Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
In. Asked to respond immediately, and without thinking (in other words, to respond like a liberal), many will say "out".

Today's question is:
What kind of car “ran great” in the All In The Family title song?

If They Open In Sacramento, I'll Consider Applying

Given their student body, the name American Indian Public Charter sounds like a misnomer. But their philosophy, and more importantly their results, speak for themselves:

Not many schools in California recruit teachers with language like this: "We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply."

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television's "Colbert Report." They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded "self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort," to quote the school's website.


That's the philosophy side of the house. Here are the results:

By standard measures, they are among the very best in California.

The Academic Performance Index, the central measuring tool for California schools, rates schools on a scale from zero to 1,000, based on standardized test scores. The state target is an API of 800. The statewide average for middle and high schools is below 750. For schools with mostly low-income students, it is around 650.

The oldest of the American Indian schools, the middle school known simply as American Indian Public Charter School, has an API of 967. Its two siblings -- American Indian Public Charter School II (also a middle school) and American Indian Public High School -- are not far behind.

Among the thousands of public schools in California, only four middle schools and three high schools score higher. None of them serves mostly underprivileged children.


And here's the demographic make-up:

At American Indian, the largest ethnic group is Asian, followed by Latinos and African Americans. Some of the schools' critics contend that high-scoring Asian Americans are driving the test scores, but blacks and Latinos do roughly as well -- in fact, better on some tests.
Well, it is Oakland. I found similar demographics at the Oakland Military Institute.

For those who don't think high test scores mean much, how about this little tidbit:

On Tuesday, American Indian's high school will graduate its first senior class. All 18 students plan to attend college in the fall, 10 at various UC campuses, one at MIT and one at Cornell.


It's a lengthy article, but well worth your time. The more I read about the school, the more it sounds like the mythical All-American High School I fantasize about founding when California creates a sound voucher program.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
William F. Buckley, Jr.

Today's question is:
Quickly, without thinking: what is the opposite of not in?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Learning Math In Washington State

Much of Washington is politically conservative, but not the Puget Sound area. That area is not just liberal, but rabidly so, and it's the most populous part of the state. In fact, it's often (not so humorously) joked that the only people in Washington who matter can be seen from the Space Needle.

So we'd expect lots of spacey liberal ideas to come out of Washington. We'd expect lots of self-esteem and kumbayyah and underclass victimology. And sure enough, we get them. It's not surprising that these ideas actually hurt the people they purport to help, but it is surprising when someone points that out:

Shockingly Seattle and Washington Schools are among the most ethnically discriminatory in regard to mathematics education in the USA...

K-12 math practices that instructionally disable learners must end. School should be a place where math content and skills can be efficiently learned. Unfortunately many Seattle parents find home to be the place where that happens(,) NOT school, but what happens to children with no such supportive home environment(?) They are termed educationally disadvantaged. For math in Seattle they would appropriately be identified as out of luck. Seattle, whether by ignorance or design, chooses instructional materials and practices that are known to be ineffective for disadvantaged learners. The result is student confusion and overt discrimination of disadvantaged learners.


I'll bet they'll be in touch with their feeeeelings, though, and be angry at the world, even though they won't know exactly why.

Listen To Them Squeal!

Women outnumber men at our universities. Women outnumber men in the earning of bachelor's degrees. Universities have "women's centers" but not "men's centers". Universities have clubs and organizations specifically for women but not for men.

What happens when one man creates a men's advocacy group at the University of Chicago? Let the howls of "misogynist" begin!

A third-year student from Lake Bluff has formed Men in Power, a student organization that promises to help men get ahead professionally. But the group's emergence has been controversial, with some critics charging that its premise is misogynistic...

Similarly, Ali Feenstra, a third-year student and a member of the Feminist Majority, questioned Men in Power's utility.

"It's like starting 'white men in business' -- there's not really any purpose," she said.

Note to Ms. Feenstra, et. al.: The fact that this group exists takes nothing away from you and/or your groups at all. Stop the hate, stop the bigotry--starting with your own.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1958, on a New York-Paris flight by now-defunct Pan Am.

Today's question is:
Who founded National Review magazine?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

He's A Queen, All Right

Prom king and queen. What is their purpose? Do they serve any real purpose anymore, or, as I believe, are they merely a throwback to long-gone days?

If you can articulate a genuine purpose behind having a prom king and queen, what is the value in having a boy chosen as prom queen?

An openly gay teen was voted prom queen at Los Angeles' Fairfax High School in a campaign that began as a stunt but ended up spurring discussion on the campus about gender roles and teen popularity.


I admit, I liked this part of a pre-victory speech he gave:

"At one time, prom may have been a big popularity contest where the best-looking guy or girl were crowned king and queen. Things have changed and it's no longer just about who has the most friends or who wears the coolest clothes," Garcia told a gymnasium full of seniors. "I'm not your typical prom queen candidate. There's more to me than meets the eye."

While the sentiment is valuable, is this really an exercise in open-mindedness? Is it nothing more than showing the uselessness of having a prom king and queen in the first place? Is it a big joke, so maybe the students will create and witness discomfort when the king and queen are supposed to dance?

Whatever it is, it bears no resemblance to the reasoning behind choosing a king and queen back when that tradition was in its genesis.

It's Good Work If You Can Get It

Can't say as I'd turn the money down if it were coming my way:

Under the Freedom of Information Act the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility (CFFR) has obtained and posted “The CalSTRS $100,000 Pension Club” — a list of more than 3,000 retired educators who are receiving pensions of $100,000 or more per year. You can access the list in PDF here.

It's Long And Hard

Sometimes you know you've said something wrong as soon as the words pass your lips.

Today, when telling my students what a wonderful teacher I am, I told them they get a good final exam--as opposed to the final exam created by a fellow teacher. That one is long, and hard.

There was no immediate recovery from that slip-up.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Emma (Geller-Green(e))

Today's question is:
In what year did the Boeing 707 enter airline service?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rate Hikes for the Retirement Fund

I've written several posts about the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS (Cal-stirs) for short. In this post from over 2 years ago I discussed potential raises in my "contribution" that were being considered in order to keep the fund solvent.

Nothing happened on that front in the last two-plus years, but now that times are bad, such ideas are on the table again:

CalSTRS, hit with significant investment losses in the past year, is preparing to ask the Legislature for billions of dollars in higher pension contributions from the state, school districts and teachers.

The request might not come for another year or so, and the higher rates might not kick in until even further down the road. But the California State Teachers' Retirement System is laying the groundwork now, prepping lawmakers and lobbyists on an issue that could meet with considerable resistance as the state struggles with a historic deficit and school districts are laying off teachers...

The process of seeking approval kicked into gear Tuesday, when Cal-STRS staff revealed that the fund's long-term funding gap had grown to $22.5 billion as of last June, up from $20.7 billion a year earlier. That's an annual measure of how much more CalSTRS says it needs to fund its pension benefits over the next 30 years.


I wonder if I'll get that retirement villa on the French Riviera after all.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
San Bernardino County, California.

Today's question is:
On the tv show Friends, what was Ross and Rachel's daughter's name?

Carnival of Education

This weeks is posted here and includes my post about Bibles' being made available at one school.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Asimov the Seer

Isaac Asimov is, among other things, one of the 20th century's greatest science fiction writers.

And science fiction isn't all peaches and cream, a la Gene Roddenberry. Some science fiction was rather dark, and sometimes it presented a neutral ground from which to view the troubles of our own day. Other times it gave a glimpse of what could be, for better or for worse.

I've written recently, and relatively often, about the lack of fundamental math skills so many display. What would happen, though, if no one had any such skills? What if we relied too much on computers?

Asimov gave us a glimpse--complete with Cold War misgivings about the military--back in 1957 in a story called The Feeling of Power.

Even Wikipedia has a summary.

