Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How Little I'm Tied In To Pop Culture

As I've gotten older I watch less and less tv, thus I have very tenuous links to pop culture.

For example, the names "Rose McGowan" and "Anthony Rapp" are all over the news lately.  I have no idea who these people are.

Squishy As A Marshmallow

Young people.  They have so much potential, but they're so malleable--especially by simple(ton) ideas that sound good but in actuality reek of tyranny.  And it's the fault of older generations, including mine, that started putting stupid ideas into their heads.  I mean, seriously, is anyone really offended by Halloween costumes, or do people just pretend to be in order to bolster their liberal bona fides?

Today's university students' brains are so squishy, they can't even see what a bad idea this is:
  • At campuses around America, students have been discouraged from wearing sombreros, ninja outfits, Native American headdresses, or any other costume which assumes a culture one does not represent.
  • Students at Yale and elsewhere have made it clear: they want their schools to take preemptive measures to prevent the wearing of Halloween costumes which could offend.
  • Campus Reform visited Yale with a petition to outlaw Halloween; it gained signature after signature.
As a smart man once said to a psycho, "Lighten up, Francis." 

These are supposed to be the smart kids.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trillions Of Dollars Later, The Hubris Is Illuminated

I don't think it comes as a big surprise that I've not been a big fan of the Common Core standards.  The standards in math are not clearly written, and they're not as good as the 1997 California math standards they replaced.  I won't speak to the English standards, but the math standards are definitely a stop down.  California's 1997 math standards were benchmarked against Singapore's, as well as those of other countries whose students routinely outperform US students.  The Common Core standards were piloted and benchmarked against...someone's idea.  And the cost has been astronomically high, both in dollars and in failed education:
Since 2009, the Gates Foundation’s primary U.S. activity has focused on establishing and implementing Common Core, a set of centrally mandated curriculum rules and tests for what children are to learn in each K-12 grade, with the results linked to school and teacher ratings and punitive measures for low performers. The Gates Foundation has spent more than $400 million itself and influenced $4 trillion in U.S. taxpayer funds towards this goal. Eight years later, however, Bill Gates is admitting failure on that project, and a “pivot” to another that is not likely to go any better.

“Based on everything we have learned in the past 17 years, we are evolving our education strategy,” Gates wrote on his blog as a preface to a speech he gave last week in Cleveland. He followed this by detailing how U.S. education has essentially made little improvement in the years since he and his foundation — working so closely with the Obama administration that federal officials regularly consulted foundation employees and waived ethics laws to hire several — began redirecting trillions of public dollars towards programs he now admits haven’t accomplished much.

“If there is one thing I have learned,” Gates says in concluding his speech, “it is that no matter how enthusiastic we might be about one approach or another, the decision to go from pilot to wide-scale usage is ultimately and always something that has to be decided by you and others the field.” If this statement encompasses his Common Core debacle, Gates could have at least the humility to recall that Common Core had no pilot before he took it national. There wasn’t even a draft available to the public before the Obama administration hooked states into contracts, many of which were ghostwritten with Gates funds, pledging they’d buy that pig in a poke.

But it looks like this is as close to an apology or admission of failure as we’re going to get, folks. Sorry about that $4 trillion and mangled years of education for American K-12 kids and teachers. Failing with your kids and money for eight years is slowly getting billionaire visionaries to “evolve” and pledge to respect the hoi polloi a little more, though, so be grateful.
Gates and his foundation were also ardent supporters of the "small school movement", which failed so bad that any mention of it was at one time completely erased from the foundation's web site.  At least no students were harmed by the failures of DOS 4.0 and Windows 8.

If They Can't Do It In The Most Compassionate Parts of the Country....

San Francisco.

San Francisco is about as leftie as you can get in this country.  They're so politically insane there that--well, you know how politically insane they are there.  They're so left that SF City and County voted 85% for Felonie von Pantsuit in the last presidential election, the highest percentage in any county.  In the same election, Nancy Pelosi got only 80.9% of the vote for her congressional seat.

As you well know--just ask them, they'll tell you--liberals are the most compassionate people around.  They care about people.  They care especially for racial minorities (except for Asians when discussing education), the poor, and the downtrodden.  I mean, they really care.

So you'd expect that with only 1 or 2 evil conservatives in the entire city, we'd see glorious things occurring there in Baghdad By The Bay.  There would be no poverty, no want.

And no achievement gaps:
San Francisco, despite its reputation for unabashed progressivism and rapidly growing wealth, has a public school system with gapingly large achievement gaps and a more pronounced failure to serve low-income black and Latino students than other California districts, a new report says...

The San Francisco results aren’t the norm among California districts serving comparable numbers of students with similar demographics.
It goes without saying that San Francisco's teachers are at least as liberal as the rest of the city.  So what gives?

(Hint:  perhaps not all your liberal orthodoxy is right, and not all conservative orthodoxy is wrong.  What's say we start there....)

Update, 10/31/17:  And more:
Deep poverty and the housing instability and emotional trauma that come with it are some of the key factors impacting their performance on state tests, Dickey said. But the problem isn’t purely economic. San Francisco’s poor white students outperformed their disadvantaged black peers by more than 30 percentage points, the test results show.
So do you think San Francisco’s schools are staffed by racists, or is there something else afoot?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

This Professor Gets It

I wish there were more like this one:
The right to speak freely is not the same as the right to rob others of their voices.

Understanding this argument requires an ability to detect and follow nuance, but nuance has largely been dismissed from the debates about speech raging on college campuses. Absolutist postures and the binary reign supreme. You are pro- or anti-, radical or fascist, angel or demon. Even small differences of opinion are seized on and characterized as moral and intellectual failures, unacceptable thought crimes that cancel out anything else you might say.

No one should have to pass someone else’s ideological purity test to be allowed to speak. University life — along with civic life — dies without the free exchange of ideas.

In the face of intimidation, educators must speak up, not shut down. Ours is a position of unique responsibility: We teach people not what to think, but how to think.

Realizing and accepting this has made me — an eminently replaceable, untenured, gay, mixed-race woman with PTSD — realize that no matter the precariousness of my situation, I have a responsibility to model the appreciation of difference and care of thought I try to foster in my students.

If I, like so many colleagues nationwide, am afraid to say what I think, am I not complicit in the problem?

...Nuance and careful reasoning are not the tools of the oppressor, meant to deceive and gaslight and undermine and distract. On the contrary: These tools can help prove what those who use them think — or even what they feel — to be true. They make arguments more, not less, convincing, using objective evidence to make a point rather than relying on the persuasive power of a subjective feeling.
I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Whatever happened to such commonplace beliefs?

Halloween Costumes

"You don't like an abortion?  Don't get one."

That's a common leftie retort.

"Don't want to dress like Moana for Halloween?  Don't."

And when some kids want to?  Eeek!  Cultural appropriation!  (Which, by the way, is one of the stupidest juxtaposition of words in the entire English language, as well as one of the most intellectually deficient.)
Emily Zanotti asked her husband, a Pacific Islander, if he’d be offended by girls dressing up as Moana to trick or treat.
His response…”uhhh, no.”
As for whether he felt more oppressed now, as a result of Disney’s cultural appropriation?
“Why are you still reading that garbage magazine?”
The costume rules are impossible to follow, writes Zanotti. “Dressing as Cinderella is sexist,” while Jasmine is racist. “Heck, you probably can’t even dress as one of Moana’s animal sidekicks, lest you anger PETA over the obvious cartoon oppression of what is clearly a very differently-abled chicken.”
What is wrong with those people?  They're neo-puritans, desperately afraid that someone, somewhere, might be having a good time while they themselves are miserable creatures.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Higher Education Digs Its Own Grave

From yesterday's Instapundit:
Related: KU hires Black Lives Matter activist banned from campus building for threatening dean.
As Instapundit always says, taxpayers will eventually get tired of paying for this kind of crap, and then the professoriate will blame “anti-intellectualism”.

