Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Substitute

I'm on a committee that will require me to miss the last Friday of each month from work, which means I won't be in class tomorrow.  I've lined up a pretty good substitute and left her detailed plans, which she seems eager to follow.

My three stats classes have a review assignment in preparation for next Tuesday's test.  My two pre-calculus classes have a test; I'm giving my answer key to my substitute, and since she's pretty good with math, she'll at a minimum be able to use it to help students work through the 8 problems on their test.  The plan for both courses is for the students to move forward, to accomplish something of value, and for the substitute teacher to have something to do.

I've never been a substitute except for having to cover someone's class on my prep period when that someone is absent, but I can't stand not having anything to do.  Babysitting or herding cats, neither is for me.  Having a mission, one that moves the class forward in the teacher's absence, that seems to me to make for a more interesting day.

I know a couple readers have been substitute teachers; what do you prefer?

Update 10/1/16:  Ugh.  My sub cancelled on me with no notice.  Other substitutes on campus had to cover my classes on what would have been their prep periods.  "The show must go on", so I left my meeting at the beginning of each period in order to ensure my classes, especially the ones taking tests, got started correctly and immediately.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why College Isn't Home

I've not given much thought to the topic with whether or not a college dorm can be considered home, but Conor Friedersdorf obviously has--and he says no:
A College Is a Community but Cannot Be a Home

Campus life is too diverse at most schools for dorms to serve as a place of respite from uncomfortable ideas.

Do We Still Have A Republic?

I used to wonder if we were just going through the motions of having a constitutional republic, worry that we had crossed the edge into tyranny.  Back then, though, the concern was only academic.  After learning that Angelo Codevilla shares my concern, the fear becomes real:
Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Writing New Tests

I've probably stated about a zillion times that new (Common Core) standards and new textbooks have compelled me to revamp each course I teach, rebuilding it from the bottom up.  That means all new lesson plans, all new assessments, all new modes of instruction.  I have few limitations--and necessity being the mother of invention and all, I spend quite a lot of time creating new lessons.

But I find I'm really enjoying writing new tests and quizzes.  My new philosophy of testing has led me in new directions.  I now include fewer questions on my tests/quizzes, but strive to get more information about my students' knowledge (and my own teaching) out of those questions.

And then there are the practical changes.  For one thing, I've installed and learned to use MathType.  If you're a math teacher/professor and haven't used MathType or something similar, you should.  Buy it, or have your school buy it, and work through the tutorials.  It allows you to write math problems in MS Word or similar documents, but have those math problems look like they were copied straight from a book.  Imagine being able to type in sigma notation, to type rational expressions, or to have easy access to all the Greek letters and other symbols we need!  It's very handy because, by having an assessment entirely typed, the test or quiz can easily be modified and reprinted (think make-ups or even next year).  Besides, it just looks more "professional".

I've found that I like writing tests.  Oh, they take up a lot of time, time that I don't have in abundance because of the papers I should be writing for my master's course (even as I type this!), but still I do enjoy writing them.  How fun would it be to be a test writer?  I find I'm getting very good at it.  I doubt my district would ever hire me as a "teacher on special assignment" to write math tests, but when I get burned out on teaching I think such a job would jibe quite well with my abilities and interests.

Update, 9/28/16:  I spent almost 2 solid hours today writing next Tuesday's statistics test.   I'm pleased with the outcome, but that's a long time.  Later I started on the answer key but didn't quite finish.  If I can complete the answer key in about 15 minutes, then my students should take about an hour to complete the test.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Learning Styles

Learning styles, and their cousin "multiple intelligences", are pseudo-science at best.  I love this article, reprinted in many sources around the planet in the last few weeks, written by a Professor and Associate Dean at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia:
The theory is that if a teacher can provide learning activities and experiences that match a student’s supposed learning style, learning will be more effective.

Probably the best known are the “auditory” (learning best by hearing), “visual” (learning best through images), and “kinesthetic” (learning best through touch and movement) typologies of learners.

Learning styles has become a vast, lucrative industry with inventories, manuals, video resources, in-service packages, websites, publications and workshops. Some schools have spent many thousands of dollars assessing students using the various inventories.

Psychologists and neuroscientists agree there is little efficacy for these models, which are based on dubious evidence.

