Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Frankie Valli.

Today's question is:
What was Shakespeare's shortest play?

San Francisco Values

Those of you outside of California know all about San Francisco--or you think you do. Yes, the Gay Pride Parades and the Folsom Street Fair and some other activities are more sexually explicit than even Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and yes, they're pretty rabidly liberal there, but folks, if that's all you know, you don't know anything. Allow me to offer you this small insight into the thought processes of a true San Franciscan:

Now comes the frightening part. San Francisco magazine sees a convoluted series of plays and deals that could put Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in at Room 200 (of city hall). That scream you just heard was this queen reacting in horror to such a possibility. I say no to Pelosi as our mayor! The last thing our great city needs now is Pelosi giving up her Congressional seat and returning home to rule as mayor.

Conservatives will be shocked to learn that in her backyard, Pelosi is not widely viewed as truly representing our core liberal to progressive values. She's all sizzle and no steak on pro-peace politics, gay rights, ending the AIDS drug waiting list crisis, preserving the environment and other important local concerns. Pelosi is from San Francisco, but her real constituency has been her more rightwing House colleagues.

That's right, Nancy Pelosi is a friend of rightwing House colleagues.

So I ask this--is she's too "conservative" to be mayor, why would you want her in the Congress, where her "conservative" values can help soon-to-be-Speaker Boehner and the gang?

Such is the logic, and the set of values, of a true San Franciscan.

Update, 11/3/10: It's the day after the election. Want to see how out of touch San Francisco is? Click here to see California election results, and then click on the tabs for Propositions 20 and 27. Proposition 20 extended the state's redistricting commission to cover congressional races in addition to state legislature races, and Proposition 27 would have eliminated the redistricting commission. Look at the maps for each of those propositions, focusing on tiny San Francisco city/county.

More evidence that those people are just nuts.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NPR and Rish Limbaugh

Put simply, NPR is for coastal liberals what Rush Limbaugh is for heartland conservatives: a means of relating to the world from within the confines of a specific subculture. The difference, of course, is that Limbaugh’s admirers do not force others to pay for it.

Nor, I imagine, are Limbaugh’s listeners laboring under the same illusion as NPR’s. Most of them probably understand that Limbaugh is giving opinions based on his political point of view, which is, to say the least, well known to his listeners. NPR’s listeners, on the other hand, are quite convinced that they are receiving nothing less than the pure, unvarnished, objective truth from the network. They believe themselves to be smart and informed, and thus the network they love must also be, perhaps by definition, smart and informative.

As far as I have been able to discern from my own, admittedly subjective, encounters with the network, this is largely a convenient illusion...

Of course, every subculture has its objects of affection. Punks and hip-hop fans have their music, Trekkies have their TV shows and movies, hipsters have mumblecore, etc. The difference, of course, is that unlike NPR, none of these are funded largely by coercive means. And this says something, I think, about the liberal mentality. Put simply, liberals constitute the one subculture in the United States that consistently and often willfully mistakes its specific and particular preferences for universal truths.

Lots more here.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Who sang the title song to the movie Grease?

A View, From Harvard, of the So-called Stimulus

Almost a trillion dollars:

I argue here, however, that the structure of a fiscal stimulus is crucially important and that the package Congress adopted was far from ideal, regardless of the merits of the Keynesian model. Whether countercyclical fiscal policy is beneficial is a more difficult question, but it is not the critical issue if a stimulus package is properly designed. In fact, the Administration could have created a package that stimulated the economy in the short term while improving economic performance in the long term. This package, moreover, would have been immune
to criticism from Republicans. The stimulus adopted was a missed opportunity of colossal proportions.

That the Administration and Congress chose the particular stimulus adopted suggests that stimulating the economy was not their only objective. Instead, the Administration used the recession and the financial crisis to redistribute resources to favored interest groups (unions, the green lobby, and public education) and to increase the size and scope of government. This redistribution does not make every element of the package indefensible, but even the components with a plausible justification were designed in the least productive and most redistributionist way possible.

This, and the fact that it was "paid for" entirely with borrowed money, is why conservatives were against it--not because of the president's skin color.

Update: further in comes this statement, which explains the difference between American conservatism and liberalism:

Another way to describe the choice between spending and tax cuts is to note that under increased spending, the political process decides how to spend the money, whereas under tax cuts, consumers and firms get to decide how to spend the money. Thus, the crucial difference between the two approaches is not whether one accepts the Keynesian model but whether one believes governments or markets make the best decisions about allocating resources.

Compulsory Anti-Cyberbullying Training?

Part of the problem with having Washington in charge of everything is the uniform/blanket way the federal government deals with perceived problems. Was not part of the original appeal of having a federal republic the idea of a "laboratory of democracy", wherein individual states could experiment with what works with its own people, local culture, and the like?

Does something like this really need to be mandated in just about every school in the country?

Schools receiving subsidies for Internet service will have to teach students about the perils of cyberbullying and the responsible use of social networking sites, the U.S. telecommunications regulator said on Friday.

Cyberbullying "happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person," and it's a problem for nearly half of all U.S. teens, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.

of all teens? Really? I'm skeptical, to say the least.

Our Uniter-in-Chief?

From "I won"--said to House Republicans who also won--to Republicans can come along but he doesn't want them to talk much, to Republicans having to "sit in the back" of the bus, to "We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends", President Obama is the very antithesis of the uniter he claimed to be during the election. Frankly, I find his relentless attacks on anyone who disagrees with him to be unpresidential at least, dangerous at most. Charles Krauthammer nails it:

This is how the great post-partisan, post-racial, New Politics presidency ends - not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a desperate election-eve plea for ethnic retribution.
That type of behavior may work on the streets of Chicago, but I still hold out hope that it won't work across America.

Update, 10/31/10: From the Washington Post:
We write in sadness as traditional liberal Democrats who believe in inclusion. Like many Americans, we had hoped that Obama would maintain the spirit in which he campaigned. Instead, since taking office, he has pitted group against group for short-term political gain that is exacerbating the divisions in our country and weakening our national identity.The culture of attack politics and demonization risks compromising our ability to address our most important issues - and the stature of our nation's highest office.

Indeed, Obama is conducting himself in a way alarmingly reminiscent of Nixon's role in the disastrous 1970 midterm campaign. No president has been so persistently personal in his attacks as Obama throughout the fall. He has regularly attacked his predecessor, the House minority leader and - directly from the stump - candidates running for offices below his own. He has criticized the American people suggesting that they are "reacting just to fear" and faulted his own base for "sitting on their hands complaining."

With the country beset by economic and other problems, it is incendiary that the president is not offering a higher vision for the nation but has instead chosen a strategy of rank division. This is an attempt to distract from the perceived failures of his administration. On issue after issue this administration has acted in ways that are weakening the office of the president.
Before you attack that piece, take a look who the authors of it are. If you don't recognize the names, I'll quote again from the column and let the authors themselves tell you about one of them: "one of us was the youngest member of Nixon's enemies list".

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Can't Be Real

When Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang "Teach Your Children," do you think they meant to instruct students on how to properly investigate UFO crashes?

Well, that seems to be a trend in some U.K. schools where UFO drills have been periodically staged over the past two years, according to Dateline Zero.

In a typical drill, a UFO crash incident is created, and police arrive to show 8- to 10-year-old pupils how to handle such a scenario, which includes gathering "wreckage," and the students are encouraged to share and write about the experience.

The SoCal Martial Law Alerts website reports that Victoria Shepherd, a teacher at the Sandford Primary School in the United Kingdom, was the organizer of a recent UFO exercise.

"The children didn't know what was going on," Shepherd said. "As they approached the crash site, we could see how amazed and perplexed they were. It was a fantastic first reaction."

Shepherd said police "helped the children secure the scene and talked about what to do in an emergency, how they gathered evidence and how to interview witnesses." link

Is that really what you want to teach children--if something unknown crashes out of the sky, to run toward it and start grabbing "evidence"? My guess is that if government employees approached such a site, they'd be wearing hazmat suits--but let's teach children not to take any such silly precautions.

A Bit Too Extreme?

A school board member who posted on Facebook that he thinks gay youths should kill themselves announced Thursday night that he would quit, hours after protesters rallied outside of a high school to call for his resignation.

