Saturday, April 30, 2016

New Linked Blog

After getting a valuable comment on one of my posts, I thought I'd head over to that commenter's blog, educationrealist.  I'm glad I did!

A new addition to the blogroll....

Friday, April 29, 2016

How Much Is Their "Fair" Share?

California's budget is overly dependent on income taxes, especially those at the top of the income spectrum.  How much is "enough", how much should the state squeeze them for?
The wealthiest Californians paid nearly half of the state’s income taxes in 2014 after seeing an uptick in their average income from 2013, according to updated income distribution data compiled by the state Franchise Tax Board.
A graphic in the article shows that the top 1% (average income: $261,000) paid about 35% of income taxes collected in 1996, in the middle of the Clinton presidency, and 48 percent in 2014.  Those numbers for the top 20% were 83 and 90, respectively.  The article isn't clear but I think I'm in the middle 5th, from which was collected 3.75% of taxes in 1996 and 1.76% in 2014.  The bottom 5th paid .08% and .04% for the same two years.

Is that not progressive enough?

Read more here:

And Like The Blink Of An Eye

I've previously written about my peer-evaluated term papers.  Last night I read each of them aloud, made minor changes, and submitted them.

And just like that, my semester is over.  I really enjoyed this course.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yet Another Reason Why "Free" College Is A Bad Idea

We know that students today aren't doing as well academically as they did in years past.  Those of us in education know that there are bad teachers, but there have always been bad teachers.  That can't be the cause.  We also know that "guidance" from the feds about suspensions and other forms of discipline, about "tracking", about "social justice" requiring even unprepared kids to take any class they want--all of these, and our litigious society, harm education for everyone.  Schools don't exist in a vacuum, they're a microcosm of society.  Society is ill, and it should come as no surprise that education is, too.

Our society already offers 13 years of no-out-of-pocket-cost education, but some people want more.  There's even a presidential candidate or two promising "free" college for everyone.  What's the point?  Why should people who don't take advantage of the 13 years we already give them get 4 more?
Only 37% of American 12th-graders were academically prepared for college math and reading in 2015, a slight dip from two years earlier, according to test scores released Wednesday.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” said that share was down from an estimated 39% in math and 38% in reading in 2013.

Educators and policy makers have long lamented that many seniors get diplomas even though they aren’t ready for college, careers or the military. Those who go to college often burn through financial aid or build debt while taking remedial classes that don’t earn credits toward a degree.
Barely 1 in 3--which is the fraction California decided should attend our UC's and CSU's when the Master Plan for Higher Education was drafted back in 1960.

Everyone doesn't need to attend college, and allowing people to do so "free" is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money.

Delayed Gratification

A couple of superintendents ago, our district added work time onto Mon-Wed and Friday classes so that students could get out early on Thursday.  For an hour after kids leave on Thursdays we teachers are supposed to "collaborate".  It's a great theory, it just doesn't work well.  Those of us who need to collaborate can't wait until Thursday afternoon--we talk between classes, or at break, or at lunch, or before and after school.  Even if we could wait until Thursday afternoon, our administration often gives us a list of things to be done during "collaboration time" that precludes our discussion of actual academic content.

Three times this semester we had extended, 3-hr meetings after school to discuss next year's accreditation visit and associated planning.  To compensate us for that additional time, our principal will now allow us to leave on Thursdays as soon as our last class is over.  Since there's no more mandatory collaboration time, anything that needs to be done will get done on "our" time, but it's still nice to be able to leave a little early on Thursdays.

I organize a happy hour each Friday after school, we call it 7th Period.  Getting to leave early today, I thought it would be fun to schedule a special Thursday edition of 7th Period in addition to tomorrow's and see if anyone new might show up.

Around 2:30 a small group of us met at The Cheesecake Factory and had a late lunch.  No rushing, no waiting for a microwave to be available, no students sending another teacher in to tell us that some student out in the hall "needs" to talk to one of us.  No, we sat for two leisurely hours and had a nice meal, with good company, conducting adult conversation, with no interruptions.

No one liked those 3-hr meetings, but we're reaping the rewards now!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Term Papers

I've received my peer evaluations for my term papers.  On each one I got dinged on a point.  On my personal education philosophy paper I was dinged for clarity--some of my sentences weren't easy to understand.  It's true that I don't write subject-verb-predicate, subject-verb-predicate, subject-verb-predicate, but I thought that was a little picky!  Is this blog so difficult to read?

On my history of education paper I was dinged for going over the 7 page limit.  I did so only if you count the abstract as a page, which I certainly don't as it isn't content.