If learning styles exist at all, these are not “hard wired” and are at most simply preferences...

Professor of reading education Stephen Stahl has commented:
I work with a lot of different schools and listen to a lot of teachers talk. Nowhere have I seen a greater conflict between “craft knowledge” or what teachers know (or at least think they know) and “academic knowledge” or what researchers know (or at least think they know) than in the area of learning styles...
When I have pointed this out to educators, the usual response is that “it doesn’t matter”. But it does matter because of the problems and harm that can be caused by the categorisation and labelling. These can lead to negative mindsets in students and limited learning experiences through the continued belief in and application of so-called learning styles, not to mention the time and money wasted. We might as well teach students according to their horoscopes.
Yeah, what he said.

Sometimes I think teachers will believe anything if it will just make them (or their students) feel good about themselves, truth or reality be damned.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I Think We Have Our Answer

Six years ago I wrote about a fiery principal in a major Sacramento school district.

Five years ago I wrote about him again.

In both posts I wondered if he was stepping on toes in order to make needed change, or if he was stepping on toes just because he could, because he likes stepping on toes.  Then he dropped off my radar.

I encountered a newspaper (remember those?!) today and saw his name on it.  The article inside seems to have provided the answer to my long ago queries:
The Sacramento City Unified School District paid $175,000 to settle a racial and sexual harassment lawsuit after a former Hiram Johnson High School principal allegedly threatened to “whip” a female after-school employee and later told her she would “have enough time to pull your panties down” if she tried to report him.

Felisberto Cedros was placed on paid administrative leave as Hiram Johnson principal for two months in 2015 before returning last fall to a newly created post of principal on special assignment, working on special projects. In that capacity he earned $139,303, the same salary he received as principal.

He continues to receive a six-figure paycheck from the school district, though he was demoted July 1 to another newly created position of assistant principal on special assignment, in which he is now paid $109,886. In that job, he is working in a department that helps schools prepare for an upcoming federal audit...

“The evidence shows that the principal sexually and racially harassed and retaliated against the complainant,” the state declared. “The district’s conclusion that the principal did not violate any law is not consistent with law.”
I understand that in order to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. Merely breaking eggs, however, does not mean you're making an omelet.  Sometimes you're just making a mess.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My Two Favorite Words

Touchdown, Army!

It's nice to see West Point fielding a winning team after so many years in the desert.

Update:  Oh good Lord.  Army led by 2 touchdowns at the beginning of the 4th.  Tied with 2 minutes left in the game.  Missed a field goal with seconds left.  Missed a field goal in overtime. Buffalo makes an overtime field goal and wins 23-20.

Army gave that game away.  *sigh*

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Valuable Are Student Evaluations of Instructors?

Seemingly not as valuable as we've been led to believe:
A number of studies suggest that student evaluations of teaching are unreliable due to various kinds of biases against instructors. (Here’s one addressing gender.) Yet conventional wisdom remains that students learn best from highly rated instructors; tenure cases have even hinged on it.

What if the data backing up conventional wisdom were off? A new study suggests that past analyses linking student achievement to high student teaching evaluation ratings are flawed, a mere “artifact of small sample sized studies and publication bias.”

“Whereas the small sample sized studies showed large and moderate correlation, the large sample sized studies showed no or only minimal correlation between [student evaluations of teaching, or SET] ratings and learning,” reads the study, in press with Studies in Educational Evaluation. “Our up-to-date meta-analysis of all multisection studies revealed no significant correlations between [evaluation] ratings and learning.”

These findings “suggest that institutions focused on student learning and career success may want to abandon SET ratings as a measure of faculty's teaching effectiveness,” the study says.
This study dealt with professors, not high school teachers.  Want to know who does know who the good and bad high school teachers are?  Other high school teachers.  It's not rocket science.

Rightful Arbiters of the Truth

Straight out of MiniTrue:
This site is so realistic that I didn't begin to catch on that it was satire until I scrolled over half way down the page.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

This Is What Equality Looks Like

In my day, only men were required to take boxing in PE class.  That's now changing:
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Army cadets Kiana Stewart and DeAdre Harvey squared off in a boxing ring at the U.S. Military Academy this month, circling each other with their gloves up. Watching classmates already had suffered bloody noses, but the women stayed aggressive, bouncing on the balls of their feet while delivering the occasional jab.