In an appearance on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Clint McCance he would resign from his school board seat "to help my school, my community," though he said he might run again for the board in the future.

McCance said he had been made aware that the way he expressed his beliefs about homosexuals was hurtful. link

That's right, it was the way he said it, not what he said, that was wrong. Idiot.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is a word called that's spelled like the sound it references, such as boom, cuckoo, whoosh, or pow? (Spelling doesn't count on this one!)

Weight Loss Update

I've hit the proverbial plateau.

For the past two weeks I've hovered in the 178-180 lb range. It's not that I'm not happy to have lost 20 lb so far, but stalling 2/3 of the way to my goal is not encouraging.

This morning, for the first time, I broke 178 lb. I stepped on the scale and read a weight that buoyed my red, white, and blue heart--177.6 lb!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's For The Children

We have a librarian at my school only 2-1/2 days a week, as she must split her time between 2 high schools. When she's not there, parent volunteers staff the library so that it's available to students.

A union grievance was filed, and today we were told that the library cannot be open anymore when she's not there. Teachers can take their classes in there, but books cannot be checked out. The library will no longer be available for students to do make-up tests in on the days when our official librarian isn't on site.

The next time a teachers union tells you something is "for the children", you remember this story.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
A wall cloud (or pedestal cloud). I saw one once in Colorado—see one, and you know why they're called wall clouds. Very ominous looking. The next morning we woke up to the news that the town of Limon had been hit. Hard.

Today's question is:
What is the generic equation for a line written in slope-intercept form? [math teachers, you have to bow out of this one :) ]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
George Harrison, Jeff Lynne (of ELO), Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan.

Today's question is:
What type of cloud is associated with the creation of tornadoes?

Education Buzz

This week's is here and includes my post about my strange experience proctoring the PSAT.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'll Believe It When I See It

From today's major Sacramento newspaper:

Even as laid-off teachers scour job ads, education experts say school districts are likely to face a massive teacher shortage when the economy recovers.

Far fewer college graduates are entering teacher credentialing programs even as a wave of teacher retirements is predicted to hit in the next few years.

I've been hearing Chicken Little cry about near-future teacher shortages the entire time I've been a teacher. There may be a wolf this time, but I've been fooled enough times that I'm not going to come running again.

Based on my mixture of stories in the preceding paragraph, we can conclude that Chicken Little's first name is Peter :-)

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
The crew of Apollo 8: Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders. Interestingly enough, this mission had no lunar module! Also of note, Borman is a West Point graduate and Lovell and Anders are both Naval Academy graduates.

Today's question is:
Who were the 5 artists that formed the band Traveling Wilburys in 1988?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Paul Hogan.

Today's question is:
Who were the first humans (names or mission title acceptable) to directly see the far side of the moon?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Snapshot of California Life

I just got home from yoga class.

For most of yesterday and today it's been raining in the Sacramento area--not thunderstorm-ish, but a light to moderate persistent rain. High temperatures have been in the 60's.

As I was walking across the parking lot to get to class today a thought occurred to me: Only in California would you find, at the end of October, someone walking through the rain in shorts, a tank top, and flip flops, going to yoga.

Our politics may be as screwed up as the day is long, but California itself is still a beautiful place.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What actor played Crocodile Dundee?

Honesty From A Teacher

Math Curmudgeon does a post about student videos that denigrate teachers and/or school, and says some things that might be more true than I'd care to admit out loud:

These kids are complaining about school (a new phenomenon, I'm sure) and, true to form, people are watching them. Some viewers take everything at face value and believe every word the kids say because the teachers are always at fault. Others, I assume, are in thrall to the idea that "If it's put on the Internet by a kid, then that's 21st Century Skills right there!" and completely miss the fact that the kid is in desperate need of some psychological counseling. Most of the ones shown at the link above are of the"whiny student" who hates his teacher "because he made me work" variety. Danzigar (left) points out the problem with that reasoning...

I worry, though, about the ramifications of these. The teachers who see them are not going to be happy and the kids seem completely unaware that people talk. They also seem unaware that most people, when attacked directly will retaliate, overtly or subtly. Stories will be told. Deadlines will become more definitive; retakes and makeup will disappear. People will be warned. Reports of threats and unsafe working environment will surface - hey, teachers are mandatory reporters and that first kid keeps picking up sharp implements. Threats will be reported to the police and the evidence is crystal clear. Admissions officers will notice. Principals will react. People will think twice about your judgment. It'll all be confidential, of course. (Sure, it will -- you put it on YouTube, you moron!.)

What's the point of it in the long haul? Why didn't some adult say, "Not a good idea."?

If I'm in one of these videos, I might change something about the way I teach but it's more likely that I would write it off as another selfish, whiny student. I can't change my accent. I teach the way I do because I believe it's a good way - backed by my 30 years of teaching experience as opposed to the kid's 2 years ignoring high school. If you hate me, I don't actually care.

But these videos persist.
  • "A recommendation? Sorry."
  • "You want to join my class? Sorry, it's full."
  • "Mr. V, watch it with that one. Bad student."
  • "That just wasn't a very good essay. I'm sorry. You made a whole lotta grammatical errors and it brawt the grade down. You're a junior. This isn't assseptable." I'd be sure to use any words she mentioned in her little tantrum and really draw out the accent.
  • "This dyke isn't amused."

A teacher could make the next parent phone call or conference REALLY uncomfortable for the parents, especially if the teacher has been there for a while and knows all the people the parent knows. Just start playing the video in everyone's presence. Watch the parent slink into the crack of the chair.

The whole post, and a peak at the videos, might be entertaining. This seems a bit like a one-up version of A few years ago I used to read what was written about me; when I didn't find anything I considered valuable enough to merit changing what I was doing in class, I stopped going there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Which University's Graduates Make The Most, On Average?

Graduates of Princeton University and Dartmouth College earn salaries 162 percent higher, on average, than graduates of East Texas Baptist University.

Mid-career median salaries for both Princeton and Dartmouth grads are $123,000, according to the job-market report containing these figures. For ETBU grads, it's $47,000. But that still beats Coker College grads, who earn $40,300—putting them at the bottom of this survey. Harvard kids go on to make $121,000, while Brown and Berkeley grads earn $109,000. Who makes the most? Graduates of Harvey Mudd College, the math-science-engineering arm of Southern California's Claremont Colleges, at $126,000 a year.

2010-11 College Salary Report: Top U.S. Colleges - Graduate Salary Statistics. A PayScale Report.

linked from here

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Purdue University, where Earhart was also visiting faculty member as well as a technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics.

Today's question is:
In the sitcom Two And A Half Men, Charlie and Alan periodically go to a bar called Pavlov's. What do the customers in Pavlov's do whenever the bartender rings a bell?

Do Only Certain Minorities Matter?

They were roaming the halls of South Philadelphia High School looking for a fight. Their target, according to police: Asian students...

After being attacked as a freshman and witnessing other attacks on Asian students, Wei founded the Chinese Student Association to help new Chinese students -- many who recently immigrated to the country -- adjust to life at South Philly High. He also kept track of the incidents of violence against Asian students.

Last year's altercation was the final straw.
Wei Chen organized a boycott of South Philly High after a violent attack on Asian students.

Wei and 50 other students organized an eight-day boycott of the school. They wanted to draw attention to what they felt was an inadequate response by the school staff to the ongoing harassment and violence leading up to the December 3 incident.

"School should be safe," he said. "The school should be responsible for students' safety. This is important"...

Nevertheless, the boycott helped trigger nationwide attention to the violence against Asian students at South Philly High. Months later, a federal investigation was launched following a formal civil rights complaint filed by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund.

"It's huge," said Cecilia Chen, staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense Fund.

"It's basically the federal government coming in and saying that the school district has failed to protect the constitutional rights of its students, which they have an obligation to do," Chen said.

According to the complaint, "the District and the School acted with 'deliberate indifference' to the harassment against Asian students and 'intentional disregard for the welfare of Asian students'" at the school...

