Monday, March 31, 2014

Red Wedding


I'm a Game of Thrones fan and just this past weekend watched the Red Wedding episode on dvd.  If you don't know what that reference is, and you're not the squeamish type, then click here.  If the link doesn't work anymore, try "Game of Thrones Red Wedding" and see what YouTube pulls up for you.

I gave a test today.  It may as well have been the Red Wedding.  Already planning the reteaching!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Combining Pre-Calculus and Statistics, The Two Courses I Teach

The current course I'm taking for my master's program, Mathematical Statistics, is difficult but fun.  We're learning how to estimate function parameters based on data.  An easy example would be if you believe that your data are distributed in accordance with a normal distribution, and based on the data you try to determine mu and sigma (the mean and standard deviation).  Normal distributions are pretty easy; what would you do if your data is explained by an exponential distribution (parameter is lambda), or a gamma distribution (two parameters, alpha and lambda)?

I'm going to get a bit "inside baseball" here, but we're talking about sufficient statistics--instead of looking at an entire set of data, what summary statistics of that data would suffice to allow us to estimate the unknown parameters?  It's not always mean and standard dev!  If our function is part of the "exponential family" of functions, we can rewrite the function in such a certain way that the sufficient statistics become apparent.

A few months ago my stats students learned about the binomial distribution--a distribution that allows you to determine, for example, the likelihood of getting 7 heads if you flip a fair coin 10 times (it's a little under 12%).  The formula is f(x|p)=nCx*p^x*(1-p)^(n-x).

Recently my pre-calculus students have been reviewing logarithm operations and functions.

So in my Mathematical Statistics lesson tonight we were determining the sufficient statistics for the binomial distribution.  The way the distribution is written above, though, it doesn't (at first glance) appear to be of the exponential family.  However, if we employ a little advanced algebra, we find that it is of the exponential family and can be rewritten in a way that reveals the sufficient statistic.

The algebraic manipulations?  e^(ln x)=x and ln a^b=b ln a, just the material I've been going over with my pre-calculus students.  Using those facts I can rewrite p^x as e^(x ln p) and (1-p)^(n-x) as e^(n-x)ln(1-p).  I'll skip the rest of the work, just noting that I think it's cool when I can tie what I'm learning directly to what I'm teaching.  It's the reason I'm pursuing this particular degree instead of a generic Master's Degree in Education, because this degree is actually going to make me a better math teacher.

FAIL

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
President Obama, in a speech to Congress in September 2009, stated that the central goal of the Affordable Care Act was extending health-care coverage to the "more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage." Yet here we are nearing the end of open enrollment, and the number of Americans who lack insurance exceeds 30 million...

BY THE NUMBERS

14: percentage of Affordable Care Act enrollees as of Feb. 1 who were previously uninsured

900,000: number of current enrollees who would be previously uninsured assuming the same percentage

10: estimated percentage of U.S. uninsured covered by the ACA so far
So we are left with two not-mutually-exclusive conclusions we can draw about Obamacare:  it's an abject failure in its stated goal, and/or its stated goal is not its actual goal.

Either way, you have only the Democrats, and the people who voted for them, to thank for this.  Remember, Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote in either house of Congress.  Have Republicans ever passed such a debacle that way?

Drain The Swamp

In case you're having trouble keeping track lately of all the Democrats who have been arrested for some form or other of corruption, there's a good list here.

The institutional press will keep us informed of Republican misdeeds, have no doubt.

The Only Surprise Would Be If The Card Were Marked "Republican"

Looking at the picture there's no way to know who marked the form, or even if the couple is perpetrating a hoax.  I'm being slightly skeptical here; I'd be more so if this didn't fit the lefties' modus operandi so well:
A local couple called 10News concerned after they received an envelope from the state's Obamacare website, Covered California. Inside was a letter discussing voter registration and a registration card pre-marked with an "x" in the box next to Democratic Party.

The couple – who did not want their identity revealed – received the letter and voter registration card from their health insurance provider Covered California, the state-run agency that implements President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
What's entertaining is how they were told to report the problem:
(Covered California) Spokeswoman Anne Gonzales stated, "We are mailing voter registration material. However, the application forms come directly from the Secretary of State's office, with no fields pre-marked. The individual should contact the Secretary of State, which takes these violations of election law extremely seriously, and they will investigate, using the unique serial number."
If this had happened next year, Leland Yee could have been Secretary of State.  (I'd post a CNN link but they're not covering the story.)

Some of What's Wrong With Common Core

I don't like the Common Core math standards.  They're a step down from what California has had for the past 15 years.  This article hits it out of the park:
There is also some willful deception or self-deception here.  If you state that henceforth all children should be able to do X, because that’s the new standard, does this mean that all children can do X?  Can even half the children do X?  Read some of the verbose standards, and you’ll probably conclude that virtually no kid can do X.

There seems to be a belief in magic.  Outline impressive goals (“internationally benchmarked,” no less) in a technical, officious way, and every kid will automatically soar to high levels.  But why would that happen?  Teachers still have to teach, and students still have to learn the information, fact by fact.  But our Education Establishment hates all those traditional practices.  It’s so much simpler to proclaim that henceforth all children will be college- and career-ready.  Presto!  That was easy.

Bill Gates and Common Core are obsessed with arranging things in standardized patterns, coast to coast.  So we must have standards that will somehow apply to everyone.  Then we need identical curricula, and we’ll need identical tests.  All of these things will be aligned to each other and symmetrically arranged, like so many neat stacks of boxes in a shoe store’s warehouse.  And no one, from that point forward, will be able to think outside those boxes, try something new, or tell the Education Establishment to take a hike and stop annoying us...

I suspected from the start that Common Core would be a fraud and a failure for a simple reason: it recycled all the bad theories and methods from the last 75 years....  (boldface mine--Darren)

I’m not sure whether they tricked (Core Supporter Bill) Gates or he let himself be tricked.  But everybody knows by now that Common Core accepted all the worst nonsense in Reform Math.  (That’s why we see so many articles and stories about impossible math homework.)  Similarly, Constructivism is the official dogma throughout Common Core.  This quackery orders teachers not to teach; students must figure out everything for themselves.  Similarly again, Common Core embraced sophistries from Whole Word, those sophistries being the cause of our illiteracy problem...

Bill Gates was seeing a world where every seventh-grade history class would be identical to all the others, as if that’s more efficient.  Ideally for him, they would use books and software created by his companies.  But never mind how much Gates makes.  We wouldn't mind if the children were being well-educated.  But he was in cahoots with people who had never been primarily interested in making children well-educated.  The goal, ever since the time of John Dewey, was to make children cooperative, largely incapable of independent thought, and easy to govern.  (boldface mine--Darren)
Back in the 90s we saw what happened when fuzzy math and so-called whole language were the rule of the day.  They're back, 15 years later, and probably won't go away till I retire in about 15 more years.  What's sad is that I'm not paid to teach, I'm paid to do what the bosses tell me.  I've been teaching for 17 years; for the remainder of my time I'll get paid to help dumb down our students.

My role will warp into that of a fireman in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.

Update:  You don't like the dig at Dewey above?   This quote is attributed to him:
Independent self people (would be) a counterproductive anachronism in the collective society of the future [...] (where) people will be defined by their associations.
I don't know if he actually said it or not--but it sounds like something he'd say.  Perhaps it's genuine, perhaps it's "fake but accurate".

