Monday, November 30, 2009

Affirmative Action In Higher Education

It's been said that affirmative action does nothing more than replace malignant racism with benign racism. This article backs up that statement:

Using the National Study of College Experience (NSCE) — a collection of information from eight anonymous elite colleges — authors Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford are able to calculate various applicants’ odds of getting into a school. They discover some mildly interesting trends regarding social class (more on that later), but their results for race are truly stunning. After academic performance and demographic factors have been taken into account, black applicants are more than five times as likely as whites to be accepted at NSCE private schools, and 220 times as likely to be accepted at NSCE public schools. Asian applicants, meanwhile, are only about a third as likely as whites to get big envelopes from private institutions, and one-fifth as likely to gain admission to public ones.

Putting preferences in terms of test scores, at private schools, blacks get an advantage, compared to whites, worth 310 SAT points (out of 1600), Hispanics an advantage of 130, and Asians a disadvantage of 140. At public schools, the authors present the difference in ACT points: blacks 3.8 (out of 36), Hispanics 0.3, Asians –3.4.

If we look at students who actually matriculate, blacks are far more likely than whites to come from the bottom 80 percent of their high-school classes (27 percent versus 12 percent), have high-school GPAs of B+ or below (32 versus 18 percent), and have SAT scores below 1000 (21 versus 2 percent).

The logical conclusion from this mountain of evidence is obvious: Top-of-the-line schools use severe racial preferences. (boldface mine--Darren)
If I were Asian, I'd be more ticked than I already am.

One important thing to bear in mind is that the authors’ sample — the elite schools in the NSCE — is not representative. Without affirmative action, the minority students who failed to get into NSCE schools would likely go to lower-tier schools rather than skipping college entirely. It’s hard to tell what would happen at those lower-tier schools.

For every lesser-qualified kid who gets into a school because of the color of his skin, a more qualified kid is excluded from that school because of the color of his skin. Is that really so benign?

Which Organization Is The Largest Political Spender In America?

Think about it for a moment. Trial lawyers? Wal*Mart? AARP?


Since the rise of the Internet, we have been able to more easily track political spending. The Center for Responsive Politics has led the way in documenting and accounting for all the different ways money is spent on federal campaigns. Alas, tracking similar spending at the state level has been more of a hit-or-miss proposition. Disclosure laws vary from state to state, and electronic reporting of results has been sporadic.

Until now. CRP joined forces with the National Institute on Money in State Politics to produce the first comprehensive report of political spending at both the state and national levels. The organizations combined spending on candidates, parties and ballot initiatives to come up with a total for each of the nation's special interest groups. The results should give pause to those who think the biggest political spenders must be Big Oil, Wal-Mart and the pharmaceutical, banking and tobacco industries.

By far the largest political spender for the 2007-08 election cycle was the National Education Association, with more than $56.3 million in contributions. The teachers' union outdistanced the second-place group by more than $12 million...

Just to put this in perspective, America's two teachers' unions outspent AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric, Chevron, Pfizer, Morgan Stanley, Lockheed Martin, FedEx, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Exxon Mobil, Lehman Brothers, and the Walt Disney Corporation, combined.

I'll be sure to mention this the next time some liberal (usually a fellow teacher!) mentions how much money business spends on politics.

My solution to getting PAC money out of politics? Limit government. The only reason people spend on politics is they want the power of the federal government to swing their way; get rid of the power, and there's no reason for people to spend their money that way.

Ceremony at West Point

I received permission from the MOPH Public Relations Director to print this release in full:


Springfield, VA November 24, 2009

National Commander Jim Sims Welcomes Five West Point Cadets into The Military Order of the Purple Heart

On Saturday, November 14, National Commander Jim Sims was invited to attend a football game between the USMA and VMI at West Point. Between quarters, Commander Sims and five Cadets, each of whom was a Purple Heart recipient, were called to the 30 yard line, where he presented each Cadet with a lifetime membership in the MOPH, a Purple Heart commemorative wristwatch, and his personal “Commander’s Challenge Coin.” Amid the thunderous cheers of their fellow cadets, the following cadets were recognized:

Cadet Tyler Gordy, Class of 2010 and First Captain of the Corps of Cadets, is a Purple Heart recipient from Newcastle, California. While on patrol in Mosul, Iraq on September 12, 2003 a thrown hand grenade exploded inside his vehicle, leaving Cadet Gordy with shrapnel wounds to his legs, arm, and face. Despite his injuries, Cadet Gordy returned fire, giving others time to provide medical care and remove his fellow wounded soldiers from further danger.

Cadet Matthew Gilbert, Class of 2011, a Purple Heart recipient from Belgrade, Maine was conducting maneuvers during an engagement in Mosul, Iraq on September 17, 2005. After clearing and securing the first of three houses containing hostile enemy, CDT Gilbert’s squad came under heavy enemy machine gun fire. In the ensuing battle, Cadet Gilbert was struck in the forehead by shrapnel from an RPK round.

Cadet Benjamin Ordiway, Class of 2012, a Purple Heart recipient from Champion, Michigan was clearing a canal road of mines in Turki, Iraq on November 15, 2006, to allow access to set up a hasty patrol base. Cadet Ordiway was providing security for the entry point just as one of the gun trucks passed over an emplaced mine, wounding Cadet Ordiway with debris from the engine block.

Cadet Idi Mallari, Class of 2012, a Purple Heart recipient from Chicago, Illinois was conducting operations at a patrol base in As Sadah, Iraq on April 23, 2007, when two SVBIED’s penetrated their perimeter barriers and exploded, killing 9 and injuring more than 30 of his fellow paratroopers. CDT Mallari himself sustained shrapnel wounds and abrasions from the two blasts.

Cadet Sean Staggs, Class of 2013, a Purple Heart recipient from Alta Loma, California was on a combat patrol in Baghdad, Iraq on October 21, 2007, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The explosion shattered Cadet Staggs’ left ankle.

According to Cadet Mallari a few days later, “Many cadets have come to me and thanked me for my service more than ever, and I think cadets understand the sacrifice Soldiers in the service make every day in combat. They appreciate what Soldiers do. The ceremony was a great opportunity to remind the Corps of Cadets that as cadets, we need to get ready to lead the men in the Army once we graduate USMA.”

The organization now known as the "Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. Inc.," (MOPH) was formed in 1932 for the protection and mutual interest of all who have received the decoration. Chartered by the Congress, The MOPH is unique among Veteran Service Organizations in that all its members were wounded in combat. For this sacrifice, they were awarded the Purple Heart Medal. With grants from the MOPH Service Foundation, the MOPH and its Ladies Auxiliary promote Patriotism, Fraternalism, and the Preservation of America's military history. Most importantly, they provide comfort and assistance to all Veterans and their families, especially those requiring claims assistance with the VA, those who are homeless, and those requiring employment assistance. Through the VAVS program, MOPH volunteers provide assistance to hospitalized veterans at VA sites and State Veterans Homes.

For information contact:

National Public Relations Director, John Bircher, 352-753-5535


MOPH on the Web

MOPH on Facebook

MOPH on Twitter

MOPH on YouTube

(Photo credit: USMA)

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Moby Dick.

Today's question is:
In what year was gold discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, igniting the Great California Gold Rush?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last of Star Trek Week, is:
Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.” (Don't worry, though—he was brought back to life in ST III, because the needs of the franchise outweighed the needs of the many.)

Today's question is:
From which classic American novel did the Starbucks coffee chain get its name?

I Should Apply

The University of Leeds needs a lap dance researcher:

The advertised position, in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, is for: “Research Officer - The rise and regulation of lap dancing and the place of sexual labour and consumption in the night time economy”.

The advertisement further stipulates that “prior experience of conducting research in the female sex industry” is essential.

My experience isn't very recent, dating back to my time in the army in the late 80's at two particular clubs in Colorado Springs (neither exists anymore), but I'm sure I could do a good job.

