Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Kursk.

Today's question is:
Who is the current Prime Minister of Canada?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Little Boy, with a yield of about 15 kilotons, was dropped on Hiroshima, and Fat Man, with a yield of about 21 kilotons, was dropped on Nagasaki.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the Russian submarine that sank in 2000, killing all 118 on board?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Your “night moves”. (It's a Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band song.)

Today's question is:
What were the nicknames of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in World War II?

South Florida Billboard

Yes, I've been in South Florida for the last couple days, and will be for the next several. It's raining more than I expected... Anyway, I've seen several billboards touting this web site. I'm sure somebody thought it was cute, but I think it's kinda sick and emblematic of so much of what's wrong in our culture.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Steve Rhoades (he killed a sea turtle by releasing it into Lake Michigan and telling it to be free). Her second husband was Jefferson Darcy, making her Marcie Darcy.

Today's question is:
If you're “working on mysteries without any clues”, what else are you working on?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. Her coronation, however, did not occur for almost a year and a half later, in June of 1953. (Incidentally, my grandparents got their first television so my grandmother, a former British subject, could watch the coronation.)

Today's question is:
On the sitcom Married With Children, what was the name of Marcie's first husband? (Bonus point for also knowing the name of her second husband.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ohio's, which is shaped somewhat like a pennant.

Today's question is:
In what year did the current Queen Elizabeth become queen?

So What's The CTA Doing For You?

On page 36 of the June issue we see a list of seven "CTA-sponsored and co-sponsored legislation for 2009-10". One would think, since these are the ones being posted, that these would be pretty important to CTA. My fellow California teachers, do any of these contribute to your pay, benefits, and/or working conditions?

Would eliminate second-grade tests in the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program effective July 1, 2010.
Bill #SB 800 Status: Senate Education

Would establish a single-payer health insurance system in California. (Co-sponsored bill)
Bill #SB 810 Status: Senate Appropriations

Would propose school procedures to make immigrant children know it is safe to come to school when there are immigration raids in the community. Would prohibit schools from collecting data on students’ citizenship status.
Bill #AB 132 Status: Passed Assembly; to Senate Education

Would encourage schools to provide at-risk students with a “consequences of dropping out” notice developed by the CDE. (Co-sponsored bill)
Bill #AB 374 Status: Assembly Appropriations

Would provide for a permanent backfill of shortfalls in property taxes to California Community Colleges.
Bill #AB 551 Status: Assembly Appropriations

Would require the California Community Colleges chancellor’s office to conduct annual random audits to ensure district compliance with existing law that requires 50 percent of education dollars to be spent on instructors’ salaries.
Bill #AB 581 Status: Assembly Appropriations

Would ensure full compliance with law that mandates 75 percent of instruction be performed by full-time faculty in California Community Colleges within three years of passage.
Bill #AB 1095 Status: Assembly Appropriations
As I read them, only the last two apply directly to the people who pay CTA each month, and even then they relate only to community college faculty and not K-12. Great job of "representing" me, CTA.

This is why I'm an agency fee payer. It seems CTA focuses on everything except Darren's pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Is There A Teacher Shortage In California, Or Not?

On page 23 of California Educator magazine we get this quote: "No wonder school districts are finding it hard to recruit and retain teachers in California." Is that true? On page 4, in Si Se Puede's column we read, "More than 27,000 teachers, counselors, nurses and education support professionals have already received layoff notices, and with these additional budget cuts more layoffs are expected." The article on page 24 is about protesting teaching position cuts on May 13th, California's Day of the Teacher.

How can we have trouble finding teachers when we're busy laying them off? If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: consistency is not the strong suit of the left.

Update: But don't worry. Layoffs or not, CTA is raising your dues $22 this year (we read this on page 31). NEA dues are going up, too.

Not Above The Law After All

Back in March I told you about the story I read in the CTA mouthpiece rag about student grades that had been changed by school administrators in violation of state ed code.

According to the June issue, the district "filed a motion to set aside the judgment", but a Superior Court judge ruled against them:

On May 7, a Superior Court judge denied this motion, and ruled that the original decision would stand unaltered. The district was ordered to return the grades to what they were as filed by the teachers before the results of the CSTs were final; to abandon the board policy that requires teachers to submit to the "grade factor" scheme; and to refrain from developing such a policy in the future.

We're still not told, as I pointed out in the March post, if the teachers had had the letters of reprimand removed from their files and/or had received apologies.

The Supremes Got This One Mostly Right

I've written before on the junior high girl from Arizona who was strip-searched at school in a failed attempt to find prescription strength ibuprofin that another student said she had. Her case made it to the US Supreme Court, which has ruled:

A former middle-school student who was strip-searched by school officials looking for ibuprofen pain medication won a partial victory of her Supreme Court appeal Thursday in a case testing the discretion of officials to ensure classroom safety...

But reflecting the divisiveness over the issue, Souter said, "We think these differences of opinion from our own are substantial enough to require immunity for the school officials in this case."

No student should have to go through what this girl did.

Eventually People Will Realize He's Just A Liar

This President has already done more flip-flops than John Kerry.

Update: Hypocrite, too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pictures From DC

I've finally gotten around to uploading the pictures from my DC trip from my camera to my computer. Without further wait:
click on pictures to enlarge
These glass panels are in the ceiling of the Library of Congress.

The Declaration of Independence, in the National Archives, is so faded that you can barely make out John Hancock's signature in the center. It doesn't help that I had to take this without flash, so that the aperture stayed open longer and any movement on my part resulted in a blurry picture.

The Capitol is truly a beautiful structure.

This view of the Capitol, taken from the steps of the Library of Congress, shows the entrance to the new, underground Capitol Visitors' Center.

I don't think I could ever take enough pictures in the Nation's Capital.

Could I Disagree With This Article Any More Than I Already Do?

