Monday, September 27, 2021

Show Me Your Papers (said with best German accent)

Today all employees in my district received a voice mail and an email.  Identifying information has been removed from the email, otherwise it's copied:

Good afternoon, 

In August, state officials issued a health order which requires all individuals providing services to California schools to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or participate in weekly COVID-19 testing. As an employee of XXXX School District, you are subject to the requirements of this health order. 

Before Oct. 8, all employees must verify their vaccination status. You can do so by using your district login credentials to access the “Verify COVID-19 Vaccination/Testing” tile found in **link**.

Click the “Verify Vaccination Status” option from the main menu. You can log in while at work or at home and on any device including your smartphone or tablet. (Taking pictures of your documents with a mobile device may be easier than scanning them in.) 

Detailed instructions on this process are attached to this email. You can also read detailed instructions on how to complete this process at **link**.  

If you are fully vaccinated, you have met the requirements of the health order once you submit your vaccination verification and receive a confirmation email. You are not required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing but are encouraged to test every other week to screen for asymptomatic infections. 

If you are not fully vaccinated, or if you fail to verify your vaccination status by Oct. 8, you will be required to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis. Testing will be made available to you at no charge. Testing locations may include your school or worksite, district testing sites, health care providers, or private providers. More information on testing can be found in the FAQs. Each week, those required to test will need to return to the verification system (found in **link**) to verify their result.

If you need more information or would like to submit a question about the process please visit **link**.

We understand that any distraction from supporting our students, families and co-workers is a burden. Thank you for doing your part to help meet the requirements of this health order and maintain the safety of our schools and community. 

I have to "show my papers" in order to work.  There are places in this country--for example, our two largest cities--where you have to "show your papers" in order to go out to eat, and suggestions of requiring your "papers" to go to the grocery store no longer seem so farfetched.  We continue to slide away from being "citizens" and slide closer to being "subjects" of the state.  Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato.

Update:  I never dreamed the Australians would have sunk so low, so fast:

Australian officials on Monday again reminded their subjects that the nation's "zero COVID" strategy has somehow given them the power to strip the people of their freedoms.

Government leaders in the state of New South Wales — where the bureaucracy just a month ago announced that it was giving vaccinated citizens a "reward" of one extra hour outside their homes for recreation time — announced during a Monday press briefing that unvaccinated folks "will lose their freedoms" in October, Sky News reported...

The state has been touting its 70% threshold goal and said Monday that it expected to hit that goal by Oct. 11. The updated "freedoms" for the 80% threshold will include freely traveling anywhere in NSW; allowing people to stand up and drink in pubs (aka "vertical drinking"); up to 10 visitors at a private residence; groups of up to 20 people allowed to gather outside; no limits on fully vaccinated attendance at weddings and funerals; and a number of other "extra freedoms" the government will deign to give the hoi polloi.  

Perhaps Mr. Jefferson's Tree of Liberty needs a little watering down under.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Who Is The Most Famous Person You've Met?

At 7th period (happy hour) yesterday we had a brief conversation about the most famous person we'd ever met.  The most famous I could come up with was Dr. Edward Teller, but today I realized that while he might be the most significant person I've ever met, he wasn't the most famous.  No, that distinction goes to the Captain himself, William Shatner.

Who is the most famous person you've met?

Friday, September 24, 2021

One Potential Source of Post-Retirement Income Is No Longer Available To Me

And it hasn't been for a couple of years:

On Sept. 30, 2019, the Navy ended its decades-old NCPACE program, which provided classroom-based college courses to sailors and Marines at sea.

The Program for Afloat College Education, or PACE as it was known then, began in 1974 as classroom instruction in basic college courses, usually taught by a civilian instructor. Through the years, the program, and name, evolved.

Most recently, the program existed in two versions: the NCPACE-IL and NCPACE-DL.

While NCPACE-IL offered free "Instructor Led" college courses in a classroom setting onboard a deployed ship, the NCPACE-DL program offers "Distance Learning" programs to sailors and Marines at Types 2 or 4 sea-duty commands. The courses can be taken while deployed or in homeport.

