Tuesday, May 31, 2005

CTA Finally Admits It's Taking More Of My Money

On March 18 I first reported that the CTA was planning on raising dues $18/month in order to pay for political fights against Governor Schwarzenegger's policies, and that I'd be paying more than $1000/year in union dues as a result. Today the June 2005 issue of California Educator came in the mail, and there on page 31, finally, was an article about the increase. The article is called "Dues assessment under consideration".

Yes, they're "considering" raising the dues like I'm "considering" allowing notecards during tests. The decision's already been made.

The article is 3 columns long. It took the entire first column to lay out the case against the Governor. It wasn't until the 2nd column that we're told about the increase in dues. After spending the entire first column talking about how much the cost of the Governor's special election is going to hurt people, CTA decides to hurt me more by taking more of my money.

Brilliant move.

"For those who fear the assessment will be seen as yet another way to get money for politics, Vogel explained that the money enables CTA to protect Prop. 98 and 'that's not a partisan issue.'" So they'll take my personal money in an attempt to get more funding for schools.

Brilliant logic.

New Teachers *Must* Be Libs

Here's the opening sentence from an article in Today's New York Sun:

Brooklyn College's School of Education has begun to base evaluations of aspiring teachers in part on their commitment to social justice, raising fears that the college is screening students for their political views.

Read the whole thing for yourself. If you see nothing wrong with this you're too far gone for help.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Reasons *NOT* To Kill The President?

The author of this piece in the Oregon Daily Emerald has an interesting point of view. Her article is called "10 reasons not to kill Bush" and with a title like that, I'm sure she's gotten all the attention she obviously desired. I must admit, though, that I liked her closing paragraphs:

In all seriousness, I don't hate President Bush. I dislike a lot of his administration's choices, but I think he's a good man doing a difficult job. As a leader, you're always going to be hated. I am too often shocked by the vitriolic repulsion many people feel for our leader and America in general, especially because the loathing is often poorly informed. I've met people on this campus who see America as the worst human rights abuser in the world (unlike the angelic paradise of Cambodia) and people who sway liberal not because they actually know anything about issues but because it's popular.

Liberalism has to be more than a college fad or a collection of loudmouths whose idiotic comments stir headlines. The rabid dislike some people feel for a man they've never even met makes me ashamed to be a Democrat.

If that's the only reason you're ashamed to be a Democrat....

California State Teachers Retirement System

Here in California, teachers don't pay into Social Security. No, here we pay a higher percentage of our pay into the State Teachers Retirement System, "stirs" for short, and are guaranteed a certain retirement at some distant point in the future.

Part of the reason for last Wednesday's rally, the one I wrote so much about earlier this week (scroll through the May 2005 archives if you're interested), is that Governor Schwarzenegger wants to change from a "guaranteed benefit" type retirement system, which he claims is bankrupting the state, to a "defined contribution", 401k-style pension system. Leading public unions in the state are of course balking at such blasphemy. I admit that the guaranteed retirement I'm currently promised is a pretty good deal for me personally, and I'd hate to lose it. However, I don't have a solution--and neither does the CTA--for what California should do to fund these future retirements as promised. I should have a pretty good retirement, but at what cost to my fellow Californians?

Some would say that such a retirement is the perk for years of working for comparatively low pay, and there may be some merit to that argument. Others would say that the state promised me such a retirement and should keep to its promises. I agree with that argument completely. Interestingly enough, so does Governor Schwarzenegger--his proposal would only affect workers hired after next year, putting them into a 401k-style retirement while keeping the state's promise to us older workers. Seems reasonable to me.

Then along comes an article in today's major Sacramento newspaper, certainly not a mouthpiece for any Republican administration. Here are the first two paragraphs of the article:

The California State Teachers' Retirement System learned in a new report that the gap is widening between what the pension fund must pay future retirees and what assets the fund will have.

The day of reckoning is about 20 years away, but the fund's trustees must either begin feathering the nest now or cut back on benefits for new hires. Current teachers won't see their pension benefits reduced, because the payments are guaranteed by law.

So what does the CTA say California should do about this? It says what any socialist organization says--raise taxes on the rich! And when will I currently be able to retire? In 22 years. Here's more:

The fund's projected long-term shortfall has increased to $24.2 billion, up $1.05 billion from the last year's actuarial report by the consulting firm Milliman.

California has a population of 30-some million, making this shortfall equal to $750 for every man, woman, and child in the state. Staggers the mind, doesn't it? Expect the CTA to fight this proposal as well:

But CalSTRS officials and experts aren't counting on Wall Street to pull underfunded plans out of the financial hole. Instead, consultants suggest raising contribution rates.

By law, the Legislature must approve any changes to CalSTRS contributions made by teachers, school districts and the state.

Currently, teachers contribute 8 percent of their annual payroll, while school districts put in 8.25 percent and the state adds 2 percent.

To bridge CalSTRS' gap, consultants estimate the combined contribution rate must grow by as much as 4.56 percentage points. This figure has increased along with the shortfall.

I don't mind CTA's fighting such a proposal. I just wish they'd come up with a better resolution than the typically socialist wealth-transfer notion of "tax the rich".

And now on to my personal situation.

I didn't start teaching until I was 32 years old. I paid into Social Security from the time I was 18 until I became a teacher, and with over 40 quarters of payments contributed I've earned a Social Security check when I retire. However, now that I have a state pension system, Social Security will only pay me a small fraction of what I've theoretically "earned". They don't want any double-dippers, you see.