Probably, but it would require some effort.

Here's the article in question. Go take a read. Then come back here and let's discuss :-)

Off we go again, down the road to Techno-Utopia. There are times, places, and situations in which using some form or other of technology is beneficial. But let's remember--good teachers have been inspiring students for millenia without using Twitter, and I have no doubt they will continue to do so. Some subjects and topics are more amenable to technology usage than others, and we should strive to take maximum advantage of technology in those subjects and topics. The author of that article will no doubt say I'm part of the problem (as I blog away near my 4500th post), but I can't imagine why someone would need a social media site to help them reach and teach children.

Much of that article sounds a lot like tech for its own sake. There will always be new technology; will it always be necessary to incorporate it into education? Did film strips, movies, and later, VCRs, revolutionize education? Of course not. And it was foolish to expect that they would. The I CAN Learn program was no panacea for math education, either, although Virginia Tech tried something similar and implemented it well. At my own school I can cite examples of teachers who are exceptional at integrating technology into their curriculum, as well as others who only think they're exceptional at it. It takes more than knowledge of tech to use it well as an instructional tool--and let's never forget that it's only a tool, no more or less effective than the person using it.

Note the condescending tone of the first linked article. Anyone who doesn't use social media in their own lives, and who won't integrate them into their courses, is out of date and unable to teach children; techies should run the show. I don't need someone to talk down to me, and I'll stack my teaching competence up against any standard. My whiteboard will always work, and I'll use the force of my personality to reach and teach students. If I wanted to be snarky and condescending, I might suggest that perhaps some people need the technology to make up for their personal and/or professional shortcomings--but I'm not that snarky and condescending.

I'm just a blogger with an opinion.

Update: Here's what's happened at Philadelphia's misnamed School of the Future.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
None. That phrase is first found in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists to assure them that the Constitution didn't allow the establishment of a national denomination.

Today's question is:
Which is the only US state flag that is not rectangular?

Final Count In The Bahamas Bucket

$227, to the nearest dollar.

As I'll be going to the Bahamas soon, for the first time ever, I'm retiring the Bahamas bucket. To all my former students who have donated over the past 6 years, thank you.

Making Bad Choices With School Choice

A reader sent this link to me and asked what I thought of it:

The logic of school choice seems obvious. If parents selected their children’s schools, they would not choose bad ones, so bad schools would not be able to survive. Schools would have to improve or close, just as a store that offers poor service will lose business to a store that offers better service.

Here’s my problem with that logic: I think it’s highly likely that many parents will choose bad schools.

I'm OK with that. People make bad choices in elections, too, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to get rid of the secret ballot and just have a dictatorship.

Carnival of Education

This week's is posted at Steve Spangler's blog and includes my post about wealth, SAT scores, and the probability of getting a bachelor's degree.

California Supreme Court Rules Against Union

A school district can prevent a teachers union from putting campaign pamphlets for political candidates in school mailboxes, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case from San Leandro...

A school district has a legitimate interest in not allowing mailboxes "to become venues for the one-sided endorsements of political candidates by those with special access," Justice Carlos Moreno said in the 7-to-0 ruling...

He noted that the ruling leaves the teachers union free to inform its members of endorsements in faculty lounges or off campus.

Lawyers for the California Teachers Association did not respond to a request for comment.


This is a big ruling, especially in union-friendly California.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seeing Through A Mathematician's Eyes

Sherman Stein is one of my favorite authors. He's written several books on mathematics, and even though he's a mathematician, he writes for the layman. In fact, one of his books is called How The Other Half Thinks, and in the preface he says the following:

One of my purposes in writing this book is to give readers who haven't had the opportunity to see and enjoy real mathematics the chance to appreciate the mathematical way of thinking. I want to reveal not only some of the fascinating discoveries, but, more important, the reasoning behind them...The thinking in each chapter uses at most only elementary arithmetic, and sometimes not even that. Thus all readers will have the chance to participate in a mathematical experience....

Other books I have of his are Mathematics: The Man-Made Universe and Strength In Numbers: Discovering the Joy and Power of Mathematics in Everyday Life. I'm teaching a low-level course this coming year, and I'm considering using some of his ideas and lessons in those classes to inspire interest in the subject.

I don't claim to be a mathematician. I have only a bachelor's degree, and that in applied mathematics; theoretical math has never interested me much. I want to use math. Yes, of course some areas that were once theoretical have shown themselves of practical value--prime numbers and the security of your ATM card, for example--but in general I like applying math to science and engineering issues.

Stein shows us, in his books, how math is everywhere, and how it explains so many things that we observe and marvel about in the world around us. His works came to mind when a former student sent me this article from the New York Times, called Math and the City:

One of the pleasures of looking at the world through mathematical eyes is that you can see certain patterns that would otherwise be hidden. This week’s column is about one such pattern. It’s a beautiful law of collective organization that links urban studies to zoology. It reveals Manhattan and a mouse to be variations on a single structural theme.

Patterns. We math people sure love our patterns.

And even though it's in the New York Times, it's still an entertaining read--and one I recommend.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Him and Her.

Today's question is:
In which founding legal document is the phrase “wall of separation between church and state” found?

High School and College Simultaneously

This kid is pretty impressive:

Abrams was involved in the Accelerated College Enrollment and Pre-Accelerated College Enrollment program (ACE-PACE) at Cal Sate Los Angeles.

"It's for people who just want to get their feet wet and take a couple college classes, and I ended up doing the extreme," Abrams said.

He graduated May 29 from Sierra Canyon High School. He graduated Saturday from Cal State LA with a bachelor's degree.

