Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funny Protest Sign

This is your brain.

This is your brain on socialism.
(At least someone caught it. I wonder if it was someone from

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Rush Limbaugh.

Today's question is:
Near what city is Ellsworth Air Force Base located?

"Rights", Including A "Right" To Health Care

This article makes perfect sense to me, but I'm interested in hearing other views before I take the professors statements as fact. Excerpts:

Despite many other disagreements, the great social and political philosophers who so influenced the Founders never argued that such-and-such "should" be a right; rather, they claimed that such-and-such was, always had been, and always would be a right. The question was never about creating rights, which would have struck them as absurd, but how to perceive clearly the eternal, unchangeable rights that did exist and always had existed...

Privileging fake rights over real ones is a pillar of the Law of Unintended Consequences. "Unintended," perhaps, but entirely predictable...

If such a conflict exists, then the claimed "right" is a phony. Genuine rights never need to be "balanced" against each other. Any genuine right can coexist with all other genuine rights. For this reason, rights are naturally limited, and the creation (or "recognition") of new ones should be carefully scrutinized as a potential direct and imminent threat to liberty.
An interesting starting point for discussion.

If The President's Serious About This, He And I Have Common Ground

While I like the president's stated desire for more (relatively) cheap, clean, non-greenhouse-emission nuclear energy, I've decided to hold off on presenting laurels until I see new plants built. I'll admit that I've been suspicious, as it would be entirely too easy to state such desires, and appeal to a certain segment of the population (like me), knowing full well that the environmental lobby and others would never all them to come to fruition.

The president, however, has seemingly gone out further on the domestically-produced energy limb, and in this I can support his stated goal:

The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean. (But not off the coast of California. I wonder why?--Darren)...

The Obama administration’s plan adopts some drilling proposals floated by President George W. Bush near the end of his tenure, including opening much of the Atlantic and Arctic Coasts. Those proposals were challenged in court on environmental grounds and set aside by President Obama shortly after he took office.

The article states that he's doing this in order to bargain for support for his "climate bill", which I interpret to mean the cap-and-trade bill. I hope that part of the deal founders, but that we can finally access the resources we need that are contained within our grasp.

Update, 4/3/10: Perhaps I'm right to be suspicious:
When you’re an aspiring magician, you watch the best magicians you can find, trying to see how the trick is done. You learn not to watch what the magician wants, to look where the magician isn’t looking, to concentrate on the left hand if the trick seems to be happening in the right hand.

This skill is turning very useful watching the Obama administration. This week, for example, there was a big announcement of a change in the Obama administration’s policy toward oil drilling, dutifully announced as the administration opening up great areas offshore for oil development.

Watch the other hand.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DA's Oppose Obama Pick To 9th Circuit

A couple weeks ago a teacher at my school sent out an email announcing that President Obama had nominated one Goodwin Liu to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Liu had been a student of this teacher's his first year of teaching.

Today I read that a large majority of county district attorneys in California oppose his nomination:

Forty-two of California's 58 county district attorneys are opposing President Obama's nomination of Goodwin Liu to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, saying they believe the UC Berkeley law professor is hostile to the death penalty.

The White House has countered that the prison guards union supports Mr. Liu. Well of course they would! An opponent of the death penalty creates more "business" for the prison guards!

Universities and "Controversial" Speakers

The University of Wyoming has canceled a scheduled speech by one-time terrorist William Ayers:

In a statement released by the university, UW President Tom Buchanan supported the decision to cancel Ayers.

"The University of Wyoming is one of the few institutions remaining in today's environment that garner the confidence of the public. The visit by Professor Ayers would have adversely impacted that reputation," Buchanan said...

He (Ayers) was invited by the UW Social Justice Research Center, a privately endowed center that studies problems of oppression and inequalities among different social groups in society...

"Observers in and outside the university would be incorrect to conclude that UW simply caved in to external pressure," Buchanan said in the statement. "Rather, I commended the director of the center for a willingness to be sensitive to the outpouring of criticism, evaluate the arguments and reconsider the invitation."

Meanwhile, CSU Stanislaus is taking flak for inviting one-time governor of Alaska and current conservative voice Sarah Palin to speak at a fundraiser:

Organizers knew that inviting former vice presidential candidate and ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to California State University, Stanislaus, would generate talk.

"I didn't know it would be this big, this fast," said Matt Swanson, president of the university foundation, which invited Palin to headline a black-tie fund-raiser June 25...

Swanson said the speaking contract precludes the foundation from disclosing the payment amount. He said no previous foundation money went to pay Palin.

"This event is being 100 percent funded with fresh, private money coming into the foundation," he said.

And it's bringing in more money, between sponsorships, table reservations and tickets, which are selling fast.

You might imagine that some are opposed to her presence on campus, and you'd be correct.

Sad News To Report

Jaime Escalante has passed away. He was a rock star in math teacher circles; the movie Stand and Deliver was based on his work at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Nightmare on Elm Street.

Today's question is:
Who has written books entitled The Way Things Ought To Be and See, I Told You So?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Expiration Date of Obama Promises

It's a long post--because in 14 months as president he's already "pivoted" on so many points.

Lefties won't believe it, either that or they'll try to justify or make excuses.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Rochester, NY.

Today's question is:
In which movie do we read in the credits, “introducing Johnny Depp”?

Furlough Days or Pink Slips?

In the zero-sum game of school district budgets, there's only so much money to go around. If a district's budget is slashed, cuts have to be made somewhere. Should there be pay cuts? Should employees work for free a few days? Should there be furlough days? Should health insurance plans be restructured, perhaps by increasing co-payments? How about layoffs?

The teachers in the Sacramento City Unified School District don't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out. Correction, the Sac City union doesn't want to bargain any of these things until next summer, when their contract runs out.

Dozens of teachers expressed to (the major Sacramento newspaper) a willingness to accept furlough days and/or higher co-pays but feel their union leadership is ignoring their pleas to save jobs.

While those teachers talked passionately about this issue, nearly all shied away from having their name printed. They said they feared retribution from the union should they need representation...

Non-tenured, young teachers are typically the ones most affected by layoffs because seniority rules dictate pink slips...

With so many teachers saying they're willing to accept concessions, (pink-slipped teacher) Taylor wonders why the union isn't listening to its members.

"It feels like the union only speaks for the people who aren't going to be affected by layoffs, the people who have been teaching 25 years," Taylor said. "There seems to be a real division in the union between the teachers who have been teaching a long time and those who are new." link

He who has eyes to see, let him see. Young Mr. Taylor is getting his eyes opened early in his career.

And In Local News....

A couple years ago I was out taking pictures with a friend of mine, and we ended up on Del Paso Blvd., what had been US Highway 40 heading northeast out of Sacramento towards Roseville, Auburn, Reno, and points east. Del Paso Blvd. isn't really my neck of the woods, and I was surprised to see what appeared to be a 1940's-style ice skating rink in that neighborhood.