Tea Party Treatment

I remember when suggesting that the Obama IRS was targeting Tea Party organizations was considered crazy and even raaaaaacist:
The Trump administration on Thursday said it has agreed to pay between $1 million and $10 million to settle lawsuits against the Internal Revenue Service for targeting tea-party groups in the Obama era, saying in court documents that the IRS “admits that its treatment...was wrong.”
I assert that such blatant wrongdoing is exponentially worse than Watergate.  The problem is that the previous administration had so many Watergates that people grew weary of keeping track of them all--and the press had no desire to follow up on them.

A Good Idea Gone Bad

I don't support diploma mills.  But this school isn't a diploma mill:
A 2009 state law was aimed at “diploma mills” that persuade poorly qualified students to take out student loans they won’t be able to repay. PCHS does not accept student loans. However, the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education has threatened to shut down the school if it admits students like Narez.
The trade school teaches horseshoeing, which can pay $90,000/year or more.  The school wants to accept students who haven't completed high school or a GED, but the state says no.

This One Pithy Quote Explains What Is Wrong With Modern Liberalism

Heard it on the radio on the way to work this past week:  "Compassion cannot enable people, it must serve them."

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Net Negative

Yes, I'm sure there are positive uses of phones in a classroom, but in general they're a net negative.  I agree with this article completely:
Of all the places where a mobile phone does not belong -- at the dinner table, near a steering wheel, in the hands of a president before 8 a.m. -- close to the top of the list is in the classroom. In the last five years, however, many large school districts in the U.S. have lifted their restrictions on smartphones. They'll come to regret it.

Research shows that mere proximity to smartphones contributes to sloppy work, reduced concentration and lower problem-solving capacity. (Phones also facilitate cheating.) College students who don't bring their mobile phones to class score a full grade higher than those who do. A study of 91 high schools in the U.K. found that students in schools that imposed strict limits on mobile phones saw test scores improve by 6.4 percent of a standard deviation -- and improvement was highest among low-achievers.
While 6.4% of a standard dev is nothing to text home about (see what I did there?!), classrooms are not the place for phones.
It almost goes without saying that, just as surely as they once passed notes in class (does anyone still do that?) kids will find a way around the rules. Schools are perfectly free to acknowledge the difficulty of the challenge they face. What they cannot and should not do is surrender to it.

Tearing Down Campus Posters You Don't Like

Is it ever justified?  Probably, but not in 99% or so of cases.  But people will justify doing so on the basis that their feeeeeeeeeeeelings were hurt by the posters.  The posters made them feel unsaaaaaaaaaafe.  The posters might even be violent!

Everyone at a university should know better than to tear down posters.  But when school employees do it, somehow it seems even worse:
Two vandals who destroyed advertisements for a conservative event at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are allegedly school employees.

As Campus Reform reported October 5, several vandals were caught on film throughout the course of the day tearing down flyers promoting an upcoming Charlie Kirk event, hosted by the UIUC chapter of his conservative student organization, Turning Point USA (TPUSA).

One TPUSA member confronted the vandals, politely asking for an explanation of their actions, to which one dumbfounded perpetrator responded simply by stating “um...ok,” while another said she doesn’t “give a f**k” and proceeded to walk away as she flashed her middle finger.

The TPUSA chapter now alleges that the latter is a student named Rubab Hyder, who also serves as a Multicultural Advocate for the university. Her school profile claims that she’ll be “working to create a welcoming community that encourages inclusivity and empathy"...

Additionally, Jocelyne Robledo, student outreach and media coordinator for the Department of Latino/Latina Studies, was has been accused of being part of a group of vandals who laughed as they tore down all TPUSA’s posters.
One group of conservative students found a unique way not only of keeping their posters from getting torn down, but of driving traffic to their web site:
Do you want to join the anti-fascist movement in Seattle? Don’t pay attention to the posters telling you to visit SeattleAntifa.com.

The website domain is more than an elaborate prank by the University of Washington College Republicans. The club told The College Fix it’s a better way to advertise in the vicinity of campus, where their non-prank physical flyers are quickly torn down despite following campus regulations...

This didn’t sit well with legitimate Antifa activists in the Seattle area. The Daily spoke to a student activist, “RR,” who admitted that he and peers were taking down the flyers without telling campus cops, “because they don’t trust UWPD"...

The university’s Bias Incident Advisory Committee said in its most recent report – covering November 2016 through February 2017 – that “flyers/posters/posts” drew more complaints than all other categories combined.
The lefties don't sound to me to be very tolerant of diversity.   Perhaps they need diversity training.

Job Well Done

Nothing but respect and admiration for these young men:
For the first time in the 107-year history of the Boy Scouts, three triplets who are blind have been named Eagle Scouts.


Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were honored Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, for their achievements in front of family, friends, fellow Boy Scouts and even the Secretary of Labor.


According to the Boy Scouts of America, these brothers reached the rank of Eagle Scout “under the same conditions as their sighted peers, with no extensions or special considerations.” In fact, only four percent of Boy Scouts are able to accomplish this feat.
So impressive.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Union California in a Right-to-Work Country

For some reason that psychologists might refer to as projection, liberals always accuse conservatives of wishing it was still the 1950's.  But when it comes to unions, it's the liberals who want to live in the 1950's.  Unions were necessary at one time but have been largely surpassed by events; does anyone truly "look for the union label" anymore?

California's government workers might.  California is one of the minority of states that is still a "fair share" state, meaning workers can be compelled to financially support a union even if they are not a member of that union (yours truly is what's known as an "agency fee payer").  The major Sacramento newspaper has an entire online section devoted to the opinions and views of state workers!  Don't believe me?  Here's their explanation:
The Sacramento Bee launched The State Worker blog in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day The Bee filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Subscribe to alerts on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs at sacbee.com/newsletters. Twitter: @TheStateWorker.
You might have thought I was kidding, but I wasn't.

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case out of Illinois, a case that is widely believed (or hoped!) will end forced unionism in this country.  Here's "what this means for state workers":
California labor leaders sound almost apocalyptic when they describe a looming Supreme Court case that many of them concede likely will cost them members and money...

They’re alarmed by Janus vs. AFSCME, the Illinois lawsuit that challenges the rights of unions in 22 states to collect so-called “fair share” fees from employees who do not want to join bargaining groups but may benefit from representation. That practice has been legal and common since 1977, when the Supreme Court favored union arguments for fair-share fees in a lawsuit against the Detroit Board of Education.

Since then, business-backed groups and politicians have chipped away at fair-share fees across the country. They contend that the fees subsidize a union’s political activities, undermining the First Amendment rights of some workers.

Now, unions anticipate a 5-4 Supreme Court decision banning the mandatory dues with President Donald Trump’s nominee on the court, Neil Gorsuch, tilting the balance against their side just a year after the court deadlocked on a similar case against the California Teachers Association.
Hidden in the middle of the article is this gem which explains exactly why I'm against forced unionism and for the marketplace:
To hold on to power, public employee unions will have to shift to a model already used by California’s private sector unions that centers on motivating people to opt in to union membership even though they don’t have to. The model works for groups like the California Medical Association and the 400,000-member State Building and Construction Trades Council.
Provide a service I want and find of value, and I'll buy it.  Sadly, though, that's not quite what the unions have in mind.  Their method of "motivating people" is to craft laws which favor the union, for example, the law that allows unions access to new government employees so they can get them to join the union.  No, there's no "equal time" clause for professional organizations or anti-union information.

