Sunday, February 28, 2010

Historic Black Schools

I'm not so sure this is a federal issue unless the schools are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but certainly some of the schools that were once segregated black schools should be preserved as historical sites:

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- In the shadow of a worn steeple, a gray wooden building that used to be the Mount Calvary School stands held together by sheer will despite years of weather and termite damage.

The school is one of only a handful of former black schools in Horry County that have survived the decades since they were built starting in the mid 1920s and since they became obsolete when the school system integrated in 1970.

Seeing Pink

California law requires school districts to notify, by March 15th, any tenured teacher who might conceivably be laid off at the end of the school year. Every year around March 15th you see stories like this one, which is more ominous than any in recent years:

Unlike previous years when many layoff notices were rescinded, school officials say more of those employees will likely lose their jobs this year...

The rising numbers of pink slips locally are part of a statewide wave. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, said the deluge could be worse then last year, when 28,000 teachers received pink slips and 16,000 lost their jobs.

Sanchez and his ilk are part of the problem.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to Friday's question is:

(My bad for not posting yesterday!)

Today's question is:
Which of the following positions is/are/was/were not associated with, or held by, Sir Isaac Newton: Mathematician, alchemist, theologian, physicist, astronomer, warden of the Royal Mint, member of the Royal Society, author, father, uncle, Member of Parliament, knight, and/or Justice of the Peace?

Tomorrow will begin Pop Music Variety Week for trivia questions!

What's Another Name For "Reconciliation"?

The liberals in Congress, trying to push through an exceedingly unpopular health care bill, are considering doing so via the "reconciliation" process.

Do you remember what the "reconciliation" process was called in 2005? Back then it was called the nuclear option--and Senators Obama, Biden, Clinton, Reid, et. al., were steadfast against it. What a difference a day makes!

Hear them in their own words.

Update, 3/3/10: Ann Althouse has more of the current president's former words.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Racist Occurrences at UC Campuses

It's good that the governor is speaking out about this, but it's going to take more than his bully pulpit to fix this problem.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Saturday he is deeply troubled by recent acts of racism at three University of California campuses.

Schwarzenegger's statement comes after a string of incidents this month on the campuses in Davis, Irvine and San Diego.

Protests in Berkeley Over Budget Cuts

Nothing says "don't raise my tuition" like breaking into a campus building and trashing the restaurants.

I’m just wondering what Sweetie has against some minimum-wage worker at Subway.

You know, the guy who pays the taxes that (subsidize) the University of California, Berkeley.

I also contrast this to the peace protests.

Sweetie seems to be far less angry about people dying overseas than having to shell out a few more bucks in tuition.

It's stories like this that cause me to seriously question the amount of money we pay for California's higher education system.

Which States Are In The Worst Economic Trouble?

The five states in the worst financial condition--Illinois, New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey--are all among the bluest of blue states. The five most fiscally fit states are more of a mix. Three--Utah, Nebraska and Texas--boast Republican majorities and two--New Hampshire and Virginia--skew Democratic. link

I'm not surprised.

Video Applications For College

Among the stupidest ideas ever, for all the reasons in the comments to this post.

Firing All The Teachers

Last week, when Toyota executives were being grilled before Congress, it was hard to know whom to root for: root for Toyota and you root for a company that knowingly ignored serious safety concerns in its cars, root for Congress and you root for a bunch of grandstanding blowhard idiots. Tough choice.

Likewise, I'm torn regarding this story of the Rhode Island school that's fired all its teachers because they won't work a few extra hours a week without extra pay. I admit enjoying the relative job security I have, and I don't want to think that could ever be jeopardized (especially since I'm one of those rock-the-boat teachers). Additionally, I wouldn't really want to be required to work extra time at no additional pay. On the other hand, when you're working at one of the worst-performing schools in the state, you can't just expect to continue the status quo. The fact that the teachers union is rocked by this is just gravy for me :-)

Is there any indication that the requested additional work would do any good? Read about the community surrounding this school; has there been any outreach to get the community to "do its part" to improve student achievement, or is it all to come down on the shoulders of the teachers? Did the teachers offer anything, or just expect to keep on keeping on?

It's hard to know whom to root for.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Minneapolis, MN. (Battle Creek, MI, is home to Kellogg's.)

Today's question is:
When did the Northern Marianas officially become a US territory?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Questioning California's Higher Education System

A few days ago in this post I posed the questions, is higher education a public good, a private good, or both? Do taxpayers get their money's worth by subsidizing the cost of higher education?

Today I encounter this story about the deteriorating condition of higher education here in California:

"It is the most significant step California has ever taken in planning for the education of our youth," said Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, while signing the Master Plan for Higher Education on April 26, 1960.

Nearly 50 years later, the plan is faltering, burdened by decades of passive state oversight and a blurring of the roles the state's three branches of higher education were supposed to play.

The results are grimly manifest throughout California...

"California, which set the gold standard for higher education planning in 1960, now stands alone among sizable states in its lack of established goals, a statewide plan and an accountability system for higher education," concluded a January report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office...

In its January report, the Legislative Analyst's Office recommended what in essence amounted to an overhaul of the higher education master plan...

(Assemblyman) Block and others have suggested that the state's current budget crisis offers an opportunity for a revamping of the master plan – and makes it a necessity, since state support is not likely to increase appreciably in the next few years.

"It's high time we take another look at our master plan and see how we can improve it," Assemblyman Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, said at a legislative hearing on the plan earlier this month.

We might revamp the system, or we might revisit whether there's a public good in the state's spending so much on higher education. After all, it's not 1960 anymore.

I'm not pointing to a particular outcome here, but it's important to reassess whether the conditions of 1960 are still present enough to merit spending as much money as we do for someone else's college education.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Father Damien of Molokai, who worked for over a decade with lepers.

Today's question is:
In what city is General Mills headquartered?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

With Socialized Medicine, You Don't Even Need Official Death Panels

The Brits aren't a stupid people. No one expected their horrific National Health Service problems when the program was first instituted. No one expected anything like this--and let's be clear, this is not an isolated case; the fact that I haven't written more about such abominations in so-called health care doesn't mean that I'm not finding horror stories.

Patients were routinely neglected or left “sobbing and humiliated” by staff at an NHS trust where at least 400 deaths have been linked to appalling care.

An independent inquiry found that managers at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust stopped providing safe care because they were preoccupied with government targets and cutting costs.

Nobody planned such a system, but it is the inevitable result of socialism.

Nobody in Canada planned to have a health care system so bad that a provincial premiere (akin to a US state governor) would choose to have heart surgery in the US rather than in Canada. The inference is clear--if he waited in Canada like everyone else must, he'd die.

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams will undergo heart surgery later this week in the United States.

Deputy premier Kathy Dunderdale confirmed the treatment at a news conference Tuesday, but would not reveal the location of the operation or how it would be paid for.

Nobody planned such a system, but it is the inevitable result of socialism.

Do you remember the summer of 2003, when 15,000 people, mostly elderly, died in France in a heat wave? They died in part because half the country was on vacation, including doctors. People left their parents and grandparents to die in the heat, expecting the government to look after them, while everyone went and enjoyed themselves at the beach.

