Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lack of Critical Thinking

When people disparage those of us in the teaching profession, it's often (not always but often) because of something stupid some of us have done.  Which of these is the worst?  I truly cannot decide.

Monday, December 29, 2014

If No Tree Falls In The Forest Because The University Newspaper Is No Longer In Print, Does Anyone Care?

I wrote several posts this year about local UC Davis' travails regarding its school newspaper, the California Aggie.  Should you not be interested enough to go back and read those previous posts I'll summarize the situation for you here:

     After years of financial mismanagement, the student newspaper at UC Davis (aka Berkeley-lite) was going out of print.  Rather than merely go to an online format, some good statist students decided to try to compel all students to support the paper financially with an additional student fee, notwithstanding the fact that Davis already had the highest student fees in the UC system.  An election was held, the fee passed, but it was shortly thereafter invalidated by a student committee due to "election irregularities".
     In late spring there was talk of a good capitalist solution--a local newspaper would print the Aggie in exchange for advertising revenue.

And that's where our story picks up today:
The longer UC Davis’ student newspaper remains out of print, the more difficult it seems to revive the nearly century-old institution on paper.

The California Aggie stopped printing newspapers in March after years of financial mismanagement, and student leaders have looked for ways to resume circulation ever since. The Aggie’s latest attempt to partner with a local newspaper publisher has fallen flat, with none submitting proposals to print the Aggie twice weekly in exchange for advertising revenue.

The publication continues to post campus news online. But editor-in-chief Muna Sadek said the physical presence of the paper on campus news racks is what makes the institution valuable.

“People use the Aggie as a watchdog, and it serves as a voice for people,” she said. “It’s a public forum.”
I don't understand why it's any less of a public forum because trees aren't cut down, but whatever.
Most recently, in May, the Aggie was close to reaching a pact with the Vacaville Reporter in which the Digital First Media property would print the Aggie in exchange for all advertising revenue. But the Aggie stopped negotiations and decided to pursue an open bidding process at the suggestion of UC Davis officials, according to Sadek.

Sadek, working with university officials, last month put out a “request for proposal” for printing papers and selling advertising. The Aggie is betting that a local publisher will bail out the paper so it can resume printing twice a week by its centennial next year. But no bids have arrived, and the deadline has been extended to Jan. 26.

“I’m hopeful that we will get a handful of great offers,” said Sadek, adding that she had reached out personally to several local publishers, including the Vacaville Reporter and The Sacramento Bee.
I should sell that individual some pixie dust and unicorn farts.

A USC journalism professor is quoted as saying the "paper" should pursue its online presence and include a mobile app--which would be ideal given the target audience's demographic.  But no, that's not where the editor wants to go:
If the contract fails to garner any offers, the future of the Aggie could be in jeopardy, Sadek warned, though she remained optimistic about the prospects of finding a reliable partner.
“I really don’t think this will fail,” Sadek said. “Worst case scenario is we revisit the (student) referendum process.”
To paraphrase Darth Vader, "The liberalism is strong with this one."

Muna, let me be clear:  people don't want your product.  You have lost out in the marketplace.  Accept this decision gracefully and move on.  Stop trying to force people to purchase your product.  Crony capitalism isn't really capitalism, it's more like fascism.  You don't want to be a fascist, do you?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sitting in Seattle Airport, So You Know What That Means...

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's another post on how much I like the TSA!  Answer:  not at all.

I spent 45 min in line, and for what?  Security theater that *sometimes* identifies the screw in my left knee (but not this time), but this time identified the rubber wristband bracelet I wear in memory of my nephew but not the wooden dolphin necklace I'm wearing.  And I have no reason at all to believe that their security theater does anything to make flying safer.  It merely harasses an increasingly docile public.

This is how much contempt I have for TSA employees.  They're minimum-wage-caliber people who would be incapable of identifying or stopping a terrorist if one showed up in a gutrah and an automatic rifle.  I'm no left-wing extremist, but I now understand the joy they get when they say something like:  "Come the revolution, you'll be the first against the wall."  TSA employees are the moral equivalent of kapos, or collaborators, and as one who loves freedom and stands against government tyranny I want nothing to do with them.

Do you think this is extreme?  Then start bleating, you're one of the sheeple.  Gawd I despise these people.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Biggest Math Story of the Year

What was the most significant story in mathematics in 2014?

We thought we'd take on answering that question in our final post of the year. What we specifically set out to identify is the biggest story of 2014 where the application of maths either was or became the story...

But ultimately, the biggest math story of the year belongs to a different kind of fraud, one that reaches all the way into the Oval Office. And as luck would have it, it can be considered to be a kind of sex scandal involving politicians!
That's right, boys and girls, the biggest math story of the year is the story of the bogus 1-in-5 rape statistic that liberals, for some sickening reason, pretend to believe.