If I get the job and the research leads to conclusions that aren't politically correct or that go against my own biases, I can always take the lead of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia and just fudge the data to my liking.

College Students and Internet Gossip Sites

Honestly, the first thing I thought when I read this article about internet gossip sites, and how college students are using them, was "The students using these sites are the same people who expect the taxpayers to pay for their education and who took over school buildings to protest a fee hike."

The kinds of comments that used to be scrawled inside a bathroom stall are now posted for the world to read on Web sites encouraging college students to talk trash about their classmates.
That girl in the picture, the one with her pants pulled down for all to see*? She was probably yelling at university administrators that she shouldn't have to pay more for college.

*The linked article mentions such pictures on the gossip sites but certainly doesn't show any. In the paragraph above I was taking artistic license to make my point.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the last for Star Trek Week, is:
In which Star Trek movie did Mr. Spock die?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where's Nanny?

A Republican-controlled Congress passed a ban on internet gambling, and a Democrat-controlled Congress wants to overturn the ban:

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are giving U.S. financial institutions an additional six months to comply with regulations designed to ban Internet gambling.

The two agencies said Friday that the new rules, which were to take effect on Dec. 1, would be delayed until June 1 of next year.

A key Democratic opponent of the ban on online gambling praised the action and said it would give Congress time to overturn a law passed in 2006 when Republicans controlled Congress.

So the Republicans, which used to be the party of small government, individual responsibility, and getting government off the backs of the people, passed this nanny-state law. And the Democrats, who feel you're not capable of making any decision without Uncle Sam's oversight, permission, and involvement, want to overturn this ban--Sam will give you "free" health care so you can blow your money playing online poker.

Our political class has lost it. Is there no one with any common sense working in the Congress or White House? I fear the answer is "no, there is not."

How Many Teachers Get Away With This?

There must be some who get away with having relationships with their students or else there wouldn't be any incentive to try it. But dang! Really? And he's married, to boot.

A married PE teacher who had a sexual relationship with a girl pupil after seducing her in one-to-one lessons was today jailed for ten months.

Marc Grim, 37, became 'infatuated' with the 16-year-old after teaching her basketball classes at school.

The father-of-two invited her mother to a meeting to discuss the girl's 'sporting ability' and suggested she would benefit from private tuition.

They soon began a sexual relationship and he regularly told her he 'loved' her in exchange for sex acts, Exeter Crown Court heard.

In his defense, their sexual relationship didn't include full-on intercourse. Great defense.

And had the sexes of the parties been reversed, it's easy to believe the punishment would not have been as much.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Captain Katherine Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew, captained USS Voyager.

The answer to yesterday's bonus question is:
Captain Rachel Garrett.

I guess everyone was out enjoying Black Friday shopping today, as no one answered either question :(

Today's question is:
In all Star Trek TV series and movies except one, Enterprise's registration was some variation of NCC-1701. What was the registration of the first warp-capable Enterprise, from the series Enterprise?

A Teacher, A Hero

Last March I wrote a post about Efren Peñaflorida. This month, I get to post about him again:

Efren Peñaflorida, who started a "pushcart classroom" in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. link
He definitely deserves the honor.

Climate Change

Worldwide, hurricanes are at their lowest level in 30 years. What was it the Goracle said after Katrina?

CO2 levels are higher than they've been in a couple million years, and the earth isn't heating up.

Not only has climate change data been faked, but the computer code for the climate models was faked, too. If climate change supporters were right, they wouldn't have to lie.

Some will still call me a "denier", but the evidence keeps going my way.

Let's look at the track record of similar scares.

Population bomb
Peak oil
Global cooling/"The Coming Ice Age"
Nuclear winter
Resource depletion of the 90's
Bird flu
SARS pandemic
Global warming
Swine flu pandemic

What do they all have in common? Several things.

1. They all required immense, immediate governmental action,
2. action favored by leftists,
3. action that would have a seriously adverse effect on the global economy and prosperity,
4. to forestall apocalyptic consequences.
5. None of them happened.

I guess a worldwide swine flu pandemic is still possible, but I'm not going to get my panties in a bunch over it yet.

Update, 11/29/09: Looking at the economy like a physicist would leads to an interesting (if inconvenient for some) conclusion.

Update #2, 12/20/09: Here is a good synopsis of what I wrote above:

Fundamentally, the Malthusian argument goes like this. (A) There isn’t enough of X to go around. (B) Therefore, human aspirations must be constrained. (C) Therefore an authority must be empowered with sufficient force to crush the lives of large numbers of people. Whether the “X” involved that must be controlled is Lebensraum, food, natural resources, or the right to engage in activities that emit carbon (i.e., live), the bottom line is always the same. Contrived scarcity is used to justify tyranny.

More and more government regulation does not lead to liberty.

Update #3, 12/20/09: 100 reasons why climate change is natural.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Commander (later Captain) Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks.

Today's question is:
Who was the only woman Star Trek series captain, and what was the name of her ship?

Who commanded the Enterprise-C in The Next Generation episode “Yesterday's Enterprise”?

Pilgrims and Socialism

I sometimes forget about this little tidbit of socialism from our nation's past, and experience a wave of joy when I rediscover it. (original post here)

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials...

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land...

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years.

There's much more information at the ellipses. Go take a read--after you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Men's Groups At Universities

This article about men's groups at Oxford and Cambridge seemed fairly balanced until I got to this part:

Personally, whenever I see a privileged group claim the need to branch off, I can’t help but be skeptical about whether they just want that “safe space” to justify their own prejudices. Women are overwhelmingly the gender to suffer from sexism and in the ‘60s and ‘70s, when sexism was much more out in the open, women needed a women-only “safe space” so they could unify as activists. What, pray tell, do these supposedly beleaguered men require a similar “safe space” to do? After all, the term “safe space” implies it’s really dangerous out there for you—so what’s with men-only groups, or white-only groups, or Christian-only groups? I wonder if “men’s groups” are just a place to air sour grapes over having to relinquish some of their power and privileges because of feminism, or a place to say sexist and macho things without fear of social reprimand.

Anyone who said such things about women's groups would face "social reprimand", thus showing the author for what she is.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Getting More Minorities To Attend Our Service Academies

This shouldn't surprise me, given the American Left's disdain for the US military:

High school students applying to the academies must be nominated by a member of Congress or another high-ranking federal official. Congressional nominations account for about 75 percent of all students at the academies.

Academy records obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act show that lawmakers in roughly half of the 435 House districts nominated more than 100 students each during the five-year period.

But Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York City, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, nominated only four students, the lowest among House members who served the entire five-year period. Rep. Charles Rangel, whose New York City district includes Harlem, was second-lowest, with eight nominations. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose San Francisco district is 29 percent Asian, was also near the bottom, with 19.

In fact, the bottom 20 House members were all from districts where whites make up less than a majority.

I guess it's more fun to keep minorities "in their place", reliant on and subservient to their Democratic government masters, than it is to nominate them to a service academy at which they might excel in a meritocracy.

Wednesday Trivia

Then answer to yesterday's bonus question is:
Constitution, Constitution, Excelsior, Ambassador, Galaxy, and Sovereign.

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who commanded Deep Space Nine? What rank was he upon taking command?

Do You Want Your Kid's Math Teacher To Have A Math Degree?

Maybe you shouldn't, according to this author:

Ask a parent, politician, or school board member to describe the ideal qualifications of a math teacher, and most would probably rank having a college major in that subject high on the list.

Yet when it comes to improving student learning in elementary and middle school, research shows that the value of that academic credential is limited—at best.

On the one hand, recent nationwide test scores show middle school students taught by a teacher with an undergraduate mathematics major scoring better, on average, in that subject than those whose teachers did not have that degree. Yet many observers view those results with caution, saying the weight of evidence does not show a connection between teachers’ having majored in math and higher student math achievement, particularly before high school...

Math teachers need to “know the subject matter well and how to teach it,” said Deborah Loewenberg Ball, a scholar who has studied math teaching extensively. “The problem is that the math major is not a good proxy for that.”

