Saturday, October 31, 2015

Syria

How can anyone put the debacle there more clearly, or more succinctly, than this?
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: U.S. to send Special Operations forces to Syria.

Flashback: Obama in 2013: ‘I Will Not Put American Boots on the Ground in Syria.’

Related:
More proof that the president is an idiot. Some people claim he's a smart man, but after 7 years in office he still hasn't figured out that he can't just will things to be so.  Canute figured that out a thousand years ago.

And our peace-loving friends on the left, where are they now?  Or do they only protest when the president has an R after his name?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Who's Right?

Did you ever see the movie Crimson Tide, with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman?  It's a naval thriller, with (Captain) Gene Hackman and (Executive Officer) Denzel Washington mutinying and counter-mutinying on an American nuclear missile submarine--are they supposed to launch their nukes or not?  Gene says yes, Denzel says no.  At the board of inquiry after the incident an admiral states that they were both right, and they were both wrong.

Awesome movie.

That movie came to mind as I read this story, about a professor who didn't want to use the "approved" book for a course he teaches:
These issues came to a head Friday when Alain Bourget, an associate professor of mathematics at California State University–Fullerton, appeared before a faculty grievance committee to challenge a reprimand he received for refusing to use a $180 textbook his department had determined was the only appropriate text for an introductory linear algebra and differential equations course. Instead, he used two textbooks, one of which cost about $75 and other of which consists of free online materials.

Bourget maintains that his choices are just as effective educationally and much less expensive, so he should have the right to use them. But the university says that it makes sense for courses that have multiple sections to all use the same textbooks. Both Bourget and the university say their positions are based on principles of academic freedom.
Here's the fun part:
The Fullerton text in question is Differential Equations and Linear Algebra, published by Pearson with a suggested price of $196 but available at the Fullerton bookstore for $180 (used editions for much less). The authors are Stephen W. Goode and Scott A. Annin, the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the mathematics department at Fullerton. The textbook is currently in its third edition, and Pearson is preparing to bring out a fourth edition.
I can see both sides of this issue.  There is good and bad on both sides.

How do you decide?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why A Special Education Teacher Resigned

From the Washington Post:
Wendy Bradshaw is a mother and a teacher in Florida’s Polk County who specializes in working with children — infants through fifth grade — living with disabilities to help improve their educational and life experiences. She has undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees in education. Bradshaw loves to teach but she has reached a point where she cannot tolerate working within an education system focused on standardized test-based accountability that forces children to perform developmentally inappropriate tasks.

She is, she said, tired of being forced to make kids cry.

Here is her resignation letter, which I am publishing with permission. This appeared on the website of the  The Opt Out Florida Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for public education and against test-based school reforms. She is an administrator for the Opt Out Polk group within that network.

Here’s what Bradshaw wrote....
Hat tip to reader Anna for the link.

20 USC 3401

This is what the law says:
§3401. Congressional findings
The Congress finds that—
(1) education is fundamental to the development of individual citizens and the progress of the Nation;
(2) there is a continuing need to ensure equal access for all Americans to educational opportunities of a high quality, and such educational opportunities should not be denied because of race, creed, color, national origin, or sex;
(3) parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and States, localities, and private institutions have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role;
(4) in our Federal system, the primary public responsibility for education is reserved respectively to the States and the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States;
(5) the American people benefit from a diversity of educational settings, including public and private schools, libraries, museums and other institutions, the workplace, the community, and the home;
(6) the importance of education is increasing as new technologies and alternative approaches to traditional education are considered, as society becomes more complex, and as equal opportunities in education and employment are promoted;
(7) there is a need for improvement in the management and coordination of Federal education programs to support more effectively State, local, and private institutions, students, and parents in carrying out their educational responsibilities;
(8) the dispersion of education programs across a large number of Federal agencies has led to fragmented, duplicative, and often inconsistent Federal policies relating to education;
(9) Presidential and public consideration of issues relating to Federal education programs is hindered by the present organizational position of education programs in the executive branch of the Government; and
(10) there is no single, full-time, Federal education official directly accountable to the President, the Congress, and the people.
(Pub. L. 96–88, title I, §101, Oct. 17, 1979, 93 Stat. 669.) Effective DatePub. L. 96–88, title VI, §601, Oct. 17, 1979....
I added the boldface.

Free Speech Under Assault In The Former Home of the So-called Free Speech Movement

If university students want to sit down and shut up, I'm ok with that.  If they expect everyone else to sit down and shut up, there will be problems.  It seems like there will be problems:
NEW SURVEY REVEALS ALARMING STUDENT ATTITUDES ABOUT FREE SPEECH—Yale University’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program recently released a national survey measuring U.S. college students’ attitudes towards free speech on campus. The results were, ahem, troubling. It’s almost as if liberty is something these students are… unlearning.

Here are just a few of the highlights (lowlights?) from the survey:
  • Nearly one third (32 percent) of students could not identify the First Amendment as the constitutional amendment that deals with free speech. 33 percent of those who correctly identified the First Amendment said that the First Amendment does not protect hate speech.
  • More than half (51 percent) of students are in favor of their college or university having speech codes to regulate speech for students and faculty.
  • 72 percent of students said they support disciplinary action against “any student or faculty member on campus who uses language that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive.”
In less awful news, 95 percent of the students surveyed said that free speech is important to them. However, as I have long predicted and discussed, when you ask Americans if they like free speech, they nearly always say “yes.” But when you get into the nitty gritty details about what kind of speech warrants protection, you discover that some folks (especially college students) are more in the “I love free speech, but…” camp. And I fear the list of exceptions is growing larger by the day.

You can check out more from the survey over at FIRE’s website and look through the full results on McLaughlin & Associates’ website.