Sorta takes the wind out of the sails of all those whiners who say high school keeps them too busy :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

America's Most Depressing Education Statistic

I did not know this before seeing it on page 98 of the July 2009 issue of Money Magazine:

Well-off, high SAT's: 82% of such 12th graders finish college
Well-off, low SAT's: 52% of such 12th graders finish college
Poor, high SAT's: 44% of such 12th graders finish college

I'd rather look at socio-economic status than skin color when trying to determine who needs help to get through college.

Army Football

Recruiting football players to play at West Point can be an, uh, interesting challenge:

And while nobody disputes that locations such as Buffalo, New York or Laramie, Wyoming have their own unique and inherit (sic) disadvantages when it comes to attracting prep players, the recruiting challenges at West Point could very well be the country’s most daunting. Not only must Army’s coaching staff deal with the harsh realities of trying to attract recruits to a life of military discipline and rigorous academic challenges, but they must do so in a day and age in which most of the best prep players around the country are looking for a fast track to the NFL. Add in the fact of twelve straight losing seasons and the likelihood that any given athlete could be deployed to an area of danger after graduating from West Point, and it’s not difficult to see why Army hasn’t exactly reeled in its share of blue chip athletes as of late.

At least so the thought has gone.

In a recent interview with ArmySports.com, new head coach Rich Ellerson maintained that although the perception is to look at the goals of service academies as running against the lifestyles of today’s prep athletes, the reality is that his staff has found a pool of recruits more than willing to serve, and more than willing to attend West Point.

It's good that they're recruiting cadets who will play football, and not vice versa. The former will become an officer, the latter will become an ex-cadet.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Bradley, Voorhees, and Day.

Today's question is:
What were the names of President Johnson's beagles?

Foundation Provides Big Bucks To Sac State's Troops To College Program

From the current issue of Sac State Magazine we learn about the success of the University Foundation in raising money for the Troops To College Program:

The campaign quickly exceeded all expectations. At the Green & Gold Gala in February, University President Alexander Gonzalez announced that more than $150,000 had been raised.

The awarding of the first Troops to College scholarships this fall will boost Sac State’s leadership in attracting veterans, Weston says.

Sihoe attended the Gala and was moved by the response. “We’re getting donations now from people outside the campus who don’t even know us,” he says.

I've written before (1 2 3 4) about this program, and about the people who administer it. Our veterans are in good hands at Sac State.

You'd Almost Think They Weren't Being Entirely Honest Or Something

The proposed 2009-10 NEA budget forecasts $355.8 million in revenue, an increase of $10 million over this year. The headlines warn us of massive teacher layoffs across the nation, but NEA modified its projection of new teacher members upward. Originally expecting an increase of 5,000 new teacher members for 2009-10, the latest proposed budget now predicts 7,000 new teacher members.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last one of Bionic Week, is:
Oscar Goldman of the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence).

Today's question is:
What do the initials BVD stand for with regards to the men's underwear company?

No Child Left Behind Appears To Be Doing Some Good

Despite the doomsday scenarios and conspiracy theories, it looks like NCLB might be working, even if only a little:

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, critics have questioned whether the law’s mandate to bring students to "proficiency" has resulted in schools ignoring the needs of the nation’s highest- and lowest-achieving students.

A new study, released today, suggests those fears have not become reality.

The 50-state analysis found that test scores for both "advanced" and "basic" students rose in nearly three-quarters of assessments studied across states and grade levels, a level of progress only slightly lower than that of students reaching proficiency.

The study sought to examine a story line put forward in recent years—namely, that schools are not focusing on the highest- or lowest-scoring students, but rather on middle achievers, said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, which produced the report.

While the progress of high and low achievers could be stagnating in individual instances or schools, the study indicates that on average, those students are advancing, said Mr. Jennings, of the center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

I'm betting on reauthorization with only cosmetic changes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Better, stronger, faster.

Today's question marks the end of Bionic Week, and is:
Who was Steve's boss, and what agency did he work for?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Two legs, one arm, and one ear.

Today's question is:
According to the show's intro, what three adjectives describe Steve's post-implant abilities?

So You Say You Want A Vegetarian Revolution

A former student, who has not figured out how to email me based on the information in my profile :-) , has sent this link to me, along with some good commentary which I've paraphrased:

The granddaughter of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara is at the forefront of another revolution — for vegetarianism.

Lydia Guevara poses semi-nude in a PETA campaign that tells viewers to "join the vegetarian revolution," said PETA spokesman Michael McGraw.

The bandoliers of baby carrots she sports in the picture are a nice touch. Nothing says "don't kill animals" like the evoking the memory of the man who said "A revolution must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."

I used to worry about PETA. I used to think they might influence others. But they've gone so far beyond the line so many times that few, if anyone, take them seriously anymore. I used to think that we shouldn't discuss things like this ad, that it only gives them the attention they seek. I used to think that we should treat them akin to internet trolls, i.e. don't feed them. But now I'm more enlightened. Now I see they're just comical, pathetic in a way. Bandoliers of carrots? Really?

Do they really think President Obama was just acting instinctively but really shouldn't have swatted a fly, or is that more "beyond the line" posturing to make their point? Hard to say, because the only point they make is "we're idiots"--and they're hypocrites, too, given that PETA regularly kills shelter animals.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Service Academies Are Not Having Trouble Finding Candidates

Applications have surged at the nation's three top military academies as tough economic times coincide with stepped-up recruiting efforts by the Army, Navy and Air Force schools, making the prospect of free college and a steady job look sweeter...

Annapolis received about 15,300 applications for about 1,230 positions — the highest number of applications the academy has received since 1988.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., also have seen increases. Applications are up 10 percent for the class of 2013 at the Air Force Academy, from 9,001 to 9,890 for 1,350 positions.

West Point received 11,106 applications for the class of 2013, up from 10,132 the year before, or a 9 percent increase, said Col. Deborah McDonald, director of admissions. link

The academies' admissions officers seem to be doing a fine job of filling the classes with the cream of America's crop, some political correctness notwithstanding.