We're far, far removed from the concerns of the story, so it merely makes for entertaining reading. Today, anyway.

Perfect Attendance

Kudos to this girl!

Cal Ripken, Iron Man of the Baltimore Orioles, played in 2,632 consecutive baseball games.

Stefanie Zaner, Iron Kid of Darnestown, is closing in on her 2,340th straight day of public school...

But hers is a rare accomplishment. Not once in 13 years was Stefanie marked absent: not for a cold, a family vacation, a college visit or a senior skip day.

More Cuts To Education

You can't require 40-50% of the state budget be spent on education, and then not cut education when the state's in deep doo-doo. The question at that point isn't if education gets cut, but by how much.

So what are we looking at in California?

K-12 education makes up nearly 40 percent of the state budget, so it's virtually impossible for lawmakers to solve the $21 billion deficit without affecting schools. And that really means affecting the people who work in them, because salaries make up 80 to 90 percent of most district budgets.

Decisions on school staffing are made locally, the product of negotiations between each of the state's roughly 1,000 school districts and their local teachers unions...

Right now state law requires a school year of at least 180 days. Schwarzenegger's proposal calls for temporarily changing the law to allow districts to cut the school year to 173 days for the next three years. Each district and its union would decide whether to shorten the year.

"It's just to give them an option, it's not that we want to reduce instructional time," said Kathryn Gaither, the governor's undersecretary of education.

"We're just trying to figure out ways to help them manage this big chunk that's coming out of their budget."


Clearly, something must be done. Instead of dictating at the state level, the government is letting individual districts decide how to absorb the cuts.

But wait! Someone isn't happy.

The president of the California Teachers Association – the umbrella group over local teachers unions – said he won't tell locals whether to opt for a shorter year or more layoffs. David Sanchez said he opposes both.

"When you shorten the school year, you're making it less time for teaching and less time for students to learn," he said.

"I am against shortening the school year because the final impact is going to be on our students … not to mention our members losing out on salary and benefits. But I'm also against the other option of reductions of teachers across the state. No one should be out of a job at this time."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is indicative of the problem that got us to this point in the first place. How does SeƱor Sanchez propose to solve this budget crisis? How would any liberal propose doing so? Raise taxes (including on those teachers he claims to want to protect).

Broken record.

It Took A Study To Figure This Out?

This study probably came via a grant of taxpayer dollars, and tells us nothing that high school teachers don't already know:

Six-year-olds who don't pay attention well in class apparently struggle throughout their school years, and reach age 17 with lower math and reading scores than their peers, a new study shows.

The study, by researchers from UC Davis Medical School and Michigan State University, dovetails with earlier findings that show attention problems can hinder a child's performance throughout grade school.

Duh.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Twice, to Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie. There are reports that she might be marrying again soon.

Today's question is:
What is the largest county in the United States, by area?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Japan, whose current sovereign is Emperor Akihito.

Today's question is:
How many times has Madonna been married? (Bonus points for naming the husband(s).)

Memorial Day

Take a look at the two cropped screenshots below, taken just moments ago.


I prefer the top one, by a large amount.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Want As Little Debt As Possible When Graduating From College?

Short of going to a service academy, having rich relatives who will spring for everything, or getting an awesome scholarship, graduating with as little debt as possible is probably a big concern. How might one accomplish this? Perhaps by reading this article, and responding accordingly :-)

Seniors at for-profit colleges are more than twice as likely to have accumulated dangerous amounts of education loans as seniors at other kinds of four-year colleges, according to a new report.

Almost 30 percent of seniors at for-profit universities in 2008 owed at least $40,000 in college loans, an amount that could be excessive, according to a new analysis of the latest federal data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org and Fastweb.com. For comparison, only about 11 percent of seniors at private nonprofit colleges—many of which charge higher sticker prices than typical for-profits—graduate with excessive debt, Kantrowitz found. And excessive debt was a problem for only about 6 percent of seniors at public universities, which are typically comparatively lower priced. That means new graduates of for-profit schools are about five times as likely to have borrowed heavily as new graduates of public universities.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Pete Best.

Today's question is:
Which is the only remaining country whose monarch's title is customarily translated into English as “Emperor”?

Delaware Military Academy

The following is an excerpt from an email I received from an email list of which I am a member, and I have received permission from the author to post this here:

I work for the Department of Education in Delaware in the area of charter schools. Since the election of Barack Obama you have probably heard of his interest and emphasis on charter schools as a viable and productive choice for public school students. I have been intimately involved in the charter movement in Delaware over the past few years and have grown fond of this alternative for parents.

The people I have met that take the risk to initiate these schools have been no less than inspiring. It’s not been perfect but innovation involves a lot of trial and error. Currently in Delaware, there is a charter school that has been in operation for the past 9 years and it is modeled after the United States Naval Academy. It really is something to behold. It is a high school that runs like the academy. I visited several times and it always makes me proud to see these young people so committed at such an early age. This school is currently producing the most candidates for the academies than any other high school in the United States.

If you know anything about the state of education in the United States you know that it is at times dismal. The school, named the Delaware Military Academy, does not even employ custodians because the cadets take care of that school from top to bottom. The commandant would welcome any visitor to view this operation. It is quite impressive.

I have been asked to look into the possibility of opening a similar school modeled after the United States Military Academy. The Navy committed to supporting the Delaware Military Academy and establishing it as a school wide junior ROTC program. I am not well versed in the areas of junior ROTC, hence my e mail to you. I am hoping to gain some guidance/interest in our West Point community in developing Army charter schools where the state laws permit.

I support military ideals and I support the idea of charter schools; combine the two and you have something I value. To read my post about a related school in California, click here.

Men on Campus--Endangered Species?

From Inside Higher Ed:

The 2nd Conference on College Men brought about 100 professors, student affairs professionals and counselors to the University of Pennsylvania this week. Frank Harris’ list of citations offers some insights into why they came: Research showing lower rates of enrollment, persistence and graduation among college men in comparison to college women; the underrepresentation of men in campus leadership positions, in study abroad, career services and civic engagement programs; and their overrepresentation among campus judicial offenders.
What's the cause? What's the solution? What's being done about it?

The article itself is, uh, interesting enough. But to get the full flavor, you have to read the comments. As I type this there are only 10 of them.

A Little Math Knowledge

Last night I went with my neighbors up to A&W to grab a little dinner. That visit provides this anecdote about math education.

We all know that fast food places don't have real cash registers anymore. No, employees now push buttons labeled with the food items and the machine magically spits out a number at the end. One might think these employees, this younger generation that's supposed to be so adept at using "technology", would know how to make these cash registers sing, or at least how to account for the use of a coupon, but one might be mistaken in that thought.

My neighbors used a coupon that provided a meal for an even $5, making their total charge $10 plus tax. The employee dutifully entered their order and then confidently announced that the price was $13 and some cents.

It didn't occur to her that anything could possibly be wrong.

My neighbors instantly got agitated, and looked at the coupon to see what they missed. I said immediately, "That's over 30% tax. Something's wrong."

Yes, California's sales tax rate is now over 8%, and Sacramento county gets its claws into us, too. But we're nowhere near 30%. Heck, that's even higher than the British Columbian tax rate with VAT added on!

Not knowing what to do, the employee called over another teenager, and they spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to enter this order. Eventually the machine came up with a figure of $10.88, which we accepted.

At a minimum, the employees should know how to use the machine; that's management's problem. However, the deeper problem is the lack of math knowledge that didn't allow for the employee to even recognize that the price was obviously off.

That's why I'm so against the use of calculators in math classes beyond mere computation. Knowing how to use the machine may be sufficient for A&W, but it's not in math class. It's not enough to know how to use a machine to get an answer in math class; students must understand the math itself.

