Monday, September 30, 2013

Expecting the Most From Students

There's some fear out there that the Common Core standards, which may be better than what some states had, are certainly lower standards than what California had (especially in math).  Some schools are, under the guise of Common Core, implementing "no homework" policies.  This is exactly the wrong thing to do, as these anecdotes testify:
“While U.S. schools struggled to reach even an average score on a key international exam for 15-year-olds in 2012, BASIS Tucson North, an economically modest, ethnically diverse charter school in Arizona, outperformed every country in the world, and left even Shanghai, China’s academic gem in the dust,” writes June Kronholz on Education Next.
How do they do it?
“We do an incredible amount of work,” said Alia Gilbert...
The Arizona schools operate on about two-thirds of the funding for a child in a traditional public school, writes Kronholz. Classes are large. Technology is minimal. With highly motivated and capable students, it doesn’t matter.  link
If the kids want to do the work and can handle the work, give them the work.  If you or your kid is more interested in your kid's club volleyball team, cello lessons, martial arts classes, and football/basketball/baseball than in academics, don't try to have the school cut back on academics--have your kid cut back.  Don't expect your kid to earn straight A's while taking 4 AP classes with all those extracurricular activities.  Your kid will probably do just fine even if he/she does not go to Stanford.

If you truly value academics, parents, then show you value them.  Make academics a priority in your household--and by that I don't mean just preach "we don't accept C's in this house."  There's plenty of time for schoolwork when you aren't taking a "full load" of extracurriculars as listed above.  Granted, the story below isn't from our culture, but it's worth noting for its potential:
High school is serious business overseas, say U.S. students who’ve studied in Korea, Finland and Poland. PBS NewsHour interviews the three students featured in Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way...

Finnish teachers rely mainly on lectures, said Kim. “There weren’t a lot of assignments during the semester until the end when you did exams in the form of essays.”  link
So much for all the so-called discovery learning and group work, Common Core advocates.

Our last story, from the Wall Street Journal, is about an orchestra teacher:
We're in the midst of a national wave of self-recrimination over the U.S. education system. Every day there is hand-wringing over our students falling behind the rest of the world. Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. trail students in 12 other nations in science and 17 in math, bested by their counterparts not just in Asia but in Finland, Estonia and the Netherlands, too. An entire industry of books and consultants has grown up that capitalizes on our collective fear that American education is inadequate and asks what American educators are doing wrong.

I would ask a different question. What did Mr. K do right? What can we learn from a teacher whose methods fly in the face of everything we think we know about education today, but who was undeniably effective?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Comparing Mr. K's methods with the latest findings in fields from music to math to medicine leads to a single, startling conclusion: It's time to revive old-fashioned education. Not just traditional but old-fashioned in the sense that so many of us knew as kids, with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here's the thing: It works...
After a list of "what works" comes the conclusion:
My tough old teacher Mr. K could have written the book on any one of these principles. Admittedly, individually, these are forbidding precepts: cold, unyielding, and kind of scary.

But collectively, they convey something very different: confidence. At their core is the belief, the faith really, in students' ability to do better. There is something to be said about a teacher who is demanding and tough not because he thinks students will never learn but because he is so absolutely certain that they will.
I care about my students.  I'm confident enough in my teaching ability to believe that if they pay attention and work at what tasks I give them, they'll understand the material and do well in the course.  I have faith in their abilities, but for most those abilities demonstrate themselves only after students put forth effort.

I am, and always have been, what's now regarded as "old school".  I don't have much use for group work or discovery learning; they're both too inefficient.  I have no interest in being a "guide on the side"; since I know more math than anyone else in the classroom I am the "sage on the stage", and part of that sage-iness is knowing great ways to teach topics so that my students have the opportunity to excel.  If you are of the group work mentality and think that works for you and your students, well, I think you're crazy but I'm not going to try to compel you to do things my way.  I would appreciate reciprocal consideration.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Math Teacher Assesses Common Core Standards

Some of her points that really hit home with me:
1)  Standards of Mathematical Practice is just a fancy way to say "we're going to tell you how to teach mathematics", not just what to teach.
2)  The Common Core math standards are not rigorous and will do harm to students interested in pursuing STEM higher education and/or careers.
3)  (Unlike California's now-defunct standards,) Common Core math standards are not internationally benchmarked.


Neil Cavuto (respectfully) calls it like he sees it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I went in to work today--something I never do on a weekend--to install some hardware and software so I can replace the LCD projector in my classroom with the 4k tv I have, only to find out that somehow I don't have the required administrative permissions to install the software on my computer, even though I've installed other software on that computer just fine, thankyouverymuch.  Now I have to wait until I can get our district techies either to install the software or to grant me the appropriate permissions.

What a goatscrew.

And in an hour I have to go back to work to chaperone a dance.  Before midnight tonight I'll have spent an hour and a half on the road just going to/from work today, which would be somewhat tolerable if I'd have been able to accomplish something earlier.

This One's A Genius

Remember that Original Series Star Trek episode called Spock's Brain, in which the most memorable line is, "Brain, brain, what is brain???"  That quote applies to California's junior senator, who recently said that President Obama--he who has never signed a federal budget--has cut the budget deficit in half:
The White House provides the following deficit numbers:
2005: $318 billion
2006: $248 billion
2007: $161 billion
2008: $459 billion
2009: $1.41 trillion
2010: $1.29 trillion
2011: $1.3 trillion
2012: $1.09 trillion
2013 (projected): $973 billion
Note the deficit numbers started going up after Democrats took control of the Congress.  Boxer states:
I am so proud to be a Democrat.
Boxer is an idiot and a disgrace, and that she keeps getting reelected is more evidence of how messed up California is.  You might say, "No, it's evidence of how bad the Republicans are," but seriously, how many people, not just Republicans but people, are stupider than she is?  Can you name one--one--accomplishment of hers in, what, 20 years in the Senate?  Is there any evidence, any at all, that she has more than two brain cells firing at the same time to get that synergistic effect?

She's a flaming liberal--supports abortion-on-demand--so she'll get reelected no matter how stupid she is.  Gawd, I'm living in a nightmare.

Friday, September 27, 2013

These Are The Types Of Battles You Have To Fight When Silly Decisions Just Domino

I wonder how we'd deal with this in California, under our new laws:
Two boys playing on a girls’ volleyball team at a New York high school could see their playing time spiked when league officials consider modifying a rule that allows them to play with the fairer sex.

Seniors Andrew Lafortezza and Jason Elbaum both played for the co-ed volleyball club last season at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. But due to budgetary constraints, the Quakers were unable to field a boys’ team this year, prompting the teens to seek a spot on the girls’ squad, which they earned after receiving approval from league officials in August.

But New York State Public High School Athletic Association Executive Director Robert Zayas told that the issue will reconsidered by an ad hoc committee in early December.

“I’m very concerned with the fact that we have two boys playing on a girls’ team,” Zayas said. “I’m concerned there’s a significant adverse effect on other teams.”
Nobody thought this through in advance?


My AppleTV came in today, all configured by the district.  Perhaps I'll go to school tomorrow and see if I can get it working with my PC and my 4k TV, then watch the varsity football game.