The heat wave occurred in August, a month in which many people, including government ministers and physicians, are on holiday. Many bodies were not claimed for many weeks because relatives were on holiday.
Nobody planned such a system, but it is the inevitable result of socialism.

Neither the Brits nor the Canadians nor even the French are a dumb people. No one would choose such systems if they knew these were the results that would be delivered.

Yet we now know that's what socialized medicine delivers. Why would we choose it for ourselves?

Parents Go After School Because Of Student Newspaper

In disputes regarding schools and parents, my default position is to side with the parents unless the parents are just out there. In disputes regarding schools and students, I think my default position is to side with students unless the students are just out there.

Clarifying, for me to side with the school, somebody else really has to be screwing up. And in this case, it's the parents.

Pacific Justice Institute officials said Tuesday that they plan to file an administrative complaint against Ventura High School for allowing students to participate in a campus newspaper sex survey without seeking parental permission.

Pacific Justice officials said parents in January approached the nonprofit legal defense organization that specializes in religious freedom and parental rights after they saw the Dec. 18 issue of The Cougar Press.

Included in the 16-page edition were articles on sex and results of a survey taken by 1,000 random Ventura High students. The survey questions included ”Are you sexually active?” “Were you sober the first time you engaged in sexual activity?” and “What grade were you when you lost your virginity?”

The story goes on, but you get the idea.

Parents and PJI assert that the school isn't following education code because ed code states that for the school to give such a survey, parents have to be notified and be given the option to opt out. However, in this case the school isn't giving the survey. School officials are not giving or promoting this survey. This is being done by the students themselves in journalism class, and California has some of the strongest student-press freedom laws in the country.

Yes, someone might argue that the newspaper advisor (teacher) is a school official, but don't expect that to hold up in court. That advisor can't censor student work any more than a principal can.

Of course, the advisor does have some pull. A student doesn't have to be in journalism class, and there's always the issue of grades. I would think, though, that most students who take newspaper class want to learn about, and have some sense of, appropriate standards, and that the advisor could use persuasion to convince students to pull a story that might be considered "over the line". But does anyone really want to advocate that a journalism teacher use such threats in order get what he/she wants in the school paper, or to kill stories he/she doesn't want?

I don't think this survey, though, is necessarily over the line. I can see why some would object to it, but it's not extreme. No one is promoting sexual behavior by surveying students. On the other hand, the attitude that "the parents who object are just those who think their babies are virgins!" is a silly, unrealistic argument as well. We parents should be able to have divergent views on topics without having to label the other side as prudes or sluts, indeed, without having to label the other side at all. In this case, people just disagree. It's not like politics, where we disagree but if your guys are in charge I am definitely affected by the higher taxes :-)

So while I myself am not in favor of discussing student sexuality in the school paper, I can't see how the school can do anything other than let the kids run with their stories. It might be illustrative, though, to learn what some of those other "articles on sex" were about. A running column on "student favorite sexual acts" might merit a little more pressure, as that would be inappropriate. I'm willing to draw the line at this survey, but not too much further--especially given that we're not changing student-press protections in California any time soon.

Where would you draw the line?

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
San Francisco, in 1891.

Today's question is:
Barack Obama is the first US president from Hawaii. Who is the first Catholic saint from Hawaii?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Women Studying Math

I find this little tidbit of information to be most interesting, given that math and the sciences are supposed to be bastions of male-hood in universities:

Given that background, it was somewhat surprising to find that women earn almost half of the bachelor's and master's college degrees in mathematics, according to data through 2006 from the Department of Education (see chart above). Women have actually earned more than 40% of college undergraduate math degrees since 1972 and more than 40% of master's degrees since 1989.
No glass ceiling here.

Everyone Loves Adam

I've been waiting for the February issue of our school paper to come out online so I could link to the story about Adam (scroll down to page 17 of the pdf file). Just today I saw it's finally there--the same day that the major Sacramento newspaper had a story on Adam.

I've never had Adam in a class but I know who he is--you can't miss him as he drives around campus in his motorized wheelchair. Another teacher introduced me to him over a year ago, and Adam and I were pleased to learn that each other is a good conservative. We've had many chats on the quad--no, he doesn't repeat boilerplate, he knows what he's talking about. He and I disagree once in awhile, and that shows me that he's thinking for himself. And think he does.

If you want to see what high-quality student journalism can look like, read the first link above. If you want to read about just how cool it was, especially for Adam, when a Sacramento Kings player was a guest at a recent school rally, read the first link. If you want to be uplifted, if you want to read about a great kid (with great teammates on the basketball team), if you want to read about overcoming adversity and how easy it is for a kid with cerebral palsy to fit in at our school, read the stories at both the links above. Perhaps you can read those stories without getting tears in your eyes; if so, you're stronger than I am. Either that or you have no soul. :-)

I didn't know, until reading the school paper, that Adam's the manager for our basketball team. I didn't even know about his love of (and in-depth knowledge of) the game. When we see each other, we usually talk about socialized medicine or Sarah Palin or Ronald Reagan or Mark Levin's book or how to deal with terrorists. Reading these stories, though, I learned much more about Adam and my respect for him continues to grow. Can you imagine a kid in a wheelchair giving not just encouragement but advice to basketball players on the court, and the players' not just listening to it but welcoming and considering it? Sometimes I marvel at the decency and maturity (not to mention intellect--our players are smart to listen to Adam) these teenagers display. They don't pity Adam, no one does; we respect him, and rightfully so.

One aspect both stories touched on is Adam's optimism. I don't think I've ever seen him in a bad mood, I wonder if he even knows what one is. And how mature must he be to undertake all those trips to Poland, by himself, to get treatment for his condition? He doesn't talk about his cerebral palsy or the efforts he goes through to deal with it--no, Adam has other pursuits on his mind. From the school paper story linked above:

Felton’s interests include news, radio and T.V. communication, politics, and of course the NBA. He hopes to pursue a career in one of these areas.
From the major Sacramento paper story linked above:

Leibovitz knew Felton was a basketball fan from having shared a class together. He also knew his team needed a manager.

"I knew he loves basketball and is a huge Kings fan," Leibovitz said. "The first thing he says is, 'Oh my God, are you serious? Count me in.' "

Felton had been to a "couple" of Rio Americano games as a junior and liked the atmosphere. Leibovitz made the experience more enjoyable by coming over, shaking Felton's hand and telling him he was glad he was there.

"When Abe told me about the opening, I just wanted to get involved with the team and help any way I could," he said. "I even talked about some options for an advertising campaign to sell tickets. The coach heard that and said, 'I like this guy.' Things just took off from there."

Did they ever. Unlike a traditional manager, Felton doesn't hand out towels and balls. He hands out advice and encouragement.

"You can be in a bad mood, but when you talk to Adam, you walk away in a better mood," said senior shooting guard, and scoring leader, Zach Nathanson. "You walk away a better person."

It may suck to have cerebral palsy, but it doesn't suck to be Adam. And that isn't just fluff to prop up the disabled kid. Zach is right: when you're done talking to Adam, you do walk away a better person.

As I said, I've never had Adam as a student, but I'm sure going to miss seeing him around campus after graduation in a few months.