West Point's Class of 2009

A few details:

The class includes eight Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, a Rhodes Scholar and two East/West Center Fellows. In addition, 28 members of the graduating class earned recognition as Honor Graduates. The award reflects overall excellence in cadet performance, including academic, military and physical.

This year 50 Superintendent’s Awards for Excellence were presented to the cadets in the top 5 percent of the class. Another 150 cadets were earned the Superintendent’s Award for Achievement, and 172 received recognition for earning a GPA of 3.67.

The class itself is a picture of diversity.

Of the 970 cadets, 144 are women, 63 African Americans, 62 Asian/Pacific Islanders, 74 Hispanics and 15 Native Americans. The majority of the class, which also includes 17 foreign students, were commissioned second lieutenants.

Well done, lieutenants.

Take a look at that first paragraph I've quoted above. All those awards for one class at such a small school. Tom Ricks can bite me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
4, with wins over the Bengals in '82 and '89, over Miami in '85, and over Denver in '90. Steve Young quarterbacked the 49ers in the team's 5th Super Bowl win, over San Diego in '95.

Today's question is:
Who was the original drummer for The Beatles?

Bachelor's Degree in Three Years

I've read that one of the reasons so many students take more than four years to get a degree is that they can't get the courses they need in a timely manner. How is that going to be resolved if schools try to push for a three-year degree?

In an era when college students commonly take longer than four years to get a bachelor's degree, some U.S. schools are looking anew at an old idea: slicing a year off their undergraduate programs to save families time and money.

Advocates of a three-year undergraduate degree say it would work well for ambitious students who know what they want to study. Such a program could provide the course requirements for a major and some general courses that have long been the hallmark of American education.

The four-year bachelor's degree has been the model in the United States since the first universities began operating before the American Revolution. Four-year degrees were designed in large part to provide a broad-based education that teaches young people to analyze and think critically, considered vital preparation to participate in the civic life of American democracy.

The three-year degree is the common model at the University of Cambridge and Oxford University in England, and some U.S. schools have begun experimenting with the idea. To cram four years of study into three, some will require summer work, others will shave course lengths and some might cut the number of credit hours required.

On principle, I'm against cutting the number of units. I also think students should get a more well-rounded education than many are getting now.

Segregated Proms

I'm all for allowing people to choose whether or not they want to associate with other people. We call that freedom.

The future looms large. But for the 54 students in the class of 2009 at Montgomery County High School, so, too, does the past. On May 1 — a balmy Friday evening — the white students held their senior prom. And the following night — a balmy Saturday — the black students had theirs.
Give people freedom, and some will make "unpopular" choices. And that's OK, because freedom means nothing if you're free only to do what others want you to do.

But I do await the day when these segregated prom stories won't have to be written anymore.

Arne Duncan on California Education

From the LA Times:

"California used to lead the nation in education," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaking to dozens of mayors, superintendents and school board trustees at San Francisco City Hall.

"Honestly, California has lost its way."

When, exactly, did California lead the nation in education? That it did at some point in the rose-colored past is one of those facts that has entered the public consciousness, but I don't know that it's ever been demonstrated to any level of specificity.

My dad and grandparents moved to California from New Mexico right before my dad's senior year in high school. He was an above average student in New Mexico, but his grades shot up here in California. Two schools, two states, one anecdote--but there's more proof in that anecdote than I've ever heard regarding the Secretary's comment.

But let's avoid that tangent and get back on track.

Duncan said that although stopping teacher layoffs and reducing class sizes are important, the money must also be used to drive reform, such as using student achievement data to evaluate teacher effectiveness and turning around the most troubled schools.

"Investing in the status quo is not going to move the ball down the field," Duncan told hundreds of people at a San Francisco School Alliance benefit luncheon.

That could be interesting. Since using student testing data to measure student achievement is currently against the law, the legislature would have to fight the CTA on that one. It would be an interesting cat fight.

"We have lacked the political courage and we have lacked the will to do the right thing by children," he said. "Our dysfunctional adult relationships have hurt children in far too many places"...

He also said the state's reluctance to use student achievement data to evaluate teachers -- rewarding the best and getting rid of the worst -- was "mind-boggling."

"The data doesn't tell the whole truth, but the data doesn't lie," he said. "This firewall between students and teachers is bad for children and bad for education."

And which organization is the source of so many of those "dysfunctional adult relationships"? Three letters, starts with C....

Duncan assessed several facets of the state's education policy, praising California standards as more rigorous than those of other states.

In this statement he is correct, California's academic content standards are rigorous. They are also specific, measurable, and achievable. The state as a whole needs to do a better job of helping children to achieve them--and yes, that includes modifying a culture that doesn't value education as much as it says it does.

Shoe's On The Other Foot

Oh, how they whine:

The RNC video, which begins with the speaker’s head in the iconic spy-series gun sight, implies that Pelosi has used her feminine wiles to dodge the truth about whether or not she was briefed by the CIA on the use of waterboarding in 2002. While the P-word is never mentioned directly, in one section the speaker appears in a split screen alongside the Bond nemesis – and the video’s tagline is “Democrats Galore.”

The wisdom of equating the first woman speaker of the House with a character whose first name also happens to be among the most vulgar terms for a part of the female anatomy might be debated – if the RNC were willing to do so, which it was not. An RNC spokesperson refused repeated requests by POLITICO to explain the point of the video, or the intended connection between Pelosi and Galore.

But what isn’t open to debate is that the waterboarding conflict has been accompanied by a cascade of attacks on the speaker, not as a leader or a legislator, but as a woman.

Earlier this week, Pittsburgh radio host Jim Quinn referred to the speaker on his program as “this bitch”; last week, syndicated radio host Neal Boortz opined “how fun it is to watch that hag out there twisting in the wind.”

Let's review; how did rabid lefties express their displeasure with Carrie Prejean, Miss California USA? I do believe it went a little beyond "I disagree with this young woman's stance on gay marriage."

What attacks were made against Sarah Palin? They questioned her abilities as a mother, challenged whether her baby was actually her baby, and criticized her for getting new clothes, among others.

Michelle Malkin is constantly savaged, publicly, to include suggestions of rape with barbed wire.

Poor Nancy has her head photoshopped onto the body of a Bond girl, and the left goes wild?

Boo freakin' hoo.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, believes that those who attack female leaders on gender grounds do so out of weakness.

I cannot seem to find any commentary from Ms. Smeal regarding Prejean, Palin, or Malkin. I'd wonder why, if I didn't already know the answer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

California's Economic Day of Reckoning?

Here's the problem whenever there's a discussion about cutting the state budget:

The governor's cutbacks could include ending the state's main welfare program for the poor, eliminating health coverage for about 1.5 million poor children, halting cash grants for about 77,000 college students, shortening the school year by seven days, laying off thousands of state workers and teachers, slashing money for state parks and releasing thousands of prisoners before their sentences are finished.


Here's a list of all the state agencies, commissions, boards, and offices. Can any of these be cut or eliminated before we cut education, public safety, or infrastructure? How about those bonds that were passed, $6B for stem cell research and $10B for high speed rail?

Update, 5/25/09: If I've said it once I've said it a million times--California doesn't have an income problem, it has a spending problem. I just read this article and liked the closing sentence:
Any analysis that doesn't explore how a higher-than-inflation-plus-immigration budget has failed to deliver on any increase in services, is not an analysis worth taking more seriously than common propaganda.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Thomas Jefferson. (I guess I could have specified that I was looking for the person on the front of the bill. Smart aleck.)

Today's question is:
How many Super Bowl rings does Joe Montana have?

Pushing a Gay Agenda, or Merely Teaching About Gays?

Is teaching kindergartners about gay relationships really appropriate, necessary, or even a good use of school time?

A group of parents in a California school district say they are being bullied by school administrators into accepting a new curriculum that addresses bullying, respect and acceptance -- and that includes compulsory lessons about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that will be taught to children as young as 5 years old.