It's an exciting life I lead....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boys, Girls, Math, and the SAT

Dr. Perry has some cool charts from which he draws some interesting conclusions:
Continuing an uninterrupted trend that dates back to at least 1972, high school boys outperformed girls on the 2013 SAT math test with an average score of 531 points compared to the average score of 499 for females...

For scores in the highest 100-point range of 700-800 on the 2013 math SAT test, boys outnumbered girls by 74,461 to 46,040, which would mean that there were 162 boys for every 100 girls scoring at 700 points or above. To account for the large difference in the number of girls taking the SAT test (884,000) compared to boys (776,000), we can calculate that 9.6% of boys taking the math SAT exam in 2013 scored between 700-800 points compared to 5.2% the girls taking the test, for an adjusted ratio of 184 boys per 100 girls scoring at 700 points or above...

For 2013 SAT test-takers, high school girls had superior overall academic high school records compared to boys: 56% of the students in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes were female, 59% of the students graduating with an A+ grade point average were female, and high schools girls graduated with a higher overall average GPA of 3.44 compared to a 3.30 average GPA for their male counterparts.

High school girls were over-represented in advanced AP/Honors math classes (54%) compared to boys (46%), and also in advanced AP/Honors science classes by 56% to 44%.

For those high school students taking four years of high school mathematics, girls were over-represented (52%) compared to boys (48%), and more of the students studying natural sciences for four years were female students (53%) than male (47%).

Bottom Line: Even though female high school students are better prepared academically on many different measures than their male classmates, both overall and for mathematics specifically, female high school students score significantly lower on the SAT math test, and the +30-point differences in test scores favoring males has persisted for generations.  At the high end of math performance, high school males significantly outperformed their female peers on the 2013 SAT math test by a ratio of about 2-1 for perfect and near-perfect scores, and that outcome has persisted for generations.

And yet, despite the persistent, statistically significant differences in math performance by gender on the math SAT test that continue over time, we frequently hear statements like this: “There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde, “So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this.  Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data.”
I wonder what Larry Summers would say about that last paragraph :-)

Anyway, that was the data, here's the conclusion:
Further, compared to boys, high school girls get better grades on average, and are far more likely to graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes, and much more likely than boys to attend and graduate from college.  By all objective measures, girls have essentially all of the necessary ingredients that should result in greater representation in STEM fields like engineering and computer science except perhaps for one: a huge, statistically significant +30-point gender gap on the SAT math test in favor of boys that persists over time. And if there are some innate differences by gender for mathematical ability, as the huge and persistent gender differences for the math SAT test suggests, closing the STEM gender jobs gap may be a futile attempt in socially engineering an unnatural, and unachievable, outcome.
Is the science settled?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Empowering Experience

The current course I'm taking for my master's degree is Probability Theory, and our instructor pointed out early on that it's a "calculus-based" probability theory course.

One part of the lesson I watched last night involved calculating a definite integral; the instructor skipped the intermediate steps, said something like "you can confirm this with u-substitution", wrote the answer, and moved on.  Today I decided I needed to review u-substitution and integration by parts, as it's been a few decades.  I got a calculus book and got to work reviewing, and after a few minutes decided to try last night's problem.  Before starting, though, I called up a couple of my stats students who either have taken or are concurrently taking calculus, and asked them to make sure I didn't make any mistakes in the process.

While I solved the problem correctly, I think they enjoyed my soliciting their "help".

I'm Shocked--Shocked, I Tell You!

Why would students want to do this?  Are they not satisfied with the new educational vistas laid before them with the advent of the iPad?
It took exactly one week for nearly 300 students at Roosevelt High School to hack through security so they could surf the Web on their new school-issued iPads, raising new concerns about a plan to distribute the devices to all students in the district.

Similar problems emerged at two other high schools as well, although the hacking was not as widespread.
Officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District have immediately halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.

The incident, which came to light Tuesday, prompted questions about overall preparations for the $1-billion tablet initiative.
LA Unified wants to spend one billion dollars--that's $30 for every single person in California--on a program this easily bypassed?  Anyone else willing to predict some possible outcomes of this program?

Assuming they thought at all, what did they think was going to happen upon issuing iPads to students?


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Neat Story, In A Bittersweet Sorta Way

From today's major Sacramento paper:
Pendleton was a public school drama and English teacher in Sacramento whose estate fit into a tidy ranch-style home with a single rosebush on the front lawn. Her collection of antiquities included a few old cameras, some tea sets and enough beaded necklaces to cover a dining room table.

With only a small circle of dear friends and no surviving relatives left to mourn her death in 2011 at the age of 82, Pendleton asked that nearly one-third of her modest wealth be given to the institutions she cherished, those dedicated to preserving the history of Sacramento. After her home in Greenhaven was sold and her estate settled, those donations eclipsed $80,000. 
Her money went to the Old City Cemetery, the Sacramento County Historical Society, the downtown public library, and the Crocker Art Museum.

Read more here:

Local School District Can Close The Schools It Planned To

Some people act like it's a civil right to keep their kid's crappy school open:
A federal judge today dismissed a case brought by a dozen parents who sought to block the Sacramento City Unified School District from closing seven elementary campuses.  link
The district had to close schools due to budget considerations.  The suit claimed that the district target "minority schools" while leaving "white schools" open.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stats in the Real World

Seen today on Instapundit:

At University of Virginia, where I am visiting this term, it’s apparently not just answer-or-pay. It’s sign up your body for Big Insurance’s invasive eyes or pay. Faculty who don’t show up for workplace screening are penalized according to the Aetna health plan “incentives”.
Fundamentally these programs are not about individuals at all. They are about forcing people into being part of massive samples for junk “research” that will hound everyone for years to come. As you know, if you push sample sizes big enough, standard errors fall and you can find practically any point estimate statistically significant, so these huge samples mean ever more “significant” correlations to obsess over…
Anyway please leave my name out of any further discussions. the PC land of campus life could brand me an unwanted guest and I don’t want to go home yet.
Meanwhile, here’s more skepticism on wellness programs.
I expect these programs to become more commonplace and more compulsory as government takes over health care.

But I especially like the points made regarding sample size and statistical significance (which is entirely different from practical significance).

Update:  Here's another story that discusses statistical significance, this time in reference to improved performance in a university "flipped" classroom.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Theoretical vs. Experimental Probability

Here was the problem on my last homework assignment in the Probability Theory class I'm taking:
Three identical fair coins are thrown simultaneously until all three show the same face.  What is the probability that they are thrown more than three times?
When three coins are tossed there are 8 possible outcomes, two of which are (HHH and TTT) have all three coins showing the same face.  Therefore, the probability of getting all three coins with the same face is 2 out of 8, or 1/4.

I solved this problem two different ways.  First, I used a formula derived in an earlier problem and calculated P(X>3) directly and got ~.4219.  Wanting to check this, I next used the "brute force and ignorance" method and calculated P(X>3) = 1-[P(X=1) + P(X=2) + P(X=3)] and again got an answer of ~.4219.