Friday, March 28, 2014

Priorities of the Press

Why does HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still have a job?  Why has she not been held in contempt of Congress, or charged with perjuring herself before Congress?
You and I know why: Because she’ll say whatever she’s told to say, whether it’s true or not. Whether it hurts people or not. Whether it even makes sense or not. She’ll tell any lie necessary, and then she’ll go home and sleep like a baby.

Good work, if you can get it.

Of course, she can’t say that. And she doesn’t have to answer to you anyway, you miserable serfs upon whom she feeds....
Certainly the press isn't worked up over this.  That wouldn't fit their narrative or further their goals.

Perhaps socialism means never having to say you're sorry.

So if the press isn't worried about the 13th (illegal and unilateral/fiat) extension of Obamacare, or about the Secretary's lies about it, what are they worried about?
He, too, was arrested on Wednesday, for allegedly arranging deals to procure M16s and rocket launchers to be smuggled into California after being purchased from Muslim terrorists in the Philippines. Sen. Yee was working with a Chinese gangster named “Shrimp Boy.”

Apparently, Yee was much less concerned about the spread of weapons of mass destruction when he was talking to his fellow hoods than when he was pontificating on CNN: “People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care. People need certain things.”

Like, rocket launchers.

Two-gun Yee is the third Democrat state senator to be arrested in California this week. Earlier it was state Sen. Rod Wright (perjury) and then Ron Calderon (bribery).

What a crime wave, in less than one week. So guess what most of the networks led with on their newscasts last night? The 5-month-old story of Gov. Chris Christie’s Bridgegate. Because it has one thing going for it that none of these other stories had, the only thing that matters to the corrupt American media.

Christie is a Republican.
There are so few left in the institutional press who have any scruples at all, save for helping their own tribe of liberals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

If Student Athletes Are Actually Employees of the University...

...is their scholarship their pay?  And if so, shouldn't they have to pay income taxes on those scholarships?

There's plenty of improvement that can be made in the way the NCAA does business, but introducing labor unions into college student athletics is definitely not the way to make such improvements.  Talk about the cure being worse than the disease!

Honestly--and I'm serious about this--it's time to get rid of intercollegiate athletics.  Let the NFL and the NBA create their own farm leagues.  Students can participate in intramurals.

I do not see why someone should get a scholarship because they can run fast, swim fast, hit a ball with a stick, or come into contact with a ball with some part of their body.  Outside of giving people something to watch on weekends (and some weekdays), how does athletics further the academic purpose of the school?  If higher education is such a "public good" that I as a taxpayer have to subsidize it, then someone should explain to me how intercollegiate athletics is also such a public good.

Yes, I'm one of those crazies who thinks colleges and universities should be centers of learning.

President Obama Is Weak

So says Condi Rice:
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States' position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama’s ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world.

“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”

Rice – measured in tone, but very tough on substance – excoriated Obama administration policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the na├»ve hope that “international norms” would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public.

“I fully understand the sense of weariness. I fully understand that we must think: ‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
I've been reminded by blacks--for what reason, I can't fathom!--that President Obama is half-white.  I've also been told by race hustlers that blacks can't be racist against whites since whites are the majority/power group.  That's all a prelude to this:  You can't blame Rice's comments on racism--she's blacker than he is.  I guess that kind of matters to lefties.

I Took A Practice "Smarter Balanced" Test Today

Teachers at my school today took the practice Smarter Balanced test so that we'd know what it was like, what problems our students might encounter, and what type of questions would be asked.

I will say this:  some of the 11th grade math questions were worded in an obtuse way.  I will say that we have highly qualified, very competent math teachers at my school, and some of the problems had a few of us gathered around trying to figure out exactly what a problem was asking for.  If it takes 3 good math teachers, two with masters degrees and one working on one, to figure out what an Algebra 1 question is asking, then the question isn't a good one.

There's a difference between rigor, that which requires a depth of knowledge and skill, and confusion, which makes the problem unnecessarily hard while obscuring the actual math.

One question in particular bothered me.  It was about a right triangle, blah blah blah, and had 3 boxes for answers.  In one box was cos A < sin A, in the second was cos A = sin A, and in the third was cos A < sin A.  Below the box was a fourth box with a bunch of integer angle values.  I can't remember exactly how the question was worded, but I couldn't tell if clicking and dragging one angle value into each box was sufficient to answer the question or if I had to put all 10 or so angle values in one of the boxes in order to get credit.  That kind of confusion shouldn't be acceptable, especially for a test that will be given to half the high school juniors in the country.

Update, 3/29/14:  Thanks to Mr. W in the comments, here are all the questions and the solutions.     Scroll down to page 14/24 of the pdf file, or page 13 as shown on the picture (problem 682), to see the trig question I mentioned above.  Note the ambiguity in the directions:  Drag possible measures of angle A into the correct column.  Thinking like a high school student, I have satisfied the requirements of this problem if I have put one value in each column.  If it said "drag all possible measures of angle A" the instructions would be clear.

This is part of what's wrong with the way math is sometimes covered.  It should be excessively clear what is being asked; when it's not, math becomes some mysterious task of trying to divine what the teacher (or test) actually wants you to perform.

With this pdf file you can see the questions that were asked.  Do you agree with me about the wording of some of those questions?

If you're so inclined, take a look at the performance task.  Don't think like a drone here, but really explore the problem.  Is "fair" defined?  Will everyone define "fair" the same way?  Are you comfortable with a performance task for which you're only given credit if you agree with the problem-writer's (unexpressed) view of "fair"?
For this item, a full-credit response (2 points) include:
agreeing with the claim
AND
justifying the response by citing at least one comparison between values used in the two systems.
Why must two values be given?  Where is that requirement stated?  There are other ways, even ways that match the author's (unstated) definition of "fair", that don't require listing specific points.

I know the fuzzy math proponents like subjectiveness, but this performance task is fundamentally flawed.

I'm Not Sure How To Respond To This

I don't know what schools had to do, or how many applied, in order to be considered for this grant, but on the face of it things don't look good for government education centers in California:
Of all the schools in California, thousands, only one, a charter school chain, qualified for the national “Race to the Top” honors.  What does this say about government schools in California?  To me it is simple, it proves what has been said about California government schools, there are mediocre or maybe good or terrible, but not great.

Rocketship Education, with eight K-5 charter schools in San Jose, one in Milwaukee and invitations to expand into urban districts in other states, is the sole finalist from California competing for $120 million in the second district Race to the Top competition.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the finalists last week for the federal grant program for education innovation; nationwide, 29 districts and two charter organizations qualified as finalists.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama: Also Against The Iraq War Before He Supported It

The man knows partisanship and little else:
Today, President Obama came full circle, explicitly defending the Iraq War in a speech in Brussels as he tried to counter arguments by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin has used the example of American intervention in Iraq (among other places) in an attempt to justify Russia's intervention in, and annexation of, the Crimea.

Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy.  Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well.  I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there.  But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system.  We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory.  We did not grab its resources for our own gain.  Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.

Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post is quite outraged by the remarks above, and responds point-by-point to the president's defense of the war with familiar left-wing arguments.