You might wonder why, when members are given the choice, unions lose 15-30% of their members once those members no longer are required to be members.  You might, if you were truly interested.  But unions aren't interested, they just want your money and the political influence it buys.  It must be hard for them to give up what they see as an entitlement, and hopefully, by next June 30th, they'll have to.

The People of Wisconsin Must Be So Proud

The stupid, it hurts:
“Everyone thinks of Lincoln as the great, you know, freer of slaves, but let’s be real: He owned slaves, and as natives, we want people to know that he ordered the execution of native men,” said one of the protesters. 
What explains such stupidity--and at a university, no less?
The anti-statue crusade thrives on shallow 21st-century moralizing—the privilege of the prosperous and comfortable, far removed from the suffering and difficulties of earlier times—coupled with the sheer ignorance of a generation that has little understanding of the basic facts of our history.

But the iconoclasts do not just see Confederates or Christopher Columbus or Lincoln as problematic. The movement is about more than these individuals. It’s an attempt to delegitimize and erase the very foundation of our civilization, which to them, is irreparably flawed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In Nearby Berkeley-lite

I hadn't heard this about UC Davis:
Special programs at the University of California, Davis offer narrowly tailored grants based on sexual orientation, “gender identity” and immigration status, The College Fix has learned.

UC Davis’s AB540 and Undocumented Student Center offers a variety of grants intended for students who are in the country illegally. Among them are “emergency grants,” a “bedding grant” and an “UnducoScholar award.”

The emergency grants, which are capped at $500, stipulate that the recipient must have “AB540 undocumented status,” must have a “DREAM Act application on file with UC Davis Financial Aid Office,” and must have exhausted all other financial aid opportunities at the university...

Similarly, the university’s LGBTQIA+ Resource Center distributes grants to “LGBTQIA+” students. “Since funding is limited,” the application reads, “we ask that only those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and have no access to other resources and forms of continuous and abundant financial support utilize this grant.”

Reached via email, Elizabeth Coté, a representative from the Center, told The College Fix: “There are no measures taken to confirm the identities of those who apply for grants. We utilize the criteria provided by the private donor funding this grant. Scholars either self-identify as meeting those criteria or not."

Julia Ann Easley, a campus spokeswoman, corroborated this procedure to The Fix via email: “A private donor funds the emergency grants available through the LGBTQIA Resource Center. To meet those criteria for the grants, students self-identify.”

Easley also told The Fix that the grants for students in the country illegally are funded by “a combination of developed funds and U.C. Davis President’s Undocumented Students Initiative.”
Can't argue at all with private funding, although one wonders if a government university should be in the business of distributing money in such a flagrantly discriminatory way.  I hope no taxpayer money is involved in this; no information is given regarding the source of "developed funds" or the "Undocumented Students Initiative".


How I Spent My Day

It should have been an easy day.

I had 6 straight hours of classes, no prep period today.  Three 2-hr classes of statistics.  I had a "lab" scheduled, an educational but mildly entertaining activity that should keep the students occupied for most of that time.  That would free me up to catch up on some grading and other work.

It wasn't meant to be.

I have some HP Mini netbooks, one for every two students.  The lab required going to a couple of web sites and running some probability simulations (Plinko and a Monty Hall sim), as well as some other tasks.  It shouldn't have been a big deal.

But I spent a large portion of those 6 hrs diagnosing and trying to fix computer and wifi connectivity issues.  (District officials are baffled by, but freely admit, the fact that my school inexplicably has the worst wifi in the district, despite all the access nodes we have.)  After 5 or 6 computers connected, no one else could.  Some computers came up with a warning that I couldn't proceed because the copy of Windows installed was counterfeit (all the computers were imaged from the same master image, and all of them have the Windows sticker right on the computer).

I contacted our Tech Services people.  They had me try some things.  That took more time.  It didn't do anything to help with our connectivity issue, but it did get rid of the "counterfeit Windows" problem.  The two computers that still have problems, though?  "Go to this web site and fill out a report with as much detail as possible about the computers, and then go to that web site and schedule a time for you to bring the computers to us to look at."  Great, thanks for that help.

I wrote in a previous post how I'm being required to turn in my perfectly good desktop computer for a laptop I don't want.  BTW, these laptops don't have a CD drive, don't have an ethernet port, and don't have a number pad.  Anyway, I read the 2 pages of instructions about how to back up all the data on my computer so I can take it to Tech Services and trade it in for the unwanted laptop--but the instructions weren't accurate.  And I followed the simplest backup instructions, backing up to a flash drive!  The "users" folder, which should hold all my files no matter where I stored them on the computer, was not where they said it was.  An email exchange allowed me to get to that folder, but moving it to my flash drive resulted in only 4 files being transferred.  "Is your flash drive big enough?"  Yes, it's a 16GB flash drive and I was only trying to move 1GB of data.  "Try moving the sub-folders individually instead of all at once."  This email exchange wasn't doing much for my blood pressure.  And why wasn't the instruction sheet right in the first place?

I'm a teacher.  I don't ask the Tech Services people to teach probability, they shouldn't expect me to do all this computer work.  And it's not like I'm a computer illiterate, but I certainly don't have all the access and permissions and such that they do, barriers that are supposed to keep kids from looking at boobies on school computers or something.  It's just not a good use of my time to do all this computer work.  It's not my area of expertise.

Here's the bigger problem.

My district looks at money and nothing else.  It didn't cost any money to have me work on those computer problems all day.  Oh, there's certainly an opportunity cost, and I'm the one who paid it in work that didn't get done, but there was no dollar cost--I was going to get paid today no matter what I did, and so were the Tech Services people.  The inefficiency of wasting my time the way I had to today doesn't show up on anyone's spreadsheet, so to district people, there's no problem here.  And if there's no problem, there's no solution needed.

Penny wise, and pound foolish.  Just like buying laptops without ethernet ports, number pads, or CD drives, and then expecting the schools themselves to buy the needed peripherals.  But hey, the district got a good deal on the computers, right?

Ugh.  I'll close with a paraphrase of how I ended one of those email conversations today.  "I'm entirely too frustrated now.  I'll stop here and get frustrated again tomorrow."

Just How Bad Is Government Here In California?

This bad:
Proud of my heritage, I had this urge to run for the state legislature, so I did and I won. I was hoping I could do something in Sacramento to slow the decline of the Golden State. But it was not to be. I quickly discovered that the legislature was so dominated by far left ideologues, there was nothing that could be done to reverse course. My Democrat colleagues were not concerned one bit about how their policies were destroying the economic golden goose that made California so famous worldwide. Indeed, they actually believe their big government and nanny state policies have made California the model of how progressives can succeed in governing. Seriously.

The entire time I served in Sacramento, the Democrats were focused almost exclusively on legislation which either had to do with wealth redistribution or creating new “rights” for alleged victims such as illegal aliens, criminals, union members, homosexuals, transgenders and other “oppressed” groups. And it’s no different today. The reality is that the average middle class Californian hasn’t had representation in the halls of Sacramento for decades. Indeed, I predict the destruction of California will, unfortunately, be one of the great legacies of the progressive movement.
But but but, California is one of the largest economies in the world!
Sure, the liberals like to claim California socialism is working by pointing to the much heralded statistic that “California’s economy is the 6th largest in the world” as calculated by the state’s Department of Finance. Indeed, California’s $2.62 trillion economy is larger than that of France, Canada, Brazil, Russia, and Italy. However, that GDP stat does not factor in California’s cost of living, which is 36.2% higher than the national cost of living. As Carson Bruno writes in Real Clear Markets, “using the cost of living adjusted data from the International Monetary Fund and adjusting California’s GDP data provides a better snapshot of California’s economic standing in the world. Doing so shows that California is actually the 12th largest economy — a drop of 6 spots — and actually puts the state below Mexico.”
But wait, there's more.
However, as economic blogger Richard Rider points out, the aggregate GDP statistic is really not a good indicator of a state’s economic health, especially since one industry appears to be propping up the “6th largest economy” myth. California has over 39 million people, more than any other state, so a far more accurate assessment of its economy, Rider writes, would be per capita GDP as compared to the rest of the country. After adjusting the GDP figures to account for the cost of living (COL), the Golden State ends up with a paltry 37th place ranking within the U.S.A., with a $45,696 per capital GDP. Even rustbelt states, such as Michigan and Ohio, have a higher adjusted per capita GDP. Despite Silicon Valley’s high-tech giants, California barely squeezes past impoverished New Mexico. Rider also reports that when one looks at per capita GDP stats for the rest of the world, California ranks 19th, but those stats don’t factor in the COL data; if they did, California would be even further down the rankings internationally...