A Supreme Injustice

I cannot see how the Bill of Rights and any concept of justice do not compel a different ruling, but then again I thought that any reasonable interpretation of the 5th Amendment would not allow the Kelo ruling:

“Splitting 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that an individual whose criminal conviction has become final does not have a constitutional right to gain access to evidence so that it can be subjected to DNA testing to try to prove innocence.” This is, alas, consistent with prior law, which made evidence of “actual innocence” surprisingly unimportant post-conviction. It’s also something that can — and should — be corrected by legislation. Will Congress act? It should, and so should state legislatures. Anyone who criticizes such legislation as “soft on crime” should be immediately pantsed, as it would, of course, benefit only the innocent.

Yes, legislatures should correct this, just as they should prevent eminent domain abuse as a result of the flawed Kelo ruling.

Blogging Issues

Blogger currently reports that scheduled posting is currently "inconsistent" for some users--this includes me, as I've tried to schedule posts when I know I won't have internet access (e.g., when I'm traveling and want to continue having daily trivia questions) and get error messages. In fact, right now I can't even schedule a post to appear tomorrow; yesterday I could schedule but the post didn't appear when it was supposed to.

If you're not seeing some posts, this might be why. Posting immediately, as opposed to scheduling posts to appear in the future, does not seem to be affected, which is why this post shows up.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Space aliens.

Today's question is:
What were Jaime's bionic enhancements?

Only A Woman Can Teach A Woman?

A recent National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper on gender and academic achievement at the U.S. Air Force Academy, however, finds that the importance of female mentors may be even more powerful than previously thought. The study, by University of California-Davis economists Scott Carrell and Marianne Page and their colleague James West at the Air Force Academy, finds that replacing a male instructor with a female one has such a strong effect on female achievement as to erase the gender gap entirely...

The authors found that women on average obtain scores that are 0.15 grade points lower (half the difference between an A and an A-) than their male classmates, even after accounting for students' SAT scores. The gap in performance was widest for women taught by men. When a female instructor was put at the front of the classroom, nearly two-thirds of the grade point gender gap evaporated. (It was also the case that men performed better when taught by other men, but the difference was far less substantial.) The authors persuasively demonstrate that the overall male-female performance difference is due in large part to the fact that men dominate the Air Force Academy science faculty (as is the case in most schools), with only 23 percent of courses taught by women.

It would be interesting to learn how valid the study is. This part is interesting as well:

Yet the authors found that, while female students perform better on average in classes taught by female professors, there are some male professors under whom there's no achievement gap between male and female students (and also some female professors for whom the gender gap is as big as that of some of their male colleagues). So some men are very good at mentoring women, just not nearly enough of them.

Interesting article, but seemingly inconclusive as to the "solution". I got a little concerned, though, upon reading about "making men into more women-friendly bosses and teachers". Why is this always a one-way street? Let's go from math and science a moment to the entire university campus and student body, where women significantly outnumber men in admissions and degrees earned. Why do we not hear of making universities more men-friendly? Again, why the one-way street?

And This Came From The Naval Academy

"[D]iversity is the number one priority".

What about the mission? Shouldn't that be the number one priority?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Parachuting with Steve.

Today's question is:
In what was perhaps the best example of a show's jumping the shark outside of Happy Days' literal "jumping the shark" episode, Steve encountered an actual Sasquatch. Who created the Sasquatch?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jaime Sommers, played by Lindsay Wagner.

Today's question is:
What type of accident precipitated Jaime's bionic implants?

Against Internships

I can't help but find interesting an article that says the following:

Interns are like illegal immigrants. Says Kamenetz: "They create an oversupply of people willing to work for low wages, or in the case of interns, literally nothing." But they're worse, because instead of doing the jobs nobody wants to do, college interns do the jobs that everybody their age wants to do, but that only the wealthier can afford.

Shame on you wage-depressing, union-killing interns!

Unpaid internships are another implicit leg up for rich kids who can afford to work for a summer without money. Otherwise they send less fortunate kids into even worse debt.

Perhaps things are different for non-profits and/or government, but businesses are not in business to create jobs--they're in business to make money for their owners! If someone is actually willing to work for free, what legitimate argument can be made against the practice?

This Has Got To Suck

What would happen if the kids just didn't show up?

Students at Dickson Elementary in Chino and Rolling Ridge Elementary in Chino Hills were supposed to be done with school on Thursday, but a clerical error means they will have to make up 34 days or the schools will risk losing $7 million in state funds.

Under California law, schools' occasional short days — taken to allow teachers time for preparation — must be at least 180 minutes. An internal audit in May found 34 days at the two schools that were only 170 or 175 minutes.

That missing time could be made up in just one or two school days but a further quirk of state law says the short days don't count at all. That means every one of the 34 days must be made up to avoid the penalty in state funds.

Hilary McLean of the state Department of Higher Education said legislators intended to make the penalties stiff to discourage districts from "shaving off minutes here and there."

One of the district's associate superintendents has taken responsibility for the errors. She is retiring this year.
I wonder if she's really responsible or is just taking the fall. I guess it doesn't matter.

It's elementary school. I probably wouldn't send my kid those extra days--we've got trips to take!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Steve Austin. Astronaut. (A man barely alive.) I could live with the "super spy" answer, though, as that's sorta what he did in the show.

Today's question is:
Who was the Bionic Woman, and what actress played her in the 1970s series?

It's A Beautiful Day in the Capital

Today I went to that place where I always feel at home--the National Air and Space Museum. I've seen it all before, several times, but it never gets old. Perhaps I like it so much because the greatest ambition of man is to leave the rock on which he was born, and that's what airplanes and rockets and spacecraft allow.

Then I went to the National Museum of the American Indian. The architecture was stunning, but the displays? Not so much. Honestly, I was not impressed. I'm more impressed when I go to Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park. (I wonder if it is one that will have to be closed due to California's budget troubles....)