The parents from the Unified School District in Alameda, a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland, say these issues are best learned at home and most definitely are not age-appropriate for elementary school children...

Among the course materials that could be added to the curriculum is "And Tango Makes Three," a children’s book about gay penguins struggling to create a family. The book has been banned in some areas of the country.


Before you comment based strictly on your feeeeeeelings on this issue, please go read the full article to get a flavor of all the issues that play a part in a controversy such as this.

Carnival of Education

This week's is back home at the Education Wonks, and includes my post about working for babysitter wages.

Sick Is As Sick Does

Having sex with a 6th-grader is bad enough. Capitalizing on that infamy by hosting a "Hot For Teacher" night at a bar is extreme:

A teacher who became notorious in the 1990s for having an affair with a sixth-grader is hosting a "Hot for Teacher" night at a Seattle bar - along with the former student, now her husband.

Morris says Saturday's event at Fuel Sports Eats & Beats will be their third "Hot for Teacher" night. She greets people and he DJs.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kirkland, Washington (hence, its Kirkland Signature product line).

Today's question is:
Which famous American is on the $2 bill?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Being Appreciated

It's always nice to be recognized or appreciated.

Or district's previous superintendent was a firm believer in the 3 R's--relevance, rigor, and relationships. These were his watchwords. Our school has an AVID program, and even though that superintendent is gone now, the seniors' AVID teachers thought it would be nice for the students to identify those teachers they've had (if any) who exemplified the 3 R's. The students then wrote letters to these teachers, knowing the letters would be given to the teachers.

I got a few.

What surprised me, and another teacher I spoke to, was the students from whom we received letters. We both got them from students we never would have guessed, which is a reward in itself.

Without going into any more detail, it's a thoughtful exercise for the teachers to come up with, and a thoughtful thing for the students to do. It feels good.

Californians Are Ticked

We had a special election yesterday, and the results have astounded me. I've never seen anything like this.

After each election the Secretary of State posts graphics on the web site. These graphics show how each county voted on each proposition and office, and usually they all look similar--the coastal counties vote mostly liberal, and the inland counties vote mostly conservative. No matter what the office or the proposition is, one map looks pretty much like all the others.

Yesterday there were 6 statewide propositions. On 5 of these propositions, every single county in the state voted the same way. On only one, Proposition 1B (which had something to do with education money), was there a difference--three counties voted for it, and the remaining counties voted against it. Click here, and then on the maps for the individual propositions, to see what I mean.

Five of the propositions failed by about a 2-1 margin, and the one that passed was by a 3-1 margin. But the consistency across the counties is what is surprising me most.

It may never happen again in my lifetime.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Alaska, which has boroughs and the Unorganized Borough; and Lousiana, which has parishes.

Today's question is:
In what city was the retail chain Costco founded?

Oh no!

I don't watch near as much television as I used to; then again, I spend a lot of time on my computer blogging! But this past season I enjoyed not only the concept, but the writing on the NBC show Kings. It was designed to be a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of King David. I enjoyed the cool military uniforms--the protagonist was David Shepherd, a soldier--and the tales of palace intrigue.

I won't be enjoying the show anymore.

Update, 5/22/09: Here's a better synopsis of the show.

Created by executive producer Michael Green ("Heroes"), NBC's drama "Kings" retold the timeless tale of David and Goliath. The epic story's young hero inadvertently rose to power amidst war, greed, power, and romance. Instantly, viewers were welcomed to the Kingdom of Gilboa, a modern-day monarchy led by the well entrenched King Silas Benjamin (Ian McShane, "Deadwood"). Gilboa was at war with the neighboring Gath and on the battlefield was where young soldier David Shepherd (Chris Egan) emerged as Gilboa's symbol of bravery. King Silas invited David into the capital city of Shiloh, but soon realized that David may very well take over his throne. After airing four episodes in the Sunday 8pm timeslot, NBC relegated the drama to Saturday nights and allowed it to air its remaining eight episodes. "Kings" is a show that never really had a chance, which is quite a shame because it boasted a strong cast, the concept was unique, and the production quality was breathtaking. Regardless, the ratings dipped week after week, and with such low ratings it never stood a chance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Political Correctness

I just received an email that had the following statement in it:

Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant" is like calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist".

Lefties, please explain the difference to me. Logically.

Come To School, Come To Jesus

Is this against the law, bad judgement, or just an excuse for some people to get their panties in a bunch?

Some parents in Frisco, Texas, are fuming because their public school district allowed Christian evangelists to provide Bibles to students on school grounds, which administrators say was done to stop even more proselytizing outside the schools.

Frisco Independent Schools allowed Gideons International to display Bibles on tabletops in all 13 of the district's middle and high schools last week. Officials say it didn't violate the law, but some parents say school is not the place to be offering the Good Book...

The Gideons are now taking advantage of a school policy that allows them to leave Bibles on a tabletop in the schools' front offices, though they're barred from interacting with students or remaining there during school hours.

So we're told directly that it's not against the law, and we've learned previously that courts have ruled that government must be neutral to religion and not hostile to it. So what, exactly, is the problem here? Is it the same problem some people have with military recruiters, namely that students might possibly have voluntary contact with people against whom the parents have a prejudice? Or am I missing something?

Lutz said she wants the freedom to raise her children as she sees fit — and without the interference of religious groups. She told FOXNews.com she worried that allowing one group to offer Bibles in the school would open the floodgates to any groups who want to reach students on school grounds.

Other groups like what, the Sacramento Veterans For Peace, for example? No, we wouldn't want them in our schools, passing out brochures.

The Gideons aren't even interacting with students; they've left the Bibles on a table, just as the anti-military brochures (at the link above) were left on a table. Take one if you want.

A spokeswoman for the school district said that a number of materials are made available to students this way, including newspapers, camp brochures and tutoring pamphlets. College and military recruitment information is available all year long. The Gideon Bibles were made available for just one day.

I'm sorry, I just can't get worked up over having Bibles on a table for a day for students to take if they want one.

What we have here is an issue of--say it with me--tolerance. Some folks should practice a little more of it.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Silver.

Today's question is:
Which US states do not have counties?

Monday, May 18, 2009

How's the CTA Spending Your Money?

CTA is spending even more teachers' money on losing ballot initiatives:
The battle over six budget-related measures on Tuesday's special election ballot has generated more than $31.5 million in campaign spending, split the state's labor community and created strange bedfellows on both sides.

Supporters, aided by the powerful California Teachers Association and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's business allies, have raised more than $27.6 million to back Propositions 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 1F...

The California Teachers Association and its national affiliate, the National Education Association, have spent $12.2 million, mostly in support of propositions 1A and 1B. But the CTA also has given nearly $2 million to a campaign committee backing all six measures.


California teachers, if you really supported the political leanings of your union, you'd have donated this money out of your own pocket instead of just saying that you agree with the union's position.

The "Fighting Native Wussies"

Joanne reports that the University of North Dakota is giving up its logo and mascot "The Fighting Sioux".

I've written about mascots before here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. The best summary of my thoughts regarding mascots is from one of those links:

Note to lefties: not everyone wants to be represented by the Banana Slug (UC Santa Cruz). Stop getting your panties in a bunch about perceived slights that really don't exist. Have you seen the San Francisco 49ers 'mascot' at a game? Are you complaining that he looks like a fat, red-haired guy with a too-big mustache--and that's demeaning to red-haired guys with too-big mustaches? Nope, you're not. And if you are, you have other issues. Fighting Irish, anyone?

People choose mascots based on something they respect and/or like. Teams and schools call themselves the Eagles, the Bears, the Lions, the Mustangs, the Dragons, the Warriors--things that inspire respect and motivate their fans. I'll never understand how people take offense at that.
I'm sure the UND fans would love to cheer for the Fighting Native Wussies.