The superintendent of schools did not return CNN's calls for a comment, but the school's new principal, Otis Hackney, says security at South Philly High is his top priority. link

You have to wonder how much press this story would have gotten if white kids had been targeting minorities for attacks. Stories like this make me sick. Every child should feel safe at school, not just students with the "correct" beliefs or the "correct" skin color. For all you lefties out there, when does "bullying" and targeting people because of their race become a "hate crime"?

Former Student's Blog

Ryan is a former student of mine, currently a freshman at the Air Force Academy. He and his "bro" have started a blog that I find more than a little entertaining, go take a look!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Techonology Is A Tool, Nothing More

This does not surprise me at all. In fact, I've been saying it for years:

In nations with the highest-performing students, classrooms “contain very little tech wizardry,” writes Amanda Ripley on Slate Magazine. “Children sit at rows of desks, staring up at a teacher who stands in front of a well-worn chalkboard,” just like in U.S. classrooms in 1989 or 1959.

A Good Explanation For Why We Don't Need More Regulation and More Regulators In This Country

For those who think that the current economic downturn was caused because we didn't have enough regulation or enough regulators, I present the following:

Federal regulators failed to detect any problems in the financial system in the days, weeks, months, and years leading up to the cataclysmic collapse that began in 2008.

Where were the Securities and Exchange Commission (3,814 employees); the FDIC (7,421); the Comptroller of the Currency (3,216); the Office of Thrift Supervision (251); the Federal Reserve Board and its 12 regional banks (2,100 employees in Washington, D.C., alone); the Federal Housing Administration (3,204); the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (10); and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (466)?[3] In particular, where was the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which was supposed to oversee Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Supplementing this massive federal presence were several dozen state bank supervisory authorities responsible for the safety and soundness of state-chartered banks, which also operate with FDIC insurance.

Looking back over the rubble of America’s housing finance system, one can see that these federal entities did not lack experience. The FDIC has been attempting to perform these oversight tasks for eight decades, the Federal Reserve System has been doing so for 100 years, and the Comptroller of the Currency has been working at them since 1863. Perhaps practice makes perfect only in music and sports, not in government.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Which American university financed Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft, the one she flew on her last flight?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Improper Use of Campus Email

Some 6,400 staffers and students at Winston-Salem State University received e-mail exhortations Monday to take advantage of early voting and help the Democratic Party, setting off local Republicans.

After a complaint by Nathan Tabor, the chairman of the Forsyth County GOP, university officials acknowledged that the e-mail — sent from the student-affairs division — was improper.

The university cited a state law that prohibits the use of a state employee’s authority or state property to support or oppose a person or an issue in any election. link

Anyone who doesn't know that that's improper (and in this case, illegal) doesn't need to be working at a university. I'm just saying.

All Things Apparently Are Not Considered

I won't go too much into Juan Williams' being fired by NPR, but instead will offer the following quote:

“A managed democracy is a wonderful thing… for the managers… and its greatest strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible’.”
--Professor Bernardo de la Paz on the subject of free press from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

This is the second time in a week I've quoted Heinlein.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
In what year did Pan Am Airlines fly its last flight?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Pension Is Unsustainable

Since becoming a teacher, I have not paid into social security. Instead, I've paid into the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS ("kal-stirs"). According to this report, each working Californian pays $3,000 to keep STRS and PERS, the Public Employees Retirement System, afloat, but that $3,000 figure will balloon to $10,000 in less than 4 years.

The state's going to have to renege on its pension promises to me, the only question is by how much.

The report closes with this ominous warning:

But this Milken report is only the latest of four independent analyses that all reach the same conclusion, that California's pension system is in big trouble."
I was discussing this with another teacher at school today. It's clear that retirement ages are going to have to be raised, but he asked, do we really want a 70-year-old teacher in front of a class? Sure, we've probably all had one or two in our time, but given what teaching is like today, is it realistic to expect most teachers to stay in the classroom at that age? My answer is that perhaps we'll have to stop teaching and greet at Wal*Mart for a few years, and can start drawing our pensions at age 70. I don't know, I haven't given it enough thought to form a complete answer, but the knuckleheads in the big white building downtown are going to have to address this issue immediately.

Should Teachers Be Fired For Friending A Student On Facebook?

Is mere "friending" a cause for being fired, or not? A discussion is here.

Skip A Conference, Go To Jail?

I'm all for having parents involved in the education of their children, but I cannot justify this extreme suggestion:

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is pushing for a law that calls for jail time for parents who skip parent-teacher conferences, a plan some call inspired and others consider the nanny state run amok.

Worthy pitched her plan Tuesday to the Detroit City Council and is shopping it to the Wayne County Commission and state Legislature. Drawing a link between parental involvement and youth crime, Worthy wants a sponsor to guide the idea to law.

Her plan would require parents to attend at least one conference per year or face three days in jail. Parents of those excelling in school would be exempt, as would those whose health issues make travel difficult and those "actively engaged" with teachers through e-mail, phone calls or letters.

Just who I'd want to deal with--a parent who's present only because of the threat of jail time.

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Philadelphia (Freedom).

Today's question is:
In what year did Ronald McDonald become the trademarked mascot of McDonald's restaurants?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Special Election Issue" of California Educator Magazine

I could regale you with all the stupidity in it--Brown over Whitman for governor, "Call me Senator" Boxer over Fiorina for Senator--but all you really need to know is how CTA and I differ on the ballot initiatives.

Prop 19: CTA curiously didn't recommend, I voted yes
Prop 20: CTA says no, I voted yes
Prop 21: CTA says yes, I voted no
Prop 22: CTA says no, I voted no (but I'm sure for very different reasons!)
Prop 23: CTA says no, I voted yes
Prop 24: CTA says yes, I voted no
Prop 25: CTA says yes, I voted no
Prop 26: CTA says no, I voted yes
Prop 27: CTA says yes, I voted no

I have so little in common with that organization that is entitled by state law to my money as a condition of employment. Given the above, you can imagine what I'd write about the rest of the dreck in this issue of the rag.

School Pushing a Partisan Voting Agenda On Students?

Perhaps it's so, if this Cincinnati story is correct:
Three van loads of Hughes High students were taken last week – during school hours – to vote and given sample ballots only for Democratic candidates and then taken for ice cream, a Monday lawsuit alleges.

The complaint was made by Thomas Brinkman Jr., a Republican candidate for Hamilton County auditor, and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes against Cincinnati Public Schools.

“They plan to bring four more high schools (to vote) this week,” Christopher Finney, COAST attorney, said Monday after filing the suit...

The suit alleges three van loads of Hughes High students arrived at the Downtown Board of Elections offices at 1 p.m. Wednesday, supervised by a school employee. School lets out at 3:15 p.m.

When they got out of the vans, the students, the suit alleges, also were accompanied by adults who appeared to be campaign workers or supporters for U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, the congressman being challenged this fall by Steve Chabot. When the students got out of the vans, the suit alleges they were given sample ballots containing only Democratic candidates.

If you have the children, you have the future.

Culture of Poverty

This type of thinking has been only for conservative thinkers? So much for that "reality-based community", huh?

For more than 40 years, social scientists investigating the causes of poverty have tended to treat cultural explanations like Lord Voldemort: That Which Must Not Be Named.

The reticence was a legacy of the ugly battles that erupted after Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant labor secretary in the Johnson administration, introduced the idea of a “culture of poverty” to the public in a startling 1965 report. Although Moynihan didn’t coin the phrase (that distinction belongs to the anthropologist Oscar Lewis), his description of the urban black family as caught in an inescapable “tangle of pathology” of unmarried mothers and welfare dependency was seen as attributing self-perpetuating moral deficiencies to black people, as if blaming them for their own misfortune.

Moynihan’s analysis never lost its appeal to conservative thinkers, whose arguments ultimately succeeded when President Bill Clinton signed a bill in 1996 “ending welfare as we know it.” But in the overwhelmingly liberal ranks of academic sociology and anthropology the word “culture” became a live grenade, and the idea that attitudes and behavior patterns kept people poor was shunned.

Now, after decades of silence, these scholars are speaking openly about you-know-what, conceding that culture and persistent poverty are enmeshed.

I'll bet teachers can tell you about what a "culture of poverty" means regarding attitudes at and towards school.