There was a lot of antipathy towards the White Man in the displays. I try to understand it, I really do. If someone came and conquered my people, I'd try to keep our American memories and values alive. I'd resent the conqueror, and would teach my children to resent the conqueror.

But that was centuries ago. Of course, the broken treaties, the reservations, the Indian schools--those don't help the cause of America. We aren't a perfect country, but we try to be more so. And we do some things to try to make up for past mistakes.

On the other hand, I don't hate the Norse and the Normans for invading England and subjugating my Anglo-Saxon ancestors. How far back can this hatred extend?

I had a grandmother who was born in Oklahoma a few months after Oklahoma became a state. One line of my family tree stretches back to the frontier, Ohio of the early 1800s. Another line goes back to Rhode Island in 1690, and perhaps even before. It's possible that there's some American Indian blood in me. I may not be Native American, but I am a native American. And I love this country and its ideals.

After years of construction, you can get close once again to the Capitol. The Capitol Visitor's Center was built underground right in front of the (east steps of) the Capitol, so obviously the area had been cordoned off for some time. I thought I'd go see what all the hubbub was about.

Silly me, I just expected an information center and a gift shop. Oh, no. The CVC is a vast underground complex with a huge entry hall, I think there's a theater down there, and you can sign up for tours of the Capitol. Nothing in DC is small except accommodations; everything is big, including the prices! Oh, and there were two gift shops.

Seeing there was a tunnel going across the street to the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, I took it. The Library of Congress would be much more impressive if I had been there to get a book and do research. Yes, I saw a couple of exhibits including the Jefferson Library, and the building itself was beautifully reminiscent of the Romantic Period architecture of Europe, but I couldn't get into where the books were! I'm not sure if a tour would have gotten me in there, either. Still it was a nice way to spend an hour.

The welcoming reception for the CEAFU conference starts in just over an hour. This day just keeps getting better.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
An “exaltation”.

And now we begin the first Theme Week here at Right on the Left Coast. And our first theme is:
Bionic Week!

Today's question is (and it should be an easy one):
What was the $6 Million Man's name and occupation?

With the notable exception of the Bible...

"If ever the hands of man were inspired by a benevolent God to put words on paper, those papers are in this room."

Those are the words that came to me as I stood in the Rotunda of the National Archives and saw, with my own eyes, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

They were so fragile, so faded; you can barely make out Hancock's signature on the Declaration. But there they were, though fragile and faded, proof positive of the ideals of our republic.

As I gazed up at the Capitol this morning, I thought, "This is where dreams go to die." For every Coburn or McClintock there's a Murtha, a Byrd, a Stevens, a Mosely-Braun, a Kennedy. But then I saw the Constitution, the hand-written document from Philadelphia in 1787, and I felt a little "hope and change"--I hope that we can change our government back to one of limited and enumerated powers. It was done once, perhaps we can do it again. I saw the Constitution.

Today's Tourist Travels

This morning I set out to go to the Museum of American History, a place I've wanted to visit for a couple decades now. I remember reading when I was young that there was actual tea from the Boston Tea Party displayed there; while I could find no such tea on display, I was able to purchase a can of bulk tea of the same type at the Museum Store.

My reaction after having visited? Underimpressed. Not unimpressed by any stretch, but underimpressed. Maybe I expected too much after building it up in my head for so many years, but most of the time my thoughts were "this is cool" but not much beyond that. I mean, yes, I saw a half-union ($50 gold coin) pattern, a 1974 aluminum cent pattern, a Brasher doubloon, a Pine Tree Shilling, a Continental dollar, and some other numismatic treasures, but they were in a room barely over 100 square feet.

Archie and Edith's chairs were there, as was an elephant car from the original Dumbo ride at Disneyland. A recovered Revolutionary War gunboat, the Greek-style statue of Washington--those were cool. I set off an alarm when I reached out and touched a Vietnam-era Huey.

Know what was odd? The dresses of the First Ladies. Some of them looked so blase' there in their cases, you had to wonder why anyone, expecially a First Lady, would wear such a thing. And then you see the recent ones--and you think the same thing! It's only when you see the pictures of the recent First Ladies in the dresses that you see that the dresses actually look nice, certainly much nicer than they do hanging there on headless mannequins.

The Fort McHenry flag was very impressive, but you know what stirred the most emotion in me? The actual Woolworth's lunch counter. Yes, that lunch counter.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's Been A Long Road, Gettin' From There To Here

The alarm went off at 3 am and the plane's door closed at 6:30. A stopover in Denver late morning was the only hitch in my getting to my hotel room just a couple blocks from Capitol Hill in DC. Yes, I'm here for my third Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference; you can read about past experiences here by typing CEAFU into the search engine at the top of the page.

Tomorrow I'll go to the newly-renovated Museum of American History, and Monday I'm meeting an old West Point buddy at the National Archives. The conference starts Monday evening.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dawn Wells.

Today's question is:
There is a “herd” of cattle, an “army” of ants, a “pride” of lions, and a “gaggle” of geese. What is the term for a large group of larks?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
969 years.

Today's question is:
Who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island?

Why The 2/3 Majority To Raise Taxes In California Is A *Good* Thing

Lefties whine about the 2/3 requirement in our state legislature to raise taxes, perversely saying that it's that very requirement that has put the state a couple dozen billion dollars in the hole. If only we could raise taxes some more!

In spite of having the highest taxes in the nation, the state is broke.

Who's Acting Politically Here?

The President, or the Inspector General who investigated Obama friend and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson?

President Barack Obama says he has lost confidence in the inspector general who investigates AmeriCorps and other national service programs and has told Congress he is removing him from the position.

Lot of people under that bus.