An in-depth knowledge of math is necessary, but not sufficient, for being a good math teacher. There's much more to teaching than just content knowledge.

But let's not downplay the importance of content knowledge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

BONUS SHIP CLASS QUESTION: What classes of ship were Enterprise 1701, 1701-A, 1701-B (Generations), 1701-C (Next Generation episode Yesterday's Enterprise), 1701-D, and 1701-E (First Contact and beyond)? (The first two should be extremely easy!)

Today's question is:
In what language does Uhura mean “freedom”?

UC Raising Fees

I wrote here about the University of California system's raising fees 32%. The New York Times has interesting commentary from six different people with different views.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Benefits From Recycling

If recycling cans and bottles were such a great idea, wouldn't someone make some money at it? Instead, Californians pay extra--the CA Redemption Value--at the point of sale, and then pay extra for garbage service which requires a separate container for recyclable goods! Add to that, customers who just want to get their "deposit" refunded are finding fewer and fewer places to take their bottles and cans! The road to Hell is paved with good intentions:

For years California has courted a reputation as an eco-friendly, green-minded leader, but the state now finds its most basic program of recycling beverage bottles and cans mired in debt and litigation...

California's 23-year-old recycling program, managed by the Department of Conservation through fees charged to beverage buyers, has been hurt this year by recession, rising redemption rates and raids of its coffers to help ease the state's budget woes...

Shoppers remain entitled to their nickel or dime deposits for returning glass, plastic or aluminum beverage containers, but many consumers could be forced to drive farther, wait longer or comply with shorter center operating hours.

This would require more gasoline! But back to the story:
Exacerbating problems, the scrap value of aluminum cans has plummeted in the past year, and the market for other containers has struggled...

But state officials clearly are not trying to kill the program because both Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-controlled Legislature have tried to intervene, thus far unsuccessfully.

In California, the government can't even run a recycling program well.

The Issue That Refuses To Die

At the end of the first Terminator movie, the Terminator wouldn't die. It just kept going and going, refusing to give up on its mission of killing Sarah Connor. When it was nothing but a partial robotic skeleton, it pulled itself on the ground towards her, its sole purpose being her death.

How many times was Jason hit, only to keep coming back for more? Or Michael Meyers?

Such an issue exists in teacher education circles. It's teacher "dispositions", or ensuring teachers have the right political and cultural beliefs--that is, hard left social beliefs--before they're let into the classroom. I've written about this several times before. The first instance I found dates back to December 2005, with other important posts on the topic occurring in June 2006, October 2006, September 2007, and March 2008; each of those posts link to others on the topic. What that list shows, though, is that this is an ongoing issue.

Add November 2009 to the list, with this article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Do you believe in the American dream -- the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools -- at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U's College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of "the American Dream" in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace -- and be prepared to teach our state's kids -- the task force's own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

The task group is part of the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative, a multiyear project to change the way future teachers are trained at the U's flagship campus. The initiative is premised, in part, on the conviction that Minnesota teachers' lack of "cultural competence" contributes to the poor academic performance of the state's minority students.

To quote Ronald Reagan, "There you go again."

The first step toward "cultural competence," says the task group, is for future teachers to recognize -- and confess -- their own bigotry. Anyone familiar with the reeducation camps of China's Cultural Revolution will recognize the modus operandi.

The author of this piece is not mincing any words, and is entirely correct.
The goal of these exercises, in the task group's words, is to ensure that "future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression"...In particular, aspiring teachers must be able "to explain how institutional racism works in schools."

Who knew there were so many racists teaching in America's schools?
And what if students' ideological purity is tainted once they begin to do practice teaching in the public schools? The task group frames the danger this way: "How can we be sure that teaching supervisors are themselves developed and equipped in cultural competence outcomes in order to supervise beginning teachers around issues of race, class, culture, and gender?"

Its answer? "Requir[e] training/workshop for all supervisors. Perhaps a training session disguised as a thank you/recognition ceremony/reception at the beginning of the year?"

When teacher training requires a "disguise," you know something sinister is going on.

There's already a Marxist undercurrent in a lot of teacher education, and only some of it is disguised. It's so much easier to spot, though, when they're out in the open about their beliefs. As was said so long ago, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Lousy Customer Service

I took my skis into REI today to get them sharpened/waxed. This is a 30 minute operation, tops.

Today is Monday. They told me to come pick up the skis next Sunday.

While I was there, two employees were working with one woman regarding a new set of handlebars for her bicycle.

There's lots of room for efficiency improvement at the "fixit" counter at REI. Perhaps next year I'll just get waxed paper and use an iron and wax my own darned skis.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Gene Roddenberry, of course.

Today's question is:
What class of starship was the original series' Enterprise?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

And today we start Star Trek Week! But don't worry, the questions will be easy enough for non-Trek-fans to get.

Today's question is:
Who was the creator of Star Trek?

Swim Club Goes Bankrupt

Remember that Pennsylvania swim club that kicked out some day care kids last summer, ostensibly because they were black? You don't? Then go here to read the CNN story from July, and here and here for some follow-up and commentary.

Now giggle because that club has gone bankrupt.

Teacher Sent To Anger Management Classes

You'd better not turn your homework in late in this teacher's class:

Ellis, now a schoolteacher, denied all accusations against her, although she acknowledged in her Friday testimony that she touched another shopper's items on the conveyor belt.

She's denied all accusations against her, but accepted a plea bargain after her case went to a jury. What's the scoop?

Under the agreement -- reached after the jury received the case for deliberations -- Heather Ellis will plead guilty to disturbing the peace and resisting arrest. She will serve a year of unsupervised probation, attend an anger management course and serve four days in jail before the end of the year.

Uh oh. Disturbing the peace and resisting arrest? This is getting better. Let's read on.

Witnesses and police say Ellis cut in front of customers at a Wal-Mart in January 2007, pushed aside merchandise belonging to another customer to make room for hers on the conveyor belt and, after police were called to the scene, kicked one officer in the shin and split another's lip. The prosecution has also alleged the Ellis went "ballistic in a profane tirade" that continued when police officers arrived.

Like I said, you better not turn in your homework late in her class.

Culturally Responsive Math


I've addressed spittle like this before, specifically here and here, and you can read related posts in the Rethinking Schools link at left.

Note that the first link is published by Teachers College at Columbia University, which isn't exactly a place I'd be welcome. At all.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wal*Mart Does Something I Don't Like

If I'm a fan of Wal*Mart for any reason other than low prices and convenience, it's the joy I get from watching some people, usually lefties, careen into the fever swamp at the mere mention of the store. But I've said before, my preference for shopping at Wal*Mart is strictly utilitarian--if another store were to come along and offer me a greater value or convenience for my money, I'd drop Wal*Mart like a hot potato.

Well, Wal*Mart is in the process of trying something I absolutely do not like. Here's the email I sent them today:

I am unhappy with the decision not to have plastic shopping bags at Wal*Mart. I reuse all my shopping bags; providing them is no more "wasteful" than is toilet paper, which is only used once.

Getting rid of the bags creates an avoidable inconvenience for many of us, and for a number or reasons. First, having to purchase shopping bags is just silly. Second, impromptu stops at Walmart will be curtailed because people won't have bags with them and won't want to buy more. Third, people will bring in all sorts of bags or boxes, some of which might not fit on the "lazy susan" bag tables that currently exist, slowing down the entire checkout process. Fourth, those of us who won't bring bags at all will slow down the works when checkers will have to put the groceries back into a shopping cart as they do at Sam's Club.

Jumping on the "green" bandwagon this way is a shallow, feel-good, look-what-a-good-corporate-citizen-I-am, cheap attempt to appeal to a vocal section of our public, at the expense of customer convenience. I encourage you to reconsider.

I received a reply stating that this change is an experiment that will occur only for 30 days and only in 3 stores in Northern California, "after which time we will evaluate the test results to determine the next steps." I hope the next step is to recognize that they've made a mistake and then correct it. After all, their stated goal is to have "zero waste", and Wal*Mart already has bins in which people who do not reuse the bags can toss the bags for recycling.

