Education, politics, and anything else that catches my attention.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Update, 3/31/05: I don't feel up to it at all. But I'm going to give it a try.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Lies of Omission From the CTA
I thought I'd take a gander through the pages and read up on the union's spin on, and justification for, the soon-to-be-rubber-stamped increase in my union dues of $180 per year. Here on page 4, in the President's column? No, no mention of it there. Here on page 6, with the cover story about gender equity? No, nothing there. Turn turn turn, nothing.
What do I find on page 21, though? A column entitled "Don't sign the governor's petitions". Here's what part of that article says:
Public Employee Union Dues. Required Employee Consent for Political Contributions. This measure would silence the voices of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees in the political process by entangling unions in useless paperwork. It would require unions to get prior consent each year on a specified written form before using dues for political contributions. CTA's position: Teachers and other public employees would no longer be allowed to raise their voices in defense of public education.
Imagine that! Poor CTA, having to actually get my permission before spending money they extorted from me on causes I don't support! At least they finally admit, though, that they're spending dues money for political contributions.
Nothing I can find on increasing my overall dues 20% (and CTA dues even more). They don't want their members to know. Of course, what would it matter if the teachers did know? They have no ability to veto the move anyway. The Education Wonks and I have regaled you many times with stories about the anti-democratic nature of the CTA. What they do tell you about, and what they don't tell you about, in the March 2005 issue just adds more credence to those views.
And These People Dictate How To Teach?
And then idiocy like this happens.
I've blasted NYC schools before (here), but they just keep going one step further. Excerpt:
NEW YORK - City officials recalled preparation material for math tests that had been sent to teachers after discovering they were filled with math and spelling mistakes.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
A Humorous View of The Dark Side of Campus Political Correctness
Two Organizations You Should Know About
I've already spent way too many electrons mentioning the California Teachers Association. They're the bad guys.
You probably already know about the ACLU, who are usually the bad guys but every once in awhile, perhaps only by accident, they get something right.
Then there are two others you should know about.
Go to the NoIndoctrination.org web site. Here's part of what's on their Mission Statement page:
NoIndoctrination.org is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that collects and disseminates information to promote the importance of multiple and contrasting points of view in higher education. Our mission will be accomplished in the following ways:
1. To give a voice to the voiceless.
2. To inform the public about the frequent lack of balance in higher education.
3. To educate the public about academic freedom and open inquiry.
4. To notify college administrators and support organizations about possible indoctrination.
View or leave a posting. Look up your university and see if anyone's posted a complaint. Or be the first on your block to do so!
The next is FIRE, the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education. From their About page:
The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's increasingly repressive and partisan colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience -- the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.
FIRE goes after schools with unconstitutional speech codes, among other malfeasance, and often with surprising results. Their blog, The Torch, is accessible from the main page. High school seniors planning on going to college should order the FIRE Guides relating to free speech, due process, student fees, religious liberty, and first year orientation and thought reform.
The antidote to hate speech, or any speech you disagree with, is not censorship. It's more speech.
When Should Students Be Suspended?
Kimberly of Number 2 Pencil (link is in the left column) disagrees with me about so-called "zero tolerance" policies. If I understand her position correctly, she doesn't think they should exist at all. I support them to a moderate degree but think they are often abused and applied without thinking. "Zero tolerance" for drugs or weapons on campus is a good thing. Classifying a butter knife in a student's lunch bag as a weapon is stupidity.
And after having mentioned all that, I'll say that this post has nothing to do with zero tolerance!
But it does have to do with suspension. Click here (and in the update here) and read about a student who was suspended for taking pictures of his principal, who was violating state law. Click here to learn the outcome.
As I said in my comment in Joanne Jacobs' post: One way to avoid looking like a fool in front of your students is not to be one.
**This is an in-class joke. I do not in any way advocate or use physical violence towards my students. Although sometimes I should :-)
The fact that I think it necessary to put this disclaimer here should tell you much about the sad state of affairs in our society.
You haven't. That's how the crazies and lefties act. Remember, for them, the end justifies the means. By Any Means Necessary.
I draw your attention to Protest Warrior, a fantastic group of patriotic Americans. From their web site:
"ProtestWarrior HQ is a new way for fellow liberty-lovers across the planet to mobilize against the left within their own cities. As you know, those on the left usually carry the loudest microphones...but they go silent quickly when truth is thrown back in their face." The weapon of choice for the Protest Warrior is the sign, emblazoned with words of truth.
Gotta love this kid, a high school senior, who certainly showed some juevos in challenging lefty orthodoxy at his school. I know I wouldn't have remained as calm as he apparently did.
Teaching Disrespect For The Military
I just don't know.
I already related here about learning that anti-military brochures being found on a table in my school's counseling office.
This story cries out for an explanation that doesn't make the teacher look like a fool. Boys and girls, can you say "inappropriate"? I knew you could.
And now we have this story (available on any number of sites) about an intellectual "ambush" which took place in--you guessed it--Seattle. (Aside: what is it about Seattle that makes them nuts up there? Is it all the rain? What? And with as many Army, Navy, and Air Force bases in the vicinity, you'd think they'd like the economic boost). Students rehearsing some kind of skit about US servicemen and women killing civilians? Adults dressed like prisoners in some Abu Ghraib diorama? But wait, there's more. This was supposed to be a forum in which the war was going to be discussed from several angles, with uniformed servicemembers present.