Douchebag Professor Knocks Entitled Twit Business Student Down A Few Notches

I say he's a douchebag only because the introduction to this post makes him out to be a douchebag. Like some of the commenters, given this introduction I expected to side with the student in this email exchange but came down fully in the court of the professor. Of course, he doesn't need to use foul language and might consider learning what gerunds are, but his sentiment is correct. A sample:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It's not too late xxxx...

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
When and where did the Red Kettle campaign, the Salvation Army's biggest fundraiser, begin?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
5690 rooms. (Details about what constitutes a “single hotel” can be found here.)

Today's question is:
What is Mikhael Gorbachev's wife's first name?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Roseanne Week, is:
Lanford, Illinois.

Today's question is:
The MGM Grand is the largest single hotel in Las Vegas. Within 500, how many rooms does it have?

Lying With Graphs

Via Natural Blogarithms I came to this post about data interpretation (lying) using graphs. It's a good refresher course, especially for the Hockey Stick crowd :-)

Are Health Insurance Companies Making Too Much Money?

Any libertarian or conservative worth his or her salt would cringe at the concept that someone should determine how much money is "too much", but let's leave that for another day. Is it true that health insurance companies are making, however we define it, too much money? This professor of economics and finance ranked plenty of fields; you can decide for yourself.

Do you want a government-run health care system?

Update: if you don't want to trust him, maybe you'll trust Yahoo Finance data.

Higher Education--A Public Good, Or An Individual Good?

What’s not to appreciate about higher education?

John Immerwahr, a philosophy professor at Pennsylvania’s Villanova University who co-wrote a recent study of Americans’ perceptions of higher education, says there’s plenty of evidence that people see value in an advanced degree.

But ...

“When you start to ask questions about who should pay for it, that’s where the controversy comes in,” says Immerwahr, also a senior research fellow at Public Agenda, a national nonprofit organization. “People see higher education as an individual good — something you need for yourself.” link

Especially in California, we assume it's a public good, and that's why we devote so much money to our three-tier higher education system. However, it doesn't hurt to periodically revisit that assumption, if for no other reason than to reestablish its validity. There's a good argument to be made against this assumption, though, and it should be addressed; ignored, it festers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Third and Delaware.

Today's question is:
In what city/town does the show Roseanne take place?

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Admit It. I Went In To Work Today.

It's Ski Week, and instead of being up on the slopes I've spent the vast majority of it at home, and much of that time in bed. I don't know what I have, but whatever it is it just saps my energy. It's like having mono all over again!

After over 11 hours of sleep last night I met a friend for lunch today, and then I went to school. At the end of last week our math department received our new document cameras, forever exiling the ubiquitous overhead projectors, and I wanted to have mine set up and ready to go. I connected the laptop, on which I run this graphing program, and figured out how to feed both it and the document camera into the LCD projector. Since the supposedly "overhead" screen wasn't so much over my head as behind it, I often had to write something and then move aside so my students could see it; now, I can have the document camera off to the side as I work on it and the students can see the screen clearly. As Martha Stewart might say, this is a good thing.

I also planned a couple lessons for early in the week, answered and wrote an email or two, and realized the cd's/dvd's that came with our textbook are useless (I was checking them out now that I have all the technology required to use them). How hard would it be to put a short tutorial on each textbook section onto a DVD, so even if I have a substitute the students could learn something? Instead, they have a PowerPoint presentation on each section--no audio, just a slideshow of the exact same example problems from the text! Not even different numbers! Grrrrrr.

Having done that little, I'm again exhausted--my default condition for the week. This sucks. I think I'll go have some tea, watch a movie for awhile, and enjoy my rockin' Friday night.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ned Beatty.

Today's question is:
What was the intersection shown in stills between scenes, presumably the intersection where the Conners lived?

I Returned To Wal*Mart, And My Manufacturing Manager Past Took Over

A friend wanted to go to Wal*Mart yesterday, so I braved the new world of bagless checkout.

How right I was! You should have seen the poor checkers, trying to get various and sundry bags to stay open (they're not hanging conveniently on the lazy Susan, like Wal*Mart bags can!) while loading them. I joked to my friend about how inefficient this is, and the checker said, "You're not kidding."

Even worse, we didn't bring in enough bags. We only expected to pick up a few things, so we only brought in one shopping bag apiece. Roaming about, though, we each decided there were more things we couldn't live without. The poor checker had to try to cram things into the bags we brought; is it our "fault" for not bringing more bags, or should Wal*Mart make it easy for us to buy more than we planned by not requiring us to bring our own bags?

Of course I knew this would occur. How could it not? Anyone who's ever spent a day looking at manufacturing plant efficiency could see this train wreck coming--and remember, this particular store has had a month and a half of being bagless to (supposedly) work out the kinks! Bad, bad, bad. Inefficient. Inconvenient. This is what happens when you try to appeal to lefties.

And the (sarcastic) good news for Wal*Mart continues with this story:

In the important holiday quarter ending on January 31, net sales at Walmart’s 3,400-plus US stores fell 0.5 per cent year-on-year to $71bn (€52bn). Comparable store sales declined 2 per cent. Customer traffic also fell.

I contributed to this, playing my small part by not shopping at any Wal*Mart store in January.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

If I Come Up With Something More Stupid, I'll Let You Know

Here's the condensed version: a school issues laptops to students. These laptops come with a built-in web cam which can be activated by district personnel unbeknownst to the students; the stated purpose of this feature is to assist in recovering stolen or lost laptops. A class-action suit against the district has been filed for activating the web cams:

They claim Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, spied on their son, Blake, at home by remotely activating the webcam on his laptop.

The suit alleges that Matsko informed the boy that he was engaged in inappropriate behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in his laptop.

The student told his parents about the incident, the suit claims, and the boy's father confronted Matsko.

The suit claims Matsko acknowledged the school could start the webcam and take pictures whenever it wanted to.

The family's lawsuit alleges the school district violated civil rights, privacy and federal wiretapping laws, and it says as many as 1,800 students could be affected at Harriton and Lower Merion High Schools.

The family also claims that every high school student in the district had a webcam laptop, and the computers were paid for with state and federal aid money.

I'm curious about what the kid was doing in the picture the assistant principal referenced. And then there's this little nugget of pain-and-suffering:

"This school-issued laptop is a part of our life 24-7," parent Karen Gotlieb said. "It is open all the time. I just received an e-mail from my daughter, who's very upset, saying, 'Mom, I have that laptop open all the time in my bedroom, even when I'm changing.'"

Somebody didn't think this through.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, which I'm surprised no one got, is:
Laurie Metcalf, who played Roseanne's sister Jackie.

Today's question is:
What actor played Dan's father?

I Don't Usually Criticize Our Military Commanders, But...

...while I can see some value in doing this, I don't think it's the right decision to make. Isn't serving in Afghanistan rough enough duty already?

Most Army and Air Force Exchange Service concessions serving U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be closed within 90 days under an order issued Feb. 5 by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in that war zone...

“MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) programs across the theater should be limited in scope and tailored for an expeditionary force,” McChrystal said in his order. “MWR should never be the distracter that changes the focus of the mission.”

I wasn't aware that having a Burger King in a camp in Kabul was a distracter that was changing the focus of the mission, but then again, I haven't been there recently to find out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Super Seniors

Some people just never grow up, I guess.

The California State University system has turned its attention to "super seniors" – students who have lingered in school for years even though they have enough credits to graduate.

