Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Technology Does Not Equal Education

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times:

Technology is not an end unto itself. It's only a tool.

Click here to read about High Tech High and marvel at the (lack of) education the students receive.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted at Bellringers and includes my post about ROTC's potentially paying cadets a stipend for learning "needed" languages.

No More Land Lines

When it became just as inexpensive to have a cell phone as a house phone, I ditched the land line completely. It turns out that some colleges and businesses are doing the same. Some schools are pulling land lines out of the dorms, essentially requiring students to have cells.

This isn't always a good idea, of course. In an emergency, cell phones can be knocked out, and let's not forget simple things like not being able to recharge your phone if the power goes out. Land lines are far more durable than cell phones.

But for the 99.99% of the time that isn't an emergency, cell phones are fine. Just don't flip out during that .01% of the time. You'll probably have bigger issues to think about, anyway.

Unprepared For College

A Teacher's View (which will shortly be on my blogroll) has a great post about all the students who show up at college unprepared. For some, college just isn't the right place, academically prepared or not, even though so many parents and school officials act as if you're nobody without a college education.

Monday, December 29, 2008

If You Wondered Why Blogging Was Non-existent Today...

...wonder no more. I went skiing at Boreal.

click on the pictures to enlarge

This view is of the central lifts, right in front of the lodge.

From the top looking west, towards home. Somewhere down there is I-80.

From the top looking south, towards other ski resorts. Donner, Sugar Bowl, and Soda Springs are all out here somewhere. The lift at the bottom of the picture is the "back side" of Boreal; it's only been open once when I've been there.

From the top, looking north across I-80 to Castle Peak.

Clouds move over Castle Peak.

Conditions were marginal--some powder, a little bit of ice. Most of the people stayed on the central runs and lifts; I hung out on the west runs, even going on a lift that's never before been running when I've been there. Far fewer people over there. Sometimes it was like I had an entire run to myself. Many times I skied right up to the next chair and hopped on.

On one ride up I rode with a high school senior from Long Beach. He made a comment that I never thought I'd hear someone from his generation say. I paraphrase:

I wish I could get away from these snowboarders. They just sit in the middle of the runs! I'd like to have a mountain for skiers only.

How many times have I had the same thoughts?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel Deserves Hamas' Rocket Attacks

There are plenty who would have you believe that. Read Ezra Klein's piece and see if you can't draw that conclusion.

The rocket attacks were undoubtedly "deeply disturbing" to Israelis. But so too are the checkpoints, the road closures, the restricted movement, the terrible joblessness, the unflinching oppression, the daily humiliations, the illegal settlement -- I'm sorry, "outpost" -- construction, "deeply disturbing" to the Palestinians, and far more injurious. And the 300 dead Palestinians should be disturbing to us all.

There is nothing proportionate in this response. No way to fit it into a larger strategy that leads towards eventual peace. No way to fool ourselves into believing that it will reduce bloodshed and stop terrorist attacks. It is simple vengeance. There's a saying in the Jewish community: "Israel, right or wrong." But sometimes Israel is simply wrong.

I, of course, don't draw that conclusion. In fact, I think the commenter of 12/28 5:33 pm on Klein's piece is exceedingly brilliant, perceptive, and most of all, correct:

Joblessness in Palestine is Israel's problem? Checkpoints and border crossings between Gaza and Israel are Israel's problem? What "unflinching oppression" and "daily humiliations" is Israel imposing in the Palestinian territories?

They wanted their own country. Now they have it. And such a great job they've done with it.

Your bias is showing, Ezra. You shouldn't try to justify the launching of rockets as "potshots". Some might call such potshots "terrorism" or "attempted murder".
Why would anyone accept this concept of proportionate response? Militarily, that's as stupid a concept as you can create. The objective of any military operation is to win, and history shows that overwhelming your enemy is often a successful tactic. Proportionate? Only idiots and diplomats believe in that kind of crap, but I repeat myself.

Why do lefties side with terrorists against democratic states including Israel? Why do they always try to make excuses for, and even justify, the indefensible? Israel "forces" Hamas to launch rockets into Israel? What reality do these lefties inhabit?

Update, 12/29/08: A Reverend Wright tie-in:

Those who inaugurate war must be prepared to accept the consequences. Hamas decided to begin bombarding Israel, and continued that bombardment despite warnings. Surely Hamas has no right to complain of the predictable consequences.

Beyond that, it is rather odd of Greenwald to speak of "innocent" Palestinians. Did not the Palestinian people themselves elect Hamas by a landslide majority? And haven't the Palestinians overwhelmingly supported every atrocity of this Islamicist fanatic group?

I would remind Glenn Greenwald of the words of Barack Obama's spiritual mentor, who declared that the 9/11 attacks represented "chickens coming home to roost" for America. Is it not possible, by the same standard, to see the Israeli attacks on Gaza as "chickens coming home to roost" for the Palestinians?
Update #2, 1/2/09: From the Washington Post:

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the past three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

Reading as Racial Harassment

Last March I wrote about the janitor/student who was punished by his university for reading a book while on his break--a book that co-workers claimed "racially harassed" them merely by having Klan images on the cover, despite the fact that the book was about an anti-Klan incident at Notre Dame. Watch a video about the incident.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

Brainwashing Kids

I'd be more worried about this if I didn't remember similar lessons from when I was a child. Heck, who doesn't remember the tearful Native American (we called them Indians back then) looking at the pollution?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has launched a wonderful little feature that will run until Barack Obama takes the oath of office next month. They are calling it "Dear Mr. Obama" and it is a heartwarming exercise in child indoctrination and brainwashing. The Post-Gazette will be publishing letters from local students to Obama asking him for all sorts of global warming fixes, Iraq war enders, and big government programs.

Sadly, it appears that the government schools these kids have been subjected to have failed to teach their charges about anything like the American system, federalism, even science seems neglected. But they SURE taught their kiddies that government is there to spend, spend, spend, that government is to be treated like our collective parents, and that the war in Iraq is obviously an evil venture. Obviously.

They'll grow out of it. After all, if you're not a liberal by the time you're 20 you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by the time you're 30 you have no brain. And I choose to believe that at least some of those children have brains.

Killing Children

From Afghanistan:

KABUL, Afghanistan – A suicide bomber tried to attack a meeting of tribal elders and blew himself up near an Afghan primary school on Sunday, killing 14 children and wounding 58 people, the U.S. military said...

Photos of the bombing's aftermath showed bloodied text books lying on the ground beside small pairs of shoes. The U.S. military also released images of the blast caught on a security camera...

Violence has spiked across Afghanistan the last two years, and the U.S. plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next six months to reinforce the 32,000 U.S. forces already in the country.

Good. Can't let that one fail.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Leftie Said It, Not Me

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

--Joel Stein

I loved my country even when Clinton was President and Dems ran both houses of Congress. I'm going to love my country when Obama is President and Dems run both houses of Congress. And I'm going to continue loving my country as long as it remains that bright city on a hill.


I think he likes his new pillow.

West Point's Center For Oral History

Ken Burns is involved.

Textbooks struggle to keep up with the challenges of 21st century warfare. This archive brings the cadets’ education up to the moment, allowing those returning from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to prepare those who will follow.

A Center for Oral History allows cadets and the general public the opportunity to hear first hand the experiences of soldiers from World War II forward. It also creates an historical record where one has not yet existed.

Finally, through film and publishing projects established in partnership with some of the most creative journalists, filmmakers and historians working today, this project will help close the gap of understanding that has long hindered public discussion.

Visit the web site here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the Education Wonks and includes my post about CTA's initiative to increase the state sales tax by 14%.