But why shouldn't I be able to double dip? I worked and paid into that system for many years. If I had become a teacher right out of college, I'd have been able to pay into STRS for 30 years and retire with a healthy check at age 52 or 53. But since I didn't start teaching until I was 32, I won't be able to get such a retirement until age 62--and then I'll get the same retirement pay as the 52-yr-olds, because we both put in 30 years as teachers. Yes, Social Security will add a small amount, but not near what it would be if, instead of becoming a teacher at age 32, I had just stopped working altogether.

There's an inequity here. Overturning the "Windfall Elimination Provision" law, as it's called, is supposedly a goal of the NEA every year. However, no one really expects this law to change, at least not with a Republican President and Congress. So while I'll agree with the NEA on this particular issue, I fault them for their inability to change the law because all their eggs are in the Democrat basket.

Update 5/30 5:01 pm: To read about some nifty ideas for social security from a man who worked in the Social Security office in 1940, click here.

Update #2, 12/14/08: Too bad the link above isn't active anymore. If anyone knows how to find that original story based only on what is now in inactive URL, I'd love to learn.

Update #3, 5/26/09: Ah, here it is!

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day, and every blogger is almost compelled to put words to screen, penning, as it were, some great tribute to our fallen veterans. I'm not immune to this calling, and I had such a post in mind. Then I read the following on my West Point class email list and mine seemed trivial, almost mocking in comparison. So with Steve's permission, I offer this Memorial Day post:

Walked by my neighbor's house this weekend, as I often do. His house is on the corner right by the jogging path, so I take the dogs that way 5-6 times a week. And Ralph's usually out there, doing something or doing nothing. Sometimes he's pushing his lawnmower back and forth, or otherwise taking care of his immaculate lawn. Sometimes he's pulling the golf cart into the garage, after getting in eighteen holes. And sometimes he's just sitting in the driveway, half in the sun and half in the shade, sipping on his Jack and Coke, watching his cat Smokey, and saying howdy to everyone who walks or drives by.

(This is Peachtree City, Georgia, the golf cart capital of the free world, so you can actually "say howdy" to someone who drives by.)

Oh by the way, Ralph flew bombers in WWII and served as a squadron commander in Korea. So you do the math on how old he is. If I'm pushing a lawnmower at his age, let alone teeing them up on a regular basis, then things are good.

And more times than not, Ralph asks me how things are going, "what's the news from the Fort?" as he says, and asks what I've heard from the AOR.

"It's a tough one y'all are fighting, yessir, a tough one to figure out" he says. "Not like the ones we fought. Ours were easy. Sure, we were gone for four years straight, with no phone calls or that internet contraption to keep us in touch with the family back home. I read about these video link ups and internet message boards and international cell phones. And care packages that would make every day seem like Christmas. What was that one the other day, the folks in South Carolina mailing air conditioners to soldiers in the desert?

"So sure, y'all have it nice in some ways... but still... I wouldn't trade places with you on a dare. My wars were easier to fight. You knew who the bad guys were, and you were pretty much free to do whatever it took to get them before they got you. I'm not sure how the kids out there keep things straight in their heads over there, not sure at all.

"And my wars, you knew how they were going and when they were over. You could draw lines on the map that meant something, and you could measure how far the front moved. And then someone signed a declaration, someone signed a surrender.

"This one's not so clean, and I'm a-guessing they never will be again, will they?

"So tell them all 'thanks,' willya? And thank you for all you're doing. I can sleep well at night knowing y'all are out there."

How about that? This guy fought two wars, spent six years on foreign soil, freed Europe and all that, and he says "thanks" for my half year in Kuwait.

And we wonder why they're called the Greatest Generation?

But that's not what he was thanking me for, and I'd be 100% cynic (and not just 3/4s) if I really thought that. He's thanking me just for raising my right hand some 22 years ago. After that it's all details. Comparing wars and comparing service is like comparing your children. None of us picked the conditions or the time or the place.

So in the spirit of Ralph, I pass along his thanks and add my own. For those of you eight time zones away right now, stay low and try to bring them all back.

French Reject European Constitution

Snippets from an Associated Press report:

In a stunning rejection of the European Union's latest ambitious move to unite its 25 nations, French voters shot down the bloc's first constitution, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the charter and humiliating President Jacques Chirac.

About 55 percent of voters opposed the treaty — the first rejection in Europe. France's repudiation came ahead of Wednesday's referendum in the Netherlands, where polls show even more resistance to the constitution, and had EU leaders scrambling to do damage control.

Why, you ask, did the French reject this constitution?

Chirac argued that the constitution would streamline EU decision-making and make the bloc more accessible to its 450 million citizens. But opponents feared it would strip France of its sovereignty and generous social system and trigger an influx of cheap labor.

That's right. It didn't guarantee enough socialism.

ChicagoBoyz had this comment:

The fact that anti-Americanism drove much of the vote doesn’t bother me at all. I don't want people to like us nearly as much as I want them to be able to govern themselves the way they see fit, have real elections with real consequences, and get the benefits and bear the consequences of those decisions. If the French don't want capitalisme sauvage or anglo-saxonisme or hyper-liberalisme, OK by me. They are free to have as much socialism as they can get away with.

But back to the AP report. As is typical of the ruling elite in Europe, options are presented to the people only when the people will make the right decision. What happens when the plebeians make the wrong choice?