Are the lefties so far gone now that civil discourse no longer has meaning for them? Does their message justify any means necessary (to borrow from a lefty hate group) to get the word out? I'm wondering if denigrating police officers is next. And then FBI or ATF or INS agents. And then abortion doctors.
Oops! Wrong side of the political divide.
I've always believed that people can think what they want, even hate whom they want. Legal restrictions are placed only on their actions, not their thoughts. It would be nice but naive to think, though, that common courtesy would guide some of their actions. It would be nicer, and even more naive, to think they wouldn't so blatantly indoctrinate students in these acts of hatred--a term they so often rail against.
Update, 3/26/05, 9:43 am: As if on queue, a teach-in is held in Berkeley. Go here to read about this obviously balanced and unbiased presentation, and wonder what it would have been like outside (or even inside) if opposing viewpoints had been on display.
The idea of the anti-war teach-in—four different presentations given to four groups of about 300 students—was hatched by students studying social justice and social action in CAS, Berkeley High’s Communication Arts and Sciences school. The project was guided by CAS teacher Joanna Sapir.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
ALL Tests Are Unfair
Classic misunderstanding of test bias. The results of using PSAT score as a cutoff don't agree with the politically-correct version of how UC officials think the world should work; thus, the test is allegedly unfair.
The Coming Republican Schism
In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life -- none too trivial and none too intimate -- that the federal government should not permeate with its power.
It can all be summed up in two words: steroids and Schiavo.
Go read the whole thing.
The Republicans were a good minority party in Congress. In fact, they were a pretty good majority party in Congress--under a Democrat president. However, proving the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, the Republicans have now shed Reagan's small government philosophy and are extending the government arm into the furthest reaches of private lives.
Either Republicans believe in small government, in keeping government off the backs of the people, of minimally-intrusive government, or they see government as a power by which "correct" views can be forced upon the citizenry. This latter view sounds very Democratic to me. Social engineering is not the role of government, no matter which party is in power--Republicans used to believe that.
I fear a schism coming, one in which the libertarian wing of the party (of which I am firmly a member) can no longer tolerate the excesses of the we've-got-the-power,-the-end-justifies-the-means wing. The American center deserves better than it's getting from both major parties, especially from the Republicans.
I expected more from them. I expected them to live up to the party's ideals.
Update, 3/22/05, 3:38 pm: I thought that perhaps I should be very clear about what it is I'm addressing in this post.
I'm sympathetic to Terri Schiavo's parents. Additionally, there's no such thing as "artificial feeding". We all need food--it's not like her stomach isn't working. Forcing someone to die of starvation and dehydration seems sick and cruel to me, whether or not they're aware of what's happening to them. In a case like this, I'm not sure that Dr. Kevorkian wouldn't have the answer. Is this how you put a pet "to sleep"?
What I am sure of, though, is that the Congress should have no say in this issue at all. This is a family issue and at most a state issue. I can find nothing in Congress' enumerated powers that could possibly justify their interference in this case. Is the Congress going to get involved every single time a state makes a decision that the majority in Congress disapproves of? I hope not, because the Republicans will not be in charge of the Congress forever.
In "standing up for life" in this one case, the Republican Congressional majority casts away any credibility it ever had with regards to federalism. Protecting Terri's life might be the right and moral thing to do, I'm honestly not sure in this case. But I am sure that throwing out the Constitution is not the right way to save her life.
And on a completely different note: I wonder how many anti-death-penalty, pro-abortion people there are chanting for this woman's death.
Update #2, 3/22/05, 3:53pm: Click here for an extremely short work of fiction which reminds me, however tangentially, of this issue.
Update #3, 3/22/05, 7:45pm: While I'm not a big fan of the Associated Press, they have a short article about the concerns I've expressed above.
Update #4, 3/23/05, 11:16am: USAToday carries an interesting article discussing the hypocrisy of both Democrats and Republicans on this issue. And Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post sums up the situation this way: We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.
Update #5, 3/25/05, 2:35 pm: Glenn obviously read this posting and wrote the 2nd paragraph of this post on Instapundit.
Monday, March 21, 2005
A New Link
who? Discriminations is the joint production of John and Jessie Rosenberg. John is one of the world's older grad students, now completing a 30-year overdue dissertation at Stanford on discrimination. Jessie, who has adopted Honorary Founding Blogger status, is an 18 year old (!) first year grad student in applied physics at Caltech. She doesn't have time to sleep, much less blog.
what? John's focus, not surprisingly, will be on the theory and practice of discrimination, and how it is reported and analyzed.
Jessie's will be discriminating thoughts on ... whatever catches her fancy or attracts her attention.
I haven't seen anything from Jessie in a long time, but John's analysis more than makes up for that absence. I hope you enjoy the commentary on that site.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
More on the CTA Money Grab
The Sacramento Bee (free registration required) reports that an initiative is in the works to require public unions to get written permission from members before spending dues money for political purposes. Any such proposal gets a big "thumbs up" here at Right On The Left Coast!
It's good to know I'm not a lone voice in the wilderness.
In Order To Form A More Perfect Union
Too good to be true? Only if you're a CTA fan!
I could find out how much of my over $80/month in union dues goes to CTA and NEA, but I'd probably get angry knowing the exact amount. I do know, though, that it's well over half. The people who represent me the most and are closest to me--my local union--see very little of that $80. Of course, they aren't out fighting Governor Schwarzenegger's proposals, either. So here's my plan.