CSU officials have said they will reduce enrollment by 40,000 students statewide in response to a 20 percent budget cut from the state. In addition to accepting fewer new students for admission, campuses are urging those who should be at the end of their college careers to take the final step and graduate.

"What we're really trying to do is say, 'Have a goal and get there,' " said Jo Volkert, an associate vice president at San Francisco State University. " 'We will help you get there.' "

It may sound like a no-brainer for an institution whose job is to educate students and get them into the work force. But dozens of reasons – from personal to bureaucratic – cause students to rack up units, staying in school longer than necessary. They take up seats in classes they don't need and cost taxpayers along the way: The state pays CSU about $7,000 a year for each full-time student enrolled.
"The state" isn't paying for these people, the taxpayer is.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
George Clooney. (Martin Mull played the boss in the diner.)

Today's question is:
Which actor/actress won an Emmy for his/her role on the show?

Lots of Math In Gambling

There's some interesting math in this story, Colorado casinos want lower payouts on blackjack.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wal*Mart Screws Up Again

There's truth in something I once read, and it applies equally well to organizations as to people: those that would bite the hand that feeds them would lick the boot that kicks them.

So it goes, it would seem, with Wal*Mart:

As we documented in our Special Report titled Wal-Mart Embraces Controversial Causes: Bid to Appease Liberal Interest Groups Will Likely Fail, Hurt Business, the company’s management has steered the company to the political Left under the guidance of Edelman public relations firm. With the public now turning against the very ideas that Edelman counseled Wal-Mart to embrace, it is no surprise that the company would seek to limit our ability to communicate with other shareholders.

I supported Wal*Mart when they set a goal, before it was popular to do so, to sell a certain huge number of fluorescent light bulbs. I haven't been with them on this push to stop using plastic grocery bags, nor have I been with the company on "cap and trade" and health care legislation.

Wal*Mart should get out of politics and leftism and should stick to what it does best, which used to be to deliver convenience and low costs to its customers.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Becky, Darlene, and DJ.

Today's question is:
Early in the series, Roseanne worked at a factory. What actor played her boss?

Lake Erie Freezes For The First Time In 14 Years

Church of Global Warming adherents will continue to repeat their mantra, "Weather does not equal climate", but there seems to be a lot of weather out there that is not adding up to the climate they predict. This is yet another data point:

Following a cold snap in the Northeast, Lake Erie's surface is virtually frozen over for the first time in about 14 years.

The ice ranges in thickness between paper thin along the northern shore and several inches along the southern shore, where many people are ice skating. reports that the lake hasn't completely frozen since the winter of 1995-1996.

The current cold snap will keep the lake mostly, if not completely, frozen for at least the rest of the month.

Perhaps Al Gore is visiting the area.

Proposal to Cut 12th Grade

A Utah state senator proposes an option for students to skip 12th grade and save the state $60 million.

Teachers and Facebook, Again

I've written several times that what teachers and students do on their own time is their own business, and that the school should stay out of it. However, I grant that there's a gray area, and this teacher is smack dab in the middle of it:

Caustic remarks on a Facebook page by a Wake County middle school teacher and her friends about her students, the South and Christianity could get the educator fired.

Melissa Hussain, an eighth-grade science teacher at West Lake Middle School in Apex, was suspended with pay Friday while investigators review her case, according to Greg Thomas, a Wake schools spokesman.

If you're publicly making remarks about the people you work with, and that includes students, then you're in a gray area. I'm not saying the teacher should automatically be fired for this, just that the teacher isn't covered by my total "butt out, school" philosphy.

At first glance, I'm inclined to believe that this teacher should be allowed to attack Christianity. So what if her students are Christians? I attack liberalism all the time, and plenty of my students are liberals. Should I not be allowed to do so?

I'm a little unsure about attacking "the South", as the attacks are clearly general attacks about people from the South. Throw in race or sexual orientation instead of "the South" and few would defend it, so I'm inclined to yell "gray area!" or "yellow light, slow down!" here.

But attacking particular students? Uh, no. I can't abide that. Sometimes, long after a particular incident, it can be acceptable to write about an incident and leave names out of it. Talking about something that happened in class today--well, you have to be careful. I can't come up with a hard and fast rule, but I'd say some discretion is required. It's acceptable to write about this, for example, but it wouldn't be acceptable to trash someone in your class.

What's a reasonable rule of thumb for what's acceptable for a teacher to post publicly versus what isn't acceptable?

Update: Maybe I'm wrong, maybe there isn't a gray area at all:

A student who set up a Facebook page to complain about her teacher -- and was later suspended -- had every right to do so under the First Amendment, a federal magistrate has ruled.

The ruling not only allows Katherine "Katie'' Evans' suit against the principal to move forward, it could set a precedent in cases involving speech and social networking on the Internet, experts say.

Perhaps, as long as we're not discussing Privacy Act issues, we teachers are also free to say whatever we like.

Hat tip to NewsAlert for the update.


Satire? I know satire. Satire is a friend of mine. And this isn't satire.

OK, the Adopt A Regent campaign is satire, and it's pretty funny. But other than that, I have to wonder what kind of college education our UC students are getting--and whether it's worth it to me as a taxpayer to fund it--if this is the best they can do.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What were the names of Dan and Roseanne's children?

Socialized Medicine

Not working out so well in Tennessee:

Gov. Phil Bredesen, who came into office in 2003 promising to "save" and "not dismantle" TennCare, has managed to keep it alive. But he has moved at least 300,000 people off the program rolls, limited the most expensive home care and made it tougher to get on TennCare in the first place.

Still, the program is expected to consume about 24 percent of the state finances under Bredesen's budget proposal next year,a drop from the ballooning 30 percent when he took office, but a long way from the years before TennCare when, state lawmakers remember, they dedicated about 10 percent of the budget to health care.

Not working out so well in Massachusetts:

The day of reckoning has arrived. Threatened first by rapid early enrollment in its new subsidized insurance program and now by a withering economy, the state’s pioneering overhaul has entered a second, more challenging phase.

Thanks to new taxes and fees imposed last year, the health plan’s jittery finances have stabilized for the moment. But government and industry officials agree that the plan will not be sustainable over the next 5 to 10 years if they do not take significant steps to arrest the growth of health spending.

Not working out so well in Hawaii:

Just 16 years ago Hawaii was held up as a model for national universal health-care. Now it is broke and even its vaunted employer mandated coverage is not guaranteeing everyone is getting coverage.

Our federal system was created so that the states could serve as "laboratories" for democracy, trying out programs and seeing if they work. Three states have tried government-mandated health care, and three states have failed at it. Anyone who thinks such a program would succeed at the national level is a liberal political ideologue or a fool, but I repeat myself.

Can anyone, anyone, really expect California to try such a system given its track record of fiscal mismanagement and our current $20 billion or budget shortfall?

Uh Oh. The Rubes Have Figured Out The "Climate Change" Fakery.

And someone isn't happy about it :-)

(language warning!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Trivia

I'm a bit remiss in posting this.

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

Today's question, the first in Roseanne (the sitcom) Week, is:
What was Roseanne's last name on the show?

Happy New Year

Today begins the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese tradition.

Dance of the Lemons

Read this story of LA Unified's attempts to get rid of poorly performing teachers. Wow. Would a smaller district with a smaller union be able to get rid of bad teachers more effectively?