Market Forces Affect ROTC

I find this to be quite interesting:

Desperate for officers who speak Arabic, Mandarin and other foreign languages, the U.S. Army is doling out monthly stipends to entice ROTC cadets in college to learn languages spoken in hot spots around the globe.

ROTC is offering $100 to $250 per month to recruits in the officer-training program who are willing to learn the languages spoken in Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions vital to national security.

The Association of American Educators

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I don't have many kind words for the California Teachers Association or the National Education Association. Getting the word out about these two organizations is why I joined the California Teachers Empowerment Network, and it was through CTEN that I learned about the Association of American Educators:

The Association of American Educators (AAE) is the largest national, non-union, professional teacher association, advancing the profession through professional development, teacher advocacy and protection, as well as promoting excellence in education, so that our members receive the respect, recognition and reward they deserve!

With the money I get from my agency fee rebate I join AAE each year. Through AAE I get better liability insurance coverage than the CTA provides.

If you're an agency fee payer, you should consider AAE.

The Stewardess Is Flying The Plane!

If those words, and "Columbia 409", ring a bell to you, then you are obviously a connoisseur of high quality cinema.

I met up with my pilot friend a couple days ago and he told me a harrowing story. (If you have Google Earth or some such software, pull up Gunnison, Colorado). As he explains it, Gunnison is a very tricky airport to fly into. It's like you're flying down a dead-end valley to land, and if you have to abort the landing, you climb up and right and go around this big mountain. Additionally, there are few of the navigation aids that larger airports have.

And get this--there's no tower to control the aircraft!!! I was shocked to learn that commercial airliners are landing at airports that are not directly controlled by humans. Ground wind conditions are reported by an automated radio signal updated every minute--and that's a long time for wind conditions to change! Not only that, but because of the terrain he had to land flying with the wind, not into it, and he can only land (or take off) if his tailwind is 10 knots or less.

So he was on approach and the his GPS data was telling him that winds were about 45 knots, but the automated message was telling him that it was calm on the ground. He got lower and lower and his instrumentation continued to give him significantly different information than the automated message. At the last moment he decided to abort the landing, meaning he'd have to do some fancy flying around some mountains to come around and make another try.

He could tell the story much better than I, but combine low clouds, lack of modern navigational aids, very high peaks, and a GPS that freezes up--and all of this at an airport where there's no tower or radar to help him out--and I'm on the edge of my seat listening to this story. The next go around didn't look any better, so he flew back to Denver.

I was just shocked to learn that commercial airliners land at uncontrolled airports. He told me that many smaller airports are like that. I think that if I have to fly, I'll stick to larger airports from now on, thank you very much.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Go North, Young Man, To College

This is most interesting.

Colleges in eastern Canada report mounting interest this fall among high school seniors from the Northeast, with a recently stronger US dollar making already low tuition costs even more of a bargain for Americans.

That part about the stronger dollar is only relative; today the exchange rate is $1.22CDN/$1.00USD. Yes, it was at about parity earlier this year, but I've visited Canada at 1.5:1.

Just What We Need

If you subsidize something, you get more of it.

The US has 5% of the world's population but 2/3 of the world's attorneys (at least, so I hear without any factual backup at all). So what are we going to do in California? Groan:

A new law school opening next fall in Southern California is offering a big incentive to top students who might be thinking twice about the cost of a legal education during the recession: free tuition for three years.

Chemerinsky is a big ole liberal. I wonder how long this will remain true:

Scholarship winners will be chosen for their potential to emerge three years later as legal stars on the ascendance. Only the best and brightest need apply, but the school hopes to offer full scholarships to all 60 members of its inaugural class in 2009. Subsequent classes will be on a normal tuition basis. (boldface mine--Darren)

I have no doubt we'll see some interesting contortions of what "best" means.

California's on the verge of bankruptcy. Why are we giving away top-notch legal educations?

California needs more nursing schools, not more law schools. But law schools are more prestigious for a university, which is why Irvine opened the latter instead of the former.

Just another indication of how we do things here in California.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Weapons" At School

Is it too much to ask that school administrators, all of whom probably have masters degrees, exercise the smallest amount of common sense?

NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. -- The latest case of zero-tolerance at the public schools has a 10-year-old student sadder and wiser, and facing expulsion and long-term juvenile detention. And it has his mother worried that his punishment has already been harsher than the offense demands.

"I think I shouldn't have brought a gun to school in the first place," said the student, Alandis Ford, sitting at home Thursday night with his mother, Tosha Ford, at his side.

Alandis' gun was a "cap gun," a toy cowboy six-shooter that his mother bought for him.

It might be nice if sheriffs used some common sense as well:

Tosha said that Wednesday afternoon, after school, "six police officers actually rushed into the door" of their home. "He [Alandis] opened the door because they're police. And then they just kind of pushed him out of the way, and asked him, 'Well where's the gun, where's the real gun?' And they called him a liar... they booked him, and they fingerprinted him."

The boy's 10 years old--and still wants to be a police officer when he grows up, even after this.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Honest (if partisan) Look At President Bush's Record

Myths and Facts About the Real Bush Record

NEA Admits It Sucks At Looking Out For Teachers

At least, that's how EIA (see blogroll) interprets a recent press release.

Per-Pupil Spending In California

In a press release about an initiative to increase the state sales tax, the CTA tells us that California ranks 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. The Education Intelligence Agency tells us that that's not entirely accurate:

I'm sure there is some tortured table somewhere that places California 46th in the nation in some measure of per-pupil spending. It probably requires applying L.A. or San Jose prices to Redding and Needles. But as luck would have it, we just received a comprehensive report on per-pupil spending from a source I'm sure CTA has heard of - the National Education Association.

NEA's annual Rankings and Estimates report happens to rank states by per-pupil spending, and on page 55 (73 in the PDF file) Table H-11 shows California ranked 26th in per-pupil spending, not 46th. Close enough for government work, as they say.

Is CTA incompetent or dishonest? Or perhaps the NEA is wrong?

CTA Wants To Increase State Sales Tax

When I was growing up, the sales tax in California was 6%. Most counties didn't even have a county sales tax, although megalopolises like the Bay Area and LA did. Today, the state sales tax is 7.25% (a 21% increase over the 6% rate), and even Sacramento County has a .5% county sales tax. I bought my car in nearby Placer County, which doesn't have a country sales tax, thereby saving over $75 just in county taxes.

Even though we're paying more than we did when I was a kid, it apparently isn't enough. Even in flush times, California plans to spend more than it takes in; when times get bad, like now, the state faces bankruptcy.

While our past several governors have flip-flopped between Democrat and Republican, both houses of our legislature have been run by Democrats for as long as I can remember. They truly are "tax and spend" liberals--as I pointed out, sales tax rates (as well as income taxes) have been raised significantly over the last few decades, and we're still spending more than we take in.

And the California Teachers Association wants to raise sales taxes even higher--to fund schools, of course:

As the ongoing state budget crisis forces billions of dollars in cuts to public education, the California Teachers Association today filed an initiative that would implement a one-cent sales tax to provide new, ongoing funding for public schools and colleges that cannot be cut, delayed or diverted by the governor or the Legislature.

Our state sales tax would go up to 8.25%, plus county taxes. This doesn't even take into account the sales tax and income tax increase that the governor and legislature are considering, as if, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we could tax ourselves to prosperity. And this money is supposed to bring Shangri-La to our schools? I remember when lottery money was supposed to cause our schoolhouses to be lined with gold.