The constitution's main architect, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, said countries that reject the treaty will be asked to vote again.

Wonderful, Valery. Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times echoes a similar sentiment:

So, a couple of days before the first referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, the "president" of the European Union, let French and Dutch voters know how much he values their opinion: "If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again," "President" Juncker told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

Got that? You have the right to vote, but only if you give the answer your rulers want you to give. But don't worry, if you don't, we'll treat you like a particularly backward nursery school and keep asking the question until you get the answer right. Even America's bossiest nanny-state Democrats don't usually express their contempt for the will of the people quite so crudely.

Well said.

The Times of London isn't so worried about France's "no" vote:

Yet it is hard to claim that the practical implications of losing the constitution will be huge. The EU will muddle on, as it always has done, implementing only what it chooses rather than what it notionally has agreed. Even if the constitution were ratified, the EU would still ignore bits of it.

You have only to look at the scrapping, in effect, over the past 15 months, of the financial rules supposed to govern the eurozone. Although these are a central part of the constitution, France and Germany have found them inconveniently tough. They have now been watered down until they are almost meaningless.

Translation: the (unelected) bureaucrats in Brussels are going to do what they want to anyway, regardless of these meaningless elections.

And click here if you want to see a red-state/blue-state map of France for this election. It might surprise you.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Politically Correct Battle of Trafalgar

Here at Photon Courier is a post about a 200th-anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar--complete with 21st-century PC trappings. It's only a couple of paragraphs so read the whole thing, but here's a teaser:

Who could be "embarrassed" about a defeat that occurred 200 years ago? And why is it "bashing" anyone to call things by their proper names?

Friday, May 27, 2005

When You Lie Down With Dogs....

Teachers, firefighters, nurses--all of us should be embarrassed, upset, and concerned by the participants in Wednesday's rally. I'm not talking about the teachers, nurses, and firefighters themselves, who were for the most part very well-behaved, but rather the "outsiders" who were allowed in as part of the rally--the Stalinists, the socialists, and various assorted other lefties. What was billed as a rally to protest specific policies of Governor Schwarzenegger turned out to be an anti-American, anti-capitalist, far-left-wing gathering.

And union dues, my union dues, helped foot the bill for it.

Now come on Darren, you're thinking. You think everyone who doesn't agree with you is a communist! And while that is somewhat true, it's also true that International A.N.S.W.E.R., an organization with a tent set up within the perimeter of the rally, is an anti-American Stalinist group. Who says? That bastion of conservative media, the New York Times. The Instapundit links to a New York Times article on them here. A.N.S.W.E.R. is not the type of organization we should want to be associated with.

And what about the socialists? I don't understand the appeal of socialism--it's certainly not what made America great, it makes a mockery of the federalism the Founders created, and it should be an affront to anyone who works hard. The extreme socialism of the Soviet Union caused that country to collapse economically, Chinese communism/socialism is giving way to capitalist tendencies, and socialism is choking economic development in Europe. I guess some people don't understand the difference between a utopian theory and lousy practice, but socialism is an example of both. Yet here were avowed socialists, carry signs and handing out newspapers at this rally. These are not the type of people we should want to be associated with.

Unions don't usually admit to being PACs of the Democrat Party, despite the fact that everyone knows they are. The last time I was in the CTA office in Citrus Heights, a calendar from the Democratic National Committee was hanging on the wall. Has the CTA every recommended a Republican for President or Governor? Still, you'd think they'd want to at least maintain the charade of non-partisanship, have some believable deniability. But apparently not. There was the local Democrat machine, registering voters at the rally. I saw no such tent for the Republicans, that's for sure.

Dozens of buses showed up, bringing in people from across the state to attend the rally. There were plenty of people from the San Francisco Bay Area, about 2 hours from here. For a rally that started at 4:00 they had to leave at 2 pm or earlier. Did their schools have minimum days? Did they all get subs? This couldn't have been a wildcat issue--there had to be coordination between those local unions and their respective school districts. Something about that just doesn't sound kosher to me.

The Governor made some mistakes, no doubt about it. I addressed them in the post identified here, but to summarize, he crafted his proposals to attack teachers and nurses instead of just their unions. That might turn out to be a strategic error, as it gave the unions something around which to rally the troops.

And then the unions chose to associate themselves with the ilk mentioned above--ardent leftists, socialists, and Stalinists. Let's read again what the NYT said about A.N.S.W.E.R.:

Answer, whose name stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, was formed a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, by activists who had already begun coming together to protest policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Some of the group's chief organizers are active in the Workers World Party, a radical Socialist group with roots in the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The party has taken positions that include defense of the Iraqi and North Korean governments and support for Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugolav president being tried on war crimes charges.

As the Instapundit said here:

Antiwar protesters aren't Communists by definition.

But A.N.S.W.E.R. and the WWP basically are. (And of the extra-nasty Stalinist variety.)

Communists are, in my opinion, as bad as Nazis: mass murder, totalitarianism, etc. (And calling them "Marxists" instead doesn't fool anyone.)

Going to a march organized by Communists doesn't make you a Communist, any more than going to a march organized by Nazis makes you a Nazi.

But knowingly going to either one makes you icky. And calling it McCarthyism when people point that out, or point out that the Communists really are Communists, makes you either dishonest, or stupid.

And allowing these people at your rally is not just poor form, it's poor thinking. When you lie down with dogs, you're going to get fleas.