Changing Positions on Global Warming

If the science were settled, this wouldn't be occurring:
THE CERTAINTY OF UNCERTAINTY: Great juxtaposition by Mark Steyn:
Nine years ago self-proclaimed “climate hawk” David Roberts was contemplating Nuremberg trials for deniers:
When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.
But in his latest piece, at Vox.com, he’s singing a rather different tune:
Basically, it’s difficult to predict anything, especially regarding sprawling systems like the global economy and atmosphere, because everything depends on everything else. There’s no fixed point of reference.
Now he tells us.
Roberts isn’t the first “climate hawk” to charter multiple flight paths over the years; here’s the late Dr. Steven Schneider versus Dr. Steven Schneider:

(The whole “In Search of the Coming Ice Age” segment from Leonard Nimoy’s cheesy late-’70s paranormal In Search Of series is online here; and I’ve rounded up plenty of other Not-S0-Final Countdowns here.)
Update, 10/31/15Faking climate change data?  Say it ain't so!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yes. Next Question.

Is the University of California spending too little on teaching and too much on administration?
Administrative growth and executive compensation are perennial hot-button issues for students, labor leaders and fiscal watchdogs, who say they are emblematic of the system's free-spending ways. UC officials counter that the costs are necessary to compete with other world-class institutions and keep up with advancing technology and growing enrollment.

They also say the budget numbers can give the wrong impression.

Only about a quarter of the UC system's budget is made up of "core fund" spending on the educational mission, they point out. The remainder encompasses everything else, including five medical centers that are more than self-supporting and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which helps bring in the billions of dollars in government grants and contracts that UC researchers attract each year.

Indeed, UC's budget - larger than those of some 25 states - is so big and so complex that it can be puzzling even for experts.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gary Sinese Wins The Thayer Award

Each year the West Point Association of Graduates presents the Sylvanus Thayer Award to the civilian who best exemplifies the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country.  This year the award was presented to actor Gary Sinese:
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Gary Sinise has played many roles throughout his 30-plus year career: police detective, soldier, astronaut, and even president of the United States; however, as Lieutenant General Robert L. Caslen Jr. ’75, USMA Superintendent, told the Corps of Cadets gathered in the Mess Hall for the 2015 Thayer Award Dinner, “Sinise’s most notable role is the one he plays in real life: supporter and friend of those who serve and defend our nation.” For his decades-long dedication to our nation’s active duty military personnel and returning veterans, the West Point Association of Graduates (WPAOG) presented the 58th Sylvanus Thayer Award to Gary Sinise on October 22, 2015...

In 2004, Sinise formed a band to entertain troops during his USO tours, naming it after his famous film character. Over the years, the “Lt. Dan Band” (named for his character in Forrest Gump) has performed more than 315 concerts worldwide, at an average of 30 shows per year, boosting troop morale and raising money for wounded heroes, Gold Star families, veterans and active duty troops. In 2011, he formed the Gary Sinise Foundation, which offers a variety of programs to give back to those who sacrifice for our nation, hoping that it will encourage others to give back as well. “If you, our honored Corps of Cadets are willing to serve this country, then we, as its citizens, must try to do our very best to serve you back,” Sinise said.
A good man.

Taking Notes

Are they lazy?  Have they been ill-trained, thinking we'll hand-feed them?  Do they overestimate their ability to remember details?

Today in a few of my classes I discussed the requirements for a major project that we'll start next week.  We'll gather data, analyze it, and write a report on it.

Why was no one taking notes on what I was saying?  Have we made note-taking such a chore (a la Cornell notes) that they'll only do it when they're told to?  I was giving them some subtle points to consider, and not considering those points in their write-ups will have serious effects on the grade received.  Yet they stared at me, listening intently, and wrote nothing until I suggested they should.  They are college-bound seniors, every one of them.

What the heck?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

California Teachers, Time Is Running Out

If you're an agency fee payer and haven't requested your rebate from CTA/CFT yet, you have only until November 15th to do so.  If you're still a union member and find that CTA/CFT doesn't represent your views, you should resign and request an agency fee rebate.

For more information start here at the web site of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.  Sample letters of resignation and agency fee rebate request are available there.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Feel-Good Story, The Kind Every Teacher Loves

Yesterday after school I was in my classroom before heading off to 7th Period (happy hour) and a student I didn't recognize walked in.  He stood at the door, told me who he was and where he was from (he takes Algebra 2 from the teacher next door), and asked if I were available to answer a question for him.  When I answered in the affirmative he came up to me, introduced himself, and put out his hand for me to shake.

I already like this kid.

He asked if I could explain Bayes' Theorem to him.  I told him it's been awhile; I could explain how to use it, but to explain why it works I'd like to consult some of my notes (from those masters courses I've been taking).  I asked if we could meet after school Monday, at which time I'd be totally prepared.  He agreed.

Then he started telling me about the apps he writes.  How he's already written several.  How he's been collaborating with some IB students in Singapore (!).  While telling me about one he's working on now he used a word that he had obviously made up; I said, "I think you mean 'preferences'," as he was talking about choices people might make.  He looked at me quizzically, then said, "When I think of preferences I think of settings in an app.  But 'preferences' is the right word?"  When I replied that it was, he said, "Oh.  English is not my first language."  He also speaks Iranian (his word, not mine) and Norwegian.  Until that moment I had no indication at all that he wasn't a native-born English speaker.

I got the sense that he's the type of person that soaks up knowledge like a sponge.  He's not just bright--there are lots of kids who are bright--he actively seeks out knowledge, he wants not only to have information but to learn.  Such people are a rarity, they're both a joy and a challenge to be around.

I hope to experience more of the challenge.

Update, 10/26/15:  He showed up just before 3:00 today.  I gave him a simple problem**, and from that problem we developed some formulas for conditional probability.  Each step of the way we got closer until we finally had developed Bayes' Theorem, essentially from scratch!  It took about a half an hour, but it was so worth it to see the looks of joy and wonder on his face.

Sometimes I really love this job I have!  (And other times I don't--see the post I wrote today!)

**The problem was:  flip a coin.  If the toss is heads, roll one die; if the toss is tails, roll 2 dice.  What is the probability of getting a 4, given that the coin toss was heads?  What is the probability of that the coin toss was heads, given that you rolled a 4?

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Happened To California?

A dystopian nightmare:
Why is California choosing the path of Detroit — growing government that it cannot pay for, shorting the middle classes, hiking taxes but providing shoddy services and infrastructure in return, and obsessing over minor bumper-sticker issues while ignoring existential crises? 
 