I wonder if California's voters would really approve this increase.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Law and Justice

It's no secret that America's public schools, health care system, and lawsuit industry -- among other institutions -- are broken. After decades of alarming reports and reform efforts, they still cost far more, and with worse results, than those of almost all other developed countries. And President-elect Obama's hope of changing things dramatically for the better faces an uphill battle.

I don't know that we're getting "worse results" from our health care system, but I'll concede the point regarding schools.

A big part of the reason, New York City lawyer-author-civic leader Philip Howard writes in a forthcoming book, Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans From Too Much Law, is that our institutions and their leaders are paralyzed by tangles of legal rules and diverted "from doing what we think is right" by fear of being unfairly hauled into court.

It's an interesting read.

Cost of Living in America

Two stories I found on Yahoo provide an interesting glimpse into the cost of living. Read them soon, as there's no telling how long they'll last at Yahoo.

Regarding taxes:

Americans will spend more on taxes in 2008 than on food, clothing, and housing combined, according to Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge. This year, Americans worked 74 days to pay their federal taxes and 39 days more to cover state and local levies, the Tax Foundation calculated. There's not much you can do about the federal taxes if you want to live in the United States, but the state and local tax burden varies considerably by location. The most expensive state and local taxes are typically sales and excise taxes (14 days' pay), property taxes (12 days' pay), and income tax (10 days' pay).

And for something a little closer to home:

Think your last grocery bill seemed pricey? Be happy that you don't live in Sacramento, where a half-gallon of milk costs $2.97 on average. In fact, Sacramento's milk prices rank the highest of any major metropolitan city in the country.

Happy cows are expensive.
(If you don't get it, try this list, or this one in particular to get an idea.)

Minoring In Asian Studies

The reason minority students don't do well is because teachers don't have cultural competence to understand said students (yes, the snark light is on). So they're doing the smart thing at one Southern California school--spending $15,000 to teach the teachers how to deal with minority students. A columnist states:

...all teachers must have minored in Asian studies during college, because clearly they are adept at getting most Asian students to perform well academically.

It isn't that teachers don't understand the cultures of minority students. It's that some minority students come from a culture that doesn't support academic achievement. And it's not just Hispanics and American blacks with such cultures, either.

Cool Use For Texting

Via USAToday:

During the Redskins' 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 3 at FedEx Field just outside Washington, Cable says, an obnoxious Steelers fan kept waving a "Terrible Towel" in the 47-year-old Cable's face and screaming, "Redskins suck!"

Rather than escalate the confrontation, the Lusby, Md., resident quietly sent a text message to the stadium's security command center. Security people responded quickly. When the Steelers fan gave them a hard time, he was ejected.

"It worked great," Cable says.

It also reflected how fans are embracing new text-messaging systems that allow fans in NFL stadiums to inconspicuously report unruly neighbors without confronting them, a provocative tactic many of the league's 32 teams are using to enforce the conduct code announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 5.

Some worry about the Orwellian implications of this technique:

Nick Gillespie, editor of the libertarian video site, is "worried about overzealous enforcement on the part of security." Fans snitching on each other only adds to the "surveillance state that's America," he says.

This is a ridiculous complaint. No one is entitled to privacy while misbehaving in a public place. Additionally, upon receiving complaints, security watches the reported person from a discreet distance to observe the reported behavior for themselves before addressing the unruly fan. If they need to take action, they do. If not, "no harm, no foul."

The "Climate Change" Faithful

Oh, come all ye faithful
Driving in your Prius
Oh come ye, oh come ye,
To Earth Day

Hang with the hippies
Smell the nice patchouli
Oh, let's protest a pow'r plant
Oh, let's protest an SUV
Oh, let's protest capitalism

Just so you know I haven't forgotten about so-called anthropogenic global warming, aka climate change, I offer this snippet from Kerplunk (see blogroll):

In any argument with the Climate Faithful the first response to inconvenient facts undermining the AGW proposition is to dismiss the credentials of the information's source.

"He's not a climate scientist" is a common statement.

Neither, one should point out, is Rajendra Pachauri, the head of IPCC.

Having failed to bring the argument to an end by questioning people's qualifications the Climate Faithful then move on to associating scientists with the oil industry.

When David Evans comments on climate science it's a bit hard to question his credentials:
Dr David Evans worked for the Australian Greenhouse Office from 1999 to 2005, building the carbon accounting model that Australia uses to track carbon in its biosphere for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol. He is a mathematician and engineer, with six university degrees including a PhD from Stanford University.
He must be a cigarette smoking, oil industry consultant...

Here's his
opinion piece on the government's new emissions trading scheme:

And then he quotes a rather lengthy piece from Mr. Evans. What I found most interesting was at the bottom of the post:

The hot spot signature in the troposphere that MUST exist for CO2 to be the primary driver of climate change does NOT exist.

Therefore, as Evans points out, CO2 has been exonerated of the charge of heating the climate.

Not that these incontrovertible facts will get in the way of the Climate Faithful pushing their socialist agenda.

If only that were the end of the debate.

By the way, how are sales of Prius' doing, now that gas is back down to $1.50 a gallon and the economy isn't doing so well? Is everybody out buying solar panels?

I'm all for protecting the environment where at all practical, but slavish devotion to Mother Gaia is a luxury to be had in good economic times.

I still want an Aptera, though.

Update: And now I read this:

"The mean global temperature, at least as measured by satellite, is now the same as it was in the year 1980. In the last couple of years sea level has stopped rising. Hurricane and cyclone activity in the northern hemisphere is at a 24-year low and sea ice globally is also the same as it was in 1980."

Most interesting. Yet the climate change faithful will disregard this information as well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Progressives Must Be Slow

You've gotta love this post about lovely "progressive" San Francisco and its slapped-in-the-face-by-reality moment.

Repeat after me, lefties: If you subsidize something, you get more of it.

Useless New Math Credential

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) has been considering the revival of a Mathematics Specialist Credential:

Mathematics Specialist Credential Advisory Panel
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing is currently seeking applications from individuals [MS Word] to serve as panel members to consider the need for, and, as appropriate, propose recommended standards for a preparation program for the Mathematics Specialist Credential. Applications are due by February 6, 2009.

The idea is that a person holding this teaching credential could conduct staff development in mathematics (probably for elementary or middle school teachers) and could also work with students currently struggling with math.

The way I see it, that's no different from what I'm capable of doing now. Why do we need this new credential?

In Commission discussions, this credential is compared to the Reading Specialist Credential. This comparison is flawed. Reading is a skill--like riding a bicycle, once learned, reading is pretty much learned. What have you learned new about reading in the past couple of decades? Like me, probably nothing. A person holding a Reading Specialist Credential is theoretically a master at helping students acquire a particular skill, reading.

But math isn't a skill, it's a body of knowledge. In fact, I'd go a step further; because it's not a skill, it doesn't make sense to say "I'm not good at math." Rather, it's more accurate to say that "I haven't learned basic math well (yet)." You can learn more every day for the rest of your life and not exhaust that well of knowledge.

This new credential may give us another hoop to jump through if someone thinks we need another hoop, and it might create an artificial barrier to "career progression" by becoming a useless requirement for certain positions, but it's not a credential with any real meaning. It's a waste of time for the CTC to consider this credential.

Consigning Students To Mediocrity

The elected state Board of Education mandated in July that all 8th graders take an Algebra 1 test as part of our standardized testing; if I'm not mistaken, this requirement is to bring us into compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. Even students who haven't taken Algebra 1 yet will be required to take this test. This requirement goes into effect in 2011.

A superior court judge has tentatively ruled no.