Not too much later, while channel-surfing on a weekend, I saw a show about this particular rink on our local PBS station. Having just seen the building, I started watching, and was enthralled at the history, the story, behind this rink that was, in fact, built in 1940. Part of that story is in the major Sacramento newspaper today:

Rob Kerth said his parents weren't the only people to find romance at the rink.

"My aunt kept a list for many years of couples who met at Iceland and later married," he said. "There were several hundred names on it."

His grandfather, William J. Kerth Sr., started the American Ice Co. on Del Paso Boulevard in 1923.

When electric home refrigerators began to freeze out the old iceboxes in the 1930s, he used the ice plant's equipment to create an ice skating rink next door. Water from the ice plant also supplied the nearby neighborhood pool.

Iceland achieved some prominence in 1961 when it held a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs for the U.S. figure skating team. On Feb. 15, 1961, the plane from New York carrying the team, along with parents, coaches and judges, crashed on a failed landing in Brussels, killing all of them. They were on their way to the world championships in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Iceland was packed for the nationally televised event, Kerth said. With bleachers placed on the ice, the building could seat up to 900 spectators, he said.

Over the years, Kerth said, the rink ceased being a money-making proposition. "The ice rink has been for a long time a labor of love," he said. "There hasn't been any rent paid or money expected for at least 20 years.

"We think of it as our contribution to the community."

Today, the rink itself is owned by a daughter and a daughter-in-law of the founder. Beverly Jeanne Kerth, Rob Kerth's mother, became owner when her husband died in 1993. Co-owner Eva Kerth Brandt is Kerth's aunt.

Sadly, in the early morning hours yesterday, Iceland burned down.

As flames jumped high into the sky at 3:30 a.m., the roof collapsed, obliterating the ice rink that opened on Del Paso Boulevard in 1940.

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Capt. Jim Doucette said firefighters' strategy became clear early on: Protect nearby buildings in the 1400 block of Del Paso Boulevard.

"They went inside and realized that it was a lost cause," he said. "The fire was starting to roll over their heads. Stuff was dropping on them. The way the air was being sucked over their heads was a sign that the whole building was about to collapse"...

Officials estimated the blaze caused $1 million in damage; the actual ice rink and cooling system apparently survived. Founding family members said the building was too old to insure against fire loss...
In the grand scheme of things, this loss isn't so much to lament. Still, knowing the story, I can't help but regret that a small piece of local history is now lost--not to the ravages of time, or to the steady drumbeat of "progress", but to the waste of a burning car in a back alley.

Update: For as long as the link is good, here's a collection of 17 pictures of the rink.

College Students On Food Stamps

These same students who were marching in the streets a few weeks ago, chanting that they want working Americans to pay more for their education, are now encouraged to go on food stamps--at the expense of working Americans, of course.

When you think you have a "right" to something at someone else's expense, you can truly employ some twisted logic.

Don't want to read the link above? Then go to Portland State's web site and see the full page they've devoted to informing students about food stamps.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
In what city is the Eastman-Kodak Company headquartered?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Many States Can't Afford This Health Care "Reform"

How can they not, you ask? People will be required to have insurance!

Well, there's more to that than meets the eye, as there so often is with our current ruling class, and the New York Times tells us that some states are going to be mired even more in deep debt:

In California, policymakers estimate they will have to come up with an additional $500 million a year to make necessary increases in payments to Medicaid providers.

Across the country, state officials are wading through the minutiae of the health care overhaul to understand just how their governments will be affected. Even with much still to be digested, it is clear the law may be as much of a burden to some state budgets as it is a boon to uninsured consumers.

States with the largest uninsured populations, like Texas and California, might be considered by its backers the biggest winners to emerge from the law, because so many additional residents will have access to health insurance. But because those states are being required to significantly expand their Medicaid programs, they are precisely the ones that will face the biggest financial strains, in many cases magnified by existing budget shortfalls.

Let's remember that the NYT isn't known for publishing Republican talking points.

"Don't Blame Teachers Unions For Failing Schools"

That was the debate topic a couple weeks ago, with Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, et. al., on one side, and Dr. Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education, on the other--working side by side with Larry Sand, President of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

FOR: 24%

FOR: 25%

While Paige, Sand, and Moe were clear to point out that teachers unions were not the only problem in public education, it's just as clear that they were able to sway a large percentage of the undecided vote that the teachers unions bear some of the responsibility.

You can watch the debate here.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
That depends on which sport you refer to. According to Wikipedia:
Prior to the year 2000, the University of Hawaiʻi's men's teams were all referred to as the Rainbow Warriors, complemented by an athletics logo featuring a rainbow. However, in a controversial marketing strategy over which many at the University and throughout Hawaii have misgivings, the school changed its athletics logo to a stylized "H" and allowed each team to pick its own team name. This has led to the current situation, where three teams have retained the team name of "Rainbow Warriors," (basketball,swimming & diving and tennis) one team adopted the name "Rainbows'', (baseball) and three teams have adopted the name "Warriors", (football, golf and volleyball).

Today's question, the last in College Sports Team Names Week, is:
What is the name given to teams from Fresno State University?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Are Academics Like This Everywhere?

Are they leftists everywhere, even in Canada?

Project Hero provides scholarships to those who have had a parent killed in action while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces...

This week, 16 professors at the university (of Regina) wrote an open letter to the administration asking the university to cease participation in Project Hero. The 16 didn’t like the fact that soldiers who died in combat in Afghanistan were portrayed as “heroes”. One of the professor’s, Jeffrey Webber, was quoted as saying, “We think this program is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan.” Webber went on to describe the war in Afghanistan as the “occupation of a sovereign country”.

Fortunately, there are some people with clear heads.

The administration at the University of Regina has no plans to cancel Project Hero. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall expressed his disappointment with the letter and one Regina area MP is calling on the professors to apologize to the Canadian troops, something not likely to happen.

The Gang of 88 hasn't apologized for the Duke drumhead, either. Being an academic means never having to say you're sorry.

MIT Physics Students, and Copying Homework

This paper was interesting to read, in part because of the obvious insights it contained:

At MIT, as elsewhere, students and faculty agree that doing homework is essential to learning to solve problems like those on the tests. Why then do our students engage in the acknowledged self-destructive behavior of homework copying?

The differences in temporal patterns between repetitive copiers and other students suggest the proximate causes: they put very little effort into their homework until the last day before the deadline and are several times more likely not to finish by the deadline. In addition, homework copying increases over the term, increasing very significantly after midterms. These observations are consistent with the explanation that students copy homework in response to time pressures that build over the term and are exacerbated by delaying the start of serious work on the weekly assignment until the day it is due. However, the strong correlation of task orientation and copying suggests that those who are primarily oriented toward obtaining grades vs learning predominate among those who choose not to invest sufficient timely effort in their assignments.

It shouldn't take MIT professors to tell us that, but it's good to know that they'll confirm what most high school teachers already know. But let's read more:

In summary, by far the strongest correlate of copying is delaying the start of effort on the homework until close to the due time. Lack of skill is a weak correlate of copying.

OK then.