Take the current *local* union dues I pay and add $7. That amount would be my new union dues, and would be close to what my Teamster father (retired railroad machinist) paid in union dues after 40 years (see previous post for more details). My local union will get to keep the amount it currently gets so under my plan, it suffers no financial loss. The additional $7/month would go to retain the best labor law firm in the county. My union has over 2000 teachers/counselors/etc. as members, so that would be $14,000/month, or $140,000/year, as a retainer for the law firm. That should pay for some quality work.
As I see it, here are the benefits of this plan. We get adequate representation when negotiating with the district, rather than just having teacher/unionists do the negotiating. We stand a better chance of getting better contracts, since the district would be less likely to pull the wool over attorneys' eyes than over teachers' eyes. Members wouldn't required to support the political views of unions with which they disagree, as so many of us CTA/NEA members currently are. And lastly, members keep more of their own money.
Everyone wins! Except CTA, of course. Is that such a bad thing?
Friday, March 18, 2005
CTA To Extort An *Additional* $20/month From Teachers
I immediately sent my local union the following email:
> http://www.eiaonline.com/Of course, I expect to have to carry through on my threat to change to agency fee payer status because I don't think my local union leaders see anything wrong with CTA's taking more of my money.
> According to this website, which is usually correct, CTA is planning on
> raising our dues by $180 in order to raise money to fight the governor's
> proposals. As with choosing the CTA leadership, the membership
> won't be consulted at all.
> This is egregious. I hope and expect that the [local union]
> Association will take appropriate action to challenge this theft. CTA is
> a shakedown organization that has long since abandoned any principles of
> doing what is right. Teachers in [local union] should have the option of *not*
> being members of CTA or of NEA, with a corresponding reduction in monthly
> dues deductions from our paychecks. Should this option not be offered,
> agency fee payer status--or even donation to charity--will be the only
> remaining options.
Here are some numbers from the EIA:
At current membership levels, the increase would put more than $54 million in the union's campaign war chest, in addition to the approximately $11 million already available. Full-time teachers currently pay $533 per year to CTA, of which $36 goes into the union’s ballot initiative fund. CTA will also be seeking cash from the National Education Association, its parent affiliate, which has its own initiative fund for just such a purpose.
Currently I pay over $80 per month in combined dues to my local union, the CTA, and NEA. For those of you not from California, this state is effectively a closed-shop state, not a right-to-work state. If I choose not to be a union member, I *still* have to make a donation to a union-approved charity in an amount equal to my union dues--and then only if I can prove that I'm a member of a "religious body whose traditional tenets or teachings include objections to joining or financially supporting employee organizations"! Otherwise, I'm still required to be an "agency fee payer", which means I get a small portion of my union dues reimbursed each year. Guess who decides what proportion I get reimbursed? CTA, of course!
Before he retired, my father was a railroad machinist; his local union was affiliated with the Teamsters. He made more money than I did and paid significantly less in union dues than I did. I say it again--he was essentially a Teamster! Now the CTA wants me to pay over $100 in combined union dues so they can wage a fight with which I disagree, and do so with my money!
I've previously posted (here) that the CTA leadership isn't even chosen by the members. The EducationWonks have pointed out that the CTA leadership appears not to want members to contact them--and with this proposal, we can certainly see why! Something needs to change, and it isn't my mind.
Update, 3/19/05 9:29 am: According to the Sacramento Bee (registration required), CTA's President Barbara Kerr made the following arrogant statement, showing she thinks that money is hers and not mine:
"The governor could solve this with the Legislature. He could save teachers the $60 a year," she said. "All he has to do is work with the Legislature and come to a fair agreement for our students."
This is what happens when money is forcibly taken and not earned. If the governor really wanted to reform education and challenge this union, he'd fight to make California a right-to-work state. I don't understand the morality of compelling people to join an organization they don't want to join.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
What Should I Teach?
One of the courses I teach is called "pre-calculus". In accordance with California's mathematics framework, our district has combined the trigonometry standards and the few math analysis standards into the one pre-calculus course. So far, no trouble.
Let me stop here and explain how much I like California's math standards. Like 'em, like 'em, like 'em! Like 'em so much I want to be them for Halloween! (Don't remember where I heard that before, but now that I've used it, I should probably promise never to say that again.) They're not perfect--in fact, they might be somewhat too stringent in pushing Algebra I down to 8th grade--but it's good we have them. They're not fuzzy, either. They state in certain terms exactly what students are supposed to know and be able to do at each pre-8 grade and in each named course after that.
I follow the standards religiously. If the standard says my students are supposed to know something, I teach it. If the standard doesn't say they're supposed to know it, but I think it's something they should know, I wait until the end of the school year and if I've covered all the standards and there's still time left over, then comes the good stuff. I have the standards cross-referenced with the sections of the textbook that address them. I'm way too into this!
The problem arises when the calculus teacher expects that students will know something that I didn't cover. "They've got to know this!" he says. "Then you teach it to them. I've got to cover these standards here." "But they don't need to know that for calculus!" "Perhaps not, but they do need to know it for my course." We're very friendly when we have these discussions, but I see his frustration. There are pre-calc topics he doesn't cover that I do--topics that are in the standards--but he covers topics I don't so that when the students get into his AP Calculus class, he can move that course along a bit quicker.
Some of the math teachers at my school have what I consider to be peculiar beliefs. They think we should cover a little bit of geometry at the end of Algebra I so that the geometry classes go faster. Why do we want geometry classes to go faster? So we can cover some Algebra II at the end of the geometry courses. Why do that? Well, you get the idea.