I received an email about this from a member of the Commission on Teacher Credentialing and also read the article linked above,and since neither provides the information I seek I'm compelled to ask: on what legal basis did this judge rule? Why are the legislature, which mandates standardized testing, and the BOE, which issues policy, not allowed to require this test? What, exactly, is illegal about this requirement from two elected bodies?

There's nothing illegal about it. This is judicial activism in its purest form.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fighting at School

About a year ago I posted about fighting at school. Go read that post for some background information.

Just today, though, someone posted a comment on that post and pointed me to a section of California Ed Code that I didn't know about.

48900. A pupil shall not be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion, unless the superintendent or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has committed an act as defined pursuant to any of subdivisions (a) to (q), inclusive:
(a) (1) Caused, attempted to cause, or threatened to cause physical injury to another person.
(2) Willfully used force or violence upon the person of another, except in self-defense. (boldface mine--Darren)

This changes everything. Administrators at my school refuse to make judgements about "who started it" and suspend anyone involved in a fight. It's wrong, it's unjust, and now we learn it's illegal.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Perhaps A Reason To Like The Incoming Secretary of Education

With a school system in as bad a shape as is Chicago's, you have to wonder about putting its superintendent in charge of the US Department of Education--but that's what a President Obama will do, by nominating Arne Duncan to be Secretary of Education.

Via EIA (see blogroll) we learn, though, that the communists don't like this choice. Why not, you ask?

Other practices carried out under his direction include performance pay for teachers, the promotion of charter schools and forcing failing students to repeat years.

The horror! Perhaps they want a Five Year Plan.

Teachers Know Better Than Parents How To Make The World A Better Place

What else could explain this view that children should pester their parents into performing societally-approved acts of eco-love?

I agree with this closing statement:

In previous times the practice of mobilizing children to police their parents’ behavior was confined to totalitarian societies. Authorities who attempted to harness youngsters’ simplistic views of good and evil are reminiscent of Orwell’s Big Brother. But who needs Big Brother when the then-prime minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, can assert that “on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children”?

Again, this should not be the role of schools.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time-out Rooms

It's ok to have a time-out room for disruptive students--in fact, I'd say that nowadays it's only common sense to have one. But for such a room to resemble a dungeon, and for it to be unsupervised? Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do.

Add in the physical restraint, and the part about autistic or otherwise disabled students, and this story is very disconcerting.

Academia’s Top 10 Abuses of 2008

So-called free speech zones on college campuses, dis/uninviting speakers, excessive antagonism to (Christian) religion, anti-Christmas, and even a kerfuffle at my own alma mater--go here to read all about 'em.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UC Davis Full of Crap (literally)

Egrets are part of nature, and they want to hang out in an oak grove at the University of California, Davis. However, their large amounts of "guano" put the oaks at risk, so Davis is trying several things to keep them away--including lasers.

So if it comes down to birds vs. trees, we must side with the trees. Got it.

Another Social Worker Student Discriminated Against Due To Conservative Beliefs

There was something familiar about this story:

A former student at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work is suing the school and several of his professors for discrimination, saying he was persecuted by the school's "liberal political machine" for being a conservative.

Ah yes, I've written about a similar incident at another social work school before. I hope the student in the Rhode Island case gets as satisfactory a resolution as did the woman in the Missouri case.

Are Teachers Unions More Focused On Jobs Than On Education?

Yes, but that's an odd question.

Teachers unions like the NEA and AFT aren't supposed to be focused on education. They're supposed to look out for the best interests of teachers--in other words, they're supposed to focus on the pay, benefits, and working conditions of teachers. They're not supposed to worry about education or students at all--legislatures, parents, and school boards are supposed to worry about those topics.

This article seems to express concern that teachers unions focus on teacher jobs:

But two-thirds of U.S. voters (66%) say the teachers’ unions – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – are more interested in protecting their members’ jobs than in the quality of education.

Only 23% of voters say educational quality comes first for the unions, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.

I'm more concerned that the NEA is a far-left-wing political organization and not really a teachers union. I'm not concerned at all that it isn't focused so much on education.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Are Students Being Trained To Be Little Marxists?

No matter who said it--and many, including Winston Churchill, are given credit--there's some truth to the adage that says "If you're not a liberal by the time you're 20 you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative by the time you're 30 you have no brain."

A common lament heard from children is "that's not fair"--life must be fair. We teach them to share their belongings. Mom and dad will take care of them. Mom and dad, the "ruling elite"--their votes count for more than all of the children's put together.

In other words, it's a miniature version of a nanny state. We build it into children. And while it works for children, who are still learning to harness their physical and cognitive abilities, it's a horrible way for adults to function. Sadly, though, some adults never grow out of this stage.

That's a long introduction to this column that, while having a similar title, has a very different subject:

Scott from North Carolina is concerned with the radical views of his students:

Dr. Helen:

I’m a middle/high school teacher, of a social-libertarian, economic-conservative bent. All the talk about indoctrination of kids is extraordinarily true. I have kids pass through my class with some of the most insane, Kos-style concepts running through their heads, really doctrinaire hard-liberal stuff. It only got more blatant as the election wore on (and on, and on). I subbed for a fourth grade class in which a girl trotted out the “Bush caused 9/11″ bit. Are you kidding me?

What can I do to help counter this? I’d like to avoid a whole new generation running on Marxist ideology.

I recommend reading the entire thing, including the comments.

The 75% Solution

This certainly would make for some interesting staff lounge conversation. I'm sure there's a way to game the system--there always is!--but on its surface it sounds quite interesting:

With American productivity and initiative in mind, the Adam Smith Academy would like to propose the 75% Teaching Solution. It works like this:

1. In the creation of student curriculum, Teachers teach 75% of a student’s total course grade. On a straight PASS/FAIL grading system (80% equals a Passing grade, anything below Fails), students are tested on the standard, or minimum 75% of the course’s curriculum. Should the student PASS all the exams for 75% of the coursework, they shall receive a grade of “C”. They have done the minimum, satisfactorily.

2. Should they FAIL certain exams or portions of the curriculum, the student would then fall within the range of “F” to “C” for the course.

3. For a student to obtain a better grade than the satisfactory, “C”, he/she voluntarily does more coursework on his or her own, and will PASS/FAIL any exams based on the additional coursework. So much more for a “B”, and even more for an “A”. Therefore, they must take the initiative to produce more.

This solution gives whole new meaning to the words, “Extra Credit.” Or, in actuality, it takes these words on their face. To do beyond the satisfactory level, students do “extra” and receive a better “credit.”

I could work for a school with this philosophy.

Union-supported (Traditional) Teacher Credentialing Hinders Student Learning

From the Wall Street Journal:

Like all unions, teachers unions have a vested interest in restricting the labor supply to reduce job competition. Traditional state certification rules help to limit the supply of "certified" teachers. But a new study suggests that such requirements also hinder student learning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Have you ever noticed how political conservatives, and people who love our country, shout "USA! USA!" at rallies? Have you ever heard liberals shout that? What did/do they yell at Obama rallies? "O-ba-ma!" What did they yell at McCain rallies? "USA!"

I think that says something.

And I think it says something when military personnel shout "USA", rather enthusiastically, when cheering for President Bush.

The New 3 R's

Rigor, relevance, and relationships.

Sounds good, but how does one apply that concept? Try this on for size, and see if you understand it any better than I do!

To paraphrase President-elect Obama, "Just buzzwords?"

How To Make Our Schools Better With More Money

California spends half of its entire budget on education, but still ranks near the bottom of all states in per-pupil spending--46th, according to CTA President David Sanchez as quoted in the November 2008 issue of California Educator magazine. Señor Sanchez also points out that our current budget is about $11.2 billion, and could rise to $27 billion over the next year and a half. So what's the story on p. 36 of California Educator called? CTA, Allies begin new fight for more funding.