Another good day spent together

More driving practice today, including stop-and-go traffic on the freeway.  He got done a number of small chores that needed to be done, I got to hang out with him while he did them.  Dinner was at Outback Steakhouse.

I get on a plane home tomorrow evening.  That's kinda going to suck for me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Linkup!

Saw my son today for the first time since he left in July!  He looks so thin and young....

There's an app on my phone that will allow someone to see my location in real time, about 20 min out I sent him a message so he could watch me get closer and know when I'd arrive.  He was waiting for me just outside the main gate when I pulled up at the visitors center.

Barracks are a little different than they were in my day; as an officer I didn't live in barracks, but my soldiers did, and his are luxurious by comparison.  The outside could be that of a suite hotel; enter his "room" and you enter a kitchenette/laundry with a bathroom.  His "roommate" and he each have their own rooms off of this kitchenette!  I brought him a complete set of dishes and silverware, and he's already hooked himself up with a TV and PS4.  I brought him a Chromebook for Christmas!

We practiced driving today--grandma gave him her car for Christmas, and he hasn't before driven a stick.  He improved from his first attempt, that's for sure!  Tomorrow when it's daylight again we'll do some more driving, including on roads with other cars.  When I leave Sunday he has to be proficient!

He's already back at his barracks, I think the day took a lot out of him.  I brought him a number of things from home, and he has to "process" all this stuff--his clothes, a few books, and now all his new toys.  I gave him the owner's manual and told him to spend some time relaxing tonight and familiarizing himself with what's in it.

Big day of "training" tomorrow--plus I got a gift card for Outback Steakhouse for Christmas, so that'll be dinner after a fun day together!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

End Of A Day of Driving

I left at 10 am, stopping only for gas, dinner, and two short breaks.  At 8pm I had reached the southern outskirts of Portland, Oregon, where I've holed up in a Holiday Inn Express for the night.

As happened the last time I drove through Oregon, within a mile of crossing the state line the rains came.  Well, last time it was rain, this time it was snow flurries, but they weren't sticking so it's no big deal.  I finished my Mark Steyn audiobook while still in California and am now over 6 hours into Catch 22.  I think I'd hate reading that book, but it's fun to listen to.

"Complimentary" breakfast here tomorrow, then get gas, and then next stop: seeing my son the soldier.  This has been the most un-Christmas-y Christmas I've ever spent, and I'm entirely OK with that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Hours

Blogging will be light over the next few days as I head north to visit my son.  Grandma's present to him is the car I'm driving, and I should see him for the first time since July some time Friday evening.

Enjoy your long weekend!

The Chinese Way

A couple summers ago I was visiting with a friend of mine from the Air Force Academy.  His wife is partly of Asian ancestry, you'll see why that's important momentarily.  Anyway, he and I were talking about what awesome kids they have.  I will never forget the words my friends used when talking about school:  "We've raised them the Chinese way.  An 'A-' is a Chinese 'B'.  A 'B' is a Chinese 'F'."  There's just something about that phraseology that both entertains and inspires me.

If you've been reading this blog you know that I've been facing the very real possibility of getting a "Chinese F" in my discrete optimization course.  It's not that I didn't work hard enough, or didn't study hard or long enough, it's just that I didn't do well enough on some of the tests and homework.  It all came down to the final exam, that would be the deciding factor in what grade I'd earn for the course.

I had other things on my mind today and it was only several minutes ago that it occurred to me that grades would be posted by now.  I rushed to the computer and checked my university email.  Waiting for me was an email from my professor.

My final exam grade was my highest test grade all semester.  I didn't get a Chinese F after all.  I don't know if they give +'s or -'s in this program, so I didn't get a Chinese B, either.

I'm relieved, in part because I'd hate to have gotten my lowest math grade ever in the very course I've enjoyed the most.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Role Is Changing

It's a little disconcerting, this transition from being the dad of a kid to the dad of a soldier.

His last post screwed up some paperwork so he couldn't get issued some important equipment, cold-weather gear being on the list!  My initial instinct was to go all grizzly dad:  this is what you need to do, this is how you handle this, etc etc etc.  But then I remembered it's not my fight anymore, he has a team leader and the rest of a chain of command to work out those kinds of problems.

He didn't have a meal card so he's spending too much money eating out.  Why doesn't he have a meal card?  Why didn't he have a sponsor to work with him like every other new soldier in every unit in the army does? Why...

Let it go, Darren.  The army's been doing this a long time, your son will be OK.  That's what I tell myself.

He still needs me, though.  I'll be driving grandma's car up to him, and I'll have the 2 days I'm there to teach him how to drive a stick.  I asked if dishes would help, and he rattled off a few things he'd like me to bring him if I have them (and of course I do)--dishes, silverware (they have what seems to be a kitchenette in the barracks), a couple of his books (I'll take a few more), his civilian clothes, an electric blanket.  My mother's neighbor gave me a bag of snacks to take him.  He and I are very much looking forward to seeing each other.