I'm curious where the plastic bags are made, and where the reusable bags they're selling are made. I also note that paper bags, which Wal*Mart does not use, are made from a renewable resource.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In the 1960s British cult TV series The Prisoner, what was the license plate number of Patrick McGoohan's character's car before McGoohan was whisked off to The Village to become Number Six?

I'll bet you can't wait for tomorrow's Theme Week to start!

Carnival of Education

This week's is here and includes my posts about our principal's stated purpose in visiting classrooms as well as my post about a local principal who was injured in a fight at school.

Climate Change

Page 1, above the fold of our school's newspaper, was an article showing that climate change hysteria is alive and well at the school at which I teach. Read the article online, see for yourself if you agree with the author. That author is what's known as a "true believer" in the Church of Global Warming. (For the sake of professionalism, considering that this is the school at which I teach, I'll reserve further comment on this student's article--but you might guess what I'd say.)

Now read this summary of the emails that were (illegally?) hacked from some prominent global warming enthusiasts/scientists in England. They don't sound very enthused with the data they're getting, do they?

And they can't be very happy that their charades have been exposed to public scrutiny, either.

I find it hilariously coincidental that the first article and these emails were released at about the same time. :-)

Update: One blogger refers to the Climate Research Unit email release as the biggest scientific scandal since Piltdown Man.

Update #2: This post compares what's in the emails with what those same scientists were contemporaneously saying publicly. It doesn't make the CRU scientists look very good.

Update #3: So what about all that consensus? There's some information in the CRU emails about that, too:

And, perhaps most reprehensibly, a long series of communications discussing how best to squeeze dissenting scientists out of the peer review process. How, in other words, to create a scientific climate in which anyone who disagrees with AGW can be written off as a crank, whose views do not have a scrap of authority.
Global warming adherents, your Church has been exposed as a sham.

Update #4, 11/22/09: Here's a pretty good summary of what's going on:

But, at least on this first look, it appears that the three scandals are:

* First, a real attempt by a small group of scientists to subvert the peer-review process and suppress dissenting voices. (For another look at this, by a respected climate scientist who was one of the targets, see these posts on Roger Pielke Sr.’s blog.) This is at best massively unethical.
* Second, a willingness to manipulate the data to make a political case. This is certainly misconduct and possibly scientific fraud. This, if it proves true, should make these scientists subject to strong disciplinary action, even termination of their tenured positions.
* Third, what gives every appearance of an actual conspiracy to prevent data from being released as required by the Freedom of Information Acts in the US and UK. If this is proven true, that is a federal crime.

These emails and the data associated, taken together, raise really important questions about the whole scientific structure of AGW. Is the data really valid? Has the data been effectively peer reviewed and have attempts to falsify been fairly treated? Is CO2-forced AGW really the best hypothesis?Until these questions are answered, the various attempts to “deal with the climate change crisis” have no acceptable scientific basis.
No acceptable scientific basis.

Update #5, 11/22/09: When in doubt, delete.

These emails appear to show that, when faced with a legitimate request under Britain's Freedom of Information Act, these global warming alarmists preferred to delete their emails with one another about the crucially important IPCC report--the main basis for the purported "consensus" in favor of anthropogenic global warming--rather than allow them to come to light. This is one of many instances in the East Anglia documents where the global warming alarmists act like a gang of co-conspirators rather than respectable scientists.
Update #6, 11/22/09: It just keeps getting better.
Al Gore's award-winning global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth," socked two years ago by a British court ruling that found several errors, is facing additional scrutiny with the release of a new documentary that seeks to rebut many of Gore's claims.

UC Students Protest a 32% Increase In Fees

TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

So when you're doing something on the government dime--something like working, or going to school--you must expect that money will be tight for you when money is tight for the government. Here in California that means furloughs for state workers, cuts in services, and a 32% fee hike at our University of California campuses.

I cannot determine from press coverage whether this is a tuition increase or a fee increase. The term "fee" is used, but the context seems as if it's tuition that's being raised. Whichever it is, the numbers being reported are an increase from about $7500/year to about $10,000/year.

Of course, there have been some protests, most notably at UCLA and Berkeley. And while I'm sympathetic to arguments on both sides of this issue, I cannot help but agree with this one:

First and foremost, the protests are about privileged kids demanding subsidies from working people. The UC system will continue to be heavily subsidized by taxpayers, and the students who attend are among the most naturally gifted, with the highest future earning potential, in the country. This is especially true at the system's flagship schools of Berkeley and UCLA, where the protests have been most intense. Narcissism and self-absorption are the norm on college campuses, but it really is pushing the limits to throw such a tantrum at the idea that you will be getting a smaller amount of free money taken out of the paychecks of strapped taxpayers, most of whom could never dream of the advantages and opportunities you enjoy.

On the other hand, California determined long ago that it was a valid state interest to have an affordable higher education system accessible to all. Accordingly, California has a 3-tiered higher education system: community/junior colleges, the 23-campus California State University system, and the 10-campus premier University of California system. Tuition in these systems, as throughout all of higher education, has risen faster than wages and inflation, taking them further out of reach for some students. Still, I highly doubt tuition covers the cost of education; the state is bringing in less money, and somehow the difference must be made up in increased costs to students, cuts in services, or both.

Additionally, many students get some kind of financial aid, so the increase in tuition is really just shifting money from one part of government (government funding of UC) to another (financial aid), with taxpayers continuing to foot the bill.

Still, 32% is rather steep. But let's face it, students are part of the problem here. How many stories have we heard about universities building new state-of-the-art gymnasium complexes, complete with rock walls and such, or new restaurant complexes complete with coffee shops and wi-fi, to attract students. New dorms with luxurious common areas, private baths, etc. In other words, yuppie-to-be accommodations. Someone has to pay for those non-academic expenses, and it shouldn't be the taxpayer.

And if this is fees and not tuition, let's not forget what some of those fees, those above-and-beyond-tuition expenses, cover: ASB membership, athletic program subsidies, student organizations and clubs (that a particular student may or may not ever use), etc.

There's plenty of fault here for this increase in fees, but not all of it rests on the shoulders of the UC Regents.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jimmie Walker played JJ Evans on Good Times from 1973-1979.

Today's question is:
In what Wisconsin city does the Experimental Aircraft Association hold its annual air show?

FYI, this Sunday will be the start of another Theme Week! (You'll either love it or you'll hate it.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Funky College Admissions Essays

The tripe so many of the students write is bad enough, but could you imagine being given some of these topics on which to write?

Update: Link fixed now. Thanks!

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the name of the comedian, and the character he played on the 70s sitcom Good Times, whose signature exclamation was “Dy-no-miiiiite!”?

Live By The Computer, Die By The Computer

Last night my son's mother, my son, and I went to one of the two high schools we're considering for him next year. It was Parent Information Night, and we were there to learn about their course offerings, their programs, and to see how the staff can present the school in its best light.

The presentation was dreadfully boring, and I understand why--all those staff members were there in the evening, not getting paid for it. I'm sure the thought process was something like, "I've got to be here, so I'm at least going to talk for a few minutes about my program/department." Some, of course, merely read their PowerPoint slides....

One of the things they touted was how technologically advanced the school is--after all, they have six interactive white boards! (Blah, give me an overhead and a whiteboard and I'll teach kids.) Several of the speakers mentioned technology and some of the courses built around it.

Of course there were several glitches, not only with the PowerPoint presentation, but also with the podium speaker system :-)

As I said, just give me an overhead and a whiteboard.

(PS Not to slam the event completely, I'm now much more comfortable with the school than I was going into that meeting, so in that regard they succeeded. But so many people got up and left during the "lecture"; I hope that tells the staff something for when they plan Parent Information Night next year.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Taking Intellectual Property Rights Too Far

In this post, and in comments on the linked post, I argued that teachers "own" the lesson plans they create in order to teach students, and that I could find no compelling reason to forbid them from making a buck by selling those lesson plans.