To see the pictures from the rally, click here and (depending on the date you do this) either scroll down to May 27th or go to the May 2005 archives and scroll down to see the pictures.

Update, 5/28/05 10:32 am: In my May 21st post I commented on the flier I received about the upcoming rally, and also predicted what kind of rally it would be. How prescient were my words! Here is a snippet:

That'll rally people to our cause, whatever our cause is. "Bring your own sign or poster. Keep to Alliance message." What is the Alliance message? I guess it's just anti-Schwarzenegger--or, more likely, anti-capitalist/anti-Republican/anti-American.

Could I have been any more accurate? And I'm glad I followed this advice from the flier:

"Do not be provoked by taunts or insults."

Update, 5/31/05 6:37 pm: I wrote here about the CTA's socialism. I'm not making this stuff up, folks--go look at the pictures posted on 5/27. Read the quotes that I quote. See the CTA for what it is, and stop it before it's too late.

This was the first tent I saw set up as I approached the main part of the rally. It's inside the perimeter of the rally, near the SW corner of Capitol Park. What stake does A.N.S.W.E.R. have in the governor's policies? Hmmmmmm. Maybe this is more of a "left-wing" political gathering than just a protest against a few policies of a California governor.

A view of the crowd.

On the Western Lawn of the Capitol, these representatives of California's and Sacramento's Finest protect the protesters while on horseback.

These professionals are working hard to protest Governor Schwarzenegger's policies. Can you read the A.N.S.W.E.R. banner in the background?

These folks were set up within the perimeter of the rally and were thus officially sanctioned. I wonder why they're only signing up Democrats? You don't think these unions are partisan in any way, do you?

Apparently more friends of California's nurses, firefighters, and teachers--or at least friends of their unions.

News trucks were lined up all along one sidewalk and around the corner.

Here's a view from near the back of the South Lawn. As I've said elsewhere, there was a pretty good crowd of several thousand.

Lyndon LaRouche's people were there, too.

Yet another socialist handing out papers at the rally.

Two of California's finest, on duty to keep those vicious teachers and nurses in line. These are *not* the off-duty officers, one of whom taunted me, threatened me, called me vile names, and suggested various sexual activities to me.

A professional teacher demands Fairness--before picking up another Big Mac.

These papers were being handed out at a table well within the perimeter of the rally, in the same vicinity as the tables by the sponsoring unions (CTA, CNA, etc).

Here's the table where some of the socialist newspapers were being handed out. Note that it's well within the perimeter of the rally area and thus is officially sanctioned by the sponsoring unions.

Here's a small group of professional nurses, showing their white collars....

Note the A.N.S.W.E.R. sign being carried by the straw-hat guy on the right.

Organizers said 20,000 attended, news reports said 10,000. Not a bad-sized rally for Sacramento.

Here's one of the signs that International A.N.S.W.E.R. was handing out. What exactly do Governor Schwarzenegger's policies have to do with the war in Iraq, anyway?

A rookie teacher brought this sign, displaying a great sense of humor :-) I talked to him and his friends for awhile. They were a nice group of people. Since he's a rookie, though, he didn't want his face to appear in the picture.

I Have Pictures

I'll endeavor to post the rally pictures, along with appropriate commentary, tonight.

Update, 5/27/05 4:49 pm: Oh look! There they are now!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bad Cop, No Donut (A Story From The Rally)

No, this will not be my primary posting about yesterday's rally. That will come when I get the pictures back. And yes, I realize I should get my own digital camera so I can upload pictures immediately.... Anyway, this posting will be about one specific event at the rally.

Let me state at the beginning that when I was displaying my sign, I was not at the "main" part of the rally. The rally was on the South Lawn of the Capitol, whereas I was on the West Lawn. I was definitely on the "outskirts" of the rally, not trying to be an obnoxious invader hogging attention but certainly wanting to get my message across. Hundreds of people passed me on their way to the rally, though, and saw my message. Those who were civil I agreed to talk to, while those who postured or were aggressive I refused to debate.

Not too far away from me was a group of off-duty police officers. They were wearing t-shirts from a law enforcement officer union and no doubt were there, as so many other union people were, because they or their union disagree with the governor. No problem.

One of the group approached me and called me some fairly foul names. He discussed some sexual practices in which he thought I'd be interested in participating, and threatened me physically. His friends stood by and did nothing to rein in this comrade of theirs who was displaying the most serious lack of professionalism I've observed in quite some time. I finally smiled at the guy and thanked him for his offer, but stated I could find more attractive sexual partners than him. I then walked to a shady spot about 20 feet away. He did not follow me.

What is it about cops?

I have a good friend who's a cop. Having gone to West Point I understand what it's like to live in a fishbowl, where everyone scrutinizes your every move. I also understand that police work is very demanding, often bringing you into contact with some of society's not-so-savory people. I even recognize that the authority granted to law enforcement officials by the Legislature is pretty heady stuff, and that it would take Supercop not to let some of that go to your head.

That doesn't explain or excuse using foul language and/or making homophobic comments to me because I carried a sign that said "I'm a teacher and I vote Republican."

It's good that I don't know what jurisdiction that officer works in. I'll just assume the CHP, since their reputation even among other law enforcement officers is pretty bad.

Update, 5/27/05 6:05 pm: Please visit the following blogs that have linked to this story:

Update #2, 5/27/05 10:37 pm: I sent this post to my friend Mike, who currently serves as a city police officer in Texas. He gave me permission to post this comment here:

On behalf of my brother officers, I'm sorry for that idiot. But as I've said to someone about cops around here, "We have 5000 officers. If 1% are bad apples, 50 cops can do a lot of damage."