You don't have to agree that the entire effort was an attempt to enrich Halliburton in order to feel a small amount of empathy for Grim and the serious-minded "progressives" who took Obama at his word. (Only a small amount--they were quite eager to be duped.)

Yes, Obama still notes that he opposed the Iraq war. But there is no longer any philosophical or practical basis for his opposition, at least judged by his own actions in office.

What is left of his anti-war stance--such as it was--is pure partisanship, the same calculation that saw him rail against raising the debt ceiling as a Senator, then, once in the White House, insist that Congress raise it repeatedly.
He's a failure and an embarrassment.

Melange Post

Do most US students have too much homework?
Homework horror stories are true for a small group of students, but most U.S. students aren’t working harder than in the past, according to Brookings’ 2014 Report on American Education. Nine-year-olds are more likely to have homework — usually less than an hour’s worth — but the workload hasn’t changed much for older students. Only 7 percent of 13-year-olds and 13 percent of 17-year-olds say they spent more than two hours on homework on the previous day...

Most parents say their children get the right amount of homework. Of those who disagree, more say their kids get too little than too much. “The homework horror stories . . . seem to originate from the very personal discontents of a small group of parents,” Brookings concludes.
Next year I'm not going to require students with A's, B's, or even C's to submit homework. Each "progress report period" I'll determine who needs to start submitting homework and who will no longer have to. Most of my students are college-bound seniors, they should be able to handle this.

***

A few years ago a local Native American university closed up shop.  Now comes word that a Northern California Latino university will do the same:
America's first full-term, accredited university focused specifically on Latinos will close its doors at the end of the academic calendar next year. The National Hispanic University in San Jose, Calif. announced on Thursday that its run is over, after recent online initiatives failed to improve its finances...

The National Hispanic University was founded in Oakland, Ca. in 1981 as a two-classroom college, by Stanford education professor B. Roberto Cruz, who wanted to boost the number of Latinos in California enrolled in full-term universities. NHU was modeled after historically black colleges, like Spelman College, but for Latinos. When it gained accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 2002, it was the first and only Latino four-year college to do so.

But trouble lay ahead for NHU. The university was acquired four years ago by Laureate Education, Inc., a for-profit college management company, after reductions in government financial aid for liberal arts students forced the NHU to stop enrolling new students several years ago...

One of the reasons for the failure of that initiative, according to Ato, is that "Online education doesn't work for Latinos. It doesn't work for them because they haven't been prepared with the computer skills that are required." While, in general, Latinos in the U.S. are "ahead of the digital curve" and very tech-savvy, segments of the Latino population -- especially the Latinos NHU was trying to serve -- are still on the other side of the digital divide.
As a student who is pursuing a graduate degree online, I call BS on that excuse.  One doesn't need to do much more than turn on the computer and fire up a web browser to take an online class.  I wonder what specific skills he's suggesting that "segments of the Latino population" are lacking.

But here's the far more interesting question--if a racially-focused university can't remain operational in California, where can such a university stay open?

***


The Instapundit on the Obama Administration and the press:  You want to understand the Obama Administration? Think Nixon with fewer scruples and less patriotism.
New York Times reporter James Risen, who is fighting an order that he testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, opened the conference earlier by saying the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” The administration wants to “narrow the field of national security reporting,” Risen said, to “create a path for accepted reporting.” Anyone journalist who exceeds those parameters, Risen said, “will be punished.”
I actually support the administration's position in this case! The Constitution grants "press freedom" but it doesn't guarantee anything to the (institutional) press that it doesn't guarantee to all the rest of us. In general I don't support shield laws, either.

 ***

The Democratic Party has been a disaster for black Americans:
As one of the relatively few people (percentage wise) to have spent more than a decade on both sides of our political divide, and also to have participated personally in the civil rights movement in the South in the sixties, I am going to say something that will be extremely controversial to liberals, indeed make them hate me.  Given all those years I spent on the two sides, I have observed liberals to be vastly more racist than conservatives and libertarians.

It isn’t even close...

The roots of this divide are not just the obvious Freudian projection — those who accuse you of something evil are usually the ones perpetrating it. That’s true enough. But it’s far more than that. The Democratic Party has been waging a War on Black People since the Great Society of 1964-65 (actually for far longer than that) that has reached horrifying proportions in our time. That nearly 73 percent of African Americans are currently born out of wedlock, 67 percent living in single parent homes, is nothing short of disastrous with yet more disastrous auguries for the future.

And all this during the administration of our first black president. The level of hypocrisy is astronomical.

To be fair, at first this war was unconscious. I know. I was very much a supporter then. In fact, I remained so for much longer than I should have. But after a while, as the Great Society programs, ratified under both political parties, failed to accomplish what was intended with the social conditions of African Americans actually growing worse, I finally arose from my lethargy to wonder why this was happening.

The answers weren’t that complicated. All these social welfare programs, affirmative actions, etc. were a signal to African Americans that they were inferior, that somehow they couldn’t make it without help...

Meanwhile, plenty of African Americans succeeded without this dubious “help,” because, quite clearly, they realized they didn’t need it and went on with their lives. Motivating the supposed “help” the others were getting were two factors: 1. liberal white racism and 2. a desire on the part of the Democratic Party to turn African Americans into a class that would vote for them perpetually, something that party has clearly succeeded in to the complete detriment of African Americans, if we believe even part of all the depressing statistics.

So how do we counter this? First of all, by calling out the true racists, not the fake ones.
And this post discusses how to make (hypocritical) liberals live up to their own standards--that's one of Alinsky's rules, you know.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Foundation of Success In Mathematics

It's a necessary, but not sufficient, tool for success in math.  What is "it"?  Memorizing the times tables:
During grades one, two and three, your 10 fingers and a scratch pad are pretty much all you need to get by in math class. Then comes multiplication, and things change: There is simply no way that a typical student can solve these problems quickly without memorizing the basic grade-school matrix we call the multiplication table. Aside from a number line, this square matrix is arguably the most important single pedagogic tool that an elementary student will ever master. And any style of teaching math that does not require its memorization is one that should be rejected out of hand.

Until one masters the multiplication table, basic math is slow and frustrating. Then you memorize that magic box and the skies open up. Suddenly, you have the tools to calculate area and volume, speed/time/distance problems, unit conversion, and currency — not to mention division, exponents, algebra and all the rest.

Knowing the multiplication table makes math fun — or at least less non-fun...

I realize that the multiplication table is old school. But old school is making a comeback — at least in some parts of this country. A while back, Alberta switched to a “discovery” model for teaching math, whereby children were permitted to use “creative” methods to pursue correct (or correct-ish) answers to math problems. In an open letter to Alberta Education Minister, University of Alberta education specialist Ken Porteous blasted the program as follows: “The discovery approach has no place in arithmetic at the junior elementary level. There is nothing to discover. [It] just leads to confusion which ultimately translates into frustration, a strong dislike for mathematics and a desire to drop out of any form of mathematics course at the earliest opportunity.”

Apparently, someone was listening. According to a report in today’s Globe & Mail, “The Alberta government has bent to pressure from parents for curriculum changes and will require students to memorize their multiplication tables starting this fall, dealing a setback to the creative-math movement.”
"Rote" is not a pejorative, and in this case especially, there's nothing wrong with rote memorization.  I dare say that students who do not have the multiplication table memorized (either up to 10x10 or, as Mrs. Barton required of us, 12x12) are at a distinct disadvantage vice those who do.