This, however, is a different facet of that topic:

Some Harvard professors are taking very seriously their "intellectual property rights" and have claimed copyright to the ideas that they spread in their classrooms. What prompted this was a website in which students posted their notes to help other students.

The professors have cracked down. It might have been enough to legislate against this behavior in particular. Instead, they wrapped their objection in the great fallacy of our age: the professor owns his ideas and they may not be spread without his permission...

Another approach is the one taken by Harvard and, most explicitly, by the University of Texas, which has suggested that professors make the following contract with students:

My lectures are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I record them at the same time that I deliver them in order to secure protection. Whereas you are authorized to take notes in class thereby creating a derivative work from my lecture, the authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. You are not authorized to record my lectures, to provide your notes to anyone else or to make any commercial use of them without express prior permission from me.

You can make "no other use" of what you learn? Really? That sort of smashes the whole point of education, doesn't it?

That's absurd, as it would rule out sharing your notes in a study group! I can see not wanting students to videotape your lectures and post them on the internet--I can understand a variety of reasons, not all of them academic, for prohibiting that. But part of education is sharing your knowledge, and the UT/Harvard statement above in effect prohibits students from sharing of the very knowledge they paid for!

I can see copyrighting your lecture notes if you hand them out, or any other documents you create, if you really want to go that far. But seriously, not being able to share your knowledge? No way.

Why College Financial Aid Might Be A Bad Idea

From the Hartford (CT) Courant:

Not long ago I got into it with the YouTube investment wizard and U.S. Senate candidate Peter Schiff over college loans and the ever-increasing price of tuition.

The impish Schiff — who predicted the current economic collapse — hit me with a simple explanation to a question I cannot find an answer for: It's the government's fault for handing out so much money through loans and grants.

No government bailout, Schiffian logic goes, no inflated tuition.

While it's not that easy, there's a significant amount of truth to what he says. Schools know that most students are going to get some kind of government financial aid, so they raise tuition--why not? They get the money!

In what areas of the economy have prices been rising significantly higher than the inflation rate for several years? Health care and higher education. In which two areas of the economy is government heavily involved, skewing the market? Health care and higher education.

The correlation is not coincidental.

More Regulation--So You Can Subsidize Internet Access For Others

From the Wall Street Journal:

Federal regulators are considering whether the government should take greater control of the Internet and ask consumers to pay higher phone charges in order to provide all Americans with cheaper access to broadband Internet service.

Do you think internet access is a "utility" that everyone deserves to have, even if they can't afford it? Should the US government charge you more for phone use so that someone in Alturas, or Appalachia, can have cheaper broadband?

This is what happens when you don't enforce limits on your government. "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves", according to Edward R. Murrow.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Alexis de Tocqueville was from France.

Today's question is:
In what year did Princess Diana die?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another "Bad Teacher" Story

First off, unless you intend to ask someone out on a date, you have no business asking them their sexual orientation. And since you shouldn't be asking your students out, you shouldn't take them outside the class and ask if they're gay.

Second, you shouldn't get into a verbal altercation with a student that would cause you to threaten him physically.

Third, you shouldn't offer to pay another student to kill the first student.

Of course, all of this is just alleged at this point. If it turns out to be true, then termination is not the only appropriate consequence.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Article I.

Today's question is:
From which country was the the author of the book Democracy In America?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Which article of the US Constitution deals with the Congress?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Teachers Selling Lesson Plans

Is it ethical for teachers to sell the lesson plans they create? Do school districts own the work teachers create under contract?

I fall on the side of the teachers in this debate. Besides the practical considerations (prove I didn't write this lesson plan at home last weekend), I can find no compelling reason for school districts to lay claim to my intellectual efforts.

Update, 11/20/09: My contract doesn't address the issue at all, but here are two statements I found in district policies:

Use of district computers, computer networks, and Internet services does not create any expectation of privacy. Work produced by any employee on a district computer shall be the property of the district.

District computers may not be used for personal commercial purposes, including offering or providing goods or services.
So as long as I don't use district equipment to create my lesson plans, or use district computers to advertise that they are for sale, I'm safe.

Now I just have to be creative enough to create lesson plans that people would want to buy.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Titanic Week, is:
2009. Millvina Dean died on May 31, 2009, in Southampton.

Today's question is:
Whose phone number was 867-5309?

Young Conservative Activist Speaks At College

From the LA Times:

Giles credits the Young America's Foundation -- the group that put on the conference -- with inspiring much of her political action.

Two years ago, she said, she was just a laid-back surfer kid from Miami when a friend got her to attend a foundation event in Washington, D.C. That, she said, was where she converted to conservatism.

In her lecture Friday about how to take down liberal organizations and expose what she called media corruption, Giles sought to stir others to action. "Above all, attack, attack, attack," she said, quoting Republican consultant Roger Stone. "Never defend"...

According to spokesman Jason Mattera, the foundation aims to groom high school and college students to be future leaders by exposing them to the conservative philosophies that he said were missing from many classrooms.

Is it just me, or is she exceedingly attractive? But I digress.

I recently skimmed Goldwater's 1964 book Conscience of a Conservative again. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could read that book and not be a conservative. I wonder if those college students read it, or if they read only the modern Coulter/Levin/Beck/Ingraham/Goldberg books? Not that those books are necessarily bad, but they lack the intellectual underpinnings of Goldwater's seminal work.

Can Anyone But The Most Rabidly Partisan Take This Woman Seriously?

Yes, I'm talking about Nancy Pelosi.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
RMS Carpathia.

Today's question, the last for Titanic Week, is:
In what year did the last Titanic survivor die?

Can't Get An Aspirin At School, Can Get An Abortion

As a parent, I don't want my child leaving school for any reason without my (or his mother's) consent.

A proposal to allow students in the San Juan Unified School District to be excused from school without parental consent for "confidential medical services" has stirred up a debate that's been playing out throughout the state.

The Pacific Justice Institute – a conservative legal nonprofit – is expected to square off against Planned Parenthood and the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law on the question of whether students in grades seven to 12 can leave campus for medical services that generally include abortions, acquiring birth control and treatment for sexual assault, drug and mental health issues.

I can't give a child an aspirin for a headache, the child cannot make an informed decision about whether or not an aspirin is ok, but the child can make an informed decision about whether or not they should leave school to have an abortion? I just don't understand that logic.

San Juan trustees are considering changing their policy to bring San Juan into compliance with the state Education Code, said Trent Allen, district spokesman. The proposed policy change was recommended by attendance staff members after a routine review of district policies, Allen said.

But Pacific Justice Institute lawyers argue the word "may" in a section of the Education Code on parental notification gives school districts the option to decide whether students can leave campus without parental permission. A letter to the school board from the law group says local districts have the power to have the final say on the decision.

But Sharla Smith of the California Department of Education said state Education and Family codes are clear – "a minor is allowed to get confidential medical care from age 12 and above."

I don't agree with that, but it is the law--kids can get confidential health care. But I don't see where it says that they can take school time to get that health care.

What if the child is hurt in an accident on the way to get "confidential health care". Who is responsible, the state? the school? The child was supposed to be in school!

We cannot simultaneously hold parents responsible for their child's actions, and allow the state and its agencies to actively assist the child in sneaking around behind their parents' backs.

Update, 11/18/09: The school board voted 3-2 last night to keep its current policy.

Science Fair Projects

I'm not sure which of these projects is my favorite, #2 or #10.

How do you experiment, measure, and conclude #10?

OK, I've decided. #10 is my favorite; I like #2 mostly because of the conclusion.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Budget Deficits

The Wall Street Journal Online reports:

The federal government kicked off fiscal year 2010 by posting its widest-ever October budget deficit, the Treasury Department said Thursday.

The $176.36 billion gap is more than $20 billion wider than the shortfall recorded in October 2008, driven up by lower tax receipts, stimulus-related revenue reductions and consistently high government outlays.