Overall, the Tax Foundation ranks California as fifth worse in overall tax burden, but the state is especially hostile to its high earners who start businesses and create most of the jobs. Indeed, the top 1% pays 50% of all state income taxes. Moreover, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council ranked California as having the worst anti-business climate in the country; the American Tort Reform Foundation ranks the state as the “worst state judicial hellhole” in the U.S. and the national Chamber of Commerce rates California as having the fourth-worst business climate.
Those evil 1%ers.

The closing comment is entertaining:
That doesn’t end well so there’s little doubt California is headed toward economic disaster. Perhaps it is time for conservatives to support California’s succession (sic) movement before the state completely collapses and comes begging the federal government for a bailout.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cutting The Cord

About 6 1/2 years ago I was involved in a fairly minor skiing accident that resulted in a fairly major skiing injury.  Leaving the house became a near impossibility when I could move only a few inches per step, and those steps were slow and painful indeed.

To counteract the loneliness imposed on me by "the four walls", I signed up for Facebook.  That allowed me some contact with the outside world!  And each year at graduation, newly-former students would send me Friend requests.  I'd read that most humans can only keep track of about 150 people or so (interesting that I'm contractually obligated to have up to 165 students), so each year I'd prune my list to keep it at a "manageable" 150.  And I've enjoyed seeing how my former students are doing in college and beyond.

There have been some big changes in Facebook over the past 6 1/2 years, though.  The level of vitriol increased exponentially.  The negativity and partisanship, which I admit I sometimes participated in, grew worse.  Facebook's clout increased so much that it became a player in presidential elections!   

That's not what I joined Facebook for.  It wasn't "social" anymore.  It had transitioned from a net positive to a net negative in my life.

So what did I do?  A few days ago I shut down my profile.  I deleted the app from my phone.  I ditched Facebook.

And you know what?  The sun still rises.  The birds still sing.  Life continues.

At this point I have to wonder what took me so long.

I'm Sure Global Warming Somehow Explains This

Those crazy right-wingers at NASA are spilling the beans:
A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.

The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.

According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed   to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008...

“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said. “But this is also bad news. If the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”
It's clear that they're absolutely sure about what's going on, no?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

And Now PBS

I just wrote a blog post questioning why government money should pay for NPR.  I would use identical reasoning in answering why government money shouldn't pay for PBS.

Then I read this article.  Be careful, PBS.  Publish too many more such articles and the left will turn on you, too.
We live in an era of alarmism. Everyone, or at least Trump opponents, seems alarmed nearly all the time. Even when we can’t quite summon the energy, we’re expected to be outraged. Our outrage is then presented as a badge of honor, evidence of virtue at a time of historic challenge to the Republic. But the nature of the outrage – overwrought before even Trump took office – has taken a new turn.

We are confronted daily not simply with outrage, but a kind of end-of-worldism: America is on the brink of dictatorship; Trump is going start World War III; the president’s access to the nuclear codes might actually destroy the universe; if he manages to control his impulses, then his withdrawal from the Paris climate change accords will still destroy the universe, just a bit more slowly.

As someone who works on the Middle East, I find myself, oddly enough, in a near constant state of relief. Nine months into Trump’s tenure, it could have been better, but it could just as well have been worse, perhaps much worse.

The world hasn’t ended...

Before Trump even had a chance to prove just how unfit for office he was, liberals and Democrats were already preemptively tossing around the word “impeachment.” The vigor for the Russia investigation is driven, in part, by the hope that clear evidence of criminal activity will emerge, thereby justifying the introduction of articles of impeachment. Yet despite no smoking gun, 40 percent of Americans – and more worryingly 72 percent of Democrats – say they would support impeachment, according to one recent poll...

Ironically, the arguments made by the likes of Posner and Cohen represent a greater long-term threat to American democracy than anything Trump has done so far. With the exception of some tweets that have raised the possibility of de-licensing certain networks or challenging judicial independence, Trump’s actual policies have been a number of things: damaging, dishonorable, illiberal, and racist, but they have not been undemocratic. Making this distinction – difficult for Americans since constitutional liberalism and democracy have gone hand in hand – has never been more important.
Whew. Thought I was going to get through an entire article without a "Trump is a horrible person and a racist" thread. Couldn't have that, could we? Perhaps PBS is still safe from leftie ire after all.
In effect, what many Democrats would like, whether explicitly declared or privately hoped for, is the criminalization of behavior that the “smarter” or “rational” among us deem unacceptable, racist, or evil. But, the great thing, and sometimes the scariest thing, about democracy is that it explicitly allows people to be, well, evil, as long their “evil” is expressed within the the law. Democracy is not meant to protect us from other Americans we don’t like.
Given that my side of the political aisle is much more heavily armed than the other side, it's good that the author recognizes that we don't have to like each other, but we do have to tolerate each other.

While "my side" plays by Marquess of Queensbury rules, though, the left gets more and more physically violent.  They should stop before the right decides it's had enough of such criminality.

NPR Has a Leftie Bias (So Says The Former CEO of NPR)

With so many outlets available to provide news, why do taxpayers have to support NPR?
Most reporters and editors are liberal — a now dated Pew Research Center poll found that liberals outnumber conservatives in the media by some 5 to 1, and that comports with my own anecdotal experience at National Public Radio. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall into groupthink on what stories are important, what sources are legitimate and what the narrative of the day will be.

This may seem like an unusual admission from someone who once ran NPR, but it is borne of recent experience. Spurred by a fear that red and blue America were drifting irrevocably apart, I decided to venture out from my overwhelmingly Democratic neighborhood and engage Republicans where they live, work and pray. For an entire year, I embedded myself with the other side, standing in pit row at a NASCAR race, hanging out at Tea Party meetings and sitting in on Steve Bannon’s radio show. I found an America far different from the one depicted in the press and imagined by presidents (“cling to guns or religion”) and presidential candidates (“basket of deplorables”) alike...

Over the course of this past year, I have tried to consume media as they do and understand it as a partisan player. It is not so hard to do. Take guns. Gun control and gun rights is one of our most divisive issues, and there are legitimate points on both sides. But media is obsessed with the gun-control side and gives only scant, mostly negative, recognition to the gun-rights sides...

It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.

It’s why my new friends in Youngstown, Ohio, and Pikeville, Ky., see media as hopelessly disconnected from their lives, and it is how the media has opened the door to charges of bias...

Some of this loss of reputation stems from effective demagoguery from the right and the left, as well as from our demagogue-in-chief, but the attacks wouldn’t be so successful if our media institutions hadn’t failed us as well...

You can’t cover America from the Acela corridor, and the media need to get out and be part of the conversations that take place in churches and community centers and town halls.