The female cadets are part of a first at West Point: women who must box. Beginning this fall, West Point officials shifted from allowing female cadets to take the course as an elective to requiring it for all approximately 1,000 students in the Class of 2020. The move follows the Pentagon’s historic decision last year to fully integrate women into all combat roles for the first time, and allowing women to box marked the fall of one of the last barriers to women being allowed to do anything they are qualified to in the U.S. military.
Why don't the women have to box men?  I had to go up against people I considered behemoths!
Brig. Gen. Diana M. Holland, who took over as West Point’s first female commandant of cadets in January, said that when she was a cadet in the late 1980s, she had a hard time understanding why she wasn’t boxing and her male classmates were. The course this year incorporates graded two-minute bouts in which women face women, and controlled sparring in which men and women can be matched up against each other.
Female privilege, I guess.  Or perhaps a nod, if not a total recognition, that men and women are different.  Legally and socially equal, of course, but physically, fundamentally, different.

Divisibility Rule For 7

I learned something today.

Today my pre-calculus students were studying all sorts of things about polynomials.  They looked at the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra and it's far more interesting lemma about the number of roots, they learned about about the nature of roots--specifically, if the polynomial has real coefficients, then any imaginary roots will always occur in complex conjugate pairs--they learned to how find a polynomial that had specific roots, and they learned the rational root theorem.  All in 2 hours.

In 6th period, something prompted me to mention divisibility rules.  I said there were rules for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10; I'm not concerned about divisibility rules for numbers above 10.  One student asked if there was a rule for 7 and I said no, I'd never heard of one.  He showed me one he learned somewhere, and I told him I wanted to check it.  I brought it home and just proved it.  His rule is this:
Separate the n-digit number into n-1 digit number and a 1-digit number by removing the ones digit.  Subtract twice the ones digit from the n-1 digit rump number.  If the difference is divisible by 7, the entire number is divisible by 7.  If the difference is still large, continue the process on this difference.

Prior to proving it, though, I needed to review a little number theory.  I've never had a class in number theory, I've just encountered it in a Problem Solving Throughout History course.  I came home and reviewed what little number theory I've studied, practiced it by proving the divisibility rule for 9 (at least for a 3 digit number), and tackled 7.

It works.

Before I show my work to you, let's review some algebra problems that only old-timers will have encountered.  Remember these?
Start with a 2-digit number.  Reverse the digits.  The new number is 27 more than the old number.  The digits add up to 11.  What was the original number?
If t is the tens digit of the original number, and u is the units digit of the original number, then the system of equations that is created is
Remember those?  Well, that's where I started.

The first problem I worked, just to get my juices flowing, was proving the divisibility rule for 9 for a 3-digit number.  To say that a number is divisible by 9 means that it is equal to 9 times some integer, which I called p or q.  And of course, the digits in the number have to be integers.

Here's my work for proving the divisibility rule for 9 on a 3-digit number.
click image to enlarge

Looking at this proof, it wouldn't be difficult at all to extend it to an n-digit number.

Feeling all warmed up, I tried this student's proposed divisibility rule for 7 for both 2 and 3 digit numbers.  It worked.

By this time I was fully ready to tackle an n-digit number.  Turns out it was pretty straight-forward:

I don't know who discovered this rule, or how, or what they were smoking when they figured it out, but I like that I learned it today.

Update:  minor error in my last proof.  The given integer has n+1 digits, not n.  No aspect of the proof is affected by this mistake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

In the moments I could get some administrative work done today, I accomplished everything I set out to do.  So when I had the opportunity to leave school before 4:00 today--something I've been able to do only a few times in the month since school began--I took it.  I'll be able to knock out a lot of my master's coursework.

I got home to a garage door that wouldn't open.  No problem, I'll figure out that problem quick enough and then get some work done, then maybe go for an evening walk.

The stopped clock on the stove told me that the power had gone out perhaps 10 minutes before I got home.  It came back on not too long ago.

My master's coursework is done online.  No good deed goes unpunished.

Oh well.  I met some of my neighbors, folks I'd never met before after living here 11 years.  And I met them because I heard them talking out on the sidewalk, so I went out to join them. 

Lemonade from lemons.