So you think this might be progress? You think the lefties are going to see what's clearly right in front of them? Think again:

With these studies come many new and varied definitions of culture, but they all differ from the ’60s-era model in these crucial respects: Today, social scientists are rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture of poverty. And they attribute destructive attitudes and behavior not to inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation.

Of course it's racism; they have no other explanation for anything. Broken record. What's interesting though, is that that statement isn't justified by the two paragraphs that follow it:

To Robert J. Sampson, a sociologist at Harvard, culture is best understood as “shared understandings.”

“I study inequality, and the dominant focus is on structures of poverty,” he said. But he added that the reason a neighborhood turns into a “poverty trap” is also related to a common perception of the way people in a community act and think. When people see graffiti and garbage, do they find it acceptable or see serious disorder? Do they respect the legal system or have a high level of “moral cynicism,” believing that “laws were made to be broken”?

None of those beliefs or actions has anything to do with racism.

For people who call themselves members of the "reality-based community", they sure do choose to ignore a lot of reality.

Another Apocalypse Averted

I've written before about all the horrible events that have been predicted, but never come true, in just my lifetime (e.g., the population bomb, global cooling, peak oil, SARS, bird flu, etc). Well, add another one to the list:
It's a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn't end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will - or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World" (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.)
Oh good. I was worried there. Not.

This Isn't A Surprise

Remember that woman who was fired for speaking out, at a political conference, about the deplorable state of schools, but then asked to return to her job because it got a little too hot in the kitchen for those who reacted to her comments so rashly?

Well, the spotlight is off, so now she's definitely fired.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
It's an English abbreviation for SOuth WEstern TOwnships.

Today's question is:
What is the major American city mentioned in the title of a 1975 #1 hit by Elton John?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Can We Possibly Pay This Off?

Not from FoxNews but from CBS News comes this fear-inspiring information:

New numbers posted today on the Treasury Department website show the National Debt has increased by more than $3 trillion since President Obama took office.

The National Debt stood at $10.626 trillion the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated. The Bureau of Public Debt reported today that the National Debt had hit an all time high of $13.665 trillion.

The Debt increased $4.9 trillion during President Bush's two terms. The Administration has projected the National Debt will soar in Mr. Obama's fourth year in office to nearly $16.5-trillion in 2012. That's more than 100 percent of the value of the nation's economy and $5.9-trillion above what it was his first day on the job.

Mr. Obama frequently lays blame for soaring federal deficits on his predecessor.
What will happen not just to the US, but to world stability, when the bill comes due? Unsustainable is a word that applies here.

A Quote I Didn't Expect To See

Via EIA (see blogroll) comes a link to this quote from (Democrat) Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

Villaraigosa noted that he is a former employee of the California Teachers Association, but faulted the union for opposing changes that he views as reforms.

“I am unabashedly pro-teacher,” Villaraigosa said. “I believe in collective bargaining. But what you see up here is a broken system ... The most powerful defenders of that broken system, without a question, is the teacher’s union.”

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
Soweto is a suburban area of Johannesburg, South Africa. What does the name Soweto mean?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I was born in the depths of the Cold War, and I served in the army from a few weeks past my 18th birthday until almost a year after the Berlin Wall fell, when I was 25. The entirety of my childhood and my young adult life was spent under the threat of communism, and I served so that none of us would ever have to deal with it face to face.

Some today view my anti-communist views with entertainment; they're quaint, in a way, from a time that no longer exists. Such people are extremely short-sighted.

We don't really have to worry about Nazism anymore, but communist-lite and communist-wannabes surround us today. When you hear people talk about how if only we had the right, smart people in charge, worried about the people instead of mere profit, things would be so much better for everyone--you're hearing a communist. Oh, they might not call themselves communists, but I challenge you to tell me where their views deviate from Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism. I also ask what such people would do with those with whom they disagree; in every lefty is a tyrant who thinks the world would be a better place if only his or her will were forced on everyone.

So while I may sound like an old man who still rails against "the Japs" or "the Huns", I see myself as standing guard against those who still today seek to subvert our way of life. They don't even hide, in plain view or in the shadows.

Why do I seek to challenge them, to prevent them from accomplishing what they so desperately seek? I quote from Heinlein in 1949:

Let me go on record that I regard communism as expressed by the U.S.S.R. and its friends here and elsewhere as a grisly horror, a tyranny maintained by force and terror, utterly subversive of human liberty, freedom of thought, and dignity. I regard it as Red fascism, distinguishable from black and brown fascism by differences of no importance to me nor to its victims.

The threat still exists. I refuse to be struthious.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Dusty Springfield.

Today's question is:
What was President Bush 43's middle name? (Hint: It starts with W!)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Toni Tennille's sisters (Melissa, Jane, and Louisa).

Today's question, the last in Music Week, is:
Who was the British singer, most popular in the 1960s, who performed with the Pet Shop Boys on the 1987 hit What Have I Done To Deserve This?

Whole Foods and Home Depot

Twice before I've written about Jim Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods, and about his views on profit and freedom and related topics. In the second post I quote from the first, and repeat that quote here:

I love profit. Profit is good and it is socially necessary... Profit is the most important purpose to the business owners. But owners do not exist in a vacuum. I believe the best way to think about business is as an interdependent system of constituencies connected together in a "harmony of interests..."

I believe that business has a much greater purpose. Business, working through free markets, is possibly the greatest force for good on the planet today.

Lefties try to convince people that supporters of capitalism want no government at all, want some form of anarcho-capitalism, and anyone who supports individualism or capitalism is against apple pie, puppies, and sunshine. Reality is a tad more complex than that, and Mackey has some intelligent, persuasive arguments in support of his positions. I remind the reader that Mackey co-founded Whole Foods, the Shangri-La of leftie food stores.

Enter Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. Mr. Langone has recently published an opinion piece, what seems to be an open letter to the president, in the Wall Street Journal:

Although I was glad that you answered a question of mine at the Sept. 20 town-hall meeting you hosted in Washington, D.C., Mr. President, I must say that the event seemed more like a lecture than a dialogue. For more than two years the country has listened to your sharp rhetoric about how American businesses are short-changing workers, fleecing customers, cheating borrowers, and generally "driving the economy into a ditch," to borrow your oft-repeated phrase.

My question to you was why, during a time when investment and dynamism are so critical to our country, was it necessary to vilify the very people who deliver that growth? Instead of offering a straight answer, you informed me that I was part of a "reckless" group that had made "bad decisions" and now required your guidance, if only I'd stop "resisting" it.

I'm sure that kind of argument draws cheers from the partisan faithful. But to my ears it sounded patronizing. Of course, one of the chief conceits of centralized economic planning is that the planners know better than everybody else... (emphasis mine--Darren)

A little more than 30 years ago, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah and I got together and founded The Home Depot. Our dream was to create (memo to DNC activists: that's build, not take or coerce) a new kind of home-improvement center catering to do-it-yourselfers. The concept was to have a wide assortment, a high level of service, and the lowest pricing possible...

If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it's a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers...

It's not too late to include the voices of experienced business people in your efforts, small business owners in particular. Americans would be right to wonder why you haven't already.

I like this guy. He makes sense.

Strange Experience This Morning

Rather than sleeping in, as is my fashion on Saturdays, this morning I proctored the PSAT at school. I had about 30 high school juniors in my classroom.

Of course, I was required to read the testing instructions verbatim. At one point I told the students to write and bubble in their social security numbers in the appropriate box, and...and almost in unison, just about every student leaned over to his or her left and picked up their registration form from under the desk--because their registration forms had their social security numbers on them. Most of these high school juniors didn't know their own social security numbers.

It was just the strangest thing for me, once I understood why all these kids moved the same way all at once. Synchronized swimmers and the Rockettes couldn't have done it better.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Capitalism and Freedom, and How They're Taught at American Universities

An October 6th Manhattan Institute conference explored "whether students are getting information or disinformation about economics".
In the discussion, several big points stood out.

First, many students enter college with a jaundiced view of capitalism and the free market (“the New York Times view of the world” as Professor Butos put it) that requires a good deal of deprogramming. Unfortunately, only a small minority of students take any economics classes and even there, the focus is often more on technical analysis than on what Professor Peart calls “the big questions.” Adam Smith, after all, came to economics through philosophy and regarded the moral case for economic freedom to be at least as important as the pragmatic case.