The cause is political. California is a one-party state, without any serious audit of authorities in power...
 
But what turned a once bipartisan and purple state bright blue? 
 
A perfect storm of events.
 
Higher taxes and increased regulations have driven out lots of small-business owners. In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of disgruntled middle-of-the-road voters voted with their feet and left for no-tax Nevada, Texas, or Florida. 
 
The state devolved into a pyramid of the coastal wealthy and interior poor — the dual constituencies of the new progressive movement. 
 
A third of America’s welfare recipients reside in California. Nearly a quarter of Californians live below the poverty line. 
 
California’s long, thin coastal corridor has become a tony La-La land unto itself. Yet nowhere in America are there more billionaires.

Why I'm Not A Socialist

I support the tenets of our Constitution because that document incorporates our Founders' knowledge of human nature.  That same knowledge is why I'm not a socialist:
Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge. It is the initial illusion of success that gives government intervention its pernicious, seductive appeal. In the long run, socialism has always proven to be a formula for tyranny and misery.

A pyramid scheme is ultimately unsustainable because it is based on faulty principles. Likewise, collectivism is unsustainable in the long run because it is a flawed theory. Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with fundamental principles of human behavior. The failure of socialism in countries around the world can be traced to one critical defect: it is a system that ignores incentives.

Talk About A Sense of Entitlement

Only in America:
Approximately 30 undocumented students from various University of California campuses protested outside of the President Janet Napolitano’s office in Oakland yesterday “to express their frustration about what they called a failure to address issues that affect undocumented students.”

Anthropology student Magdaleno Rosales said that “We wanted to put forward a statement saying we will no longer let the UC be unresponsive to undocumented students.”

To coin a phrase, “Only in America.”

Restorative Justice

We're beginning to implement this at my school.  I'll withhold judgement until I see its actual effectiveness:
The students, more than 30 in all, filed into room B7 at San Juan High School in Citrus Heights to receive their dose of social justice. Among the infractions: Using digital devices or bad language in class.

“Do you know why you are here?” senior Tristan Bare asked after several students were called forward.

“You were all on your electronic devices and all were warned, the no-devices poster was displayed and you were using (the devices) during instruction.”


It was another Thursday morning for the high school’s peer judicial panel, one element of a culture-changing, conflict-reducing strategy known as “restorative practices” gaining traction in public schools nationally. The peer panels at San Juan focus on having students take responsibility for their actions and make amends for harms done.

The payoffs, San Juan students say, are fewer black marks on student records, fewer formal reports to principals and more palatable remedies to conflicts, all positive alternatives to student alienation and suspension. It’s the flip side of zero-tolerance policies that research shows disproportionately punish racial minorities.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article40793349.html#storylink=cpy

Inequality

Is inequality itself a real problem?

The moral problem posed by the distribution of wealth isn’t inequality. It’s poverty.

These might seem like the same issue, but Frankfurt shows us with elan that they are not. Suppose, he says, there is a resource that will keep a person alive, but only if that person has five units of it. There are 10 people, and there are 40 units of the resource. If the resource is distributed equally, everybody gets four units -- and everybody dies. To insist on equality in that case, he argues, “would be morally grotesque.”

Fortunately, says Frankfurt, we don’t really try to promote equality. Even among those who worry about inequality, people adjust their consumption to their own assessments of their needs. They don’t reduce their consumption because it’s unfair for them to have money. This instinct he lauds: “A preoccupation with the condition of others ... leads a person away from understanding what he himself truly requires in order effectively to pursue his own most authentic needs, interests, and ambitions.”

Frankfurt suggests that the instinct that leads many to complain about inequality isn’t about equality at all: “What I believe they find intuitively to be morally objectionable ... is not that some of the individuals in those circumstances have less money than others. Rather, it is the fact that those with less have too little.”
An interesting view.

As Predictable As The Setting Sun

This will happen if hybrid/electric cars get too popular, too.  Gas taxes will necessarily go through the roof, or else there will also be a “mileage tax”:
California begins to reward residents who cut water use with rate increase to make up for lower water use

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why Even Invite Them In The First Place?

You know that if some speaker at a college is going to deviate at all from the approved liberal talking points, some libs will go spastic and the college will back down and "disinvite" the speaker--so why even invite them in the first place?
Irony alert. A student group at Williams College called “Uncomfortable Learning” that asked a conservative female author to speak on campus reportedly rescinded that invitation because – wait for it – students were too uncomfortable over the prospect of her speech.

Yes, the whole point of the “Uncomfortable Learning” group was to bring conversations to the elite private campus that ran against the grain of its left-leaning atmosphere. But the controversial speaker, author and cultural critic Suzanne Venker, explained in an op-ed for Fox News that she was disinvited because, she was told, her pending arrival was “stirring a lot of angry reactions among students on campus.”
So predictable.

Update, 10/24/15:  She was reinvited, but has declined.

Exam #3

Today I took the 3rd exam in my Problem Solving Through History course.  I've gotta say it, I think I did extremely well.  Let's hope!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens



Do you think Luke, in his old age, is going to attempt to finish what his father began?

White People Need Not Apply

When the will of the voters is wrong, negate the vote:
So reported KTVU (San Francisco) on Thursday (see also this KRON story):
There’s a bit of controversy surrounding student elections at a San Francisco middle school after the results were immediately withheld by the principal because they weren’t diverse enough.

The incident happened at Everett Middle School in San Francisco’s Mission District. The voting was held Oct. 10, but the principal sent an email to parents on Oct. 14 saying the results would not be released because the candidates that were elected as a whole do not represents the diversity that exists at the school….

According to Principal Lena Van Haren, Everett Middle School has a diverse student body. She said 80 percent of students are students of color and 20 percent are white, but the election results did not represent the entire study body.

“That is concerning to me because as principal I want to make sure all voices are heard from all backgrounds,” Van Haren said….

“We’re not nullifying the election, we’re not cancelling the election and we’re not saying this didn’t count,” Van Haren said.

She said the school may possibly add positions in an effort to be more equal.

