Saturday, May 31, 2014


Within the next couple hours I'm
1) missing my end-of-the-year staff party to attend
2) a friend's housewarming and
3) my niece's graduation party.

Tomorrow is my son's graduation party, and Monday is his graduation.  I'm working Monday morning, too!

I have all that to look forward to in the next 50 hours.  Holy crap!

Friday, May 30, 2014

What's Nanny's Angle?

Nanny Bloomberg, who doesn't think you should be allowed to buy a Big Gulp, had these seemingly conservative comments to say at Harvard's graduation:
He added, "If you want the freedom to worship as you wish, to speak as you wish, and to marry whom you wish, you must tolerate my freedom to do so -- or not do so -- too. What I do may offend you. You may find my actions immoral or unjust. But attempting to restrict my freedoms in ways that you would not restrict your own leads only to injustice."

Bloomberg compared the intolerance of ideas prevalent in the country today to "McCarthy's Red Scare" in the 1950s and its destruction of thousands of lives. In the 2012 presidential race, he said, the overwhelming majority of campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty went to Barack Obama.

"Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species," he said.

After the speech, Sarah Surrain, who completed her master's degree in education, said Bloomberg was bold to criticize universities as too liberal.

"I thought it was really thoughtful," she said of the speech. "It was nice that it wasn't just platitudes."

Harvard Law School graduate Jared Nicholson said the speech was "a great message ... about tolerance of different ideas and diversity of opinions."

Greg Silverberg, an engineering school graduate, said he welcomed the former mayor's viewpoint.
I hope there were some platitudes in there, that it had something more than that for the students to digest.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Many times in the last several years I've enjoyed a meal with my graduating seniors.  We'd pick a date and meet at a nearby Mongolian Barbecue restaurant--we'd eat, socialize, and have a good time.

Problem was, the restaurant I chose was rather small.  When 10 people would walk in at once they'd kind of freak out.  It didn't seem like a very welcoming place.  We kept going back, though, year after year, because I like the food there.

But this year I decided to try a different restaurant.  We also did a late lunch instead of dinner, which cut the cost slightly.  The restaurant I chose was somewhat larger and has a better selection of foods in addition to Mongolian Barbecue (and it's on my way home!).

It turns out that the best time to do this was today, at 2pm (don't ask).  So a couple days ago I stopped by the restaurant and told them that on Thursday at 2 I'd be coming in with maybe 20 people; I had no idea how many of my seniors could, or would be interested in, having lunch with me, but I thought 20 would probably be a good number.  I wanted to make sure the restaurant would have sufficient food available at the buffet counter at 2pm!  The lady there seemed incredulous that I'd bring that many people at once, but she dutifully noted it and said she'd ensure it happened on their end.  For my part I promised to call at noon on Thursday and confirm we were still coming.

Someone counted today, there were about 35 seniors there (and my one foreign exchange student, a junior), and we took up about 2/3 of the restaurant.  I was amazed that I had a class-ful of students and yet the sound volume was so low, certainly much lower than my 5th period's :-)

I'm privileged to get to work with so many neat kids.  They're polite, they're friendly, they're kind, and they're capable.  It was fun sharing a lunch with them.

UC Davis Student Newspaper To Return To Print

I wrote about this earlier this year--the UC Davis paper was going broke and was going to have to close up shop unless students were charged an additional fee, and Davis already has the highest fees in the UC system.

Well, it seems like a little capitalism is going to revive the paper:
Two months after going out of print, the UC Davis student newspaper appears to be making a comeback.

The California Aggie is poised to sign a deal with the Vacaville Reporter, which would print the Aggie in exchange for the right to sell advertising.

Vacaville Reporter Publisher Jim Gleim said he believes the venture could be profitable for his company, Digital First Media, but added that the partnership was driven by his “affinity for college publications.”

“We have a sales organization already in the field. That’s been an obvious problem for the college paper,” Gleim said, referring to the Aggie’s staggering decline in advertising revenue over the past decade, which ultimately led to its collapse.
Good for the Vacaville Reporter and whoever put this deal together.   I was wondering, though, if the increased fee students voted for in February was going to be rescinded now that the paper has a funding stream, but then I read this:
An attempt to impose a student fee of $11.64 to support the publication passed in February with nearly 73 percent of the vote. But the result was quickly invalidated by a student court, citing election irregularities.
Can't say I'm shocked by "voting irregularities", of course, but that's another story.

Universities, the Administration, and Sex Crimes

It's hard to argue with this lady:
Rape is a horrific crime one wishes could be wiped  from the face of the world. If there is a way to prevent rape, by all means we should be discussing it and acting on solutions.

That said, what’s horrible about Vice President Biden’s statement is that it’s so cravenly political in its calculation, and worse, insulting.

Reading the report, you discover the administration has no real interest in even discussing what could be done to prevent rape.  That’s right, the entire effort is focused on managing what comes after a rape.  I don’t know about you, but what I’d much prefer is not being raped.  While I’d want justice and removal of the thug from the street, what I’d really want was for it to have not happened.  Effective initiatives would reduce rapes rather than merely attempt to make the process afterwards run a little more smoothly.

Instead, we get more fear mongering by the administration that is meant to make women feel alone and afraid.  Female empowerment is the last goal of this initiative.

The Democrats continue to focus on the management of tragedy instead of creating a world with less tragedy.  The University system has not proved effective at preventing rape and likely it’s not capable of doing so. Their core competency should be education not criminal justice. Universities are proving their lack of seriousness daily about providing a classical education, yet we expect them to take a role in crime prevention?

Not A Big Deal?

If a Republican were in office this would be a big deal.
Revised numbers released Thursday show the economy shrank in the first quarter, marking the first downturn since early 2011. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic growth, fell at a 1% annual pace, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

More Thoughts On So-called White Privilege

From a comment on a post at Inside Higher Ed:
Yes, but if I would pose statistics in a different way you would not buy into a race motive for a moment. For instance:
1. White men have the highest suicide rate of all groups.
2. Black women live longer than White men and have for the larger part of the twentieth century.
3. White women have the longest life expectancy of any group.

Do these facts prove prejudice or societal oppression against White men, Black female privilege, or White female privilege? If you follow the news, women are an oppressed group routinely left out of medical studies, suffering prejudice at the hands of White male doctors.

Academic's response to 1: They usually argue that White men tend to be loners, unlike minorities who are community or group oriented. Hence, they don't have emotional support when depressed. The blame is on "White" culture. Try blaming Black culture for poor school performance!
Academic's response to 2 & 3: They argue its genetics. Of course, try arguing that White male dominance in science, computing, and math is genetics.

This is why White Privilege is an empty concept, too generalized, simplistic, bordering on superstition. It only explains what partisans want it to.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Finding Air France--Call In The Statisticians

Having taken some recent courses in statistics I can better understand this article about finding the Air France airliner two years after it crashed into the Atlantic.  Bayesian inference, prior distribution, posterior distribution--I get these!  Yes, you can understand their meaning in context, but I understand the math behind them and it makes this article even more interesting:
In the case of Air France Flight 447, the underlying distribution was the probability of finding the wreckage at a given location. That depended on a number of factors such as the last GPS location transmitted by the plane, how far the aircraft might have traveled after that and also the location of dead bodies found on the surface once their rate of drift in the water had been taken into account.

All of this is what statisticians call the “prior.” It gives a certain probability distribution for the location of the wreckage.

However, a number of searches that relied on this information had failed to find the wreckage. So the question that Stone and co had to answer was how this evidence should be used to modify the probability distribution.