Professor Klein observed that the professoriate is strongly dominated by leftists. In many humanities and social science departments, voter registration is usually at least 10 to 1 for parties on the political left (Democrats, Greens, and others) over those on the right (Republicans, Libertarians, and others). It’s not uncommon for there to be no “right” faculty members at all.

How much does that fact matter? It’s not true that every professor slants every course to favor his or her socio-economic beliefs, but there is apt to be more of that slanting when there is no one to provide any push-back. In ideologically monolithic departments, professors tend to bolder in tossing out anti-capitalist tidbits than if they have some colleagues who will say, “Wait a minute"....

Professors Hanley and Butos stressed that college students should not be taught just the nuts and bolts of economic principles, but the much broader idea that capitalism is but one aspect of the free society (emphasis mine--Darren). At Trinity College, freshmen take a seminar to show them, as Prof. Butos put it, that classical liberalism is not a fixed set of conclusions, but a way of looking at the world that opens up a great number of questions.

There was general agreement among the panelists that well-taught courses like that are in great demand among students. Most don’t like being preached to and they want to know if and how ideas about economics are contested.

Professor George argued, as the panelists had, that the case for the free market needs to be made philosophically and not just on efficiency grounds. Students need to understand that the free market is crucial to human flourishing. It acts as a counter-weight to government overreach and protects the institutions of civil society. And those institutions help to inculcate the moral virtues that are essential to the free market.

So true! Countries with little economic freedom have little of any other sort of freedom either. Sadly, few students have ever heard a teacher or professor point out that connection...

He mentioned a course entitled “Ideas and Arguments” that he has for several years team-taught with the black scholar Cornel West. The students read and discuss a wide range of authors including Plato, Augustine, Marx, Hayek, Martin Luther King, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Professors West and George don’t agree on much, but the erudite discussion of divergent views is brain food of the highest order.

Courses like that, giving students intellectual clash over “big ideas” might be the most effective means of smuggling pro-market thinking into the curriculum.

You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

How's The Kyoto Protocol Doing?

Here's how:
When the idiotic Kyoto Protocol was put before the US Senate, 95 senators voted against this confused and destructive initiative on the grounds that, as designed, the measure would simply ship American jobs to China and other countries without reducing greenhouse gasses.

For years, green activists have mourned and bemoaned the shortsightedness of the US. How could we sit out from something so noble, so planet saving, so wise as the sacred Kyoto Protocol? We have been listening to the green moral scolds for twenty years: those fat, dumb and ignorant Americans are simply too stupid and too selfish to save Planet Earth.

The EU, where disingenuous politicians are forced to demagogue green issues because addlepated proportional representation rules empower the lunatic eco-fringe in key countries, ratified Kyoto, and Americans were then treated to years of vainglorious Euro-puffery about the nobility, the wisdom and the self-sacrificial idealism of the cutting edge eco-warriors of the Green Continent.

Over the years, some of the Kyoto fairy dust had begun to wear off. Global greenhouse emissions did not in fact appear to be declining very much. Many of the EU cuts were accounting tricks; counting the closure of inefficient, money-losing industrial dinosaurs in East Germany that were doomed to close anyway towards Germany’s greenhouse targets was a fairly typical example.

But a couple of recent studies now seem to show that Kyoto was as big a fraud as the most militant enviro-skeptics ever suspected. And it looks as if the 95 American senators were 100 percent right: the much heralded Protocol was a singularly stupid piece of counterproductive social engineering that encouraged the migration of good jobs to China and other low wage countries — without helping the environment at all.

The left leaning Guardian newspaper in Britain let the cat out of the bag yesterday, reporting that while the EU’s emission of CO2 declined by 17% between 1990 and 2010, this apparent progress was bogus. If you add up the CO2 released by the goods and services Europeans consumed, as opposed to the CO2 thrown off by the goods and services they produced, the EU was responsible for 40% more CO2 in 2010 than in 1990. The EU, as the Guardian puts it, has been outsourcing pollution — and jobs — rather than cutting back on greenhouse gasses.

Go read the whole thing.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Liam and Noel Gallagher.

Today's question is:
Who were the primary backup singers for the Captain and Tennille?

Remember the School Laptop Webcam Case?

If not, here's a summary I wrote in this post:
The hottest story on the education blogs today relates to this post I wrote way back in February, in which school-issued laptops had built-in cameras activated remotely--and the pictures were stored at the district. Students had these laptops in their bedrooms, and you can see where we're going with this one....

The situation has been settled. According to Joanne:
The district will pay $610,000, Wired reports. One student gets $175,000, the other gets $10,000 and the rest goes their lawyers.

Lawyers sure do make a lot of money.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What were the names of the brothers who formed the 90's group Oasis?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's A Good Day For Chile

I'm very pleased they got those miners out. Gawd, what an ordeal.

School Cancels Future Dances After Dirty Dancing Pics Appear on Facebook

If you've read this blog long enough, you know that I don't believe that schools should concern themselves with what students do when school's not in session. Parents and law enforcement should take care of that; schools have enough to worry about without accepting this mission creep. What students put on the internet on their own time is out of bounds for the school.

Except when what they put on the internet pertains to school activities--as it did when student(s) put "dirty dancing" pictures from the Homecoming Dance on Facebook.

BELLEVUE, Ohio (WUPW) - Future dances are in jeopardy at one Northwest Ohio high school, because pictures surfaced on Facebook Monday evening of so-called “dirty dancing.”

The photos were put on the Bellevue Gazette's Facebook page. The pictures have since been removed at the request of the Bellevue Local Schools superintendent. Because of copyright laws, FOX Toledo News cannot show them.

Bellevue High School's homecoming dance happened three weeks ago, but the Facebook photos last night quickly caused a controversy in the small Sandusky County community.

Bellevue City Schools Superintendent Kim Schubert issued a statement Tuesday, saying she has suspended future dances "until all parties have worked together to set clear expectations for students behavior".

Long-time readers will also know that I myself don't tolerate this kind of behavior that's inappropriate in public. A good rule of thumb for students is this: if you wouldn't want to watch your parents do it in public, you shouldn't do it, either.

He Just Doesn't Get It

The president reveals in an upcoming magazine article that Republicans will have to learn how to get along with him in a 'serious way' if they win the House majority next month. link

Uh, Barack? You are going to have to learn how to get along with Republicans, too.

Gawd, this man's arrogance and self-importance know no bounds.

And what does he mean "if they win"? It's going to happen.

Education Buzz

This week's is posted here, and includes not one but two of my posts. Yes, they're related :)

Michelle Rhee Resigns

DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has resigned. DC's mayor, Adrian Fenty, lost his bid for reelection in part because of his staunch support for Rhee's reforms in the district--yet the major-elect "vowed that reforms launched under Michelle A. Rhee would continue when he takes office in January."

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jefferson Starship—Jane
Steely Dan—Peg, Josie
Fleetwood Mac—Sara

Starship's Sara came out in the 80s, and Rikki wasn't the complete title of the song.

Today's question is:
In what year did MTV begin broadcasting?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Put It On The Calendars, Kids--I Agree With David Brooks On This One

David Brooks is the NYT's "squishy conservative", which means he's to the left of me (and nationally, I'm barely right of center). As a result I often disagree with his positions, as they sometimes seem a bit liberal/statist to me. In this column, though, he and I find some common ground:

(New Jersey Governor) Christie argues that a state that is currently facing multibillion-dollar annual deficits cannot afford a huge new spending project that is already looking to be $5 billion overbudget. His critics argue that this tunnel is exactly the sort of infrastructure project that New Jersey needs if it’s to prosper in the decades ahead.

Both sides are right. But what nobody seems to be asking is: Why are important projects now unaffordable? Decades ago, when the federal and state governments were much smaller, they had the means to undertake gigantic new projects, like the Interstate Highway System and the space program. But now, when governments are bigger, they don’t.

The answer is what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal once called demosclerosis. Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones...

The end result is sclerotic government. Many of us would be happy to live with a bigger version of 1950s government: one that ran surpluses and was dexterous enough to tackle long-term problems as they arose. But we don’t have that government. We have an immobile government that is desperately overcommitted in all the wrong ways.