I have until May 5th to submit them to my instructor.  I actually have until late on May 8th, but on Friday the 6th I'm heading to the airport immediately after school to go to Las Vegas for a mini-reunion--and I won't be home before late May 8th.

As far as I'm concerned the two papers are completed; as we used to say at West Point, RD=FC (rough draft = final copy).  Mine aren't really "rough" drafts, though, but highly polished "first" drafts.  If I didn't think they were good enough already I wouldn't have submitted them for review!  So I'll reread the first one and see if I can simplify a couple sentences, and I'll do a once-over on the second just to make sure I haven't missed anything.  I find that reading them out loud is a very good technique for catching errors.

And then I'll be done with my 8th course.  Two to go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Game of Thrones

This past Saturday night I finished rewatching Season 5 of Game of Thrones, as Season 6 started Sunday night.  I've been pretty busy the last couple of evenings, but I think I'll go watch the season opener now.  I read about it today--believe it or not, people die in it!!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Teeter-totter

The last couple of days at school have been relatively easy--my classes have been reviewing for their last chapter tests, and I've just been answering questions on review assignments or clarifying Khan Academy videos.  As we have 2-hour block periods for the next two days, I have two days of nothing but giving tests.

In my master's class, though, things are revving up.  My two term papers have (finally) been peer reviewed/edited and now I have to see if I want to incorporate the suggested changes into them.  The final papers have to be completed and posted online before I leave for Las Vegas at the end of next week.

A couple weeks ago I won a contest and received a free copy of Barry Garelick's book, Math Education in the US: Still Crazy After All These Years.  I've been asked to write an Amazon review for it--perhaps I can read a little of it while my students are testing the next couple of days, as I certainly don't have much time to read it at home!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Left Is Going To Turn On Him If He Keeps This Up

They liked his seeming "modern" approach to homosexuals.  Then he supported so-called traditional marriage.

They probably liked that he changed his mind on granting asylum to Syrian Christians, instead favoring Muslims.

But the biggie rat, the one that's going to get him in trouble with the American left, is his support of school choice:
Pope Francis is exhorting church leaders across the globe to join the school choice movement...

In Amoris Laetitia, the pontiff reiterates the church’s teaching that choice in education is a fundamental right of parents who are “called to defend and of which no one may claim to deprive them,” meaning the state must not deny parents the right to select their child’s educational path, be it public or private, regardless of their financial means.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

What Is Math?

It's funny, after all the years I've spent studying "math", that I've never really thought about defining what math is.  Math With Bad Drawings has, although I'm not 100% satisfied with the result.

I'm Reminded Of It Every Single Day When I Walk

5 years ago today, Saturday, April 23rd, 2011, was one of the defining days of my life. While skiing that day I caught an edge in the ice and fell. In a 1-in-a-million happening, I fell on the edge of my ski and sliced 90% of my kneecap tendon.

Surgery, crutches/walker/wheelchair/cane, months of initial healing followed by months of rehab...I set a goal of running one mile on the one year anniversary, if for no other reason than to have a goal. I made that run, but it was obvious that there was much more healing to be done.

I've been skiing a few times since the injury but it wasn't safe. My leg wasn't healed enough or strong enough to ski, so it's been a couple years since I hit the slopes. I had planned to ski today, on that same mountain, but weather conditions this past week have not made anywhere near ideal skiing conditions.

So today I remember that significant event in my life, and I'm thankful that I've healed as well as I have. My knee is not as good as God made it but I can walk on it quite well, something I doubted I'd be able to do again back in those dark early days of recovery.

Friday, April 22, 2016


We got an interesting email at school today.

At my school we teach 5 periods and have 1 prep period per day.  Next year we're anticipating 200 more students than this year, so today we received an email asking us to consider giving up our prep period and teaching 6 periods.  It was the offered pay that was interesting.

First off, it was listed as a "stipend" instead of pay.  If I understand the intricacies well enough, retirement "contributions" on that money go into a different retirement account; stipends, like those of coaches and department heads and the like, do not count towards "highest year earned" for retirement pay calculations. 

Second, the pay was graduated depending on how many years you've taught.  For someone as seasoned as I, the offered stipend was $26,000.

That's right, $26,000.

Yes, that's much more than 20% of my current pay.  It's well more than 1/3 of my pay.  It's enticing.

It makes sense for the district to offer this money.  Paying that much is still cheaper than hiring a new teacher, what with retirement contributions and health insurance and all.  $26,000 is a nice middle ground--good money for the teacher who takes it, yet still a bargain for the district.

But next year is the last year of my master's program.  And at the end of that program, instead of a thesis, I have a comprehensive exam to take--an exam that covers the material I'll have learned over the 5 years I've been taking those classes.  I won't have time to do extra work at school--which means all grading and administrivia would have to be done after school--and also take master's classes and study for that test.