When we talked tonight he told me his paperwork was squared away today, and he got his meal card.

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's Not Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas

I've decorated the house, wrapped the presents, burned/burning all the candles, kept the tree lit nonstop since I put it up, played/playing Christmas music, gone to parties, participated in gift exchanges--and I'm still not feeling it.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy all those things, but there's something missing this time around.  The overwhelming joy, the sense of anticipation of Christmas day itself--where are they?  It's 3 days before Christmas and it may as well be February.

Is it because this is my first Christmas as an empty-nester?

I should find out today if my son gets to come home on leave for Christmas.  If he doesn't, I'm packing up the car and heading up to Washington to see him over the coming weekend.

Update:  Got a text from my son a little while ago that he's been assigned to a rapid deployment unit, one that needs to be ready on very short notice to deploy if they're needed.  As such he won't be coming home for leave this week.

I'm all excited now, as I have something to look forward to--I'll leave here Thursday morning and get to Washington on Friday evening so he and I can spend the weekend together.

For those of you who have no experience with the military, this is just one of the myriad sacrifices that soldiers and their families make in service to the nation. 

One Man's Opinion

I'm not going to argue with him, I believe him completely:
Because I am in New York for a short visit and, as the world well knows, the city of my birth is in a period of racial turmoil, I am going to say something I have been thinking about for a long time. And because I am one of the relative few to have spent long periods of his life on both the left and the right and because I was a civil rights worker in the sixties. I think — though it is purely personal and based only on observation — I have earned the right to an opinion. So here goes.

The left is vastly more racist than the right. It’s not even close. Since I was publicly identified with the right, roughly from when I started blogging in 2003 (although it was actually several years earlier in private), I have personally witnessed not a single incident of racism from anyone who could be considered a right winger and heard only one racial slur — and that was from a Frenchman. In the seven years I was CEO of PJ Media, I came to know or meet literally dozens of people who identified with the Tea Party. I did not hear one word of anything close to racism from any of them even once. Not one, ever. This despite their being accused of racism constantly.

The left, on the other hand, is filled with racism of all sorts, much, but not all, of it projected.
Go read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Is This Action Reasonable?

City education officials have demoted an elementary school principal days after a school board member circulated a photo showing misspellings in a large announcement sign outside one of the building’s entrances.

The sign at School 20’s side entrance listed events for “Dicember 2014.” It alerted people to the date for “progress reepor” and had the numeral one placed backwards in another instance.

Officials said the sign apparently contained those errors for more than a week, but apparently no one noticed until city school board member Corey Teague distributed copies of a photo of the errors.

“If this is how the administration takes care of signage how can we expect the students to do better? We must be held to a higher standard,” wrote Teague in an email accompanying the photo.
Here's the sign, taken from the full article:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Black Mark For West Point

And no, I'm not talking about the football team, but a deserter:
After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point near the top of his class in 2008, Second Lt. Lawrence J. Franks Jr. went on to a stellar career with three deployments, commendations for exceptional service and a letter of appreciation from the military’s top general.

The only problem: None of it was in the United States military.

After being sent to Fort Drum, here in the snowy farmland of northern New York, where he was put in charge of a medical platoon, Lieutenant Franks disappeared one day in 2009. His perplexed battalion searched the sprawling woods on the post for his body.

What they did not know was that he was on a plane to Paris, where he enlisted under an assumed name in the French Foreign Legion. It was only this year when he turned himself in that the Army and his family learned what had happened.

On Monday, Lieutenant Franks was sentenced to four years in prison and dismissal from the Army on charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer and desertion with the intention to shirk duty, specifically deployment.
The article details some of his mental demons, which you'd think would have been discovered at some time during 4 years at a military academy.

Just Words

College and career ready. High standards. Lifelong learners. Critical thinkers.

Those are just words, mere buzz phrases.  Notice there's nothing in there about intellect, about achievement.

And it shows.  In an entire neighboring county, only two schools apply to compete in an academic decathlon:
Roseville High School senior Robbie Short and his eight teammates have spent hundreds of hours this year studying and meeting weekly in hopes of winning their third straight Placer County Academic Decathlon in February.

They may not have the chance.

Last week, the Placer County Office of Education told coaches it had canceled the annual competition because of a lack of interest. Placer County schools chief Gayle Garbolino-Mojica said only Roseville High School and Western Sierra Collegiate Academy had signed up by the Dec. 5 deadline. The county office requires four teams to hold a competition, she said.
The story goes on to tell how hard the students have worked since May in order to prepare.  But let's read further and see where the problem lies:
Garbolino-Mojica said the dwindling number of teams stems from a lack of student interest in the academic decathlon, as well as budget cuts that left some schools without stipends to pay coaches. The county superintendent said PCOE staff “tried to drum up participants” and contacted district superintendents for help.