Hats off to you and those like you, Mike. You truly are the Good Guys.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I Went To The "Day of Action" Rally

I just got home from the anti-Schwarzenegger rally at the Capitol. Thousands of teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and other union types--and I was the counter-protest.

It'll take me a couple of days to get my thoughts together, get the pictures developed, etc, but I'll give you a few teaser points.
1. I went there expecting one story and got something completely different.
2. It's worse then I thought. A.N.S.W.E.R. was involved.
3. Several people were very rude and offensive to me because of the sign I carried. I stood off to the side and didn't try to draw attention--but some people thought it important to come over and offer their foul-mouthed comments. One off-duty law enforcement officer (he claimed to be one, and was wearing a t-shirt of a law enforcement officer union) threatened me physically and called me homophobic names because of my sign.
4. On one side my sign said "I'm a teacher and I vote Republican" and on the other side it said
5. Five people (I counted) came up and engaged me in civil discussion. Katherine, the Green Party person I met on the light rail after the rally, was most cordial. I spoke to people who were civil; to those who postured or challenged, I said "I'm not engaging in a discussion with you. Thank you for sharing your opinion." Other times I said, "Isn't it great that we can disagree and you don't get thrown in jail? I love the First Amendment." Those 5 civil people were certainly outnumbered by the others.

So that's it for now. I'm hot, I'm sweaty, I'm thirsty, I'm hungry--have a great night!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tomorrow's Big Rally

Joanne has a post about tomorrow's rally at the Capitol. I still hope to attend--carrying an anti-CTA sign.

And no, my school isn't releasing us early to attend the rally.

Monday, May 23, 2005

If You've Never Seen A *Real* Hate Site....

If you want to see a true example of a "hate site" on the internet, go to the link below. No, it's not a joke or satire.


The individual has a First Amendment right to have and express his opinions, but he strikes me as a very small person who misses a lot of points.

Update 6/2/05, 5:18 pm: As one commenter has noted, this site is no longer available. I'd like to know the story behind that....

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Action Day For A Better California

In my mailbox at school yesterday was a flier announcing a rally at the Capitol this coming Wednesday. Apparently teachers, nurses, and firefighters are going to be protesting something. What? The flier doesn't say.

The flier covers both sides of a piece of paper, and 2/3 of the back side is a list of "Rally Chants". Yes, this is obviously where we get to show what professionals we are. It's apparent from these chants that we're protesting against Governor Schwarzenegger, but specifically which idea(s) of his is left to the imagination.

Chant One:
We don't know what you've been told
But a nurse you'll need if you get old.
We don't know what you've been told
But public workers carry a heavy load.
We don't know what you've been told
Teachers' classrooms should not be sold.
We don't know what you've been told
But we're together and WE are BOLD.

Brings chills to the spine, doesn't it?

How about Chant Two:
Nurses, Firefighters & Teachers know:
...Corporate money has got to go!!!
Nurses, Fire Fighters (sic) and Teachers know:
...Governor Schwarzenegger's got to go!!!
We are the people and we know:
...Governor Schwarzenegger's got to go!!!

Whoever is writing these isn't much for meter, is he?

My personal favorite, however, is the two-line Chant Eight:
Governor, Governor read our lips...
We say you should tax the rich.

Nope, no class welfare or socialism in these chants!

The front side of the flier gives a schedule of events as well as "before the rally" and "at the rally" instructions, like "dress casually and don't forget the sunscreen!" Sure, we'll have a bunch of slovenly-looking banshees screaming at the Capitol. That'll rally people to our cause, whatever our cause is. "Bring your own sign or poster. Keep to Alliance message." What is the Alliance message? I guess it's just anti-Schwarzenegger-or, more likely, anti-capitalist/anti-Republican/anti-American. "[T]his is a peaceful demonstration...Civil disobedience will not further our cause." Glad to get that out there. "If approached by media and asked to make a statement, refer them to the Press Table, near the stage." What's that line from Pink Floyd about thought control?

I'm considering going and taking my own sign, but I doubt it'll have an Alliance message on it. More likely mine will say "CTA: Funded by fiat, governed through tyranny" and on the other side "This TEACHER is a proud REPUBLICAN."

Another piece of info from the flier: "Do not be provoked by taunts or insults." I'll keep that one in mind.

A Little, But Hopefully Not Too Late

In comments on the blog (and certainly in other places), some have criticized military recruiters' "dirty tricks". I don't think it's any secret that recruiters are much like the proverbial used car salesman who will sometimes (and I stress sometimes) be less than honest in order to make the sale. I can recall a recruiter who played fast and loose with the facts with me back in 1982, and my mother, at the time an Army Reserve NCO, really wanted to go have a talk with that recruiter's NCOIC (non-commissioned officer-in-charge).

Unfortunately, the military has structured the recruiting system to reward shenanigans. People are evaluated on how many soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines they sign up, and poor performance on an evaluation can hurt at promotion time. And with our "up or out" system...well, you get the idea.

The job of recruiters is made more difficult by an anti-military bias so present in a large segment of our population. It seems that 60 years of peace of prosperity has made many forget a truism of our republic:

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.

Father Denis Edward O'Brien USMC

I will not allow excuses for lying by recruiters, though. If recruiting times are tough, work harder. Honor and integrity are supposed to be valued by those in the profession of arms. We cannot look away when those values are cast aside.