Heckler's Veto Writ Large?

No, I really don't believe that the so-called threat was why Stanford initially tried to stop this speaker, and neither do I believe that they just "found" money for security:
Conservative students at Stanford University won’t have to pay thousands of dollars in “security costs” to host an event on traditional marriage views, as the administration reversed course after the student group accused them of trying to tax free speech.

Stanford made it sound as if the policy change took place after administration officials found unexpected $20 bills in their laundry.

“Hi everyone. Found more funds to subsidize the full cost of the security, ” Nanci Howe, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities and Leadership, wrote in a Thursday email to the Stanford Anscombe Society.

The university with an $18.7 billion endowment initially told the Anscombe Society that it would have to pay $5,600 for security guards to protect their conference on “Communicating Values: Marriage, Family and the Media,” an event that would feature traditional marriage advocates such as the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson. The university issued the security requirement “after a vocal group of LGBTQ activists announced their opposition to the event,” according to the student group.

“This fee is a tax on free speech,” Judea Romea, co-president of the group, said Wednesday in calling for the university to drop the policy. “The student government shut us out, simply because some students don’t share our values. The University responded not by standing up for our freedom of speech, but by forcing us to hire security so that hecklers can’t disrupt our event or intimidate our guests.”

After media pressure and a formal complaint from the student group, the university decided to pay for the security itself.

First Amendment lawyer Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said that the Stanford’s motive for impeding the conference reflects a trend in campus free speech issues.
You get more of what you support. If heckler's vetoes pay off, then you'll get more heckler's vetoes.  I'm glad that Stanford saw the (disinfecting sun)light.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Geniuses At The TSA

Can the TSA-holes do anything right?
Like the rest of us, airport security screeners like to think they can read body language. The Transportation Security Administration has spent some $1 billion training thousands of “behavior detection officers” to look for facial expressions and other nonverbal clues that would identify terrorists.

But critics say there’s no evidence that these efforts have stopped a single terrorist or accomplished much beyond inconveniencing tens of thousands of passengers a year. The T.S.A. seems to have fallen for a classic form of self-deception: the belief that you can read liars’ minds by watching their bodies.

Most people think liars give themselves away by averting their eyes or making nervous gestures, and many law-enforcement officers have been trained to look for specific tics, like gazing upward in a certain manner. But in scientific experiments, people do a lousy job of spotting liars. Law-enforcement officers and other presumed experts are not consistently better at it than ordinary people even though they’re more confident in their abilities...

The T.S.A. program was reviewed last year by the federal government’s Government Accountability Office, which recommended cutting funds for it because there was no proof of its effectiveness. That recommendation was based on the meager results of the program as well as a survey of the scientific literature by the psychologists Charles F. Bond Jr. and Bella M. DePaulo, who analyzed more than 200 studies....
Why are we paying those people? What service are they performing while violating the 4th Amendment hundreds of times a day--and with impunity?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Common Core A Threat To AP Calculus

Who says so?  The senior vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program does:
In an AASA conference session, Advanced Placement in the Common Core Era: Changes and New Developments in the AP Program, on Saturday morning, Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, told superintendents that his organization would integrate Common Core standards in AP course standards and AP exams administered each May...

Despite these measures, there are still difficulties in reconciling many AP courses with the Common Core. In particular, AP Calculus is in conflict with the Common Core, Packer said, and it lies outside the sequence of the Common Core because of the fear that it may unnecessarily rush students into advanced math classes for which they are not prepared.

The College Board suggests a solution to the problem. of AP Calculus “If you’re worried about AP Calculus and fidelity to the Common Core, we recommend AP Statistics and AP Computer Science,” he told conference attendees.

Moreover, the College Board may offer an AP Algebra course (although no plans are definite), which may supplant AP Calculus, particularly in schools rigidly adhering to the Common Core standards.
Can't get any more from the horse's mouth than that.

Common Core and Colleges

I believe this to be true:
The Common Core's standards amount to an assault on the college curriculum. That's because colleges will have to adapt to what the Common Core teaches--and what it fails to teach. It teaches a mechanical way of reading that is poorly suited to literature, philosophy, history, and the rest of the liberal arts. It also fails to teach the math students need to begin a college-level curriculum in the sciences...

Common Core defers the teaching of algebra to the 9th grade. As a consequence, it will be difficult for schools to offer pre-calculus to students before they finish high school. There simply isn't enough time left in the curriculum to reach that level, and the Common Core poses other obstacles as well. Trigonometry is barely broached. Geometry follows an eccentric path. The result is that students who go to college hoping to study the physical sciences, computing, engineering, economics, and other math-heavy fields will be handicapped. Or they will have to scramble before they get to college to supplement what their high schools offer.

Some students will find their ways around these obstacles, but many won't, and that will leave colleges and universities with few good choices. The likeliest path will be to reduce the rigor of their science programs to accommodate students who have to spend their first year catching up on mathematics that used to be taught in high school.

Everybody acknowledges how important the STEM fields are for America's future--and few are more vocal about this than Bill Gates. One of the ironies of the Common Core is that its most lavish-spending advocate is contributing to the further erosion of our nation's strength in this area. Perhaps it is no wonder that Mr. Gates is also a major supporter of increasing the number of H-1B visas for foreign nationals who have expertise in science and engineering...

The Common Core will not make an appreciable number of students more "college ready." It may smooth the way, however, for more students to be admitted to college. President Obama and Michelle Obama have recently ratcheted up the campaign that Obama announced back in his first address to Congress in February 2009--to make America the nation with the highest percentage of college graduates. The pitch that "everyone should go to college" has been a favorite of American politicians for a long time. It is, on its face, silly. To achieve anything like it would require obliterating academic standards and wasting untold trillions of dollars. But the phrase somehow strokes the national ego.
The author of the above article is the president of the National Association of Scholars, which makes his closing line entertaining:
I await the rallies where Tea Party activists unite in uncommon cause with English and History profs.

A Better Way To Teach Math?

Years ago, and many times since then, I've lamented political incursions into math instruction (see my links at left to posts on social justice and Rethinking Schools).  To a leftie, it's much better to talk about racism in math problems than it is to talk about making change from $5.  It's more "relevant" or something.

So here's the latest attempt, this time by a union president:
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis wants schools to teach social justice, not “consumerism,” she said in a video.

Lewis spoke about ways to avoid “consumerist” messages while teaching subjects typically seen as apolitical, like math, at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education, a progressive advocacy group that backs public schools.

“You want to talk about organizing? You want to talk about social justice?” the Chicago union leader asked. “People always talk about how that there’s no political and values in math, that you can teach math without a place for social justice.”

“Johnny has five pencils and if he spent two cents for the red pencils and eight cents for the green pencils, and he has 47 cents, how many pencils can he buy? We’ve all seen that, right?” Lewis said. ”That’s a very political statement, because it’s all about consumerism — it’s about buying stuff, right?”

Instead, Lewis prefers the approach of one progressive teacher who uses union-approved rhetoric in math problems, instead of the damaging consumerism of two cent pencils.