Any guesses how they intend to accomplish this?

A key element of the campaign involves persuading state lawmakers that the solution to the state's widening budget deficit is raising new permanent revenues, not making additional cuts....

Got that? In one of the most taxed states in the union (e.g., state sales tax of 7.25% with county sales taxes in many counties), the solution to the state's budget difficulties is not to make cuts but to raise taxes. How's that working in Michigan, or even a city like Chicago?

I'm not saying that California's schools aren't underfunded--my class sizes boggle the minds of educators in other states. What I am saying, though, is that if there are budget difficulties, we can't expect half the state budget to be taken off the table a priori. California needs to develop some fiscal discipline--a lot of it.

And I'll just toss this out there, talk amongst yourselves: which party has run both houses of the California legislature for as long as I can remember?

California Teachers' Retirement Is Untouchable

On page 34 of California Educator magazine we get a full-page story on CalSTRS and CalPERS, the state Teachers Retirement System and Public Employees (non-teacher) Retirement System. One of my daily reads is NewsAlert (see blogroll), which often posts stories of underfunded public retirement systems; I've written before about troubles with CalSTRS.

California Educator, though, whistles past the graveyard. Why? Because the state won't renege on its promises to us, it'll just raise taxes to cover any money needed.

...School employees have no need to worry about their CalSTRS...pensions, which are fully protected by law. Fears that market fluctuations will affect CalSTRS or CalPERS payments after retirement are unfounded.

It gets better.

"CalSTRS benefits are not dependent on the funds in the CalSTRS investment portfolio," says Sherry Reser, spokesperson for CalSTRS. "These benefits are a contractual right protected not only by the California Constitution but also by the U.S. Constitution."

Wow, that's a whopper of a quote! First, Ms. Reser all but tells us that our retirements will be covered by the taxpayers, whether or not STRS makes good investments or has a nice new building. Then she states that my retirement is protected under the US Constitution! Try as I might, I cannot find that article or amendment that addresses CalSTRS.

A statement that huge cries out for an explanation, but none is forthcoming, at least in California Educator.

I didn't appreciate this comment:

"When CTA members retire, their pension is going to be there," says Reser.

What about those of us who are not CTA members?

I hope that my promised retirement awaits me, but I'm not very confident.

Update, 12/22/08: CalPERS will just go to the taxpayer, hat in hand.

How Will A President Obama Improve Your Classroom Conditions?

The November 2008 issue of California Educator magazine, mouthpiece rag of the California Teachers Association, shares the following wisdom with us in the president's column on page 4:

With the historic election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, the future, both for the country and for public education, looks brighter. He has the vision and compassion to lead real change across the nation--change in our health care, in our classrooms, and in our future.

What, exactly, he's going to do "in our classrooms" is left unsaid. That's because there's nothing he's going to do regarding California's classrooms, especially in light of the following:

Statistics show that California's children were hit the hardest of any students across the nation, with an estimated 311,900 losing their homes. Combine this with the wretched state of California's budget and you have a serious crisis.

What will a President Obama do to improve California's budget situation?

Then we turn to p. 30 to an article called "Obama win a victory for public education". It has the same quote, almost word for word, as I quoted above. We do, however, get a hint of how a President Obama will be good for schools: "Senator Obama's vision of change in America includes investing more in our schools...." I guess President Bush's more than doubling of federal education dollars isn't enough for some people.

And I love how there's no mention at all of how this savior of education will be sending his daughters to private school.

The CTA is a bunch of hyprocrites; not even a labor union, it's nothing more than a left-wing political advocacy group--and they are entitled to my money by law. This is an injustice.

Depending on who is chosen to be the Secretary of Education, the next few years could be very bad for public education. The Boston Herald editorial staff has some concerns about Obama's current education advisor, Linda Darling-Hammond:

President-elect Barack Obama is causing some who saw him as a reformer to have second thoughts.

He has appointed a prime example of “progressive” education - which, in fact, is about as reactionary as you can get - to lead the new administration’s transition team on education, Linda Darling-Hammond.

She is a professor at Stanford University and represents everything wrong with the education establishment. She is the darling of the teachers’ unions. She believes money solves all problems in the field.

She opposes objective testing. At Columbia University she pushed the presentation of “performance portfolios” for the New York State Regents Examinations. She abhors the (flawed but fixable) No Child Left Behind Act. She hates Teach for America, the successful program recruiting new college graduates into teaching, and other programs of alternate teacher certification.

She produces research that true reformers denounce as unreliable, such as a report that teacher certification is critical to student performance - something there is a lot of reason to believe is not true.

It's hard not to quote the entire opinion piece, but the above gives you an idea of what would be coming down the road under a Secretary Darling-Hammond--more money, less accountability, more fads, less real education. I don't see the Congress eliminating the No Child Left Behind Act, but I don't see a Secretary Darling-Hammond doing much to enforce that law, either.

I don't see a Golden Age of Public Education occurring under the next president, despite the choirs of angels at California Educator.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Someone Understands Math

OK, so I'm reading xkcd again, and....

Degrees, Logic, Common Sense, and Humor

Is this true? It wouldn't be funny if it didn't have a kernel of truth in it somewhere :-)

Capital Area's Algebra Teachers

While some may say that 82% is a high figure, I'm disappointed that only that percentage of Sacramento County's junior high algebra teachers are officially qualified to teach Algebra 1--and plenty disturbed that only 2/3 of the state's junior high algebra teachers are.

Sacramento County's teaching force is more qualified than most of the state to meet a controversial requirement that all eighth-graders be tested in algebra.

Eighty-two percent of Sacramento County's middle school algebra teachers are fully credentialed with a math authorization, according to a study released Wednesday.

That compares with 66 percent statewide, meaning one-third of California middle school algebra teachers are under-prepared or are teaching outside their field.

The numbers, included in a report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, are for the 2007-08 school year.

And this is after 7 years of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires certified teachers in every classroom.

Eating for $1 a Day Each

Two high school teachers survive a month eating for $1 a day. What I found most interesting was the fact that they couldn't afford fresh fruits and vegetables!

The guy lost 14 pounds, so perhaps I should consider trying this! I'm not liking the thought of being tired, groggy, and cranky, though!

I've got to say, the couple looks kinda "granola", if you know what I mean, but they come across well. Go watch the news clip!

Former Porn Star Resigns From School Job

I had hoped she'd stay in her job if for no other reason than to poke a finger in the eye of the prudes who think her past as a porn star makes her unqualified to work at a school, but I'm to be disappointed:

A porn star-turned-elementary school cafeteria worker and playground monitor resigned from her position this week after causing a legal uproar in a New Jersey school district, MyFOXPhilly reported.

I wonder if she's giving up her work with children at the local YMCA as well.

Republics and Democracies

I know the difference between the two, and it amazes me how few others do. I also know that our Founders specifically created a republic as opposed to a democracy, fearing and perhaps even loathing that latter form of government. What I did not know, however, was that Aristotle addressed the topic:

Aristotle told us 2300 years ago about such things. He wrote that Republics gradually deteriorate into democracies, which then succumb to an anarchy that simply begs for a leader to restore order. Like a rotting carcass of a dead dog, the decaying tissue of a once free people attracts all sorts of flies and vermin—thus Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chris Dodd. Thus Obama. A free people in love with liberty would never place such creatures over them.

I was talking to a friend last night, explaining what I see wrong with modern liberalism. Liberals crave security or protection from a nanny state, whereas I crave liberty. Big difference in outlooks.