“I’m very hopeful this can be a learning experience and actually be something that embodied our vision which is to help students make positive change,” she added.
Well, the children’s voices were heard. They just seemed to be less obsessed with race than some administrators are. And exactly what “learning experience” would the children get this way, whether about racial tolerance or democracy?
Once word got out, though, the principal backtracked like Michael Jackson doing a moonwalk.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Textbook Adoption--More Disaster

I wrote a few weeks ago about how badly my district is handling textbook adoption for several courses next year, including my beloved statistics.  Today several of us went to a meeting after school to allow one of the publishers to brief us on all the goodies.

It was a disaster.

The person in the room with us didn't know how to use the technology component--he's the sales guy.  So he tried to set up a "webinar".  I don't know which end the problem was on, but the audio kept cutting out every few words

And what the speaker was trying to explain, from all the way in Florida, could easily have been sent to us in a PDF.  I don't need to be walked through how to sign up for your company's online goodies--tell me what they are and how I might use them.  But we couldn't really do that because calculus and statistics were in the same meeting--because the online sign-on procedure is the same for both books because the publisher is the same.  And because the salesman didn't know how to use any of it.

He's going to send us a PDF of how to log into the online goodies.

You might imagine that the meeting devolved quickly.  It was truly a waste of a couple hours.  I asked my fellow teachers how they're going to run multiple classes when we were only given enough textbooks for one class; were they going to run an entirely separate class, or were they going to run their one "pilot class" in parallel with the others, pointing the students in the pilot textbook class to the appropriate section of the textbook that they're only going to be using for 6 weeks?

The cleaned-up term for this process so far is "goatscrew".

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Losing It

When a principal loses it, this is what it looks like:
A Bronx principal ordered her teachers to give up their desks last week, and had the furniture dumped at the curb — telling staff she doesn’t want them sitting in class.

Donna Connelly, principal of PS 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, also told teachers to empty their filing cabinets, which she then discarded. With class in session, teachers were told to push their desks and cabinets into the hallway. Custodians then hauled them outside and piled them like trash on the blacktop of a school across the street.

“It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.

The diktat demoralized staff at the K-5 school, where diverse students perform well above the city average on state exams.

Connelly told teachers she “does not want them sitting,” an insider said, although though no chairs were tossed.

“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said...

“How the f–k does someone with so little good sense become a principal? What kind of policy allows this to happen?” another posted (on Facebook)...

Word spread to District 10 Superintendent Melodie Mashel, who on Friday ordered the furniture returned to PS 24 — and out of public view. But it was stacked in the basement, sources said.
Note that it was another administrator who stepped in to reverse the bad decision.  No mention at all of the teachers union, which is among the strongest and most militant in the country.

Remediation in College

If I were in charge of California's higher education system, no one who needs remedial math or English would attend one of our state universities.  Such people would attend our community colleges until they brought themselves up to university-level readiness:
Experts say the primary factors are a lack of collaboration between universities and high schools, inadequate information about the expectations of college and an increase in the emphasis on attending college for students who previously would have pursued another track.

“Until recently, there was no effort to try to align the (university and high school) systems,” said Michal Kurlaender, a professor at UC Davis who is leading a team researching college readiness. “No one felt it was necessarily important. We focused on minimum competency like the high school exit exam.”

Among all freshmen entering California State University, Sacramento, this fall, 53 percent have to take remedial courses because they couldn’t pass placement tests for college-level math, English or both.

Students who fail the math test are required to enroll in a remedial class, while those who fail the English exam are given the choice of a remedial or standard course, said university officials. All are required to take a state-mandated college preparation course over the summer. Students who do not pass their remedial class within a year are sent to community college.

Nelsen sees the high remediation rates as a hurdle to students graduating in four years, a major goal of his presidency. The high number of students playing catch-up has been a perennial problem for California State University campuses. Students who take remedial courses don’t earn college credit and take longer to graduate, resulting in higher costs for students and taxpayers. It also diverts resources from degree-oriented coursework and leaves fewer university seats available.
I would be concerned about more "collaboration" between universities and secondary schools. There's already too much focus on sending students to universities.  Industrial arts and other vocational programs are a mere shadow today of what they used to be and should be.  Yes, every student should have the opportunity to go to college--if they prepare themselves academically--but not every student needs to go to college.  More collaboration could exacerbate this trend of marking every student who doesn't go to college a failure.  Share the standards, let us know what college students need--and let us provide that education to students.  Those that master it will be ready to attend a university.  Those that don't, won't be.

Lest you think I'm being too harsh, I'll point out that there's an important, missing piece of data in the linked article, and that's what percentage of students do not pass their remedial classes, what percent don't pass and drop out, and what percent of who go back to community college don't make it back to a university and complete a degree.  I've read elsewhere that those numbers are fairly high.

Here's a chart (from the link above) showing how bad the problem is:
From another chart at the link I find that the school at which I teach has 40% of our students needing remediation--and I teach at a well-to-do, suburban, college-oriented high school.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article39555894.html#storylink=cpy

Income Inequality

From the Washington Post:
The (Democratic) party believes that economic inequality is an urgent problem, and that its urgency should be understood in terms of huge disparities of wealth. Neither proposition is (to use the term Jefferson used when he wrote equality into America’s catechism) a self-evident truth.

The fundamental producer of income inequality is freedom. Individuals have different aptitudes and attitudes. Not even universal free public education, even were it well done, could equalize the ability of individuals to add value to the economy. Besides, some people want to teach, others want to run hedge funds. In an open society, rewards are set not by political power but by impersonal market forces, the rewards of which will differ dramatically but usually predictably. Beyond freedom’s valuable fecundity in producing unequal social outcomes, four other facets of today’s America fuel inequality...

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is doing well, if not good, by reducing the debate about equality to resentment of large fortunes. He should read Harry G. Frankfurt’s new book “On Inequality.” It is so short (89 pages) that even a peripatetic candidate can read it, and so lucid that he cannot miss its inconvenient point: “It is misguided to endorse economic egalitarianism as an authentic moral ideal.” 