“Bob Peterson tells them about Jose working in a factory making piecemeal clothes. He uses the same numbers and gets the same answer,” Lewis explained. “Math is political, too.”
Somehow I don't think Karen Lewis would approve of the political slant I'd use if I were to create such problems.  I don't even think she and I would agree on what constitutes social justice.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

And I Chose To Do This, Why?

Today I was checking out all the goodies at Sam's Club and saw a nice looking kitchen faucet with pull-out squirter and a soap dispenser.  My current squirter hasn't worked in forever, and the faucet drips unless the handle is placed in exactly the center position (which actually works well with my OCD!), so I bought it.

Removing the old faucet?  Easy.
Connecting the water?  Easy.
Determining I connected the water lines backwards?  Easy.
Changing the water lines?  Not as easy as connecting them the first time, but got it done.
Connecting the squirter hose?  NOT EASY!  It was a different kind of connection and it was making my life a living hell.  Why do squirters not like me?

OK, got the end--just have to install the soap dispenser now.  And you know what?  The hole in my sink is only 1" and this particular dispenser requires a 1.25" hole.  I've learned that it's not the easiest thing in the world to ream out a hole in a stainless steel sink :)  I've got my ace "tool guy" borrowing a tool for me, one we believe will make light work of this task.  Should be able to get it within a week.

The soap dispenser installation is very easy once the hole is done.  And then I'll have an awesome sink faucet, one much cooler looking and without the cheap plastic squirter I've had for years.

That took up more of my day than I'd care to admit!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Latest Stupid Way To Do Simple Math

Let me begin with a short addition to yesterday's post.  It's ok to teach the "shortcuts" in math--change the inequality sign when multiplying/dividing by a negative number, "invert and multiply", "a negative times a negative is a positive".  What's absolutely not OK is to teach those shortcuts but not to teach why they work. 

There are some algorithms, though, that are so handy, so useful, and so easy to learn, that they can reasonably be taught as "this is the way to do it".  Third graders don't need to understand why the long division algorithm works, they just need to learn it (and it is possible, but perhaps it requires a superteacher like Mrs. Barton for all students in a class to learn it).  They should learn multi-place multiplication, too.  They should learn the algorithms that have been used for centuries not because they've been used for centuries, but because they work and are the most efficient algorithms humans have come up with.  When someone comes up with a better algorithm for division, I'll support it, but until then I'll merely applaud those who search for one. 

This algorithm is not "the one".  Holy crap.  Is there any rational, sober person who honestly thinks this method is better, easier to learn, and/or more efficient than the so-called traditional method?  The academics who came up with that have been out of 3rd grade too long.  Mrs. Barton would look down her nose at that method--and continue to teach students as she always had, which was effectively.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pedagogy, or Competence?

Yesterday I reread an article that our principal sent out to us months ago.  Perhaps I didn't read it all the way through the first time because I missed a whopper--let me tell you about it.

It was written by a Maryland math teacher in the throes of a Core-gasm.  Before the Core her life was an empty desert, a Rub al-Khali, but now her life is Core-tastic.  Core, core, core.  I was doing fine with her story until she got to this one part--and I about blew a gasket:
As an instigator of thought, I try to ask the right question—one that enables unsure teenagers to progress to the next level of learning. I've learned to use "hook questions" to engage students' curiosity and encourage inquiry in math.

A hook question has no one right answer. It doesn't even have to be something to which you know the answer. A good hook question encourages students to become investigators and to seek the answer from outside resources—textbooks, the Internet, even their communities. This open-endedness might also lead students to use several of the Common Core's practice standards, such as, make sense of problems (Standard 1) or look for and make use of structure (Standard 7).

For example, as students learn how to solve inequalities, we tell them that if you multiply or divide by a negative number, you have to flip the sign of the inequality. As I explained this rule, one of my students asked, "Why?" As I thought about it, I realized I wasn't sure. I could show this rule with an example, but I couldn't explain why it existed.

I made discovering the answer to this question students' homework for the night and challenged them to find the answer before me.
Are you kidding me?  This teacher doesn't know enough basic math to be in a classroom.  This teacher is incompetent.

I don't need students to spend an evening "researching" this.  What a waste of time!  I could explain and demonstrate why this is so in a minute or two.  Students will "get it" and we can move on without the false glory of having students pretend they've discovered some ancient truth that's been hidden for millenia.  Seriously, that problem is barely more difficult than the concept of "borrowing" in subtraction (another skill and algorithm that's being cast aside by many who worship at the Altar of the Core).

I get that California has adopted new content standards, the Common Core.  What I don't accept is when people tell me that those new standards will require me to fundamentally change the way I teach.  How do they know?  Do my students do poorly now?  How do they know I'm not getting my students to think deeply on topics, or to persevere, or to attend to precision?  Why would anyone possibly think I'm not already doing those things?

I'll tell you why.  Because there are teachers like the incompetent I quoted above--and because she exists, all math teachers must be bad like her.  We can throw out the bath water of our old content standards, but there's no reason to throw out the baby of good teaching just because some woman in Maryland doesn't understand the simplest of math concepts.  It would be different altogether if she had forgotten, for example, how to manipulate a sine curve with a phase shift, but the level of her lack of knowledge is, quite simply, an embarrassment.  It's unforgivable. 

She thinks she's done some great and wonderful thing by having her students spend a bunch of time figuring out what she could and should have taught them in a minute or so if she were at all competent.  "The Core" may be necessary for her professional growth, but I seem to know a bit more math than she does--and in addition I also know how to transmit that knowledge to students.

Teachers who revel in their own ignorance, who try to spin virtue out of vice?  I can do without them and their ideas, thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Schools Will Essentially Not Be Evaluated For Two Years

Because of Common Core implementation:
With federal approval finally in hand to give a Common Core-aligned practice test this spring, the State Board of Education took the inevitable next step this week. It suspended the Academic Performance Index, the chief measure of schools’ academic growth or progress, for this year and next.

A reconstituted API will resume in 2015-16, incorporating results from the Smarter Balanced assessments, the new Common Core tests for English language arts and math that will be given to students in grades 3 to 8 and grade 11.
How can you "grade" a high school when you test only its juniors?  How can you pinpoint where the problems are?  How are we to use the data to fix issues if we don't know about a problem until late in junior year or early in senior year?  I'm not saying we do a lot with the data we get now, but we'll be able to do even less under the new regime. 

And we'll be able to do nothing for the next two years, except to jigger the numbers around to make California's education system not look as bad as it is.

Clearly This Is A Racist Political Lie

That's pretty much what an O-bot says when confronted with truth, fact, and evidence:
Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past. 
Cut to video of "if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor", "bending the cost curve", and similar lies.

Ah, the wages of socialism.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

President Obama Is A Disgrace

Hugh Hewitt is right on this one:
By dint of legislative debacles at home and listless incoherence abroad, the Obama administration has decreased human freedom in every sphere it has entered. Five years into his presidency, Barack Obama presides over the most pronounced declination of individual freedom at home and abroad in the post-world war period.
Read his rationale here.

Jailing People For Their Beliefs

This is why you don't want university professors in charge of anything (including the executive branch of the government!):
An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.

The professor is Lawrence Torcello. Last week, he published a 900-word-plus essay at an academic website called The Conversation.

His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a “campaign funding misinformation.” Such a campaign, he argues, “ought to be considered criminally negligent.”

Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, explains that there are times when criminal negligence and “science misinformation” must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says, is one of those times...