But $26,000.  I actually considered it, however briefly.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Who Has Thinner Skin Than Donald Trump?

From Ed Driscoll over at Instapundit:

Just imagine it: a hypersensitive man in the White House might start off his administration by flipping off the opposition with the words “I won.” He could tell intransigent fellow party members, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.” He could “joke” about auditing his enemies, and then look away when the IRS does just that. He could singlehandedly abandon a war his predecessor had won, purely out of partisan spite. He could rearrange the Middle East and then set it alight, to better match his socialist Ivy League faculty break room worldview. He could shaft Israel and hand Iran — Iran! — the Bomb. He could let Vladimir Putin overrun much of his neighboring countries and wide swatches of the Middle East. He could ignore a terrorist attack to go play golf. He could gin-up race riots in America.

Yeah, I know that all sounds like science fiction, but just stop and imagine with a hypersensitive man could do with the power of the presidency.

Happy 90th Birthday

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is someone I admire.  If I had to come up with a list of 5 living people I'd like to have a chat with, her name would be on that list.

She turns 90 years old today.  Congratulations, ma'am, and happy birthday!

(On a related topic, who else should be on the above list?  Suggestions in the comments!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Waste Of Money

Sadly, I can't say I'm surprised:
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has won the Independent Institute’s first California Golden Fleece Award for its lack of transparency and history of misleading the public about key details of the state’s “bullet-train” project, which no longer reflect what voters approved in 2008.

The agency’s “bait-and-switch” strategy justifies a statewide vote on whether or not to proceed with the train system.

You've Gotta Love This!

The Treasury Department announced today that Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill:
Lew also announced Wednesday that Andrew Jackson will move from the front of the $20 to the back, making way for Tubman. She'll become the first black woman ever to front a U.S. banknote.

Tubman, who died in 1913 at the age of 91, escaped slavery in the south and eventually led hundreds of escaped slaves to freedom as a "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. After the slaves were freed, Tubman was a staunch supporter of a woman's right to vote.

"What she did to free people on an individual basis and what she did afterward," Lew said. "That's a legacy of what an individual can do in a democracy." 
Know what's missing from that description?  Harriet Tubman was a pistol-toting, black Republican woman!  What's funny is that earlier today, she was on Wikipedia's list of African-American Republicans, but her name was scrubbed after the banknote announcement was madeHuffington Post had no problem pointing it out 4 years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2016

If You Can't Stand The Heat...

...get out of my classroom.

As I drove home today the temperature outside was a bit over 90 degrees.  You can imagine how hot it was in my classroom after lunch.

What, you ask?  How could it be hot in the classroom?  Why not just turn on the air conditioning, you ask?  My reply:  I don't have any control over the hvac system.  In fact, the district office controls that.  They won't turn on the a/c in classrooms until we've had three consecutive days of hot temperatures (I'm not sure what constitutes "hot").

The air conditioning is on in the district office.  The air conditioning is on in our school office.  It's not on in our classrooms, which have a bunch of teenagers trying to learn in them.  It was so hot and stuffy after lunch today that kids were struggling to stay awake, and it was a losing battle.

You want more proof that actual education isn't the primary goal of my school district?  Add this to the long shelf of exhibits.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hint: It's Not For Academic Reasons

Joanne's Friday post about algebra, and whether it should be offered in 8th grade or delayed until 9th grade, is fine:
Educated parents want their kids to take algebra in eighth grade, so they’ll be ready for calculus in 12th grade, writes Jay Mathews in the Washington PostCommon Core is doing a lousy job of explaining why bright students should wait till high school to take algebra.

Private schools aren’t cutting back on eighth-grade algebra, Mathews writes.
Her post avoids what I consider the elephant in the room, and that is that the reason for not offering 8th grade algebra isn't academic at all, it's ideological.  If you don't believe me, I direct your attention to this article from San Francisco (of course), in which a San Francisco district spokesperson refers to forcing kids to wait until 9th grade merely to take algebra is a "social justice issue for SFUSD."

The social justice of which she speaks involves not allowing the brightest students to move ahead at their own pace.  It means closing the achievement gap not by improving the low end, but by retarding the high end.  It is an admission of failure, and it is morally reprehensible.

I addressed that topic here and here, among others.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Good Deal

A friend and I are booked on a short "getaway" cruise this summer.  Today I got an email from some website or another, or perhaps a cruise app I have, that the fares had dropped on my cruise.  I had booked an "oceanview" cabin (has a non-opening porthole so you can see outside) but now, for just a couple days, balcony cabins cost less than my oceanview.