This is what statisticians call the posterior distribution. To calculate it, Stone and co had to take into account the failure of four different searches after the plane went down. The first was the failure to find debris or bodies for six days after the plane went missing in June 2009; then there was the failure of acoustic searches in July 2009 to detect the pings from underwater locator beacons on the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder; next, another search in August 2009 failed to find anything using side-scanning sonar; and finally, there was another unsuccessful search using side-scanning sonar in April and May 2010.
Way cool.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy Anniversary

27 years ago today my class graduated from West Point. It was a BFD (big freakin' day!).

Union Hyprocrisy

Will union members ever tire of the hypocrisy shown by their unions?  Watch how unions treat their staff unions during labor negotiations and strikes--they do the very same things they decry when used against their own members!  How about how unions treat paid, non-union picketers (the ones outside the Las Vegas Walmart were my favorites).  And now this:
The Michigan Education Association has been an outspoken critic of school districts that privatize custodial services to save money.

Yet, the MEA contracts out work with non-union companies for its own janitorial services. The state's largest teachers union had contracts with six companies in 2012-13, according to financial reports it filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The MEA paid a total of $155,623 for janitorial services in 2012-13, the records show. The MEA paid the companies between $5,500 to $86,112. Michigan Capitol Confidential confirmed that the companies are not unionized.

The MEA did not respond to a request seeking comment.
I don't fault the union for getting the lowest price. I fault them for thinking that they, and no one else, should.

It's A Stupid Law

He’s breaking the law.

But it’s a stupid law. 

But there are lots of stupid laws!  Any time I hear about “taxi medallions” I think, “stupid law”.  Limiting access to services, unnecessarily driving up prices for consumers.

What's the appropriate response?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Today Is Not My Day

I have been neither killed nor wounded in battle.  Today is not my day.  My day comes on November 11th.  Today is for those who paid too much.

I flew my flag, wore an Army Strong t-shirt, and watched Hamburger Hill, which came out barely a dozen years after Saigon fell.

Today is Memorial Day, it seemed fitting that I should do those things.

I've Been Saying This For Years

Hybrids won't save you much money, not even at the gas pump.  First, they're so expensive that you're essentially paying up front for the gas that you save, and second, if there were too many high-mileage cars out on the road, the government would rake in less in gas taxes.  The suits don't care about the first problem, because that's your problem.  The second one, though... :
The rise in both the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks and the popularity of hybrid vehicles threatens to eventually undermine the effectiveness of the gas tax, some transportation officials and lawmakers fear, forcing them to search for novel ways to pay for the escalating cost of caring for the state’s roads and bridges.

One Republican lawmaker has proposed an additional registration fee for fully electric vehicles. Some officials suggest looking at charging all motorists per mile traveled; others say more tolls are the answer.

They all contend that with revenue from the gas tax expected to taper off in coming decades, it’s time to end the free ride for some motorists.

“That person who switches to an all-electronic vehicle, they’re paying nothing for the benefit of the upkeep, maintenance, and filling of potholes on the roads,” said Representative Bradley H. Jones, who earlier this month unsuccessfully pushed an amendment for the new registration fee. “The issue is really one of equity.”
"(N)ovel ways to pay for" means "new taxes".  And Mr. Jones is saying that you Prius drivers aren't saving the environment, you're cheating the government out of its fair share of your money.

Bottom line is, whether you have a carbon-spewing internal combustion engine or an ecologically-friendly electric, you're going to pay.  How, then, should you make your decision when buying a car?

We've got to pay for this, too, if it's as good as the video says it is.

Update, 6/3/14: They're making progress:
The concept of using roads as solar cells seems like a great idea until you start considering all of the damage that streets regularly have to handle. From freezing water to overloaded vehicles, the nation's highways take a lot of punishment. However, that isn't stopping Solar Roadways from refining its concept for a sun-powered surface that you can drive on. ​It's latest big step is raising over $1.5 million in a crowdfunding campaign on the website Indiegogo that ends on May 31. We think the energetic solar freakin' roadway video (available below) had more than a little to do with attracting attention to the project.

When Your Party Relies On Cheating At The Ballot Box...

Our entire system of government hinges on the consent of the governed, and election fraud throws that out the window:
It is an article of faith on the Left that voter fraud does not exist beyond the imaginations of racist right-wingers, hellbent on imposing "unconstitutional" voter ID laws fashioned to "suppress" minority turnout in elections. These objections are race-baiting nonsense; they're unsupported by both empirical evidence and Supreme Court precedent. The high court upheld Indiana's law in a 6-3 decision in 2008. The ruling was authored by uber-liberal Justice John Paul Stevens. And after Georgia implemented its own law in 2007 (which survived a legal challenge), minority voter participation increasedin the next two election cycles. ABC News has called voter fraud a "rare but real" phenomenon, evidenced by a number of relatively high-profile convictions in recent years. Congress defunded the left-wing group ACORN (for whom Barack Obama once organized) over widespread voter registration fraud and other outrages. The watchdog group True the Vote -- whose founder's businesses and family have been harassed by the IRS and other federal agencies -- documents voter fraud prosecutions in 46 states since 2000. Which brings us to a report that aired earlier this month on NBC's local affiliate in Ft. Myers, Florida. WBBH-TV reporter Andy Pierrotti managed to track down dozens of local residents who were (a) both non-US citizens and (b) registered to vote in the swing state. Many of them had illegally voted in recent elections. Here's the full report, followed by some analysis...
My guess is that these criminals are not voting Republican.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remember When Universities Were Supposed To Be Centers of Thought, Discussion, Disagreement, and Learning To Act Like An Adult?

I don't, either, but I've read that at one time that was kind of the idea!  The following two articles, though, show what too much of higher education is like today.

In light of the rush to invite and then disinvite graduation speakers, I like this one:
Members of the Class of 2014, I salute you. My warmest wishes on the occasion of your graduation from this fine institution.

And, before I go any further, I would like to express my personal thanks to all of you for not rescinding my invitation...

In my day, the college campus was a place that celebrated the diversity of ideas...

Your generation, I am pleased to say, seems to be doing away with all that. There’s no need for the ritual give and take of serious argument when, in your early 20s, you already know the answers to all questions. How marvelous it must be to realize at so tender an age that you will never, ever change your mind, because you will never, ever encounter disagreement! How I wish I’d had your confidence and fortitude. I could have spared myself many hours of patient reflection and intellectual struggle over the great issues of the day.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are graduating into a world of enormous complexity and conflict. There are corners of the globe where violence and war and abject oppression still dominate. Capitalism is concentrating wealth in fewer hands but, in the developing world, lifting tens of millions out of poverty. Traditional societies are caught in an increasingly desperate struggle between the perils of fundamentalism on the one side and the perils of modernism on the other.

Given your generation’s penchant for shutting down speakers with whom you disagree, I am assuming that you have no intention of playing any serious adult role in mediating those conflicts. And that’s fine. We should leave the task of mediation to those unsophisticated enough to be sensitive to the concerns of both sides...

The literary critic George Steiner, in a wonderful little book titled "Nostalgia for the Absolute,” long ago predicted this moment. We have an attraction, he contended, to higher truths that can sweep away complexity and nuance. We like systems that can explain everything. Intellectuals in the West are nostalgic for the tight grip religion once held on the Western imagination. They are attracted to modes of thought that are as comprehensive and authoritarian as the medieval church. You and your fellow students -- and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role -- are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages.
That's a big snip; imagine all the good stuff I left out!  Go read the whole thing.  Think about what he wrote, especially in light of my post about so-called trigger warnings.