I think part of LA Unified's problems come from its size. I say that, however, fully admitting I have nothing to back that up with except gut impressions.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

"You have failed me for the last time."

If that isn't an exact Darth Vader quote, it's close enough. If only Darth Vader could meet up with the Bellevue school board and its teachers....

It's coincidental that on the same day that I get an email asking for help in tutoring a student in CPM (a horrid integrated math program), I read this article about Washington State schools and their tug-of-war over traditional vs. integrated math:

Bellevue PTSA organizers scrapped a parent math night, fearing it had been taken over by parents on only one side of the issue — those who want the district to adopt a traditional math approach.

Two recent state court decisions on high-school math textbooks have area school districts seeking legal advice as they try to settle on which books to choose.

Pick the wrong textbook, end up in court?

That's what worries area school districts which say a pair of recent state court decisions on high-school math textbooks have them seeking legal advice before they make their choice.

The two decisions appear to be big wins for parents who support traditional math instruction. But educators say the Seattle case, in particular, raises questions about a district's ability to pick its own curriculum materials without fearing legal action.

I honestly can't believe that this battle is still being fought.

Several years ago, when I was doing some subcontract work for an underperforming school's "external evaluator", I was asked to match up the homework students were doing with the California K-12 math standards. Turns out CPM 1, which was supposed to be at the level of Algebra 1, in fact was teaching 5th-7th grade math standards with a smidgen of Algebra 1 thrown in. It's such a lousy program that it's no longer approved for use in California schools. I would guess that other "integrated math" programs, wherein students master nothing but get a smorgasbord of different math problems, are similar in nature.

It's taken some of the best minds the human race has to offer a couple millenia to come up with the algebra we use today. It seems silly, unreasonable, and sick to expect 13-16 year olds to discover and invent it on their own.

I have a belief as to why some teachers still like the CPM/integrated math approach, but I'll save that for a different post.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
James: Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, and Carter. William and John tie with 4 presidents each, and there were 3 Georges. Assuming I counted correctly!

Today's question:
What group played the theme song for the tv sitcom Friends?

And remember, tomorrow begins our Roseanne (the sitcom) Theme Week!

Why I Like Mark Steyn

I've been saying for months that the difference between America and Europe is that, when the global economy nosedived, everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria mobs took to the streets and besieged Parliament, demanding to know why government didn't do more for them. This is the only country in the developed world where a mass movement took to the streets to say we can do just fine if you control-freak statists would just stay the hell out of our lives, and our pockets. You can shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill, and your multitrillion-dollar porkathons. This isn't karaoke. These guys are singing "I'll do it my way" for real. link
When you expect your government to do everything for you, you're not a free person, you're a subject.

So It's The First Day of Ski Week...

...and the second weekend in a row where I don't feel so great. For the last two weeks I was able to get through the school week through Thursday but had to drag myself through Friday, whereupon I collapsed after work.

My district takes "Presidents Week" off, giving us an ideal time to hit the ski slopes without weekend crowds. Right now, though, I'm sipping tea and waiting for the DayQuil to kick in so I don't feel so crappy. I hope to feel better by Monday, when the weather is forecast to be "mostly cloudy" up on the slopes.

Nuh guh cold.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Townhall Magazine Writes About CTEN

Well-written piece.

Update: And the CTEN President has a short column in City Journal as well.

Yet Another Reason I Don't Trust President Obama

He, uh, changes his mind a lot.

The problem with Obama’s new hedging on taxing those who make below $250,000, or his administration’s taking credit for victory in the Iraq War that they so once fervently tried to abort, or the flip-flop on renditions and tribunals, or the embarrassments over closing Guantanamo and trying KSM in New York or Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber, or trashing/praising Wall Street grandees, is not that presidents cannot change their minds as circumstances warrant, or even that all politicians are at times hypocritical. No, the rub is that Obama is not merely flipping and triangulating on issues in a desperate attempt to shadow the polls, but he is doing so on matters that he once swore were absolutely central to his entire candidacy and his signature hope-and-change agenda, critical to the future of the U.S., and proof of his opponents’ either ignorance or disingenuousness.

As others have pointed out, everything he says comes with an expiration date. Everything.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown, and Angela Merkel.

Today's question is:
What is the most common first name for US presidents?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Students Call For Climategate Investigation

Some of them get it:

Students, residents and community leaders will join together on Friday, February 12, to demand a fair and independent investigation of Michael Mann and Climategate. The University has a conflict of interest, and should not conduct an internal investigation without external oversight.

A Kindred Spirit

I didn't stop to take a picture, but a sign in front of a Midas shop on my way home from work today said

Snow closes DC
Thank you, global warming

Two digs in one!

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Robert Gates.

Today's question is:
Who are the current President of France, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and Chancellor of Germany?

This coming Sunday begins a new Theme Week. Did you watch the sitcom Roseanne 20 years ago? Let's hope so, because that's next week's theme!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"This Is Your Captain Speaking."

My friend the pilot passed this picture, one of several, along to me.

Algebra For All--Why?

The push for algebra isn't having the results that were hoped for:

Spurred by a succession of reports pointing to the importance of algebra as a gateway to college, educators and policymakers embraced “algebra for all” policies in the 1990s and began working to ensure that students take the subject by 9th grade or earlier.

A trickle of studies suggests that in practice, though, getting all students past the algebra hump has proved difficult and has failed, some of the time, to yield the kinds of payoffs educators seek...

The link contains some good news, but not an overwhelming amount.

I Lost This Battle

The folks at Wal*Mart lied to me, and I'm not happy.

As I posted here, Wal*Mart replied to an email of mine and said that their "experiment" to eliminate shopping bags in three Northern California stores would last only 30 days.

I didn't go to Wal*Mart during the month of January, and decided to go a couple days ago. There were no bags! I spoke to a manager's minion who said that the entire company is going "bagless" in April, and this local store will just continue being bagless. The 30 day "experiment" was a lie.

I'll probably eventually go back to Wal*Mart, but right now I'm not pleased. It's bad enough that I have to take my own bags when I go shopping, but I do not like being lied to.

And if any commenter wants to tell me why this bagless business is a good thing, etc. etc. etc., don't even waste your keystrokes. I've already shot down every argument you're going to make at either the link above or in this post.

A (New) Penny For Your Thoughts

Abraham Lincoln was the first "real" person whose image appeared on circulating US coins. The Lincoln cent was introduced in 1909, the hundredth anniversary of the year of his birth. Fifty years later, the wheat stalks on the reverse were replaced with the Lincoln Memorial, and fifty years after that--Lincoln's 200th anniversary, in 2009--the reverse was changed again. 2009 had 4 different reverses on the cent, commemorating four periods in Lincoln's life: the Log Cabin reverse, for his birth; the Rail Splitter reverse, for his early life; the State Capitol reverse, for his time in the Illinois government; and the Capitol Dome Construction reverse, for his presidency.

Tomorrow, in Springfield, Illinois, the newest Lincoln cent reverse will be released. For 2010 and beyond, the reverse of the cent will no longer be the Lincoln Memorial, but the Union Shield--commemorating Lincoln's legacy of preserving the Union. According to the Mint's web site, "the shield device is featured on frescoes throughout the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building by Constantino Brumidi, artist of the Capitol during Lincoln's presidency."