Monday, September 19, 2016

It's Not Just Trouble That Comes In Threes

My current master's class, on measurement/assessment, has several types of assignments we must do.  We must read each of 16 chapters, respond in writing to each of 16 chapters, and respond to at least one classmate's comments about each chapter.  Additionally, we must write a paper on our personal philosophy regarding measurement and evaluation, conduct a "mini-review" of literature on a related topic, and submit a measurement and evaluation project.

That's a lot of stuff.

I've decided that in the 60-90 minutes a night that I devote to the course, I need to do three things.  Tonight, for example, I completed my "philosophy" paper and responded to 2 classmates' writings on different chapters.  Tomorrow I might read a chapter, write my thoughts on it, and start one of the other projects.

I find that breaking my work up this way keeps me from getting bored or overwhelmed, and allows me to chip away at the zillions of little parts listed on the course syllabus.  My personality type is one that likes to make lists and then cross off items as they're completed, and my "three" method allows me to do a lot of crossing off.

For the Math Teacher In Me

I stopped at the post office to mail a package today and saw that these stamps were available.  I (obviously) bought a plate.
click to enbiggen

He had ganas.

For the Star Trek Fan In Me

I stopped at the post office to mail a package today and saw that these stamps were available.  I (obviously) bought a plate.
click to enbiggen

Live long and prosper.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Should You Have To Pay For Someone Else's Porn?

Nobody figured out beforehand that this would be an issue?  And then when they figured it out, they got bothered by this?  In liberal New York City?  I don't understand:
New York City thought it was stepping into the 21st century when it launched its public internet kiosks. They envisioned yet another "free" public service being used for good and noble purposes. After all, the internet makes so many amazing things possible, right?

Unfortunately, the folks of NYC forgot that the public -- who were taxed to pay for the "free" internet -- is made up of people. They used the internet for their own purposes, and those purposes weren't what the city envisioned:
Eight months after the appearance of the first LinkNYC hubs, which are -- or were -- internet kiosks meant to help bring the Big Apple into the 21st Century, the city has taken a step back.
Some of these kiosks were not used to “save data on their mobile plans, call relatives across the country, and get a much-needed quick charge” as they were originally intended. Instead, they were used to watch pornography.

What Should Public Schools Be Doing

Public schools serve many purposes, from helping pass down our common culture (I doubt most people learn the Pledge of Allegiance at home) to reinforcing cultural mores (don't interrupt some who's speaking, don't hit someone else, help others) to, last but not least, teaching academic content.  I'd say that all those things are important, but the last one is the most important and is the justification for spending the billions we do each year on education.

So what do you think of this?
Officially, the “evaluation rubric” adopted by the State Board of Education this month is “an accountability system designed to help all schools continuously improve.”

But by grading schools that serve California’s 6-plus million K-12 students on “10 areas critical to student performance,” the system – whose precise details are yet to emerge – moves away from traditional academic standards into fuzzier areas. And that will likely make it more difficult for parents and the larger public to determine what’s really happening, or not, in the classroom...

Assembly Bill 2548, now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature (unlikely) or veto (more likely) would embrace “multiple measures” but put more emphasis on academic achievement and comply with a new federal school law that requires low-performing schools to be identified.

Brown, taking his cue from Michael Kirst, the state school board’s president, championed an overhaul of school finance that gives districts with large numbers of poor or “English-learner” students extra money to raise their academic performances and close the “achievement gap” to which Weber refers.

Brown and Kirst, however, have been curiously reluctant to adopt tight oversight of how local schools are spending the extra billions and whether they are, in fact, having an academic effect. Brown has cited “subsidiarity” – leaving implementation to local school officials – as his mantra.

Their preferences mesh with those of professional educators and teacher unions, which dislike what they see as the punitive approaches of past state and federal policies.

Without tighter supervision, critics counter, local school officials are under great pressure to spend – or squander – the billions of extra dollars on salary increases and other items that don’t directly benefit what are called “at risk” kids, who are about 60 percent of the state’s students.

There are already indications that the extra money is being siphoned into broader categories of spending and that the “Local Control and Accountability Plans” that districts are adopting to guide spending are wordy, confusing and ineffective.
What are the areas that will be graded?
The accountability system approved by the State Board of Education will rate schools not only on standardized test scores, but also on the progress of English learners, high school graduation rates, college and career readiness and, initially, suspension rates. School districts also will measure campuses for school climate, parent engagement, implementation of state academic standards, services for expelled students and adequate instruction and facilities...