The math department chair at my school enjoys programming so I asked him to program this, run it 10,000 times, and see how the experimental probability matches up with the theoretical probability.  Here is the text of the email I just received from him:
I just finished coding the program to test your coin flipping problem. The program considers 10,000 test cases. I ran it 10 times with the following results. Also, I've included the program if you want to see what it looks like. I wrote it in Python.
Pretty good results. I'd say your answer is correct.

i = 0
s = 0
def role():
x = int(np.random.random_sample() + .5)
y = int(np.random.random_sample() + .5)
z = int(np.random.random_sample() + .5)
return (x,y,z)

while i < 10000:
    t = True
    c = 0
    while t == True:
        r = role()
        c += 1
        if r == (1,1,1) or r == (0,0,0):
            t = False
            if c > 3:
                s += 1
    i += 1
p = s / 10000.00
print p

It's Not Just In The US

I doubt anyone would ever go for this idea, but just imagine for a minute how interesting it would be if, instead of curriculum decisions' being made at the state/province or district or school level, they were actually made at the teacher level?  The source of the problems mentioned in this story would be made clear, the choices placed in stark relief, but I genuinely believe there are interests out there who, for political reasons, do not want this problem solved:
Sadly, the latest testing data from Ontario’s Education and Quality and Accountability Office is unsurprising: Student performance in mathematics is continuing its downward trend for the fifth straight year.

It doesn’t matter whether your child attends a highly sought-after public school, or a not so stellar one: Chances are the school’s math scores are declining. The provincial government has blamed teachers’ weak backgrounds in math, recognizing that students need more support, but it has not retooled the curriculum.

There is an emerging and disturbing consequence. Families that can afford it are opting in record numbers for private tutoring, while those that cannot are stuck with the status quo. The result is a de facto two-tier system, though the government has undertaken to offer a quality, accessible education to all.

The current curriculum is grounded in “discovery learning,” in which students use their own learning styles to explore math. The emphasis is on problem-solving techniques, real-world applications and greater creativity. The problem is that students don’t have the basics on which to build.
Common Core implementation, anyone?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Refusing To Believe The Facts About Head Start

For the billions that have been spent on Head Start, there's no evidence at all that the program does what its supporters say it does.  In fact, there's no evidence at all that it has any effects after third grade.  Why should we spend billions for a program that doesn't have lasting results?

The lack of any results doesn't keep the bleeding hearts from keening about a cut:
Head Start programs in the Sacramento region began the school year with fewer preschoolers after federal leaders imposed across-the-board budget cuts in January.

Besides providing preschool education and child care, Head Start serves as a one-stop shop offering health screenings, meals, nutrition advice and access to social services. Advocates say the program is essential to giving impoverished children a chance to succeed once they start kindergarten...

The Head Start program has its critics. Republicans have argued that it costs too much and has not been effective, pointing to a 2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study that showed positive gains made by Head Start students “are largely absent by first grade for the program population as a whole.”

But Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Childhood Education Research at Rutgers University, said research on the program conducted every few years shows Head Start is improving steadily.

The federal Head Start program is of higher quality “than the rest of the programs that kids were in,” Barnett said. “If you look at the state-run programs, they are all over the place. Some are horrible.”
I don't see how Mr. Barnett's statement demonstrates improvement in the program or a counter to "Republicans" who argue that it "costs too much  and has not been effective."  I think it's just a teacher welfare program and a socialist hook.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Friday, September 20, 2013

This Is What The Major Sacramento Newspaper Calls "Questionable Decisions"--When The Vileness Comes From A Liberal

First, the tweet that started it all:
May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases.
Nice guy, attacking a Republican woman for tweeting
GOP beat gun control, changed Obama's mind on Syria, is holding the line on amnesty. We can defund Obamacare, too!
And this is how the major Sacramento paper reported it:
Tempers flared Friday as House Republicans voted to defund President Barack Obama's signature health care law, which led to some questionable Twitter decisions.

Amanda Carpenter, a speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted to urge Republicans on. Then Allan Brauer, communications chair for the Democratic Party of Sacramento County, lashed out with a response involving Carpenter's kids.
There's nothing untrue in the statement, but wow, if that isn't the most droll way to present what happened!

In an update to that story the paper reported the following:
A Sacramento County Democratic Party official has resigned over an offensive tweet that involved a fellow Twitter user's children...

In an email, Democratic Party of Sacramento County chair Kerri Asbury said the party had sought and accepted Bauer's resignation.

"The comments by our volunteer communications chair are appalling and inexcusable," Asbury wrote. "No matter what our political disagreements may be, wishing harm is never an acceptable response during heated public debate or any other time."
What's left out is some of Mr. Bauer's follow-on tweets after he initially took some heat, quoted from the first link above:
Busy blocking the tapeworms that have slithered out of hellspawn @amandacarpenter's asshole. How's your day so far?

I'm being attacked on Twitter for wishing one of Ted Cruz's pubic lice to experience the pain her boss is inflicting on Americans.

Yes, your party takes bread from the mouths of starving children and medicine from the sick, and I'm the problem. Got it.
Nice guy, and this isn't the first time he's said such reprehensible things.

But let's go back to the media bias at the second link, above.  Note the nice, sincere-sounding statement from Kerri Asbury.  Here is how a spokesperson for the California Democratic Party worded it:
The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it lets fringe characters--those who are actively trying to shut down the government--like Ted Cruz, off the hook.  It's never acceptable to wish physical harm against physical opponents, regardless of how objectionable their policy priorities are.
Let me translate:  we understand why someone would say what was said because Ted Cruz is such a horrible person, but we don't condone (publicly) wishing physical harm on others.

Classy people, these liberals.

These Kinds of Posts Sorta Write Themselves

Fortunately FIRE is on the case:
In a stunning illustration of the attitude taken towards free speech by too many colleges across the United States, Modesto Junior College in California told a student that he could not pass out copies of the United States Constitution outside the student center on September 17, 2013—Constitution Day. Captured on video, college police and administrators demanded that Robert Van Tuinen stop passing out Constitution pamphlets and told him that he would only be allowed to pass them out in the college’s tiny free speech zone, and only after scheduling it several days or weeks ahead of time. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has written to Modesto, demanding that the college rescind this policy immediately.
What could I add that would demonstrate Modesto JC's stupidity above and beyond what they've done?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chocolate and Travel

This story combines two of my favorite things, chocolate and travel:
Air Miles are awesome, they can be used to score free flights, hotel stays and if you’re really lucky, the scorn and hatred of everyone you come in contact with who has to pay full price when they travel. The king of all virtually free travelers is one David Phillips, a civil engineer who teaches at the University of California, Davis.

David came to the attention of the wider media when he managed to convert about 12,150 cups of Healthy Choice chocolate pudding into over a million Air Miles. Ever since, David and his entire family have been travelling the world for next to nothing.

A Class Act

Last weekend #5 Stanford headed to Army to play the, uh, 1-1 Army Black Knights!  Army led 3-0, then 6-0, until late in the 1st Quarter, then Stanford pulled ahead for good, finishing the game with a score of 34-20.