Frankfurt, a Princeton professor of philosophy emeritus, argues that economic inequality is not inherently morally objectionable. “To the extent that it is truly undesirable, it is on account of its almost irresistible tendency to generate unacceptable inequalities of other kinds.” These can include access to elite education, political influence and other nontrivial matters. But Frankfurt’s alternative to economic egalitarianism is the “doctrine of sufficiency,” which is that the moral imperative should be that everyone have enough .

If You Truly Believe In The Media's Holding Government Accountable, You Must Vote Republican

If Romney had been elected in 2012 and in the year before his reelection campaign had bombed a hospital, decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, and had details of his robot assassin program leaked, things would probably look a little different today.

If Romney were president right now, the White House would be surrounded by protesters and candlelight peace vigils night and day. Some would wave American flags, some would wave signs calling for impeachment, some would have pictures caricaturing the president as Hitler or an animal. They would chant “Not in our name!”, or “Bring them home!”, or “Hey ho, hey ho, Romney has got to go!”
If Romney were president, nightly news reports on CBS, NBC, and ABC would have regular features on war crimes, quagmires, and collateral damage. CNN would be wall-to-wall with team coverage of protests, interviews of bombing witnesses, and Anderson Cooper walking through rubble in full body armor.

If Romney were president, every political analyst left of Judge Napolitano would be fretting over the war-weary public turning the upcoming election into a referendum against the president and his party. Vox and FiveThirtyEight would have maps showing how many Senate seats Republicans would lose because of the president’s sure-to-plummet approval rating. And then there’s MSNBC.

If Romney were president, MSNBC would be holding mock war crimes tribunals on Chris Hayes, explaining the ins and outs of the process with expert guests. Lena Dunham would be on Maddow every night aghast (but still giggling!) at this warmonger-in-chief. Chris Matthews would be yelling at Michael Moore, trying to find out when charges would be filed at the Hague.

If Romney were president, Democrats in Congress would be calling for hearings and investigations for each transgression: the bombing, troop levels, and drone policy. Chuck Schumer would hold daily press briefings scolding the wreckless president from behind the glasses perched precariously down his nose. Someone would accurately quote Sheila Jackson-Lee condeming the terrible bombing of the “orphanage in Pakistan”.

But Mitt Romney isn’t president, Barack Obama is, so no one cares.
The full piece is here.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Feeling the Bern


Just remember:

"The goal of socialism is communism." --Lenin

Consent Classes

Why is it, do you think, that only university students are being targeted by these "yes means yes" rules and so-called consent classes?
I am not a rapist. But I’m in my second week as a university student, and already modern feminism and “consent culture” is trying to pin that label on me...

How many rapists are going to stop raping people because some pretentious student told them that “Yes means Yes”? Any at all? And why would any normal, right-thinking man attend a class that demonises them and normal, healthy male sexuality by pretending that all men are latent rapists who would take advantage of women if they thought they could get away with it?
Why, indeed.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chaperoning Saturday's Homecoming Dance

I don't go into the dance itself.  No, I have no desire to watch Gomorrah burn, so I'm positioned at the end of a hallway and have the mission of ensuring students don't try to sneak into or out of the dance vicinity.

It gets boring back there, so the last few times I've taken my 1st generation Kindle Fire and played games on it.  I think I'll be a little smarter this time.  I'll do what I do when I go for a walk, or get on my elliptical trainer in the morning--I'll break out the phone, put in the earbuds, and listen to an audiobook.  I'm currently finishing up a historical fiction book about Arminius, Varus, and the destruction of 3 Roman legions in Germany.  The next book I'm getting is a "what if" collection of short stories.

"What if" schools didn't have dances anymore?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Might A Free Market Respond To This Situation?

From the Tampa Bay Times:
Robyn White hadn't taught probability and statistics in more than 20 years.

She geared up for the challenge, though, after Wiregrass Ranch High School's sole teacher for the course resigned in late September, and no qualified applicants responded to three job ads.

To make it work, White, the principal, gets to campus around 6:30 a.m. each day to cram in some administrative duties before hustling off to teach three periods. She breaks back to the office by 10 a.m., hoping no urgent emails have hit her inbox before she begins teacher observations...

It isn't easy to lead Pasco County's largest high school while also teaching a full load of classes. But White says her inability to find a certified teacher in one of Florida's critical shortage areas left her little choice. Seven other high schools within a 45-minute drive also need math teachers.

"I would be very uncomfortable hiring somebody with an elementary background or a social studies background for a math job," said White, who taught math 19 years before becoming a school administrator. "They're not going to be what's best for my students. . . . I'm not going to settle."
From what little I have to go on in this story, she seems like a good leader.  She's setting a good example for both teachers and students.

Freeman Dyson on Climate Science

Since climate "science" has devolved into a political issue, let's first identify Dyson's politics:
An Obama supporter who describes himself as "100 per cent Democrat," Dyson says he is disappointed that the President "chose the wrong side." Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does more good than harm, he argues, but it is not an insurmountable crisis. Climate change, he tells us, "is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts?"
Since he disagrees with Obama he's obviously a racist, right, lefties?  Or do you have another reason to discount him?  And you're going to have to disagree with him:
He pours scorn on "the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models".

"I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry, and the biology of fields and farms and forests," writes Dyson...

"Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet," he says.
The models are primitive.  Many don't even account for water vapor (our largest so-called greenhouse gas), and none of them has predicted our current 17-year lack of warming.  Much like the "young earthers", who think the earth is 6000 years old, there's enough evidence here to question the orthodoxy.

The Supreme Court Got It Right 9-0

Free speech and association win again:
The recent UCLA controversy involving the fraternity and sorority Kim Kardashian/Kanye West party reminded me of the Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on university student speech. In that case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010), the Court held that universities may require student organizations that get university-provided benefits to accept all would-be members — including ones whose beliefs are at odds with the organization’s principles (e.g., if an atheist wants to join the Christian student group, or vice versa). I think that was correct, for reasons I gave in this article...