“What we have today is something we haven’t had before ... a mental model,” said board member Patricia Ann Rucker.
Oh, there's something mental here all right.  How do you evaluate schools on career readiness?  What kind of parent engagement will be considered good, and what kind bad?  If no students were suspended, would schools be safer, would academic achievement soar?

This is softheadedness taken to new and dramatic extremes.
The State Board of Education proposal would replace the three-digit API that was suspended in 2013 when the state adopted new standardized tests that adhere to Common Core State Standards. While the score gave communities and education officials an easy way to compare schools, critics said it was too grounded in test scores and ignored other factors that reflect school performance.

Read more here:

Read more here:
Why would you care about any "school performance" except the learning of children?

What must it be like on the logical side of the looking glass?

(I completely altered the last third or so of this post not long after posting it.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

What Is It With Me and Issues of Sleep Lately?

Friday morning I woke up at 3:45 and couldn't go back to sleep, so I spent the next couple hours reading the news on my phone in bed.

I made it through the day well enough.  I went to 7th period after work, then home to feed the dog, then off to perform supervisory duty at the football game (yay, our teams won!).  Exhaustion started kicking in at the football game.  I did, however, notice a couple people in the distance, creeping around on the school's roof.  They weren't overly excited about being caught up there.

I got home not too long after 10pm.  I don't even recall brushing my teeth and going to bed, but clearly I did both.  It was a long day for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Anyone With Any Sense At All Would Know This Is True

It's one thing to put students with learning disabilities into mainstream classes.  In many cases, those students' disabilities can be accommodated and the student can learn the required academic content.  But it takes a special kind of stupid to put students with severe behavioral issues into a mainstream class and think there won't be negative ramifications for everyone else:
“Including” young children with emotional and behavioral disabilities affects the learning and behavior of their non-disabled classmates, researchers conclude. Other students “had more absences, lower math and reading scores in kindergarten and 1st grade, and were more likely to act out in the classroom or struggle with social skills,” reports Ed Week.

Federal law requires mainstreaming of students with disabilities “to the maximum extent appropriate”.

There is a “direct negative effect,” said researcher Michael A. Gottfried, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
It doesn't take a tremendous leap of faith to extend these findings to high school, either.

A lack of discipline hurts everyone, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Given What We Know About Universities....

Does anyone think their fears are unfounded?
No safe spaces for conservative students at Columbia University

It’s not easy being a conservative student at Columbia University. In fact, it’s downright hostile, if interviews from a student and recent alum of the Ivy League school are any indication.

Brian Min, a Columbia sophomore who describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially mixed, told The College Fix he fears he will be “physically assaulted” if he wears conservative clothing or voices conservative opinions on campus.

Min already said he feels he lost his gig as a writer for the Columbia Spectator last semester because of his political views. In March, he wrote a column on the terrorist attacks that happened in Brussels. He argued for the condemnation of Islamophobia, but when his peers interpreted his argument as “blaming Belgium for the Brussels attacks,” Min said it was strongly suggested he stop writing.

Today, as a political science major, a field in which he is often asked to give his opinions in homework assignments, Min said he is concerned his grades will be marked down for voicing conservative principles.
They'll be attacked by people who celebrate tolerance and diversity.


When I woke up from this particular dream this morning, I couldn't go back to sleep.  My heart and mind were racing.

In this particular dream I don't know if I was in high school, was an undergrad, or was a graduate student, but I think the course was graduate level.  I don't know what school I was attending, but there were two very different classrooms in that school.  There were two instructors involved, one who was most definitely a retired teacher from the school at which I teach, and I'm not sure who the other was.  I cannot even be sure if the dream involved one class or two, despite the two rooms and instructors. 

But when I showed up for the final exam, I realized I hadn't studied at all.  And when I opened the test, I had no idea what was asked of me.  In fact, I could barely focus on reading the test, instead being so overwhelmed that I knew literally nothing about the test material that I seemed to do anything but read the test.