Stanford wide receiver John Flacco posted this YouTube message to West Point cadets.  This is what character looks like.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Costa Concordia

In this 45-second time-lapse video you can watch the entire 19-hour operation to right the damaged ship.  Very cool--it's clear why marine engineers and naval architects are among the highest paid of all college majors!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sounds Like Fun, Wish I Could Have Attended

An email I received at my University of Idaho email address, advertising an event I would have like to have been able to attend:

University of Idaho
College of Law Courtroom
September 17, 2013
4:00 - 5:30 p.m.


  • Professor Don Crowley, Department of Political Science, College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences
  • Professor Richard Seamon, College of Law
  • Professor Shaakirrah Sanders, College of Law
  • Professor Michael Park, School of Journalism and Mass Media, College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences

From the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on gay marriage to the federal government's decision to allow Colorado and Washington to permit recreational marijuana use; from the constitutionality of firearm restrictions to the question of whether whistleblowers should leak information about possible government misconduct in the course of surveillance: current events highlight the continuing relevance of our 200-year-old Constitution.

  • Attend the 90-minute program which will include brief presentations by professors and audience Q&A.
  • Constitution Day is a national day of recognition to educate the public about the U.S. Constitution.
  • A reception will follow.
  • The program and reception are open to the public.

Still makes me laugh that the school is in Moscow :-)

I Am Now The Father...

...of one of California's newest licensed drivers.  Pray for me!  (and get out of the way!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Star Trek

I didn't know the most recent Star Trek movie was written by a 9/11 Truther:
The writer in question is Roberto Orci. It seems Orci has a reputation on Twitter (and elsewhere) as a conspiracy theorist, specifically about the aforementioned Sept. 11 terror attacks. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that someone who believes such is ... "socially accepted" enough to gain a position as a writer of one of Hollywood's biggest franchises. And not only that, but actually write such conspiracy mongering into his scripts. If you have't already seen it, Into Darkness is very much a 9/11 [Truther] parable. You can check out our past summary of the flick here.

Now, imagine if Orci were a Birther ... and Into Darkness included a sub-plot about Admiral Barnett not being actually born on a Federation planet, thus being ineligible to be the head of Starfleet Academy. What do you think the media would say, then? Orci would be denounced as a complete lunatic, much like what Orson Scott Card has faced with his comicbook writing, and most recently with his film Ender's Game. With the mainstream media (and Hollywood), it's very simple: Trutherism = good, Birtherism = bad.
There's a lot bad about the recent Star Trek reboots, which I wrote about here.  There's something else that's been bothering me.  I don't know if I read about it somewhere else or if it's an original thought but it's been bothering me for awhile now.

There were 6 original-series movies, 4 Next Generation movies, and 2 reboots.  That's a total of 12 movies, and in three of them the plot involves bad people in Starfleet.

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, potential peace with the Klingons is derailed by rogue Starfleet officers intent on maintaining the war.

In Star Trek: Insurrection, a secret project with a race of bad guys is approved by the Federation Council.  The project involves the forced relocation of a people from their planet.

And in the most recent movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness, we find another rogue high-ranking Starfleet officer trying to build secret weapons and ships with which to attack the Klingons--or Kirk and the Enterprise, if they stand in his way.

Three out of twelve, a full quarter, involve bad guys who are supposed to be good.  Inside jobs.

I'm not saying the Federation has to be perfect, but are there no other story lines out there such that a quarter of the plots have to be about rot in the Federation?  Are there no other antagonists?  Heck, in Star Trek IV there wasn't even an "enemy", just a probe that didn't seem to understand it was harming Earth--if you think having an "enemy" is just too martial.

I'm reminded of a quote that I keep on my list of favorite quotes:
"A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."
--French writer Jean Francois Revel

I fear we're getting too close for comfort.

Interesting Situation In Michigan

What's interesting here is that finally I have a story wherein most of the adults are acting like adults, at least for awhile:
Enrollment appears to be nosediving in a Michigan school district where several teachers publicly supported a former colleague who admitted having sex with a middle school student.

The student body count in the West Branch-Rose City district, in northeast Michigan is down unofficially some 87 students following a tumultuous summer in which angry parents blasted seven teachers for writing letters in support of former teacher Neal Erickson. The letters urged a judge to be lenient in sentencing Erickson, who admitted to sexual misconduct with an underage, male student from 2006 to 2009. When the school board declined to take action against the teachers, many parents vowed to pull their kids out of the public schools, which have a total enrollment of just over 2,000.

“I can’t speculate as to why the students have left, but there were certainly parents who vocalized that they were pulling their children out of school because of the teacher’s support,” West Branch-Rose City School Superintendent Daniel Cwayna told “We addressed the issue as best we could without infringing upon the teacher’s first amendment rights. There’s only so much we can do.”
The teachers supported someone they thought needed supporting. The parents disagreed and asked the school board to fire the teachers. The school board rightly refused to do so--if a cop asked for leniency for a cop-killer it would be seen not as unprofessional but as a sign of humanity and forgiveness.  The parents don't like this decision and pull their kids out of schools taught by people whom they do not respect. 

Only In Leftie-Bizarro-World Would This Be Considered Acceptable

Actually, in Leftie-Bizarro-World this could conceivably be required:
A Texas Christian University professor reached out in an e-mail to a group of students he deemed to be “of color” to help them succeed in his class. But the move backfired with at least one student, who was insulted at being included for her perceived ethnicity...

The student said she doesn’t strongly identify as Hispanic, although her last name is of Hispanic origin and she is one-quarter Hispanic. She wondered how – so early in the year – the professor had found a group of students to approach, other than by selecting Hispanic-sounding names from the class roster. She said she also wondered, and doubted, whether her fellow "Understanding Religion: Society and Culture” students without last names of Hispanic origins had received the same offer.

That student said she liked the class and enjoyed Piñon’s teaching, but that his offer seemed unfair. She noted a visit she'd made to a Fort Worth Library exhibit on 20th-century agricultural labor activist César Chávez for Piñon’s class, which focuses on Latin American religions. "I was reading about how he was segregated because he was a Mexican, and that's what [the professor's] doing to the rest of us, in a way. I mean, it's special attention and favoring them"...

In an e-mailed statement, Piñon said that the intent of his e-mail was "misunderstood."
The entire text of the email is included at the link.  I don't think it was "misunderstood" at all.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Get The Health Aspect Of This Story, But Come On.

Should adults be allowed to pay for food in what amounts to a glorified dinner party in a private home?  The Nannies of New York say "no", I say "yes".
Clandestine dinner parties like the one Leitner attended have become more common in New York City. And insiders told Leitner they are completely unregulated.

When asked at the dinner, “do you ever worry about getting caught?” Michael Patlazhan responded, “I definitely do.”

Patlazhan is a professional chef who also hosts underground supper clubs. He cooks with blow torches, nitrogen and even a vacuum machine to create unusual meals.

“That’s the things with supper clubs, they’re in a sense illegal just because they are underground no one knows about them. So if the Health Department did come they would obviously shut it down. So there’s always a little bit of worry,” Patlazhan said.