While I'm all for eliminating production of the cent, I like the symbolism and simplicity of this design.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, launched in the fall of 2009. Its tonnage is about 5 times that of the Titanic.

Today's question is:
Who is the current US Secretary of Defense?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Title IX

You know the blood pressure is going to rise when this is the opening paragraph of a news story:

The elimination of women's wrestling in 2000 at UC Davis is symptomatic of the university's overall poor performance in providing equal opportunities for women in varsity sports, a federal appellate court ruled Monday.

Of course. I mean, who in their right mind would eliminate women's wrestling?

So the 9th Circuit has sent the case back for a jury trial. Your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Alberta, and Saskatchewan. (Yukon is a territory).

Today's question is:
What is currently the largest cruise ship afloat?

Monday, February 08, 2010

To Which Organizations Did NEA Give *Your* Money?

If you wanted to give your money to the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, or to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, or to Center for American Progress, or to Democracia USA, or to Heifer International, or to GLSEN, or to the Hip Hop Caucus, or to the Joint Center For Political and Economic Studies, or to the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, or to the NAACP or NAACP National Voter Fund, or to the National Association for Bilingual Education, or to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, or to the National Puerto Rican Coalition, or to No On 10, or to People for the American Way, or to Sacramento Street Partners, or to Teaching For Change, or to the US Fund For UNICEF, or to Vote No On Question B, or to the Zimbabwe Teachers Association--well, if you wanted your money to go to any of these organizations, you could have written a check to any or all of them. Instead, though, the NEA took money from teachers--forcibly, in the case or so-called "fair share" states--and gave that money to these and over 100 other organizations.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Alabama and Wyoming.

Today's question is:
Which Canadian provinces come first and last, alphabetically?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question, the last in Computers Week, is:
ENIAC: Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer. (When I was at West Point, I attended a talk by Commodore Hopper.)

Today's question is:
Which US states come first and last, alphabetically?

Teaching How Big A Billion, Or A Trillion, Really Is

When I'm in an entertaining mood, I sometimes consider making my tests worth 1,000,000 points each. I wouldn't adjust anything else, I'd just make tests worth 1,000,000 points each. The way I set up my grading, test points go into their own category that amounts to a fixed 40% of a student's grade, so as long as each test is worth a similar amount, it doesn't really matter how many points I allow for each test.

Taking this a step further, though--if you use "total points" to calculate grades, you set the points for tests, quizzes, assignments, and the like in relative amounts to get the weighting you want for each category. If, additionally, you wanted to surreptitiously teach an understanding of the scale of large numbers, you might make the total points available in your class to be 1 trillion.

Whitewashing A Climategate Insider

How thoroughly did Penn State University investigate a top climate scientist who brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to the school? A growing number of critics say they hardly looked at all.

Penn State ended a two-month probe into the work of Michael Mann, a top climate scientist whose "hockey stick" graph of climbing world temperature helped galvanize support for the climate change movement, on Wednesday.

The probe stemmed from the release of thousands of hacked e-mails from a server at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England that showed the internal debate and, some say, the manipulation of data, to support the scientific underpinnings of the case for global, man-made warming of the planet. Mann's e-mails were among those released and critics charged that he used "tricks" to make his data match studies that confirmed warming trends. link

No one believes in the hockey stick anymore--it's been thoroughly discredited. So what is to be done now? Why, double down on global warming, of course.

This Would Stimulate Me

Stimulus Funds Pay for Teacher Spa Retreat

Georgia teachers go to a Hollywood resort--with stimulus money. How can I get in on some of this action?

Fanciful Thinking, But Don't Expect Any Movement On This Front

It's good that people are asking the questions, but don't expect the answers ever to be seriously considered:

"Suppose," mused state Treasurer Bill Lockyer in a widely distributed report on California's fiscal future, that "the state eliminated all its direct general fund support from the UC system, allowing it to set its own budget and raise revenues to replace the state's share"...

As California's iconic Master Plan for Higher Education marks its 50th anniversary this year, and the state struggles to balance its books, variations of Lockyer's "privatization" question are being posed more frequently.

"Should higher education be treated as a public good," asks Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco, professor of medicine, in a position paper posted on a faculty association Web site last August, "or should it be viewed as a private good to be paid for by its customers (students and their families) and voluntary private donors?" In Sacramento, it's not so much an ideological issue as a financial one.

Because it's been this way for so long, we assume that higher education is a public good. On the surface, it's hard to see how that assumption shouldn't be revisited from time to time.

Discrimination Against Asians

When you refuse to admit what your own studies tell you, what adjective do we use to describe you?

For example, as I noted here, Espenshade and Alexandra Radford noted in a recent article that

[c]ompared to white applicants at selective private colleges and universities, black applicants receive an admission boost that is equivalent to 310 SAT points, measured on an all-other-things-equal basis. The boost for Hispanic candidates is equal on average to 130 SAT points. Asian applicants face a 140 point SAT disadvantage.

I bring all this up, again, because Prof. Espenshade steadfastly continues, either obstinately or obtusely, to acknowledge what is numbers, charts, graphs, and statistical analyses clearly reveal: that “affirmative action” as practiced by admissions officers at elite colleges results in massive discrimination against Asian-Americans.
I don't care what color or ethnicity our university students are. If I as a taxpayer am paying for someone else's degree, I want to pay for the brightest person regardless of what he/she looks like or where his/her ancestors come from.

It is my most fervent hope that someday soon, people will look back on these affirmative action policies with the same derision that we today look back on "coloreds only" drinking fountains and ask, "What were they thinking?"

Causation vs Correlation

Stories like this, which try to impress the reader with statistics, are, mathematically-speaking, el toro poopoo:

Of the 43 Super Bowls, the team that won the pregame coin toss has won 20 times and lost 23, a .465 winning percentage, and has lost 10 of the last 13. The Arizona Cardinals won the coin toss last year in Tampa, Fla., and, trying to buck history, became the first team to defer. Didn't matter: They lost, too...

If the Saints do win the coin toss, would it improve their odds of victory if they score first? Yes and no. Teams that score first are 28-15 but have lost five of the last eight.

Other Super Bowl coin-flip facts:

• In 43 games, the coin has come up heads 22 times, tails 21.
• The NFC has won the toss 29 times, the AFC 14.
• As mentioned, the NFC has won 12 straight flips. The odds of that: 1 in 8,192.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

More Liberal, Less Knowledge of Civics?

That's the conclusion of one study of college students:

While many graduates of American colleges cannot answer basic civics questions, a higher education does make their opinions more liberal on controversial social issues, according to a new report issued on Friday by an academic think tank...

The institute found that people who had attained at least a bachelor's degree were more likely than Americans whose formal education ended with a high-school diploma to take a liberal stance on certain controversial social issues. For example, 39 percent of people whose highest level of education was a bachelor's degree supported same-sex marriage, compared with 25 percent with a high-school diploma. The trend continued with advanced degrees: About 46 percent of people with master's degrees supported same-sex marriage, as did 43 percent of people with Ph.D.'s.