So, who's the most likely person to cheat in physics class?

Predominately male students who are more interested in business than science or engineering, in getting an MIT degree than learning their major subject, in obtaining a passing grade than learning in introductory physics, and who do not consider copying homework as morally wrong as other students are far more likely not to allocate (perhaps by choice) enough time before the due day to make much progress on their homework and copied it in order to receive the credit.

Business majors.

I wonder if the "numbers" people are more likely to plagiarize in composition class. Probably not--everyone knows that math, science, and engineering-type majors are people of the highest intellectual and moral fiber.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Orange (previously the Orangemen/women and the Saltine Warriors).

Today's question is:
What is the name given to teams from the University of Hawaii?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Delta Devils/Devilettes.

Today's question is:
What is the name given to teams from Syracuse University?

They Aren't Awake First Period

Tomorrow is the last day of school before spring break, and I'll be giving a mini-test (only 4 problems) in 2 of my classes. For "bell work" this morning I had problems similar to the test problems up on the board, and I reminded students to get a common denominator before adding the two rational expressions in "the first problem".

One student asked, "is the first problem the one on top?"

It's Official--Social Security Is In The Red

Who says so? The New York Times.

The bursting of the real estate bubble and the ensuing recession have hurt jobs, home prices and now Social Security.

This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

It's taken 70+ years, but the chickens are coming home to roost. We cannot continue to have, and continue to enlarge, entitlement programs that are not sustainable. Social security, Medicare, and our new socialized medical program are not sustainable, and the consequences for the country will be disastrous when the IOU's come due.

Congressional Democrats Want To Give Viagra To Sex Offenders

I'm not making this up:

By 57-42, Democrats rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., barring federal purchases of Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs for sex offenders.
I like Coburn; I've mentioned him before.

Remember When Candidate Obama Was Against An Individual Mandate For Health Insurance?

That was then.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Black Knights.

Today's question is:
What is the name given to teams from Mississippi Valley State, alma mater of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teacher Encourages Cheating?

That's what his principal says.

During one post-evaluation conference (teacher) Martel told (principal) Cahall what he did to frustrate cheating when students are so close together. He created two versions of the same test by putting the pages in different sequences, a method many teachers endorse. He showed Cahall a quiz on which he printed the questions in a smaller font, making them harder to read from the next chair over.

These struck Martel as useful methods in a high school--like nearly all high schools--where many students will cheat if given a chance. He was startled when Cahall expressed a different view.

“You are creating an expectation that students will cheat,” Martel recalls Cahall saying. “By creating that expectation, they will rise to your expectation.”

When I asked Cahall about it, he did not deny that he said it. His intention, he said, was not to prohibit Martel’s methods but to urge him to consider another perspective.
The principal tried to defend himself later in the article, but he's still an idiot.

Socialized Medicine

It should be no surprise that I'm not happy with today's signing of the new health care legislation. Let's hear from two people I respect a lot more than I do the president.
Milton Friedman:

Ronald Reagan:

I've seen and heard entirely too many liberals who taunt with glee those of us who don't want more government. Great, you won, we all lost.

Update, 3/24/10: View this chart (on this web site) to see the unsustainability of federal health expenditures.

Tuesday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
What is the name given to teams from the US Military Academy?

Ever Have One Of Those Days?

Ever have one of those days where everything goes so bad that you don't know if you're angry, hurt, or lost, or maybe you're all three? Yeah, that's today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday Trivia

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

Today's question is:
What is the name given to teams from Boise State?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooperative Learning Equals...

Cooperative learning equals group work equals team-based learning equals accountable talk equals letting the smart kid do all the work. And I concur with this person's opinion:

I think kids can learn a lot trying to explain something to somebody else. The trouble is most kids have a hard enough time just being students. Arguing that they can learn more from other kids than they can from their teachers is ludicrous.

Forty minutes talking with all my students usually better serves their education than two minutes talking to each of them. Reformers, including TBL (team-based learning) boosters, rail against "sage on the stage" teachers who try to "impart knowledge," as if that's a bad thing, but the fact is I can usually lead my students better than they can lead themselves. If I can't, please show me the door.

If you disagree, please derive the Quadratic Formula and then get back to me.

Yes, I know that scientists and people in just about every other profession work in groups to solve problems. There's an underlying assumption, though, that everyone in the group is knowledgeable and that they all bring something to the table. That is not the case in school so much of the time.

Group work has its place, but certainly not as a primary pedagogical tool in K-12 education.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Mr. McFeeley.

Today's question, the first in College Sports Team Names Week, is:
What is the name given to teams from the University of Colorado?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who was the “Speedy Delivery” mailman in/on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood?

Don't forget that tomorrow starts a new Theme Week--College Sports Team Names!

Hugging At School

I've written a few posts about public displays of affection at school, including this one from 2-1/2 years ago. In that post I quoted from a few contemporary stories about PDA and observed a couple of points: first, that extreme PDA makes you look immature and unable to control your impulses, and second, that there are appropriate times and places to hug and kiss people. There is a lot of good information, and many good comments, at that link.

Teaching at a high school, I see mild forms of PDA all the time--nuzzling, hugging, holding hands, kissing. If the kissing lasts long enough that I think it's excessive, I call the students on it. It's important that they learn what's appropriate and inappropriate in our society, and making out in the middle of the quad just isn't appropriate. I'm glad to report, though, that incidents of this are down significantly from when I first got to the school, although our new principal at the beginning of this year said in a faculty meeting that based on things he's seen on campus, he thinks some of our students should "get a room".

All of that is a prelude to another "school bans hugging" story. Do you think that sounds extreme? Read the details and see if you still do.

The hugs were out of control at West Sylvan Middle School.

Students could not pass each other in the hallway without a hug, the principal said. The girls were hugging one another all the time. Kids were late to class because of the hugs.

Classes would end, middle schoolers would eye a classmate at the other end of the hallway, "they'd scream, run down the hallway and jump in each other's arms," Principal Allison Couch said.

It was, Couch said, a virus of hugs.

So the principal banned hugs on the school campus in late February...

The policy may sound unreasonable to someone outside the school, she said, but if someone filed a lawsuit because of unwanted touching, a bigger news story would have resulted.

Schools can't look the other way with disruptive behavior, said Jollee Patterson, Portland Public Schools general counsel...

Couch, who has been principal at West Sylvan for seven years and a school administer for two decades, can perhaps look forward to the day of hugging normalcy.

But in the meantime, she concluded her memo to school colleagues by saying she'd treated the hugging in schools like a computer with a virus.

"If any of you have any ideas about how to reboot so that we can come back to it appropriately, I would sure love to hear from you."

Having taught for 6 years in junior high, I know the silly behaviors such students are capable of. The principal has reacted in a reasonable manner.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The McLaughlin Group

One of my guilty pleasures is watching The McLaughlin Group on Friday evenings. My son has to leave the room, as he can't stand hearing me debate the people on tv and tell them how stupid (or how right) they are. Let's discuss the panelists.