There is one advantage I can see to that plan. When standardized testing comes around in April, our students will have covered more of the standards in each course than would students who started learning the material in September as opposed to late in the last school year. Still, some course somewhere would have to be compressed, and the standards are pretty stringent the way they are now. Which course should be compressed? Why, whatever one is below the one I'm teaching, of course!
So, what should I do? Should I teach to the standards--the standards that the students will be tested on in April? Or should I teach what the calculus teacher "needs" to have taught? Would I be depriving the students who won't go onto calculus by cutting out material they're supposed to learn and covering material needed for calculus? Am I short-changing my students who will go on to calculus?
More on Environmentalism--from the NY Times???
Just go read it. It's quite good, fitting as it does with the points I made a few weeks ago in my environmentalism postings.
Media, and the Need For Blogs
What Liberal Media?
"U.S. media coverage of last year's election was three times more likely to be negative toward President Bush than Democratic challenger John Kerry, according to a study released Monday," Reuters reports:
The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.
Now, a newsman might say in his industry's defense that the media were simply reporting the facts, and the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, was simply a more appealing candidate than President Bush. Which we guess would explain why Kerry won . . .
Update, 3/24/05 1:58pm: Now there's this backpedaling. Glenn has it right; why weren't they saying this before the election?
Keep in mind, this is from al-Reuters. But of course, the mainstream media are not left-leaning!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
What An Impressive Union. Not.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
As the Church Lady used to say on Saturday Night Live, "Well isn't that special."
I agree with the EdWonks--making an issue of this is the surest way to get students to flock to that website! Had they left well enough alone, and ignored the site and any comments about it, it couldn't possibly have become a problem. But draw attention to it and, well, you draw attention to it! I addressed the topic of drawing attention to something negative here.
I check RateMyTeachers every few months. Most of the scores I ignore--I'm either the worst teacher ever or I walk on water without getting the soles of my shoes wet. Sometimes the comments can be illuminating, and I'm secure enough in my professionalism to take appropriate criticism even if it comes from a 15-yr-old. My favorite score, though, is a nuking. I got a 4 for easiness (out of 5), but 1's for helpfulness and clarity. Huh? How could I not be clear if I'm so easy? This is why you have to take these things with a grain of salt.
Want some real fun? See what your students are saying about your colleagues!
Want to see how you rate in the eyes of students or even parents? If you're in the US (don't want to offend my silent legions of international readers) go to http://us.ratemyteachers.com/ Actually, if you're in the UK, Ireland, or Canada, you can click to your country's site from that same page. Everyone should be able to navigate from that point.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Baseball Players, Steroids, and Congress?
Why the heck is Congress getting involved in this at all?
If a crime is being committed, the FBI can investigate. Why does Congress need to hold hearings? For the children??? Because kids look up to these guys??? Give me a freakin' break!
I was listening to a local talk show on the way to work this morning and the DJ's hit the nail on the head. Did Congress subpoena Eric Clapton to ask about cocaine use in the music industry? or Keith Richards? or anyone freakin' else?? No, of course not. Has Congress subpoenad Matthew Perry (late of Friends) or the rehabbed Olsen twin or anyone else in Hollywood about drug/alcohol abuse? No, of course not.
So why are they bringing some of baseball's biggest names to testify? There can only be one answer. They want to grandstand, wag their fingers, and look and feel like they're doing something important. Republicans and Democrats participating in this should both be ashamed of themselves.
What is Congress' stake in this? Why would any member of the Congress of the United States care if major leaguers are using steroids? If the league doesn't care--and make no mistake about it, the league doesn't care--why should the Congress? Which of Congress' enumerated powers are they exercising in this instance? Is there a power I missed somewhere, the power to regulate major league baseball? Congress has clearly overstepped its bounds here. I hope people start realizing this and insist that their members of congress get back to debating laws and stop trying to make a show.
I do *not* support the illicit use of steroids at all. What I object to is Congress' sticking its nose into a company's business just because they think it'll play well on tv--and to heck with the Constitution in the process.
Update, 3/18/05 6:36 am: This guy said it all and more, better than I did, and in fewer than 150 words.
School Lunches and the Nanny State
Here at the 'Wonks, we wonder how much our student lunches would improve if Secretary Of Education Margaret Spellings and her legion of Washington educrats also ate the same food as our students.
Both posts had people jump at the solution: of course teachers should have to eat cafeteria food with the students! That'll fix the problem! I felt compelled to address these comments.
I stated that I shouldn't be compelled to eat anything I don't want to eat. I'm going to turn 30-10 next month (we don't use the f-word in polite company) and I'm a big enough boy to decide for myself what I'm going to and not going to eat!
Additionally, if certain people think there's a problem with cafeteria food, then they should find an adult solution to the problem. They could address their concerns to the school or district administration, form a committee, meet with the school board, take cost into account, and come up with an alternate plan. Instead, they want to force me to eat the food, hope I don't like, and then hope that I'll fix the problem. That doesn't sound like a good solution to me.
Further, I said that forcing me to buy and eat cafeteria food would be a forced subsidizing of the food--and if it's bad, why subsidize it? Why not let the students vote with their wallets if it's so bad?
Bottom line: no one is forced to eat cafeteria food, not even students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Forcing me to eat it would be the height of the nanny state.
Please, go read the comments on those sites, especially Joanne's! For not wanting to be forced to eat cafeteria food I've been accused of right-wing paranoia, a lack of leadership, and of perhaps being a member of the Montana Freemen! Does one really have to be any of these things not to want to be compelled to eat what is served in the cafeteria? Should my job as a teacher include a requirement to eat with students in the cafeteria?