Previous surveys have found that, in general, college does not bring students up to a high level of civics knowledge. According to the institute's 2008 report, based on a survey of 2,500, people whose highest level of educational attainment was a bachelor's degree correctly answered 57 percent of the questions, on average. That is three percentage points lower than a passing grade, according to the survey's authors.

Color me unsurprised.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the last in Computers Week, is:
What is the name of the world's first generally-recognized computer, heralded in 1946?

One Man's View of Teachers' Unions

Kevin Williamson says the following in National Review:

Democrats will defend everything from partial-birth abortion to distributing gay porn in the classroom, but some subjects are too hot for them to touch: The effect of their minimum-wage enthusiasm on black unemployment is one, and racial discrimination by their organized-labor constituents is another. You’d think that the Democrats would put jobs for blacks at the top of their list — after all, black voters pull the “D” lever about 90 percent of the time. But political calculations are perverse things: Black voters are a cheap date for Democrats, who know that they can sell out the interests of their most loyal constituency with impunity. One of Barack Obama’s first actions in office was to gut a hugely popular school-choice program in Washington, D.C., that benefited black students almost exclusively, and he did so at the behest of the one of the most destructive unions in the country, one that has done more to undermine the future of black Americans than any other and whose members have inflicted more damage on black Americans than Bull Connor and George Wallace ever dreamed of. But the teachers’ unions represent one in ten delegates to the Democratic National Convention, so they have job security — something many, if not most, of the young black men in their classes will never have.

Does the color of the author's skin matter? Is this the author?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Liberal Condescension

This article puts into words what I've thought for a long time.

Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension. ..

This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government -- and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.

It's been awhile since I suggested you "read the whole thing", but you should read the whole thing.

Let The Punishment Fit The Crime

I don't support vandalism--and yes, writing on furniture that doesn't belong to you constitutes a form of vandalism--but neither do I support arresting a junior high student for writing on a desk with erasable marker. Some after-school desk scrubbing, and not just the desk she wrote on, should do the trick nicely.

It's bad enough that school officials thought this necessary, but even worse that police actually put her in cuffs and hauled her off.

I Got A Little Fired Up

I'm the first to admit that sometimes we teachers deserve the slings and arrows thrown at us.

But not always.

Update 2/6/10: A comment this morning reminded me of this scene from Boston Public. Three words: you go, girl.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Ken Olsen, CEO and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation. In his defense, he wasn't talking about home computers as we know them today, but computers that would do such things as turn on lights, monitor food supplies, regulate temperature and humidity, etc.

Today's question is:
In what year were USB ports introduced on personal computers?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Different Standards For Muslims Than For Christians Or Republicans

If a Christian or a Republican had said something akin to this, I have no doubt it would lead every national newscast and the word "diversity" would be ringing in all our ears:

At a forum entitled "Common Ground: Being Muslim in the Military" on Jan. 25, Chaplain Awadh A. Binhazim responded to a question from student Devin Saucier, vice president of the V.U. chapter of conservative group Youth for Western Civilization, by saying he would have to "go with what Islam teaches" regarding the imposition of capital punishment on practicing homosexuals.
Considering that he's a chaplain, he's not making the Army look very good, either. Major Hasan said a lot of stupid things before shooting people at Fort Hood; no one connected the dots or did anything. Is anyone listening to this man?

Update, 2/5/10: Apparently he's not an army chaplain; according to a friend of mine who looked into this, Binhazim's talk was to an ROTC or similar group. My assumption was in error.


Instapundit has noted how many times the word "unexpected" is bandied about by the Administration:

Initial claims for jobless benefits rise unexpectedly
New home sales fall unexpectedly
Jobless claims rise unexpectedly--again
Employers cut jobs in December--unexpectedly
Housing sales drop unexpectedly
New housing starts fall to record lows unexpectedly
US consumer prices were unexpectedly flat

I'm sure Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts was unexpected, too.

Badmouth Your School, No Honor Society For You

If the particulars in this story are accurate, I continue to be amazed at how petty and thin-skinned some teachers can be:

"I was frustrated that I was going to graduate from a D school," Fuentes told the Tampa Tribune, frustrated by his school's low scores on standardized tests. "It wasn't anything malicious. It was just a joke taken the wrong way."

Three months ago, the 18-year-old senior started a Facebook group called "Wesley Chapel High = Fail," which became a popular venue for students past and present to criticize the school. It now operates under a different name, "Pros and Cons of Wesley Chapel High"...

When Fuentes returned from winter break last month, a panel of teachers voted unanimously to dismiss him from the National Honor Society on the grounds he had not upheld a pledge to show loyalty to his school, Fuentes told the Tribune.

He decided to transfer to another school last month when he learned that three of his teachers were on the panel that voted to expel him from the honor society.

This story compares to the Nevada student newspaper story in idiocy and mean-spiritedness.

NCLB Was "Utopian"

Joanne has a story about how the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act were so high as to be considered "utopian", and how the solution to that is to raise the standards.

More Zero Tolerance Idiocy

Just get rid of the people who create such rules. Get rid of those who enforce them with zeal, and consider getting rid of those who enforce them even though they truly know better. Do this, and we won't ever again have to hear about a 9-year-old almost being suspended for having a 2" Lego gun at school:

"This principal is a bully and a coward, and needs to be held accountable," said Laura Timoney, 44, after her teary fourth-grader was nearly suspended for playing with the tiny toy at lunch...

Patrick Timoney, 9, was terrified when he was yanked into the principal's office to discuss the teeny-weeny plastic "weapon."

"The gun was so little," the boy said. "I don't understand why the principal got so upset. I was a little nervous. They made me sign a statement"...

"The toy gun is not the issue," she (the boy's mother) said. "A lack of common sense is the issue."
Lego toy guns are not weapons. I'm just saying.

When Is Science Not Science?

Lots of people think chiropractors are quacks, but I swear by mine and the Palmer Method. Some people swear by "Eastern medicine" and acupuncture and the like. Are these "science" or fakery?

I'm not sure we should ask this guy:

I'm quite proud, under most circumstances, to be affiliated with the University of Minnesota: it's an excellent university (and the Morris campus is the best within the system, although some of the other campuses argue about that), we've got great students, and we are a secular public institution dedicated to giving an affordable education to anyone. However, there is also one thing about the University of Minnesota which causes me great shame, and which I consider a betrayal of reason and evidence.

I am speaking, of course, of the Center for Spirituality & Healing. Center for Bullshit & Quackery is more like it. It's the cesspit of the university, where all the pseudoscientific fuzzy-headed crap that fails is excreted, polished, gilded, and held on high as a beacon of New Age light to lead the gullible into a sewer of feel-good futility. If I were president of the university (only possible if genies are real), my first act would be to shut down the whole institution and send the dishonest rascals running the show back to their profitable nostrum-peddling, crystal-gazing, finger-waving tea rooms and sideshow tents.

OK, it's not that I'm some big fan of homeopathy, but I'll bet I can come up with some less reasonable, and more harmful, and less useful, courses of study than homeopathy.

Heck, on Bones, Dr. Brennan doesn't even think psychology is a real science.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
720kB or 1.44 MB, depending on if they were double density or high density. (Anyone remember 5-1/4" floppies, or 8" floppies?)