John McLaughlin is fine, but then again, it's his show. His panel consists of two people to represent "the right" and two to represent "the left", and the verbal brawl begins as they debate the raging issues of the day.

Pat Buchanan is a regular on the show, representing the right. I would like to see him replaced. Pat doesn't represent too many values that I consider conservative. He's an isolationist, for God's sake. And his voice is extremely grating. I think John keeps him on because they've been friends since before they both worked for Nixon.

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek is a regular representing the left. Experiencing the banshee that is Eleanor is to know the exquisite joy of fingernails on a chalkboard. Tonight she was such a shrill harpie that she made fellow left panelist Arianna Huffington seem positively reasonable and intelligent by comparison. I told Eleanor tonight (I'm sure she can hear me) that she carries so much water for President Obama that she's going to hurt her back. She has always been a die-hard Democrat-supporter and leftist; during the Clinton Administration a friend and I referred to her as Eleanor Rodham Clift. She and Pat, who I've read get along very well "in real life", should both be replaced.

The second "left" seat changes, and this was the first time I've seen Arianna sitting in it. I usually don't have many kind things to say about Arianna, but tonight she presented herself extremely well. She came across as reasonably knowledgeable and calm, certain in her beliefs but not pushy. I like it best when Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page fills that seat, but Arianna performed admirably. Actually, Arianna and Clarence would make a great team--are you listening, John? Billionaire Mort Zuckerman is the most common occupant of the chair recently; I wonder what happened to Clarence.

The second "right" seat is often filled by talk radio host and political commentator Monica Crowley. Monica strikes me as the most well-spoken, organized, knowledgeable panelist on the show, but often is shouted down by Clift, who just can't let someone else speak. Monica's polite, in command of the facts, and always wears a smile, even when on the attack. If I were ever in a debate, I'd want Monica, or someone like her, on my team. She's what I consider a good, solid conservative, and an attractive woman as well.

And that's how I spend a half an hour each Friday night at Casa de RightOnTheLeftCoast. Yes, I admit it--for a half an hour a week I watch PBS!

Overflow Error

On a recent chapter test covering probability, I gave an extra credit question of this type: 850!/848! . For those who are questioning what's so exciting about the numbers 850 and 848, the exclamation points indicate a mathematical operation known as "factorial". Factorial means to multiply all the whole numbers from 1 to whatever number you're looking at, so 850! means 850*849*848*...*3*2*1 and 848! means 848*847*846*...*3*2*1. And yes, I allowed the students to use calculators.

Math people can easily see why I chose these particular numbers. Unless someone has some ultra powerful calculator, the number 850! is too large for most calculators to handle.

This is one of those times where I get to see who thinks and who pushes buttons, who uses the calculator as a tool and who uses it as a crutch.

All the numbers in the fraction 850!/848! cancel except for 850*849 in the numerator, which gives an answer of 721,650.

One student listed the answer as "Overflow Error". There's an error, all right, but it isn't in the calculator's limited memory capacity!

Update: Interestingly enough, the calculator built into MS Windows handled the computation just fine, despite the answer's involving 10 to the 2,122nd power.

Calculator Use Can Be Strenuous

We've started a new chapter in my Algebra 2 courses, this one on statistics. Today we learned how to calculate a standard deviation, which involves, among other calculations, determining how far from the mean each data point is--that's right, simple subtraction.

Now I'm no Luddite, I allow students to use calculators for this exercise. I did, however, want them to actually use the formula to calculate the standard deviation, not just input the data into the calculator and use its internal programming of statistics functions to come up with the "standard deve"--at least for this introductory exercise. I want the students to get an idea of where the standard deve comes from, and not be just "some number the calculator gives me".

One student asked me today if he could round off his average, presumably to a whole number, instead of entering it to however many decimal places each time--because typing all those numbers is just too strenuous.

I replied in a manner similar to this: "Let me get this straight. The calculator is doing all the calculations for you, and you don't even want to type the numbers into it?"

Perhaps I was wrong in this post, perhaps punching buttons on a calculator does qualify as a kinesthetic activity.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The Bambino. (I'd forgotten about the Sultan of Swat!)

Today's question is:
In Greek mythology, what is the name of the 3-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Finally, the Crockett Story

This page includes both stories I've heard about Davy Crockett--that he wouldn't vote for a pension for an admiral's widow because it wasn't an appropriate expenditure of the public's money, and his meeting a constituent who wasn't pleased that he voted to allot $20,000 in assistant to victims of a fire in Georgetown.

Conservatism in our government is all but lost today.

Unscrupulous, Or Incompetent?

click to enlarge

Teachers will recognize this picture--found in the margins of the teacher's edition of a textbook it's supposed to be a "helpful hint" on how to teach a particular topic, how to recognize common errors, or, in this case, how to tailor the lesson to reach particular types of students.

The picture above comes from the Algebra 1 textbook my district uses, and the hint is supposed to give me a suggestion on how to reach "kinesthetic learners" (we'll save for another time whether or not such a thing even exists). Does anyone want to take a stab at defending how pushing buttons on a calculator is any more "kinesthetic" than pushing a pencil across the paper?

I've come across such machinations before. I've seen textbooks with rubrics that supposedly align individual lessons with state standards, only to look up those standards myself and find no correlation at all! And in the case above the publisher can tout "teaching to multiple intelligences" or some other such nonsense, even though anyone with at least two operational brain cells can tell the statement is complete and total crap.

So. Unscrupulous, or incompetent? I know where the smart money's being bet.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was Babe Ruth's nickname?

Since this question is related to sports, it's as good a time as any to announce that this Sunday starts College Sports Team Names Theme Week.

Blowing This Way Out Of Proportion

That school in Rhode Island at which all the teachers were going to be fired? One teacher hanged President Obama in effigy, suspending an Obama doll by its ankles.

The effigy was found in the teacher's classroom by Superintendent Frances Gallo, Rhode Island Department of Education spokeswoman Nicole Shaffer told The Associated Press. Shaffer said the department would not have any further comment.

Gallo told the AP on Thursday evening that the foot-tall Obama doll that she saw Monday was hung from its feet from a white board and was holding a sign that said, "Fire Central Falls teachers."

"I was deeply saddened," Gallo said. "It's a horrific - a startling - kind of picture when you walk in and see that."

Obama had called the firings in Central Falls an example of holding failing schools accountable. The White House did not have any immediate comment Thursday. U.S. Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said the agency was aware of the doll but declined to comment further.
If he'd hanged the doll by the neck, everyone would be screaming racism. Gotta give the teacher credit enough for hanging the doll by the ankles. Perhaps he should have just tarred and feathered the doll.

That school sounds as dysfunctional as the federal government.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education Quotes Regarding What's "Relevant" To Students

Earlier this week I received the March 2010 issue of Education Matters, the periodic publication of the Association of American Educators, and enjoyed reading Will Fitzhugh's article titled History Relevant to Them: NC debates the role of history in schools. The article itself discusses a suggestion in North Carolina that would change the required US history class to include history only since 1877 (the end of Reconstruction)--to make history "more relevant" to the students.