I've had the dream before, the one where I'm back at West Point, it's the end of the semester, and I realize I didn't go to English class all semester and hence won't graduate (but I didn't have English as a senior).  This was the first time, though, that I've dreamed about a graduate level class.  And the fact that I don't have to do a thesis for my master's program, but rather a comprehensive test over the material I'll have learned over the course of 5 years--and that test occurs late next Spring--might have been the genesis for the dream.  Who knows.

But it was most disconcerting, even after waking up.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Assessment (Also Known As "Testing")

My current master's class is about measurement and assessment.  I admit that this class is far more interesting than I thought it was going to be, in part because the text is exceptional.  (It's an online course so there's little interaction with the instructor except via email.)

I'm going to ask a question that motivates the textbook author's thesis.  I'd like you to answer the question in the comments, and if you're a teacher/professor, identify yourself as such if you're comfortable doing so.  I don't want you to give me what you think is the "correct" answer, or what you think the author would say is the "correct" answer, but instead just answer honestly.  I have hopes that this will lead to an interesting conversation.  After there have been some responses, I'll post the author's ideal answer (which I kinda like, but wouldn't have been my original answer).

First, a lead-in question for teachers and professors:  For what reasons do you assess student learning?

And the biggie:  What is the most important reason teachers should assess student learning?

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Pre-calculus Text--I'm Not Happy

I keep finding goofy things in our new pre-calc text.

It's bad enough that it just presents "facts" without any proof.  If I remember correctly (we haven't gotten to this topic yet), it just presents the Law of Sines and the Law of Cosines without proof!  It just presents them as being delivered directly from Heaven on tablets.  Several important points are presented without proof.

Then there's stuff I'd consider wrong.

For you math types out there, what would you consider to be the standard form of the equation of a parabola?  For me, without any hesitation, I'd say standard form is y=ax^2+bx+c.  Our new textbook, though, says standard form is y=a(x-h)^2+k, which is similar to what I'd call vertex form, namely (y-k)=a(x-h)^2, a form that would graph a parabola with vertex (h,k).

If we can't agree on standard form, it's not very standard, is it?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Big Risk, Or A Good Idea?

We really don't know how to predict who will be a good teacher, what attributes will make for a good teacher:
Everyone wants to “raise the bar” for new teachers, writes Bellwether’s Chad Aldeman. But we don’t know who’ll be a great (or good) teacher.

Looking at teacher prep programs or candidates’ personal characteristics doesn’t help, the No Guarantees report found. Post-training tests don’t show where to set the bar either.

“Teachers who perform better on the Praxis math are, on average, better math teachers,” Aldeman writes. “But the differences are tiny, and there is wide variation at nearly every score"...

Without reliable screening tools, states should eliminate “unhelpful barriers” to entering the teaching profession and “let districts take responsibility for training and evaluating their employees,” he concludes.
I see very good potential benefits from such a proposal, as well as very deep potential pitfalls.  At least we know what we're getting with today's system; would it be right to conduct the above experiment on other people's children?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

What Is Social Justice?

I have my own view of what social justice is, and it's much closer to the Constitution than it is to what our friends on the left think it is.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Good Decision, Bad Decision

I laud them when they do something right, I'm going to criticize them when they do something stupid.  Who is "they"?  The University of Iowa:
The University of Iowa could become the first school in the state to add a bachelor’s program in social justice to its list of degrees, provided its Board of Regents approves the motion.

Currently, the school already offers a first-year seminar on social justice as well as a “Justice for All” living learning community where students can live and “learn about systemic problems in our society.”

University officials told The Iowa City Press-Citizen that both programs have been so well-received, with full-enrollment in the “Justice for All” learning community, that demand for an actual degree-program on the topic makes sense...

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the university has confirmed to Campus Reform that the Board of Regents voted to approve the social justice degree program at its meeting Thursday.
What a waste of taxpayer money.  Yet another "Aggrieved Victim Studies" degree.  I don't see how there's any so-called social justice in that.

Back To School Night

When I arrived back at school last night for Back To School Night, it was still 100 degrees out--and I still had a large turnout in each of my classes, which isn't bad considering that three of the classes I teach have all seniors in them.

On This Date In History...

September 8, 1966:  The first episode of Star Trek aired.  It wasn't the pilot episode, oddly enough, but rather The Man Trap.