I bring my own food, partly because the cafeteria food is so expensive! Also, I do so because I want to eat what I want on the days I want and not have someone else dictate to me. Is that so bad? Is that really such a right-wing position?
Has the left moved so far that they can now justify forcing people to eat what the school serves?
Saturday, March 12, 2005
The Impact of Blogs
I don't know where they're going, but I'd like to tell you where they've been.
Blogs started mostly as online journals, or "weblogs", hence the moniker. It's when they went from journaling to journalism (including opinion and commentary sites) that their power became apparent.
Back in the day, many cities had at least two newspapers. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for one to have the word "democrat" in the title to show the slant you'd get from that paper. Oddly enough, I've never heard of a paper with the word "republican" in the title, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist. But news was dished out in a competitive fashion, and people could choose which slant on their news they wanted.
Then along came tv news. Serious journalists who gave the impression of impartiality presented the news to an adoring public. It wasn't by accident that Walter Cronkite was known as "the most trusted man in America"; now that he's retired his far-left politics are well-known, but he tried to keep them hidden during his tenure as CBS's lead anchor. Looking back, we can now see his biases in his reporting, but for the most part people then didn't think or know to look for such biases. If anyone did, they had no way to get the word out.
The late 60's hippie movement, the Vietnam War, and Watergate solidified the press as a mostly left-leaning group. In the 80's it took an entertaining conservative talk-radio host to give those right-of-center Americans a voice with which they could identify, and then talk-radio took off.
The next big movement was blogs. Who knows what will be next?
The Drudge Report, at the time a sorta-news, sorta-gossip site, came into its own with President Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal. Then came blogs.
September 11th? Everyone knows what happened that day. But what did blogs do to propel events? I'm not sure.
What stories have blogs pursued that make them such a force today? The first big story was in late 2002, when Trent Lott made some remarks at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party--remarks that were considered scandalous by many. Not just lefty blogs, but center- and many right-leaning blogs attacked Lott for suggesting that Thurmond, with his segregationist beliefs, would have made a great President in 1948 (when he in fact ran for President). Within a couple of weeks, Lott was forced under public pressure to step down as Senate Majority Leader.
The next major story was the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group of sailors who served with John Kerry (either on his boat or in his unit) who claimed that Kerry's Vietnam service, which he had made the centerpiece of his 2004 Presidential campaign, was not quite so honorable as Kerry himself claimed. Mainstream media, firmly entrenched by this time as an organ of the Democratic Party, ignored the story. Talk-radio and blogs kept the topic alive, and together reached enough people that the mainstream media (MSM, for those who know blogger-speak) could no longer ignore the story. By ignoring the story, the MSM allowed the SBVT sailors to get their story out unmolested and unchallenged, with blogs rushing the story to "print". The story got out, Kerry was discredited, and the rest is history. I wonder if he'll ever release his original military documents. Some suggest that he originally got a dishonorable discharge because the only discharge document he's ever released is from the Carter years. Blogs keep this story alive, but since Kerry is a nobody now and not a Presidential candidate, it's not a story with feet.
The next big story, also from the 2004 election, was CBS's story on 60 Minutes II about some recently-found Texas Air National Guard documents about then-Lieutenant Bush. The story broke soon after Labor Day, less than two months before the election. An obvious hit-piece, Dan Rather led the charge. The problem? The documents were obvious forgeries, most likely created with Microsoft Word and not an early 70's typewriter in Texas. Go here for a full account by LittleGreenFootballs, one of the web sites (along with PowerLineBlog) which picked up the ball and ran with it and proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the documents were fake. Rather refused to back down until too much evidence mounted and he was eventually shown the door--but given a few months to walk out of it. The big quote to come out of this fiasco? "Fake, but accurate." Good one.
By the way, if you really want some evidence about how slanted CBS News and Dan Rather are/were? Go here.
The most recent big story that blogs have carried is that of Eason Jordan, late of CNN. In Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum, CNN's "chief news executive" Eason Jordan stated that US forces in Iraq were specifically targeting journalists. Of course, most of the MSM circled the wagons to protect one of their own, but influential blogs pushed the story. Jordan said his comments were taken out of context, bloggers pushed to have video of the speech released. Jordan resigned after days of hoping the problem would just go away.
Notice that three of my Big 4 stories have occurred within the last year. Blogs are taking the MSM to task, forcing them to cover stories they'd rather not due to political beliefs or self-interest. The press fancies itself as the watchdog of government, but the perennial question is, Who watches the watchers? At this point in history, we know the answer.
Maybe some day I'll break a big story. I'm still counting on Ed Code Section 38118 to give me that story.
Update, 3/20/05, 11:21 am: Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, had this to say in a speech at the Politics Online conference on March 11th (quoted from RedState.org):
Well, the title of my talk, which I did not actually select, is “Bloggers: The New Power Brokers.” What bloggers really are is not power brokers, so much, though there are a few who aspire to that role – they are “power breakers.” What bloggers have done is cut back on the power of gate-keepers, of middlemen, of agenda setters, by allowing the end run, that sort of thing. And that has opened up communications vertically, horizontally, and in all sorts of ways.
I couldn't agree more. And I hope he continues to be correct.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
The Pink Slip Blues
The knowledge that I'll be near the top of the rehire list isn't comforting. I was laid off in this district 2 years ago, spent the summer on unemployment, and got rehired in August. Honestly, a lot of new gray hairs sprouted that summer. Now it looks like I'll have to do it all again.