Two thoughts in that piece jumped out at me, and not just as they relate to history. The first was Kieran Egan's quote from Bertrand Russell, which I've posted on this blog before:

The first task of education is to destroy the tyranny of the local and immediate over the child's imagination.

Later, Fitzhugh himself makes some very lucid points:

But the task of academic work is not to appeal to a student's comfortable confinement to his own town, friends, school, and historical time (exactly the same criticism I had of Paulo Freire--Darren).

Academic work, most especially history, opens the student to the wonderful and terrible events and the notable human beings of the ages. To confine him to what is relevant to him before he does academic work is to attempt to shrink his awareness of the world to an unforgivable degree...

Our job as educators is to open the whole world of learning to them, to see that they make serious efforts in it, and not to allow them to confine themselves to the ignorance with which they arrive into our care.

Hear, hear.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Moe and Curly Howard were brothers. Shemp Howard, who replaced Curly, was another brother.

Today's question is:
In what city did Anne Frank live in an attic with her family to avoid detection by Nazis?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Manfred von Richthofen.

Today's question is:
Which of the original Three Stooges were related?

Why The President Should Know At Least A Little Math

I heard about this on Hugh Hewitt's radio show on my drive home from school today, and found the link at NewsAlert. In it, President Obama says that socializing our health care will result in a 3000% decrease in health care premiums for employers. No, really!:

Let's discuss this for a moment.

If you get a 50% decrease, that means premiums fall by half. If you get a 100% decrease in premiums, that means you'd be getting your insurance for free! So what does it mean to get a 3000% decrease? It means your insurance company is going to give your employer the insurance policy plus 29 times the premiums in cash!!!

Does this man really believe this? Do the sycophants he's talking to really believe this? Is he a liar? Does the audience care so much about putting their laws on my body (hehe) that they don't even care what he says to make it happen?

Yet it isn't just the president who should know math. Notice that you don't see one furrowed eyebrow behind him when he made this ignorant statement. No one in the peanut gallery said, "Huh? What?" at such an obviously stupid utterance. No, they just smiled and clapped and kept that Chris Matthews-like tingle going up their leg. Perhaps Justice Alito should have been there to utter "Not true" or Joe Wilson should have been there to call out "You lie!"

Had President Bush said something this stupid and innumerate, it would have led the national news for a week. I wonder if Diane Sawyer and the gang at ABC's World News Tonight will even mention it, much less call the president on it. Seriously, isn't this a bit worse than the Southern pronunciation of nu-cyu-lar?

Update, 6:01 pm: Nope, no mention at all of this on World News Tonight, even though they opened the broadcast with a story about health care reform.

Update #2, 3/21/10: Math guy and author John Allen Paulos has some politically neutral math questions for anyone who wants to be president.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Lesson In Scapegoating

I did not know this etymology, and I agree with the conclusion:

If you think you've been hearing that term ("scapegoat") a lot lately, you're not mistaken. Weingarten used it two weeks ago in response to Obama's remarks about the Central Falls firings, and union officers in Florida used it to describe the legislature's merit pay bill, in Michigan in response to the state's failure to receive Race to the Top funding, and in Milwaukee to defend the union's choice of health care plan.

The word originated in the Bible (Leviticus 16) to describe the ritual of sending a goat out into the wilderness as a sacrifice to atone for a perceived wrong. The goat, of course, is blameless, but pays with its life for the errors of others.

That's what makes the use of the word in these contexts faulty. You can't say on the one hand that "The key to turning out great students is great teachers," while claiming to be blameless when students fail.

Loyal To The Death (To The Democrats)

I've considered this for a long time:

For all of my looooong life, the Jews have been so deep in the pocket of the Democratic Party it would make Chris Matthews blush. Maybe… just maybe… (I know old habits die hard)…. thanks to Barack Obama, that is about to end...

The love affair between African-Americans and the Democratic Party has been similarly useless for blacks. In the forty years I have lived in Los Angeles, I haven't noticed life getting significantly better in South Central, a region of the city in which Republicans are about as scarce as killer whales.

This doesn't mean I think Jews or blacks or anybody else should become Republicans. They should think for themselves and even change sides when it's advantageous.

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What was the Red Baron's real name?

Ed School-run Charter A Failure

And not just any ed school. No, this was Stanford's ed school.

One of the worst-performing elementary schools in California is run by Stanford University’s School of Education, reports the Palo Alto Weekly...

Stanford’s Education School has focused on secondary education, so perhaps they have a lot to learn about running an elementary...

Some East Palo Alto charter schools are thriving, including the very successful EPAC, where I (Joanne) once tutored.

If you know anything about schools of education, this is not a surprise.

Schoolhouse Barack

Anyone who remembers that poor Bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill, will get a chuckle out of this updated script--well, you will if you're a political conservative :-)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pi Day At MIT

MIT released its undergraduate admission decisions today at 1:59 p.m. -- 3.14159! link

Good call. Tonight I watched the Darren Aronofsky movie Requiem For A Dream. I should have watched Pi.

Spring Forward

Mid-60's today and nary a cloud in the sky, so a friend and I headed over to the arboretum at UC Davis to take a few pictures. Incidentally, how many trees do you see in these pictures?

click to enlarge
I just like this color on plants.

Are these egrets? Or cormorants? I don't know much about birds. But I do know that those are turtles on the edge of the creek behind them.

Close-up of a poppy.

I often refer to Davis as Berkeley-lite, and its well-known nickname is The People's Republic of Davis. Here's a barely-scratching-the-surface reason why:
If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you'll see that the birds have adequately expressed my opinion of the owner of this car and his/her views.

Except for the car, it was a nice way to spend a couple hours this afternoon.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What number was painted on the side and hood of The Love Bug?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's vice president. He had been prescribed whiskey for a minor ailment and, uh, exceeded his dosage.

Today's question is:
In the comic strip Blondie, what is Blondie and Dagwood's last name?

California Higher Education System More Screwed Up Than I Thought

California's 3-tiered higher education system, consisting of community colleges, the 23-campus California State University system, and the 10-campus University of California system, used to be considered the gold standard in US higher education. A top-flight education could be earned at a reasonable cost.

How is it, then, that our colleges and universities can't even get transfer agreements right a full 50 years after creating the master plan?

It's supposed to be the path to an affordable, high-quality education: attend a California community college for two years, then transfer to one of the state's public universities.

In reality, though, few community college students who set out to transfer actually make it to the university gates – and those who do often take more than two years to get there. They are mired by dozens of bureaucratic roadblocks, from conflicting academic calendars, to an outdated computer program that doesn't accurately track which classes count toward transferring, to entrance requirements that vary from one university to the next – even within the same major.

And that's despite numerous attempts over the years to smooth the transfer process for students moving from community college to the University of California or the California State University...

The idea is to get all three branches of higher education in California to agree on transfer requirements for each major. Under Shulock's vision, a community college student could follow a single course of study in a given major and be prepared to transfer to any UC or CSU campus...