Back when the Ivies didn't have ROTC, a throwback to the Vietnam Era, I took to this blog to lambast them.  I liked pointing out how, during WWII, the Ivies took great pride in all the officers they produced for our military services through their ROTC programs.  Patriotism was considered a good thing, and there's no reason it still shouldn't be.  You know what shouldn't be considered a good thing?  State-sponsored places for segregating people by sex, color, or orientation:
The University of South Carolina is dumping its Gender Studies center  which became notorious for holding an event titled “How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less” and is going to teach the US Constitution instead.

The horror. The humanity. The heterocisgenderpatriarchal privilege...

The Morning News, owned by Warren Buffett, editorialized that this was “A chilling act of retribution” and “Required reading programs serve several purposes. Most importantly, though, the programs are intended to prepare students for the expectations of college-level discourse and open them up for the diversity they’ll find both on campus and in the real world. We’re not sure reciting the Bill of Rights, no doubt important to know, qualifies in that regard.”

Just so you understand, the Morning News’ official editorial is insisting that knowing the Bill of Rights is irrelevant to “college level discourse” and the real world. Unlike, “How to be a Lesbian in Ten Days"...

When leftist activists get people fired for their views, that’s freedom. But when taxpayers refuse to fund “How to be a Lesbian”, it’s McCarthyism.
I used to think it was hyperbolic when Michael Savage would say that liberalism is a mental disorder.  Now I'm not so sure.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trigger Warnings

If you're so fragile that you need a "trigger warning" to alert you to the fact that something, somewhere, might upset you, then perhaps it's you and not the rest of us who should accommodate that:
“Trigger warnings” about potentially upsetting material are the latest campus fad, reports the New York Times. Advocates believe many students suffer from post-traumatic stress due to rape, domestic violence, racism, sexism, classism, ableism, military service or other things.

Professors aren’t happy about it, reports the Times. “Trigger warnings, they say, suggest a certain fragility of mind that higher learning is meant to challenge, not embrace..."

America’s college kids are mollycoddled babies, writes Checker Finn. “These are the same kids who would riot in the streets if their colleges asserted any form of in loco parentis when it comes to such old-fashioned concerns as inebriation and fornication. God forbid they should be treated as responsible, independent adults!”
Some people call it like they see it:
Radio hosts Gregg “Opie” Hughes, Anthony Cumia and comedian Jim Norton, of the popular “Opie and Anthony Show” on SiriusXM, went on a fiery tirade Tuesday against “trigger warnings” and the current culture on college campuses, which they argue is producing childish adults unprepared to deal with the “real world.”

Norton also scolded the progressive left for becoming “exactly what you hated.”

“You have become exactly [like] the conservative, religious book burners of the 40s and the 50s and the 60s. You are it!” he said. “You are the speech repressors, you are the hypersensitive ones, you are the ones who want people fired immediately, you are the ones calling for people’s jobs. You have become what you hated.”
Update, 6/3/14: Now so-called trigger warnings are being mocked, and I like it:
The National Association of Scholars has announced a Trigger Warning ContestWhat should readers be warned about before reading, say, Hamlet, The Republic, Anne of Green Gables, or The Wind in the Willows? Or the classic of your choice.
Readers can submit entries on Twitter, including NAS’s handle and the hashtag #triggerwarningfail...

The top three trigger warnings will be announced on Friday. Each submitter in the top three will receive a copy of NAS president Peter Wood’s book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now (warning: not recommended for the apiphobic).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Should I Bail?

I got into education when my son was a year old, in part because I thought it would help make me a better dad (it did, as much as being a dad made me a better teacher).  And to be honest, it was very useful and helpful at some points along the way for me to be a teacher, because it probably doesn't come as a surprise to readers of this blog that sometimes, schools try to BS parents.  It happens.

So now that my son is graduating, I have a reason to question whether I want to continue in this job.  Prior to teaching I'd never held a job for more than a couple years; even in the three years I spent in the army I held several different positions.  Now I've been in the same classroom for 11 years.  It's something I consider.

It's not that I don't like teaching, I do.  It's just that I'm kind of bored with it.  And no, changing what I teach or changing to Common Core standards isn't the kind of change I need.  I need change.  It doesn't have to be immediate--again, I don't hate what I'm doing--but I don't want to spend the next 13-15 years doing exactly the same thing.  I don't know what; if I did, I'd go do it.  But before too long something needs to change.

And with stories like this one impossible to ignore, should that be an impetus?
California discovered a $2.4 billion budget surplus from what it projected in January, but that money won’t be going to any new, exciting program. It won’t support the state’s transition to new academic standards. It won’t be going to expand kindergarten or offer pre-k to 4-year-olds. Governor Jerry Brown has other plans. He wants the money to go toward paying down the state’s debt, especially the $74 billion unfunded liability from the state’s teacher pension plan (CalSTRS).

To be clear, this is undoubtedly the right move for California. Governor Brown deserves credit for recognizing the problem and resisting calls for new spending when the state has such significant debts. Brown’s pension funding proposal is merely a plan at this point, and politicians don’t have a strong track record of fulfilling their pension promises. If Brown, future governors, or the state legislature aren’t able to stick to a long-term funding plan, the problems will only get worse.

The current debt, and the plan to pay it down, are simply staggering. In order to pay off the full debt over 30 years, Brown’s plan calls for increasing contribution rates across the board. Over a 7-year period, teacher contributions to the fund would rise from 8 to 10.25 percent of their salary. School district contributions would have to rise from 8.25 to 19.1 percent, and the state itself would contribute 8.8 percent, up from the current 5.5 percent. By 2021, nearly 40% of California teachers’ total compensation will go toward paying down the pension plan’s liabilities.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Long-ish Weekend

At the beginning of the school year, budgets looked pretty bleak.  We had furlough days built into our school year calendar, and one of them is tomorrow.  After the voters of California voted for higher taxes, though, we're rolling in the money!  (Just don't ask about those unfunded pension liabilities....)

Our district "bought back" a couple of those furlough days, including tomorrow, and now we have to work.  Instead of telling the kids that they had to come back as well, though, it's just a work day for the adults.  Tomorrow will be a Common Core-a-palooza!

Instead of commuting about 10 miles on surface streets to get to work tomorrow, I get to drive to my local community center, less than 2 miles away, to hear a core-tastic speaker.  Just about every teacher in my district will be there.  Then, after a lunch at Sam's Club next door, I'll head with the other math teachers to a nearby high school to have a math core-gasm.  At that point I'll be less than 3 miles from home, which will be nice on a Friday afternoon when the temperature is expected to be in the 90s.

I'm sure there will be Kool-Aid a-plenty tomorrow, if you get my meaning.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ugh, I Just Got Home

I got home maybe half an hour ago, and in less than a half an hour I have to go back to school to present the math department's awards at Senior Awards Night.  I should probably start writing my introduction :-)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Separate But Better?

Let's just keep black kids down.  That seems to be the message some activists are sending:
Critics complain that charter schools “pay more attention to student achievement than to racial diversity,” reports Heidi Hall for USA Today.

Urban charters often are located in high-poverty, high-minority neighborhoods with low-performing district schools. They attract few or no white or middle-class students. Black parents are the most likely to choose charters, which produce learning gains for disadvantaged students compared to district alternatives, CREDO studies report.
They say this like it’s a bad thing.

As for the whole “separate but better” complaint, it’s complete and total crap.  Plessey, and later Brown, dealt with officially-sanctioned discrimination.  We can’t legislate where people live, and if there are more blacks (or any other race) in a particular area, and hence in the schools, it’s not up to the government to say that that’s a bad thing.