“We just got feedback that they weren’t interested,” she said, noting that some high school officials called the event an “antiquated program.” School officials reported that students are moving toward competitions that have to do with “robotics or something to do with technology,” she said.

The Placer County event, which includes the competition and an awards banquet, requires a great deal of staff time, recruitment of volunteers and $15,000 to put on, Garbolino-Mojica said...

Rocklin High’s Michael Knight, who was a competitor in high school and has coached at Roseville and Rocklin since 2002, agreed: “The academic decathlon has not received as much support in the past few years as it has previously.”
We don't want smart kids. That's why we have to dumb everything down.

Update, 12/27/14:  The Placer County students will be allowed to compete in Sacramento County:
Sacramento County’s Office of Education has offered to host Placer County high school students at its academic decathlon competition on Feb. 7 after the competition in their county was canceled. 
“It’s what we do to help each other out,” said Sacramento County schools chief David Gordon. “That’s what we need to do for our colleagues, so they aren’t shut out of the competition"... 
Sacramento County education officials decided Friday to add the Placer County teams, including one from Rocklin High that didn’t make the Dec. 5 deadline. The highest scoring team from each county will go on to the state contest, as will some high-scoring teams that do not win. 
The three teams from Placer County will compete with the 28 Sacramento County teams, although they will be scored separately. Their scores will be tallied and sent to the Placer County Office of Education, which will announce the individual winners and team winner at a banquet on Feb. 10, said Kindra Amalong, PCOE spokeswoman. 
Gordon said adding the teams will mean “some extra work” for his staff, but “it’s a wonderful experience for the kids and they should have the opportunity to do it.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Down, Five To Go!

Today I took the final exam for my 5th master's class, Discrete Optimization. 

In that class there were 5 tests, on which I earned 4 A's and a B.  My homework scores were in the 90%+/- range (I don't want to look them all up) and were worth as much as one test.  The final exam was worth two tests, and I'm thinking I probably got a B (maybe a high B?!) on it.

How will it all come out in the end?  No telling until the fat lady sings.  I'm pretty sure I got either an A or a B in the course.  Either way (and I hope it's an A!), I enjoyed learning this material more than I can recall ever enjoying a math class before.  Would that in itself make a B "worth it"?  The grade is irrelevant to how much I enjoyed the class :-)

I've completed 5 of the 10 classes for my Master of Arts in Teaching Math degree.  Now I'm free till mid-January, when I start History of Mathematics.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crunch Time

I got 47/50 on my last test--and I dispute the points my instructor took off but he's not budging!  I'm taking the final exam tomorrow afternoon so it's all on the line.

Need to get lots of sleep tonight....

"College and Career Ready"

Some people chant it like a mantra, but this author calls it like it is:
The phrase “college-and-career-ready” dominates Common Core rhetoric, as if it is the Holy Grail of educational endeavors. Even kindergarten activities are now supposed to be college and career ready.

Who could possibly argue with wanting our children to be ready for college and careers?

Obviously, no one.

Making sure our children are college and career ready is the answer to all of America’s educational woes. All we need to do is aim everything done in our schools at reaching this goal. The Common Core standards are being promoted as the mechanism for achieving this.

There is only one set of standards, which must be attained by every school and every student; therefore, there must be only one definition for what it means to be college and career ready. Logically, that would mean that there is only one appropriate way to prepare for every college, every major course of study, and every career...

“College and career ready” is a marketing slogan, just like the musical “Bam ba dum bum bam bam bum” that follows the words “we are farmers” in the insurance commercial. And just like the syllables in the commercial, they have no actual meaning. They just sound good.

In the end, they are nothing more than gibberish.
Seems right to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nuclear Energy

If Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, can support safe, relatively-clean nuclear energy, so can you.  Here are some more professors of climate science and the environment doing the same:
As conservation scientists concerned with global depletion of biodiversity and the degradation of the human life-support system this entails, we, the co-signed, support the broad conclusions drawn in the article Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation published in Conservation Biology (Brook & Bradshaw 2014).

Brook and Bradshaw argue that the full gamut of electricity-generation sources—including nuclear power—must be deployed to replace the burning of fossil fuels, if we are to have any chance of mitigating severe climate change. They provide strong evidence for the need to accept a substantial role for advanced nuclear power systems with complete fuel recycling—as part of a range of sustainable energy technologies that also includes appropriate use of renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency. This multi-pronged strategy for sustainable energy could also be more cost-effective and spare more land for biodiversity, as well as reduce non-carbon pollution (aerosols, heavy metals).

Given the historical antagonism towards nuclear energy amongst the environmental community, we accept that this stands as a controversial position. However, much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat global climate change (Caldeira et al. 2013), we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.
No, I still don't believe that man is the cause of earth's climate change.  However, at least I can respect these people for acting reasonably on what they believe rather than relying on "idealistic perceptions" and civilization-destroying "solutions".

Monday, December 15, 2014

Two Groups. One's A Childish Bunch of Attention Seekers....