To illustrate, Shulock described the requirements a community college student faces if she wants to transfer to UC or CSU as a psychology major.

San Jose State requires the transfer student take biology or anatomy to be admitted. Sonoma State doesn't require science but does require statistics. Sacramento State doesn't require either.
Doesn't it just make you wonder how anything gets done in this state, and highlight just how bad anything related to our state government truly is?

50 years later, and they can't even get transfers right.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Colorado Government Screwed Up, And Their Senate Majority Leader Is An Idiot

Colorado recently passed a law requiring out-of-state internet-based companies to collect sales taxes on items sold to buyers in the state. said no, thank you, and won't be doing much business in Colorado:

Actually, if anyone ever needed an obvious illustration of how government overreach can damage an economy, they need look no further than the Colorado legislature's foolish attempt to wheedle a few extra bucks out of consumers via an Internet sales tax.

After legislation forcing online companies to collect sales tax passed, moved to protect its consumers and long-term interests by severing its ties with Colorado. Unfortunately, this meant closing its associates program, which involved an estimated 5,000 jobs.

Amazon's actions were not surprising, as it did the same in North Carolina and Rhode Island (a state, incidentally, which reportedly saw no additional revenue generated after passing a similar law taxing Internet sales).

"They've done nothing here but spit in our face," bristled Colorado Senate Majority Leader John Morse in a ludicrous rant on YouTube, wherein he went on to describe Amazon's actions as "such tyranny!"

1. Colorado spit in Amazon's face.
2. Amazon can't force anyone to buy their stuff. The State of Colorado can force people to do things.
3. The article goes on to say that if all 50 states did this, companies like Amazon (and any other company that sells over the internet--including eBay sellers?) would have to deal with over 8000 different tax computations.
4. Refusing to do business in your state isn't "tyranny".

This petty power-and-money grab cost Colorado 5,000 jobs. Rhode Island's experience shows that you don't always get increased revenue from increased taxes--thank you, Dr. Laffer.

Instead of looking at new things to tax, perhaps governments should cut as much as possible and then raise taxes, if need be, to make up any remaining difference. I think most people are practical and would accept that if they believed that no more of their money was being wasted or given away.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Which US vice president delivered an inaugural address while intoxicated?

What's In A Name?

When I was in the army, a fellow officer once told me that you could always tell when you were being fed some el toro poo-poo--the longer and more exciting the name, (e.g. super high-intensity, reality-based combat warrior training, or some some such silliness), the more crap you were being fed and the more some Pentagon manual-writer was padding his nest. That memory came back to me this morning as I read about these two schools:

Encina Preparatory High School in Sacramento and Highlands Academy of Arts and and Design in North Highlands were added to the state's list of persistently lowest-performing schools Wednesday.

I remember when they used to be just Encina High and Highlands High.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How Bad Is It In California?

This bad:

In 2007 Raymond Keating formulated a Small Business Survival Index, which is a composite of various aspects of the climate for business in a particular state: business and personal taxes, regulations, mandates, and so on. In that index California ranked 49 among the 50 states. Rhode Island ranked just above California, and its unemployment rate is 12.7. At the bottom of the Index is D.C., and its unemployment rate is 12.1.

In the component parts of the SBSI index, California ranks worst of 51 (including D.C.) on top personal tax rates, worst on top capital gains tax rates, 42 on corporate taxes, 43 on health insurance mandates, 46 on electric utility costs, 47 on workman's compensation costs, rock bottom again on state gas taxes, 45 on state and local government five year spending trends, and 47 on state and local per capita government spending. It also ranks 49 among the states on the US Economic freedom index, and it has the highest state sales tax rate too: where some states have an income tax but no sales tax, and others have a sales tax but no income tax, California has both, AND it has the highest rates in both.

Anyone who says that we aren't taxed enough is either ignorant, an idiot, or both. And yes, I've heard plenty who say we Californians aren't taxed enough.

How California's Universities Are Shooting Themselves In The Foot (And The State In The Head)

Here's an interesting view to ponder:

All across the country there were demonstrations on March 4 by students (and some faculty) against cuts in higher education funding, but inevitably attention focused on California, where the modern genre originated in 1964. I joined the University of California faculty in 1966 and so have watched a good many of them, but have never seen one less impressive that this year's. In 1964 there was focus and clarity. This one was brain-dead. The former idealism and sense of purpose had degenerated into a self-serving demand for more money at a time when both state and university are broke, and one in eight California workers is unemployed. The elite intellectuals of the university community might have been expected to offer us insight into how this problem arose, and realistic measures for dealing with it. But all that was on offer was this: get more money and give it to us. Californians witnessing this must have wondered whether the money they were already providing was well spent where there was so little evidence of productive thought...

When both wealth and wealth creation leave the state, tax revenues leave with them. How has this happened?

As everyone knows by now, California has a dysfunctional legislature...

But why is the California legislature so irresponsible, not to say goofy? Well, California is extremely rich in state university campuses: the UC and CSUC systems alone amount to 33 campuses, about a third of them mega-campuses of 30-35 thousand students, with another 10 around 20,000. The mega-campuses completely dominate the Assembly districts they are in, and their large concentrations of students and faculty skew the district electorate not just to the left, but to the devoutly politically correct but hopelessly unrealistic left. Virtually all of them routinely send Democrats to Sacramento. College towns with more modest sized campuses play their part too, but mega-campuses make their districts so one-sided that in the last election UC Berkeley's Assembly seat had no election even though it was vacant: the Democratic nominee still ran unopposed. Where there is real competition between the parties the two sides keep each other honest and realistic, but when Assembly seats are so inevitably left that there is no contest, there is nothing to stop the side that has automatic electability from sliding into fantasy. Those districts provide the margin that allows an immature leftism that has lost contact with reality to control the state legislature and ruin the business climate of the state.

The irony here really cries out for attention: a large state university system needs a free market economy that hums along in top gear so that the revenue needed to support it can be generated. But California's two unusually well developed state university systems provide enormous local voting power in many Assembly districts for a bitterly anti-capitalist ideology that sabotages the California economy. The campuses are shooting themselves in the foot.
Our university students and faculty have not be acquitting themselves well lately.

(Incidentally, note the credentials of the author of the linked piece.)

Which Organization Spent More Money Influencing California Politicians And Voters Than Any Other?

The CTA, of course.

Five special interests were responsible for more than half of the billion dollars spent since 2000, including:

--The California Teachers Assoc., which spent $211.8 million.
--The California State Council of Service Employees, $107.4 million.
--The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $104.9 million.
-The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino under a state-approved compact, $83.6 million.
--The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, which also operates a casino, $69.2 million.
What a surprise.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question--really, no one even guessed?--is:

Today's question is:
In which country would you be required, if you wanted to build a house or other structure, to have a government inspector confirm that no elves would be disturbed by your construction?

Health Care, Education--Same Thing, Right?