As such, Torcello wants governments to make “the funding of climate denial” a crime.
Which is more harmful to people, climate change or communism/socialism? If we’re going to imprison people for their beliefs, you know which group I’d go after.

I Don't Want To Hear Anything From These Crybabies

They have the highest fees in the UC system?  Screw 'em:
Among the nine University of California undergraduate campuses, UC Davis charges the highest student fees, largely to support its emerging Division I athletics program and amenities like a state-of-the-art recreation center and upgraded coffee house.

The $1,703.66 UCD charges for the current school year is more than triple the lowest campus fee of $504.91 at UCLA, though that school has an additional one-time document fee of $165 for freshmen. The individual campus fees come on top of the systemwide $12,192 tuition set by UC regents.

Fees at other campuses range from $671.50 at UC Berkeley – plus a freshman-year document fee of $344 – to $1,554.48 at UC Santa Barbara, the closest to UC Davis. 
UC Davis is the school at which the students recently voted to increase their fees to pay for a school newspaper that is valued so little by students that it couldn't survive without a mandatory fee.  In that regard it's kind of like the California Teachers Association :-)

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/16/6240782/uc-davis-student-fees-are-highest.html#storylink=cpy

The Race-Hustling Democratic Party Will Always Be A Circular Firing Squad

Attempts to backtrack on California's (relative) ban on affirmative action in university admissions are themselves being backtracked--by fellow members of the firing squad:
California voters will not be asked this year to decide whether to roll back California’s ban on racial preferences in college admissions, a decision the Legislature reached Monday after weeks of intense advocacy from Asian Americans who argued that a repeal would hurt their children’s prospects for getting into the most competitive public campuses.

In email blasts to voters, news releases in Asian-language media and town-hall meetings up and down the state, the 80-20 National Asian American PAC mounted a campaign that targeted Asian American legislators and urged Asian American Democrats to re-register as Republicans in an effort to halt the measure known as Senate Constitutional Amendment 5.
Can't lose them to Republicans, can we?

Here's the issue:
The racial makeup of California’s most prestigious university campuses has been a political flashpoint for decades. When voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996, African Americans made up 7.1 percent of students admitted to UC Berkeley, and Asian Americans were 32.1 percent, UC statistics show. By last year, African Americans had dropped to 4 percent of Berkeley’s admissions, while Asian Americans had increased to 42.3 percent.
If that's the "problem", the solution is still not affirmative action as it's been practiced in this country for decades.  There are other, less constitutionally-suspect ways of adjusting those numbers than by judging people by the color of their skin.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/17/6245623/california-lawmakers-shelve-effort.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/17/6245623/california-lawmakers-shelve-effort.html#storylink=cpy

Who Is The Hater In This Story?


A "diversity happy hour" was canceled at a Washington state community college, when the emailed invitation said white people were not welcome. “White folks” were urged to meet separately to “work on racism, white supremacy and white privilege.”

The program coordinator at South Puget Sound Community College’s Diversity & Equity Center, Karama Blackhorn, who helped write the email, said the center “is not for white people. That space is for people of color.”
There so much wrong in this story--and it's not with "white folks".   What's even more interesting than the obvious racism is the fact that this person feels completely free to publish such beliefs without any fear of any social opprobrium.  That's the real story here.

Somehow I don't think Dr. King would be proud.

Monday, March 17, 2014

This Weekend's Viewing

Season 3 of Game of Thrones came in.  Since it's only 10 episodes long, I'm 30% of the way through the season.  I'll watch a couple episodes per weekend for the next few weekends.  Can't wait to see the Red Wedding!

Last week or so I bought a 2-dvd set, Braveheart and Gladiator.  I've seen the former so I watched the latter.  To be honest, it didn't do much for me--and I'm a big fan of Roman history.  I look forward to watching Braveheart again.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Teenagers Can't Get Up Early?

I hear that statement bandied around quite a bit, that teenagers are naturally wired to sleep later and wake up later.  It doesn't make evolutionary sense to me, though, so I keep asking "why?"  Obviously this comes up whenever a later start time for school is brought up.

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to the argument.  On long breaks away from school my natural sleeping time is 2am-10am.  What's odd is that that time holds no matter what time zone I'm in or whether it's Standard Time (Christmas break) or Daylight Savings Time (summer break).  However, I wonder if teens in other parts of the world experience this "sleeping later" phenomenon, or if they experienced it before we invented adolescence early last century.  How does the army, which has lots of teenagers, deal with this when, for those of us old enough to remember, the army does "more before 9 am than most people do all day".

I'm just curious if this is pop psychology with the veneer of science or if it's real--and if it's real, how is it dealt with in other cultures.

The argument was successful in Houston:
Jilly Dos Santos really did try to get to school on time. She set three successive alarms on her phone. 

Skipped breakfast. Hastily applied makeup while her fuming father drove. But last year she rarely made it into the frantic scrum at the doors of Rock Bridge High School by the first bell, at 7:50 a.m.     

Then she heard that the school board was about to make the day start even earlier, at 7:20 a.m.    “I thought, if that happens, I will die,” recalled Dos Santos, 17.     

That was when the sleep-deprived teenager turned into a sleep activist. She was determined to convince the board of a truth she knew in the core of her tired, lanky body: Teenagers are developmentally driven to be late to bed, late to rise. Could the board realign the first bell with that biological reality? 
How can one not adjust circadian rhythms a couple hours?  Get tired enough and you'll go to sleep at 9 pm and get up at 6--plenty of sleep, and plenty of time to get ready in the morning.  I'll be honest, I sometimes wonder if this "can't get up in the morning" thing isn't just an excuse--and remember, this comes from someone who is not a morning person.
Last February, the school board in Columbia voted, 6-1, to push back the high school start time to 9 a.m. “Jilly kicked it over the edge for us,” said Chris Belcher, the superintendent.    
It is now seven months into the new normal. At Rock Bridge, the later end to the day, at 4:05 p.m., is problematic for some, including athletes who often miss the last period to make their away games.     

The high schools in the district have tried to adjust, for example by adding Wi-Fi access to buses so athletes can do homework on the road. Some classes meet only one or two days a week, and are supplemented with online instruction. More sports practices and clubs convene before school.     

Some parents and first-period teachers are seeing a payoff in students who are more rested and alert. 
If you can get to school early for sports and clubs, why not for class?  I remain skeptical.  For the third time, this comes from someone who wouldn't mind getting up later, but who also sees more problems with this supposed "solution".

I've written on this subject at least twice before

Hat tip to reader MikeAT.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Getting My Geek On

In a previous post I mentioned the shirts our math department got for Pi Day.  Today I ordered a t-shirt I could wear if I decide to attend the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas this summer.

I received an original series-style science/blue polo shirt for Christmas.  I'll have 2 shirts for the convention :-)

I'd love one of these, but that's just way too much money.

Maybe It's Not The Patriarchy After All

Short of compelling women to opt for STEM majors, perhaps we should let freedom ring and allow people to make their own choices:
The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard, has been examining why so few women major in her field . The majority of new college grads are female, yet women receive only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics each year.