I did that, and loved it, though I regret waiting until well after I left NPR to do so.
I know there are many people who like NPR.  Lefties use NPR to identify each other:  "I was listening to NPR the other day and...."  I know that in the big picture, tax dollar support is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of governmental budgets.  But honestly, what legitimate purpose is there in governmental financial support for NPR, especially if the value of the press is in its freedom and independence from government?


Celebrating Diversity, Higher Education Edition

This fellow doesn't celebrate diversity as much as I do:
“Amy Kapell and I were both in a ‘Grrr, we should just go find someone to beat the shit out of’ mood,” the post, attributed to San Jose State University lecturer Matthew Kapell, reads. “Then we found planned parenthood [sic] protesters. Who’s gonna bail us out?”

Kapell’s Facebook page is protected, but a screenshot of the post was uploaded to Facebook by an account under the name of “Pro-Life Libertarians.”
Leftists sure fantasize about violence a lot.

Long Distance Air Travel

Yes, it's a long way from Britain to Australia.  Still, with commercial jets having flown the skies for 60 years now, it surprises me that next year will mark the first non-stop flight from London to Perth:
Flying to the other side of the world used to be such a romantic adventure, but the 10-day upper-class epics of yesteryear will soon be reduced to a 15-hour nonstop dash.

Instead of a multi-stage marathon on a luxury flying boat, the first direct flights from the UK to Perth, Australia will take off in March 2018, operated by Qantas Airways...
"That experience, cocooned in what is arguably one of today's ultimate flying machines, is a stark contrast to the marathon journey in 1938 when it took 37 stops over 10 days," says Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.
"The return (round trip) fare was about £400 -- the equivalent of two years' minimum wages, making the journey very much one reserved for the rich and famous"...
At the start of the jumbo era two stops were still required, but with the advent of the 747-400 and its more powerful and economical engines in 1989, one-stop flights became the norm.
Now, the Dreamliner will go all the way in one go...
"And rather than two years wages, a return economy seat on the 787 non-stop service down under will cost about one-and-a-half weeks of average salary for a UK resident."

From 10 days to 15 hours. It's a small world.
And the 787 has only 2 engines.  Amazing.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Democrats Are So Hypocritical

If I lived in Utah I'd *totally* vote for Mia Love. She's awesome:
Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) lambasted Michelle Obama for her charge that people do not trust politics because the GOP is "all men, all white."

"I don't know if she noticed, but I am not white and I am not a male," the Utah congresswoman said on "Fox & Friends" Saturday...

Love called Obama's comment "incredibly ironic and hypocritical."

Love - the only black, female Republican in Congress - pointed out that Nancy Pelosi recruited a white male to run against her in 2016.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Another Disgrace to the Profession

Sometimes I think that teachers get so used to being in charge in their classrooms, that some of them forget that they also have rules to follow:
“Just like you can’t wear swastikas to school, you cannot wear ‘Make America Great Again.’”

That’s what Cherokee, Ga., math teacher Lyn Orletsky told two students in a video posted to Turning Point News when she asked them to leave her classroom in early September, the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger reported.

The two River Ridge High School students were wearing shirts with President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” She asked the students to “please go,” or at least turn their shirts inside-out if they were to remain in her class...

Cherokee County Schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the instructor was wrong to ask the students to leave and that the shirts did not violate the dress code in any way...

Although the school board never did fire Orletsky, she announced her resignation Tuesday, saying she had received death threats and was afraid for her safety, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
On a daily basis I see students who have written messages (book covers, clothing, notebooks, patches on backpacks, stickers on water bottles) with which I disagree. Oh well.  Not freaking out over such things is part of that whole "celebrating diversity" thing which I do so well :-)

Sicko

Yes, this is only one person, and I certainly am not making a blanket statement that all transgendered people have this as a goal. My purpose in posting it is to have a reply the next time I hear, "this has never happened":
A transgender Wyoming woman was convicted Thursday of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl inside a bathroom.

Michelle Martinez, who was known as Miguel Martinez before identifying as female, was found guilty of first-degree and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and could face up to 70 years in prison.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

If You Want To Know What Democrats Actually Do Or Believe, Take Note of What They Accuse Republicans Of

Democrats accuse Republicans of being racist.  Then they support Black Lives Matter.

Democrats accuse Republicans of being Nazis.  Then they support Antifa.

Democrats accuse Republicans (2nd Amendment supporters) of being murderers.  But it's always Democrats who are in the news for shooting others, whether it be in Las Vegas or Orlando or San Bernardino or Sandy Hook or...

So this doesn't surprise me in the least.  What does surprise me is that it's finally becoming an issue, a year after Breitbart first wrote about it:
The tables have turned and what was once the media’s favorite message — President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election — has now grown silent.
Apparently, it’s Bill and Hillary Clinton who’ve been doing the behind-scenes and suspicious dealings with Russia all along. Oh, and perhaps others in the Barack Obama administration, too.
When even The Hill is reporting this as a big deal, it's clearly a big deal.

And, if this isn't Exhibit #8,000,000 that we dodged a bullet in not electing Felonia von Pantsuit, I don't know what is.

Update, 10/23/17:  Mueller's investigation is now swerving to investigate Democrats?
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group, according to an NBC News report.

Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election, is reportedly probing the firm to determine whether it violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in its work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU). The nonprofit ECFMU was part of a public relations campaign run by President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, to bolster Ukraine’s reputation.
After a year of talking, there's still not a pebble of evidence that the president did anything illegal.

Can Teachers Afford To Buy Houses?

From a press release from the National Council on Teacher Quality:
The findings show that while renting a one-bedroom apartment is within reach for new teachers working in most districts, in about a quarter of the districts, it is not. Home ownership is even more difficult. In some districts, saving up for the recommended down payment of 20 percent or meeting mortgage obligations is beyond a teacher’s means, even for a teacher who is at the higher end of the salary schedule. That problem is particularly acute in school districts located in the West and Northeast...

Key findings of the Trendline analysis include:
  • In one out of four of the largest school districts in the U.S., a starting teacher cannot afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
  • While the average length of time needed to accumulate a down payment of 20 percent towards a median-price home is ten years, assuming a 10 percent savings rate, there is tremendous variation. Texas is notably affordable with seven of its large districts--San Antonio, Aldine, Brownsville, Fort Worth, Pasadena, Dallas, and Arlington--enabling a teacher to achieve a down payment on a median-priced home in five years or less.
  • At the other end of the spectrum are teachers in San Francisco, Capistrano (CA), Oakland, Fairfax County (VA), and Hawaii, where it would take teachers over 20 years to save a comparable down payment.
  • Only in a minority of districts are monthly housing payments affordable, with San Antonio, Baltimore City, and Philadelphia being the most affordable for teachers.
  • A number of districts, such as Oklahoma City, Polk County (FL), El Paso, and Omaha, are in the lowest quartile for monthly housing costs but have kept teacher salaries so low that homeownership is still a struggle for their teachers.
  • There are eight districts--West Ada (ID), Jordan (UT), Loudoun County (VA), Hawaii, San Francisco, Oakland, Capistrano (CA), and Los Angeles--where a single teacher will never be able to dedicate the recommended 30 percent or less of a salary to monthly housing payments, even when earning the maximum possible teacher salary.
Until I'd read this press release I don't think I'd ever heard of West Ada, Idaho.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Congresspeople Who Don't Understand The 2nd Amendment

The following comes from an article about the desires of certain congresspeople to limit high-capacity magazines for weapons:
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said the bill banning high-capacity magazines would benefit U.S. national security as well as the country’s public health, adding that Congress has refused to act on gun-violence prevention for too long.