To stay under the radar, Patlazhan changes the location every time and keeps the guest list exclusive through a members-only website.
It's ridiculous that adults have to act this way because of their government.

Bjorn Lomborg Speaks Again

I've written several times, all of them favorably, about Bjorn Lomborg (just type his name into the search box at the top or bottom of this blog).  I don't agree with everything he says but I like that he uses reason and not passion to make his points:
One of the most persistent claims in the climate debate is that global warming leads to more extreme weather. Green groups and even such respectable outlets as Scientific American declare that “extreme weather is a product of climate change.”

And the meme seems irresistible as a political shortcut to action. President Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to “more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.” The White House warned this summer of “increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events that come with climate change.”

Yet this is not supported by science. 
And Lomborg believes in anthropogenic global warming.

Update:  Paranoid models were not quite up to snuff:
Yet the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that the world has been warming at only just over half the rate claimed by the IPCC in its last assessment,  published in 2007Back then, it said that the planet was warming at a rate of 0.2C every decade – a figure it claimed was in line with the forecasts made by computer climate models.

But the new report says the true figure since 1951 has been only 0.12C per decade – a rate far below even the lowest computer prediction.

The 31-page ‘summary for policymakers’ is based on a more technical 2,000-page analysis which will be issued at the same time. It also surprisingly reveals: IPCC scientists accept their forecast computers may have exaggerated the effect of increased carbon emissions on world temperatures  – and not taken enough notice of natural variability.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Greatest Genius No One Has Heard Of

A very interesting piece on Claude Shannon, Jr.
In the 1930s, “computer” was a job description: someone, usually a woman of mathematical bent, with an adding machine and a big sheet of columnar paper who performed a rigorous routine of hand calculations, using paper and pencil, slide rules and tables of logarithms. Stone knives and bearskins weren’t involved, but to modern eyes they might as well have been.

Large research organizations and the Department of War had a few special purpose mechanical computers intended to integrate differential equations. Vannevar Bush (who deserves his own article someday) brought a young grad student to MIT to work on the differential analyzer, a relatively advanced version of these...

This young man, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, was named Claude Shannon, Jr. Shannon, while working on the differential analyzer, had the insight that these same computations could be done using combinations of a few simple circuits that performed basic logical operations on true and false values. He described how this could be done, and invented the whole concept of digital circuits, which derive from from Shannon’s thesis on what he called switching theory.

His Master’s thesis.

At about the same time, Alan Turing wrote his series of famous papers on computability; those papers included an idea of how a computer with memory might work, but without Shannon’s switching theory, no one knew how to actually build one.
The story just gets more interesting from there.

I Can Dream That California Will Come To Its Senses Like Wisconsin Did....

I'll just copy Instapundit's entire post here:
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN UNION MEMBERSHIP ISN’T MANDATORY: WEAC Official Admits Most Locals Will Not Re-certify. “Now that Wisconsin’s educators have been given the right to choose whether or not to belong to a labor union, the unions are struggling to attract enough members to stay afloat. Proving all along that the union leaders didn’t really represent their members, as much as sponge off of them.”  (boldface mine--Darren)

Plus: “Kenosha is a trend setter, not an outlier. . . . So, in the end, it wasn’t just the mean old Republican lawmakers who had issues with teachers’ unions. Teachers themselves were/are dissatisfied with the union’s strong arm tactics. As it turns out, Act 10 was the largest anti-bullying initiative in the nation. Who knew?”

Beautiful High Schools

Here's a list of 30, with #1 being here in Sacramento.  Do beautiful (and expensive) buildings allow students to do well in school?  I'm not convinced, but I certainly wouldn't mind working in nicer looking surroundings.

Here's the school report card for each California school on the list:
(can't find a Pacific Ridge High in San Diego) (I think that's the right school!)
(can't find a Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts)

They don't look bad.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kids Whose Singing Just Rocks

A three-year-old video of 6th grader Grayson Chance singing Lady Gaga's song Paparazzi:

And from Pilipinas Got Talent comes this 13-year-old with a voice that doesn't look like it should come from someone his age, singing my favorite Tagalog song:

Now if I could just find those girls from Texas a couple years ago who sang the National Anthem....

I Like This Dad

I suggest to students that they shouldn't do anything in public that they wouldn't want to see their parents do in public--specifically I'm talking about making out in the halls or dry-humping at dances.  One girl in Utah apparently didn't have benefit of my counsel and paid an appropriate penalty:
When Scott Mackintosh’s daughter refused to wear something other than her “slutty” shorts, he decided to show her that her shorts might not be as cute as she thinks.

Utah dad Scott Mackintosh took matters into his own hands when his teenage daughter refused to wear more modest shorts on a night out with the family.

So the Utah father of seven took a pair of his own jeans, cut them off waaaayyyy too short and wore them out to dinner with the family.

The rest is Tumblr history.
Awesome! And yes, there are pictures at the link :-)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

The bigotry may be soft, but the results are anything but:
While New York’s Mayor Bloomberg sees racism in the campaign of Bill deBlasio and Jay Z finds racism in the Trayvon Martin decision, I perceive racism in these jobs figures.    Blacks are increasingly left behind, at least in part because their leaders do not demand better schools. The greatest source of “disparate impact” in this country, to borrow a phrase currently popular with the Justice Department, is that most black kids can’t read or write. Upward mobility for the African-American community, tenuous at best, is squashed the minute they enter kindergarten...

To their shame, the leaders of the African-American community tolerate the educational status quo. In New York City’s mayoral contest, candidate Bill Thompson – the only black in the race--has won backing from the UFT, one of the nation’s largest union locals.

Union leaders stated that Thompson would “address the needs of teachers,” according to The New York Times, including “reducing standardized testing and ending the city’s practice of closing low-performing schools.” Why would anyone want to preserve our worst schools? To keep teachers on the payroll; it’s all about the money...

Until our African-American leaders target the terrible bigotry of allowing black children to grow up ignorant and often illiterate, their community will continue to suffer.

Halfway There

45 days ago I started the limoncello.  I zested 17 lemons and added the peelings to 1-1/2 liters of 151 proof Everclear.  Today was the 45th day it sat in my closet.

After work this evening I dissolved 3-1/2 cups of sugar into 5 cups of water.  As soon as that "simple syrup" cools down I'll add it to the liquor.

And it will sit for another 45 days in my closet.

Around the end of October I plan on hosting our weekly TGIF get-together (AKA 7th period) from work.  We'll meet out on my patio, a few people will bring snackies, and we'll see if I brewed up a good batch or not.

Sometimes, life is good.

Update:  Before I added the sugar water the alcohol had absorbed a some of the yellow color from the zest but it was still quite transparent.  I just mixed the two solutions and immediately it turned the dark, mostly opaque yellow color that limoncello should be.  Lookin' good....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Music Video To Remember What Was

I Don't Have Any Grandparents Left

I woke up this morning to a message from my mother that my 101-year-old grandfather died a few hours ago.