Obama's move follows an investigation by IG Gerald Walpin finding misuse of federal grants by a nonprofit education group led by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is an Obama supporter and former NBA basketball star.

Heckuva job, Walpie! I guess if you fire only one guy at a time, it's not a problem--like firing US attorneys or something.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Trivia Feature Coming Up!

The daily trivia questions seem to be relatively popular, so today I decided that in the near future I'll host theme weeks in which all the questions that week will be on one general topic. The first theme week starts this coming Sunday....

But How Will We Pay For Healthcare?

The Senate struck a historic blow against smoking in America Thursday, voting overwhelmingly to give regulators new power to limit nicotine in the cigarettes that kill nearly a half-million people a year, to drastically curtail ads that glorify tobacco and to ban flavored products aimed at spreading the habit to young people.

Want to spend other people's money on someone else? Raise cigarette taxes! That's the first thought in the legislature every time we want to fund a new health care initiative, especially if it pertains to children.

But if we tax or regulate smokers out of existence, how will we then pay for all these health care initiatives?

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Reuben Kincaid.

Today's question is:
According to the Old Testament, how many years did Methuselah live?

You've Got To Love A Headline Like This

Business groups dare Obama to limit pay for union bosses

Corporation CEOs, whose companies actually produce something and benefit the economy, are "greedy". Unions, which are nothing more than parasites that produce nothing--well, they're beneficial!

At the Surrender at Yorktown, Cornwallis' men played The World Turned Upside Down. I need to find an mp3 of this music, as it is emblematic of our current administration.

"Coloreds Only"

Elk Grove Unified will stop its controversial practice of separating students by race for rallies designed to pump them up before they take state exams.

It took the threat of a lawsuit to get them to stop this crap.

That loser Eric Holder thinks we Americans are cowards because we are afraid to talk about race. The CTA's mouthpiece rag has published several articles about how we don't talk about race in education.

I think we talk about race too darned much. And we all know why it's done--because it advantages certain people, aka "race pimps", to keep talking about it.

Well, having race-based rallies is a logical extension when we keep talking about race. Segregation is what happens when you filter everything through the lens of race. This 1940's mentality will not go away as long as we keep worshiping at the altar of race.

Race-based rallies. In 2009. And someone thought that was a good idea. Uh, the "coloreds only" drinking fountain is over there, dude.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Gary Gilmore, by firing squad in Utah.

Today's question is:
Who was the Partridge Family's manager?

Replacing Textbooks With Electronics

If you drop a textbook in the water, you can dry it out and maybe get charged $20 for damages at the end of the year. Drop a Kindle in the water....

Well, some schools are talking about switching to Kindles, or perhaps to open source online textbooks, instead of ordinary "dead tree" textbooks. I'm no Luddite, but there are a few problems with this idea--at least at the K-12 level.

I've already pointed out one of the problems, above. How about these:
  • I couldn't charge my Kindle last night because the power was out.
  • Jam it a little too hard into the backpack or locker, and...
  • I couldn't do my homework because I left my Kindle in my mom's car and I'm at dad's house this week.
  • The lower the SES of the student, the more transient is the student. You understand how that relates to Kindles.
  • Every student doesn't have a computer or internet access. Issuing such equipment would be costly, and under state law we can't currently require such equipment at home.
There are plenty of other thoughts in the comments.

Most of these negatives come down to this: you don't value what you don't pay for. In California, students don't pay for books, not even a deposit. The fruits of this policy are clear the first week of school every year, when students are issued, uh, "worn" textbooks.

But university students pay for their books. I can see tremendous value in university students' buying digital books for their Kindles. However, someone will always make a buck, as commenter Beggar points out in the first link above:

"I have purchased some of my college textbooks as electronic copies rather than print... as you'd guess, there was very little difference in the price between the two... Imagine that, do away with the costs of printing and distribution and yet there's not substantial savings to pass on to me.

How, exactly, is this going to save us any money?"
It probably won't, unfortunately. There's too much money to be made in the textbook business for publishers to just give up that easily. I love the idea of open source materials, though, especially for K-12. In fact, one Connecticut district is taking a step in that direction, with algebra.

Oh, and at the first link? Commenter Darren65 makes some brilliant observations.

How Would You Like To Have This School Principal?

A 'bullying' head teacher (principal) who spent more than 10 minutes finishing her lunch as a pupil lay writhing in agony with a broken leg avoided a ban today...

The teacher told the hearing that, with hindsight, when the pupil broke his leg in May 2005 she should have phoned for an ambulance.

But she added: 'There is so much you can do in hindsight and it is something I would like to take forward.'

She said she understood that 'the role of headship is no longer open to me', but added:'I still feel I have a lot to offer the teaching profession.

The role of headship is no longer open? Gee, you think? Go read more about this saint of a boss.

Top Schools

Joanne (see blogroll) points out that Newsweek's Top 1500 Schools list is up. The school at which I teach is on this list, but there's another school in our district above us.

Yes, you can argue the methodology all day long. This should be weighted more, that should be weighted less, the other thing shouldn't be weighted at all. So take it for what it's worth.

It's The Culture, Stupid.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What I Tell Graduating Seniors

A former student was kind enough to send me an email last week, which included the following:

Anyways, I'll never forget that talk I had with you before I left for college. I think you asked me what my major was and I said I had no idea because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. Your reply was...

My reply was that that's OK, and not at all uncommon. Heck, I'm thirty-thirteen (or was at that time) and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.

Those words really stuck with me and I've kept them in mind when exploring what I want to do with my future.

I really only give one piece of advice to graduating seniors. That advice is not to chase a buck, but to find something that really interests you in life, something you like, and pursue that. Do what makes you happy. We spend too many hours working to be doing something we don't truly enjoy. I guess making a lot of money might alleviate some of the unhappiness that would come with a job you don't really enjoy, but I myself would rather be happy. If you can be happy and make good money, well that's a bonus.