This situation, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, has been the Democratic Party’s epic failure. The party believes in the positive uses of government. But if you want the country to share that belief, you have to provide a government that is nimble, tough-minded and effective. That means occasionally standing up to the excessive demands of public employee unions. Instead of standing up to those demands, the party has become captured by the unions. Liberal activism has become paralyzed by its own special interests.

What we need are elected officials, like Christie, who aren't afraid to stand up to the entrenched interests, who are strong enough to make the difficult decisions about what's a nice-to-have versus what's a got-to-have when it comes to government spending. We need to prioritize our spending, and cut out what's low on that priority list. Our governments at all levels have to learn to live within their means. We need smaller, more limited government at the state and federal levels.

Here's to the quixotic hope that we'll start down that road in a few weeks, on Election Day.

Hat tip to reader Mazenko for sending the link to me.

Why I Voted Yes On Proposition 19

From the California Secretary of State's web site:


While I support the legalization of marijuana, I support our national constitution even more. For years California has allowed "medical marijuana" in direct and open violation of federal law, and the feds look the other way until they need to make headlines and then bam! There's a big roundup of people at some pot dispensary or other, and then when the glow of the tv cameras fades, the feds go back to looking the other way.

This has to stop.

I don't see California going back to obeying federal law, but as I'm a "law and order" kinda guy, something must be done. The only way I can see to get some resolution here is to provoke a bigger fight with the federal government. Accordingly, I'm voting Yes on Proposition 19, to legalize marijuana.

If it passes, the law will end up in court--and I win no matter what happens at that point.

If a federal court rules that the Congress has overstepped its constitutional limits and cannot tell California what it can and cannot do within its borders, then I win both on federalism grounds and because I support the legalization of marijuana.

If a federal court rules that California law is trumped by federal law and is thus null and void--including our medical marijuana law--then I win on "law and order" grounds.

Let the lawsuits begin. Let's settle this issue.

Cell Fones @ Skool

With the election weeks away, Fremd High School teacher Jason Spoor asked students in his government class, some of them first-time voters, to research local candidates vying for office.

They would have 15 minutes and one learning tool: their cell phone.

"If you are driving down the street and headed to vote, you don't have a computer at the touch of a hand. You have a cell phone," Spoor told his students last week in Palatine.

The lesson would have been impossible in the past. But with cell phones tucked in the book bags and pockets of three-fourths of today's teens, many high schools are ceding defeat in the battle to keep hand-held technology out of class and instead are inviting students to use their phones for learning.

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Under a teacher's guidance, students might record themselves speaking a foreign language, text an answer to an online quiz or send themselves a homework reminder.

"It's one of those things — if you can't beat them, join them," said Jill Bullo, principal of Wheaton North High School, which plans to review its policy this year. link

That wimp doesn't deserve to be a principal. Surrendering to teenagers is not a legitimate reason to allow the use of cell phones in class; the only legitimate reason is if such use contributes to a student's understanding of the required/approved curriculum.

Tuesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
During the decade of the 70's, Jefferson Starship, Steely Dan, and Fleetwood Mac all released popular (lots of radio play time) songs in which the title was just a woman's first name. Identify any two of these songs. (Rhiannon doesn't count, it's not really a woman's name!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question is:
What is the stage name of the only woman member of the Black Eyed Peas?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yoga Progress

In addition to modifying my diet and using my elliptical trainer before work each morning, I'm also doing Bikram-style hot yoga twice a week. It kicks my butt, but I like it anyway.

Before you laugh, it's none of that "downward facing dog" style of yoga, this is sweating it out in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes. The heart rate definitely gets up there at times!

Last Thursday night I was able to do two things I hadn't been able to do before--not entire postures, mind you, but two small components of postures. Today in class I added two more. I'm getting bendy!

I'd Say This Guy Is A Conservative

From the time of Woodrow Wilson, at least, the best and the brightest among us have been in constant search of ways to reinvent government to make it more citizen-centric, more citizen-friendly, more efficient, more rational, more empowering of citizens, more efficient, more management oriented, more transparent, more businesslike with more citizen engagement, more stakeholders and more new technologies, which the smarties believe will leverage government to achieve the greater good and the general welfare. Woodrow Wilson, call your office; Your Grand Government Delusion is alive and well among the smarty set, all empirical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Let me offer the counter hypothesis, one supported by a century of empirical evidence: A little bit more of this and a little bit more of that where government is concerned all adds up to nothing more than, well, more government, not better government—the Grand Delusion, not the grand solution. What the smart guys never seem to get is that the only good government is small government.

More of anything where government is concerned means more government, and more government is the problem, not the solution. The very fact that the best and the brightest among us feel the need to keep reinventing government every few years proves government doesn’t work. The solution is less government. How difficult is that to understand? link

It's not hard to understand at all, if you're paying attention.

Sunday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:

Today's question, the first in Music Week, is:
What American city is mentioned in the 1979 Eagles song The Long Run?

Cracks In The Ivory Tower?

The Fordham Institute has a report out by the same name, and here's an introduction:

The Fordham Institute's new national survey of education school professors finds that, even as the U.S. grows more practical and demanding when it comes to K-12 education, most of the professoriate simply isn't there. They see themselves more as philosophers and agents of social change, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft. They also resist some promising reforms such as tying teacher pay to student test scores. Still, education professors are reform-minded in some areas, including tougher policies for awarding tenure to teachers and financial incentives for those who teach in tough neighborhoods.

What exactly is meant by "philosophers and agents of social change"? This, from the executive summary (scroll to page 9/74)

--They are far more likely to believe that the proper role of teacher is to be a “facilitator of learning” (84 percent) not a “conveyor of knowledge” (11 percent).
–– Asked to choose between two competing philosophies of the role of teacher
educator, 68 percent believe preparing students “to be change agents who will
reshape education by bringing new ideas and approaches to the public schools” is most important; just 26 percent advocate preparing students “to work effectively within the realities of today’s public schools.”
–– Only 24 percent believe it is absolutely essential to produce “teachers who
understand how to work with the state’s standards, tests, and accountability
–– Just 39 percent find it absolutely essential “to create teachers who are trained
to address the challenges of high-needs students in urban districts.”
–– Just 37 percent say it is absolutely essential to focus on developing “teachers who maintain discipline and order in the classroom.”
–– The vast majority of education professors (83 percent) believe it is absolutely
essential for public school teachers to teach 21st century skills, but just 36
percent say the same about teaching math facts, and 44 percent about teaching
phonics in the younger grades.

I wonder what the percentages would be if the public who pays our salaries were surveyed....

We Don't Need No Thought Control

This lady is totally wrong. It's entirely inappropriate to tell the truth about the state of education at the local level. Of course her job should be in jeopardy for speaking out:

Katharine Birbalsingh, 37, was ordered not to come into school on Thursday or Friday after making critical remarks before a speech by Education Secretary Michael Gove at the party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Addressing the audience as a guest speaker, she gave a damning account of standards in schools, saying education had been "so dumbed down that even the children know it."

The board of governors at St Michael and All Angels Church of England Academy in Camberwell, south London, told Miss Birbalsingh to stay away from the school while they considered her position.

But the French teacher and deputy head has been told that she would be allowed to return to the classroom on Monday after parents voiced their support.

In her speech on Tuesday, Miss Birbalsingh told delegates of a "broken" system which "keeps poor children poor".

She claimed her remarks were not directed at her school in particular, but senior staff were said to be worried about potential damage to the academy's reputation.

I've read elsewhere that she's a former Marxist who voted Tory (Brits' idea of a "conservative") for the first time in the last election.

And as for my opening? I hope that readers would know that that was sarcasm.

More Math And Politics

Should we pay congressmen a bonus if they balance the federal budget? One candidate said so--he was joking--but his opponent has seized on the issue. At least one reporter, though, can do some basic math:

Speaking in front of a white board at George Mason University, Fimian said that congressional salaries should be cut to $50,000 until members balance the budget. He added that once that happens, he would want a $250,000 bonus.

In his ad, Connolly slams Fimian for supposedly supporting bonuses for members of Congress -- an allegation that seems absurd given that the context of Fimian's statement was a larger rant against government spending.