We've long since degenerated into a democracy. I fear we may be closer to anarchy and/or tyranny than anyone wants to admit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stupid Bumper Sticker

As I passed a local gas station this morning and saw gas at $1.499, I can only wonder how stupid those people must feel who have that "Gas was $1.46 when George Bush was elected" bumper sticker on their car. Wow, it's gone up 4 cents in 8 years. The tragedy!

Yes, I know that the price is dropping because the all-around economy is bad. So what? What has President Bush done to destroy the economy? War hasn't done it. The President doesn't control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The President isn't in charge of any of the Big 3 car dealers. The President isn't in charge of financial institutions. The President doesn't control the stock market.

And the President doesn't control the price of gas, either. If you're going to stick it to the President when prices rise, you've got to give him credit when they fall.

I didn't hear anyone give him credit when the stock market peaked during his Administration....

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Obama's "Kinder, Gentler" War on Terror

American intelligence agencies, and even the FBI, must drool at what European agencies are allowed to do. We have people scream over the Patriot Act, but the French especially would feel hamstrung if they could do only what it allows.

Many times I've told the story of how there's no such thing as "police brutality" in Germany--the Polizei are allowed to beat the snot out of you if you need it! And don't even get me started on the Italian caribinieri.

If German police are allowed to do this, imagine what their intelligence agencies can do.

This is one area where I hope a President Obama does get some influence from our so-called European betters.

Update, 12/12/08: I keep telling you it's political. No one really believes there's anything wrong with the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay:

Treat this as the latest round in the Guantanamo discussion … David Cole writes in the Boston Review on detention. Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, Bobby Chesney and Eric Posner all respond online there. But if it’s sensible and legal now, why wasn’t it sensible and legal during the Bush years?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Belt-Tightening at Harvard

Harvard's endowment is so large that, even after heavy stock market losses this year, it's larger than the annual budgets of many countries. Still, though, they try to save a few shekels here and there:

A freeze on salary raises for all faculty and non-union staff members as well as a hold on the bulk of current searches for tenure-track and tenured faculty were among the cost-cutting measures announced in a letter circulated to department chairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences yesterday afternoon.

Saint Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

I don't understand why some people get so upset at the slightest thought of Christmas. It has Christ in it! they scream.

Christmas certainly started out as a religious celebration, but it now has a secular component. Until someone can show me in the Sacred Scrolls passages about a fat man in a red suit living at the North Pole with his flying reindeer and elves, that part is secular.

Yet some will still scream. It's like they think they have power in a politically-correct world, and want to use it. It doesn't really matter what the outcome is, only that they precipitated that outcome.

I think that's the way many who "oppose" the Pledge of Allegiance are--they just want their pathetic existences to have some meaning, even if it brings no good at all.

So when someone (who, interestingly enough, chooses to remain anonymous) tries to get Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer removed from the kindergarten Christmas show solely because the song has the word "Christmas" in it, you have to wonder--evil, stupid, pathetic, or some mixture of all the above?

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted over at Scheiss Weekly and includes my post about patriotism and California ed code.

Students, Wanna Make Some Money?

I linked to an old post yesterday and received an interesting comment on it:

I'm working on a community service project at MIT to run a nationwide contest in which students compete to create funny, creative videos teaching SAT vocabulary at We're giving out a cash prize to the video that receives the most number of votes and free iTunes downloads to students who produce a lot of videos.

I'm happy to promote projects like this.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

NEA Offers Up Its Wish List To The Obama Team

They sure aren't subtle, are they? Here are a few:

Support NEA’s principles for NCLB reauthorization.

Increase funding.

Revoke requirement that government contractors post a notice to employees informing them that they are not required to join a union or maintain membership in a union to retain their jobs.

EIA has much more. The only one on that list that I can agree with is the elimination of the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset, about which I've written before. Many times, in fact.

Rewarding Bad Behavior

How do you reward teenagers who were convicted of beating an elderly woman during a home invasion?

By sending them to Obama's inauguration, of course.

Those Naughty Teachers

How many reports of misconduct were filed against teachers with the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing during fiscal year 2007-08?


Those Ingenious Teachers

ABC News had a story tonight about how teachers are making ends meet in their classrooms. I've posted previously about the teacher who sold "advertising" on his tests and quizzes because his school couldn't afford all the paper he needed, and about the web site known as Donors Choose. Both are mentioned in ABC's report, a transcript of which can be read here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thinking Your Way Into Cambridge and Oxford

Sir Isaac must be spinning in his grave over this:

You might expect Oxford and Cambridge universities to ask prospective students to compare the works of Chaucer to Boccaccio or to explain the theory of relativity.

Instead, Oxford wants to know: "Would you rather be a novel or a poem?"

Cambridge asks applicants: "What would you do if you were a magpie?"

These questions, somehow, are supposed to have meaning? How far the mighty have fallen.

Private Schools Feeling the Economic Pinch

Those of us who work in the public schools get to look forward to mid-year budget cuts, even though there isn't enough money left in my department's budget to buy me a replacement bulb for my overhead projector. How can we expect our schools not to face budget cuts, though, when about half the state budget is devoted to education?

Some might think that private schools would be immune to this, as only rich people send their kids to private schools. That statement is wrong on so many levels--public school teachers aren't rich, and we send our kids to private school in greater numbers than does the general American public! Private schools are full of middle class students, in addition to the more wealthy ones.

And when rough economic times affect the middle class, private schools are affected as well:

At Sacramento Country Day School – a private school that draws many of the area's more affluent families – financial aid requests are up.

The school is doling out more than $850,000 of need-based aid a year, up from $500,000 just three years ago.

The spike is a sign of the times, say school officials across Sacramento, as private schools, even those with hefty endowments, are being forced to tighten their belts in light of the economic downturn...

Many private-school families are struggling with finances more than the schools themselves, say financial planners. Even the more affluent are having a tougher time affording private education for their kids.

Day Without A Gay

Here's the latest temper tantrum from those on the No On Prop 8 side: Day Without A Gay.

Some same-sex marriage supporters are urging people to "call in gay" Wednesday to show how much the country relies on gays and lesbians, but others question whether it's wise to encourage skipping work given the nation's economic distress.

And lest students take this call to arms too seriously:

He has specifically urged high school students not to walk out of their classes and assured college students they won't be disloyal to the cause if they go ahead and take their final exams.

Wouldn't want anyone to be "disloyal to the cause", of course. Because it's obvious that if you don't support this puerile little attention-seeking stunt, you must be a homophobe.

Editorial Cartoonist "Uninvited" To Speak At Elementary School

He had the audacity to draw a cartoon that presents the California Teachers Association and its cousin the California Federation of Teachers, along with two other powerful unions, in a bad light.

Boo hoo!

Details here.

Two Different Views of the Automobile Industry Bailout

Our first story is one about typical liberal hypocrisy with regards to dealing with auto companies. No surprise there. Go take a read, it's fairly short and fairly entertaining. The closing line: "If Washington wants to see what ails Detroit, it's looking at it in the mirror."

So what should we do about the car companies' troubles? Well, this genius thinks we should burden Japanese car companies with the same troubles that have afflicted American car companies!

Even if a deal for a $15-billion to $17-billion preliminary bailout comes together this weekend to keep carmakers afloat into 2009, they will continue to be dogged by their most significant competitive disadvantage: a high-priced, unionized workforce. After all, hasn't it always been the central goal of labor unions to maximize the per capita wage bill -- including medical and retirement benefits -- paid out to its membership? Maybe the UAW is simply too good at what it does...

If the UAW really is to blame at all, then, it is because of the union's utter failure to unionize any of the transplants (Japanese companies which produce cars in the US)...