Goldin looked at how grades awarded in an introductory economics class affected the chance that a student would ultimately major in the subject. She found that the likelihood a woman would major in economics dropped steadily as her grade fell: Women who received a B in Econ 101, for example, were about half as likely as women who received A’s to stick with the discipline. The same discouragement gradient didn’t exist for men. Of Econ 101 students, men who received A’s were about equally as likely as men who received B’s to concentrate in the dismal science.

Another research project, led by Peter Arcidiacono at Duke University, is finding similar trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics...

“Maybe women just don’t want to get things wrong,” Goldin hypothesized. “They don’t want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say ‘You’re doing so well!’ ”

“Guys,” she added, “don’t seem to give two damns.”
Why are we still concerning ourselves with women, college, and their degrees?  What is this, the 1960's?  The world's changed a bit, and if there's any trouble out there,  the trouble is that not enough men are attending universities anymore, and this will have profound social impacts.  The trouble starts well before college level, with boys having significantly more problems, both academic and social, in our K-12 schools.  Everyone knows this but it's not really politically correct to discuss it.  Rather than worry about that we'll worry about why women don't want to major in economics.  For some reason it's easier to hand-wring about that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Relatively Clean, Safe, Inexpensive Nuclear Power

If you truly think fossil fuels are "bad" and we shouldn't use them, then you must support the use of nuclear energy:
In the three years since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan has tried to replace nuclear energy with fossil fuels. But the costs have proved prohibitive, and now the government is convinced it must turn its reactors back on.

Prior to the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns, Japan was a nuclear powerhouse. In 2010, its 54 reactors generated 31 percent of the island nation’s electricity and 10 percent of the world’s nuclear power.

After the disaster, the government ordered all reactors to be shut down for stress testing to determine whether they could survive extreme events, and only two have since been restarted. In 2012, the prime minister said Japan would phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030...

Because of this, the cost of power generation in 2012 was $30 billion higher than it was in 2010—a 41 percent jump, according to a report by the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan.

Burning more fossil fuels also means more carbon dioxide emissions. The increase seen in Japan since the Fukushima disaster has been the largest in 20 years. In 2012, Japan’s emissions were up by 6 percent over the previous year.
If you were cheering when Japan shut down its nuclear reactors, you were cheering the rape of Mother Earth.

Pi Day

Yesterday we math teachers got our geek on.

We had a staff meeting yesterday; each month one department volunteers to bring snacks to the meeting, and math volunteered for March.  We wore special shirts and brought more pie than you can imagine--berry, peach, apple, chocolate, banana, etc.

It went over quite well :-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remember, Voter Fraud Is A "Myth"

That's what the lefties will tell you while railing against voter ID.  How might this have happened, then?
In what is one of the most bizarre cases I’ve heard in weeks, a Michigan woman was found mummified in her garage – six years after she actually died. Because she lived by herself, traveled a lot, paid her bills automatically and picked up her mail at the post office, neighbors just assumed she was out of town and took care of her yard for her.

In the most recent development, however, it seems that this woman, whom officials are certain died in winter of 2008, “voted” in Michigan’s 2010 gubernatorial election...
I'm sure it was just a typo.

Update, 3/14/14:  Another voter fraud problem, this time in Florida:
WBBH TV in Ft. Myers, Florida has performed a public service with its investigative reporting documenting non-US citizens voting regularly in local elections.
Democrats can't win without voter fraud. 

You think I'm a racist because I want people to show ID to prove they're eligible to vote?  Nelson Mandela wouldn't agree with you:

Most Teachers Are Not In Unions

From the Education Intelligence Agency, the go-to place for information about teachers unions (among other things):
Union Share of Teacher Workforce at Historic Low. Last week we examined how teacher unions stand in relation to the rest of the labor movement. As the number of union members overall continued its decades-long decline, teacher unions were able to add members for many years, and so became the predominant sector of organized labor.

But how have the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers fared in relation to the teaching workforce? Was teacher union growth a function of organizational effort, or simply the expansion of the teaching population? Thanks to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unionstats.com, we have an answer.

BLS began tracking union data in 1983. That year there were more than 2.6 million people employed as primary, secondary and special education teachers in both public and private schools. More than 1.5 million of them were union members, for a unionization rate of 57.5 percent.

By 1995 there were 600,000 more teachers, but the unionization rate was virtually identical. In the 18 years since, the rate has never approached that height again.

In fact, while America’s schools added almost a million and a quarter new teachers, teachers’ unions added fewer than 345,000 new members, for a rate of 27.8 percent.
The graphic in the linked article is impressive.

Since anyone who wants to *can* be in a union, why are so many teachers choosing not to be? Interesting question.  U-bots, any ideas? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Those Whom Affirmative Action Hurts

Without affirmative action, California's universities would have significantly more Asians than they do now.  More affirmative action, even few Asians.  Some aren't happy about that:
Asians in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond joined forces Friday to rally against a proposed Senate constitutional amendment that they said would punish their children for working hard to achieve the American Dream.

Olivia Liao, president of the Joint Chinese University Alumni Association, said Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 is racist because it allows public education institutions to give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

“(Legislators) feel like the Chinese-American community isn’t paying attention to politics,” Liao said. “We are concerned citizens. We need to stand up when things are not right; we need to be heard. We shouldn’t have any (exceptions) related to race. After all, America is a free country.”

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, is sponsoring SCA 5, an amendment that would repeal portions of Proposition 209, which prohibited discrimination against people based on their unchangeable identities. If passed, the amendment would allow public education institutions to give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.
In California we don't seem to like people who actually work hard in school.

Monday, March 10, 2014

More Media Bias

I don't watch CBS News.  I liked Cronkite but wasn't old enough to notice his bias; I stopped watching CBS during the Dan Rather era, when I was old enough to notice his bias.  Oh, and I don't like their title/theme music, either.  When I do watch TV news I watch ABC, keeping my bias detector on full, of course.

So I don't know who Sharyl Attkisson is.  Is she a big name, or a relative nobody?  After twenty years she must be a somebody.  I don't know for sure, but she's big enough to merit a story at Politico, which I never tire of pointing out is most assuredly not a conservative news site:
CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has reached an agreement to resign from CBS News ahead of contract, bringing an end to months of hard-fought negotiations, sources familiar with her departure told POLITICO on Monday.

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.
She felt stonewalled trying to get information, so the network doubts her "impartiality".  I don't think reporters should be impartial, they should be skeptical.  That's the entire, and I'd assert perhaps the only, reason for protecting press freedom in the First Amendment.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

So-called Smart Diplomacy

Do I need to point out, again, how unprepared this idiot is to be president, even after holding the job for 5 years?
On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so...

It was a remarkably transparent case of pretending the world is what we wish it to be, rather than seeing it as it is.

On February 28, Russian troops poured into Ukraine. As they did, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. Kerry briefed reporters after their talk, plainly unaware of the developments on the ground. Kerry said that Russia wants to help Ukraine with its economic problems. Lavrov had told him “that they are prepared to be engaged and be involved in helping to deal with the economic transition that needs to take place at this point.”

Hours later, television screens across the world displayed images of Russian soldiers infiltrating Crimea and Russian artillery rolling through Sevastopol. Obama administration officials told CNN’s Barbara Starr that the incursion was not “an invasion” but an “uncontested arrival” and that this distinction was “key” to understanding the new developments.

But euphemism can’t alter reality.
Not everyone in the world is a Democrat and hangs slavishly on your every word and view, Barack.