Believing the chances of things going 100% my way to be very slim, I still called Carnival and asked about the possibility of changing my reservation.  At first my "cruise specialist" couldn't find the same low balcony rate I was seeing on my own computer screen right in front of me, but eventually she did.  After disappearing for a couple minutes she came back and said that yes, I could change my reservation to a balcony cabin.  Not only that, but I saved $120 per person doing so and that money is being given to me as shipboard credit!

So, to summarize:  I'm paying $120 less (or getting $120 in additional goodies) and getting a balcony cabin.  Not a bad start to a Saturday!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Green" Death?

After using a public restroom, I want paper towels.  I don't want to wait in line at the blow driers, only to have slightly damp hands even after a minute of hurricane.  I can be done in a few seconds with paper towels, and have bone-dry hands to boot.

I'm old enough to remember when such blowers were considered bad for the environment because of the electricity they used, whereas paper came from a renewable resource.

If only blowers are available, though, I like the Dyson Airblades.  They're cool looking, and that blast of air seemingly comes from jet engines.  It's almost like getting a little hand massage :-)

But uh oh, maybe they're not so good for us:
Dyson Airblade hand-driers spread 60 times more germs than standard air dryers, and 1,300 times more than standard paper towels, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
What's a greenie to do?

Cultural Appropriation

Justin Bieber has dreadlocks, and some idiots on the left compel me (and others) to defend Bieber:
Isn’t it incoherent that “open-minded” liberals celebrate those who forsake their biological gender to assume another gender identity that is not their own, but throw shade on someone growing dreadlocks if they are not black? It smacks of selective outrage that only serves to advance stereotypes.
You'd almost think they weren't really outraged by it, that they just want to "win" something by complaining about this.

The above response is better than mine; my response to those who cry "cultural appropriation" is this, "Freedom of speech is a Western/White Anglo-Saxon construct.  So shut the f*#! up."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

There's At Least One Adult In Academia

Part of the reason college students across the nation are acting like idiots is because there has been no cost in doing so.  I hope other schools follow Ohio State's example:
A student sit-in at Ohio State University was shut down last week when a senior administrator informed the participants that they would be arrested and expelled if they didn’t retreat from their “occupied space” in the area outside of President Michael V. Drake's second-floor office...

"If you refuse to leave, then you will be charged with a student code of conduct violation," (OSU vice president) Kasey said. "If you are here at 5:00 a.m. we will clear the building and you will be arrested." He added, "We will give you the opportunity to go to jail for your beliefs."  (boldface mine--Darren)

"What do you mean by 'clear the building?'" one of the stunned students asked.

Kasey didn't mince words: "Our police officers will physically pick you up and take you to a paddy wagon," he answered...

"We told you, and all we can do is be honest with you. If you're still here at 5:00, our current philosophy is, we are going to take you out -- escort you out of the building and arrest you. You will be discharged from school also," he noted.

Confused, one of the students asked, "discharged as in...?"

"Expelled," Kasey answered flatly.
Welcome to the real world, dumplings.  You're gonna love it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


A couple weeks ago I wrote about discipline in schools, and this post is a follow-up.  Buckle up:
Under pressure from Obama educrats, public school districts are no longer suspending even violent students; but now, under pressure from Black Lives Matter, they are suspending teachers who complain about not suspending bad kids.

In St. Paul, Minn., a high school teacher was put on administrative leave last month after Black Lives Matter threatened to shut down the school because the teacher complained about lenient discipline policies that have led to a string of assaults on fellow teachers.

Last month, two students at Como Park Senior High School punched and body slammed a business teacher unconscious, opening a head wound that required staples. And earlier in the year, another student choked a science teacher into a partial coma that left him hospitalized for several days.

In both cases, the teachers were white and the students black.

Theo Olson, a teacher at the school complained on Facebook about new district policies that fail to punish kids for fighting and drug-dealing. Like dozens of cities across the country — including New York — St. Paul adopted the policies in compliance with new discipline guidelines issued by the Obama administration. The Education Department has threatened school districts with lawsuits and funding cuts wherever if finds racial “disparities” in suspensions and expulsions, arguing such disparities have created a “school-to-prison pipeline” for African-Americans children. The agency claims such disparities are the product of racism in schools.
When President Bush talked about the "soft bigotry of low expectations", this isn't quite what he had in mind, but it's certainly an extension.

You want to talk about the so-called school-to-prison pipeline?  Letting kids think they can get away with such behaviors is almost a surefire way of getting them sent to prison as adults.

Go read the whole article to learn about teachers who are being punished for being victims of student threats and violence.

Do You Live In A Bubble?