Treasury's monthly budget statement shows receipts were $135.33 billion in October, down 18% from a year earlier and at the lowest level since October 2002. Meanwhile, outlays were $311.69 billion, down 3% from a year earlier and at their second-highest monthly level on record.

The October deficit figure is wider than the Congressional Budget Office's estimate for a $175 billion deficit in the month and wider than the $165.9 billion expected by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires...

The staggering number has had U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pledging to rein in the deficit as the nation's economy recovers.

Hot Air offers some insightful commentary:

What better way to kick off Barack Obama’s first full budget year as President than with a deficit that exceeded the White House’s own projections as well as analysts’ expectations? The federal government busted the budget worse than last October by $20 billion with a deficit of $176.36 billion for the month. That used to be considered a decent deficit target … for an entire year.

Of course, to lefties, this is all George Bush's fault.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Edward Smith.

Today's question is:
What ship rescued the Titanic survivors?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Carnival of Education

This week's is here, and includes my post about the myriad languages spoken at my school.

Classroom Visits By The Principal

At our staff meeting today, our principal discussed what he's looking for when he visits classrooms. He was very insistent that he's not there to "evaluate" teachers.

Why not? What's the big deal? Even if he pops in on a bad day, it's still a bad day! One would think he wouldn't base his entire judgement of a teacher's abilities on one short visit, and until he does so, I'll trust him not to. So I thought it was odd that he kept reiterating that he wasn't in our classes to "evaluate" us.

But he did tell us what he's looking at, and looking for. He's not watching the teachers, he's watching the students. He wants to see how engaged they are in learning, how much time they're given to talk amongst themselves about what they've learned (instead of just hearing everything from the teacher), and how they're conducting that talking.

I guess it can't hurt.

Eminent Domain Decision Eminently Stupid

It's bad enough that 5 members of the Supreme Court could somehow be convinced that the "public use" requirement in the constitution's "eminent domain" authority meant that land could be condemned and given to a private developer; the "public use" would be the increased tax revenue, available to the public coffers.

It's bad enough they made a decision so atrocious. What's worse is what we now learn:

Pfizer, Inc., announced today that the company will be closing its former research and development headquarters in New London, Conn. This was a project that involved massive corporate welfare and led to the abuse of eminent domain that ultimately bulldozed the home of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London.

This was the same bogus development plan that five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question when the property owners of New London pleaded to have their homes spared from the wrecking ball. Justices mentioned that there was a plan in place, and that so long as lawmakers who are looking to use eminent domain for someone's private gain had a plan, the courts would wash their hands. Now, more than four years after the redevelopment scheme passed constitutional muster-allowing government to take land from one private owner only to hand that land over to another private party who happens to have more political influence-the plant that had been the magnet for the development is closing its doors and the very land where Susette Kelo's home once stood remains barren to all but feral cats, seagulls and weeds.

Here's more, from the Washington Examiner:

Susette Kelo's little, pink house in New London, Conn. -- like the houses of all her neighbors -- is now a pile of rubble, overgrown with weeds. But Pfizer, the company that called for the demolition in order to build a new research and development plant, announced Monday it is packing up and leaving town in order to cut costs after its merger with fellow drug-giant Wyeth.

New London now has a wasteland where a neighborhood once stood, and no jobs or business to show for it. It's another travesty of central planning.

Central planning. Those of you who look to government to fix all our problems, note: government can take away your house if you're not politically connected enough. Put another way, a government that can give you anything is strong enough to take away everything.

Remember that when you're contemplating putting government in charge of your health care.

Previous posts about Kelo here, here, and here, among others.

Navy Times Reports: USNA Subbed Mids To Look More Diverse

Back in my day, the saying went "excellence is the standard, performance is the criterion". If this report from the Navy Times is true, then the Naval Academy seems to value appearances and so-called diversity more than excellence:

Naval Academy leaders removed two midshipmen from a color guard that performed at the World Series last week because they were white men, and replaced them with a non-white man and a white woman so the academy could present a more “diverse” profile, according to several sources, a move that has reportedly angered mids and alumni.

As it turned out, the color guard still ended up all white because the male replacement forgot parts of his uniform.

Two white, male members of the color guard learned Oct. 28 they were being replaced with a white woman, Midshipman 2nd Class Hannah Allaire, and a non-white man, Midshipman 2nd Class Zishan Hameed, on orders of the school’s administration, according to an internal e-mail message provided to Navy Times by an academy professor. With a national television audience, Naval Academy leadership worried the color guard it planned to send wasn’t diverse enough, the e-mail said.

However, after the color guard arrived in New York for the game Oct. 29, Hameed, whose family is from Pakistan, realized he had left his dress shoes and cover in Annapolis. Midshipman 1st Class Aaron Stroud regained his place and served as a rifleman for the presentation of the colors. Allaire carried the other rifle and the four original members marched with the flags.

What's worse, the report gives the impression that Naval Academy spokesmen are lying:

Academy officials actually sent an eight-person color guard to the baseball game, (Naval Academy Commandant) Klunder said, but the full squad couldn’t perform after Hameed forgot part of his uniform, because color guards need an even number of members. So it wasn’t that the academy administration yanked members of the color guard because they were white men, it’s that Hameed’s “uniform inventory problem,” as Klunder called it, meant that only six mids could march, instead of eight.

But a Naval Academy press release on the morning of the game said six mids were presenting the colors at the World Series, and identified them all by name. Stroud and the other white male mid who had been cut went to the game, according to the e-mail obtained by Navy Times — fortunate, because Stroud was needed to take Hameed’s place — but they never expected to be able to march that night.
This looks bad no matter how you slice it.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
His/Her Majesty's Hospital Ship and Royal Mail Ship (or Steamer).

Today's question is:
Who was the Titanic's captain?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

I've just returned home from Applebee's, which offered free entrees today to all veterans. I had a great meal with fellow blogger, fellow conservative, fellow father, fellow teacher, and fellow veteran Mr. Chanman.

We planned to meet at 3:00; after all, that would be well after lunch and well before dinner. Smart guys, us. When we got there, though, the lobby was packed and people were waiting outside. Many were old men in their VFW regalia, or wearing other indications of their service. I saw veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam there. If any were vets of our more recent wars they didn't wear any identifying clothing.

The promotion Applebee's had was a win-win. They got scores of customers today that they wouldn't have, we veterans felt welcomed in a restaurant that gave us a free entree, and I'm willing to bet the food servers were well-tipped.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
HMHS Britannic, the sister ship to the RMS Titanic.

Today's question is:
What do “HMHS” and “RMS” stand for?

Campus Protests

Most college protests are lame. Of course, most of the protesters are lefties, so lameness is to be expected, but that's a different story.

This protest is lame, too, although the subject matter is deadly serious. You've got to love the stifling of free speech in this case because it might offend somebody. And apparently it did offend somebody--I'll give the students credit for getting under the skin of their Marxist professors and administrators.

The Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago. Let's not forget that the Wall was there to keep people in, not out; let's not forget the guard towers, the concertina wire, the drab concrete.

And then there are the gulags.

Ed Schools

Most of them teach pablum, or worse. Joanne quotes E.D. Hirsch with a statement with which I can only concur:

He attacks the education school as “theological institutes where heresy is viewed as an evil that its members have a civic duty to suppress. The anti-curriculum movement’s sense of righteousness, of being in possession of ethical rectitude and privileged truth, often have a religious flavor. Pro-curriculum heretics are to be seen as fallen souls who want to impose soul-deadening burdens on children and discourage lively, child-friendly teaching. Subject-matter-oriented people are by definition authoritarian, undemocratic and right-wing. ”

It's not just the anti-curriculum heresies that must be banished from those schools, as my own experience bears out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Britannic and Olympic.

Today's question is:
What was the name of the largest ship sunk in World War I?

Monday, November 09, 2009

REPOST: Freedom Is A Little Piece Of Broken Concrete

In honor of the celebrations of the tumbling of the Berlin Wall some 20 years ago, I repost this post from April of 2008. As of this moment the original has 16 comments.