...the other is just a bunch of streakers:
Early Thursday morning, a group of 30 “Black Lives Matter” protesters interrupted the biannual naked Primal Scream run on Harvard’s campus and tried to force the streakers “to hold a silent demonstration” for Mike Brown, reports the Harvard Crimson.

Unfortunately for them, the streakers did not want to comply. They continued hollering and chanting in preparation for their streak. This angered the protesters, who then began screaming, “Silence. Silence.” The brave streakers fought back by yelling, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!”

Life Update

No word yet on my performance on the test I took last Friday.  Studying for the final exam continues unabated.

3rd period seemed gleeful at the prospect of being allowed donuts in class during the final exam.

My signature chocolate banana pie for tomorrow's "dessert lunch" is ready to go.

My last present as Secret Snowman is ready for delivery tomorrow.  I've received two nice gifts, a Star Trek communicator and a 49ers t-shirt.

No word yet on whether or not my son will get leave to come home at Christmas, since he's still in-processing at the post and has not even been assigned to a unit yet.  If he can't come home, I'll drive up to Washington to go see him.

That's it for now!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Final Stretch

Tonight we're going to celebrate my dad's birthday.

Tomorrow after work I have to make one of my chocolate banana pies for a "dessert party" we're having in the staff lounge in which I eat.

Tuesday night I can devote entirely to studying with no other commitments.

Wednesday night I have to make another chocolate banana pie for our Thursday afternoon staff luncheon.

Thursday after the luncheon I'll take the final exam for the discrete optimization course I'm taking.  Ohmigawd, the number of proofs, definitions (and he's a stickler for perfection on those), and algorithms we have to know is phenomenal, and that's before ever even solving a problem!

If I can just make it to Thursday evening, I'll be fine!

I need to remember my 2 rules of finals week that I learned at West Point:
Well rested, well tested.
Study too long, you're wrong.
The first is self-explanatory but the second, not so much.  It merely means not to cram, but to spread out your studying in reasonable-sized chunks so the material, along with understanding, stays in your head.  To do well, make it a marathon and not a sprint.  That's why I'll start my studying tonight, before my dad's party.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Delicate Flowers

Is this new, or have university students always been such delicate little flowers?

First I learned that students at Harvard, Georgetown, and Columbia were so "traumatized" by the Ferguson and NYC grand jury decisions that they must have their final exams postponed in order to "process" what happened.   Look at the picture here and tell me if there's not something just a little silly about white students at an expensive, elite university trying to lecture the rest of us on "social justice".

Then comes this story out of UCLA:
Law school exams often present legal conundrums ripped from headlines of the day, but one UCLA law professor is apologizing for basing a test question on what is apparently a taboo subject -- the fallout from the police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo.

Professor Robert Goldstein said the exam question was designed to test students’ ability to analyze the line between free speech and inciting violence. It cited a report about how Michael Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, shouted, “Burn this bitch down!” after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

The question then asked students to imagine that they are lawyers in the St. Louis County Attorney’s office and had been asked to advise the prosecutor “whether to seek an indictment against Head” for inciting violence. The exam reads:

“[As] a recent hire in the office, you are asked to write a memo discussing the relevant First Amendment issues in such a prosecution. Write the memo.”

But students complained, and writer Elie Mystal at the popular legal blog “Above the Law” opined that the test question was “racially insensitive and divisive.”
I don't see "racially insensitive and divisive", I see "real world" and "practical application".   Sometimes you need to, as former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings used to say, "put on your big girl panties" and deal with things.

Some people want to wear the badge of victimhood.  I find it sickening.

I don't see an "epidemic" of white cops killing unarmed black citizens any more than I see an epidemic of black cops killing unarmed white citizens.  I don't see the racial motives that so many others just want to see.  If you want to find problems in the situations above, I posit these two:
1) the racial problem we have in this country is not racism, it's the tremendous amount of crime committed by black citizens in this country relative to their numbers in the population, and
2) the problem we have in law enforcement is not racial, it's power itself.  Law enforcement officers are too often seen, and treated as, above the law rather than the tool through which the state enforces the law.
Both of those are serious problems and need to be addressed.  Silly little "hands up don't shoot" demonstrations, especially in light of all the evidence from Ferguson, create a fake problem while simultaneously ignoring the real problem(s).

One would think that university students in general, and law students in particular, would be smart enough to grasp that fact, but one would be wrong.

Update, 12/16/14:  Beware of the "violent language" used by one professor in refusing to postpone final exams.  I'm not as contemptuous of the student as the author of that article is:
But I don't mean to pick too much on this student, an Oberlin freshman. This is the environment she's inherited and set of social cues she's learned from people who should know far better—like professors and administrators at Ivy League law schools, for a start. 
She's still an idiot.  And a delicate little flower.  One wonders how she'll be able to handle the lawnmower of life.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hanging Chads

For as long as I've been at my current school, and who knows how long before, the students in our school's AVID program have collected presents for elementary students at a school not too far from ours.  Ours is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with many well-to-do people, the elementary school in question is not in the best of neighborhoods.  Oh, there are far worse neighborhoods in the world, but every year we're told of students who say that the present they got from the high school kids was the only one they'll get for Christmas that year.  It's kind of a big deal.