There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.

Take this 25-question quiz, based on a similar one published in Murray’s 2012 book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010,” to find out just how thick your bubble is.
Take it at

Monday, April 11, 2016

Soviet-Quality Threats To Liberty

Federal law  makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”

I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read this federal statute. Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. They should look up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241, I am sure they each have it somewhere in their offices.

Here’s what’s happened so far. First, Schneiderman and reportedly Harris sought to investigate Exxon in part for making donations to groups and funding research by individuals who think “climate change” is either a hoax, or not a problem to the extent that people like Harris and Schneiderman say it is.

This investigation, which smacks of Wisconsin’s discredited Putin-style legal assault on conservative groups and their contributors, was denounced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Hans Bader as unconstitutional.
Really?  Politicians--and politicians who should know better--want to use the law to silence those they disagree with?  How can any American not clean off their pitchfork at such an idea?

Go read the whole article.

Hypocrisy Is The Tribute that Vice Pays To Virtue

You've gotta love the internet, politicians can't hide from their pasts near as easily anymore.  And one politician in particular, Slow Joe Biden, is especially not immune:
Last week, I reported that Biden didn’t only fight in favor of the propriety of blocking votes on judicial nominees in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was president. On April 25, 2005, during the second term of George W. Bush, Biden delivered a passionate, extended speech on the sanctity of the Senate filibuster as a tool for blocking votes on judicial nominees. Note that in this speech, Biden was fighting for the ability of a minority of senators to prevent a vote on a judicial nominee. Whereas last week at Georgetown he took the polar opposite position, claiming that even a majority of senators blocking a vote causes a “constitutional crisis.”

Well, now we have a THIRD Biden speech contradicting last week’s Georgetown address.

On May 23, 2005, Senator Biden again took the floor of the Senate, indignant about the possibility of the “nuclear option” -- a changing of the Senate rules to make it impossible for a minority of senators to block judicial appointments.
The Democrats have made Merrick Garland's bed and they're going to have to sleep in it.  They're also the first to use the "nuclear option", which was so horrible when Republicans merely suggested using it.  Karma is a you-know-what.

Who's Surprised?

There are so many things wrong with Obamacare, but the worst part is that its failure was not only predictable, but predictedThis doesn't surprise me at all:
EIGHT MORE OBAMACARE CO-OPS TO FAIL: By the end of 2016, odds are only one or two of the original 23 non-profit health insurance providers Obama promised would make for-profit insurers lower prices and improve services will still be around. And the price of this predictably failed experiment is $2.5 billion, plus an incalculable opportunity cost. The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group’s Richard Pollock has the details, as he has from the very beginning of the co-op epoch.
Just a reminder that not a single Republican in either house of Congress voted for this abomination.

And then there's this:

The Affordable Care Act suffered another jolt late last week with the news that UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, was making good on its threat to pull out of Obamacare, beginning with its operations in Georgia and Arkansas.

UnitedHealth roiled the market last November when it revealed that it was considering exiting Obamacare after incurring hundreds of millions of dollars in losses related to ACA business. Then UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley confessed to investors meeting in New York in December that the company should have stayed out of the program a little longer to better gauge its profitability potential.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Checking Male Privilege

"Men have to be the only oppressor class in history who are less educated, more victimized, and have shorter lives, than those they oppress."  So says The Factual Feminist.

Update, 4/23/16:   Female student realized her gender privilege ‘once I took off my feminist blinders’

What? We Can't Do This?

The entire basis of my classroom management is now undermined:
A high school math teacher is facing an assault charge after video surfaced of her hitting a student at least five times in class.

CBS affiliate KFDM reported Mary A. Hastings, a 63-year-old geometry teacher at Ozen High School, was arrested and has been placed on paid leave.
Geometry.  That's enough to make anyone hit a kid.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Flipped Classrooms

At West Point we were taught using the "Thayer method", which involved doing our reading and our assignment before coming to class for instruction.  There is some benefit to that method, to be sure, and as someone who excelled academically under the Thayer method I am exceedingly aware of those benefits.  On the other hand, it doesn't take much thought to divine the shortcomings of such a system.  Within the highly regimented Corps of Cadets those shortcomings can be mitigated, but that is a special set of conditions indeed.

Today one of the many fads in K-12 education is the "flipped classroom"--students watch videos at home in advance of addressing that material in the classroom; who knew that West Point would be so far ahead of its time?!  The author of this article is certainly in favor of flipping, but I have my doubts:
The first two weeks of flipping my classroom were a disaster. Some students didn’t watch the videos, often because they didn’t have regular Internet access at home. Others completed assignments faster than their peers, which required me to spend extra time modifying my lessons for them. One day, my department chairperson dropped in for an observation and, in her report, described my class as “semi-organized chaos” and “lacking structure.”