“High-capacity magazines are not needed for hunting. They are not needed for self-defense. They aren’t designed to be a useful tool for the millions of smart and safe and responsible gun owners in America,” he said. “Their only use and the way they have been used time and time again is to kill on a mass scale – dozens of people on one go.”
The 2nd Amendment doesn't exist so Americans can hunt. The 2nd Amendment doesn't exist so Americans can defend themselves from robbers and rapists.  The 2nd Amendment exists as a bulwark against the tyranny of government.  It's the final check on governmental power.  

That shouldn't be just a conservative view, that should be an American view.  Alas, it's pretty much just a conservative view anymore.

Don't Let The Lefties' Keening About The EPA Worry You At All

The river's not going to catch fire, the sky isn't going to rain down particulate matter (except from the Northern California fires), and the earth isn't going to overheat:
Even now, after Scott Pruitt’s EPA move to unravel President Obama’s marquee domestic green initiative, the Clean Power Plan, American energy-related emissions are projected to drop in 2017, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). So what’s at work here? If the Trump Administration is so skeptical of climate policy, why aren’t the projections matching the doomsday rhetoric?

In large part, what’s happened to U.S. emissions since their recent peak in 2007 has occurred despite—not because—of federal policy. The Clean Power Plan was never put into place, as it was still working its way through legal challenges before Pruitt announced his intention to dismantle it. Therefore, we can’t give President Obama’s green aspirations credit for this recent drop in emissions.
Instead, the drop occurred due to market forces, specifically the displacement of coal-fired power generation by cheap, plentiful natural gas provided by the shale boom. Fracking’s flourishing has made our dirtiest form of electricity production less economical, and because natural gas plants emits half as much carbon as their coal counterparts, this shift has also made our energy mix more climate friendly.

It's Officially Cold Out

The last few mornings, when I've left the house at 7:00 the temperature outside has been in the 40's.  Sure, it gets into the 80's in the afternoons, but that doesn't make the mornings any more comfortable.

It's officially cold out.  The "summer" sheets are off the bed and the fleece (not flannel!) sheets are on.  I wear my light "driving gloves" in the mornings because the steering wheel is cold, as well as a warmer jacket.  Even program the heater to warm the house up before I get out of bed in the mornings, as I darn near refuse to get out of bed when it's cold.

A trip to the foothills, specifically Apple Hill, is in the offing!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Peek Into The Future...From The Past

Ten years ago today, the Freakonomics blog posted predictions about what air travel would be like 10 years hence.  It's now 10 years hence, how well do you think they did?

I give most of them "eh".

College Majors With The Highest Unemployment Rates

I admit, #2 surprised me:
According to career site Zippia, which used US Census data to estimate the unemployment rate for people 22 to 25 years old in various fields, there are several areas of study that make job-finding harder...

Here are the majors that produce the highest unemployment rates:
1. Composition and Rhetoric — 17.54%
2. Environmental Science — 11.79%
3. Anthropology and Archaeology — 11.76%
4. Drama And Theater Arts — 11.42%
5. Film, Video, and Photographic Arts — 11.24%
6. Mass Media — 10.92%
7. Fine Arts — 10.90%
8. Area Ethnic and Civilization Studies — 10.84%
9. Intercultural and International Studies — 9.93%
10. Communication Technologies — 9.40%
11. Biology — 8.76%
Considering that all those numbers except #1 are in descending order, do you think they meant 18.54%?

Credit Where It's Due

I don't often have something positive to say about California governor Jerry Brown, but when he does something right I'll absolutely praise him for doing so.  And in this instance, he's doing the right thing for the right reason:
Jerry Brown Sides with Betsy DeVos on Title IX. In his message vetoing a state law: “Since this law was enacted, however, thoughtful legal minds have increasingly questioned whether federal and state actions to prevent and redress sexual harassment and assault—well-intentioned as they are—have also unintentionally resulted in some colleges’ failure to uphold due process for accused students. Depriving any student of higher education opportunities should not be done lightly, or out of fear of losing state or federal funding.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Why Are Millenials Wary of Freedom?

This column makes so much sense that I'm surprised it was published in the NYT.
Fear, in all its forms, is at the heart of these issues — fear of failure, ridicule, discomfort, ostracism, uncertainty. Of course, these fears haunt all of us, regardless of demographics. But that is precisely the point: Our culture isn’t preparing young people to grapple with what are ultimately unavoidable threats. Indeed, despite growing up in a physically safer and kinder society than past generations did, young Americans today report higher levels of anxiety.
My generation sure screwed up as parents.

The Purpose of School

A colleague of mine came up with a pithy but entirely accurate saying this past week:  "Secondary education--where education is secondary."  A teacher who long ago left our school used to say that "our job is to babysit the kids until someone more important needs them."

I'm really starting to not enjoy teaching, and part of the reason is all the non-teaching things I'm expected to do.  And these non-teaching tasks are getting greater and greater in number and taking more and more time.  Let's look at just this past week, starting with the students.

  • Sophomores and juniors were administered the PSAT during school.  Freshmen and seniors didn't have to come to school until 11:15.
  • Immediately after the PSAT, when classes were to be in session, seniors had a mandatory "sexual assault at college" briefing that took 2 class periods.
  • On another day there was a mandatory senior class meeting that took half of a period.
  • There is at least one mandatory briefing this next week, I think it's about drinking and driving.

Now let's look at what I was tasked with just this past week:
  • I administered the PSAT.
  • Mandatory online survey about my attitudes regarding AP classes and the students who should take those classes.  This survey takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • Mandatory online video training regarding suicide prevention; this survey also takes approximately 30 minutes.
  • My district is requiring me to give up my desktop computer and accept a new laptop computer that I don't want.  I must backup all the data, bookmarks, settings, etc., on my computer, disconnect it, take it to the district office, pick up the new computer that I don't want or need, and restore all my backed up data to this new computer.  The instruction sheet on how to backup/restore the data takes two pages.
Secondary education--where education is secondary.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Limiting Press Freedoms?

It was a stupid (and probably unconstitutional) idea when Alabama lawmakers wanted to do it, and it’s still stupid now that someone in Indiana wants to do it. And in both cases, the lawmaker who proposed it was a Republican—and Republicans should know better.
An Indiana state lawmaker has drafted a bill that would require journalists in the state to get a license, in an apparent bid to point out “hypocrisy” in the debate over gun rights.

The bill, drafted by Republican state Rep. Jim Lucas, would require professional journalists to submit an application for a license to the state police. If approved, the license would cost $75 and last for life, while subject to suspension, as first reported by the Indianapolis Star.
I know it's "just to prove a point", but still.  Someone, probably on the other side, will pick up on this idea and provide a winnable justification for it--and you know which side of the political debate would be on the losing side.

Higher Education Spirals Down To Ground

If you have no standards, you can’t fall short of meeting them:
This fall, nearly 40 percent of incoming freshmen at California State University were placed in developmental math or English courses. In the state’s sprawling community college system, three-quarters of any given incoming group is deemed unprepared for college-level work when they arrive.

It will be semesters or even years – and thousands of dollars in additional tuition costs – until these students can begin the general education classes that advance them toward a degree. Frustrated or discouraged, many will drop out before they ever reach that point.

So California policymakers, eyeing educational experiments across the country that improved student achievement, are now pushing for sweeping changes to the traditional way colleges have helped students catch up. By next year, the high-stakes placement tests and non-credit courses could be largely eliminated.

Is It A School, Or A One-Shop Socialism Stop?

In an effort to keep poor students attending class during their periods, California schools will provide free tampons and pads.
http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article178479851.html
I’m at a loss for words on this one.

California Pensions

It’s not CalSTRS, the state teachers retirement system, but I find it hard to believe that STRS is in any better shape than PERS, the public employees retirement system:
The Sacramento region’s largest local governments will see pension costs go up by an estimated 14 percent next fiscal year, starting a series of annual increases that many city officials say are “unsustainable” and will force service cuts or tax hikes.