It's odd that I can't determine how I feel.  I guess I'm sad, but I'm not weepy or devastated.  I'm not "relieved"--he was in a nursing home but wasn't a burden to himself or others.  I last saw him just a couple weeks ago.

His mind had slowed down a little bit in the last couple years but he was still sharp as a tack.  His memory was fine, it just took him longer than usual to recall things.  No dementia at all.  At 101.

I guess I'm just accepting what was clear.  In the last couple weeks his physical health had gone down, and even his memory slipped--that was the trigger for me that he was near the end.  He went into the hospital a couple days ago with pneumonia-like symptoms.

Happy trails, grandpa.  I'll remember you as you were in this picture, at your birthday party last spring.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

This Story Almost--Almost--Makes Me Sympathetic Towards Napolitano

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been chosen to head the University of California system and some of the entitled, self-absorbed little twits want to throw a hissy fit and see if they can milk something out of the new grown-up:
A letter endorsed by nearly a dozen student groups includes the phrase: “We demand that you implement the following across the UC system.” Those demands include making the system a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants, barring the use of system funds or resources going to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which Napolitano oversaw in her previous job), impose mandatory sensitivity training on campus police and prohibit police from interfering with student demonstrations.

“As people of color, queer, undocumented, womyn (sic), and allies within the UC system, our work is to ensure that the UC is inclusive to our communities and that the UC system lives up to its mission ‘to serve as a center of higher learning,’” reads the letter, which was initially published on Sunday.

It goes on to cite Napolitano’s “specific experience in managing militaristic entities” as reasons why they are “uneasy” about her taking over the system. Napolitano, who oversaw the deportation of 1.6 million illegal aliens during the first term of President Obama, last month became the first woman appointed to head the sprawling system.
It annoys me that I pay for their education, and embarrasses me that they represent the best of our state's higher education system.

Algebra II

From Joanne's blog:
Advanced algebra should be an elective for motivated math students, not a requirement, argues novelist Nicholson Baker in a Harper’s cover story (subscribers only), Wrong Answer.

Baker isn’t the first to question whether future arts majors need advanced math, notes Popular Science.

In 1950, only 25 percent of students in the U.S. were taking algebra, while the Soviet Union was churning out mathematicians, writes Baker. The National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, raised math requirements, “creating a lot of unhappy students who, as they struggle through required math course after required math course, become discouraged and learn to hate school.”

The Common Core won’t help, Baker argues.

Algebra 2 Common Core is “a highly efficient engineer for the creation of math rage: a dead scrap of repellant terminology, a collection of spiky, decontextualized, multistep mathematical black-box techniques that you must practice over and over and get by heart in order to be ready to do something interesting later on, when the time comes,” he writes.
What's even more ridiculous is the new craze of making every student college-ready, as if that's a reasonable or even a desirable goal.  Here in California it's known as requiring every student to take the "A thru G requirements", the minimum for entry into our state university system (4 years of English; 3, preferably 4 years of math including Algebra II, etc).  It's more than a pipe dream, it's an absurdity.  It ranks right up there with making every student "philharmonic-ready", and as instruments go, I can barely play a CD.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Are You Really "Professionals" If You Have To Be Told This???

They want to fight this?  They should be ashamed that they have to be told this:
The school district in Little Rock, Ark. has announced plans for a dress code that will require teachers to wear underwear. Every single day. Female teachers will have to wear bras, too.

An Aug. 29 letter from the Little Rock School District’s Office of the Superintendent to all employees explains that the dress code will officially go into effect in the fall of 2014.

“Foundational garments shall be worn and not visible with respect to color, style, and/or fabric,” the letter reads. “No see-through or sheer clothing shall be allowed, and no skin shall be visible between pants/trousers, skirts, and shirts/blouses at any time.”

T-shirts, patches and other clothing containing slogans for beer, alcohol, drugs, gangs or sex will also be prohibited. Other verboten garments will include cut-off jeans with ragged edges, cut-out dresses and spaghetti-straps if teachers aren’t wearing at least two layers.

Flip-flops will be banned. “Tattoos must be covered if at all possible.” No jogging suits, either (though gym and dance teachers do get a pass on this one).

And the very worst of all: No spandex.

Organized labor vocally opposes the new universal underwear requirement and the rest of the non-draconian dress code.
It was a hundred degrees out here in the Capital City today, and I wore my usual slacks and collared shirt.  No one can tell what kind of undies I wore, no one saw my belly, no one saw my toes, and no one saw me advertise for what used to be known as vices.

It's possible, ladies and gentlemen.  It really is.  And it isn't a burden, and it isn't stepping on your "rights".  Now dress appropriately and start acting like the professionals you claim to be, and then quit complaining about your loss of respect in "the community".  Anyone who would complain about this is an embarrassment.

What Is This "Global Warming" Of Which You Speak?

News like this doesn't surprise me anymore, you can bet it won't be mentioned on any of the Big 3 networks tonight:
There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they (sic) equivalent of almost a million square miles.

In a rebound from 2012's record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin.

The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes.

A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century.

If correct, it would contradict computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming. The news comes several years after the BBC predicted that the arctic would be ice-free by 2013.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Wait Till They Get Scores From The New Tests!

I admit, I wouldn't mind not having to give these tests this year:
California students and teachers are set to receive a one-year reprieve from standardized testing requirements that have become a routine part of school culture each spring.

A plan introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature would end the use of STAR tests in math and English for the school year already under way – a year earlier than planned.

In their place, schools could opt in to computer-based assessments aligned to new curriculum standards called Common Core.

The annual release of the data gathered from state assessments would be suspended as well.

The one-year lift on public reporting requirements comes after statewide declines on English and math STAR tests last school year.

Did He Do The Right Thing?

I say yes:
The Sacramento City Unified School District has gone to court to uphold the firing of a veteran McClatchy High School teacher who got in a fight with a student during a physical education class.

Jerry Glaviano said he battled the student out of self-defense, that he was attacked when he tried to break up a fight between the youth and another boy during his sixth-period physical education class on Jan. 29.

Glaviano, 58, who stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 120 pounds, came out of the fracas bloodied, battered and dazed. The student, who was at least 6 feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds, had a tooth loosened in the altercation. He also sustained a bite to his arm.

Sacramento City Unified officials took statements from the two combatants, as well as from eight students who witnessed the fight and generally supported the teacher's version of events. Two weeks later, they still fired Glaviano, a 28-year veteran with the district, all of it at McClatchy High.

Glaviano appealed the termination to a Commission on Professional Competence, and the three-member panel voted unanimously last month to reinstate him. The commission said that his motive in trying to break up a fight and protect another student was "praiseworthy."

The district disagreed, and then filed suit in Sacramento Superior Court to overturn the commission's decision. On Aug. 27, Judge Allen H. Sumner refused to issue an order requested by the district to block the reinstatement, although the judge said the commission exceeded its jurisdiction by saying Glaviano should get his old job back. Sumner ruled the district "retains the authority to determine his specific assignment."

Glaviano is now on paid administrative leave pending a scheduled Feb. 7 hearing on the merits of the case, in Sumner's courtroom. The district intends to pursue its aggressive effort to fire Glaviano.
There's much more information here.