Clearly, I needed to adjust the model. I started uploading the videos onto flash drives for students without home Internet access. I had a second classroom computer installed so students who had been absent could catch up. And I implemented a peer-tutoring system, giving faster-paced students the responsibility of assisting their classmates. Micah was the first to volunteer, exclaiming, “The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else.”

Our clunky flipped classroom became a thriving learning environment. Students began asking more meaningful questions and embracing more challenging problems, while I became a floating facilitator rather than an “information dispenser.” My students’ final-exam pass rates nearly doubled from the previous year.

The English teachers at my school routinely lament that students don't read their assigned novels outside of school, that at best they read today's version of Cliff Notes.  One of our teachers told me this week that out of his few US History classes he had 10 students who didn't turn in a research paper, just didn't turn one in at all!  And remember that I teach at a relatively high-performing school!  So when I hear about having students watch videos outside of class, I wonder how to make that happen.

I also have some philosophical problems with flipped classrooms.  One concern is that I'm not sure I that I should have title to a certain amount of a student's out-of-school time every day.  Another is more pedagogical in nature: if education is a social process rather than a fill-their-head-with-information process--and darned near every teacher will tell you that it is--on what basis do we believe that students will learn from having a video talk at them?  It's the same concern I had about the I Can Learn program (written about briefly here) so many years ago.

Also, how long are these videos?  If I want to teach how to crank out an answer to a specific type of problem, I could probably make most of my lessons fit into a 10-15 minute video.  But I'm just going to say it: I'm a better teacher than that.  Sometimes I derive things so students can see that a formula wasn't created from thin air.  Sometimes a single student question will lead to a fascinating tangent that helps understanding or even just helps maintain interest.  Sometimes I bring in real-world applications that help drive instruction.  And sometimes the material I teach is just too advanced to be addressed in 10-minute snippets each night.  There are occasions when I teach "bell to bell".

This is very much a disagreement about the "guide on the side vs. the sage on the stage" model, and it's clear that I come down on the latter side.  I'm not saying that having having videos posted is bad--I myself link to Khan Academy videos--but expecting students to watch them prior to class each day is not what I would choose for my primary method of content delivery.  I would like to see actual, verifiable, valid studies on this topic, not just anecdotes.

College For All

I wish that we in education would get past this absurd notion that everyone can, or should, go to college:
“College For All” . . . reinforces the ridiculous notion that college is for people who use their brains, and trade schools are for people who use their hands, writes Mike Rowe on Facebook. “As if the two can not be combined."
You want to read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Where Does Morality Come From?

Even divorced from the politics, this philosophical discussion--if not taken too far-- can be interesting:
In a recent interview for the BBC2 series Inside Obama's White House," President Obama sounded somewhat wistful as he spoke to an interviewer about how he has tried to use his voice "to move things toward a more ethical and moral outcome."

The question of morals and ethics has been debated since the dawn of humanity. It won't be settled by the shifting winds of politics, because not everyone can agree on what is moral and what is not. defines morality: "Conformity to the rules of right conduct."

Ah, but here's the rub. That definition fits a different era. Morality today is personal. It is not a standard to which one is encouraged to conform for one's own, or society's benefit. Rather, it is about what makes one feel good. By this non-standard standard, one can easily change one's sense of what is moral as they might a suit of clothes or a pair of shoes and suffer no societal condemnation because that "moral code," such as it is, exists only for the individual.

When President Obama speaks of ethics and morality, the follow-up question should be, "Whose ethics and whose morality? Who, or what, established that standard?"

To take one example, if you say there is no God and then turn around and tell me I should not be a racist, or that I should help someone in need, and I say, "why should I?" how do you respond? If we are all evolutionary accidents, why can't I believe and practice anything I wish...

President Obama may be the most pro-abortion president America has ever had. He has done little to reduce their number, which near 60 million in the U.S. since 1973. By what standard is his position "moral"? The president used to be against same-sex marriage, now he's for it. Was he moral when he opposed it, or is he moral now that he supports it? And what is his standard, because these positions are contradictory?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Economics in the Golden State

You've probably heard that California law now mandates sequential increases in the minimum wage until it reaches $15/hr in 2022.  What you might not have heard is how such economic decisions are reached here in California:
Brown, traveling to the state’s largest media market to sign the landmark bill, remained hesitant about the economic effect of raising the minimum wage, saying, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense...Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.”
We figure out what it is we want to do, we do it, say it's the "moral" thing to do--even while admitting it doesn't make sense.  Great.