Update: 3/14/05: I found out today they'll pinkslip everyone hired with the last five years, not four.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
The President's Clear Skies Initiative
Wait until the whole site loads and it should take you to the correct post. If not, you're looking for a post date/timestamped March 8, 2005 at 3:36pm.
It's short so go ahead and read it!
Monday, March 07, 2005
Operation Enduring Reality
So, what course of action should I take?
"Procure" all the brochures myself? That wouldn't be ethical. I wouldn't accept someone's taking all the Army brochures so it wouldn't be appropriate for me to take these.
Appeal to the school administration to have them removed from the counseling office because they aren't providing any academic/vocational information, but rather are trashing a vocation? While there's merit to that argument, I wouldn't make such an argument if I agreed with the content of the brochures.
Put army recruiter stickers on the brochures? "Defacing" isn't something I'd accept if it were done to army brochures, so I won't condone it just because I disagree with the content.
There are some contacts listed on the brochures if you'd like to have some of these peaceniks come out to the school and speak. I considered inviting them and ambushing them with pro-military students. That doesn't seem professional or courteous.
So I appealed to an email list of fellow West Point graduates for their ideas. One suggested taking the issue to "friendly" press, and have them expose the fact that such anti-military propaganda is allowed in the schools. Another suggested taking a few of the brochures to the next school board meeting and alerting the board members to a few of the more choice comments from the brochures--and asking them if they think it's appropriate, especially in wartime, to display such brochures in our schools. Actually, I like Option B.
Do I want that viewpoint suppressed? As much as I hate to say it, yes. Deep inside, no one is as accepting of opposing viewpoints as they'd like to think they are, and I'd like it if everyone were politically conservative, socially moderate, and darn logical--in other words, I'd like it if everyone agreed with my views! But the confirmed American in me just believes in the 1st Amendment too much to stifle someone else's viewpoint on my own, which is why I left the brochures unmolested.
If the school board decided to do it, though, that wouldn't really be my problem :-)
No, I'm not going to the school board with them. The Law of Unintended Consequences dictates that doing so would probably make a big issue out of what is right now nothing more than a few (ignored) brochures in a counseling office, lost among Stanford and University of California and Harvard brochures. Heck, last year there was a West Point poster hanging in the counseling office, and I had nothing to do with it!
At this rather late point in the post, let me state that I'm not some "nuke 'em till they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark" militarist who thinks every international problem should be solved at the point of a rifle. Actually, I don't know anyone like that. It's a convenient stereotype used by people who probably know better. Let's hear from that greatest babykiller of them all, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, in an address to West Point's Corps of Cadets in 1962: "This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." Read the entire speech here and see if it jibes with the views of those who doubt the honor of the profession of arms.
I'll let those brochures gather dust on a table, and eventually be thrown away to make room for more valuable (and more honest) documents.
Update, 3/9/05 8:20pm: Go here and read. It's short and entertaining. If you're reading this blog and specifically this post, you'll probably like this article.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
50th Post--Something I Wrote Before Blogging
The Original Article (darn, not available online anymore)
Local Channel 3's Story
A Local Blogger Picks Up On It
Disciplinary action? It was tried. Part of the agreement ending "the big fight" is that I'm not allowed to divulge what the agreement is. If you're reading this blog you're smart enough to know what that means and why it's part of the agreement.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
I Really Screwed Up Today
A few weeks ago this student brought me an invitation to the ceremony at which he'd become an Eagle Scout. I don't know how many people he invited, but the honor of being one of them was one I quickly and graciously accepted. I called and RSVP'd, put it on the calendar, and waited for the day to arrive.
Today I talked to my son about it, telling him that tomorrow we'd be getting dressed up and going to this ceremony. I told him how important it was, how he'd have to be on his best behavior, etc. You know, the normal parent spiel.
When we got home today I got out the invitation so I could pull up the location on Mapquest.com. To my horror I found that the ceremony had been today--I had written it on the wrong day on my calendar. I immediately called the student's mother and apologized profusely, explaining what had happened. I gave her my phone number and asked her to have her son call me when he got in so I could apologize to him as soon as possible.
That was over 3 hours ago. I haven't heard from him. I hope I'm making more of this than I should, but it's hard to put into words how bad I feel.
I really screwed up today.
Update, 3/7/05: I spoke to the student today and apologized. He was fine--just couldn't find my phone number to return my call. Apparently there were plenty of people at the ceremony, for which I'm thankful.
Update #2, 1/7/09: I don't know when I learned this, but sometime between then and now I learned that my dad was in fact a Life Scout, one rank below Eagle.
Socialist Idiocy From The CTA
"If I had my druthers, I would extend the sales tax we have on goods to a sales tax on services. Why tax goods only? That concept is 50 years old, and pertains to a time when the economy was based on goods and not services. Now we're a service economy and we have no way to tax it. We could tax tanning salons, lawyers' fees and a whole set of services. Other states do it. I think we're stuck in conceptual cul-de-sacs in California. I get stimulated when I leave the state and see the innovative things going on in other places."--Stanford Professor Michael Kirst, co-director of the research group Policy Analysis for California Education
Yes, I get stimulated when I see taxes in different states, too. Not.