The health care bill that the Democrats hope to pass by “reconciliation” to
avoid the normal Senatorial voting procedure is now being amended to include the
administration’s Big Grab on federal student loans. If this works, we will have
one bill in which the federal government not only takes primary control of
American health care but also simultaneously takes practical control of American
higher education. link

All of you who voted for President Obama because you thought he was going to be a "transformative" president, because you believed him when he mouthed platitudes to you--is this the change you were hoping for?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year was the iPod released?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Johnson Lost Cronkite, Teachers Have Lost Newsweek

I stopped subscribing to Newsweek many, many years ago, when I became conscious enough of liberal press bias to find a tremendous amount of it in that magazine. So when Newsweek publishes an article about how no other profession is as insulated from accountability as teaching, about how bad teacher education is, about how teachers unions make getting rid of bad teachers nigh impossible, and about how important it is to get rid of bad teachers, you know the evidence must be too overwhelming even for such a leftie mag to ignore.

After the Tet Offensive in '68, which Walter Cronkite described as an American loss, President Johnson said something akin to, "When I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the war." Teachers unions, colleges of education, and the rest of the teaching field might be thinking the same thing about Newsweek.

This Writer Sees More Than Just "Dumb" In Group Work

She sees coercion and emotional manipulation, too. Read her somewhat incendiary views on what she saw at the November 2009 National Council for the Social Studies conference.

Collaboration, or working in groups, is a favorite pedagogical strategy of hung-over graduate teaching assistants, soviet indoctrinators, educators with advanced degrees, and social studies teachers too dumb to do anything else.

Unfortunately, by what I saw at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference here in Atlanta, most social studies teachers are either wicked indoctrinators or too dumb to know that they are carrying out the wishes of the Dr. Evils in education, i.e., those with Ed.D.s who are administrators, curriculum devisers, and education professors.

Teachers seem to love “group work.” It gives them a sense of power over children and allows them to catch up on Facebook or their nails...

While much has been said about politically correct material, little attention has been paid to such emotionally coercive teaching strategies. I saw how it is applied to middle school students as a teacher shared teaching tips for getting tykes to sympathize with illegal immigrants.

Read her full report on the conference at Indoctrination without Apology: Social Studies Teachers Share Strategies on How to Mold Students. It's pretty amazing.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Japan and Finland.

Today's question is:
In what year did the oil tanker Exxon Valdez run aground?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Proof That Money Doesn't Solve All Education Issues

In the mid-80's, a judge decided that Kansas City's schools still needed to be desegregated. Oh, there was no formal or legal segregation going on; no, it's just that white people lived in one area and blacks in another, and the schools reflected that. The school district was still operating under a desegregation order related to the Brown v. Board decision, though, and tried to get out from under that order in 1994. The Clinton Administration opposed this move:

The Clinton Administration, taking a position in a school desegregation case for the first time, told the Supreme Court today that it planned to oppose the State of Missouri's request to have the Kansas City public schools declared successfully integrated and no longer in need of Federal court supervision...

The Justices have agreed to hear Missouri's appeal of a Federal appeals court ruling that requires the state to keep paying more than $200 million a year for an extensive magnet school program and other improvements aimed at overcoming the legacy of segregation. The case poses basic questions about how the success of a court-ordered integration plan is ultimately to be judged.

What's that? $200 million a year? Did that get your attention? Here's the Cato Institute's view about what happened, going back to the 1985 decision requiring continued federal oversight to alleviate the effects of segregation decades before:

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, "You can't solve educational problems by throwing money at them." The education establishment and its supporters have replied, "No one's ever tried." In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil--more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers' salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

Even in late 1995 the failure was already evident, as this article points out:

The effort to integrate the Kansas City public schools is one of the most costly, misguided, and ineffectual programs ever undertaken in America in the name of racial equality. This billion-dollar effort has been so utterly a failure that only good can come of it. Catastrophe as complete as this may shake even a liberal’s confidence. This may well be the high-water mark of the astonishing efforts whites have made to build a society in the name of an illusory equality.

Kansas City came to national attention ten years ago, when federal District Judge Russell Clark ordered the school district to build and staff the best, most expensive public schools in the country — perhaps in the world. They were to be so dazzlingly good that they would both lure white students out of their safe suburbs and raise black student achievement to the white level. Judge Clark was even willing to wield dictatorial power to get what he wanted, looting both the city and the state to fund the gold-plated schools that desegregation was thought to require.

Of course, the grand experiment failed. The wondrous schools were duly built but blacks learned no more in them than before. Whites stayed in the suburbs.
So where is Kansas City today, after building and staffing these Taj Mahals of education?

Kansas City was held up as a national example of bold thinking when it tried to integrate its schools by making them better than the suburban districts where many kids were moving. The result was one school with an Olympic-sized swimming pool and another with recording studios.

Now it's on the brink of bankruptcy and considering another bold move: closing nearly half its schools to stay afloat.

Schools officials say the cuts are necessary to keep the district from plowing through what little is left of the $2 billion it received as part of a groundbreaking desegregation case.

Two billion dollars, and nothing to show for it except the possibility of shuttered classrooms.

The ABC News story continues:

Kansas City appeared headed for a recovery when a federal judge in 1985 declared the district was unconstitutionally segregated. To boost test scores, integrate the schools and repair decrepit classrooms, the state was ordered to spend about $2 billion to address the problems.

The district went on a buying spree that included a six-lane indoor track and a mock court complete with a judge's chamber and jury deliberation room. But student achievement remained low, and the anticipated flood of students from the suburbs turned out to be more like a trickle. Court supervision of the desegregation case ended in 2003.

And to this day, the district continues to lose students. In the late 1960s enrollment peaked at 75,000, dropped to 35,000 a decade ago and now sits at just under 18,000.
This is what happens when... ah, heck, I don't even need to say it, do I?

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Daniel Powter.

Today's question is:
In the recently-concluded Vancouver Olympics of 2010, which two countries tied for the distinction of having earned the most medals without winning a gold medal?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Updated SF Post With More Pictures

I have added more pictures to yesterday's post about my day in San Francisco.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What one-hit-wonder artist released the 2005-2006 hit Bad Day?

Getting Docked Pay For Going To A Family Reunion

In California, teachers are entitled to at least 10 days of sick leave each year; districts and local teacher unions determine how much of that can be used for "personal necessity", which in my district means not for recreation or for other employment. "Recreation" is an amorphous term, and many of us take it to mean "don't go to Vegas, and don't take Friday off just to have a 3-day weekend to go camping".

In a nearby district, though, a teacher took a week off to go to a family reunion. Would that be "recreation" in my district? Is it "personal necessity"? Keep in mind, her "sick leave account" would be docked even for personal necessity. Is this legitimate?

Her district said no, and docked her 5 days' pay instead.

The Folsom Cordova Unified teachers union wants a judge to force the school district to pay an elementary school teacher for five days she spent at a family reunion.

The Folsom Cordova Education Association filed a suit in Sacramento Superior Court last month claiming Edith Hiatt legitimately used "personal necessity leave" for the September 2008 trip. They asked the court to set aside a school board decision to dock her pay...