I wonder what would happen if some Christians complained that Duke's, Wake Forest's, or Arizona State's mascots are an insult to their religion. Actually, no, I don't wonder at all. I know that the ole double standard would kick in--only certain groups get to be aggrieved, even if not legitimately.

Hiding Behind Math While Justifying Vandalism

This idiot suggests that teachers use graffiti-vandalism to teach math--because that's how we validate inner-city culture, isn't it?! How can you take anyone seriously who says the following:

Graffiti challenges, for example, mainstream notions of what counts as art, what counts as public space, and what counts as property, just as emceeing/DJing challenges what counts as music, and bboying challenges what counts as dance.

Mainstream notions of public space and property? Are you kidding me?

This combines "the soft bigotry of low expectations", the worst excesses of "multicultural education", underclass entitlement, and class warefare, all in one. And then to tie it to math? Bonus!

This Is What Elitists Whine About

From--where else?--the New York Times:

CONGRATULATIONS. You are graduating this month with a Baccalaureatus Scientiae in Compertis ad Salutem Pertinentibus Administrandis. It sounds impressive, but what does it have to do with your degree in health information management? Almost no one knows, and that’s why the Latin diploma needs to go.

Latin is a beautiful language and a relief from the incessant novelty and informality of the modern age. But when it’s used on diplomas, the effect is to obfuscate, not edify; its function is to overawe, not delight. The goal of education is the creation and transmission of knowledge — not the creation and transmission of prestige. Why, then, celebrate that education with a document that prizes grandiosity over communication?


Yes, that's the problem with higher education.

Are We No Longer A Nation Of Laws?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'd have no problem if marijuana were legalized in the United States. Presently, though, it's illegal--but we here in California now have federal permission to flout the law:

The Supreme Court rejected appeals today from two hold-out counties in Southern California that object to the state's 13-year-old medical marijuana law and claimed it should be struck down as violating the federal drug-control act.

Without comment, the court turned down the pair of appeals...

Federal officials have continued to insist that all use of marijuana is illegal, even in states such as California. However, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said recently that the federal government will not devote great effort to prosecuting low-level marijuana cases.
How can this be possible?

The Most Liberal and Conservative Cities in California

Again, from the major Sacramento newspaper:

Just before an election, the Secretary of State's Office releases lots of voter registration data. With an election coming up Tuesday, this season's data dump seems like a perfect excuse for a fun look at which cities are the most politically polarized.

The ground rules: To figure out the most conservative cities, we looked for the places with the lowest percentage of voters registered Democrat; for the most liberal, those with the lowest percentage of Republicans. To keep small numbers from masquerading as big trends, we excluded cities with fewer than 5,000 registered voters.


Notice that the cities where you're least likely to find a Democrat still have over 20% Democrats, but cities least likely to find a Republican are significantly lower--even less than 5%. Talk about diversity.

How's that California economy and budget coming along? Which party has run this state for the past few decades?

More Political Correctness

The major Sacramento newspaper tells us about a new park named after a "bad" person:

A rare gift of 28 acres of wild forest just north of the city limits has sparked charges of racism and has pitted environmentalists against social activists.

The land known as Shockley Woods was bequeathed to the Auburn Recreation District with $50,000 for upkeep and one condition: It must be named for a man who believed African Americans are inferior and should be paid not to reproduce.


Well, he may have believed that, but that's not his claim to fame:

Before most of the district's board realized Shockley – winner of the Nobel Prize in 1956 for co-inventing the transistor – had another, more troubling side, the board voted 3-2 to accept the gift from Shockley's estate. They also agreed to the name: "Nobel Laureate William B. Shockley And His Wife Emmy L. Shockley Memorial Park."

And the trouble starts.

Are we going to judge everyone by today's standards, or by the standards of their own time? Who will measure up? George Washington owned slaves, Abe Lincoln is (scurrilously) rumored to have been gay, Cesar Chavez was against illegal immigration, and Dr. King cheated on his wife.

Who is left after whom we can name parks?

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Portugal.

Today's question is:
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore ruby-colored slippers; however, in the original book, the slippers were a different color. What color were they?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Here We Go Again With The Kilts

I wrote about kilts at school over three years ago, and my position on them hasn't changed. The story at the link above is bad enough, but the administrative lobotomy the principal in this story must have had in order to do and say what he did--well, the doctors must have scraped a lot of brain out of there, if there was any to scrape in the first place.
The principal of a Utah middle school has been asked to apologize for forcing a kilt-wearing student to change his clothes...

Gavin says he wore the kilt twice in the past two weeks to Rocky Mountain Junior High as a prop for an art project. Jessop told the boy that the outfit could be misconstrued as cross-dressing.
Sheesh.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Romanov.

Today's question is:
If you were to travel due east from the Statue of Liberty, what would be the first (non-US) country you would encounter?

Three Weeks Left

I have only about a week of teaching left, followed by a week of review and then a week of final exams.

Life is looking good!

Why I'm Happy

Just check out the title of this piece:
Happiness Is ... Being Old, Male and Republican
The article is about general happiness and how the current economy affects that.

Reap What You Sow

So, the left wonders how anyone could question The One?
The problem is that between 2003-2008 there was such hysterical antagonism to Bush that the combatants never worried about the often vicious means they used to achieve their supposedly lofty ends, and so now, finding themselves in a position of responsibility, are infuriated that anyone, well, would even conceive of playing hardball as they once did.

The striking thing about the sudden wounded-fawn Democratic syndrome is that Cheney is far milder than Gore was, that the CIA is not the firebrand Pelosi has been, and Bush has been silent about Obama in a way that even Clinton was not about Bush. If this softball stuff excites such outrage, what will happen if politics really get rough, say, as it was around 2007?
Read more, with specifics, here.

Hat tip to the Colossus of Rhodey.

Another Coup For Wal*Mart

Ok, not really Wal*Mart, but Sam's Club.
SmartMoney.com went shopping for household staples and other items shoppers might regularly purchase to see which stores offer the best savings. We compared prices for 17 items from three warehouse clubs in the New York City metro region against one another and those at local stores, including supermarket chain C-Town, Rite Aid, Petco and K&D Wines & Spirits for items the supermarket didn't carry. Because warehouse clubs tend to carry bigger sizes, prices were adjusted for a unit-by-unit comparison where necessary. We also factored in manufacturers' coupons where available, since both BJ's and local stores accept them.

The results: Even for nonmembers, warehouse clubs offer plenty of good deals, with some of the best savings on over-the-counter medications, personal-care products and pantry staples. There were exceptions to that rule, however -- most notably, bell peppers at the warehouse clubs were almost twice as much as they were at the supermarket, and prescription cholesterol medication was slightly more expensive at one of the clubs than at a chain pharmacy. The winner? Sam's Club's prices were consistently among the best, although BJ's coupon policy made it a serious contender in many categories.
Makes me wish I bought stock in this company back when it was cheaper.

The Myth of the Middle Class School

Call me an idealist, but I don't see a lot of evil teachers. I don't see a lot of racist teachers. I don't see a lot of incompetent teachers. When students at certain schools don't perform as well as we might think they should, given the school demographics, I have a hard time accepting that it's because the teachers don't care about students. There are so many other simpler explanations.

There might be teachers (or administrators) who are quite sincere but using bad pedagogy (fuzzy math or whole language come to mind). Poor curriculum imposed on the schools could play a part. Low expectations can be a problem.

But what if there is more to the problem?

Our national conversation about education reform often focuses on the need to improve schools in urban communities. But the Pacific Research Institute’s new documentary film – Not As Good As You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School – exposes an overlooked reality in American education: middle class schools are not as good as parents think. This documentary highlights serious problems as well as promising solutions for improving educational opportunities for all children.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Uluru.

Today's question is:
What was the family name of the last dynasty to rule Russia, ending with the Bolshevik Revolution?