This year our 3rd period classes collected presents.  The top 3 classes in gift donations get a donut party--and if you know me, you know I want a donut.  I only agree to participate in the program, though, if my 3rd period class votes overwhelmingly to participate.  I explained that this is one of those times where it's not enough to have good intentions, that since they voted overwhelmingly to participate that they actually have to bring presents in.

Setting the example, I brought in the first one, a race car set.

We got off to a slow start, but as the deadline neared more presents came in.  Each day or two the AVID students would come in and clear out the presents, and near the end they told us that we were very nearly in the lead.  Today, the last day to bring in presents, we had a veritable Leaning Tower of Presents in the classroom and it took several students to clear them out.

At the end of 6th period today an announcement was made--we didn't win.  We weren't in the top 3.  In fact, I found out a little later that we were ever so slightly edged out of the top spot by another class, putting us in 4th.

I want a recount.  (or a donut.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is Anyone Surprised By This?

Go ahead, defend requiring people to say something they don't believe, and do so while holding their grade over their head.

Why do we never hear of conservative professors doing stuff this outrageous to liberals? 
If you’re going to be a student of professor Charles Angeletti, you’ll be required to do something unusual:
Angeletti, a professor of American Civilization at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has been making his students recite his own spoof of the Pledge of Allegiance.
It's not what I'd call a spoof, I'd call it a denigration of people who don't think like he does. 

Final Test Tomorrow

Tomorrow after school I'll take my last "test" in this course.  I've been working to understand and memorize 7 proofs, 5 definitions, 3 algorithms, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I guess I'll find out then if my studying has paid off.

Then it's on to the final exam!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Educational Malpractice

Long-time readers of this blog know that I'm not in the camp that reflexively calls schools or teachers bad.  I'm in the "culture" camp, believing that schools are a microcosm of the communities they serve and that low-performing schools are low-performing not because their teachers are bad (most probably aren't) but because there's a culture in the community that doesn't value school.  Here and there, hither and yon, there are schools that are able to turn out well-educated students despite the odds, but such schools require a Jaime Escalante or a Joe Clark and sadly, educators like them are *not* plentiful or even easy to find.

But I also don't shy away from identifying when schools (and districts) shoot themselves in the foot with stupid ideas or, worse, educational malpractice.  My own district is, for change's sake, switching from "American traditional" math in high schools to "integrated math", and that's a disaster waiting to happen.  But what I heard today just made my heart melt.

Twice today I heard reference to taking a course online (from a major university west of the Rockies).  It's one thing to take California's required "health" class online in order to free up a class in a student's schedule at school, it's another to take a math class online--and the reasons for doing so are painful.

As someone who's busting his hump getting a master's degree in math online, I can tell you that one class a semester takes 1 1/2-2 hours of work per weekday--I'm pretty good at math and I'm motivated to learn, and that's what it takes me.  I can scarcely imagine how a math class delivered online could be as good or as effective as one delivered in person.

The first student to talk to me today wants to drop my statistics class at the semester.  This student is working very hard and earning a C, and I've made it clear that next semester's curriculum is "mathier".  As I said, this student works hard but admits to not being "good at math", and then told me that he/she took Algebra 2 online via the west-of-the-Rockies university in order to pass it.

Later in the day a second student came to tell me that he/she would be dropping my other class at the semester.  This student is not earning a passing grade and I'm not surprised that I won't be seeing him/her next semester.  What bothers me, though, is that the student then informed me that he/she would be taking the course online via west-of-the-Rockies university.  I asked, why take it at all?  The reply:  I can pass it there.

These are not mere incorrect perceptions.  In fact, they're very accurate perceptions--students can pass those online courses, even though they wouldn't stand a chance of passing the "same" class at our school.  Our school district knows this, too, and still approves such classes for credit.  And note that the first student mentioned above took Algebra 2 there, do you think that's coincidental?  Or do you think it's because Algebra 2 is a required class to get into almost every university in the country?

Our school district also has a computerized "credit recovery" program.  Like "the miracle of summer school", students who have failed classes--in many cases, failed so many that they'd never graduate on time were it not for credit recovery--can make up their classes via online programs.  One of our teachers taught/supervised that program for a semester and refused to do it after that, saying there's no education taking place in that program.  I exaggerate only slightly:  a student can read a couple things on the computer screen, answer a couple questions on the next screen about what they just read, and voila! Instant education.  That's how they "pass".  I've seen students make up semesters of failed classes in a month or two and then come back to our school in time to graduate.