I--Growing up in Cold War Sacramento

I lived just down the street from McClellan Air Force Base; I remember watching from my front yard once as an AWACS came in for a landing, looking like it might touch down right at the end of my street. McClellan was a major logistical base; aircraft were repaired there. It was just north of downtown.

Mather Air Force Base, just east of downtown, was a Strategic Air Command base. There were bombers there, and most assuredly nuclear weapons.

In downtown, and just northeast of downtown in Roseville, were major railroad repair depots. My father worked at the Southern Pacific yard downtown.

East of downtown, in Folsom, was the Folsom Dam, which included a power generation station. Southeast of downtown was the Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant.

South Sacramento held the Sacramento Army Depot.

In West Sacramento is a deepwater port, capable of supporting ocean-going vessels. And Sacramento itself is the capital of what was at the time the 7th largest economy in the world.

Sacramento was an inviting target indeed. We went to school every day knowing, in the back of our minds, that there were Soviet nuclear missiles targeted at us.

II--The Soviet wheat harvest

I believe it was during my first trip to Germany, in the summer of 1974, or perhaps it was my second in 75, when I heard on the radio about a bad wheat harvest in the Soviet Union. The President had decided to sell American wheat to the Russians. I remember thinking, at only 9 or 10 years old: "Let them die." Why would we help the enemy? Détenté or not, they were the enemy. Why not finish them off?

III--The Hawk battery tactical site

In the summer of 1985, the summer after my sophomore year at West Point, I was sent to an active duty air defense artillery unit based in Schweinfurt, West Germany. Each day I rode the troop bus from our battery headquarters out to our "tac(tical) site" near Massbach, West Germany.

B Battery was "on the leading edge of freedom's frontier, guarding the skies of NATO Europe." The thought was that before the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact invaded with ground forces, they'd soften us up with air attacks; our battery's mission was to destroy the attacking aircraft with Hawk missiles. There was only one problem, though--we were within range of ground artillery. The Reds would take us out before the first aircraft flew overhead, before we could ever get a shot off.

Germany in the summer can be rainy or hazy, but one day the weather was exceptionally clear. I climbed to the top of one of our radar towers, and in the far distance I could see a thin strip of dirt winding its way through the trees.

It was the East German border. A fence and probably a minefield, not to keep us out, but to keep them in. A thin strip of dirt--freedom on one side, tyranny on the other.


Only a couple months later I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy. The 6 of us from West Point, along with the exchange cadets and midshipmen from the Coast Guard and Naval Academies, were taken on a tour of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex south of Colorado Springs.

Cheyenne Mountain was partially hollowed, and an entire base built inside. In it was housed the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which tracked everything in orbit around earth--down to and including flecks of paint that had come off rockets. They also monitored our satellites which spied on the Communists.

Like the Greenbrier facility in West Virginia, only not a secret, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex could be sealed off from the outside world with a huge steel door--in the event of a nuclear war. I stood in the control room, I saw the phone that connected the commander directly to the President. I touched the phone myself.

If a launch was detected anywhere in the world, the staff in the control room had about 20 seconds to analyze the flight dynamics and determine if it constituted a threat to the United States or its allies. Fortunately, there never was such a threat; if there had been, the commander would have picked up the phone and told the President. This would have put into play a lengthy series of steps culminating in the launch of nuclear missiles from our triad of forces--ground-launched ICBM's, air launched missiles and bombs like those at Mather, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

It was called MAD, mutually-assured destruction. You fire at us, we'll fire back at you. Our missiles will pass each other over the North Pole. You don't fire at me, and I won't fire at you. Deal?

It was an insane policy, but it worked.

V--Tienanman Square

I was on a rotation to the National Training Center, outside of Barstow, CA, when we got the news. There had been rallies and protests in Beijing since April, but by early June the Communist leadership had had enough. The Chinese sent troops into Tienanman Square to end the protest once and for all.

We were very isolated out in the desert, not even having non-military radios. The only news we got was from the observer-controllers who were evaluating us. All we knew was that the Chicoms had sent the army into Beijing. They began shooting. We heard reports, later proven to be inaccurate, that some military units were firing on others in defense of the protesters. We wondered about a civil war in a nuclear power.

Those reports were wrong. No military units mutinied. It was a massacre. Only weeks later, when we finally returned home to Fort Carson, did we see the iconic picture of White Shirt Guy standing in front of a tank. Tanks are very effective anti-personnel weapons. But one man, a man craving liberty, can be brave enough to stop a line of tanks.

For a little while.

VI--The Wall comes down

Late 1989 was a surreal time. All across Eastern Europe, protests against Communist rule occurred. Why then? It's hard to say. The borders were becoming more porous, and more people were escaping to the West. President Reagan was fueling an arms race, one he knew would bankrupt the Soviets--and governments began to collapse under their own weight and that of their citizens who yearned to breathe free. Gorbachev promised even more democratic reforms, more perestroika. All the lines were converging.

It all happened so quickly. First, East German strongman Honecker resigned in October. On November 7th his entire cabinet resigned. The Communist Party dismissed the ruling Politburo in response to huge anti-government protests. Two days later, on November 9th, the East German government opened it's border and The Wall. Other Eastern European governments also faced huge protests, and within weeks they fell.

The entire Warsaw Pact had collapsed without a shot being fired. The world order that had existed since before I was born evaporated in less time than it took to get a visa.

At that time, most people in the world had never heard of Nicolai Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator. Most had no idea how bad life was in Romania. I had only read his name so couldn't pronounce it (it's chow-shes-coo), and I had only the faintest idea how bad it was there. I remember telling a friend of mine, "I'll believe this is real when that Co-ses-co guy in Romania falls." A few days before Christmas I got a phone call early in the morning; my friend said, "Turn on your tv." And there was Ceausescu, under arrest in his own country.

VII--The Baltic Republics

It seemed that in late 1989 the entire Eastern bloc was protesting communist rule. The biggest underdogs, though, were the Baltic Republics.

Unlike the Warsaw Pact countries, which were theoretically independent but in reality answered to Moscow, the formerly independent countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia had been absorbed into the Soviet Union itself. Special attention was paid to these three Soviet republics by the press. While the world marveled at the sight of people from both east and west standing atop the Berlin Wall, or striking it with picks and sledgehammers, news reports continued to show non-violent protests in the streets of these three small lands.

I didn't understand how fast everything was changing, I couldn't believe it was real. I thought I was going far out on a limb when, in the fall of '89, I bravely predicted that "the Baltic Republics will be free within a decade." There might not be a fight, but no way was Moscow going to slice off parts of its own country, not any time soon.

In December, Lithuania abolished the Communist Party. In March of 1990, it declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Latvia and Estonia followed only two months later.

VIII--The Quinones family

A retired sergeant major died, and I was tasked to be the widow's Casualty Assistance Officer. I was to escort her to the funeral, and later help her with the myriad activities that no one wants to plan for--dealing with insurance companies, getting all the household bills put in her name, having the deed to the house placed in her name, getting a new military I.D. card, and meeting with lawyers, among others.

One of her sons was a major in the Berlin Brigade, the US garrison that had been stationed in Berlin since the end of World War II. He appreciated the efforts I'd expended on behalf of his mother and family, and before returning to Berlin after the funeral asked if there was anything he might do for me. I'd already told him that I would be leaving the army soon, so no, there was nothing, but thank you. And then, with my usual sprightly manner and a smile, I said, "You know, sir? I would like a piece of The Wall." That was just me being funny, fending off the discomfort of talking about getting out of the army.

A few weeks later I received one of those bubble-wrap envelopes in the mail. It was from Major Quinones, and inside the envelope, inside the ziplock baggie, and inside the paper towel--was a little piece of broken concrete. The enclosed letter said he'd gone to The Wall himself to get it for me.