Can you imagine sending your kid to school with the expectation that the staff there would not defend him or her from physical harm from another student?

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Clean, Safe, Inexpensive Nuclear Energy

My litmus test for someone screeching about global warming is whether or not they're a supporter of nuclear-generated electricity.  If they're not, they're just an anti-capitalist leftie not worthy of my time.
One ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium and 3.5 million tons of coal, according to the former director of CERN.  
An abundant metal with vast energy potential could quickly wean the world off oil, if only Western political leaders would muster the will to do it, a UK newspaper says today. The Telegraph makes the case for thorium reactors as the key to a fossil-fuel-free world within five years, and puts the ball firmly in President Barack Obama's court...

After a three-decade lull, nuclear power is enjoying a slow renaissance in the U.S. The 2005 energy bill included $2 billion for six new nuclear power plants, and this past February, Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants.

But nuclear plants need fuel, which means building controversial uranium mines. Thorium, on the other hand, is so abundant that it's almost an annoyance. It's considered a waste product when mining for rare-earth metals.

Thorium also solves the non-proliferation problem. Nuclear non-proliferation treaties (NPT) prohibit processes that can yield atomic bomb ingredients, making it difficult to refine highly radioactive isotopes. But thorium-based accelerator-driven plants only produce a small amount of plutonium, which could allow the U.S. and other nations to skirt NPT.
Full story here.

Update, 9/8/13:  Last night at Best Buy there was a Greenpeace guy with a petition outside.  I considered asking if he knew who Patrick Moore was, and what his personal take on nuclear-generated electricity was, but instead I just went to my car.  Wasn't in a pugilistic mood.

Mama Bear

Ignoring the obviously low-quality journalism here ("beats the crap out of", "beatdown", "punched the teacher...upside the head"), this story is rather interesting:
The mother of a kindergarten boy Kansas City received a citation for criminal assault because, police say, she inflicted a vicious beatdown on the boy’s teacher.

The pummeling occurred on Thursday night at Truman Elementary School. Simone A. Baker, 24, allegedly entered the school and proceeded directly to the unidentified teacher’s classroom at about 6 p.m., reports The Kansas City Star.

She said, “You better not touch my kid again.” She punched the teacher, 49. upside the head five to 10 times. Next, narrates a police report, Baker jerked the teacher out of her chair by the hair. Then, for good measure, Baker smashed the teacher’s head against a filing cabinet—twice.

Baker’s next move was to run swiftly out of the classroom and out of the school building
Yes, there are some punctuation problems here, too, but that's not really the point.  If the teacher did something wrong here, she should be punished.  The parent clearly violated the law here and should be punished.  The district said they'll prosecute; if I were that teacher I'd also instigate civil proceedings.

Politics and the Ability To Do Math?

Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT) which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. In our experiment, we presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. As expected, subjects highest in Numeracy—a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information—did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin-rash treatment. Also as expected, subjects’ responses became politically polarized—and even less accurate—when the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun-control ban. But contrary to the prediction of SCT, such polarization did not abate among subjects highest in Numeracy; instead, it increased. This outcome supported ICT, which predicted that more Numerate subjects would use their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. We discuss the theoretical and practical significance of these findings.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Download the paper here.

Only A Leftie Wouldn't Smile After Reading This

Sometimes mockery is the best policy:
Wal-Mart released a statement Friday mocking the low turnout for this week’s staged walkouts by members of OUR Wal-Mart, an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

Protests and walkouts were held in 15 cities Thursday, with three protesters arrested in New York City on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges while trying to deliver a petition to a Wal-Mart board member, according to Berlin Rosen, the public relations firm representing the protesters.

“Once again, it looks like the UFCW threw a party and nobody showed up. Despite promises of ‘thousands of workers’ protesting this week, the union failed to deliver more than a smattering of paid protesters at their 15 orchestrated events. At most, 50 of the participants actually work for Wal-Mart, put another way, that’s less than one-tenth of one percent of our 1.3 million associates,” Wal-Mart vice president of corporate communications David Tovar said in a statement.

Algebra II

In our Thursday meeting our math department discussed Common Core standards for several courses, including Algebra II, and some of us expressed concern that logarithms aren't even in those standards.  What is an Algebra II course without logarithms?  And since our CSU/UC's require Algebra II as an admission requirement--with the expectation that logs will be covered--aren't we setting up students for failure (or at least for remedial math in college)?

Serendipitously timed is this posting from Joanne:
Passing Algebra II no longer shows mastery of algebra or preparation for college math, concludes a new Brown Center report, The Algebra Imperative...

It’s not just algebra either. “There is very little truth in labeling for high school Algebra I and Geometry courses,” Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told Education Week.
The public, and the universities, blame me and my colleagues for this.  I didn't write these standards, and I'm not trying to force 7th graders to take teddy-bear, watered down Algebra 1 (although genuine Algebra 1 should be available for those who are capable).

Update, 9/13/13:  I have a 2002 copy of the Entry Level Math test and, to my surprise, there are no logarithms on it!  One worry down, although I'm going to check with CSU just to see if their current version has logs or not.

Thursday, September 05, 2013


After classes were out today, we teachers went to our every-Thursday-afternoon meetings.  In the math department we started reorganizing our Algebra 1 program to comport with Common Core standards, even though we aren't sure if we should be following the national Common Core standards (which are difficult enough) or the impossible-to-meet California version of the Common Core standards (which are the national CC standards, plus the topics that are in California's old standards but not in the national Common Core standards).  There are some real problems to consider here, including CSU/UC admissions requirements as well as which version of the standards our kids will be tested on.

You might imagine that was an interesting discussion.

Being a wonderful person, I took minutes of our meeting today.  After the meeting I went back to my computer to type up the minutes and mail them out to our department--but then I saw an email from someone whose name I didn't recognize.  I clicked on it.

The email was addressed to all teachers and was from a freshman student stating she wanted to start a new club on campus.  She's looking for a teacher to sponsor the club (a requirement for on-campus clubs). 

It's a pro-life club.  So far, so good.

Then, to inform those who might not be aware, the email provided some information about abortion as well as some links to sites we might find useful in learning about abortion and the pro-life movement.  She hoped we "found out some things you didn't know about abortion".

I doubt it's any surprise to my regular readers that I'm a pro-life kinda guy, but reading the email reminded me of an earlier encounter I had with a freshman on a crusade.

I'm not going to take her up on her offer of faculty sponsor. 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


This is somehow "inappropriate"?  If they'd raffled off a bottle of wine, would that also be inappropriate?  More, or less so, and why?
Lucama Elementary School in North Carolina has come under scrutiny after it raffles off a rifle at an upcoming fundraiser at an event called Fun Fest. The rifle was donated by the Delta Waterfowl Foundation.

The district’s superintendent approved the gun as an item for auction on the condition that it would never be on campus.

“The gun will never see Lucama Elementary,” said Ryan Beamon, chairman of a regional chapter of Delta Waterfowl, according to The Wilson Times. “It will never be within 10 miles of the school.”