I wonder if part of these complaints come from people who actually don't want some students to do better than others, or to have better opportunities than others--or to show how bad the neighborhood schools, or the community from which their students are drawn, really are.

The Newest School Fundraiser!

I hope this doesn't catch on, because as a fundraiser it's in poor taste:
The latest must-see event had some parents doling out $200 for the best seats in the house.

But the top-shelf tickets weren’t for the latest boy band concert or even a sporting event. Rather, that was the price for front-row seats at a high school graduation.

According to the Bradenton Herald, Manatee High School charged parents $200 for prime seating at the May 31 graduation ceremony at the school's Hawkins Stadium. The tickets sold out in four hours.

The cash-strapped Florida high school also announced it will charge seniors a $20 fee to attend this year's graduation in hopes of offsetting the cost of the ceremony.

Celebrating Pregnancy in the Yearbook

I'm not suggesting that pregnant students be shamed or ignored, but neither should they have dedicated pages in their high school yearbook, either:
Two Mesa High School yearbook pages devoted to students who have children or who are expectant parents have prompted angry calls from parents to the school principal.

Pages 40 and 41 of the school's 255-page yearbook, Superstition Vol. 105, feature the photos and a description of how difficult it is to raise children and attend high school at the same time. The pages are titled "I'm working a double shift."

Principal Jim Souder spent time Monday fielding calls from parents who questioned the wisdom of including photos of expectant students and student parents along with images of students who had won awards or served in school clubs.

He declined to speak with 12 News and The Republic or share information about how many calls the school received.

Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands said the photos are not what the school district expects from high school yearbooks.

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's About Time Someone Takes This Seriously

I'm all for throwing the book at rapists.  Too often, though, we don't do much, if anything, to those who falsely accuse others of rape.  Here's some hope that that's about to change:
After a school tribunal at Saint Joseph's University found a male student to have committed sexual assault arising out of an incident of allegedly consensual sexual intercourse, he took legal action, says Banzhaf, who has been successful in over 100 sex discrimination proceedings.

The federal court held that he was entitled to sue the private university under the state's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and that he could also sue the university, university employees, and the female complainant for defamation (slander), with the court holding that their accusatory statements about him were not legally privileged.

Interestingly, the court said that he could also sue the female complainant for intentionally interfering with his contractual relations with the school; an important ruling, suggests Banzhaf, because for such an intentional tort he can seek much higher punitive damages in addition to general damages.  Also, the court ruled that the mere fact that the tribunal found that the male student had committed the wrongful act complained of was not conclusive as to his guilt or innocence, and did not shield the female complainant from this type of legal liability.
I want liberty and justice for all.

The Decision Has Been Made

The die is cast.  The credit card is charged.

Today I booked our cruise and flights.  As I said in the last post, my son has the money to pay for his.  In order to justify my expense, though, I'm going to cancel my planned-but-not-yet-booked trip to Las Vegas for the Star Trek convention at the end of July.  That's over a third of the cost of this cruise vacation right there.

I have another vacation to look forward to!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My New Biggest Problem

I bought savings bonds for my son from the time he was born up till just a couple years ago, when the feds stopped providing a paper bond and decided to go 100% digital.  For years I've had software, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, that will calculate the present value of all those bonds.

It was always understood that these bonds would be for a graduation trip of some kind, and graduation is two weeks from tomorrow.  Grandma and grandpa are taking him diving in Hawaii and he will use this money to pay the airfare.

But there's still plenty of money left over. 

Regular readers of this blog might recall that he and I went on a cruise during our February break.  And while I was visiting the Gold Country during spring break, my son and his mother went on a cruise to Catalina and Ensenada.  Well, last night when he saw how much money he'd have left even after paying for Hawaii, he said he wanted to go on a cruise.  He wants to live it up before Basic Training.

We found a cruise.  Out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and going to several places I've never before been.

He can afford both the airfare and the cruise.  The catch is that I also have to be able to afford both the airfare and the cruise!

So that's my new biggest problem.  I have to find someone to watch the house for yet another week this summer while I jet off, at fairly high expense, to paradise.

We're going to go cash the bonds tomorrow and confirm their total value.  When the money is in hand I'll book the trip.

OK, so it's a First World Problem.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cosmic Convergence: Science Fiction and Free Speech

I remember reading about this when it happened; this video is a good summary of events.

Shiny :-)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Suffer Not A Heretic To Live

The German magazine Der Spiegel said meteorologist Lennart Bengtsson is "a cool head in the often heated conflict over global warming." Here's more of what they said about him 4 days ago:
Bengtsson was known for maintaining moderate positions even during the most vitriolic debates over global warming during the 1990s. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he discusses why he made the shift to the skeptics' camp...

Bengtsson: I have not changed my view on a fundamental level. I have never seen myself as an alarmist but rather as a scientist with a critical viewpoint, and in that sense I have always been a skeptic. I have devoted most of my career to developing models for predicting the weather, and in doing so I have learned the importance of validating forecasts against observed weather. As a result, that's an approach I strongly favor for "climate predictions." It's essential to validate model results, especially when dealing with complex systems such as the climate. It's essential do so properly if such predictions are to be considered credible.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You think there's a need for climate research to do some catching up in this regard?

Bengtsson: It is frustrating that climate science is not able to validate their simulations correctly. Since the end of the 20th century, the warming of the Earth has been much weaker than what climate models show.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But the IPCC report discusses these problems in detail.

Bengtsson: Yes, the scientific report does this but, at least in my view, not critically enough. It does not bring up the large difference between observational results and model simulations. I have full respect for the scientific work behind the IPCC reports but I do not appreciate the need for consensus. It is important, and I will say essential, that society and the political community is also made aware of areas where consensus does not exist. To aim for a simplistic course of action in an area that is as complex and as incompletely understood as the climate system does not make sense at all in my opinion.
That was 4 days ago. What's happened since then?
Professor Lennart Bengtsson - the leading scientist who three weeks ago signalled his defection to the climate sceptic camp by joining the board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation - has now dramatically been forced to resign from his position.

His views on the weakness of the "consensus" haven't changed. But as he admits in his resignation letter, he has been so badly bullied by his alarmist former colleagues that he is worried his health and career will suffer.
In his own words:
I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen.

It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years. 
The tolerant left.

Who Are The Real Racists Here?

Is there one person in the Middle East, or even of Middle Eastern descent, who is offended by a camel?
Nope. It’s not a joke:
Students at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota have cancelled an event to celebrate the end of the year after complaints that bringing a camel on campus could offend those of Middle Eastern cultures.
This comment is the best:
Wait, campus lefties, you see a a camel, automatically think of an ethnic group, and then you say _other people_ are racist?
This comment is 2nd best:
When is Geico going to apologize for its deeply offensive camel commercial?

It's A Start

But it's not enough:
Eight years after Durham police arrested three Duke University lacrosse players on sexual assault charges that were later determined to be unfounded, the city and the Durham Police Department have settled a lawsuit with the players.

Under terms of the settlement, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans will receive no money. Instead, the city will make a $50,000 grant to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.
I hope there's still a suit going against the university. Which level of government did Nifong work for? Sovereign immunity shouldn’t protect those who knowingly violate rights.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Accelerating Math Students

There's troubling talk coming from my school district.  As we transition to Common Core standards, the belief is being promulgated that the standards are so high that we shouldn't accelerate students through a math sequence.  In fact, we're told "the Common Core people", whoever they are, recommend that no students be accelerated in math until high school.  That means that all students are to enter high school ready for Algebra 1 (or the integrated equivalent) and only then can go faster.

Talk about "one size fits all".