The "logarithms" test is over--and yes, scores were such that in a few weeks, when we've completed the entire course curriculum, we'll do my "logarithm boot camp".  All tables, no calculators, kickin' it old school!  I have a 4-5 day course of instruction planned that, in years past, students have enjoyed. 

One student stayed after school today to talk about the test.  That got us to the topics in the boot camp.  That led to "other cool math", and I showed him a list of topics that would coalesce into a course I'd like to design and teach, one I'd call Higher Math Applications.

A couple of the topics would be in graph theory, so I gave him the Koenigsberg Bridge Problem.  We spent some time discussing it, I gave him some hints, and asked him to play with it a bit.  I showed him a couple other problems from graph theory; the problems are simple but the solutions are not!

Then it dawned on me--do I remember how to do all this?  I should review it just in case!  So before I start work on tonight's installment of my research paper, I'm going to break out my Discrete Optimization text and refresh my memory.

Because I know he'll ask me some questions tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Remember When "Martial Imagery" Was Taboo In Politics?

For a week or two after Congresswoman Giffords was shot, bullseyes, the word "target", and all other "hostile" sounding symbols and words were declared in appropriate, or worse, in politics.  You want evidence that that was just a left-wing farce?  Here's all you need:
“In Gabrielle Giffords shooting, many on left quick to lay blame,” the Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2011.

Flash-forward to today; L.A. Times editors choose cartoon of Ted Cruz armed with a long-barreled pistol about to duel with an unarmed Donald Trump to illustrate Jonah Goldberg’s latest column for the paper, “How to stop Donald Trump.”

Given that in January of 2011, Michael Hirsh of the left-leaning National Journal appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and called for, as Jeff Poor of the Daily Caller wrote at the time, “a moral sanction against gun metaphors similar to the ‘N’ word,” why on earth would the L.A. Times choose such an obviously racist visual metaphor during a heated election year?

And given that, as Glenn asked a few minutes ago, “If Trump Is the One Promoting Violence, Then Why Do So Many Americans Say They Want to Punch Him in the Face?,” why is the Times ratcheting up the eliminationist rhetoric to a whole new level?
Lefties are hyprocrites.  It's who they are, it's what they do.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Why Teachers Unions Are So Important

Research Papers and Formatting, Oh My!

We have two papers to do in my current master's course, and the initial draft of both of them is due this Sunday. I've been slacking off the last few weeks, but now it's getting to be crunch time. I've got perhaps just a closing paragraph to do on the larger one, but then I have to do the resources page (bibliography, whatever) and format the inline references.

MLA. APA. CMS. Is it really so hard for academics to agree on a formatting style? In this program I've used both MLA and APA for papers--I get them confused to I have to look them up each time just to ensure the formatting is correct.

And then, of course, there's Microsoft Word. How do you get the title at the top of each page? How do you get the page number at the top of each page? How do you get the title and the page number at the top of each page?  It probably took me 20 minutes of searching the Help button, and following the instructions to the letter, in order to make it happen.  It's certainly not intuitive.

So if blogging is light the next couple days, now you know why!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Foreign Policy, 1980s vs 2010s

The 80's called, they want their foreign policy back:
Demonstrating its commitment to a "free" and "secure" Europe, the United States deployed 12 F-15C Eagles and approximately 350 airmen to Iceland and the Netherlands on Friday, the Air Force announced...

In February, the U.S. said it will send six F-15s to Finland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which the United States initiated in 2014 to reassure NATO allies after Russian military intervention in Ukraine. These aircraft are scheduled to deploy next month...

The U.S. used to have an air base in Iceland during the Cold War when Iceland sat at a key strategic location in the middle of the Atlantic.

But that base was closed in 2006.

While NATO has maintained air control over Iceland since 2008, their defenses have been unable to stop Russia from reportedly making air incursions into Icelandic airspace.

Tensions between the West and Russia have increased in recent years, in large part because of Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.
The clip above shows that the president was an idiot in 2012 and he's not gotten any smarter in the intervening years.  How's that 2000's foreign policy working out for you, Mr. Smart Diplomacy?

Saturday, April 02, 2016


It's obvious to anyone who reads both this blog and Instapundit that I also read Instapundit.  A goodly number of my posts have their genesis in something I read there.

So this morning Instapundit had a link to to "Dash buttons" on sale at Amazon.  Not knowing what a Dash button is, I zipped on over there to learn something new.  After all, just the name alone sounds pretty cool!

In case the link changes over time, here's what I saw:

click to enlarge

What are these things?