As is now clear, when the UAW exposed the Big Three to insurmountable competitive disadvantages, it cut its own throat...

It is not too late to save the Big Three. But the solution is not to tear down the historic and heroic gains won by prior generations of UAW workers. If there is hope long term -- for the unionized Big Three companies and for the UAW -- it rests in dealing with the unfinished business of the 1980s: unionizing the unorganized transplants.

This guy probably thinks that communism could work--if it were implemented correctly.

High School Students At An Autopsy

I remember the scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when the weird science teacher took the students to see an autopsy. I thought it was odd then--did science teachers really do that?

Apparently they did, and some still do--although this one might reconsider doing so in the future, given the brouhaha generated over a recent such visit.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Urgent Research and Regulation By The Authorities"

Don't want people loitering where they shouldn't--subways, parking garages, in front of your store? Install the Mosquito, a device that emits a high-pitched whine that can annoy people enough to cause them to "move on".

Some people don't like it, though, and think the device should be regulated by "the authorities". Watch this video, and pay close attention to the woman who starts talking about 1:47 into it. Does this device seem like something that government needs to get involved with?

Government has a role--a very limited role. I truly don't understand those who want government's tentacles to reach into every nook and cranny of our lives.

What A Shocker--Union Officers Don't Like To Be Challenged!

To be fair, this could be said for any hierarchical structure. The first objective of anyone in power is to maintain power, and one way to do that is to quell dissent. On the other hand, you don't need to quell dissent, or even differing opinions, if your arguments are strong enough to stand on their own merits. Honestly, though, I don't think the arguments of union bosses--at least those in non-Right-To-Work states like California--are strong enough to stand on their own. That's why unions operate the way they do.

“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.”
--Hannah Arendt, philosopher (1906-1975)

People want to stay in power. It's human nature.

Our 1st Amendment was passed to ensure that our political bosses can't stifle honest dissent. Our Founders, who had so recently deposed tyrannical rule, understood the need for such law. In American government, power can be fleeting. You may not have liked President Bush, but our system of government, and our American values, are ensuring a peaceful transition to a man who is his antithesis. In American governance, political power swings like a pendulum.

The same cannot be said of union governance.

Local High School Allows Students To Take Classes Online

They're certainly not for everyone, and if I were consulted on the topic I'd probably spend some time crafting some fairly rigid requirements that would have to be met before allowing any particular high school student to take online classes, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the idea of online study. In fact, it's one of the areas in which I'd consider getting a master's degree, because I think there's a (limited) future in online coursework in the K-12 arena.

Inappropriate Classroom Instruction?

A middle school teacher chose two black girls, one a volunteer, and secured the girls' hands and feet to show conditions on slave ships. The non-volunteer girl and her mom are distraught, the (black) principal has apologized, and the teacher has apologized for causing distress but not for the demonstration itself. The NAACP is involved.

Is this really such a horrible lesson (watch the video linked above for more details)? Does this really merit the rending of clothes? I remember being placed in a pillory or some such device by my 11th grade US history teacher. My wrists and my neck--locked in place by wood, and I couldn't get out!!! Where's my lawyer?!

We're teaching people to be offended. It's ridiculous.

(posted at halftime of the Army-Navy game)

Liveblogging the Army-Navy Game

I turned on CBS just in time to watch the opening credits. They showed just a few moments of the midshipmen and cadet march-on (no, I didn't see my former students), and then the two teams ran onto the field through cordons. Army is sporting new uniforms--camouflage pants and helmets, black t-shirt-looking jerseys, with duty-honor-country written across the shoulder blades where names might otherwise be.

What brought tears to my eyes, though, was when President Bush was introduced to the crowd, marching out of the tunnel escorted by the Cadet First Captain and the Naval Academy Brigade Commander. The crowd roared. The President seemed very relaxed, proud to be on that field, and he showed off good form with a place-kick that had been set up for him, causing another roar. There at center field for the coin toss, he was clearly the most popular man in the world.

Military people respect this man, and with good reason. The decency and genuine affability with which he answered a few questions on the sideline, and the obvious genuine respect he has for our military members, showed why.

9:18 PST. Navy breaks a 65-yard run for a touchdown. Not an auspicious start for Army.

9:31 Bad snap for a Navy punt! Well over the punter's head and into the end zone! Sadly, though, the punter got to the ball and got off a punt. Army's ball.

9:46 Navy 23-yard field goal.

9:53 Army has tried to throw a couple times in the last few plays, and it's not working. Neither is rushing. I fear this is going to be a very long game.

10:12 Trench warfare now. Neither side is doing much.

10:26 TD pass for Navy, and now it's 17-0 with 3:17 left in the first half.

10:31 Army returns the kick to Navy's 27 yard line!

10:35 Army tries a fake field goal and doesn't even make the first down.

10:37 Navy calls a timeout with 1 second remaining in the half on their side of the 50. When the teams went to the line of scrimmage, Army took its first timeout. Whatever Navy had planned, Army disrupted it with that timeout--a fullback run up the middle ended the half.

11:02 Army, with 84 yards total offense, kicks off to start the 2nd half.

11:08 Navy has a former player on the Philadelphia Eagles? I'm sure that's what the commentators said. Also, Navy is 7/10 on 3rd down conversions.

11:11 Navy gets a first down on 4th and 2 inside the 20. When is Army going to show up to this game?

11:13 Capping an 8 minute drive, Navy scores another touchdown. Army hasn't yet touched the ball in the 2nd half.

11:21 Army turns the ball over at the Navy 35.

11:24 Navy tries to convert another 4th and 2, showing they have no fear or even respect for the Army defense. Army holds, though.

11:46 Navy splits the uprights on a 36 yard field goal, making it 27-0.

12:11 Navy intercepts an Army pass and runs it back for a touchdown with 31 seconds left in the game. It's now 34-0.

12:17 It had been 30 years since there's been a shutout in this series (Navy won that one, too, 28-0), but today ended that streak. 34-0. This is disgusting. I'm ashamed of my team.

Update: I wish I could say that this makes things better, but at least it's funny!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Two Stories About Naked Teenagers

Our first story makes one wonder what people are thinking sometimes.

The mother of a 15-year-old student at an alternative high school in Connecticut says she's suing because her son was strip searched.

Heidi Burwell, the mother of a Pine Academy student, says her son was allegedly forced to remove his clothing after being accused of stealing money from a teacher this week...

Attorney Robert Berke says the school's principal ordered a strip search that was conducted in a restroom by two male teachers. The missing money was not found.

In theory, this wouldn't happen in California. Ed code Section 49050 states:

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

If you're dealing with theft and need to resort to such extremes, call in law enforcement.

Our second story involves an activity mentioned before here on RotLC, that of teenagers' taking nudie pics of themselves and sending said pics around via cell phone. This story, though, has the added twist that cheerleaders are involved.

The parents of two Seattle-area high school cheerleaders are suing the district for suspending the girls from the squad after nude photographs of them circulated via text message...

The lawsuits, filed on Nov. 17, say the district violated the girls' due process rights, according to the paper. The families allege it was unnecessary for school officials to share the photos with other staff members, and claim they were negligent in failing to report the matter to police as a potential case of child pornography.

I'm trying to figure out why the school needs to get involved at all, if none of the activity was done at school. As for what the girls did--*sigh*.

Going Downhill

A university education isn't the liberal arts expanse it used to be.

Over the last four decades, various philosophical and ideological strands united to contribute to the decline of classical education. A creeping vocationalism, for one, displaced much of the liberal arts curriculum in the crowded credit-hours of indebted students. Forfeiting classical learning in order to teach undergraduates a narrow skill (what the Greeks called a technê) was predicated on the shaky notion that undergraduate instruction in business or law would produce superior CEOs or lawyers—and would more successfully inculcate the arts of logic, reasoning, fact-based knowledge, and communication so necessary for professional success...