So if a group wants to express hostility to homosexuality — or hostility based on race, or sex, or religion, or what have you — it has the right to do that. And that’s so even if the group seeks access (on the same terms as other groups) to generally available university property, services, and subsidies. And on this point, the Court was unanimous: The liberal Justices plus Justice Kennedy took this view; the other conservative Justices would have just taken this further, to secure student groups’ right to choose their members as well as their right to choose their speech.
So what is this UCLA controversy?  From the Daily Bruin:
By hosting a “Kanye Western”-themed raid, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi have brought UCLA Greek Life to national attention for the worst reason. The office of UCLA Fraternity and Sorority Relations must take action to ensure such an event doesn’t occur again on our campus, and the university must recognize the need to prevent racist incidents that don’t necessarily target, but nonetheless demeans UCLA’s black community.
Imagine our society without the First Amendment.  Imagine what campus totalitarians would be doing then.  We should offer thanks daily for the wisdom of the Founders of this country.

College Degrees

If this weren't significant somehow, there wouldn't be an article about it.  I don't know what this signals regarding changes in our society, but it seems patently obvious to me that it does represent a societal change:
Women have out-enrolled men at the undergraduate level in the US since the late 1970s, but only in the past year has the percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree in the US surpassed the percentage of men with one. In 2014, 32% of women in the US had attainted a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 31.9% of men, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Correcting A Mistake

It was arrogant to get rid of celestial navigation in the first place, just as it would be arrogant for West Point to stop teaching land navigation with a compass and map.  That mistake is now being corrected, if only partially:
The same techniques guided ancient Polynesians in the open Pacific and led Sir Ernest Shackleton to remote Antarctica, then oriented astronauts when the Apollo 12 was disabled by lightning, the techniques of celestial navigation.

A glimmer of the old lore has returned to the Naval Academy.

Officials reinstated brief lessons in celestial navigation this year, nearly two decades after the full class was determined outdated and cut from the curriculum.

That decision, in the late 1990s, made national news and caused a stir among the old guard of navigators.
Maritime nostalgia, however, isn't behind the return.

Rather, it's the escalating threat of cyber attacks that has led the Navy to dust off its tools to measure the angles of stars.

After all, you can't hack a sextant.

Aren't Plenty Of People Getting Screwed In Los Angeles Schools?

Of course the optics are bad, but this seems like too little, too late:
Only one day after NBC Los Angeles ran a story which portrayed the school district’s procedures pertaining to TV and film productions campus shooting in a bad light, LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has announced that all filming currently taking place in district schools would be suspended.

The suspension comes as a result of a six-month investigation by NBC4 which uncovered a number of hidden costs of allowing filming to take place on school grounds.  According to the I-team, these additional costs include students being late to class, campus interruptions, and damaged equipment, among other things.

Around $2 million is brought into the school system each year as a result of the district’s use by production companies.  All together, the district has made $10 million over the last five years by permitting such filming, which included one pornographic shoot at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.
One wonders if it's only being stopped because knowledge of it is now public.

I wouldn't bet on anyone's getting fired over this, would you?

Monday, October 12, 2015

...The Agony of Defeat

Sometimes it's so easy to feel dejected, living as I do in California.  Everyone around me is insane politically--views that were mainstream, in both parties, during the Clinton Administration are now viewed as "wackjob conservative" now.  It's enough to make me weep--or would be, if I weren't so certain of the rectitude of my own beliefs :-)

As an aside, does anyone but me find it funny that Hillary Clinton is running against both Barack Obama's policies and her husband's policies?  Oh, sure, she wants people to feel nostalgic for the 1990s while running against those policies that made the 1990s something for which you might feel nostalgic.  "The era of big government is over", anyone?   

But I digress.

California is among the highest-taxed states in the union, and consistently has ranked among the worst environments in which to do business, and how does our government respond?  By tackling a (not so) major problem, of course:
A week after a gunman killed nine people at an Oregon college, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Saturday that will ban the carrying of concealed guns on school and university campuses in this state.

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) said the bill she introduced several months ago is needed to close a loophole that allows people with concealed-weapons permits to carry firearms onto school grounds. The bill prohibits that practice, unless school officials grant permission or the carrier is retired from law enforcement.
Can anyone explain to me how, given that it's already illegal to kill people on school campuses, this law does anything other than to disarm potential targets?  How many of these recent school shooters were concealed carry permit holders? 
“California’s college campuses and K-12 schools should be sanctuaries for learning, free from the fear of gun violence,” McCrum said, adding the new law “will make schools safer and decrease students’ risk of being injured or killed.”
See, people who think like that--I don't have anything in common with them.  They're so far divorced from reality that the best I can do is walk away, shaking my head in disbelief that they're even able to find their asses when it's time to wipe.

Another law signed forbids the use of the name "Redskins" as a mascot for schools:
California became the first state in the nation to pass a law prohibiting public schools from using the term "Redskins" as a team name or mascot.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday approved the measure barring the use of the term that many Native Americans find offensive but vetoed a separate measure that would have barred public properties from being named after individuals associated with the Confederacy.
Working on the big issues of the day, that's your California government. You can laugh, but remember that, like a cancer, these "coastal" ideas spread to the heart of the country, and the time it takes to do so is getting less and less.  Want an example?  Remember when "Don't ask, don't tell" seemed reasonable if not center-left, especially when it was signed by a Democratic president?  What word would be used today to describe a person who supports a return to DADT?

This is the world in which I live.  I can't believe how often insanity wins here.

The Thrill of Victory...

I've been looking forward to doing Problem #9 for a couple days.  It's the last problem in the problem set and I finally got to it today, having completed all the others.  It seemed simple enough:  show that the reciprocals of all (positive) divisors of a perfect number sum to 2.  For example, the divisors of the perfect number 28 are 1, 2, 4, 7, 14, and 28; 1/1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/7 + 1/14 + 1/28 =2.

Seems pretty easy, when you know that a perfect number is one in which all the proper divisors (all the divisors except the number itself) add up to the number itself (1+2+4+7+14=28), so the sum of all the divisors is twice the number.

I had an intuitive sense on how to do this, but my first attempt didn't lead anywhere.  I erased it all and tried a second time.  I just didn't seem to make any progress.

Third time's a charm, right?  I had been moving in the right direction all along, I just need a small insight in order to solve the problem.  A couple of steps later, accompanied by a couple of explanatory steps, the problem was complete.