While the NCPACE-IL program is ending, the NCPACE-DL program remains unchanged.

What a disappointment.

Pretending

You can pretend there’s no difference between the sexes, but the rest of us choose to live in the real world.

If you don’t like boys’ physically dominating girls in sports, keep the sexes separate in sports.

Hat tip:  NewsAlert.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Do You Know Why Schools Spend So Much Time Focusing On Students' Out-of-School Behavior?

Because doing that is much easier than actually teaching:

A week after the pandemic forced Minneapolis students to attend classes online, the city school district’s top security chief got an urgent email, its subject line in all caps, alerting him to potential trouble. Just 12 seconds later, he got a second ping. And two minutes after that, a third.

In each instance, the emails warning Jason Matlock of “QUESTIONABLE CONTENT” pointed to a single culprit: Kids were watching cartoon porn.

Over the next six months, Matlock got nearly 1,300 similar emails from Gaggle, a surveillance company that monitors students’ school-issued Google and Microsoft accounts. Through artificial intelligence and a team of content moderators, Gaggle tracks the online behaviors of millions of students across the U.S. every day. The sheer volume of reports was overwhelming at first, Matlock acknowledged, and many incidents were utterly harmless. About 100 were related to animated pornography and, on one occasion, a member of Gaggle’s remote surveillance team flagged a fictional story that referenced “underwear.”

Hundreds of others, however, suggested imminent danger.

In emails and chat messages, students discussed violent impulses, eating disorders, abuse at home, bouts of depression and, as one student put it, “ending my life.” At a moment of heightened social isolation and elevated concern over students’ mental health, references to self-harm stood out, accounting for nearly a third of incident reports over a six-month period. In a document titled, “My Educational Autobiography,” students at Roosevelt High School on the south side of Minneapolis discussed bullying, drug overdoses, and suicide. “Kill me,” one student wrote in a document titled “goodbye.”

Nearly a year after The 74 submitted public records requests to understand the Minneapolis district’s use of Gaggle during the pandemic, a trove of documents offer an unprecedented look into how one school system deploys a controversial security tool that grew rapidly during COVID-19,  but carries significant civil rights and privacy implications.

We're doing it for the chiiiiiildren, it's for their saaaaaaaafety.

Why Do So Many People Want To Compel Others To Wear Masks?

It's just weird.  Are you so antisocial that you don't like seeing another human's face?  Or do you just like the fact that you get to compel someone else to do something they don't want to do?

On August 24, Oregon governor Kate Brown instated a state masking requirement that requires everyone five years and older, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask, face covering, or face shield in outdoor spaces if they are less than six feet apart from individuals not in their household.

“Cases and hospitalizations are at a record high,” said Governor Brown. “Masks are a quick and simple tool we can immediately deploy to protect ourselves and our families, and quickly help stop further spread of COVID-19.”

On August 24, Oregon had 49,889 active cases of COVID-19. As of yesterday, Oregon had 86,623 active cases of COVID-19 — an increase of 73 percent from the day the governor announced the outdoor mask requirement. Keep in mind, cases merely mean positive tests; an active case does not necessarily mean that person is significantly ill. The seven-day average of daily new cases has actually declined a bit, from a peak of 2,322 on August 30 to 1,616 yesterday. This wave appears to have peaked.

Nonetheless, the fact that the state with the most far-reaching masking requirement has seen a 73 percent increase in active cases in about a month is a vivid illustration of the limitations of masks. The Delta variant is really contagious, and no state can mask their way out of the pandemic.  link

How many more examples do we need to see before that truth gets through your skull?   And then to force this upon children, who are the least vulnerable population?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly removed guidance for phasing out masks and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts in schools, cached versions of the agency’s website show. 

The CDC made the changes when it updated its guidance on universal indoor masking for students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of their vaccination status, on Aug. 5. 

"We believe that our state, as well as teachers unions, probably had an influence over this change," Jonathan Zachreson, an advocate for fully reopening California schools, told Fox News. "It's basically mask indefinitely in schools forever, and there is no off-ramps. So it's really disappointing to see that." 