It's rewarding, though, when former students say that something I told them actually helped them. They probably have no idea how much I really care about them.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
USS Nautilus.

Today's question is:
Who was the first criminal executed after capital punishment was reinstated in the US in the mid-70s?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name of the first nuclear-powered submarine?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

I'm Getting A New Toy

Blogging will be light to non-existent the next couple of days. I'll schedule new trivia questions to be posted automatically, just in case.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
$1.40 to the euro.

Today's question is:
In what year does the Mayan calendar end, according to New Age hokum?

Hardcore Parenting

This story over at Bluebird's Classroom is amazing. If I didn't trust her I'd say she made it up.

I wonder if this would help with a class of students I had this past year, absolutely the worst class I've ever taught.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Operation Overlord. (I had to look up Neptune, since I got a couple such answers, and it seems that Neptune was part of Overlord. Go ahead and give yourself credit for either one.)

Today's question is:
Within 10%, what is the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro?


In this situation, the adults have it and the children do not:

An Ohio school district says it uncovered a cheating scheme so pervasive that it had to cancel graduation ceremonies for its 60 seniors — but will still mail their diplomas.

A senior at Centerburg High School accessed teachers' computers, found tests, printed them and distributed them to classmates, administrators said.

Graduation was canceled because so many seniors either cheated or knew about the cheating but failed to report it, said officials of the Centerburg School District.

I wonder how many of the cheaters will participate in this:

Jeanette Lamb, whose son is a senior at the school, asked the Centerburg School Board to reconsider its decision to cancel graduation. The board declined.

"At that point I did tell them that commencement would continue, it will be at the park, I will put it together and their presence wasn't welcome," Lamb told WTVN radio in Columbus. Lamb said parents and members of the community have offered help.

To The Heroes of D-Day...

...thank you.

Update: Google celebrates 25 years of Tetris:

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Last Day

I printed out a semester's worth of grades yesterday. I submitted my bubbled-in grade sheets this morning. The librarian, principal's secretary (keys, contact information), and controller had already signed off my checkout sheet. After the final bell today I took my week's roll sheets to the attendance office to be signed off, and then went to my vice principal--who confirmed all my paperwork was in order.

I'm done until mid-August.

20 Years Since Tiananmen Square

Let history be written how it will. I shared my take on it in Part V of this post.

I've Been Telling You Forever...

A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth's climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.

It's the sun, folks.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's trivia question is:
Suicide Is Painless. The chorus, as near as memory allows me, is this:
Suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes,
And I can take or leave it if I please.

I learned a few verses of the song after watching the movie as a teenager.

Today's question is:
What was the code name of the D-Day invasion in Normandy?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the title of the theme song for the TV series M*A*S*H? (Bonus point for knowing the chorus of the song.)

The Value of a Teacher to the NEA

Are you an NEA member? Do you think the NEA cares one whit about you, except for the money you send them?

NEA was willing to spend $3 million to support doomed ballot initiatives in California, but it is prepared to throw 650 disabled teachers under the bus, while pretending no one at any level of their union had anything to do with it. NEA and ISTA are playing chicken with Indiana’s taxpayers, in the hope that the state’s citizens will keep these teachers fed and housed while the unions continue their normal activities, like suing the state.

That's some audacity, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Writing A Legal Blog For The Masses

First off, if you haven't read Catcher In The Rye, don't read this post. You won't get it.

But if you do read it and do get it, you'll get a fairly good lesson on copyright law--and Sonia Sotomayor's input on one particular case regarding Seinfeld and copyright law.

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Potty-mouth language is used at the link above.


Especially if you have a Windows-based computer, you're familiar with at least two games--Solitaire and Minesweeper.

This article, about analyzing Minesweeper using computers, presents an optimization problem and offers a $1 million prize. It's certainly above my head, but just as certainly interesting.

Here are some other "prize problems" from the same site.

Academic Rigor

Joanne Jacobs pointed out that I'm quoted on page 2 of this PDF file, entitled Understanding and Reporting on Academic Rigor, a "primer" for journalists on that topic published by the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Honestly, I like the quote from the other "math guy" on the same page better.

Debate About Union Membership

Via this week's Carnival of Education I came upon this post by a teacher who supports union membership. The debate comes in the comments which, unfortunately, are posted "last one on top" so you have to read from the bottom to get a linear sense of the conversation.

Carnival of Education

This week's is over at Learn Me Good and includes my post about the fast food clerk who isn't so great at math or technology.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Balmoral Castle.

Today's question is:
“Oneirology” is the study of what?

Racist Principal?

This sounds interesting:

Parents of students at a New York City elementary school are demanding its principal resign over a questionnaire teachers had to fill out that's being called racist, FOX 5 TV has exclusively learned.

The form, obtained by FOX 5, reportedly asked teachers at East Harlem's PS 96 school to break down students' behavioral problems by race.

So, is the principal a racist, or even doing something that might be construed as racist?

First, my serious answer. It seems a little disingenuous to call this racist when everything we do in education is broken down by race.

Now, my snarky answer. This principal cannot be a racist, as she's black. Our race pimps will tell you that only whites can be racist.

Wal*Mart=Thin People

You know, sometimes it's just fun to poke at people.

I have no dog in the Wal*Mart fight. If another company built a store down the street from my house, with prices lower than Wal*Mart's, all other things being equal, I'd ditch Wal*Mart like the ugly date you wake up with after a night of heavy drinking. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course, not being into heavy drinking :-)

But there are people out there who hate Wal*Mart. They despise it. They look down their noses at it. They'd never deign to shop there. And anyone who does shop there is probably some you-know-what.

Those people are usually lefties, and since I enjoy poking them, ever so gently, when I can, I will do so with this article:

One might think that "everyday low prices" for food would mean that people would eat much more--stuff themselves, even. So one would expect to see more obese folks in places where Wal-Mart does more business. Right? Think again. Research tells a different story.