Political correctness, meanwhile, turned upside-down the old standard of inductive reasoning, the linchpin of the liberal arts. Students now were to accept preordained general principles—such as the pernicious legacy of European colonialism and imperialism and the pathologies of capitalism, homophobia, and sexism—and then deductively to demonstrate how such crimes manifested themselves in history, literature, and science. The university viewed itself as nearly alone in its responsibility for formulating progressive remedies for society’s ills. Society at large, government, the family, and religion were hopelessly reactionary.

There's much to be gained from a well-rounded education.

Backing Off The Community Service Requirement?

The president-elect has [1] backpedaled on his longstanding campaign promise to have government mandate community service by students. Seemingly more innocuously, he now plans to “call on” and “encourage” them to serve by “setting a goal” for all middle school and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students who perform 100 hours of service to receive a tax credit guaranteeing that the first $4,000 of their college education is entirely free.

The article from which the above was excerpted goes on to explain why mandatory community service is a bad thing. Community service isn't bad in and of itself, but its implementation in schools could easily be--how shall I put this delicately?--less than optimal.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Best Education Blog?

I can't bring myself to nominate my own blog, but I can be just pathetic enough to ask a reader to nominate me, if you think this blog is worthy of such a nomination.

Fired For Blogging

I've read about this on a few sites.

But not to worry. I have no intention of stopping blogging just because some knucklehead wants to fire me for it.

The Poor British

They seem to be going to Hell in a handbasket and don't even know it. Evidence? Exhibit A:

British parents looking to see their children in a traditional Christmas play are fuming after a school decided to cancel the performance because it conflicts with the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper reported...

A letter sent by school officials and obtained by the paper apologized for "any misunderstanding" but said it had to respect "the cultures and religions of all the children.”

“The Christmas performance has not been canceled outright but has been postponed until the New Year," the letter read.

One wonders how "the cultures and religions of all the children" can be respected when the culture and religion of the seeming majority of students is cast aside in an attempt to appeal to a minority.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Simon Fraser University

When I go through my Statcounter data to see who visited this blog and how they got here, I always enjoy seeing visitors from elsewhere in the Anglosphere, especially our neighbor to the north. I especially enjoy seeing visitors whose IP address indicates they're from Simon Fraser University.

Huh? Where?

I've visited Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, a few times (love it there!!!) and hence know that Simon Fraser University is a school in the greater Vancouver area. Seeing visitors from there always reminds me of my trips to British Columbia, and those are good memories, indeed.

Tonight I got to thinking: what if Fraser's middle initial was T? What would the university's sweatshirts say? :-)

Patriotism and Two Interesting Sections of California Education Code

While reading ed code to find some information for another post, I came across Section 38117:

The governing board of each school district throughout the state shall provide for each schoolhouse under its control, a suitable Flag of the United States, which shall be hoisted above each schoolhouse during all school sessions and on school holidays,weather permitting.

The governing board of each school district shall provide smaller and suitable United States Flags to be displayed in each schoolroom at all times during the school sessions.

The governing board of each school district shall enforce this section.

Additionally, Section 52720 states the following:

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

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

From these I glean two interesting points. The first point is that our legislature does not intend for our schools to be patriotism-free zones, and the second is that raising the flag each morning does not, in and of itself, satisfy the "patriotic exercise" requirement of Section 52720.

Also of interest is the fact that I have provided my own national and state flags in my classroom (actually, my current ones were given to me as a gift by a former student) because my classroom had none when I moved in over 5 years ago.

This post ties in nicely with this post from a couple weeks ago, about the pledge of allegiance.

Selling Ads on Tests

A reader asked me to comment on this story:

Squeezed by classroom budget cuts, the Rancho Bernardo High School teacher is selling ads on his exams to cover the costs of printing them.

Here goes.

If I'm mortified by anything in this story, it's that in a state that spends half its budget on schools, there isn't enough money for some teachers to make the copies we need.

I don't fault this teacher for doing this at all. I think it's creative. In fact, I've suggested similar, though not as creative, things in a previous post. The bottom line, though, is that while there is plenty of money going towards education in this state, it's clearly not being spent wisely if we're being penny-ante about copies. As a similar example from my own school, my department head told me yesterday that ordering the overhead projector bulb I need would almost bankrupt our department for the rest of the school year. Let me repeat: I need a light bulb for an overhead projector, a tool math teachers use daily. We have no bulbs in our supply cabinet, and barely have enough money to buy 1 more bulb for the whole department for the rest of the school year.

California Education Code Section 38118 states the following:

Writing and drawing paper, pens, inks, blackboards, blackboard erasers, crayons, lead pencils, and other necessary supplies for the use of the schools, shall be furnished under direction of the governing boards of the school districts.

Notice that this says shall, not can. No one really believes that schools provide pencils, paper, etc. to students, or else there wouldn't be Back To School Sales each August. So we don't provide what we're supposed to provide to students, and we don't provide to teachers even the minimum they need in order to provide instruction (overhead bulb) and assess learning (copies).

I don't fault this teacher one bit. I blame a school bureaucracy that includes the governor, the legislature, the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, local school districts, and school site administrators for creating a situation in which a teacher would feel compelled even to spend one second of time thinking of how to raise money for test copies.

Carnival of Education

This week's Carnival, paradoxically enough with a Scrooge theme, is over at Learn Me Good and includes one of my posts about the Obamas' sending their daughters to private school.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Culturally-Responsive Curriculum

The course is one of the school district's efforts to improve culturally responsive education. The term means making curriculum and instruction more diverse, so minority students can better understand their academic heritage, feel comfortable in the classroom and be motivated to learn.

District officials and policy advocates said culturally responsive education is a break with European-centered education and an incorporation of the various racial, ethnic and social perspectives that shape a discipline.

Pardon the pun, but color me unimpressed.

Another upcoming initiative, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will involve the use of African art to teach such subjects as math and social studies. The pilot project will begin at selected schools next fall.

Not to be flippant here, but has any achievement in mathematics ever come about via the use of African art?

At best the above is feel-good pablum, and that's at best. It's far more likely to be the soft bigotry of low expectations, among other forms of bigotry. It's been said on this blog more than once: students need to achieve and be proud of their own achievements, not take pseudo-pride in the achievements of others who share their skin color. And let's not forget this gem:

But isn't this a twist on the pseudo-science of old, which claimed that efforts to educate blacks would be fruitless because their capacity to learn was different from that of whites? Why is this argument acceptable today simply because it is being advanced by minority "multiculturalists"? The view that blacks and whites somehow interpret learning differently is -- in part -- a holdover from the silly debates surrounding "ebonics" that raged throughout the 1990s and that continue to handicap discussions of urban education to this very day.

And in a post on so-called ethnomathematics I quoted:

Young people need to be shown that they need to accomplish something in their own lives and be proud of that, not to be proud by dubious association with a group hundreds of years and thousands of miles removed from them.
The purveyors of victimology (oh, the white man isn't culturally responsive to the needs of anyone who isn't a white man) just keep on trying, don't they?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Student Cheating

It's all over the edublogosphere--the Josephson Institute's study that found cheating is not only rampant amongst our students, but is increasingly so.

You need no commentary from me on this topic. What I found most interesting in the survey was this:

As bad as these numbers are, it appears they understate the level of dishonesty exhibited by America’s youth. More than one in four (26 percent) confessed they lied on at least one or two questions on the survey.