Teachers unions have previously influenced changes to the CDC’s school-related guidance, reports have shown.

These people really are sick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

John McWhorter

Politically, John McWhorter and I aren't on the same page.  I agree with him on race issues, though:

Black teenagers often see school as “White,” writes John McWhorter, a Columbia University linguistics professor, in the New York Times.

He blames the in-your-face, macro-aggressive racism of the past for persuading students that studying hard is disloyal to your race or “racially inauthentic.”

That sort of racism is over, McWhorter writes. Black students should be told they can do well in school, if they “do the work"...

McWhorter believes “it is more progressively Black to ask why we can’t seek for Black kids to get better on the tests.”

Type "McWhorter" in the search box at the top or bottom of this page to see other posts I've written about him, especially after seeing/hearing him speak at this past summer's Freedom Fest in Rapid City.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

I've Said It A Million Times Before

Consistency is not a strong suit of the left:

In New York City, you need your photo ID and a vaccination card to enter these locations. The liberal self-own here is just epic. Photo identification is Jim Crow 2.0, but it's okay for COVID vaccination status. It's mind-blowing how liberals so expertly dice their talking points into sashimi.  link

Add this to all the leftie politicians and celebrities who have publicly violated 'rona-mitigation laws (the most recent being Donkey Chompers and the mayor of San Francisco, as well as Grey Goose Pelosi, de Blasio, Newsom, Whitmer) and it's no wonder why people with intelligence don't take those people seriously--on 'rona or any other topic.

Who have I left off the list?  Add them in the comments.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Talking About Data

I believe this to be true:

A familiar happening: Teachers come together, pull out last week’s assessment, and talk about the student data to determine gaps in knowledge to plan adjustments to instruction.

But are these data discussions actually leading to tangible outcomes for students? 

According to Heather Hill, a researcher and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, the answer is no. In a review of 10 studies -- each of which examined the impact of whole-team data discussion -- Hill found that two had positive impacts, one had a negative impact, and the rest had zero impact. 

“Across 10 different programs which tried to see this theory in action, there were zero [showing] impacts of getting teachers to really be productive, understand what kids don’t know, and change their instruction,” said Hill, in an interview with Edthena. “That convinced me we’re doing something wrong in schools.” 

So should educators fully eliminate the practice of reviewing student data? Definitely not. 

Just throw out the group discussion of such data.

Read the whole thing.

Trigger Warnings Don't Work

Hint:  they were always about control, never about people's feelings:

The original proponents of trigger warnings on campus argued that they would empower students suffering from trauma to delve into difficult material. “The point is not to enable — let alone encourage — students to skip readings or our subsequent class discussion,” the philosopher Kate Manne wrote in The New York Times. “It’s about enabling everyone’s rational engagement.” 

Now, about a decade after trigger warnings arrived on college campuses, it’s clear that an avoidance rationale is officially competing with the original lean-in logic. 

A recent Inside Higher Ed piece by Michael Bugeja, an Iowa State journalism professor, is emblematic of this shift. In light of the tumultuous times (a “mental-health pandemic,” ongoing sexual violence and racism, the anxiety of returning to in-person instruction), Bugeja says that trigger warnings are needed now more than ever. All faculty members should follow his lead, he argues, and include detailed trigger warnings on their syllabi accompanied by the following note: “You don’t have to attend class if the content elicits an uncomfortable emotional response.” 

Bugeja’s article prompted us to review the latest research on the efficacy of trigger warnings. We found no evidence that trigger warnings improve students’ mental health. What’s more, we are now convinced that they push students and faculty members alike to turn away from the study of vitally important topics that are seen as too “distressing"....