She filed a grievance over the pay cut, and Nichols said the district paid her for at least three of the five days. She received $981.91.

The district hired an arbitrator who decided in Hiatt's favor in August, according to the suit. The arbitration wasn't binding, however, and the district threw out the decision three months later.

My guess is the district has spent more money fighting this than they would on giving her the pay.

Plenty of commenters at the link above wanted to complain about the teacher's local union. However, one extremely wise and good-looking commenter said the following:

There are plenty of reasons to be against teachers unions--believe me, I'm against them, too--but this isn't one of them.
The district, by paying her for 3 of the days, has already admitted she's 60% correct. The arbiter decided in her favor. I may be biased here, but I think she should be paid.

Does This *Ever* Happen In US Hospitals?

I know that doctors and nurses make mistakes--they do that in all countries, as they're only human. But could this ever happen in the US? Has it ever happened in the US? I read lots of stories like this in the British press but don't ever read similar stories in the American press, so I'm forced to wonder if this is a result of the British system vice ours.

A man of 22 died in agony of dehydration after three days in a leading teaching hospital.

Kane Gorny was so desperate for a drink that he rang police to beg for their help.

They arrived on the ward only to be told by doctors that everything was under control.

The next day his mother Rita Cronin found him delirious and he died within hours...

The death certificate said Mr Gorny had died because of a 'water deficit' and 'hypernatraemia' - a medical term for dehydration.

His mother added: 'When I went back to the hospital I was told that all the nurses had been offered counselling as they were so traumatised, but nothing was offered to me.

'The whole thing is a disgrace. This hospital has a brilliant reputation and boasts of its excellent standards and safety record.

'But as soon as my son walked into that ward, his death warrant was signed. Of the 32 people who were involved in my son's care, every one made a mistake that ultimately led to his death, from the consultant to the care assistant.

'There has been an internal investigation but St George's never made it public and it was a whitewash-After his death the hospital never phoned me or wrote to me to apologise. How could this happen in the 21st century?'

Again, the British aren't a stupid people. They didn't design this into their National Health Service. Yet, the frequency with which we read such atrocious tales makes me wonder if this isn't the natural result of socialized medicine.

How Much Money Is $1 Trillion?

The graphics at this site make things extremely clear. And how big are our projected deficits for the next decade?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bullying Is Serious Business

If your school, or your kid's school, treats bullying as "boys will be boys" or "those girls will grow out of being catty", they may be setting themselves up for a big time lawsuit:

In what experts say could be a landmark decision, a Michigan school district has been ordered to pay $800,000 this week to a student who claimed the school did not do enough to protect him from years of bullying, some sexually tinged.

This week's jury verdict against Hudson Area Schools puts districts on notice that it's not enough to stop a student from bullying another. There needs to be a concerted effort to stop systemic bullying, too.

Essentially, the federal court ruling says schools can be held responsible for what students do, if there is a pattern of harassment or if they don't do enough to provide a safe environment.

I don't understand why some adults don't take this more seriously.

Hat tip to NewsAlert.

From West Point To Wal*Mart

Here's a pleasant enough video about a woman who went from West Point to Iraq to Wal*Mart. Listen to her emphasis on leadership as opposed to management.

They still should have grocery bags.

Why Was There No Posting Today?

This is the 2nd to last weekend during which teachers get in free at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, so my son, a friend, and I headed over to San Francisco to spend the day. My friend took a real camera, so what I'm posting here are shots from my phone. I hope to get the others on a cd at a later date.

In the Steinhart Aquarium.

Hasn't the hockey stick graph been completely and thoroughly debunked? Why yes, it has :-)

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from near the former artillery emplacements at the Presidio of San Francisco.

Another shot of the Bridge and the Marin Headlands, future home of Starfleet Command Headquarters.

A view from the artillery emplacements towards Alcatraz Island.

Update, 3/7/10: Here are the other pictures I promised--clearly much better than with my cell phone!

click to enlarge, these look good!
Again, from the artillery emplacements.

A nicer shot. You can make out part of Fort Point, a Sumter-like Civil War-era brick fort, under the arch at the south (left) side of the bridge.

A better shot of Fort Point and the bridge over it. The original designs for the bridge called for Fort Point to be demolished. When the designer saw the actual fort, though, he redesigned the south end of the bridge by adding the arch going over the fort, in order to preserve a most interesting piece of history.

I went with my son and my pilot friend, who also sent me this picture he'd taken previously. The SF-Oakland Bay Bridge is in the background, along with the edge of Treasure Island (a former navy base).

Yours truly at the south tower of the bridge, with SF in the background. This was my first time out on the bridge.

A view from Treasure Island on our way home. The arch over Fort Point is clearly visible, as is the south tower.

A view of the City from Treasure Island.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Star 69.

Today's question is:
What was the title of Madonna's first album, released in 1983, which contained the songs Borderline, Lucky Star, and Holiday?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What appropriately-named REM song contains the lyrics, “I know you called, I know you called”?

A Living Legend Might Not Live Much Longer Without Our Help

Jaime Escalante, on whom the movie Stand and Deliver is based, is a legend and hero amongst math teachers. Today he's in Reno, Nevada, for cancer treatment, but can't afford it. Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Escalante in the movie, presents an appeal for donations:

Jaime didn’t just teach math. Like all great teachers, he changed lives. Gang members became aerospace engineers. Kids who had spent their youth convinced their lives didn’t matter discovered they were leaders.

Now, Kimo needs our help. He is seriously ill, and the treatment he needs has depleted all the funds his family can raise. They did not want to ask for help, but we took it upon ourselves to get the word out to all the country and around the world, to make his final days as comfortable as possible – and maybe even give him a chance to beat the cancer that has afflicted him...

How to help

Send a check payable to:

“Friends of Jaime” c/o FASE
236 West Mountain Street, Suite 105
Pasadena, CA 91103
For questions call: 626-793-5300
Suesan Walker, email - or via fax 626-577-2677

I hope my readers will join me in making even a small donation to help a great man.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
1975. (I believe they performed it on television in December of '74, though.)

Today's question is:
In what year did Billy Ray Cyrus release Achy Breaky Heart?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine

My local union wants to alert parents to the strain our district will be under if presumed drastic cuts to the education budget are implemented. To do this, we've been asked to stand across the street from school either tomorrow morning or Friday and hand out fliers--I assume these fliers will ask parents to contact their legislators and tell them not to cut education.

I'm a teacher. When the education budget takes a hit, I personally take a hit--either in the wallet, or in more work because of more students. So I have a personal stake in hoping that education isn't cut too much.

But I'm also a California taxpayer, one who plans on living in California for a very long time. This state is in a financial mess, and it's not going to be fixed if we declare 47% of the state budget off limits. We can either take our medicine now, or take even more of it later, and I'd rather just fix it now. If we don't fix it, the state will collapse--and I'll collapse with it.

So I can't in good conscience go out and ask parents to advocate for fewer cuts in education. To do so would not only be exceedingly self-serving, it would also violate some of my deepest political beliefs.