated are outside of the approved categories.

Given CTA's expenditures since the summer, I expect that next year's rebate percentage will be significantly higher in the CTA/local category. Given that I have no reason to trust the American Arbitration Association in this arena, though, there's no telling.

As I said, I received $330 back. I'm going to spend over half of that by rejoining the Association of American Educators, through which I receive better liability insurance than I would through CTA. I learned about AAE from the California Teachers Empowerment Network, a grassroots organization of teachers who serve to counter and balance the one-sided information teachers get (often from the state union that's supposed to look out for their interests).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stripping Teacher

I'd say this teacher got a little carried away while supervising a school party for her 15-year-old students.

Cell phone video is available here, but there's no telling how long it will stay posted.

A Very Sad Man

And this guy is a professor.

A St. Olaf visiting professor bragged about stealing John McCain signs from his GOP neighbors and described it as a thrilling act of political defiance for a highly-trafficked liberal blog.

“Yanking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done,” wrote Phil Busse in an essay titled “Confessions of a Lawn Sign Stealer” for the Huffington Post.

Busse is teaching a class on media studies this semester at St. Olaf and is currently director for the Northwest Institute for Social Change. He unsuccessfully ran for the mayor in Portland, Oregon in 2004.

Busse said he realized he committed a crime and expected to be charged with misdemeanor theft of trespassing in the piece.


It would have been nice if they'd provided a link to the HuffPost piece. I had to go there and find it myself.

Not A Class Act

It's hard to believe people could treat each other this way. Seriously. Grown adults.

Beth Ekre, a middle school teacher from Fargo, was named the state Teacher of the Year at the North Dakota Education Association Instructional Conference. She addressed the attendees and, along with the three other finalists, headed over to the NDEA reception to be held in their honor, which was titled “A Celebration of Excellence.”

But teaching excellence apparently wasn’t quite enough for the brain-dead officers of the North Dakota Education Association. They barred Ekre from attending the reception because she’s not a union member.


Sad.

It Was A Good Funeral

We got a few raindrops today, nothing serious--certainly nothing like what's coming down now.

No, angels aren't crying. They're happy to have nana with them.

Update: Thank you so much to those of you who have sent your kind wishes both here in the comments or via email, or have offered prayers for me and my family. I may not be a master at expressing my appreciation, but it's important that you know that you helped.

Funeral In A Couple Hours

Blogging was light last week, as I knew it probably would be. And it will probably be light again this week, as I attend nana's funeral in less than two hours.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Ironic Words of the CTA President

From the president's column in the October 2008 issue of California Educator, the mouthpiece rag of the CTA:

The partisan approach that government has taken over the years has only served to divide us. If politicians are not going to solve the budget problem for public education--we will. Public education should not be a party issue. It should be a community issue.

How CTA organizes from here forward is going to be of major importance.


CTA supports Barack Obama for President.

As I look through the list of names for their recommendations for the House of Representatives, I don't recognize a single one who is Republican (party affiliations are not listed in the recommendations). The list includes Bill Durston, Charlie Brown, Doris Matsui, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Henry Waxman, Maxine Waters, Jane Harman, and Loretta Sanchez. There is a similar leftward slant on their recommendations for state senate and state assembly.

So much for not approving of that "partisan approach to government", eh, David Sanchez?

This Is More Distracting Than A Ghoul Costume?

Sometimes school officials make "interesting" choices.

Alex Woinski, an eighth-grader at West Brook Middle School in Paramus, was sent home from school on Friday because of his costume.

Alex, who has shoulder-length brown hair, wore a white robe, a red sash, sandals, a fake beard and a crown of thorns.

His mother says Alex was told he could keep the costume on if he removed the beard and crown of thorns, but he declined.

Superintendent James Montesano says the district doesn't want students wearing costumes that could be distracting.


The boy's mother is Catholic.

Bummer For My Son

From the Telegraph, a UK paper:

Psychologists have found that while both parents influence the attractiveness of their daughters, male attractiveness is not inherited.

California Kindergarten Teacher Steps Into the "Gay Fray"

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and while I'm sure this teacher had good intentions, her actions weren't the smartest.

During a celebration of National Ally Week, Tara Miller, a teacher at the Faith Ringgold School of Arts and Science in Hayward, Calif., passed out cards produced by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to her class of kindergartners.

The cards asked signers to be "an ally" and to pledge to "not use anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) language or slurs; intervene, when I feel I can, in situations where others are using anti-LGBT language or harassing other students and actively support safer schools efforts."

The school has acknowledged that the exercise was not appropriate for kindergartners.


This story was a gift to those who support Proposition 8, whose opponents claim that Prop 8 will have no impact on schools. Then again, perhaps it won't:

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, the group representing Voelker (a parent), said parents at the Faith Ringgold School weren't notified of what was going to take place in the classroom.

He said that teaching students as young as pre-school about gay, lesbian and transgender issues is common in California, but that there are "all kinds of material the average parent could find highly objectionable or potentially harmful" to their children. (boldface mine--Darren)

I'm not convinced that there's anything that kindergartners need to learn about homosexuals/homosexuality at school. Even if there were, asking 5-year-olds to sign a pledge strikes me as excessive in all but a very few circumstances.

Now let's leave the issue of kindergarten and move to the cards themselves. I myself am not a big fan of these pledge cards. Yes, I know they're put out by GLSEN, so they're going to be focused on homosexuals, but I'd have much less an issue with them if they discussed discrimination and harassment in general. Tolerance, live-and-let-live, intervening or seeking help when someone is being harassed or threatened--those apply to everyone, not just to homosexuals. Prejudice comes in many forms.