So I'm heartened by one tentative step that the Army has taken. Apparently recognizing the damage that some recruiters are doing to the overall mission, the Army had its recruiters "stand down" yesterday, not recruit, and focus on the right way to do things. According to CNN:

Instead, recruiters are concentrating on ethics and rules governing recruitment.

The purpose is to refocus recruiters on their mission, reinforce the Army's core values and ensure its procedures are carried out consistently, an Army spokesman said last week.

Let's hope it's not too little, too late.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I Spoke Too Soon?

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone....
...It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiney day.

From rain yesterday to beautiful skies and a forecast high of 85 today. We're supposed to break 90 this weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

We've Been So Lucky This Spring

This year had the potential to be every teacher's nightmare--an early Easter/Spring Break, followed by 9 straight weeks of classes, followed by a 3-day weekend, and, for our district, 9 days of school after Memorial Day. Here in Northern California, the warm spring days give way to puppy love, outside activities, a reluctance to sit in a classroom and work on logarithms, and allergies.

For students, Spring Break often marks the end of taking school seriously. After Spring Break it's all downhill as the siren song of the muses of Helios, the mighty Sun God, calls to the students.

But not this year.

Today is May 19th--and it was raining today! It's rained a lot since Spring Break. I'm sure my readers in the rest of the United States are saying, "Yeah? So? Of course it rains in April!" but here it doesn't. We should all be in shorts and sunscreen now, the American River should be teeming with rafts, and the waterslides at Waterworld and Golfland Sunsplash should be filled with screaming kids and teenagers.

But not this year.

Instead we're having a spring like those I remember in New York. Heck, it's even muggy some days!

The amount of direct sunshine is directly proportional to student apathy. As a result of the weather we've had since Spring Break, most students are still hanging in there--and for this I'm thankful. We teachers got lucky this Spring.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I Don't Normally Link To The Guardian, But....

...but when The Guardian publishes a survey of Europeans' attitudes towards the French, and when these attitudes generally agree with mine, how can I refuse?

"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."

Monday, May 16, 2005

How Conservative Am I (Really)?

Your Political Profile

Overall: 70% Conservative, 30% Liberal

Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

Click above to find out!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Words For Our Time

For the last several months I've been reading Democracy In America by Alexis de Tocqueville. So famous is this work that it needs no introduction from me, and its reputation is richly deserved. Tocqueville was indeed a man of great insight.

And for such a thick book, written by an early-19th-century French aristocrat, it's an amazingly smooth read! (not bad for a dead French guy!)

Anyway, here is a passage that I thought interesting, given the times we live in:

Mohammed had not only religious doctrines descend from Heaven and placed in the Koran, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, in contrast, speak only of the general relations of men to God and among themselves. Outside of that they teach nothing and oblige nothing to be believed. That alone, among a thousand other reasons, is enough to show that the first of these two religions cannot dominate for long in enlightened and democratic times, whereas the second is destined to reign in these centuries as in all the others.

For the lefties whose shrill voices scream about President Bush and the insane idea that we in the US now live in a theocracy, wait until the Caliphate is restored. If Tocqueville is right, and I believe that he is, infer from the passage above what would happen if today's radical Islam were to dominate.

Do You Love The First Amendment As Much As I Do?

Then this story, out of--you guessed it--San Francisco, will alternately terrify and depress you. The scary part:

"The intent of this resolution is to make a clear statement that discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, weight, height or place of birth will not be tolerated in San Francisco city government," said Peskin, who himself has endured unkind comments about his short stature.

Of course, I don't have a problem with preventing discrimination and harassment. But I think we can all see where this type of legislation is headed, and it's nowhere I want to go.

From The "I Couldn't Have Said It Any Better Myself" Category....

John from Discriminations has this to say:

Ending judicial filibusters may or may not be wise, but the WaPo and many others have gotten themselves more worked up about the Senate rewriting its own rules -- which it clearly has the authority to do -- than they are when the courts rewrite the Constitution itself.

Educational Accomodations For Prospective Doctors???

I'm all about making accomodations for students with learning disabilities. Teachers do it all the time. But this story is downright scary. Here's the money quote:

The class-action suit argues that students who have trouble reading are capable of practicing medicine, but need extra time to complete the admission exam.

The attorneys who filed this case, and any judge who agrees with the quote above, should be compelled to have these doctors as their primary care physician.

Want To Get Mad Over TsunamI Relief?

Mark Steyn has this column about the confirmation of John Bolton as US representative to the UN, but it starts with a few paragraphs about tsunami relief that will anger anyone who contributed to help the survivors of the 300,000 dead from winter's ravage. Steyn's segue into the Bolton confirmation is priceless.

Nuclear Power

From Instapundit:


WASHINGTON, May 14 - Several of the nation's most prominent environmentalists have gone public with the message that nuclear power, long taboo among environmental advocates, should be reconsidered as a remedy for global warming.

Their numbers are still small, but they represent growing cracks in what had been a virtually solid wall of opposition to nuclear power among most mainstream environmental groups. In the past few months, articles in publications like Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Wired magazine have openly espoused nuclear power, angering other environmental advocates.

If you want to have a technological civilization, and not emit C02, nuclear power is pretty much the only way to go at the moment.

Hmmmmm, the New York Times agrees with Darren? Hello? Hell? How's the skiing down there?