Once it was done it looked like the easiest proof in the world, but lacking the "insight" step it was next to impossible.

I felt victorious!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jealousy

Tomorrow my mother leaves for 2 weeks in Italy--a few days in Rome, a few days in Tuscany, a few days in Venice.  I'm insanely jealous!  Over the past few months I've taught her how to use the WhatsApp and Maps.Me on her phone, and I've asked her to send me a picture each day.  I'll try to enjoy the trip vicariously!

Italy in fall.  One of the serious drawbacks of being a teacher is that I can't travel when travel is best and cheapest, April and October.  *sigh*

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Big News in the Stats World

Gallup, the "granddaddy" of polling firms, will be doing less polling regarding presidential primaries:
Leading pollster Gallup will forego tracking the 2016 presidential primary race and, potentially, the general election.

The decades-old polling firm, founded by George Gallup in 1935, has tracked public opinion and presidential election cycles for years in the U.S. This election season, however, Gallup will steer clear of polling the presidential primaries, the Washington Examiner has confirmed.

Gallup's editor-in-chief Frank Newport hasn't indicated whether Gallup would resume its tracking of the 2016 race once Republicans and Democrats have selected their nominees. He did note, however, that the polling firm will continue to survey voters' feelings toward each of the presidential hopefuls.

Left and Right In America

Two articles, same gist:  it's not *my* side that's on the bullet train to Crazy Town.

Study: Democratic polarization exceeds Republican polarization, for what it’s worth.

Study: Democrats Moving Left Faster Than Republicans Moving Right.

Laugh, or Cry?

I know that as humans we have the capability to create these thoughts, but why do certain people feel compelled to validate and advance every stupid thought that passes through their brains?
A major national conference for teachers and school administrators starting on Saturday, October 10, in Baltimore will focus exclusively on race and racism, featuring workshops on “interrupting whiteness” in American schools, the “dominance of White supremacy” in society, “White privilege” enjoyed by Caucasian students, “white domination of thought,” and how to “decenter whiteness.”

The conference, officially titled The National Summit for Courageous Conversation 2015, is organized by the Pacific Educational Group (PEG), a large and influential consulting firm hired by hundreds of school districts nationwide — often under pressure from the federal government — to address “racial gaps” in scholastic performance and behavior problems in the classroom.
Where is today's Dr. King?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

How Much Money Was Spent On The Exit Exam?

Which California governor signed into law the creation of the High School Exit Exam?  Of which political party was that governor a member?

Can kids believe anything we teachers tell them?  "This is important", we said.  "This counts", we said:
Another bill earning Brown’s signature continues California’s move away from the exit exam high school seniors have been required to pass in order to graduate. Senate Bill 172 suspends the exam for the next three academic years and, because it is retroactive to 2004, allows students who met all other graduation requirements to get their diplomas. Earlier this year Brown signed legislation granting a reprieve to students after a planned test date was canceled.
The pendulum has swung back to "nothing matters, it's all good as long as you try" 1990s. How many millions were spent creating the exit exam, training us on its use, actually giving the exam for all those years, grading that exam, and reporting its results?

Update, 10/10/15:  Here's what one of our teachers had to say in an email to our staff, and he gave me permission to post it here:
I just wondering how much money was spent on purchasing CAHSEE tests, paying teachers at every public high school in the state to proctor the exam, and then creating under-enrolled recovery classes for kids who couldn't do 8th grade math or write a semi-coherent paragraph. Well here's the bang we got for those bucks: As of this morning, the CAHSEE is retroactively cancelled for everybody who took it since 2004. The governor has signed a bill that grants a diploma to anybody ever who completed all graduation requirements except passing the test. Turns out that because we no longer use the test, it would not be unfair to somebody who finished high school 11 years ago if they wanted to give it one more try (on top of the half dozen or more tries they had in high school). Seems to me that kids who dropped out because they figured they would never pass the test should also get a diploma, but apparently you got to draw the line somewhere. Well, give 'em all diplomas and trophies, too, and I'm all right with it. But I hope that our esteemed education leaders forgive us lowly classroom teachers if we don't get excited about the next big thing that is going to really make a difference this time, or if we suspect that every new standard, test and training is just one more way to channel public education dollars into the pockets of private corporations. And as long as the state is so good at throwing away money, could they at least buy us straight-face masks to wear when we tell our students to try hard on Smarter Balanced test, because it really matters kids.

(Thank you. I am finished now. I feel better.)

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Crazy Ole Uncle Joe

Is this guy really the Democrats' savior in 2016?
Biden’s “Uncle Joe” schtick is designed to camouflage the career politician inside who has no qualms about lying to further his own ambitions. You know, the man who plagiarized his law review comment and falsely claims that he played college football, graduated in the top half of his law school class (he was 76 out of 85), had a blue collar upbringing, that his first wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver (there is no evidence the driver was drunk), and that he was a skeptic of the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden has displayed, over a long period of time, a near-pathological propensity to lie in order to aggrandize himself. That he would “embellish” the story of his dying son’s last words–and plant the story himself with the New York Times–is just another example of this pattern.
I hear them mocking the fact that there are so many Republicans running, as if that's a bad thing,  but this is the guy that's going to save them from having to vote for Hillary Clinton even as she struggles to avoid prison?

Not My Best Test

Ugh!  I was so frustrated when I got home yesterday that I didn't even feel like doing a blog post.  Why?  Because I took a test after school and didn't do so well.

When I tell my students "here's what's going to be on the test", as I do only the day before the test so they can then focus their studying, I mean it to be a relatively inclusive list. 

Perhaps my instructor meant it as "know these things but there will be other stuff", but I just can't seem to get that impression when I rewatch the video.  It seems like the given list is exhaustive.

It was not my best test.  I completely flubbed one of the proofs--couldn't even do it incorrectly, just couldn't do it at all.

Perhaps there's a lesson in experiencing this feeling once in awhile, but it still sucks.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Stupidity Is Not The Exclusive Domain of Public School Administrators

Does this punishment fit the crime?
Kids can get in trouble for smooching. They can get in trouble for touching. They can get in trouble for chewing, playing with toys, and making sugary snacks. They can get in trouble for waving their hands the wrong way (don’t even get me started on pencil-twirlers). And yes, they can even get in trouble for staring.