50 years later we're still watching Star Trek on both tv (a new series airs on CBS's pay channel this season) and in movies.  Fans still flock to conventions around the world.  Not bad for a show that struggled to last 3 seasons.

Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

If You Want To Be Taken Seriously, Don't Act Like A Twit

Modern academic feminism is hurting women by teaching them to see themselves as victims rather than empowered individuals, according to American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers.

Hoff Sommers, in an interview with Clay Routledge of Psychology Today, argued that women in academia are being treated like children.

"Women are not children. We are not fragile little birds who can't cope with jokes, works of art or controversial speakers," Hoff Sommers said. "Trigger warnings and safe spaces are an infantilizing setback for feminism — and for women."
Yes, what she said.  And not just about women, either, but for all adults.

A Time For Choosing

Does the NAACP exist to work for black Americans, or for Democrats and their union allies?
The NAACP's recent call for a national moratorium on any new public charter schools represents a dramatic shift away from an approach that is working to advance the educational interests of people the NAACP has historically represented. Its action pits the organization against black families, many of whom are working-class and in desperate need of the types of educational opportunities that are being provided by charter schools...

Are charter schools perfect? Of course not. Do we have a lot of work to do to make them better? Of course we do. But the NAACP's insistence on undermining those public schools that are making a difference for the black children who are thriving in them puts the organization on the wrong side of history for our people.
I guess they've made their choice, and they have chosen...poorly.

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

You wouldn't think so, listening to our friends on the left, but the United States is one of the least racist countries on the planet.  Here's but one anecdote:
A Chinese airline has sparked a race row after its in-flight magazine warned travelers to London to dodge the city’s ethnic minority areas.

The article-- which appeared in the in-flight magazine Wings of China, distributed on Air China – has been branded as "racist," "outrageous" and "insulting" by online commenters and public officials.

“London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people,” it reads.
No politically correct tap dancing there.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Math Is Racist?

The headline is hyperbolic.  The author actually contends that there are some uses of math that are "targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality", but saying that wouldn't be the same clickbait, would it?

The author, an Occupy Wall Street clown (who happens to have a degree in math), should know better.
Denied a job because of a personality test? Too bad -- the algorithm said you wouldn't be a good fit. Charged a higher rate for a loan? Well, people in your zip code tend to be riskier borrowers. Received a harsher prison sentence? Here's the thing: Your friends and family have criminal records too, so you're likely to be a repeat offender. (Spoiler: The people on the receiving end of these messages don't actually get an explanation.)

The models O'Neil writes about all use proxies for what they're actually trying to measure. The police analyze zip codes to deploy officers, employers use credit scores to gauge responsibility, payday lenders assess grammar to determine credit worthiness. But zip codes are also a stand-in for race, credit scores for wealth, and poor grammar for immigrants. 
Do the models work?  Are they accurate predictors?  If so, then you can't blame people for using them.  If not, then there's no justification for using them at all.  The author doesn't like the results and uses that dislike to try to make her point; her lack of determining if the models are valid or not severely weakens her point.

Hat tip to reader MikeAT for the link.

Update, 9/7/16: Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is something to this "math is evil" belief:
Meet the little-known statistician behind the Democratic nominee's most important strategic decisions.

King and Marshall Are Spinning In Their Graves

Dr. King and Justice Marshall, both of whom fought for an integrated society in which race was not a factor in governmental decisions, would both be ashamed of the social justice warriors of today:
California State University Los Angeles recently rolled out segregated housing for black students.

The arrangement comes roughly nine months after the university’s Black Student Union issued a set of demands in response to what its members contend are frequent “racist attacks” on campus, such as “racially insensitive remarks” and “microaggressions” by professors and students. One demand was for a “CSLA housing space delegated for Black students.”

“[It] would provide a cheaper alternative housing solution for Black students. This space would also serve as a safe space for Black CSLA students to congregate, connect, and learn from each other,” the demand letter stated.

The newly debuted Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community “focuses on academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory,” Cal State LA spokesman Robert Lopez told The College Fix via email.
Certain American blacks are seeking a voluntary return to the very segregation that the Civil Rights Era was supposed to have eliminated.  And they're getting governmental help to do so.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Tempest In A Teapot

Is this Wells Fargo ad campaign really so offensive?  Really?
Wells Fargo has been forced to apologize after infuriating the arts community by suggesting they should take up more serious careers.