More On Racial Discrimination

Joanne has a piece about racial discrimination--or, as it's been known since the Bakke case, reverse discrimination. It seems that the University of Oregon has reserved a majority of slots in some math and English classes for minority students. These particular classes have fewer students and provide more instructor-student interaction than would a standard course at the university.

Linda Liu, advising coordinator and academic adviser for OMAS, said the classes are meant to offer a safe haven for minority students and give struggling students a chance to work more closely with professors.

Diversity is obviously meant only for white people; evidently, the darker-skinned people are really only at these schools to serve as racial ambassadors for the white devils. I get so tired of this kind of crap. We bring in underprepared minority students into universities, create racially segregated dorms for them (Chocolate House is my favorite), create special classes for them, tell them they're threatened and need a "safe haven"--and then wonder why the cult of victimization continues to flourish.

We can segregate by race, but go nuts when people do it by gender? I'll bet John over at Discriminations (see my blogroll at the left)has some thoughts on this. Consistency is never a requirement for the left.

Update, 5/16/05 12:14pm: Kimberly at Number 2 Pencil says it best:

Why is the assumption here that minority students who are smart enough to go to college require a "safe haven" before they can perform the same classwork as other students? Will the next step be that such students require job set-asides so that they can be guaranteed of working in a "safe haven" and relieved of the responsibilities of having to work in the same structure as everyone else?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

2 Nice Things Happened Today

First, today is Teacher Appreciation Day in California. I know the rest of you had it last week, we get ours this week. Our PTSA put on a lavish spread for us at lunch, provided at the most reasonable price by a manager/owner (didn't quite get the full relationship) of a nearby Max's Opera Cafe. The PTSA picked up the tab. Turns out he and his wife were there helping serve it up, and they have two children at our school--I have the daughter in a class. The generosity displayed by the parents who set this all up, and by the "caterer", and everyone else involved, was inspiring. So, 2 thumbs up to our PTSA for putting together such a fantastic lunch. I am overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness.

Second, I met at a local Noah's Bagels after work with Dan Weintraub, reporter and blogger for the major Sacramento newspaper (free registration is required). We talked for well over an hour, and, as I am wont to do, I did most of the talking. He didn't ask very many questions, so I kept on. He wasn't taking notes or anything, but was interested in hearing from someone "unofficially". My views confirmed some of his previously-held beliefs about charter schools, responsibility, standards, etc, and I mentioned some things he hadn't heard of before. He also shared some things with me that I didn't know. I enjoyed the exchange immensely.

It was a pretty good day.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Gift (Prank) That Keeps On Giving

I keep a squirt bottle in class. Its primary purpose is for cleaning the overhead projector, but its secondary purpose is somewhat more, how shall I say this, disciplinary. Feet on the desk? Squirt. Sleeping in class? Squirt. Do something I think merits getting squirted? Squirt. It's most effective.

Students are forbidden to touch the squirt bottle. In fact, they're forbidden even to think about touching the squirt bottle. Why? Because I said so. You disagree? Squirt.

Someone has repeatedly broken the sacred rule. For this he/she should get beatings. Many, many, (pause and deep breath), beatings. A few times this year, someone has soiled the squirt bottle. He or she sticks an overhead pen in the bottle, turning the water to a pleasant shade of purple. It's dark enough to see the purple when looking at the bottle, but when the water is squirted (onto the overhead, of course) it appears clear. Therefore, it must be safe for, you know, other uses.

I allow students (from 4 of my 5 classes) to be in the room when I'm not there, such as during breaks between classes. That is when the culprit apparently makes his/her move. Nuh guh culprit.

There was almost a break in the case today. One student blurted out to me the name of the person doing it. Ah, success! He begged me not to let the criminal know who told him. Right before the end of class I called that student over. "You are so in trouble. Not detention/suspension/vice principal kind of trouble--oh no, it's worse than that. I'm onto you. I know who you are and what you do. You *will* pay. Watch your back. When you least expect it, expect it." Of course I said this with a somewhat dramatic voice, but the kid seemed a smidge concerned. What do you think I did, he asked? "You know what you did." Do you think I talked about you behind your back, he quivered? "You have your First Amendment right to say whatever you like about me. But you know what you did." At that point I put the squirt bottle on top of the overhead. "Do you think I colored the water?" he asked?

Now we're getting somewhere. "Did you?"

After more intense interrogation techniques, he volunteered the following information: someone from his class sneaks into the room between classes when I'm in the restroom, filthies the water, and then leaves the classroom to come back a few minutes later--to be above suspicion. Devious little devils, aren't they?

He said he'd tell me who it was. I declined his offer; I will find the conspirators myself. And when I do....(evil genius laugh)

Huh? Wha?

I just saw a commercial for Ambien, a prescription sleep aid. One of the side effects mentioned was "drowsiness". What? A sleep aid causes drowsiness? No way!

I'm Not The Only One Who Thinks The Kyoto Protocols Suck (or, Kyoto Post Redux)

Go here to read some commentary (and get real links) about a documentary that shows a large number of Canadian scientists don't believe that a) there's any reason to think man is causing global warming, and b) the Kyoto Protocols will do anything but cost billions.

And to think, I told you all about this here back in March!

Friday, May 06, 2005

One Bad Idea, One GREAT Idea

Some time this week was the National Day of the Teacher. We don't know much about that here in California because out here in the Golden State, next Wednesday is the coveted Teacher Appreciation Day. What's up with having a different date than the rest of the country? Bad idea.