According to WLWT.com, the principal at St. Gabriel Consolidated School—a private institution—suspended a pair of 12-year-old boys for a day for playing a staring game with a female student...
Why do you think the girl, who was also participating, was not suspended?  This article doesn't pursue that question, but it should.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Letters of Recommendation

Is it just me, or are letters of recommendation useless?

Of course I'm talking about those letters of recommendation that high school teachers are asked to write for students as part of their college application packets.  Are these letters of enough value to justify the time spent writing them? 

The LA Times reports that UC Berkeley is considering asking some applicants to include such letters, which will no doubt start an arms race with the other UC campuses:
In a significant break from tradition, UC Berkeley will ask some freshman applicants to submit letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors this fall. And the UC system is studying whether all of its nine undergraduate campuses should do the same in future years as another way to choose among the avalanche of students seeking admission.

The new policy at UC Berkeley, while optional and limited this year, has triggered much debate at other UC campuses and high schools around the state about the value of such letters and whether they hurt or help the chances of public school students.

Adding even optional recommendations to all UC applications "would be a sea change," said Stephen Handel, UC's associate vice president for undergraduate admissions. Upcoming deliberation will have to measure the usefulness in admissions decisions against concerns that a change might "inadvertently disenfranchise certain students from even applying," he said.
What are the pros and cons?
Supporters say a recommendation letter can boost the chances of a deserving student whose test scores don't fully reflect his or her achievements and who did not have help from parents or private consultants in writing personal statements.

Critics question the letters' worth in predicting college success and say they can reinforce advantages of well-connected students and those who attend private high schools with small classes and ample counseling staff...

"The pros have not outweighed the cons," she said. Students in big public schools "do not always have access to counselors who really know them and can advocate for them." And those teachers and counselors may not have the time to write adequate letters, she added.
As a teacher, I have better things to do than to spend my time writing meaningless letters.  I can't just do a pro forma letter, I feel compelled to write a good one--and those take time:
"It's asking a lot more from the students and the high schools for something that will have a very minimal effect on whether the kids get in or not," he (a high school counselor) said, but he added that he would write them if asked.

Thoughts?

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Textbook Adoption

Instead of going to school and teaching students on Monday, I have to go to a textbook adoption meeting.  There are 5 stats books that we stats teachers will get to choose from, and we're going to hear from each publisher about all the bells and whistles--then we'll decide which one's we're going to pilot.

Except we're not really going to pilot them.  We'll each use a book for about two months, then we'll choose another book and use it for about two months, and then somehow we'll all vote and choose which stats book to adopt. 

It's such a half-assed way of doing things.  This isn't how you test out a book to see if it's going to be the foundation of your instruction for the next several years.

That's how disorganized my district is.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

TI-83's

I teach students how to do statistics on a variety of platforms:  TI-30s (because our school has tons of them, and they're good for 1-variable and 2-variable data); TI-83s, because their stats functions are easily accessible; Excel, because it's so versatile and has an OK "data analysis toolpak" add-on; and Minitab, because it's ubiquitous in statistics classes and does a great job.  I also show students Mystat, the free version of Systat, so they can have data analysis software at home.  I'm not devoted to any of these tools in particular; I teach them all, giving students a broad base of stats tools knowledge from which to draw whenever they need it.  And if you're wondering, I do teach the formulas and insist on plenty of pencil-and-paper calculations before we start pushing buttons; anything less would be what I call "black box" math, where you learn more about using the technology than you do about learning the math.

The author of this piece, though, is not a fan of Texas Instruments:
You remember the TI-83: the brick-sized graphing machine you likely covered in stickers and used to send messages, spell out obscenities, play games and maybe do some math, if you were paying close enough attention. Some students today will be the second generation to use it. 

The TI-83 was released in 1996, when mobile phones had antennas and PCs were mostly used for word processing. In 1996, Google was born. It was also the year of the Palm Pilot and Hotmail. Microsoft Office '97 debuted on a floppy disk. You could install the Internet on your computer with a CD from AOL.

In fact, the TI-83 existed for half a decade before the iPod, which became smaller and more powerful for generations before it, too, became obsolete. The iPod made way for the smartphone, a computational powerhouse — the size of, well, a calculator — that is quickly taking over the world.

Technology has not yet killed the reliable old TI-83. Nearly 20 years later, students are still forced to use a prohibitively expensive piece of outdated technology. It's not because better tools aren't available; they exist, and some of them are even free. It's because Texas Instruments, the company that creates them, has a staggering monopoly in the field of high school mathematics. The American education system is addicted to Texas Instruments.
I don't know that anything the author says is wrong, I just don't know how important it is.

Keep in mind that I teach in California.  It's against the law for me to require students to purchase a calculator for class or to charge any fee not specifically authorized by law.  (Yes, I know that plenty of teachers and schools violate that little section of our ed code, but I do not.)  So yes, I do have a classroom set of TI-83s, and they're available for student use when we're specifically covering their use.  I've seen the stats functions on newer calculators and still find the TI-83s to be the most user friendly for what I teach.

The phone apps I've seen for stats aren't exceptional, and finding free ones for iOS (remember, I can't have students incur a charge) makes the process even more difficult.  I'm OK with continuing the use of TI-83s--they're perfectly serviceable--until a better product comes along.  No sense in getting rid of them just because they're older than my students; they still do more math than a high schooler will ever learn!

Release Prisoners, Pay Teachers More

I'd like to believe that idiocy like this can come only from a liberal but I'm sure there are those of my political persuasion that have proposed things just as dumb.  Leave it to politicians.
Freeing half of non-violent prison inmates would save $15 billion to fund 56 percent pay hikes for teachers at high-poverty schools, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a National Press Club speech yesterday. Duncan envisions a “prison-to-school pipeline,” as Ed Week puts it.
Here's the rub:
If their teachers had earned more, would they have done better? Or were they trapped in the bad parenting-to-prison pipeline?