"We've been persuaded that having private goods is more important than the public good. We used to drive Chevrolets and eat cheddar cheese and have pretty good public schools. Now we drive BMWs, eat Brie and have mediocre public schools. It all has to do with the choices that we make."--education consultant John Mockler
I wonder what kind of car "education consultant John Mockler" drives, and how big his house is, and what he eats, and what kind of schools his kids attended.
Here's more from Mockler:
"Years ago, Californians would see schoolchildren who looked like them. Now, Californians see Latinos, African Americans, Asians and other minorities who don't look like them in public schools. Some Californians don't believe they are 'our' children and think that we shouldn't support them. Our politicians always say that public schools are our first priority. But they spend money in other places."
They why does CTA keep backing these racist Democrats who've run both houses of the state legislature for so long?
And on page 33, there's this gem. It's not really socialist, but it does remind me of the old Socialist Republics of So-and-So:
"CTA President Barbara E. Kerr and her fellow officers...will be serving another two years at CTA's helm. Running without opposition...." You see, the California Teachers Association, an organization that likes to brand itself as a democratic organization voicing the will of California's teachers in support of every downtrodden group there is, doesn't allow its members to vote on the leadership. "[T]hey were reelected by acclamation during the January meeting of CTA's State Council."
CTA Caught In A Lie
The cover says "School Funding Went From First To Worst, What Went Wrong?" The story inside, however, has a slightly different title: "California's School Funding Went From First To Among The Worst, What Went Wrong?"
What went wrong? I'll tell you what went wrong! The California Teachers Association is being dishonest and is pushing this dishonesty on the cover of its magazine.
Where does California stand with regard to education spending? Riding to the rescue to answer this question is none other than the National Education Association in their March 2005 issue. Page 19 directs readers to a RAND Corporation report (here) which states " (t)he state ranked 27th in per pupil spending in 2001-2002." Not quite last, is it?
But wait, there's more. And I'm not talking about Ginsu knives here. Go to the National Center for Education Statistics to see where California fell during the 2001-2002 school year. Granted, that's 3 years ago, but I doubt that we've dropped to the bottom since then. Again, not the bottom. Not great, but certainly not the bottom. Later in the story, California Educator says that "Within a few years of passage [of Propositon 13], California went from being first in school funding to worst." I'd love to see the numbers backing up that statement.
The facts bear themselves out. You can't trust CTA to tell you the truth.
Now I'm not saying that all is peaches and cream here in California. Here are some of the bullets from the RAND study:
- California student achievement on national standardized tests is near the bottom of the 50 states, ranking above only Louisiana and Mississippi. California's low scores cannot be accounted for by a high percentage of minority students, who generally have lower scores because many come from low-income families and sometimes must learn English as a second language. Controlling for students' background, California's scores are the lowest of any state.
- California students have made gains on national achievement tests in both math and reading. In particular, the improvement seen among 4th graders in California in the past seven years has been greater than their peers in other states.
- California has the second highest ratio of students per teacher in the nation, even after a major effort began in 1996 to reduce ratios for K-3 and 9th grade. California K-12 schools have an average of 20.9 students per teacher, compared with a national average of 16.1.
- California school districts' teacher standards are generally lower than in other states. Just 46 percent of school districts in California require teachers to have full standard certification in the subjects they teach, compared with 82 percent nationally.
- The real average annual teacher salary in California during the 2000-2001 school year was about the same as it was in 1969-70, when adjusted for inflation. The adjusted annual average salary of about $39,000 (in today's dollars) places California last among the five largest states and 32nd nationwide.
- While California spent less per pupil on school facilities than other states during the 1990s, progress has been made in recent years with passage of both state and local bond measures. However, schools in central cities and in rural areas still have a high number of inadequate facilities.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
New Source of Income For Teachers
At my school, we illegally charge fees for certain classes, usually elective classes. I've asked for and received bulletins from the state Department of Education on the practice and it's very clear we're in violation of ed code and the California Constitution. Why do we do this? Because we always have! It doesn't matter that every school and district in California that's been sued over this in the past few years has lost. We have "margin of excellence" programs that we want to keep, and this is how we keep them.
In fairness to my principal, he acknowledges the problem and is taking a moderated course to solving this so as not to unnecessarily gut programs or anger teachers or parents of students in the courses. Additionally, while our actions are clearly illegal, it's a relatively small issue since the only person complaining about it is me!
My reasons for fighting this battle are clear. First off, we should obey the law; if we don't like the law we should work to change it but we shouldn't disregard it. It's odd that we expect students to follow our rules while we ourselves flaunt the law. Second, these fees create a stratified education system--one for the haves, one for the have-nots. The first time a student doesn't take a class or join a sports/cheerleading team because they can't afford the fee, we've created a 2nd class student. This is morally wrong and not even legal.
But we do it anyway. So perhaps I should climb on board this gravy train, especially in these tough economic times. Here's my plan:
Next year, I'm going to charge students to take tests and quizzes. I figure 50 cents per quiz, $1.00 per test. I give quizzes once a week. Given our new contract allows close to 180 students per day, I'll make $90 a week when I give quizzes and $180 a week when I give tests! And if I start giving random pop quizzes, I can charge a dime for those. Now, students won't be required to pay the quiz/test fee. But if they don't pay, they won't get to take the quiz/test.
I should also charge a correcting fee. Since grading is extra work done outside of school hours, students who actually want the points will have to pay to have their quiz/test graded. This fee might also be as little as a dime.