So the school district in which I work allows students to bypass the already low bar we have for a high school diploma.  It seems that getting students to graduate is far more important than getting them to learn.  In effect, we're selling hollowed out and debased credentials.  Let me say that again:  We're selling. meaningless. credentials.

Would it be better if kids who aren't educated didn't get a diploma?  What's the value in a diploma if we give them to everyone?

In this instance my school district participates in educational malpractice.  We could, and should, do better.

Update:  Now that I think of it, I haven't heard of the credit recovery program this school year.  To be honest I don't know if it still exists in our district, I'll find out and update.

Update #2, 12/11/14:  Yes, we still have it at our school.

Campus Sexual Assaults

One of the more noteworthy parts of Emily Yoffe’s thorough analysis in Slate of the campus response to sexual-assault allegations is her interviews with the authors of studies frequently cited by administrators, elected officials and victim advocates.
To summarize the article from which the above quote is drawn:
*the "1 in 5" number for sexual assaults is not a statistically valid number,
*assuming an accused male student is guilty or is a serial predator is "sloppy thinking",
*the Dept of Education's Office of Civil Rights needs to be reined in, and
*the prohibition about linking alcohol consumption with any type of sexual assault needs to go away.

You might consider reading the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Real #WarOnWomen

The real #waronwomen is waged by President Obama, who tries to shut up women reporters who dare to say something against His Eminence.

CBS' Sharyl Attkisson:
Sharyl Attkisson, the ex-CBS investigative reporter, whistleblower, and author recently spoke with Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter about her book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington. They discussed her computer hacking, the struggles she experienced getting her stories televised,  media bias, and the existence of an Obama “Enemies’ List.”
Yes, her computer was hacked by the government.

ABC's Ann Compton:
According to retired ABC News journalist Ann Compton, Barack Obama launches into "profanity-laced" tirades against the press in off-the-record meetings with reporters. In a C-SPAN interview, Compton also derided the President for leading "the most opaque" administration of "any I have covered."
As the Instapundit said,  President Obama is "like an unholy crossbreed of Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon."

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Science Is Settled!

California's drought is not caused by climate change; rather, recurring natural weather patterns are to blame, according to NOAA:
Natural weather patterns, not man-made global warming, are causing the historic drought parching California, says a study out Monday from federal scientists.

"It's important to note that California's drought, while extreme, is not an uncommon occurrence for the state," said Richard Seager, the report's lead author and professor with Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal but was reviewed by other NOAA scientists.

"In fact, multiyear droughts appear regularly in the state's climate record, and it's a safe bet that a similar event will happen again," he said.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Freedom of the Press

Our Constitution speaks of freedom of the press, not freedom for the "institutional press" or freedom for "professional journalists".  Thomas Paine was not a journalist, he merely published an influential pamphlet:
With the national explosion of partisan political blogs and shady, fly-by-night websites offering purposely skewed and inaccurate interpretations of hard news events, I recently asked the Secretary of the Senate to put together a definition of what qualifies as a legitimate journalist.

My concern focused on the confusion that could result if a number of partisan bloggers requested official credentials to cover legislative happenings from the press rooms located in the rear of each chamber at the State House.

Allowing agenda-driven bloggers the same access and legitimacy as serious, long-established and unbiased reporters could soon create a confusing, circus-like atmosphere and blur the line between promoting opinions and reporting facts.
This man is an idiot.  A dangerous idiot.  That he's a Republican is irrelevant to me, his idea is inimical to a free press and a free people.

The View In Front of My House A Couple Days Ago

video
We're not very used to rain here :-)

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Why Americans Eat Fast Food (aka Your Tax Dollars At Work)

I want to hope that IJR got suckered into quoting from an Onion story or something.

According to Independent Journal Review:
Quick question: Why do people buy “fast food”?

Go ahead, think it through a second time to make sure that you’re confident of your answer. We’ll give you all the time you need.

(pause)

And yes, you are correct. People buy fast food because it is food that comes to them fast.

That 1-minute consideration you just went through was also just recently investigated, researched, concluded upon, and then written about in a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (The USDAERS). The USDAERS (pronounced Users) took 52 pages to come up with this conclusion:

People buy fast food because it is food that comes to them fast...
They also used formulas like this:
Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 10.34.35 PM
 (But only with
Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 10.36.45 PM
as the cumulative distribution function for the standard normal distribution). Of course, you would assume that. Everyone would.

They also stated their data with neato-peato graphs like this...
You get the idea.

We need more government so even more such important topics can be researched.

Greed?

It's fashionable in liberal circles to denigrate corporate profits as "greed", but...
Here's a kick in the pants for Wal-Mart haters and lovers of big government, two groups that almost perfectly overlap. According to Mark J. Perry, IBD Brain Truster, economist and American Enterprise Institute scholar, average big-box stores such as Wal-Mart earn only $3.10 in profit for every $100 in sales .