But if Fimian wants to play Connolly's little game, he could offer a good comeback.

If you take Fimian's "$250,000 bonus" suggestion literally, the government would have to dole out $109 million in bonuses to the 435 voting members of the House once they balance the budget.

But until that's accomplished, cutting members' $174,000 base salaries to $50,000 would save $54 million each year. Given that a Republican takeover of the House is likely and even greater legislative gridlock appears imminent, it seems extremely unlikely that a balanced budget will be approved within two years -- the amount of time necessary to make up that $109 million in bonus payouts.

Best case scenario, Congress does pass a balanced budget by 2012, and we save $54 million for each of two years, then pay it back in bonuses. Zero net impact.

Worst case scenario, the government saves $54 million annually as it continues spending beyond its means for years on end.

Performance pay for congressmen?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

UCSB Scientist Resigns From American Physical Society, Claiming Global Warming Is A Scam

Perhaps the science isn't as settled as Al Gore would have us believe.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
It's not like plenty of us haven't known it for awhile, but bravo anyway to Professor Lewis for being so open about it. I wonder if I'll read about this in the major (left-leaning) Sacramento paper, or on

While searching on (nothing there, what a surprise!), I came across this story about a new study of the sun's role in affecting Earth's climate. Now, I've always believed that when the facts contradict your expectations, you believe the facts, but one scientist just can't let go of the global warming mantra:

Haigh is aware that research which contradicts existing ideas about how the Sun's activity affects the Earth's climate is likely to fuel some climate skepticism.

But she says the solar cycles cancel each other out, going up and down over roughly an 11-year period.

"They [the solar cycles] are contributing nothing to long-term global warming," she said, "and it has no bearing on what we understand about greenhouse gases and their influence on climate."

They can't let go of their religion, or their money/gravy train.

Saturday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Inspector Javert.

Today's question is:
In what state did Evel Knievel attempt his Snake River Canyon jump?

Starting tomorrow we'll be having another Theme Week here on RotLC. It was popular before, let's hope it will be popular again--another Music Week!

Just Made Some Political Donations

I don't usually donate money to political candidates, but the stakes are pretty high in this election so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I broke out the web browser and the plastic and had a little fun.

Donations aren't bets on who we think will win, they're an attempt to influence who will win. So I looked at 2 US Senate races that are important to me, and even though they would be risky bets in Vegas, I'm hoping to play a small role in helping these candidates get over the top.

So Carly Fiorina in California and Sharron Angle in Nevada, I raise a toast (and my Visa card!) to you.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Why It Pays To Know A Little Bit Of Math

Even minimal facility with numbers can help you see when a politician--even the president--is essentially trying to mislead you.

(click link to view the graph first)

Now compare the size of the tax cuts to the total amount of spending and you will see where the problem lies. Compare $700 billion—the tax cut the president said “would drastically expand the deficit”—to $41.9 trillion ($41,911 billion).

How Bad It Is For Liberals

These pus-suckers can't talk up anything good done by the current president and Congress. No, they have to resort to internet tricks to try to sway public opinion:

The goal of Grassroots SEO is to get as many undecided voters as possible to read the most damaging news article about the Republican candidate for Congress in their district. It is based on two simple premises:
  1. One of the most common political activities people take online is to use search engines, mainly Google, to find information on candidates. (For more information, see the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s report on 2008 online political engagement.)
  1. These results of these searches are always in flux based upon hyperlinks anyone posts anywhere on the Internet, including message board comments and social networking sites (but not email).

As a result of this, not only is it possible for us to use our hyperlinks to impact what people find when they search for information on candidates, but we would be foolish not to do so in a way that benefited our preferred candidates. We are already impacting search engine rankings whenever we post any hyperlink anywhere, so we need to make sure the way we use hyperlinks helps result in our preferred political outcomes.

In war, if you're not strong enough to take on your opponent, you resort to either terrorist or guerrilla acts. With the statement above they're admitting the weakness of their position.

Useful Idiots

It's hard to argue that totalitarian regimes are more "efficient", or can "get things done faster", than a sloppy democratic-style republic, but as I said a few days ago, I choose the animating contest for freedom, thank you.

There are those out there, though, who like totalitarianism. They respect its efficiency, they like its power to impose their will over the rest of us. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman is one such person.

Last year Thomas Friedman was writing that America needed to be more like China and adopt one-party democracy.

Two weeks ago he told us that America needs to be more like China and adopt green technologies.

Yes, this Thomas Friedman.

So now can we expect a Thomas Friedman column telling America to adopt the policy of harrassing the families of Nobel Prize winning dissidents? I guess not, we don’t have Nobel Prize winning dissidents here; political opposition is legal here. Still do you think that we might see a Friedman column soon condemning China? Or is China’s enlightened leadership above criticism in Tom’s benighted opinion?

So what has the current winner done that the most recent winner hasn't? He actually stood up for something, that's what.

Our Prescient Founders

Forget Nostradamus. The Founders of our great republic understood politics, government, and the vagaries of power. Marvel at their wisdom, their almost foreknowledge of today's front page stories, as you read selections from Federalist 62.

Friday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, and Illinois is in the Central Time Zone.

Today's question is:
Who was the inspector who tracked down Jean Valjean in Les Miserables?


I've been on a weight loss regimen since the end of July, with the goal of losing 30 pounds this school year. As anyone who's ever been on a diet knows, it's not a steady path downwards--some days you're a pound up, some days a pound down. As long as the overall trend line is down, though, we're heading in the right direction.

Recent history shows I'll be up again tomorrow, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate a great, albeit fleeting, milestone: This morning, for the first time, I reached the 20 lb point.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Teacher Pay

I thought this article was going to talk about teacher pay across the country, but it focuses only on Illinois--and then recommends changes for the entire country! While I agree with most of the recommendations, this isn't the most intellectually honest way to promote them:

Illinois is broke. There is a great debate beginning in the state about public pensions. Teachers pensions are a part of that debate. An aside, another travesty in Illinois is public school administrators.
They make an average of $106,217 in salary, not including pensions and health benefits. In the final three years of their contracts, school districts jack up the administrator salaries to increase their pension benefits for life. Of course, there is hardly a check or balance on the behavior. The taxpayer gets stung.

Teachers also have a pretty good deal in Illinois. They are 100% unionized. The rent seeking teachers' union curries favor with the Democrats. Democrats at every level of government do whatever the union wants.

The average teacher in the state of Illinois makes $61,402. Illinois teachers work around 176 days, 300 minutes, or 5 hours, per day. That's just over 35 weeks per year. On average, they make $348.88 per day, $1.16 per minute, or $69.60 per hour guaranteed. Teachers in Illinois work an average of 12 years. They can retire at age 55.

In order to find out what they really make though, you should take their pension benefits, net present value them and amortize them over their career. As of 2010, the average pension for an Illinois teacher is $43,164. It compounds annually for life at 3% per year.

Now it's time to do some math and make some assumptions. Assume that the lifespan of the teacher is no different than the average American, 78 years. If they start teaching at age 22, on average they will quit at 34. This means they will wait 21 years to collect their pension. The discount rate for the cash flows is a conservative 5%.

When you crunch all the numbers, the net present value of that pension is $290,756. Amortizing that over a twelve year career adds $24,229.64 to their average salary, making their actual salary before health benefits are added in a tidy $85,631.67, or $97.31 per hour.

If you compare and extrapolate that number to the private sector, it is interesting. Assume that you work an 8 hour day, 50 weeks a year. $194,620 bucks a year is what you would make! Most private sector jobs at that level work a lot more than an 8 hour day. Recently, private sector employment has not been as lucrative as public sector employment. For the first time in American history, it pays to be in the public sector.


Then there's this little dig, which I really like:

However, our society really needs to rethink how we pay our teachers. In aggregate, our schools are not turning out a quality product. The country is falling behind. Our future is in danger. Unionization of education hasn't been good for great teachers, and it hasn't been good for America. It only helped the bad teachers.

The conclusions aren't radical, and they aren't anything you haven't heard proposed before. Some will still try to tell you, and with a straight face, that these changes would be like throwing teachers into the streets or something.