Our district, though, will consider accelerating students though Algebra 1 in 8th grade; in other words, what was the standard in California two years ago will now be considered accelerated.  Tell me again how Common Core standards are higher?  But I digress.

Usually I think that people who claim that there's a concerted effort to dumb everyone down (so they'll vote Democratic) are being hyperbolic, but how else can you explain this idiocy?  Seriously, the smartest 8th grader and the dumbest 8th grader belong in the same class?  How can anyone who claims to educate kids think that is a good idea?

Here's the idea for how we might accelerate kids in high school--if we accelerate them in junior high.  They'll start 9th grade in what we'll call Honors Geometry, which will include a bit more right triangle trig than Geometry currently does.  In 10th grade they can take an Honors Algebra 2 with pre-calculus course, as if there's not already enough content in Algebra 2 and pre-calculus.  In 11th grade they can take Calc AB, and in 12th grade take either Calc BC or Statistics.

To me we're short-changing them on Algebra 2 and pre-calculus/trigonometry.  How does that serve students well?

Update, 5/16/14:  It got worse today--the district brass is going to recommend to the school board that we switch over to integrated math.  Now what will we do for acceleration, Integrated Math 2.5?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Bad Is It In California?

This bad:
Unless otherwise noted, the following data have been culled by Chapman University Professor Joel Kotkin, and published in the Wall Street Journal, the Orange County Register and elsewhere. (For the record, Kotkin is a self-described "Truman Democrat" who voted for the Democrat governor Jerry Brown of California.)
--In the last 20 years, about 4 million more people have left California than came in from other states. Most of those leaving are young families.
--In the last 15 years, one-third of California's industrial employment base has disappeared. That's 600,000 jobs that have disappeared.
--California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. (The Tax Foundation)
--California's electricity prices are 50 percent higher than the national average.
--Middle-class workers, those who earn more than $48,000, pay a top income tax rate of 9.3 percent. That's higher than what millionaires pay in 47 other states.
--California's unemployment rate is fourth highest in the nation.
--From 2010-13, California produced fewer than 8,000 jobs, while the country added 510,000.
California faces enormous underfunded public employee pension obligations. (Bloomberg)
--An estimated 25 billion barrels of oil are sitting untapped in the Monterey and Bakersfield shale deposits. California is therefore sending billions of dollars to Texas, Canada and elsewhere to buy natural gas and oil that it could have produced itself.
--Twitter, Adobe, eBay and Oracle, among other major California tech companies, have moved many operations to Salt Lake City.
--Hollywood is doing more and more of its filming in Louisiana, Canada and elsewhere to avoid California taxes.
--Toyota just announced that it is moving its U.S. headquarters from Los Angeles to Dallas. This will eliminate 3,000 or more generally high-wage jobs.
--Occidental Petroleum recently announced that it is moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to Houston.
--Until relatively recently, half of the country's top 10 energy firms -- ARCO, Getty Oil, Union Oil, Occidental and Chevron -- were based in California. Today, only Chevron remains, and it is gradually relocating in Houston. (Reuters)
--Houston has added nine million square feet of new office space. Los Angeles has added one million.
--Tesla will likely locate its proposed $5 billion battery factory, which would employ upward of 6,500 people, in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas. According to, California "didn't make the short list because of the potential for regulatory and environmental delays."
--California's Monterey Shale offers a potential employment bonanza for workers needing access to entry-level jobs in the high-paying energy sector. But California's green lobby is striving to deny them that opportunity. (John Husing, chief economist of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, Los Angeles Daily News)
Read the whole article to see what the author says is the reason why things in California don't change.

The Necessity of Unions?

In principle I like the idea of unions, but I think membership should be voluntaryPeople will join unions if they think the unions will provide them a service--in other words, if the unions work to demonstrate their value to the employees and thus earn the employee's membership.  The only places in the US in which unions are thriving is where financial support of a union is required/coerced, so that the union is entitled to employee money without having to be accountable to the employee:
The conceit of the modern union movement is that workers would be clamoring to join if the rules weren't rigged in favor of employers. The reality is closer to the opposite. Witness what happened in Michigan, where new data show that workers fled the Service Employees International Union Healthcare affiliate when their membership was no longer coerced.
Unions have gotten fat, dumb, happy, lazy, and corrupt.  Why would people want to give their money to such organizations?

Have their been any big union victories lately?  Have their been any big anti-union/pro-employee victories lately?  The answers to those two questions tell you all you need to know about the state of unions in this country today, and those answers will not change until the unions themselves do.

Democrats and the War on the Middle Class

So much for inequality and social justice and all that:
As a new article from Bloomberg News explains, Democrats aren’t benefiting from hammering on inequality because almost all the areas with the worst inequality are already controlled by Democrats.
That’s not an accident. Democratic policies promote inequality. And that’s not an accident either.

You can make a case that the difference between the Republican and Democratic politics of wealth lie in the difference between who tends to make up “the wealthy” in their districts. The rich of America’s affluent urban areas tend to be the beneficiaries, one way or another, of a global tournament economy in which markets are often close to “winner take all,” and vast sums can flow to people who are just a little bit better than their competitors. The wealthy in Republican districts, on the other hand, are more likely to be competing in local or national markets, not glamour industries, where sales are ground out one at a time. Because the sums involved are smaller, the wealth gap is also smaller — and business owners are less likely to be sympathetic to the idea that their success has a huge luck component.
Democratic policies are the warfare of the very-rich, allied with the poor, against the middle class and the petty-rich.
On the other hand, facts don't matter much to lefties so perhaps this doesn't bother them.  On the other hand, I think the reason so many lefties are so disagreeable is because of the effects of the cognitive dissonance from which they must suffer so egregiously.


In principle I'm in favor of evaluating teachers based on "value-added" parameters, but not if the American Statistical Assn is correct:
Last month, the American Statistical Association warned against used VAMS, saying that “recent studies have found that teachers account for a maximum of about 14 percent of a student’s test score.”

“We need to slow down or ease off completely for the stakes for teachers, at least in the first few years, so we can get a sense of what do these things measure, what does it mean,” said Morgan S. Polikoff, a USC assistant professor of education and co-author of the study. “We’re moving these systems forward way ahead of the science in terms of the quality of the measures.”
I'd be curious about what makes up the other 86% of students' test scores, and what the proportions for each of those components are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Almost There (Stay On Target!)

I'm flying down the trench, I hope some blaster turret doesn't get me before I can launch my torpedoes down the Death Star's exhaust port.

Last night I got the results from my final exam--100%.  Not that I don't want you to be impressed or anything, but I have to concede that it was a fairly easy final exam.

But I'm not done yet.  I still have to finish my paper--we're to critique the statistics in a 1979 ornithological journal article.  That said, you'd be surprised how interesting the article is.

I probably have only a few paragraphs left to do, but I just can't motivate myself to do them.  *sigh*

Antarctica Can't Decide If It's Coming Or Going

I'm sure most of us have heard the hyperbolic reports about Antarctica lately:
“Today we present observational evidence that the [ice sheet] has gone into irreversible retreat,” said Eric Rignot, the lead author of a study claiming the ice sheet was collapsing. “It has reached the point of no return.”

Rignot told reporters at a press conference hosted by NASA that the slow collapse of the glacier could raise sea levels between 10 and 13 feet.
That's part of the Antarctic ice sheet.  What about another part?
Antarctic sea ice coverage reached record levels for April, hitting 3.5 million square miles — the largest on record.

It was a cold summer down in Antarctica, with sea ice coverage growing about 43,500 square miles a day, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSDC). April 2014 beats the previous sea-ice coverage record from April 2008 by a whopping 124,000 square miles.