When Labor Unions Sound Like Republicans, You Know That Obamacare Isn't Working "Like It's Supposed To"

Recently the president said that his signature legislative achievement is working just like it's supposed to.  Is there anyone who really believes that?  Increasingly, our (Democratic) labor unions don't:
A new labor union research report offers a scathing indictment of how Obamacare affects middle-class workers. The report features a series of arguments that conservatives have long made about the law, right down to mentioning the language of "unintended consequences."

Jon Ralston has the report. "Ironically, the administration's own signature healthcare victory poses one of the most immediate challenges to redressing inequality," says Unite Here, which is comprised of service workers. "Yes, the Affordable Care Act will help many more Americans gain some health insurance coverage, a significant step forward for equality. At the same time, without smart fixes, the ACA threatens the middle class with higher premiums, loss of hours, and a shift to part-time work and less comprehensive coverage."

It's a criticism that could have been written by any Republican -- in fact, Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., wrote the same thing in a Politico op-ed last month...

The union and Obama are also at odds on the matter of whether Obamacare will cause businesses to cut their employees' weekly hours below 30 to avoid the law's mandates.
Remember, not a single Republican voted for this law.  And remember that the next time Democrats talk about the importance of bipartisanship--which they will the next time Republicans run the entire show.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Criminal Negligence

It's not too hard to find out where I teach, if you're so inclined to learn.  Over the years some commenters have named the school or the district; while I don't try to keep my employer a secret, I don't think I should make it as easy as possible for miscreants, for example, to know.  It's the same reason I don't identify where I live, either!

In this post, though, I identify my employer.  And I suggest they might be guilty of criminal negligence.  And no, I'm not being hyperbolic.  I'm being serious.

It all started last September.  A couple of teachers at our school started receiving bills for credit cards for which they didn't apply--yes, identity theft.  It took a lot of time to correct the issue but at least they weren't under any threat of having to pay the fraudulent bills, which totaled thousands of dollars.  The stores involved--and they were the same stores--didn't seem overly interested in catching the identity thiefs, merely in clearing up the accounts of these two teachers.

But then one of the teachers heard from a friend at another school.  The same thing had happened there.  That's too much of a coincidence.  Somehow, some information must have gotten out of the district.  These criminals were establishing credit using fake drivers licenses and social security cards--that had the SSNs of these teachers.

In about the 2nd week of October, we got more word that more teachers' identities had been stolen.  About the 2nd week of November, more.  This kept up.

Early on some of our teachers notified the district and told them what was going on. The most positive spin you could put on the district's reply was "dismissive".  My identity wasn't stolen but I was active in getting information about these identity thefts because I didn't want mine stolen, and if it was, I wanted to be able to react immediately.  So I received the email that the district sent out to those who notified them, and it was bad.  I wish I'd kept that email so I could quote it verbatim, but I didn't so we'll have to go with my best-shot-from-memory:
We don't have any evidence that there has been any leak of information from the district office.  It's possible that criminals have gone to our school web sites, gotten lists of teachers from there, and then gone to sites like spokeo.com (seriously, they idenfied this one site) and gotten personal information from there.
Occam's Razor says that isn't what happened, especially since sites like spokeo and Intellius and the like require payment.  And I doubt those sites provide social security numbers, which the thieves had, even behind the paywall!  But that was the district's story, and they were going to stick with it.  They continued to stick with the "spokeo"* excuse and would not budge.  To be so cavalier, in the face of mounting evidence each month, about the potential loss of sensitive information about employees is more than just shameful.  It's negligent.

In the perfect world of the lefties, this is exactly the kind of situation that a union should be good for.  However, our local union was seemingly useless.  Yes, they asked members to notify them if their identities got stolen, but none of us has seen any evidence that the union pushed the district at all to find out why or how more and more teachers--and I've heard only of teachers--kept getting fraudulent credit card bills about 2 weeks after payday.

From both the union and the district, the messaged seemed to be "nothing to see here, please move along."

I cannot find any news links, but here's what I've heard--fairly recently, a woman went into a very-high-end bike store and tried to buy about $5000 of new bikes and equipment on new credit.  She apparently knew nothing about bikes.  The store employee recognized this as having happened recently at another store, where it was a case of identity theft, and the employee notified the police.  When the police showed up, two men in the parking lot darted and the woman was caught.

This led to a search of a house located within the boundaries of my school district.  A search of computer files there led over 350 miles away, to Southern California:
FBI agents who executed two search warrants -- one in the Sacramento area and another in Southern California -- have identified about 23,000 compromised American Express accounts, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court Thursday.

The complaint suggests Mihran Melkonyan and Rouslan Akhmerov conspired to defraud American Express by establishing a fraudulent business, obtaining victim AmEx credit card information, and using the illegally obtained credit card details to bill American Express...

At an address in Southern California, among other things, the FBI found 50 academic reports from the San Juan Unified School District, the complaint said.
"Academic" reports?    You can probably guess what I'm thinking about whether or not these were "academic reports".

*Incidentally, I tried to pull myself up on spokeo.com.  I typed in my name and city, and what information they show for free--remember, it's a pay site--was wrong about me.  They even had me living on the wrong street, unless there's another Darren Miller in my area on that street.

Update, 3/10/14:  More information is on the district's web site today:
It’s unclear whether the documents in question relate to student, parent, employee or vendor personal information.

The matter was first brought to the attention of the District on March 6 when contacted by KCRA 3. In response the District is: 

  • Reaching out to the FBI and requesting additional information to identify the specific documents in question so the District can notify those impacted and determine how the documents might have made their way to the Southern California home; 
  • Reviewing the criminal report provided by KCRA 3 and checking all names, addresses and phone numbers for connections with students, parents, employees, or vendors; 
  • Notifying our community of the reported breach via messages on our Web site, employee intranet and upcoming e-newsletters. 
  • Committing to keeping our community informed of any developments and notifying those whose information may have been contained in the documents as that information is known.
If "[t]he matter" being referred to is just the documents in Southern California, it's probably true that the district didn't know about this until March 6th.  However, further on in the linked piece they discuss identity theft, and it's absolutely not true that the district was in the dark about that subject before March 6th (I wish I'd kept their dismissive email saying thieves could get our personal information, presumably even SSNs, from spokeo.com).  As I've said, we at my site were questioning the district back in the early fall about potential identity thefts.  They did less than nothing.

If it turns out that employee information has left the district, and they repeatedly denied that it had and refused to accept even the possibility, then heads should roll.

Update #2, 3/12/14:  Here's a snip from the email I mentioned:
Please be assured that the District shares your concern regarding identity theft and we have spoken to Bob Erickson from Safe Schools to facilitate the Sac County sheriff¹s office opening an investigation to look for links.

We know of no breaches of security within our employee database.  When speaking to Bob Erickson, he indicates that  once a list of employees is known (this comes from our external website so that parents can contact teachers),  ID thieves can go to a simple website such as spokeo.com and find out tremendous amounts of personal information.  Please keep in mind that the District is not the only organization that holds personalinformation.
It's not us, it's the evil spokeo!  Will spokeo, which doesn't even have my address correct, provide my social security number?  Because all the false credit that was established was done by criminals who had teachers' social security numbers.

I think things are going to get a lot hotter at the district office before they cool down over this topic.