Meanwhile, government makes nearly $7 in (unearned) profit for every $100 in sales at these big discount chains, based, says Perry, "on the 6.94% average sales tax rate for the 46 states that tax retail sales." Governments in high-tax states can rake in three times the profit the stores earn.
Government makes more off a gallon of gas than the oil companies that bring it to you, too.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I Knew It!

It's a commie liberal plot!
Lily Tang Williams, a mother of three, testified before the Colorado State Board of Education that Common Core was similar to the education she received growing up in Mao’s Communist China.

“Common Core, in my eyes, is the same as the Communist core I once saw in China,” Williams said. “I grew up under Mao’s regime and we had the Communist-dominated education — nationalized testing, nationalized curriculum, and nationalized indoctrination.”
Yes, I know there are Republicans who support it (and Democrats who don't).  This is a "funny haha" post, not to be taken seriously.  Don't get your panties in a bunch, my leftie friends.

What Should Be The Role of Universities In Campus Sexual Assault Cases?

I've stated several times on this blog my opposition to university sexual kangaroo courts, extra-judicial proceedings where law enforcement and courts should be involved.  I've agreed with, and linked to, several articles by the author of this article, and I do so because I agree with what she says:
One reason why accusers don’t want to go to the police is because, for the past few decades, law enforcement has been accused of not taking rape seriously. That is the crux of every conversation surrounding campus sexual assault, and sadly, an issue that is not being addressed. Given this vacuum, activists have stepped in to increase pressure on colleges to handle rape cases.

Instead of creating an alternate legal system where untrained or barely trained college administrators pretend to be investigators, prosecutors, impartial judges and juries, a better option would be to reform the way police react to rape accusations...

Instead of universities holding their own trials, they should devote more resources to providing emotional support and encouragement for women going through the actual legal system. Not only does the campus process provide a lower burden of proof and fewer due process rights for the accused, it provides weak punishment for those who are convicted. A serial rapist's punishment shouldn't be limited to being kicked out of school. That person should be in jail.

Her points seem darned reasonable to me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

It's Not Just The Rain

California's getting a much needed dose of rain, but that often brings with it high humidity and intermittent power outages--not things that are conducive to doing MAP testing over the school's wireless network and internet connection.

We got through the early periods but 6th period was a nightmare.  Moving to a different classroom showed promise, but that promise faded quickly.  After trying for an hour, we called it quits.  I, as the testing coordinator, now get to figure out how we're going to test those kids in our rapidly-closing testing window that includes make-up testing.

Ugh.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

They Keep Recycling the "Fake But Accurate" Defense

If you have to lie to prove your point then your point isn't worth making--unless, of course, you just feeeeeeeeel that it's so important that the ends justify the means:
A federal investigation revealed that a racist rape threat against a University of Chicago student activist was actually fake, written by the student’s friend to gain support for their cultural-sensitivity initiatives.

Freshman Derek Caquelin posted a threat against junior Vincente Perez on his own Facebook wall on November 18 — and then claimed a racist hacker must have done it...

In a November 24 Facebook post, Caquelin admitted to faking the threat and claimed to have acted alone. He acknowledged that what he had done was wrong, but also insisted that he only did it to advance awareness of cultural problems.

“I made the wrong decision after being harassed about the problems I have tried to discuss not being real and wanted to show you all they are real,” he said.
If you have to fake it then your issues really aren't real.  Do liberals not understand logic?

The house of cards has come tumbling down around this idiot, and hopefully no employer would ever want him within a hundred meters of their facility.

Is This An "Appropriate" College Class?

Obama’s Old College has a Course Where Students Campaign for Democrats

Monday, December 01, 2014

How Bad Are The Students In Some Areas?

Is it the schools that are bad in Paterson, NJ, or is there something about the community that causes the following sad statement to be true:
In Paterson, New Jersey only 19 kids who took the SAT's are considered college ready. This means that they scored at least a 1500 out of 2400 on the standardized test, and this number is truly shocking considering how large the school district is.

Paterson resident Jason Williams is one of the lucky ones. He just graduated high school last year and has been enrolled in college since September, after taking the SAT's three times determined to score over 1500. He says that the key to his success was not falling victim to the streets...

However, the Paterson school district said that they no longer use SAT scores to gauge students' success.
According to Wikipedia, Paterson has about 150,000 residents and almost 39% of all households have children under age 18 in them.

Read the entire article and determine, as I did, that perhaps still to be breathing at age 18 is how the district judges "success".

Been Slow The Last Couple of Days

I heard a really interesting discussion about Ferguson on the way to work this morning but certainly don't have time to hash out my thoughts on the topic.  I've got until 2 weeks from this Friday to finish my discrete optimization course, and that includes two homework assignments, one more unit test, and a final exam. 

So I've gotta hit the books!

Today I booked next summer's cruise on Royal Caribbean, my first time on that line.  Should make for an interesting trip, I'll have to tell you about it some time....