But even with autumn in full swing in the South Pole, “record levels continue to be set in early May,” reports the NSDC. Sea ice levels have been “significantly above” satellite data averages for 16 consecutive months...

Antarctica has seen huge sea-ice growth throughout this year and last, which caught many climate scientists by surprise — some more literally than others.

In late December, a group of tourists and climate scientists got caught in Antarctic ice pack about 1,500 miles south of Tasmania. The expedition sought to document how global warming has changed the region in the last century, but instead made world headlines for getting stuck in record levels of ice.
Like every other woman, Mother Nature has trouble making up her mind sometimes :-)

What Can Be Done If One Of Your Flagship Universities Flouts State Law?

Seemingly, the answer is you ignore the problem and attack the man who brought it to light:
Public universities in California are barred from using race as a factor in admitting students, but a UCLA professor who once served on its admissions oversight team says he has proof they do it anyway.

While the first round of admissions consideration is handled fairly, African-American students are nearly three times as likely to make it out of the "maybe" pile than equally-qualified white students, and more than twice as likely as Asians, according to Tim Groseclose, a political science professor at the school and author of a new book titled, “Cheating: An Insider's Report on the Use of Race in Admissions at UCLA"...

"All of the cheating was done by the senior staff,” Groseclose said.

And race outweighs socioeconomic status, according to Groseclose. For instance, black applicants whose families had incomes exceeding $100,000 were about twice as likely to be accepted in round two as Asian and white kids whose families make just $30,000 and had similar test scores, grades and essays.
These are damning accusations.  If he has the evidence to back them up, will the UC Regents take the appropriate action?  Will our (liberal) attorney general take the appropriate action?
Groseclose believes there is a strong case for a lawsuit to be filed by people who think they were discriminated against, but says UCLA is hardly unique.

“I think this is common – not just the racial preferences, but also the lying,” he said.
Sadly, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for justice to be done.

Teachers, Get Ready To Pay More

Hey, liberal teachers.  You like Obamacare, right?  Of course you do.   In theory you just did your taxes; did you notice that new 5-digit number on your W-2?  That's the value of the health insurance your school district pays for.  Remember that promise that there would be no tax increases on people making less than $250,000, or $125,000, or whatever?  Of course you do.  You may even have believed it.  Well, starting in 2017, the cost of your health care is going to count as income, and you're going to be taxed on it.

Hey, liberal teachers.  You like social programs, right?  Of course you do.  Well, things are rolling along so swimmingly here in California that Crazy Ole Uncle Jerry thinks we have a monstrous surplus and can spend it on things like Medi-Cal.  I'm sure you have no problem with that.  But what about all those unfunded liabilities, like the California State Teachers Retirement System?  Well, Jerry wants you to pay more into it each month.  And he also wants your school district to pay more into each month:
The spending plan also lays out a 30-year road map to pay off the unfunded $73.7 billion liability in the State Teachers Retirement System by asking the state, school districts and teachers all to increase annual contributions.
That means there will be less money available for pay increases.  So you'll get much smaller raises, and more money will come out of your pocket each month in the form of Obamacare taxes and contributions to STRS.

Thank you, liberal teachers.  I so appreciate that double hit to my bottom line.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Leadership In The Space Race

A few weeks ago the school down the street from ours--a private, Catholic school--our arch-est and bitterest rival, launched a weather balloon with a camera and some electronics.  The balloon made it up to 86,000 feet before it burst, and the equipment was found 50 miles away in the mountains.

One of our students decided we could do better, and more cheaply.  In a couple weeks River Rat 1 (OK, I just made up the name, but that's what it should be called) will launch.  I asked the student in charge about it today, and he said that he's taking care of the planning and purchasing and fundraising--he's leaving the science to "the MIT guys", two of our students who are off to MIT in a few months.  Ours will go higher, stay aloft longer, and travel farther, than the other school's Fallen Angel (OK, I made that name up, too, but it's totally appropriate), and will do so for less money.  Fallen Angel cost $750, the exact tally for River Rat 1 isn't in yet.

Last Friday the student in charge was called out of my class down to the office.  The slip had an interesting destination on it--the principal or his secretary.  When the student returned to class he was holding an envelope.  In the envelope was a personal check for $200 from our new superintendent, whom the student had solicited for funds days earlier.

That's leadership.  That's class.

That's impressive.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Return to "Separate But Equal"

This is just sick:
Under a dramatic new approach to rating public schools, Illinois students of different backgrounds no longer will be held to the same standards — with Latinos and blacks, low-income children and other groups having lower targets than whites for passing state exams, the Tribune has found.

In reading, for example, 85 percent of white third- through eighth-grade students statewide will be expected to pass state tests by 2019, compared with about 73 percent for Latinos and 70 percent for black students, an analysis of state and federal records shows.

The concept is part of a fundamental and, according to critics, troubling shift in how public schools and students will be judged after the federal government recently allowed Illinois to abandon unpopular requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
As Newsalert says:
Because Arne Duncan , Barack Obama, and modern day "progressives" really believe people with brown skin aren't as bright as white folk! No word yet on when Illinois Democrats will stage a Klan style rally in honor of "separate but equal" in downtown Chicago. For a look at how many powerful American progressives feel about brown people click on this link.
Is there a better example out there of what President Bush called "the soft bigotry of low expectations"?

Bullet Train Authority Shoots Itself in the Foot

With any big public works project, a report that an independent consultant had been pressured by the responsible government agency to hide a nearly $1 billion increase in project cost is absolutely outrageous. Pathetically enough, when it comes to the bullet train and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, it’s far from the worst outrage.  link
And this is the state I will depend on for my retirement.

He Wrote About The Wrong Thing

I remember the brouhaha over The Bell Curve a couple decades ago.  I wonder how good this guy's statistical analysis was:
Nicholas Wade, a British-born science reporter and editor for more than 30 years with The New York Times, is no longer with the newspaper — just days after the release of his latest book, in which he depicts blacks with roots in sub-Saharan Africa as genetically less adapted to modern life than whites and Asians.

Was The New York Times uncomfortable with Wade’s science or his conclusions? It’s unclear. Neither Wade nor his former employer returned requests for comment...

Wade’s main thesis is that “human evolution has been recent, copious and regional.” He writes, “Though there is still a large random element, the broad general theme of human history is that each race has developed the institutions appropriate to secure survival in its particular environment"...

In Slate, Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, said the book’s central theories were “simultaneously plausible and preposterous: plausible in that they snap into place to explain the world as it currently is, preposterous in that I think if he were writing in other time periods, he could come up with similarly plausible, but completely different, stories.”
How good were his numbers?  What hidden gems do they illuminate?  I'd be interested in hearing from a statistician about the statistics.

Because without data, all you have is an opinion.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Can We Finally Bury The "Learning Styles" Myth?

Gardner himself has said it:
Multiple Intelligences Are Not Learning Styles, he wrote last year.
Perhaps it makes teachers feel that everyone can learn…which we know they can… but it also creates an easy fix for students who struggle. There really aren’t easy fixes. Students, whether they struggle or not, need a multi-modal approach.
Gardner wants teachers to individualize instruction as much as possible and “teach important materials in several ways, not just one (e.g. through stories, works of art, diagrams, role play).” However, he asks teachers to stop using “styles,” because “it will confuse others and it won’t help either you or your students.”

That There Was A Fight About This At All Tells You All You Need To Know About Politics and the Teachers Union in California

From the major Sacramento newspaper:
Passing a teacher termination law, as Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan has learned, can also take a long time.