Freedom

Too many people have only the vaguest notion of freedom. We in America have enjoyed its fruits for so long that many seem to have forgotten all the work required to care for the tree.

Last fall my grandmother died. In an email to fellow West Point graduates I wrote the following:

When she was 21 her country was attacked. Under imminent threat of invasion England cried out for defense, and nana answered the call. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, a "woman's branch" of the army, and served in a mixed-gender anti-aircraft artillery unit. Nana manned the radios, sending verbal IFF (identification, friend or foe) to aircraft and, if they didn't respond correctly, forwarding the location to the predictor, who told the guns where to point, which--well, you know what the guns did...

In the 1950s nana turned one flag in for another, keeping the red, white, and blue. The 4th of July was always a big day in the Miller house. Three colors dominated the house, and even into my years the decorations would come out. It wasn't a superficial celebration or a "We're Number 1" kind of patriotism; it was a quiet, dignified patriotism, the kind that comes from knowing *why* "we're number 1", the kind that comes from staring down the darkness of a thousand-year reich.

Nana understood freedom, in part because she lived under the immediate threat of losing it had the Nazis invaded. Perhaps it takes a direct threat to keep people from taking their freedoms for granted. As Dutch "humanist" Oscar van den Boogaard said, recognizing too late the modern threat to Dutch and European freedoms, "I am not a warrior, but who is? I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."

Columnist Mark Steyn recently gave an exceptional lecture on the topic at Hillsdale University. I encourage you to read the entire lecture, a small part of which I'll reprint here:

"Indolence," in Machiavelli's word: There are stages to the enervation of free peoples. America, which held out against the trend, is now at Stage One: The benign paternalist state promises to make all those worries about mortgages, debt, and health care disappear...

That's Stage Two of societal enervation—when the state as guarantor of all your basic needs becomes increasingly comfortable with regulating your behavior. Free peoples who were once willing to give their lives for liberty can be persuaded very quickly to relinquish their liberties for a quiet life...

That's Stage Three: When the populace has agreed to become wards of the state, it's a mere difference of degree to start regulating their thoughts...

And then comes Stage Four, in which dissenting ideas and even words are labeled as "hatred." In effect, the language itself becomes a means of control...(Orwell taught us about Newspeak--Darren)

The massive expansion of government under the laughable euphemism of "stimulus" (Stage One) comes with a quid pro quo down the line (Stage Two): Once you accept you're a child in the government nursery, why shouldn't Nanny tell you what to do? And then—Stage Three—what to think? And—Stage Four—what you're forbidden to think . . . .

Which brings us to the final stage: As I said at the beginning, Big Government isn't about the money...Conservatives often talk about "small government," which, in a sense, is framing the issue in leftist terms: they're for big government. But small government gives you big freedoms—and big government leaves you with very little freedom. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back. Americans face a choice: They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or they can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. (boldface mine--Darren)

“Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

Live Free Or Die is more than just a motto. It's a way to think, a way of life.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Modest Proposal

A reader sent this link to me. It's not entitled A Modest Proposal, but it's satirical enough that it could be.

There is a great inequity in justice in our public school systems. I refer, of course, to the fact that some students have higher grades than others. This can only be the result of institutional disenfranchisement, and must be corrected by government intervention. Besides, our nation’s future faces catastrophic academic failure if we don’t artificially prop it up now.

By which I mean, the failing students need a bailout.

Rock Star Pay for Teachers?

Heck, I don't need rock star pay. I would accept babysitting wages.

Let's go with $4/hr/student, which is probably very low by today's standards. And even though my contract allows me to have an average of 33 students per class, with up to 36 in any class, let's go easy and say 30 students per class.

Teaching 5 classes per day, that's 150 students, or $600/day. We have 181 days with students, for a total of $108,600. But my contract calls for 185 days per year--pay me the above, and I'll work those extra four days gratis.

But let's get back to the linked article. This author makes a common mistake:

In South Korea, for example, schools have average class sizes twice as large as the United States, 49 versus 23, but score 21 percent higher on international seventh-grade math tests.

What might help explain that unexpected result? South Korean schools draw from the top 5 percent of college graduates. American schools, by contrast, recruit their teachers, on average, from the bottom third of college students.

How do South Korean schools attract the top university students? Money. Larger class sizes frees up the resources to pay South Korean teachers much higher salaries, drawing the best and brightest into the profession. If American schools paid veteran teachers as well as South Korean schools do, teachers would average more than $116,000 in annual salary.

How is it, do you think, that South Korean teachers are able to manage a class of 49 students? I can tell you that it's not because they graduated in the top 5% of their college classes--heck, I graduated in the top 5% of my college class. What is it that's different about Korea and the US? What could it be, I wonder? What would account not only for their teachers' ability to manage classes of almost 50 students, but also for the Korean students' better academic performance when compared to Americans?

Culture. Korea has a much more homogenous culture than we do, and that culture places a higher value on education than ours does. Culture explains the achievement gap between Americans and Koreans, and also explains the achievement gap between different types of Americans. Paying teachers $116,000 isn't going to make them any more able to teach in a culture that doesn't value education much--and if you complain that your kid has too much homework that gets in the way of soccer practice, piano practice, volunteering at the soup kitchen, and taekwondo, then you're proving my point for me.

But I'll still take the money. I'm mercenary that way.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.

Today's question is:
What is the aboriginal name of Ayers Rock, in Australia?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Free Lunch, But Free College?

Kinda sorta free, yes.

Staff Meeting

Our school holds staff meetings on the 2nd Thursday of each month. That would be today.

In order to make the staff meetings something to look forward to, each month one department brings snackies. Last month, PE did it up right with hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill! That was a bit more than we usually do, but everyone said that no one would top PE.

Well, that was then, this is now.

Math, being the good procrastinators that we are, always signs up for May, the last staff meeting of the year. I suggested a Cinco de Mayo theme, because I'm all into multiculturalism, but we decided on an ice cream social. Several flavors of ice cream, crushed Oreos, sliced strawberries, crushed nuts, whipped cream, and chocolate and caramel toppings made up the choices.

Today, the comment heard was "I didn't think anyone could top PE, but they did."

See? Staff meetings can be something to look forward to, if you do them right.

(BTW, I didn't think anyone would top PE, either. That was pretty impressive.)

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Enola Gay, piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets. The aircraft was named after his mother.

Today's question is:
What does 3M stand for?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Security

Just go read this post and watch the embedded video. Notice which party is cheering the blocking of social security reform.

More al-AP Bias

I found this Associated Press story interesting not so much because of its topic but because of its obvious leftward bias. Let's start at the beginning:
Analysis: Cheney Attacks May Not Help GOP

That's the title. I don't see any analysis in there, and neither do I see any evidence, other than the author's say-so and wishful thinking, that Cheney is not helping the GOP.

You can go read it if you like, but I'm only going to mention one more thing.

When Obama took office, former President George W. Bush went quietly to his new house in Texas, slipped intentionally into anonymity and honored protocol by staying silent about his successor.

But Cheney, widely remembered for heading to undisclosed secure locations at times of national crisis and for working invisibly behind the scenes, has done just the opposite...

While Cheney's public assault on Obama breaches Washington etiquette, his remarks about Powell were particularly unusual.

I find it remarkable that anyone could write about "breaches of protocol" while ignoring President Obama's repeated personal, vicious, unbecoming attacks on the previous administration. Oh look, here's something I wrote the day after he was inaugurated. And Jimmy Carter has been no paragon of virtue and silence in this area.

Bias, bias, bias. And some readers chastise me for periodically quoting from FoxNews.

Taxing College Students

I guess it's not enough that having a university in your city brings in money. No, sometimes you want to tax the students directly just to fill the holes in your city's budget:

The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers....

The four schools generate more than $1 billion a year in economic activity, said Daniel Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island. They employ nearly 9,000 people in a city of roughly 172,000.