The increases come after CalPERS in December reduced the expected rate of return from investments, forcing local governments and other participants in the state’s retirement plan to pay more to cover the cost of pensions.
http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article178561476.html

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Calling A Liar A Liar

A Republican representative from Virginia, Dave Brat, is brutally honest about his fellow Republicans in the Congress:
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) told PJM that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has violated the law of Moses by not following through on the Republican Party’s promise to totally repeal Obamacare.

Reflecting on President Trump’s time in office, the conservative lawmaker was asked if the president had “excessive expectations” as a candidate, as McConnell has suggested.

"Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before," McConnell told a Rotary meeting in his home state in August. "I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process."

Brat replied that Trump “had the exact expectations that Mitch McConnell and everyone in the Senate promised, that they are going to repeal Obamacare – that’s the expectation we all had.”

“Don’t lie, right? The reason we had those expectations is because you all voted on it 50 times on total repeal, not a skinny bill, so that’s a bunch of bull, having the ‘wrong expectations,’ that’s a bunch of bull. The American people had the exact correct expectations if you live in Judeo-Christianity land and you expect people to basically tell the truth, right? It’s in the big 10. Go check Moses,” Brat said during an interview on Capitol Hill.
That's what liberals might call "an inconvenient truth".

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Running Out of STEAM

Not far from where I live, signs for a middle school tout the school's STEAM program.  Everyone who pays attention to education knows that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math--in other words, a strong math/science-based curriculum.  So what is this STEAM, what does the A stand for?  Why, Arts, of course!

There's a fear that our educational system is falling behind the rest of the world in STEM topics.  That's why we created the nifty acronym, that's why some schools place a focus on the area.  Some worry that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, so there's an emphasis on getting women to enter the fields.

Why put the A in there?  How does A fit in with the rest of STEM, except to make a newer, even niftier acronym?

The answer seems pretty clear to me.  Someone was worried that an emphasis on STEM would diminish the A.  Put A into the acronym, and voila!--the arts are saved!

But throwing everything but the kitchen sink into your acronym kinda defeats the purpose of the acronym.  You know what I call science, technology, engineering, arts, and math?  I call it the curriculum!  That school I mentioned, they're going to focus on the entire curriculum.  Well, good for them!  If everything is your priority, though...

Over at her own blog, Joanne discusses a different interpretation of what STEAM represents:
Integrating art into science and math teaching — turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) into STEAM — is “counterproductive” and “pedagogically unsound,” writes Jay Greene in Ed Week‘s arts education package.

“By trying to put the arts almost everywhere, integration is likely to result in arts education almost nowhere,” Greene writes. Separate arts classes taught by specialists will be dropped.
These crazy educational fads.

Northern California Fires

Northern California is a big place.  I'm quite a distance from the fires you might have heard about on the news, most of which are about an hour or more away by car.  Still, though, I could smell smoke in the air at school this morning, and before 10:00 we received the following email from our principal:
Colleagues,

The district has requested we suspend all outdoor activities because of the air quality. We are also looking for teachers that are willing to open up their classroom during lunch for students to sit inside and eat. If you are willing to do that and eat lunch with the students please let (the school secretary) know. The office will be open as well.
Life in the Sacramento area.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rule #1: Don't Abuse Your Power

This sheriff abused his, and I hope it costs him plenty--and not just in dollars:
Earlier this year, the Worth County (GA) Sheriff's Department enraged an entire nation by subjecting the entire student body of a local high school to invasive pat downs. The reason for these searches? Sheriff Jeff Hobby believed drugs would be found on campus...

The sheriff brought in drug-sniffing dogs and had his deputies frisk every single attending student. The sheriff claimed the searches were legal. And not just legal, but "necessary." The end result of the multiple invasions of personal privacy? Zero drugs, zero arrests...

According to school policies, students may be searched if there's reasonable suspicion the student is in possession of an illegal item. The same rules apply to law enforcement, but they were ignored here. Sheriff Hobby claimed he could search any student he wanted to (in this case, all of them) simply because he was accompanied by a school administrator.

Hobby was wrong and is now facing some serious legal problems. First off, Hobby has been sued by several of the students frisked by his officers...

This lawsuit is a problem for Sheriff Hobby, especially as it will be much more difficult for the sheriff and his deputies to avail themselves of immunity. Indictments have that sort of effect on immunity claims. [via Greg Doucette]  ...

Somewhat ironically, the indicted sheriff's attorney is bemoaning the same grand jury system law enforcement loves when it's indicting civilians
It's not your authority.  The authority belongs to the government, it only acts through you.  When you misuse that authority, you're misusing what isn't rightly yours in the first place.

This sheriff...chose poorly.  And I hope it costs him--perhaps as much as his freedom, but certainly his job.

Monday, October 09, 2017

It's Sad This Is News, But It *Is* A Victory Of Sorts

Good on them:  University of Wisconsin to crack down on disruptions of free speech. “University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.”

Universities need to understand that students are their product, not their client.  You turn out a bad product long enough, no one will want that product, and no one will want to go to your school.  Most recent Exhibit A:  Missouri.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Idiot Teachers

A long time ago I wrote a post called Idiots Who Would Be Teachers, in which I took prospective teachers to task if they failed any part of the entirely-too-simple California Basic Educational Skills Test.  I regret calling those who failed the CBEST "idiots".  They were unprepared, and while I stand by my belief that college graduates who can't pass the CBEST shouldn't be teachers, calling them idiots was inappropriate.

This teacher is an idiot:
Parents in a Wyoming school district are outraged that an answer on a multiple choice test included this option: "Shooting at Trump."

Friday, October 06, 2017

For Lefties, Someone Who Thinks For Him/herself Is Worthy of Anthropological Study

You have to wonder how anyone could genuinely honestly truly be so oblivious to the beam in their own eye while commenting on the mote in someone else's:
Amherst College is offering a course this semester exploring why “some women become right-wing leaders” while others “fight for the rights of women.”

According to the course description, the seminar will explore “the consequences of neoliberalism, cultural conservatism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments for women of different social and economic strata as well as women’s divergent political responses.”

The description then elaborates on the nature of the divergence, saying that some women gravitate toward the “right-wing”—about which it provides no additional context—whereas others join “progressive forces,” whose activities it charitably describes as “anti-racist” and focused on defending the rights of others.
The left truly doesn't understand how and why people think for themselves instead of marching in lockstep.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Needed Shot In The Arm

I've not been happy teaching the last couple months--and yes, this school year started a couple days shy of two months ago in my district--but today I got a couple of kudos that helped make the day a little bit brighter.

A couple of days ago a former student came to me and told me that she referenced me in her college entrance essay, and asked if I'd like to read it.  That ball can bounce in any direction, there's no telling what she wrote, but I told her sure, please email it to me.  I received and read it this morning.

She wrote about how some traumatic event in middle school caused her to have tremendous, almost debilitating, anxiety.  She wrote about how she broke down crying the first week of school during both her freshman and sophomore years, not because of any test but just because of general anxiety.  But her sophomore year pre-calculus teacher "didn't believe in anxiety", and told her that if he were to give her a test on the alphabet she wouldn't be anxious at all because she knew the alphabet cold.  Her anxiety was caused by not being confident that she knew the material being tested.  The solution, then, was to know the material so well that there could be no fear of failure--and he was available to help her do that.  That teacher, she said, was the first person to tell her that her anxiety was conquerable, that it wasn't something she had to live with, surrender to, or accommodate.

You can imagine where the story goes from there, but there's more.  She grew to recognize that she could learn from mistakes and not just fear them.  And I believe she's sincere in that belief, not just writing it to get into a university.  I've seen a tremendous change in her confidence--and happiness--over the last couple years.  She's grown a lot.