Maybe, Just Maybe, The Kids Will Be All Right

I periodically correspond with a few former students, and one who was having a rough time making the adjustment from California to "flyover country" just emailed me the following:

Basically I learn a couple of new things every day, it works out.

He's not even talking about academic things.

Sometimes being a teacher has some significant rewards.

Where I Stand In The Pecking Order

West Point was founded in 1802. The first class had only 2 graduates, and for decades the classes never numbered more than a few dozen. That changed in the 1900's, of course, what with two world wars, a couple of regional wars, and a cold war.

My graduating class, with just over 1000, was the largest class ever up to that date, and has since been passed only a few times.

With all that information as a prelude, I offer up this little tidbit of information found on the Association of Graduates (read, Alumni) web site:

As of the close of business on 10/06/2010, the Mid-Point of the Long Gray Line belongs to COL Terrence J. McKenrick Class of 1985. There are 48,069 living graduates.

The Oldest Living USMA Graduate is COL Thomas J. Wells USA (Retired), Class of 1928. He is 104 years old.

I'm very close to being in the upper half of all living graduates.

Thursday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
Jaleel White.

The answer to yesterday's bonus question is:
“Did I do that?”

Today's question is:
In which time zone was Ronald Reagan born?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Zero Tolerance For Toy Guns

This "zero tolerance" business regarding firearms is out of hand. Is there any reason, common sense, or justice in expelling a 7-year-old boy for bringing a clear plastic "gun" to school?

Samuel, now 8, has been out of school for almost a year. His parents have home-schooled him since he was expelled for bringing a clear plastic, spring-action toy gun to school, which fired plastic beads.

"He has been deprived of an education. My son made a mistake, and they kept him out a year," said Samuel's mother, Karen Burgos.

And it may be longer than that before Samuel is permitted to rejoin his classmates. A hearing will be held this month as his family fights his expulsion. Because the school board's order has not yet been finalized, his punishment could be extended into next year.

"I miss my friends," Samuel said.

Samuel spends his days playing baseball and practicing his studies with his parents. He should be in third grade now, but he's already missed most of second grade and may find himself two years behind by the time this matter is resolved.

In an interview with CNN correspondent John Zarrella, Samuel said that he was playing "army" with his friends one weekend, and he decided to hide the toy gun from his brother, so he placed it in his school bag. He went to school on Monday and said that he forgot he had the toy with him.

Samuel told one of his friends the gun was there but said he never took it out.

When the toy gun was discovered, according to school board records, the principal of Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary School West determined the gun to be a toy, but she felt compelled to report the incident to the school board. The school board classified the toy gun as a weapon because it fired a projectile device. The punishment: mandatory expulsion.

Besides shielding administrators from the burden of actually having to make reasonable decisions, is there any valid purpose behind enforcing so-called zero tolerance rules in this manner?

Wednesday Trivia

The answer to yesterday's question is:
John Kennedy is on the “50 Cent” piece.

Today's question is:
What actor played neighbor Steve Urkel on the sitcom Family Matters?

Bonus question:
Bonus: what was Urkel's signature line?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Thank A Teacher" Video

It's always nice to be appreciated.

The Tranquility of Servitude

Yesterday's Globe and Mail contained an exceptional opinion piece about the "tyranny of good intentions"--yes, those same good intentions that pave the road to Hell.

Nearly 50 years ago, Kenneth Minogue, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics, published The Liberal Mind, his classic study of the dominant philosophy of the 20th century: radical niceness. Rooted in extreme liberal optimism and salvationist aspiration, this triumphant ideology (Prof. Minogue said) tenaciously advanced the notion that history requires the perfection of human society, that governments – in pursuit of this perfection – are obliged “to provide every man, woman, child and dog with the conditions of the good life.” Prof. Minogue ended with a warning: “A populace which hands its moral order over to governments, no matter how impeccable its reasons, will become dependent and slavish.”

Now professor emeritus at LSE, the 80-year-old has published a remarkable sequel – The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life. He picks up where he left off, documenting the ways in which democracy (which once expanded freedom) requires strict obedience to the state – and to the bureaucratic moral order that sustains it.

An elegant essayist of the old school, Prof. Minogue advances his argument by small steps that can end abruptly in crisp revelation.

“I am of two minds about democracy,” he writes, “and so is everyone else. We all agree that it is the sovereign remedy for corruption, war and poverty in the Third World. We would certainly tolerate no other system in our own country. Yet most people are disenchanted with the way it works. One reason is that our rulers now manage so much of our lives that they cannot help but do it badly. They have overreached. Blunder follows blunder.”

Far worse, traditional democratic theory has been flipped upside down: “Our rulers now make us accountable to them.”

Count the ways....

And there are plenty who not only approve of this governmental attempt at the perfection of society, they don't even view previous attempts as failures. These and others will claim that this excess of government involvement in our lives is "necessary" because of the "modern age in which we live" or some other silly argument, convinced that giving up some adult freedoms for the comforts or protections felt as children is not only good but inevitable. To them I proffer the words of American patriot Samuel Adams:

If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms.

I choose the animating contest for freedom, thank you.

Obama On Education

A man who allowed the DC voucher program to shut down, leaving thousands of poor children to languish in what is generally recognized to be one of the worst school systems in the country, has no business chiding Republicans regarding their education plans. But let's watch him try anyway!

As President Barack Obama tries to sell his vision for education this week, he can’t resist talking about an issue that’s been on his mind for months: the Bush-era tax cuts.

On Tuesday — the second time in as many days — the president bashed Republicans, who want to extend the soon-to-expire cuts for the richest Americans...

A day earlier, during another meeting on higher education, Obama found himself in a spirited debate on the issue with two members of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board who think the Republicans may have a point. They argued economic instability would persist if the tax cuts aren’t extended to everyone; Obama rebutted that continuing relief for families making less than $250,000 would benefit 98 percent of the country.
This is a guy who thinks tax policy should involve "fairness" and not merely generating revenue for the legitimate functions of government. Remember that whenever he talks about taxes.

Update: Here's an article I just came across, and it's not flattering for the president:

That deafening roar you hear—that's the sound of Barack Obama's silence on the future of school reform in the District of Columbia. And if he doesn't break it soon, he may become the first president in two decades to have left Washington's children with fewer chances for a good school than when he started.

This week President Obama will be out campaigning on the differences between the Republicans and Democrats on education. The primary thrust of his argument—which he repeated yesterday—is that Republicans want to cut education spending. Which may be a harder sell coming on the heels of his admission last week on NBC's "Today" show that "the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down."

Facts don't matter to the "reality-based community".


In this recent post I referred to the president of Harvard College as an idiot, and I was absolutely correct in that assessment. Let's read a more general view (general, get it? it's a military joke!) of ROTC and Harvard, et. al.:

I agree with every syllable of Secretary Gates’s recent lecture at Duke University and with Glenn Reynolds’s New York Post op-ed. The increased separation between our military and our elite institutions of higher education hurts our country. We should be clear about one thing, however. Harvard needs the military more than the military needs Harvard.

Simply put, the ideological groupthink at our elite universities implants bad — and even dangerous — ideas in its graduates. Our universities would be better off if more veterans and active members of the military (such as ROTC faculty) were on campus to present alternative — and more realistic — viewpoints.
From a New York Post column:

The US military is the most mature, professional, and effective organization in the US, perhaps the world, and it was made so with little help from the Ivy League. It may well be that the absence of Ivy League graduates helped make it so.

Look at the mess Ivy Leaguers have made of the industries they dominate such as investment banking and the media. While the graduates of the military academies look ahead to incorporate new technology into the military, the Ivy League graduates in the old media are locked in a reactionary struggle against the new media, like cavemen who fear fire. Thank God, these Ivy League bumblers are not running the military lest they demand our troops ride into combat on horseback, fearing the new technologies of tank and airplane.

It is the Ivy League who has the most to learn from the military, not the other way round. There is nothing in Harvard nor Columbia that you can’t learn in hundreds of other schools. However, there is a lot to be learned in the US military that you will never learn at Harvard nor Columbia.

Lefties like to think of military people as automatons--as if just anyone could convince ordinary people to "take that hill".