Turns out, theyre items for the laziest people in the world, or something.  By the time I got to the "what are these things" section of the web page I'd already figured out what they do, but here are the details:


Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected during the set-up process. When you're running low, simply press Dash Button—ensuring you never run out of your essentials again.
That's right.  You don't have to go to Amazon's web site and order, you just push a button!  These devices cost $5 each, and that is credited back to you after you push the button once and create an order.  So in effect they're free.

Ok, so I've come around to the realization that these are kind of cool and very convenient.  I just can't get past the idea, though, that they're decadent, a symbol of an overindulged society.

What do you think?

Friday, April 01, 2016

Black Privilege

The obvious purpose of this CNN article was to convince me that black privilege doesn't exist and that white privilege is "bad"--but I didn't think it refuted the pro-black-privilege arguments at all.  In fact, it's a pretty good article about why white privilege is a farce and we should all just man up and get through life without blaming others for our own issues:
I asked a white retiree if he believed in the existence of white privilege. He said no, but there was another type of privilege he wanted to talk about:

"Black privilege."
Confused by his answer, I asked him to give me an example of a perk that I enjoyed as a black man that he couldn't. His answer: "Black History Month."
"In America you can't even talk about whiteness," said Drew Domalick, who lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin. "If you try to embrace being white, you are portrayed as being a racist. If we had a White History Month, that would be viewed as a racist holiday."
Domalick isn't the only one who believes in black privilege. The term is being deployed in conservative circles as a rhetorical counterattack to the growing use of the term "white privilege." It's part of a larger transformation: White is becoming the new black. 
Google the phrase "black privilege," and one steps into a universe where whites struggle daily against the indignities heaped upon them because of their skin color. In books and articles such as "Black Skin Privilege and the American Dream," and "It's Past Time to Acknowledge Black Privilege," white commentators describe how blackness has become such a "tremendous asset" that some whites are now trying to "pass" as black.
If you're a skeptic, there's even a "Black Privilege Checklist" listing some of the perks blacks enjoy that whites cannot.

 A sample:
Blacks can belong to clubs and organizations that cater specifically to their race, but there's no National Association for the Advancement of White People because such a group would be deemed racist. Blacks can call white people "honky" and "cracker," but whites cannot use the N-word...
David Horowitz, author of the book, "Black Skin Privilege and the American Dream," says blacks are still more privileged, though they lag behind other racial groups in varying categories. It's not white privilege that's preventing them from doing better, he says; it's their behavior, such as their inability to build more intact families.
"The fact that white people are better off is not a privilege; it's earned," says Horowitz, founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a think tank in Los Angeles created to combat "the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values."
Not all racial disparities are inherently racist, he says.
"If racial disparities prove discrimination, then the National Basketball Association is racist," Horowitz says. "Probably 90 percent of its players are black."
Black privilege is so pervasive that it's hard to miss, he says. College professors practicing "affirmative grading" hold black students to lower standards than others. Corporations offer programs and internships to black workers but not to whites. 
Black privilege even extends to the White House, he says. Barack Obama was an inexperienced presidential candidate who was elected because Americans wanted to experience a post-racial sugar high, he says. "He wouldn't be elected dogcatcher if he wasn't black," Horowitz says of Obama.
Some who invoke "black privilege" also make another argument: Who says all unearned advantages are wrong?
In fact, some are unavoidable, says Benjamin Shapiro, a political commentator and author of an essay titled "Why White People Seek Black Privilege."
"Birth to a two-parent family is an unearned advantage. Birth into wealth is an unearned advantage. Being born smart or tall or athletic is an unearned advantage," Shapiro says. "But being born white in a rural backwater in West Virginia is not an advantage over being born the son of Colin Powell."
Blackness, though, has become a "tremendous asset" in contemporary America, he writes in his column. Despite the "horrific and evil history of racism against black people," being black today gives its recipients privileges ranging from landing coveted college scholarships to becoming activists who can build careers on racial grievances, he says.
There are even whites now who try to pass themselves off as black activists because it's a career booster, Shapiro says. He cites Rachel Dolezal, the former head of an NAACP chapter, who said "I identify as black" but was called white by her family members.
Many of the examples of so-called white privilege harken back to the days before I was in kindergarten.  Come on, I'm an old man now.  Yes, those things happened.  I'm not glad they happened.  They suck, and to my eyes they're un-American because people weren't treated equally before the law or in society.  But they in the distant past.  It's time to realize that we're living in 2016, not 1966.

There was talk about the GI Bill.  I didn't benefit from that, none of my grandparents (from WWII) got GI Bill benefits.  Heck, I don't even get GI Bill benefits, and I'm a veteran!  And World War II ended 20 years before I was born.  It's so far in the past, it's time to let it go and live in the present.

That's asking too much for some people.