I could save some of my own time if I subcontracted the writing of the test/quiz. I think I'll select a brilliant student whom I know will write good problems, and pay that student a small fee to write my tests/quizzes for me. Of course, this student can get in on the system, too! This student could sell advance copies of the test/quiz to students at a market-determined rate, or perhaps could just sell copies of the answer key. With this system I do less work, one deserving student makes some cash, and students who can afford it will get great grades! It's a win-win-win situation! And don't think that poor kids are left out--they will still get the basics (the test itself, if they pay the test fee) but not any leg up. Kinda like what they get now. So they're no worse off.
This type of out-of-the-box thinking is just what is needed in these tough (at least for our school district) economic times.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Environmentalism and the Skeptical Mind, Part 5
As you can see, these posts weren't based on entirely scholarly materials. But that wasn't the point. The point was to present information, offer quotes--and let you decide for yourself.
Environmentalism and the Skeptical Mind, Part 4
My favorite example of their extremism combined with lack of science is "golden rice". Golden rice is a genetically engineered product that takes a daffodil gene and implants it into rice. So what, right? Well, this golden rice has vitamin A. Lots and lots of vitamin A. About a half million children in the world go blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency, most in Africa and Asia. What food could these children be eating? Golden rice. The creator of this food has offered to give it away and let people plant it. Greenpeace and its belief in "Frankenfoods" fought the idea and convinced governments not to allow it, and golden rice still isn't grown. Children still go blind. All for a political cause.
But enough about those yahoos. Let's talk about the Kyoto Protocol.
I'll bet if you asked 10 people on the street what the Kyoto Protocol is, none would know. If you asked 100, only a few would know. Yet, this is the biggest thing going in environmental circles--and fortunately the US has nothing to do with it.
The protocol, agreed to in Kyoto, Japan, aims to curb the air pollution blamed for global warming. Over 140 countries, accounting for 55% of greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the treaty--but developing countries like China, Brazil, and India, not known as bastions of environmental care, are exempted. For those that have signed on, the protocol demands a 5.2% reduction in greenhouse emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2012. Each country set its own specific reduction amounts, and the US, though not a signatory, has agreed to reduce emissions by 7% between 2008-2012.
Interestingly enough, there's no clear plan how to do this. Canada and Japan have both said they are unsure if they will be able to meet their targets. In fact, Canada's emissions are currently 20% higher than they were in 1990, making their hurdle that much higher. Kyoto dictates goals, which may or may not be met. There's no roadmap given to achieve the goals, and no reward for meeting them or sanction for failing to meet them. Kyoto is just words on paper.
An attempt to extend Kyoto past 2012 was made last December--and this was before the protocol even went into effect!--met with failure. India and China refuse to negotiate, and the US still will not sign. Italy, an EU member, also refused to consider limits past the 2012 date. Kyoto is dead in the water, and it's just begun.
Bjorn Lomborg, discussed in Part 3 of this "series" I'm writing, also addresses Kyoto. He thinks the costs of implementing Kyoto will far outweigh the benefits. For the $150 billion to $350 billion annually that Kyoto would cost--in dubious "renewable energy" projects and doubtful technologies--Lomborg says we could provide everyone in the world with basic health, education, water, and sanitation. Where would the money be better spent?
Two "events" marking the implementation of the protocols are worthy of mention due to their humorous content. On February 16th, 35 Greenpeace protesers stormed the International Petroleum Exchange in hopes of paralyzing oil trading at the London exchange. But they themselves were attacked by the traders, many of whom were under age 25! The Times Online had this quote from one of the protesters:
"We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs," one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. "I've never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view."
Well maybe, jack***, if you were talking instead of blowing whistles and foghorns and releasing rape alarms tied to helium-filled balloons so they couldn't be easily silenced, maybe if you weren't trespassing and trying to disrupt what to these people was very important business, maybe you might have found someone more amenable to listening to your point of view.
Oh, the trading continued and 27 of the protesters were arrested. :-)
The 2nd funny event comes to us from Belgium. Dang, have the Belgiques ever done anything worthwhile? Well, Belgian schools were asked to support "thick sweaters" day to celebrate the implementation of the protocol. Live From Brussels reports, via Joanne Jacobs:
"The idea was to turn off the heating in the school buildings for the day, to save energy, and to have everybody wear extra clothing instead, including thick sweaters." (Darren says: Jimmy Carter, anyone?)
"So far, so good. My wife follows the lesson plan, explains it all to the kids and turns off the heating in her building. But then, for some classes, her pupils need to go to the other, larger school. There, they also have 'thick sweater day'. But they didn't manage to turn off the thermostat.
"Result: super hot classrooms. Talk about global warming.... And to make things even worse, because everybody was wearing extra clothes and things were getting really unbearable, apparently some teachers even opened the windows of their classrooms, with the heating still on full-blast...."
You gotta love this symbolic crap.
The earth's climate has been changing naturally since the place was created. We know that during dinosaur times, areas that are non-tropical today were pretty tropical. We know there was an ice age several millenia ago. We also know that Europe experienced a mini-ice-age as recently as a few centuries ago. We don't know for sure if any temperature changes are the result of man-made action, Mt. Pinatubo, or natural cyclical variations of climate.
Heck, we don't even know if it's going to rain next Sunday. And these people want to tell us what the climate will be like a century from now?
Update: Here is some environmentalism I can get on board with.
Update #2, 3/6/05 9:52 am: An article from the Detroit News about the end of government-imposed environmentalism and the success of wealth-created environmentalism.
Update #3, 3/18/05 5:18pm: Here's more on the worthlessness of the Kyoto Protocol.