Students will not be permitted to purchase or distribute tickets for the raffle, reports local outlet WRAL-TV. Nevertheless, some parents question the district’s decision to raffle the gun.

“With everything that’s been going on, it does seem a little inappropriate,” parent Tim Langley told news station WTVD-TV.

“It’s a gun. A gun is a gun,” parent Sonya Bullock said to the outlet. “If I would have known, I wouldn’t be selling tickets for my girls.”
Tim and Sonya are pansies.  I think some people just like to complain.

Hat tip to reader PeggyU.

If I Were A Mean-Spirited, Sarcastic Teacher...

...I'd save this video until one of my classes started whining about how hard the lesson is, then I'd project it up on the screen.

Good thing I'm not a mean-spirited, sarcastic teacher :-)

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Very Definition of Socialism

It's not enough that the public treasure provides for those who cannot or will not provide for themselves, now the public treasury will provide another entitlement for everyone, even those who don't need it:
Officials for Boston public schools are expected to announce their plan to provide free lunches to all students on Tuesday, according to the Boston Globe.

It’s part of an experimental federal program that provides free lunches to all students, even for those whose families can afford them.
Where's that sequester when we need it?

Stare At Me When I Lecture To You

You will pay attention:
In distance learning and online training, by contrast, students could always easily slack off – until now. A Silicon Valley startup has just introduced an iPad application that uses the device’s built-in camera to watch the trainee. If the person turns his or her focus away, the program will pause after three to five seconds. It will only restart when the user is again looking directly at the screen.

Over time, the company, Mindflash Technologies also wants to monitor how people using their training programs are reacting. Are they laughing, confused, deeply engaged? They plan to gather detailed information about students, but what separates the program from creepy Big Brotherism is their promise to aggregate data only on the group and not individual level...

“This certainly has the potential to be labeled as Big Brotherish…especially on the backs of the NSA stuff,” said Vieira. “We’re confident that the benefits far outweigh any concerns that people might have."  link
It would be kinda hard to take notes with this software....

Why The Anti-War Movement Collapsed

It's what I said all along--it wasn't an anti-war movement, it was an anti-Bush movement.  If you can look at the chart in this post and come to a different conclusion you *just* *may* *be* a liberal hack!

It's Not Easy, But It Is Simple. Put Forth Some Effort.

Joanne covers some important ground here:
In The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley tells the the education success stories of Finland, South Korea and Poland, Willingham writes. In all three countries, students engage “ from an early age, in rigorous work that poses significant cognitive challenge.”

When schoolwork is challenging, students fail frequently, “so failure necessarily is seen as a normal part of the learning process, and as an opportunity for learning, not a cause of shame.”

South Koreans, Finns and Poles expect schoolwork to be hard, Ripley writes.

By contrast, Americans believe “learning is natural” and “should be easy,” Willingham writes. If a student has to try much harder than classmates, he’s a candidate for a disability diagnosis.
Yeah, pretty much.

30 Signs You Grew Up In Sacramento

Hey, I love going to Old Town!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Crisis in STEM?

This author, who should know (based on where his article is being published), says "not so fast":
You must have seen the warning a thousand times: Too few young people study scientific or technical subjects, businesses can’t find enough workers in those fields, and the country’s competitive edge is threatened...

And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs. One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000. Even as the Great Recession slowly recedes, STEM workers at every stage of the career pipeline, from freshly minted grads to mid- and late-career Ph.D.s, still struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM, and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers.

To parse the simultaneous claims of both a shortage and a surplus of STEM workers, we’ll need to delve into the data behind the debate, how it got going more than a half century ago, and the societal, economic, and nationalistic biases that have perpetuated it. And what that dissection reveals is that there is indeed a STEM crisis—just not the one everyone’s been talking about. The real STEM crisis is one of literacy: the fact that today’s students are not receiving a solid grounding in science, math, and engineering...

At least in the United States, you don’t need a STEM degree to get a STEM job, and if you do get a degree, you won’t necessarily work in that field after you graduate. If there is in fact a STEM worker shortage, wouldn’t you expect more people with STEM degrees to be filling those jobs? And if many STEM jobs can be filled by people who don’t have STEM degrees, then why the big push to get more students to pursue STEM?..

So is there a shortfall of STEM workers or isn’t there?
Go read the whole thing to find out :)

Near the end of the article, the author switches topics a bit away from preparing graduates in the STEM fields to ensuring everyone has a good grounding in basic science and math:
A broader view, I and many others would argue, is that everyone needs a solid grounding in science, engineering, and math. In that sense, there is indeed a shortage—a STEM knowledge shortage. To fill that shortage, you don’t necessarily need a college or university degree in a STEM discipline, but you do need to learn those subjects, and learn them well, from childhood until you head off to college or get a job. Improving everyone’s STEM skills would clearly be good for the workforce and for people’s employment prospects, for public policy debates, and for everyday tasks like balancing checkbooks and calculating risks. And, of course, when science, math, and engineering are taught well, they engage students’ intellectual curiosity about the world and how it works.
As he had, just a few paragraphs prior, advocated for what amounts to a high-quality liberal education, I support his call for a broad liberal education.

Alternate Reality

I woke up early (for a holiday, anyway) this morning to go to yoga class and I thought I heard thunder.  Looking out the window, the sky appeared dark.  What the heck?

Sure enough, it rained a little last night.  It rained a little during yoga, too, and it's raining pretty good now.  For those of you who don't know much about the weather here in California's Central Valley, water falling from the sky in early September is unusual.

My son's shift at the water park was cancelled today, for obvious reasons.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

How Many Students Do You Have?

As of Friday I had over 160.  My contractual cap is 165 in 5 classes.

Both of those numbers are a disgrace.

Sex With Students Not So Bad?

I must admit, I never expected to read an opinion piece like this one--especially since it's written by a woman:
I do think that teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation. But the utter hysteria with which society responds to these situations does less to protect children than to assuage society’s need to feel that we are protecting them...

The point is that there is a vast and extremely nuanced continuum of sexual interactions involving teachers and students, ranging from flirtation to mutual lust to harassment to predatory behavior. Painting all of these behaviors with the same brush sends a damaging message to students and sets the stage for hypocrisy and distortion of the truth. Many teenagers are, biologically speaking, sexually mature. Pretending that this kind of thing won’t happen if we simply punish it severely enough is delusional. If anything, to return to Louis C.K., the indiscriminate criminalization of such situations may deter students struggling with sexual issues from seeking advice from a parent or counselor.

If religious leaders and heads of state can’t keep their pants on, with all they have to lose, why does society expect that members of other professions can be coerced into meeting this standard? A more realistic approach would be to treat violations in a way that removes and rehabilitates the offender without traumatizing the victim. The intensity of criminal proceedings, with all the pressure they put on participants, the stigma, the community and media scrutiny, and the concurrent shame and guilt they generate, do the opposite of healing and protecting the victim. Laws related to statutory rape are in place to protect children, but the issue of underage sex, and certainly of sex between students and teachers, may be one in which the law of unintended consequences is causing so much damage that society needs to reassess.
I think it best not to be banging the students, but that's just me.