What would Providence be without those universities?

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Sacramento, California.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the aircraft from which was dropped the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima? (bonus point if you can identify the pilot)

Carnival of Education

This week's is over at RayRay's writing and includes my post about distance learning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How's That Global Warming Coming Along?

From the Wall Street Journal Online:

During a speech to Duke University’s graduating class, Oprah talked about the secrets and joys of success. Among them: owning a mansion and a jet.

I don't begrudge Oprah her money or her jet, and neither am I envious of her. In fact, I think she's a fine example of what a common person can accomplish in our great country. I respect her for her doing so well.

But I don't ever want Oprah or her acolytes, including the President with his recent Air Force One fiasco in NYC, to lecture me about "conservation", "carbon footprints", or "climate change". Ever. I just don't want to hear it.

Update, 5/13/09: Here it is. Oprah has done the Global Warming 101 crap. I guess taking care of Mother Earth is for the little people.

How Does The CTA Make Its Decisions?

CTA and NEA like to pass themselves off as "democratic" institutions because every once in awhile the peons get to vote for something, but clearly they're oligarchies whose motivations lie beyond the wishes of their members. How else can you explain that some of the largest local unions in the state are publicly opposing Proposition 1A, while CTA and NEA pour millions into the Yes On 1A campaign?

Should Notre Dame Have Invited President Obama To Speak At Graduation?

Of course it's an honor, a coup even, to get the President to speak at commencement. However, sometimes it's just not appropriate.

For Catholics, no issue plays bigger in the media than abortion (that doesn't explain why Catholics vote in large part for Democrats, but that's not the subject of this post). So to have the President give the commencement address at a Catholic university seems odd to me. It's not hypocritical, as some suggest, but one wonders why Notre Dame would choose a graduation speaker that stands in stark contrast to one of their most cherished values.

Yes, it's an honor to have the President speak at your school, but in a case like this, it also grants a certainly legitimacy to the President. I completely understand why some, like the ones in this video, would think this is a bad idea.

Some students may boycott their own graduation over this. That strikes me as silly and overreacting. A tasteful show of disapproval would be warranted, perhaps wearing black armbands or something. Not clapping when the President speaks would also be appropriate. Booing, standing up and turning their backs as the President speaks, disrupting the speech--in other words, actions we've learned from lefties--would be highly inappropriate. The selfish, immature, "look at me" nature of such acts precludes their use in polite company, and a university graduation certainly qualifies as "polite company".

I hope everyone involved acts accordingly. The head of Notre Dame has already screwed up his end of the bargain by inviting the President to speak; the students don't have to screw up their end.

Why You Can't Rely On Wikipedia

I've written before about Wikipedia. In a nutshell, what I said there was that the more controversial the topic, the less reliable Wikipedia will be. I suggested that Wikipedia might be a great place to start research on a topic, if the endnotes and footnotes are well documented and from reliable sources.

It turns out that controversial topics aren't necessarily the only ones leading to a lack of reliability. Sometimes it's all fun and games, or perhaps "research":

Shane posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media would uphold standards of accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news. His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.The sociology major's obituary-friendly quote _ which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 _ flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India. They used the fabricated material, Fitzgerald said, even though administrators at the free online encyclopedia twice caught the quote's lack of attribution and removed it.
If I were a teacher who required reports, I'd take points off for referencing Wikipedia.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Don't Stop, by Fleetwood Mac.

Today's question is:
What is Rush Limbaugh's hometown? (Bonus: what does he claim is his “adopted” hometown?)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Section 8.

Today's question is:
What song did President Clinton publicly identify as his favorite song, and which artist/group recorded it and also performed it at his 1993 inaugural?

West Point Cybergeeks Do It Again!

From the New York Times:

The competition was a final exam of sorts for a senior elective class. The cadets, who were computer science and information technology majors, competed against teams from the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine as well as the Naval Postgraduate Academy and the Air Force Institute of Technology. Each team was judged on how well it subdued the threats from the N.S.A.


Did you catch that? They're not only competing against their peers at the other service academies, but against graduate students as well. And how did our fearless cadets perform?

West Point emerged victorious in the games last month. That means the academy, which has won five of the last nine competitions, can keep the Director’s Cup trophy, which is displayed near a German Enigma encoding machine from World War II. Cracking the Enigma code helped the Allies win the war, and the machine is a stark reminder of the pivotal role of technology in warfare.

Congratulations to the cadets and their instructors!

Now let's get some of that same winning spirit on the football team!

Update, 5/12/09: Turns out one of the team members is a graduate of the school at which I teach. He took a Cisco-sponsored networking class at school, and emailed the teacher to tell him that he used what he learned in that class during this exercise. Isn't that great news, and just what a teacher wants to hear?

Also, I thought back to this recent piece in which the author said that West Point provides only a junior college education because so many of its instructors have only masters degrees instead of doctorates. Somehow, though, these cadets--who are working on only bachelor's degrees--beat people working on master's degrees. Junior college education, indeed. Tom Ricks, bite me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Kathmandu. No one got it--and I thought this was going to be one of the easy ones!

Today's question is:
On the TV show M*A*S*H, Corporal Klinger tried consistently to get discharged from the army for being crazy. What section of regulations covered such discharges?

A Parent's Nightmare

Imagine if a school employee molested your kid. Repeatedly.

No, I'm Not A Fan Of President Obama

One of the dangers of blogging is that if you take too much time thinking about what you want to write, someone else will come up with the same idea. And darn it, someone did.

Yes, I think President Obama is a socialist/statist, but in some areas he's acting like a conservative--or worse, he's doing the exact things he excoriated President Bush for doing. I don't fault him for doing them, or even for the flip-flop, but I do fault him for for either lying (to get elected) or being wrong (meriting his flip-flop) in the first place.

So this post lists some of the flip-flops: military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay inmates, the use of rendition for terror suspects, the imfamous "state secrets" defense when he doesn't want to release information, the infinite detention of suspected terrorists, and closing Guantanamo whilst beefing up Bagram.

The link above did not mention, however, President Obama's wiretapping authority, which will exceed President Bush's!

I think the Carrie Prejean (Miss California USA) situation has been beaten to death recently, but let's just restate it here for the record--she's been blasted for having expressed the exact same view that the President holds. Elton John, too. And Sarah Palin.

The Obama Administration agrees with the Palin Administration about polar bears and global warming, too:

Governor Sarah Palin was pleased to learn that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has decided not to change the existing Section 4(d) rule regulations concerning the protection of polar bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)...

The Department of the Interior also announced the continuation of a policy disallowing a link between climate change and decisions made under the ESA. The governor has argued against such a linkage as an inappropriate use of the act.
And just to be fun, let's throw in the President's utter inability to be articulate unless there's a teleprompter in front of him.

So, what do we get for electing the President? Near as I can tell, we get the UAW running a car company on the taxpayer's dime (I still don't understand how that worked out), we have deficits triple the size of any under the "spend-crazy" President Bush, we have the threat of socialism and all the ills it brings, we have a class warrior, and we have a President for whom power is seemingly all that matters.

What don't we have that we were promised? Besides the flip-flops mentioned above we don't have the rest of the world tossing flowers to us now that Cowboy George is gone. The Europeans love us again, but they're not contributing militarily or financially to world peace any more now than they were a year ago. We've reached out to Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba (clearly some world powerhouses) and gotten that hand publicly swatted away. We get boneheaded moves like the NYC/Air Force One pics and the picture of bowing before the King of Saudi Arabia.

If it's true that we get the government we deserve, we should be on our knees begging God for forgiveness for whatever it was we as a country did to deserve this president.