For the third consecutive year, the California Legislature will contemplate legislation expediting the appeals process for fired teachers. Last year, Buchanan’s teacher dismissal bill revived late in the session only to end its odyssey with a veto from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The dynamics have since shifted. The California Teachers Association has buoyed Buchanan’s latest effort by embracing a fast lane for teachers accused of the most horrific offenses. It carves out a distinct category of “egregious misconduct,” which includes abusing or molesting students and certain drug crimes like dealing to kids. Those appeals would jump to the front of the line and go before a judge, rather than a three-person panel comprising a judge and two teachers...

Assembly Bill 215 requires those proceedings to start sooner, consolidates document filing and seeks to rein in common snags like evidence discovery and putting together the three-person hearing panel.

But the significance of the compromise lies in the new procedure for egregious misconduct. In past years, the union has opposed a separate process for such cases. In 2012, Sen. Alex Padilla floated a bill making it easier to dismiss child molesters and abusers by putting those cases before a single judge, rather than the current three-person panel. The union strenuously objected, and Padilla’s bill perished in committee.

“The Legislature must balance administrative efficiency against fairness to teachers,” the union’s opposition letter stated.

Now the CTA has joined forces with EdVoice, an organization that usually plays the role of the union’s ideological adversary, to back a bifurcated process. EdVoice had put pressure on the union by introducing a ballot initiative creating a separate process to fire teachers who abuse kids or sell them drugs.

EdVoice has since dropped the ballot measure, titled the “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act,” though it plans to reintroduce it if Buchanan’s bill fails...

Individual school administrators lauded Buchanan’s recent breakthrough, which they say will help them jettison the worst teachers. But they said those shocking cases tend to be easier to bring and win. They express frustration about resolving the more ambiguous unsatisfactory performance category: school employees who have not committed a clearly repugnant offense but are simply not effective teachers.
I guess you can say it's a start, but you have to wonder why it's taken so much effort to get such a small concession from the CTA.

The Votes Are In!

Between here, Facebook, and emails, the top vote-getter amongst these pictures is Bodie, with first runner-up being Dubrovnik.  I've decided, though, to put up this series of panels in my front room and to have the Bodie and Dubrovnik pictures printed on canvas and will hang them in my soon-to-be guest room.

Thanks for your input!

And if you didn't see my final choices for my new women vocalists CD, they're here.

I Don't Despise Common Core and Fuzzy Math Because I'm Resistant To Change...

...I resist it because, philosophically, I disagree that it's a good way to teach.  This is what I believe:
“Deeper conceptual understanding” in K-12 math comes with knowledge and practice to mastery, not with pointless struggle and reinventing of the wheel. Efficiency on paper is critical; the calculator tends to get in the way of learning. Each day, as I work through another chapter, I think, “Oh, yes. Right. I see that now.” Proper process is being reinforced for me; each time I cut a corner, I pay for it with an error. As I practice, I’m becoming faster, more efficient and more accurate. Recently I tweaked an algorithm to make it more efficient; this would not have come to me without skills and understanding.
And this:
“Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.”
“Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.”
– John Saxon, co-author of the Saxon Math textbook series
And this:
If proponents of fuzzy programs and constructivism had to use math in the “real world,” and were held accountable for the results, they would have to modify their views. In the “real world,” math is a tool, used to get a job done. What matters are clarity (understandable by others); efficiency (done relatively quickly); and accuracy (the result is correct). Math is a tool – like a hammer or drill. One doesn’t come to consensus on the philosophy of a drill; one learns to use the drill and then one uses it.
You'll want to read the whole thing.

Friday, May 09, 2014

I Thought We Resolved This In 1943

Didn't the Supreme Court deal with this during World War II?
A student at a Texas high school says he was given a two-day in-school suspension for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, sparking a debate on social media about whether the school district violated the teen's First Amendment rights.

Needville High School sophomore Mason Michalec told he refused to stand for the Pledge because of his opposition to government spying.
"I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” Michalec said. "I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws."

The 15-year-old has refused to stand for the Pledge for most of the year, but he ran into trouble when a different teacher noticed he was staging a silent protest.

“And she told me, 'This is my classroom. This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand,'" Michalec told the station. "And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up."

Michalec said that after he was punished with two days of in-school suspension, the principal warned him that he would face more suspensions if his protest continued.
We in the education business too often shoot ourselves in the foot with this kind of stupidity.   The most that should be expected from the dumpling is that he stay quiet while the rest of the students voluntarily state the pledge, and there's no indication in this story that he wasn't quiet.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

What Many Of Us Would Like On Teacher Appreciation Week

I cannot argue with this:
Most of us can recall loving teachers whose affirmations and careful instruction powerfully impacted our lives. In celebration of their influence, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week in America.

Although we’re still inspiring youth, many educators aren’t feeling appreciated today because the unions we’re compelled to hire tend to support policies that are often harmful to our students and lead to low morale among teachers.

When unions started at the turn of the last century, their united support was necessary, but sadly, unions have become what they used to fight – powerful, entrenched organizations more focused on self-preservation and pushing their political agenda than on protecting the rights of individual members. 
The author is from California, a non-right-to-work state--which means we teachers are compelled to pay three different unions whether or not we're members of those unions.

What do we want?  To be free from union tyranny!
When do we want it?  Now!

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

This woman could not be more correct:
As much as I appreciate liberals’ concern for the welfare and success of black Americans, we are not hobbling around with crippled feet. We’re smart, capable, and successful. Yes, we need opportunities, just like every American! But opportunity and racial preferences are not the same thing.

Opportunity gives a chance to a qualified, capable individual. Preference grants someone favor. I am grateful for every opportunity I have been afforded in my life, but I don’t need to be coddled as if I am unable to succeed without special attention. Just look at Kwasi Enin, an African American high school student with a whopping 5.0 GPA who got accepted into every Ivy League college – a feat only achieved by few.

As black students, being treated as a special class of citizens is the worse thing that could happen, because we will not be held to the same standards as our white peers. The most relevant example is the ‘I,Too’ movement happening at different universities, in which minority students write down racial experiences they have had, whether negative or positive, as a response to the lack of diversity at their school. Many of their experiences had to do with, unsurprisingly, other students thinking that they were affirmative action placements. They felt demeaned and underestimated, two of the worst feelings in the world, yet they would just as readily fight for the very thing that undermines them.

How can we truly move toward racial equality if we are treated as less than capable?
What was it Chief Justice Roberts said?  Oh yes:  The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.  But let's see what else Ms. Hill has to say:
When America was still a deeply prejudiced nation, African Americans needed affirmative action to ensure they wouldn’t be passed over for positions or rejected from schools simply because of their race. However, today we live in a society where political correctness doesn’t let us acknowledge the progress that has been made since then, lest we think we live in a “post-racial” society.

While I’ve never thought that, I do think we have reached the point where we can scale back laws demanding racial quotas. I have a hard time understanding why working to get rid of racial quotas is a step backward. If anything – it’s a step forward – because it acknowledges that, in a country where there are black professionals in every arena, as well as a black president in his second term, America is moving leaps and bounds ahead of its deeply racist past.
There are some who would lose power if racism were no longer to be thought of as a serious, systemic problem.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Florida teen graduates from high school and college in same week:
Grace Bush is clearly a rare talent, both intelligent and incredibly hard working. The Florida teen recently earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Florida Atlantic University. Later this week, she'll get her high school diploma from Florida Atlantic University High School.

So how does somebody graduate from college before high school?

Grace participated in Florida Atlantic University's dual enrollment program, which allows gifted high school students to earn college credit for the same courses. Students (and parents, who may foot the bill) save both time and money.
Good for her!