We appreciate that advocates of trigger warnings have drawn attention to the fact that students’ mental health affects their learning. And we share their commitment to treating students with compassion. As a result, we think it’s imperative to acknowledge that the best evidence to date finds that trigger warnings do not minimize anxiety and emotional distress, and might even do the opposite. Furthermore, applying trigger warnings to any material that elicits an “uncomfortable emotional response” makes a mockery of the real challenges faced by those suffering from PTSD. As the Harvard study we cited earlier concluded, trigger warnings are “unvetted interventions” and their use is “irresponsible to victims of trauma.” In our view, the problems with trigger warnings extend well beyond mental-health concerns. By contributing to a misguided safety-and-security model of education, trigger warnings ultimately deprive all students of the most powerful learning opportunities.

An Interesting Compliment

I've never had more than one Teacher's Assistant, I've never needed more than one.  This year, however, because a counselor had nowhere to put a student but I already had a TA, I agreed to take a second one to help the counselor out.

The TA I have later in the morning told me today that he's good friends with the TA I have earlier in the day, and that kid told him that he's glad that I don't let him use his phone in class at all--because it forces him to do his homework after he's run out of whatever I give him.  Thus, he has his afternoons entirely free because he can get his homework done during my TA period.

Isn't it weird how they'd choose to play on their phones--which they often tell me is boring because they're just searching for something to entertain themselves--rather than do their work, even though they know they'd actually be happier if they got their work done?  That they need to be compelled to do what they know would actually make them happier?  Addiction is a strange thing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The So-called Logic of the 'Rona-phobes

 https://twitter.com/justin_hart/status/1438230531561254913:

"The protected need to be protected from the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to use the protection that didn't protect the protected."

Only Certain Groups Can Say Certain Words

This author says, not so fast:

Is it acceptable for pedagogical purposes to enunciate the epithet “[N-word]”?...

I am an African American, born in 1954 in the Deep South (Columbia, S.C.). My parents of blessed memory were refugees who fled Jim Crow oppression. They were branded as “[N-word].” And I have been called “[N-word]” too. 

Should my race make a difference, cloaking me with more leeway in my pedagogical options than white colleagues? I abjure such a “privilege.” In the domain of culture there ought be no boundaries that fence out people based on racial identification or ascription. There ought be no words that Blacks are permitted to say but that whites or others are prohibited from saying. While racist use of “[N-word]” should be condemned no matter the racial identity of the speaker, nonracist deployment of “[N-word]” should be accepted no matter the racial identity of the speaker. ... 

Racism, alas, remains a powerful presence that displays itself ubiquitously, as in the deeply disturbing campaign to intimidate dissident instruction about the history of American racial wrongs. Racism is a looming, destructive force that we must vigorously resist. Vigilance is essential. But so, too, is a capacity and willingness to draw crucial distinctions. There is a world of difference that separates the racist use of “[N-word]” from the vocalizing of “[N-word]” for pedagogical reasons aimed at enabling students to attain important knowledge.

Some words we don't use in public merely because they're base and vulgar, with synonyms a-plenty for substitution.  In certain instances, though, they can be appropriate.  So it is with some slurs.  

Let's be honest, there's some quality literature out there that can't be read without racial slurs, and that includes more than just Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and James Baldwin.  The article above insists on an academic use of certain terms that otherwise wouldn't be appropriate.

Dress Code

Our staff continues to marvel at the clothing, or lack thereof, that so many of our students are wearing--yet only a few of us enforce the rules rather than just complain about it.  Yesterday a student asked to interview about the dress code for the school's newspaper, and as I was on my way to a meeting I asked her to send me her questions via email.  She did, and I replied today.  Here it is, with only the school name edited:

1.     Why do you enforce the dress code? 

I enforce all rules, whether or not I agree with them.  Having rules that you don’t enforce breeds contempt for the rules that are enforced.  Either get rid of the rules or enforce them, and since the rule exists, I enforce it.  The dress code just happens to be a rule I support.

2.      Do you feel the dress code is necessary for a safe learning environment? Why or why not?

The dress code isn’t for safety, it’s for decorum.  There are times and places where it’s appropriate to display your body, and school is not the place.  I was once told that if you’re a professional, if you don’t change into more comfortable clothes when you get home from work, you’re not dressed appropriately.  I’m not saying that students should necessarily be that way, but that philosophy merits a little thought.  If you’d raft down the river in the same clothes you are wearing to school, I’d suggest that you’re not appropriately dressed for school.