I've seen freedom born--in Vilnius, in Riga, in Tallinn, in Moscow and Tirana, and more recently in Kabul and Baghdad. I've seen the looks on the faces of people as they took their first breaths of free air, their first tastes of genuine liberty. It's a wondrous sight, an honor to watch. Because you see, freedom isn't an abstraction, not to me. Freedom is something real, it's concrete--it's that little piece of broken concrete sitting on my shelf.

Union Thugs Beat Another Guy

The article doesn't say whether or not the subject of this story is a union member, an agency fee payer (SEIU represents state workers, and he's a state worker), or what. Shoddy reporting, although it's possible the reporter doesn't understand issues involving forced unionism (then they shouldn't be reporting on it!).

Ken Hamidi is a state worker at the California Franchise Tax Board. Last night he walked into a union hall in Sacramento for an SEIU local 1000 meeting...

"Three, four people jumped at me, wrestled with me, then did all that," said Hamidi. "I was covered in blood and then over to the emergency room."

Photos of Hamidi in the hospital show him bloodied from the brawl. So why did this happen? Besides being a state worker, Hamidi says he's an unpaid reporter for a cable access show and a vocal critic of the SEIU. He calls the state workers' union corrupt.

"This is a union hall that is leased and is being furnished and equipped and everything with our money," said Hamidi.

"Our money". So he is affiliated with the union somehow. Let's read on.

Hamidi says he came to the hall to expose how he says SEIU union leaders are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a political race, he claims, they have no right to do. After he and a photographer walked in to the meeting, it didn't take long for Hamidi to be right out the door and on his way to the hospital.

We called SEIU union leaders to get their side of the story, but they refused to comment.

Ah, those hardworking, downtrodden union members, fighting "the man" in their effort to get only what's due them. What crap.

Via a link at NewsAlert, here's the police report on the beating of Ken Gladney at the hands of SEIU henchmen.

The police report is unambiguous about what happened on August 6th in St. Louis. The White House, through SEIU, did indeed ‘punch back twice as hard.’ What is ambiguous, however, is why prosecutors haven’t pursued the charges against SEIU. As you will learn, there is a lot to suggest that Bob McCulloch, the St. Louis DA, is trying to cover-up SEIU’s crime. Stay tuned as the truth comes out.

Long Day Today

It was such a long day today, I may not get to make up for it until Wednesday, a holiday.

My prep period is 4th period; I spent that entire period in a meeting, and that meeting went a few minutes into lunch.

I usually stay after school on Mondays, either to plan out my lessons for the week (and put assignments online) or to supervise our after-school tutoring program; today was thankfully the former. Still, in addition to working on my lessons I helped a student who didn't understand some recent material, and then worked with my student teacher to explain the most effective way to teach tomorrow's lesson.

I got to school at 7:30 and left at 4:30.

Oh, woe is me, and I'm sure some of you, especially you non-teachers, would be happy to point out the long (uncompensated) hours you put in at work. I know, I've been there. This isn't about the hours, though. It's about the non-stop hours. You see, I can't take a coffee break. I can't take a personal phone call. I can't extend my lunch by 10 or 15 minutes. I can't sit back and relax for 5 or 10 minutes, or go chit-chat with someone. Teaching is about as close an occupation as there is to acting, and as a teacher you're always on stage.

So yes, it was a long day today.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The White Star Line, also known as The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company or White Star Line of Boston Packets. It later became part of Cunard, which became part of Carnival Corporation.

Today's question is:
What were the Titanic's sister ships?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

This week's theme is Titanic, and here's the first question:
What was the name of the passenger line that owned the Titanic?

Are You Surprised?

I'm not.

California State University officials may have followed federal guidelines in reporting that stimulus money saved an inordinate number of campus jobs, but someone in the university system should have objected to reporting the numbers because "they don't make sense," California's stimulus watchdog official said Friday.

CSU reported late last week that federal stimulus dollars let them retain about 26,000 full-time-equivalent positions. That's more than half of CSU's work force, and it's more jobs than the state of Texas and 44 other states reported saving with stimulus money.

A CSU spokeswoman told The Bee earlier this week that the system reported the jobs in strict accordance with federal guidelines, but confirmed that half the system's work force would not have been laid off if not for stimulus dollars.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
From which Roman bronze coin comes the “d” symbol which was used well into the 20th century to represent British pence (e.g., 2s 6d meant “2 shillings, 6 pence”)?

Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a very deep Theme Week! (Have I given enough clues yet as to the theme?)

The American Body Politic Was Civil Until Racists Rose Up Against Barack Obama.

There truly are people who believe that. Others say it, knowing it to be a lie but hoping it will further their political ends.

Others know better.

Teachers Need To Know Something

I've been fortunate that at the three schools at which I've worked, most of the teachers have been pretty bright. Yes, there have been (and are) a few dim bulbs out there, but even they can be effective teachers if they mostly know their subject matter and have other attributes that can encourage students to learn.

But I've always worked at secondary schools, at which teachers mostly have a degree in the field in which they teach. I don't have much experience with elementary teachers, who, in California, can get a degree in "liberal studies" or some other mishmash and then get a teaching credential.

So it was with some interest that I read this opinion piece:

When I first started teaching in Philadelphia public high schools nearly 40 years ago, there was a ubiquitous joke: If you can't do, then teach. Over the years, the joke has been insightfully amended: If you can't teach, then teach teachers ("Teaching the teachers," last Friday).

"Students in troubled schools typically have the least-qualified teachers," you say. And how true that is - until recently. Last year at Overbrook High School, we had a large group of new teachers come in under the Teach for America program. These were bright, well-educated, enthusiastic young rookies who were immediately successful and are even better this year.

So, what's going on here? These young teachers had degrees in something real - history, English, math, science, etc. - instead of the usual degrees in secondary education. In other words, they actually were smart and knew something - and their students soon realized and respected that. There remains, nonetheless, this stubbornly held belief in college education departments, as well as in each new Philadelphia School District administration, that good teaching is some magical product that percolates from constantly updated "data" and can be imparted to teachers by way of professors, mentors, experts, and constantly rotating nomenclature. What an expensive and distracting myth that has been.

I would state that content knowledge is a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition for good teaching. That, plus overall general intelligence, makes for an even better teacher. Experience counts, too.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Accurate, Insensitive, or Stupid?

I guess the three are not mutually exclusive, but I can see all sides of this issue and have a hard time choosing amongst them. I do know, though, that if the the docent had been white, his actions would have been described as "racist".

During a lesson on the Civil War, tour guide Ian Campbell, who is himself black, made black students pretend to be slaves in front of their white classmates...

One parent said Campbell took his enthusiasm too far when he picked three black elementary school children out of a group of mostly white students to play the role of cotton picking slaves during a his hands-on history lesson. The parent said the students were also made to wear bags used to gather cotton around their necks.

Campbell said, "I was trying to be historically correct not politically correct"...

Although Campbell defends his decision, he said in the future he will take a different approach.

"I'm going to start asking for volunteers instead of calling people from the audience. I think that would make it a lot easier that way if someone is afraid of public speaking or getting up in front of peers it wouldn't embarrass them," Campbell said.

I disagree with the quote from the local NAACP president, quoted at the link.

My Crush, With Eyeliner

I've written before about the "professional crush" I have on Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor (superintendent) of the Washington, DC Public Schools. Well, now it's gotta stay professional:

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has gotten engaged to Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Sandwich Islands.

Today's question is:
In what country is the Taj Mahal?

And mark your calendars this Sunday, when we begin a new Theme Week! Near, far, wherever you are, you'll be interested in the upcoming Theme Week!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Parent Conferences

I was in the counseling office today, and our secretary there remarked how I've been lucky lately--she's scheduling plenty of parent conferences, but none of them involved me and/or my students.

That doesn't mean I don't communicate with parents--I answer plenty of emails, and I have so much information available online. But it was funny the secretary made her comment today, because I had a meeting with a parent and student scheduled for right after school. The parent scheduled it with me directly, not through the counseling office, because I was the only teacher that needed to be involved.