When You Have To Keep Changing The Name, You're Losing

IT’S NOT SCIENCE.  IT’S A CHEAP CHINESE RESTAURANT: Let’s Call It ‘Climate Disruption,’ White House Science Adviser Suggests (Again).  Like liberalism, socialism, progressivism, this things keeps changing names when people catch on.  link
I don't get the "cheap Chinese restaurant" reference, but the rest is correct.

Could This Explain Administration's Love of the Differentiated Instruction Fad?

From a comment at Joanne's blog:
There are a few exceptional teachers who can “differentiate” over a wide range of abilities and preparation and motivation. But most can’t. However, wishing and hoping that ordinary teachers can do it allows everyone to avoid facing some very, very, very unpleasant truths.

Though people disagree on the reasons, everyone knows that separating children on the basis of how quickly they are learning will result in faster groups with an “over-representation” of whites and Asians, and slower groups with an “over-representation” of blacks and hispanics. No one wants that, and a simple way to keep it from happening is to put everyone together regardless of preparation, aptitude, and motivation.
It's also cheaper to lump kids together and say "teach them all".

Who's At Fault?

Is this a case of teenagers being buttheads, adults being stupid, or both?
Forty students from Jensen Beach High School booked a private charter bus, or party bus, to take them to prom. When they arrived, they were told they couldn't go inside because a champagne bottle and some cups had been found on the bus, said Michele Blanco, spokesman for the Martin County School District.

"The students had all signed a zero-tolerance policy for prom that said they could be Breathalyzed if there was reasonable suspicion," Blanco said.

So the students lined up for their sobriety tests. Each of the 40 students tested negative, Blanco said. But by the time the tests were completed, it was too late to go inside, the students say.
What caused the adults to go onto the bus in the first place?  Were teenagers acting drunk, for example?  Did the bottle appear to be freshly emptied?
Lyn Drazkowski said she condones the school's policy and process, but the champagne bottle was dry, shoved behind a booth on the bus. As their classmates were entering and exiting prom, they passed by Kaelyn Drazkowski and her pals, which was humiliating for the group.

"My daughter comes home and cries herself to sleep," Lyn Drazkowski told CNN. "It's a night that she'll never get back"...

Doug Bass said the problem isn't that school officials tested the students; it's that they barred them from entering the prom even after it became clear the kids weren't drinking.

"When they start testing them, and no one is showing they have any alcohol in their system, that's a bit much," he said. "You only get one senior prom -- and 40 of those kids didn't."
If I were innocent and being accused of violating the rules, I'd be angry, too.  That's not necessarily a reason to suspect them of wrongdoing.  And how long does it take to administer breathalyzer tests, anyway?

It's clear that we don't have all the details, but at first glance it appears that the adults from school hold the lion's share of the fault here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

It's About Darned Time!

It's been illegal for years, but still, teachers and schools publish list of school supplies that students must bring.  I've been waiting for someone to file a lawsuit, and that day has come--and with it, even more clarification about illegal fees:
When thousands of seniors in the Elk Grove area receive their high school diplomas in the coming weeks, some will wear caps and gowns free of charge.

Parents have long shelled out money for caps and gowns, along with yearbooks and grad-night tickets, to help celebrate the end of high school. But for the first time, the state has called on school districts to provide graduation attire at no cost to students or their families if required during the diploma ceremony.
The guidance stems from a new California law, which took effect last year and strengthened a prohibition on charging fees for integral parts of public education.

In the last 12 months, activists and parents across California have filed scores of state appeals challenging districts that require families to pay for such items as Advanced Placement exams, classroom supplies, workbooks and uniforms. Supporters say the new law ensures that low-income students have access to the same essential campus activities as their peers.

Knowledgeable parents are testing the law’s boundaries. In the San Juan Unified School District, several people challenged schools for posting supply lists last summer, taking aim at the backpack and binder shopping trips that have long been a back-to-school hallmark. 
I can't understand the requirement for having the school district pay for AP exams unless they're requiring students to take them as part of being in an AP class.   In recent years I've won the argument at my school and our AP Calculus teachers have class sets of TI-Inspire calculators for students, they no longer require students to purchase calculators for the class.
In August 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union released its “Pay to Learn” report documenting dozens of cases in which California school districts violated the state constitution by requiring students to pay fees for tests, workbooks, science labs, physical education uniforms, lab fees, art supplies and more.
This is a situation wherein I completely support the ACLU and believe they are on the right side of the issue.

A fellow teacher told me today that he was surprised that I would take this position, that I wouldn't expect parents to be responsible for their own children and their supplies.  Here's my rationale:  in public education, I don't want a two-tiered system with one for the haves and one for the have-nots.  We have determined that universal public education is a public good and everyone is entitled to the same opportunities within the public education system.  If the rich want to pay more for their own kids, that's entirely fine--but they do it outside of public education, either through extracurricular community programs or through private school.  Within our public education system I cannot tolerate the idea that some students might not be able to take certain classes because they cannot afford the fees--such an idea is anathema to me.  This is why I've fought illegal fees for so long, and this is why I celebrate whenever I hear about another blow struck in favor of all our students.

Besides, the state constitution says that the state is to pay for education.  We in the schools need to follow the law.

Read more here:

Monday, May 05, 2014

Global Warming, and Keeping Africans Down

Is this leftie in the pay of so-called Big Oil, or something?  How else will lefties explain this?
Every year environmental groups celebrate a night when institutions in developed countries (including my own university) turn off their lights as a protest against fossil fuels. They say their goal is to get America and Europe to look from space like Africa: dark, because of minimal energy use. 

But that is the opposite of what's desired by Africans I know. They want Africa at night to look like the developed world, with lights in every little village and with healthy people, living longer lives, sitting by those lights. Real years added to real lives should trump the minimal impact that African carbon emissions could have on a theoretical catastrophe.

I've spent my life on the foreign-policy left. I opposed the Vietnam War, U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s and our invasion of Iraq. I have headed a group trying to block U.S. arms and training for "friendly" dictators, and I have written books about how U.S. policy in the developing world is neocolonial.

But I oppose my allies' well-meaning campaign for "climate justice"...

The left wants to stop industrialization—even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false. John Feffer, my colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in the Dec. 8, 2009, Huffington Post that "even if the mercury weren't rising" we should bring "the developing world into the postindustrial age in a sustainable manner." He sees the "climate crisis [as] precisely the giant lever with which we can, following Archimedes, move the world in a greener, more equitable direction." 

I started to suspect that the climate-change data were dubious a decade ago while teaching statistics. Computer models used by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to determine the cause of the six-tenths of one degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperature from 1980 to 2000 could not statistically separate fossil-fueled and natural trends. 

Then, as now, the computer models simply built in the assumption that fossil fuels are the culprit when temperatures rise, even though a similar warming took place from 1900 to 1940, before fossil fuels could have caused it. The IPCC also claims that the warming, whatever its cause, has slightly increased the length of droughts, the frequency of floods, the intensity of storms, and the rising of sea levels, projecting that these impacts will accelerate disastrously. Yet even the IPCC acknowledges that the average global temperature today remains unchanged since 2000, and did not rise one degree as the models predicted. 

But it is as an Africanist, rather than a statistician, that I object most strongly to "climate justice." Where is the justice for Africans when universities divest from energy companies and thus weaken their ability to explore for resources in Africa? Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a "global warming" tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods? Even if the wildest claims about the current impact of fossil fuels on the environment and the models predicting the future impact all prove true and accurate, Africa should be exempted from global restraints as it seeks to modernize.
If you want fewer fossil fuel emissions, you've got to be for relatively clean, safe, plentiful, inexpensive nuclear power.