Today's question is:
Who was quoted as saying, in 1977, that he could see no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Opinions vs. Advocacy

Unlike several commenters on this site, I see no reason to pretend to be apolitical or to refuse to share my beliefs with my students. On the other hand, if this story is accurate, the teacher has gone a bit too far:

An Ohio high school teacher's giving students job applications for a Democratic organization that included suggested radical reading material has raising concerns of indoctrination in the classroom.

The government teacher at Perry High School in Massillon, Ohio, handed out forms recruiting students to intern for Organizing for America, a grassroots organization with direct ties to the Democratic National Committee and the successor organization for Obama for America.

Included on the forms was a suggested reading list that included Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" and Organizing for America's mission to build on the "movement that elected President Obama by empowering students across the country to help us bring about our agenda of change."

No Republican equivalent was offered to the students, according to Perry schools' Superintendent John Richard.

In an interview with on Wednesday, Richard acknowledged that distribution of the forms violated school policy and said they were never submitted to school administrators for approval, but the teacher remains on the job.

I don't think one mistake like this should be grounds for dismissal, either.

Just Say No

Six years ago I wrote an op-ed for our school newspaper. I was tired of seeing our students mauling each other in the halls, dry-humping against the lockers and sticking their tongues so far down each other's throats that they had to be licking tonsils. When approached by the paper's editors to write a column on any topic I wished, I chose that one--and, since my article was clearly satirical, I called it A Modest Proposal. In the aftermath, before my view ultimately prevailed and our campus became (and still is) relatively sex-free, I was told that we can't or shouldn't stop the students from making out in the halls, as they're going to do what they want to do anyway. Yes, this view was expressed by my fellow teachers. And experience since that article shows such a belief is wrong.

Similarly, I've heard too many times to count that abstinence-only programs are not sufficient to keep teenagers from having sex before they're socially, mentally, and financially ready; that we must teach "safe sex", ceding the ground of morality, decency, and common sense to the hormones of teenagers. A recent study puts the lie to that belief as well:

An abstinence-only education program is more effective than other initiatives at keeping sixth- and seventh-graders from having sex within a two-year period, according to a study described by some as a landmark.

The study, published in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, indicated that about one-third of the preteens and their young teen classmates who received an eight-hour abstinence lesson had sexual intercourse within two years of the class.

By comparison, more than half of the students who were taught about safe sex and condom use reported having intercourse by the two-year mark, and more than 40 percent of students who received either an eight- or 12-hour lesson incorporating both abstinence education and safe sex reported having sex at two years.

Among students who received instruction on overall good health, but not having to do with sex directly, nearly 47 percent had sexual activity in the two years after the class.

I frequently hear, in reference to academic standards, that students will rise to the standards we set for them. I assert that the same is true of standards of behavior. This study would seem to validate my belief.

Update: Here's the Associated Press version of the same story. Keep in mind, the AP is no conservative mouthpiece.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Autoexec.bat. .bat meant it was a “batch” file, executing several commands in succession.

Today's question is:
3.5” floppy disks held how much data on a PC?

E-Book About Elementary Teachers

I received the following in a comment on another post and thought enough of it to post it here in its entirety:

Dear Darren,

My name is Jill Randolph and I work with, a website providing over 50,000 reference pages of real-world information on careers, communities, and colleges to our 10 million annual visitors.

I was reviewing your blog and wanted to let you know that we have just released a free 64-page e-book we think you and your visitors may find interesting. An article and press release published recently provide additional information as well as commentary from a fellow webmaster and blogger who has linked to the e-book. Our e-book provides a candid, real-world perspective on the elementary teaching profession via interviews with 25 teachers from grades 1 through 5, across a variety of disciplines including reading specialists, PE, and music teachers, to name a few. The book offers advice, tips, best and worst parts of the job, as well as words of wisdom, inspiration and caution from working teachers. One quote from the book:

"Many people think that because the school day ends at 3 PM teachers just leave, but, the truth is, we stay late and often put in more than an eight-hour day. Almost always we take work home with us. Yes, we do have summers off, but we are constantly thinking about the school year to come and working on our skills."

Yours is one of the very first blogs we are reaching out to, so that you may share this relevant information with your visitors. We hope you’ll take a bit of time to review the book – it’s a fairly quick read – and then consider passing along your thoughts to your readers. We can provide you with cover art images in various sizes if you would like and we recommend linking to the page containing the eBook (

Thank you for your time and consideration. If I can answer any questions you may have, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Jill Randolph

I don't see a reason for me to review the book--everyone now has the information and can read it for themselves!

I will say that anyone who thinks most teachers work only their contractually-mandated hours is probably not using all their brain cells :-)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

He Can't Even Bring Himself To Call It The No Child Left Behind Act

On several occasions I've heard the President refer to NCLB as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, its pre-Bush, pre-Ted-Kennedy title. The NYT, for what it's worth, reports on Administration proposals to modify the law:

The Obama administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of President Bush’s signature education law, No Child Left Behind, and will call for broad changes in how schools are judged to be succeeding or failing, as well as for the elimination of the law’s 2014 deadline for bringing every American child to academic proficiency.

Educators who have been briefed by administration officials said the proposals for changes in the main law governing the federal role in public schools would eliminate or rework many of the provisions that teachers’ unions, associations of principals, school boards and other groups have found most objectionable.

Yet the administration is not planning to abandon the law’s commitments to closing the achievement gap between minority and white students and to encouraging teacher quality.

So even the NYT acknowledges there was something good in the law? I'm sure they'd say that that part was written in by Kennedy :-)

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Before Windows, there was DOS. What was the name of the DOS file in which one stored commands to be automatically executed at startup?

I Got Your Socialized Medicine Right Here

How can anyone explain this rationally and still think Canada's health care system is one we should emulate?

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is set to undergo heart surgery this week in the United States.

CBC News confirmed Monday that Williams, 60, left the province earlier in the day and will have surgery later in the week.

The premier's office provided few details, beyond confirming that he would have heart surgery and saying that it was not necessarily a routine procedure.

I don't know much about tennis, but I think the appropriate statement here is "game, set, match."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Grade Deflation?

Princeton instructors were giving too many A's so there was an effort to clamp down and be more realistic in grading. As you might imagine, there are some concerns with that approach.

Socialist Math and the State Budget

Mike at EIA has a fantastic observation:

The state budget is perennially in the red (this year's deficit is some $20 billion) and the state teachers retirement system is short $43 billion.

But that's in the real world. Back in Slumberland, the California Senate spent its time passing a bill to create a government-run, single-payer health care system. The bill's author admits it will cost $200 billion, but that it could be paid for with "existing state and federal money and a payroll tax, coupled with increased efficiencies from a government-run system."

Are these the same efficiencies that gave us a $20 billion deficit?

Yet another reason I'm not a socialist.

Tolerance At The Air Force Academy

If you worship trees, and your bombs drop on trees, are you killing your god?

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - The Air Force Academy has set aside an outdoor worship area for Pagans, Wiccans, Druids and other Earth-centered believers, school officials said Monday.

A double circle of stones atop a hill on the campus near Colorado Springs has been designated for the group, which previously met indoors. link

I know, the named groups don't necessarily worship trees. I also know that my religious beliefs seem as silly to atheists as those of the above-mentioned groups seem to me. I hope that my opening sentence is taken--by all groups--in the joshing sense of good humor in which it was intended.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did IBM release its first PC?