3.  What does dress coding look like for girls vs for boys?

When I arrived at XXXX in 2003, the majority of dress code violations were by boys—pants sagging under their butts.  Today, with the same dress code, now it’s the girls who are the majority of violators.  It’s not the dress code that is the problem, it’s the students who don’t comply with it that are the problem.

4.    Do you believe the dress code is fair or unfair? Why?

Fair or unfair?  I don’t know what that means.  It’s *reasonable*, and complying with it is not burdensome.  Keep in mind that in work environments, showing off too much of your body can be considered sexual harassment.  Additionally, I speak to many of our (younger) women teachers, and even they are often mortified by what some students, especially girls, wear to school.  This isn’t a “men oppressing women” thing—the dress code is district-wide, and there are women on the school board—this is an “adults teaching the slightest bit of decorum” thing.

5.    How do you go about dress coding students? 

I give students a copy of the district-approved dress code and notify that student’s vice principal of the violation.  If the violation is egregious, I have been known to ask the student to leave class and put on something more appropriate for school.

 

Now let me ask *you* a few questions! 

1.     Do you agree that there should be *some* dress code, that there should be *any* limits on clothing? 

2.     Why do some students seem so interested in showing as much of their bodies as possible?

3.     Does being “body positive” imply that you should show off as much of your body as possible? 

4.     Is school for “expressing your individuality” or is it for “conforming so that the mission of education can be best achieved”?

5.     Do you want to see your parents, or your teachers, wearing the types of clothes in public that students in violation of our dress code wear at school?

 

I don’t expect you to reply to my questions.  I merely offer them for your consideration as you draft your article.

And if you feel I'm just some curmudgeon, I can't tell you how many butt cheeks--actual butt cheeks!--I see daily sticking out from the bottom of shorts, or how many midriffs/belly buttons I see each day.  It's inappropriate at school.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Wait By The River Long Enough, And Eventually The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By

In other words, many times we don't have to go after our enemies; give them time and opportunity and they'll do at least as much damage to themselves as we would do.  That thought came to me as I read this piece from Larry Sand* about the Los Angeles teachers union president's recent comments:

In a stunningly revealing exposé in Los Angeles Magazine, United Teachers of Los Angeles president Cecily Myart-Cruz told the world what many of us already knew – that her primary concern is advancing her Marxist political agenda rather than educating children. The in-depth piece has received much media ink, notably her comment about pandemic-related learning loss. When asked about how her union’s insistence on keeping L.A.’s schools locked down for over a year may have impacted the city’s k-12 students, Myart-Cruz responded, “There is no such thing as learning loss. Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience. They learned survival. They learned critical-thinking skills. They know the difference between a riot and a protest. They know the words insurrection and coup.” She went on to say that “learning loss” is a “fake crisis marketed by shadowy purveyors of clinical and classroom assessments.”

Her jaw-dropping words are at odds with those who have researched the subject, however. For example, McKinsey & Company reported in July that the impact of the pandemic on K–12 student learning was significant, “leaving students on average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the (2020-2021) school year.” The researchers also noted that school shutdowns “widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest.” They add that Blacks were especially hard hit, and that high schoolers have become more likely to drop out of school. They also report that “the crisis had an impact on not just academics but also the broader health and well-being of students, with more than 35 percent of parents very or extremely concerned about their children’s mental health.”

Even the not-exactly-right-wing Los Angeles Times editorial page trashed Myart-Cruz, stating in no uncertain terms, “Learning loss is real. Stop pretending otherwise.”

What could I tell you about this person that would be worse than her own words?


*Full disclosure:  Larry Sand and I serve on the board of directors of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, or CTEN.

Math Is Harrrrrrrd

Someone wasn't thinking:

The capsizing of the Golden Ray cargo ship off the Georgia coast two years ago, which resulted in more than $200 million in damage, was caused by incorrect calculations about the vessel's stability, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

It didn't help that a couple watertight doors had been left open, which made the problem go from bad to worse much faster than it had to.