The company released an ad campaign last week, which said that the ballerinas and actors of yesterday could be the botanists and engineers of today.

But the glossy ads, showing young people smiling while holding technical equipment, have angered both professional and aspiring artists.
You know where musical shows are held in Sacramento?  In the Wells Fargo Pavilion. Go figure.

Sunday, September 04, 2016


Fighting over pronouns is now a thing amongst certain activists.  In fact, when I attended some training just before school started, the lesbian activists who conducted one of the workshops introduced themselves as "I'm So-and-so, and my pronouns are 'she' and 'her'."  To me this pronoun thing is yet another manifestation of liberal virtue-signaling, letting those who are already in the club know that you're one of the "them".

The poster above is popping up around Vanderbilt University.  Click on it to enlarge, and then determine if you really, honestly think we need to add new pronouns to our language to account for people for whom biology isn't critical.

I've talked to people about this, and many believe it's silly to add these new pronouns, but they couch their belief in a sort of practicality--"I can't keep track of names and pronouns", or something like that.  My opposition to this latest insanity goes a little deeper.

Read the last part of the poster, "If you make a mistake...."  A suggested response is, "Thank you for reminding me.  I apologize and will use the correct name and pronoun for you in the future."

This is ridiculous.  Except for "you", which refers, regardless of sex or gender, to the person being spoken to, the only time we use pronouns is when we refer to someone else.  Pronouns are for use in the third person.  And to put it bluntly, you don't get a say in how I refer to you to someone else.  How I refer to you when I talk to someone else is between that person and me, not you.  If you want "your pronouns" to be "ze" or "zir" (sometimes spelled "xe" and "xir"), that's your issue, but you don't get to police how I speak to someone else--even if I'm talking about you, which I'm probably not, anyway.

Update, 9/11/16: Staff Name Tags at Vanderbilt Include ‘Preferred Gender Pronouns’.

Friday, September 02, 2016

On What Planet Is This Considered Appropriate?

I'm well-acquainted with a teacher who is soon to have a ridiculous requirement put on him/her.  He/she has a student with a 504 plan, and in an upcoming 504 meeting a new so-called accommodation will be in put into practice for the student.  This student will get to record each class with a phone, for reasons related to "processing disability".

I'm told that this so-called accommodation is superfluous, as online lectures from the textbook publisher are available to the student.  That apparently isn't satisfactory, as there is a push to allow the student to record classes anyway, despite the teacher's strenuous objection that that's invasive.  It seems the principal is leaning towards allowing this accommodation, which seems so outlandish to me that I almost can't believe it's real.

What do you think of this?  Are you aware of any similar accommodations?  Do you have any stories about similarly crazy accommodations that have been written into plans?  Share in the comments!

Update, 9/13/16:  I understand that the unstoppable force hit the immovable object.  There will be no recording.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Warms My Heart

Every year I tell my students that I'm preparing them for their college statistics course, that we'll cover more content than the AP test covers (but not in AP depth).  Every year I tell them about the former students who come back to tell me that their college stats course was all review, or that they were the only student in their college stats course who knew how to use statistical analysis software, or any other such story that just makes me beam--because it's evidence that I'm doing a good job.  Like most teachers I believe that I'm doing a good job, but it's nice to have that outside confirmation, and it's nice to get it year after year.

Just a few moments ago I received a text from a former student.  He received a text from a friend of his, another former stats student of mine, and sent it to me.  Here's what it says:
I was the only person who knew what (the) empirical rule is in my stats class.  So my stats teacher said he was going to say a number and see if someone could guess the next two numbers and he said 68 and (I) raised my hand and said 95 99.7 and he asked me what it was and I said (the) empirical rule.
What are these other teachers teaching, and what are their students learning, if not something as basic as the empirical (68-95-99.7) rule for the normal curve???  That's the stats equivalent of being in a geometry class and saying "a-squared plus b-squared equals" and having only one person know the answer.

Still, it's rewarding to me that the young woman who sent the text remembered the empirical rule.  Imagine how confident she is in her own stats knowledge now, how that can only cause her to do better in the course than she otherwise might have.  And I played a part in that.  Stories like this one help get me through the tougher days.