The second minor anecdote requires some background knowledge.  When conducting hypothesis tests in statistics, one calculates what's known as a p-value.  If the p-value is small, if it's unlikely you'd get the results you did given some initial hypothesis, then you reject your initial (null) hypothesis.  The null hypothesis is abbreviated H-sub-0, or H-naught.  When you see it written, it looks like "Ho".

The first year I taught statistics, a former student of mine--who has since become a math teacher!--told me a pithy rhyme that his stats professor in college used to help students remember how the p-value and null hypothesis interact.

I received a text message from another former student today:
Thank god i was in your class because my business stats professor just used a complicated way to explain "if p is low, reject the ho".
Sometimes they listen.  Sometimes they remember.  Sometimes they learn.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Racist Hatemongers

If you think it's ok to steal someone's property, and to threaten their physical safety, because that person has a different political ideology than you do--then you must be a leftist:
UC Riverside student Matthew Vitale, who had his Make America Great Again hat taken from him by a fellow student, has decided to press criminal theft charges against her, he told The College Fix in an interview Monday.

Meanwhile, peers of the young Latina woman who swiped the hat, Edith Macias, have rallied to her defense, demanding the university protect her from any charges and even pay her rent in a “solidarity” document released Oct. 1.

At issue is an incident last week in which Macias took the bright red MAGA hat right off Vitale’s head during a campus event, an incident that was recorded.

That video was posted on Facebook by Macias, who states in her post: “‘Make America Great Again’ coded ‘Continue the Genocide of POC’. You feel safe cuz you got the cops and politicians on your side. Youre not safe… just saying. We need to make racists scared.”
If you think it's OK to defend someone who does those things, and to defend such actions in the name of racial solidarity, then you must be a leftist--and a racist. 

It must take a lot of energy to harbor that much hatred against people.  Young Edith, I hope you learn a lesson in civility as well as what kind of behavior is acceptable in a diverse society--otherwise, your life will be miserable indeed. 

The Role of Education in Social Mobility

It might not be as important as we currently think:
Geography plays a big role in whether a child born to low-income parents will rise to the top of the economic ladder, concluded a 2014 study led by Stanford’s Raj Chetty.

The economists found that “a poor child raised in San Jose, or Salt Lake City, has a much greater chance of reaching the top than a poor child raised in Baltimore, or Charlotte,” writes Cohen. “They concluded that five correlated factors — segregation, family structure, income inequality, local school quality, and social capital — were likely to make a difference.”

In a new working paper, Berkeley economist Jesse Rothstein found that school quality makes less of a difference than local labor markets (clear career pathways, union jobs, higher wages) and marriage patterns (concentrations of married or single-parent households).

“We can’t educate people out of this problem,” Rothstein concludes.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Tom Petty

Tom Petty's is the first "famous person" death since Ronald Reagan's that's truly affected me.  And yes, that includes Leonard Nimoy's death.

I was a big Tom Petty fan in high school.  In fact, his was the first concert I ever went to, in September of 1981 at Cal Expo.  They threw a tarp over the race track and called it "festival seating".  It got to around 100 degrees that day, and since no one had yet thought to sell plastic bottles of stuff that fell for free from the sky, we just stood outside the race track all day and dehydrated.  It was pretty bad.

When Petty finally came on, he opened with American Girl.  He dedicated his song The Waiting to those of us in Sacramento since we'd waited in the burning sun all day.  Surprise (not really, but that's how they billed it) special guest Stevie Nicks came out and did two songs with Petty, Insider from his recent album and Stop Draggin My Heart Around from her recent album.  I was enthralled.  I took my mother's 110 camera (remember those tiny pictures?!) to the concert, no telephoto lens, here's the postage-stamp-sized section of one picture I got of Tom and Stevie:
I have all of Petty's albums from the 1976 debut self-titled album up through 1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough).  I was given a couple of his later albums but by then his style had changed enough that I didn't listen near as much as I used to.  There were some good songs, but they were more like Dylan than the Petty I remembered.  (BTW, I loved The Traveling Wilburys, which included Dylan and Petty.)  I very much enjoyed when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was the Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago.


In honor of his passing, I'm going to list those first seven albums as well as one of my favorite songs from each of them.  Since not all of these songs are available on Tom Petty's VEVO page on YouTube, I'll just list the songs here and let you find a current link on YouTube (if I provided a link, there's no guarantee that link would still work a month from now).  I hope you enjoy the music.

1976's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers self-titled album:  American Girl
1978's You're Gonna Get It!:  I Need To Know
1979's Damn The Torpedoes:  Here Comes My Girl
1981's Hard Promises:  The Waiting
1982's Long After Dark:  Change of Heart
1985's Southern Accents:  Dogs on the Run
1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough):  Jammin' Me

There are a few great songs on 1989's Full Moon Fever, but my favorite on that one was I Won't Back Down.

Petty's music brought me a lot of joy in life, and did so over several decades.  I'm sorry to see him go.


The Impetus Behind Common Core--One Man's View

Jim Milgram, the Stanford professor who was the primary author of California's 1997 math standards, sent the following email to a list of which I am a member, and gave me permission to quote it here with attribution:
I wish you were right, but here in California, Ze'ev Wurman's work shows that the 12 years of reasonable standards and state enforcement actually did reduce the achievement gap and in the right way. Scores for "minority" groups went up significantly, while scores for others were roughly unchanged.

As you know, I was on the Common Core Validation Committee, so I had a first row seat to what was happening. You should have seen the sudden increase among the math educators involved -- when Ze'ev's results first appeared -- in their desire to get rid of the CA standards.

I had a long argument with the most well known among them. I focused on explaining our results in eighth grade algebra which had shown a very high percentage of those minority kids passing the course and scoring pretty well on the state exam.

The more they understood what was going on, the more determined they became. I recall that when I mentioned that fully 2/3 of the CA students were taking eighth grade algebra, one of them said that's horrible, and the others agreed. That's when I realized I wasn't speaking the same language they were, I had to get out, and I finally felt I had to report to Governor Schwarzenegger's office that CA should not get involved with Common Core. Unfortunately, the Race to the Top money had already been announced, and CA was desperate for funds. So it was too late. He tried to keep eighth grade algebra, but it only took Jerry Brown and Mike Kirst one or two years to get rid of it.

Jim
He has had more direct experience in this than I have, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

Joanne Is On A Roll Today

Two consecutive posts today are right on:
50 is the new 0
Is 50 is the new 0?, writes Kate Stoltzfus on Education Week Teacher. Schools in Maryland and Virginia are implementing “no zero” policies to make it harder for students to fail, reports the Washington Post. Often, the minimum grade is 50...

Making 50 the minimum grade lowers the drop-out rate  and keeps struggling students from giving up, argue advocates. Students are evaluated on learning, rather than behavior.

However, some teachers hate the idea. Say “no” to no-zero grading, argued teacher Gina Caneva in Catalyst Chicago.

When her high school made 50 the minimum grade, attendance at tutoring sessions plummeted. The F students had become D students. “Since few students were truly failing, hardly anyone thought they needed to work hard to improve,” wrote Caneva. The school’s rating rose because more students were on track for graduation, but students’ test scores remained low.
Yep.

When homework goes wrong

When homework goes wrong, parents should remember three rules, writes K.J. Dell’Antonia in Medium.
1. It’s not yours.
2. What kids learn from homework is rarely on the worksheet.
3. You don’t want to make tonight’s homework better. You want to make ALL the homework better.
If it seems like an unreasonable assignment, consider the possibility “that the reading assignment was given last week, not last night, or that the project was discussed in the first week of class,” writes Dell’Antonia. Or your kid got it wrong.
Double yep.