Update: I've never liked the idea of "say whatever you need to in order to get elected, and then do what you think is best." That makes the candidate what's important, instead of the people. If you have to lie to get elected, you shouldn't be elected. If the people don't want whatever it is you're selling, you shouldn't trick them into buying it.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard Obama supporters say that they didn't believe him when he said something on the campaign trail. "Oh, he didn't mean that, that's just something he had to say." Are you kidding me? They expected him to lie.

I, on the other hand, believed him when he supported socialism. Why would he lie about that? I believed he was speaking as he truly felt when he spoke those few sentences to Joe The Plumber. Why people chose not to believe him, I cannot understand.

A top Obama fundraiser and hedge fund manager said: "I'm appalled at the anti-Wall Street rhetoric. It was OK on the campaign but now it's the real world. I'm surprised that Obama is turning out to be so left-wing. He's a real class warrior."
Well, genius, we're all screwed because you were blind to reality.

Update #2, 5/11/09: Some lefties like to believe that I'm a racist because I'm not a fan of the President. One of the best replies to that tired tale comes from a comment on this post:

"Racist bigot" is progressive code for someone who believes in the Constitution, liberty and the foundational values of this country.

Update #3, 5/12/09: The latest from Instapundit:
HOPE AND CHANGE! Obama administration threatens Britain to keep torture evidence concealed. More from the Pro-Torture Obama Administration. Don’t all you people who told us it was a moral imperative to support Obama over this issue feel kinda silly now? You should. . . .

Salon is not a right-leaning magazine.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Distance Learning

I think there's a definite future in distance learning--learning over the internet. It won't completely replace ordinary schools for two good reasons I can think of (in addition to a few bad):
1. learning is a social process that requires contact with others, and
2. many people have a hard enough time staying on task in a classroom, getting done what needs to be done, and don't have the self-discipline to take classes over the internet.

However, I see times when distance learning can be good:
1. sick or injured students who cannot come to school,
2. make-up to avoid summer school,
3. suspended/expelled students, and
4. home-schooled students.

In most cases, the distance learning I've described would be a temporary situation.

But what if it weren't?

Last fall, more than 140 of the state’s 426 school districts used Wisconsin’s Web Academy to provide online learning to more than 800 students in grades six through 12, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

The Madison School District offers about 100 high school level online courses, and its Madison Virtual Campus started in 2005. Most students use the courses to supplement the regular school day, said Kelly Pochop, Madison’s online learning facilitator.

Some states, such as Michigan, even mandate students take an online course before graduating high school.

“If districts aren’t currently offering online courses, they’re studying ways to provide (them),” said Brian Busler, Oregon’s superintendent. Online classes, whether at the university or elementary level “have just exploded over the last several years.”

Since the state began allowing parents to send their children to any public school district in 1998, about 60 families have left the Oregon School District to attend a virtual school, Peschel said. In addition, 30 home-schooled students also have left the district.
What if some of this distance learning were done at school?

For example, this coming school year, it appears that our school will not have an AP Physics course for the first time in forever. Not enough students signed up for it. Why couldn't students take such a course via distance learning? Also, the only foreign languages my school offers are Spanish and French; what if students could take German, or Mandarin, or even Klingon via distance learning in a "distance learning lab" set up at school?

Think of the options. Schools would no longer be bound by the limitations of their own faculties. Nor would they have to compete against each other in magnet-type classes--"If you want to learn this, ours is the only school in the area that offers it." Students could go to their neighborhood schools and reap the benefits of programs taught at other schools. I see huge benefits for rural schools. And county offices of education--here in California, a relatively useless appendage of education bureaucracy--could actually become useful under a program such as this.

These are just a few thoughts that pop into my head only a couple minutes after having read the link above; I have no doubt that the idea would sound even better given more time to flesh it out. Yes, of course, issues would pop up that would need to be solved, but I think this is a case where we should find ways to make this work, not reasons why it can't. There's just too much good that could come from this.

Golden Handshake

They're offering a nice one in San Diego:

Leanne Lynn has agreed to retire from teaching at Birney Elementary School next month for an extra year's pay and a chance to help save the San Diego Unified School District millions of dollars.

Lynn, who has taught for 36 years, is among the 592 teachers to accept the golden-handshake offer by yesterday's 5 p.m. deadline.

The extra pay is paid over time.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Chile (and, arguably, Argentina, at their southern tips).

Today's question is:
What is the capital of Nepal?

Friday, May 08, 2009

School Rules Apply To Everyone But My Kid

If you choose to send your child to a private school, you must follow the rules of that school--whether or not you agree with them. Otherwise, you suffer the consequences.

A student at a fundamentalist Baptist school that forbids dancing, rock music, hand-holding and kissing will be suspended if he takes his girlfriend to her public high school prom, his principal said.

Despite the warning, 17-year-old Tyler Frost, who has never been to a dance before, said he plans to attend Findlay High School's prom Saturday.

Frost, a senior at Heritage Christian School in northwest Ohio, agreed to the school's rules when he signed a statement of cooperation at the beginning of the year, principal Tim England said.

The teen, who is scheduled to receive his diploma May 24, would be suspended from classes and receive an "incomplete" on remaining assignments, England said. Frost also would not be permitted to attend graduation but would get a diploma once he completes final exams. If Frost is involved with alcohol or sex at the prom, he will be expelled, England said.


The rule may be silly, harsh, or any other adjective, but it's a rule the family agreed to when the student enrolled. I'd feel differently if the rule were illegal, but it's certainly within the school's purview to regulate student conduct as it has chosen to do.

Of course, the rules are fine--until they contradict what the student wants to do. Then the school should make an exception, or should change the rule. Right, dad?

Frost's stepfather Stephan Johnson said the school's rules should not apply outside the classroom.

Of course not.

If you don't want your kid to be bound by the rules that the school can legitimately make, then don't enroll the kid there. It's as simple as that.

Update, 5/10/09: A related story over at Coach Brown's.

Update #2, 5/12/09: Hear it from the horse's mouth.

During an interview with Harry Smith, Frost explained that his private Christian school does have a contract stipulating "no dancing." However, he didn't believe it should include dancing outside of school. So, despite a stiff warning from his principal, he went to his girlfriend's prom at another school. He has since been suspended and won't be allowed to take his final exams on time or graduate with the rest of his class.

Despite this, Frost has no regrets, saying that attending his special lady's prom was both "worth the risk" and "the right decision." Frost's stepfather was also there for the interview. He didn't say much before leaving in the middle of the discussion, but he did mention that a lawsuit against the school is in the works.
The horse's mouth? Stepdad is acting like the other end. The boy broke a clear rule, knowing the consequences in advance, and dadsie's gonna file a lawsuit. Sometimes I wonder.

US Government and the Plan For General Motors

I thought there were two reasons the federal government was going to dictate how GM runs:
1. GM can't fail because it's important to American national security to have a strong industrial base, and
2. the UAW is a strong leftie constituency.

So why is it that when GM is all done being "restructured", so many more cars are going to be built outside the US?

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

According to an outline the company has been sharing privately with Washington legislators, the number of cars that GM sells in the United States and builds in Mexico, China and South Korea will roughly double.

Violating The Rules At A Private University

If you want to attend a private university, you have to play by their rules. Yes, you're paying for an education, but you're also leasing the school's reputation.

So if you go to a Christian college and act in porn, you shouldn't be surprised if the school asks you to leave.

Setting the Example

There are leaders, and there are managers. Leaders should set the example.

These folks are not setting the example:

Within hours of raising student fees Thursday by more than 9 percent, University of California regents offered massive pay hikes to the new leaders of UC Davis and UC San Francisco.

They named Linda Katehi chancellor of UC Davis, and gave her an annual salary of $400,000 – $85,000 more than outgoing Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef makes.

The new chancellor of UC San Francisco, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, will make $450,000 a year – almost 12 percent more than her predecessor.

Out of control. And wait till you read about all the perks, too.

I can't say I'd turn down the money if it were offered to me. It's clear that the Regents don't understand modern reality.