The University of North Carolina-Greensboro's Charles Courtemanche and I are finishing a study of big retail stores and obesity. In our first round of statistical analysis we found that greater consumer access to a Wal-Mart ( WMT - news - people ) store was associated with lower body-mass indexes and a lower probability of being obese.
I smile now.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Court-eous Seatmate

High school seniors Terrence Stephens and Jason Ankrah, star football players at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., were sitting on a plane returning from a recruitment session at the University of Nebraska when they struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to them.

Their seat-mate just happened to be a major Cornhuskers fan.

When they started chatting, Stephens and Ankrah didn't have a clue they were holding court with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

They eventually figured it out, having already impressed him enough that he took them up on their offer to speak at their high school graduation.

A class act.

Girls and Math

I was reading this article when I was taken aback at the following sentence:

While speaking at an event, Summers stated that males are intrinsically smarter than females in science and engineering.

Back the truck up. Summers didn't say that. The link within that sentence, which links to another LiveScience report, says:

In a letter from Summers days after his controversial statements, he wrote: "Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science."

So what's the story? What did Summers actually say? And why would the LiveScience stories contradict each other?

Oddly enough, four years on I can't seem to find an exact quote. What I remember, though, was that Summers, speaking relatively extemporaneously, suggested that researchers should study whether or not there might be innate differences between the sexes. Here's the closest I could find, from the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers has triggered criticism by telling an economics conference Friday that the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from “innate" differences between men and women...

Summers spoke from a set of notes—not a prepared text—so a transcript is not available. But in an interview with The Crimson this evening, Summers said that his speech was a “purely academic exploration of hypotheses..."

Early in his speech, Summers noted that women remain underrepresented in the upper echelons of academic and professional life—in part, he said, because many women with young children are unwilling or unable to put in the 80-hour work-weeks needed to succeed in those fields.

“I said that raised a whole set of questions about how job expectations were defined and how family responsibilities were defined,” according to Summers. “But I said it didn’t explain the differences [in the representation of females] between the sciences and mathematics and other fields"...

“Everyone agrees that working toward gender equity is vitally important,” Summers said this evening. He said that universities must address discrimination head-on, but that academics must also engage in “careful, honest and rigorous research” to understand the factors fueling the under-representation of females. “My speculations were intended to contribute to that process,” he said.

Perhaps it's just becoming part of the public consciousness that Summers stated categorically that women are inferior to men in the fields of math and science, but I'd like to think the press could be a little more honest, or perhaps just a little more accurate, in how it reports such things. What do they teach in journalism school anymore, anyway?

Bad Parents

It is truth often acknowledged but less often spoken that the main problem with schools today is parents.

When you start a column off that way, you've certainly captured my attention. And while I agreed with some of what the author said after that, something just didn't sit right with me. Was it his tone?

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the name of the British monarch's residence in Scotland?

Monday, June 01, 2009

What A Teachers Union Values

Joanne informs us about union-sponsored teacher credentialing classes in Massachusetts:

To earn points toward certification, Massachusetts teachers can take classes in balloon twisting, tie-dye, making paper snowflakes and folk dancing offered by the state teachers’ union, reports the Boston Herald.

There's also a class in investigating and presenting grievances.

Taliban Kidnaps Students

I know, let's let these people run a country!

Taliban militants ambushed a convoy of vehicles carrying at least 400 students, staff and relatives from a boys' school Monday, taking dozens _ possibly hundreds _ captive in northwestern Pakistan, officials said.

Police were negotiating for the captives' release following the brazen abduction _ part of a string of militant actions in Pakistan's tribal belt that the army believes is partly aimed at distracting the military from its offensive against the Taliban in the Swat Valley. The militants were said to be armed with rockets, grenades and automatic weapons.

Splitting Up California

The San Francisco Bay Guardian is one of those alt-weeklies that you can pick up in any restaurant or lobby in the Bay Area, and many liberal establishments outside of the Bay Area. It's usually one of those papers in which I will find nothing with which I can agree.

Yet, even though I don't agree with the slant or specifics of this article, it's hard to disagree with the conclusion:

Over the past few months, a wide range of proposals have cropped up, including a call for a new Constitutional convention and a radical restructuring of the state Legislature. And the prospect of 60 million people eventually living in this dysfunctional political nightmare has led even relatively moderate thinkers to consider the most intriguing, and problematic, option of all: should we break up the state of California?

I don't think we need 6 states; two will suffice: Coastal California and Inland California. In just about every election save the special election of a few weeks ago, every election map looks just about the same--most of the coastal counties (and a couple that border them) vote liberal, and most of the inland counties vote conservative. There's a natural political split there.

But liberals would never allow this split, because Inland California would elect two Republican senators fairly reliably. What would be the benefit to Democrats?

OK, so that's the idea. I like it, and have for years, but it's not going to happen any time soon. Let's look at just one example of liberal bias in this article, because it's so blatant it's funny:

The northern counties could form their state of Jefferson, where pot would be legal and gun control would be limited. The coastal communities from, say, Sonoma down to Los Angeles would have a state with a rational tax policy, good public schools, healthy social services, same-sex marriage, and liberal social policies. The Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and San Diego could have their GOP heaven of low taxes and limited services — until they saw what it was doing to their lives.

"The danger, of course, is that you'd be creating a Mississippi in the Central Valley," Cain said.

Of course! All liberal areas (NYC! Chicago! San Francisco! Los Angeles!) are havens of peace, justice, and high quality government, and all conservative areas (Utah! Florida! Texas!) are horrible places to live, with people fending for themselves because government won't do squat for them. Classic!

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Our old LaSalle.

Today's question is:
Within $50, what is the current spot price of gold in New York?