In preparation for next week, though, I found a couple envelopes in my school mailbox. And then a couple more, and then a couple more. Turns out that one of our English teachers is doing a unit on poetry, and one of the assignments is to write a poem to your favorite teacher. The students add a cover letter explaining why they chose that particular teacher, and then the English teacher sent the letter(s) and poem(s) to us with the following cover sheet:


Congratulations on being selected as a student's favorite teacher. You are a special, hard-working educator who is making a difference.


(English teacher's name)

You are a ray of sunshine!

What a generous and thoughtful way for one teacher to make other teachers feel good! GREAT IDEA! And based on what the few students wrote to me, it doesn't seem like they they were coerced to write anything in particular, nor did their words seem forced at all. Some cover letters were succinct, others more lengthy. None of the letters or poems seemed generic, and each was geared to something specific that the student appreciated.

As honored as I am to get these, humility dictates that I cannot post my favorite lines or sentences. But I am honored, there's no way around that. These few letters and poems mean more to me than the fantastic spread our PTSA will provide for lunch next Wednesday, and that's saying a lot.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Obvious Need For Diversity

I've been a bit under the weather lately, which explains my use of more links and less personal commentary. Here's a story about a case of "reverse diversity"--that's the only way to describe it!

Schools of Education

This will be the first post on schools of education. I thought I'd give you some background reading, and then I'll switch to anecdotes. Teachers, does any of this jibe with your experiences?

From http://www.nysun.com/article/10861


According to Ms. Kramer, prospective teachers are taught little of practical classroom strategies and little academic content. There is much discussion about the ills of society, racism, and sexism, almost always slanted to the left, usually to the far left. There is a lot of hand wringing about testing, and how it destroys the self-esteem of our children.

Testing is to be avoided not just for the supposed ill effects on the children, but because "no one wants to know the actual results of these policies - whether they really help poor students, how they affect the bright and the gifted. The ed school establishment is more concerned with politics - both academic and ideological - than with learning."

Departure from this value system is not permitted. Those who dare question the prevailing wisdom of cooperative learning strategies such as the "workshop model" mandated in all New York City classrooms, risk being called elitist or racist. In this perverse world, high performance is not the goal, but something that is actually to be avoided.

Since this book is based on research done more than 15 years ago, one might hope that perhaps things have changed for the better since then. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case.

Or this, from a science professor:


Go here to read Photon Courier's description of an interesting experiment with using historical analogies. The results are both interesting and disturbing.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

10 Myths About Math Education

I've heard these myths time and again, from credentialing classes to staff development to discussions with other teachers. Here they are in one place--along with why you shouldn't believe them.

Governor Schwarzenegger's Merit Pay and Tenure Proposals

While I don't know of any teacher who thinks of him/herself as a below-average teacher, about half of all teachers outside of Lake Wobegon are below average. Is that bad? Even if every teacher were Superteacher, there still would be some Superteachers who were not as good as other Superteachers. This is what happens when you use norm-referenced criteria--someone is always on the bottom.

The question should be: is a teacher competent? If a teacher is competent, but not as good as Superteacher, that teacher should still be able to teach. Not every wide receiver in the NFL is as good as Jerry Rice (used to be), but there are certainly other wide receivers worthy of an NFL job. I have no doubt some airline pilots are better than others, but given their frequent evaluations I'm sure they're all competent. Not every choir is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but plenty of choirs hock their cd's on infomercials, so they must be good at singing.

The question becomes, how do we determine if a teacher is competent or not? And then, how do we determine if a teacher is really a Superteacher and thus reward him/her with merit pay?

Governor Schwarzenegger is backing some proposals to initiate merit pay and increase the number of years, from 2 to 5, for a district to grant tenure to a teacher. You can read the Sacramento Bee blogger's takes on those proposals here, here, and here. Said blogger, Dan Weintraub, usually has his head screwed on straight when it comes to education issues. I think he's pretty much got it right in these cases as well.

I support merit pay. I'm not convinced I'm Superteacher, although I do try, but I'd like to think there would be a financial payoff for becoming Superteacher in addition to just the psychological benefit of a job well done. Of course there are problems with certain merit pay proposals, and I discussed the subject of merit pay here.

I don't understand the governor's tenure proposal, though. Why should it take 5 years before a school district determines that a teacher is incompetent? Is it not better to make this determination in the first 2 years, rather than let 5 years' worth of students get a substandard education? What is truly accomplished by not granting tenure after 2 years?

Let me be clear here. I'm all about competence testing. In fact, I had to pass 2 fairly rigorous, and 1 not-so-rigorous, tests to become a math teacher. Of course, that was after passing the at-most-8th-grade-level California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), which doesn't test educational skills as much as it tests if you have a junior high knowledge of math, reading comprehension, and written communication. Had I received my Bachelor of Science in math here in California, instead of at West Point in New York, I would not have had to take the 3 subject matter competency tests mentioned above. Seemed a bit odd and unfair to me; every prospective teacher should take subject matter competency tests. That would establish a level of competence in the classroom; I'm not sure how you'd go about testing the ability to convey knowledge, the essence of teaching, without some kind of value-added study. Something like that would have to be worked out.

So what is the governor trying to accomplish with his tenure proposal? There's no doubt he's after the California Teachers Association (CTA), and rightfully so. I've addressed the CTA in this blog so many times that I won't even link back to the posts here, but you can find posts about the CTA in each of the monthly archives listed in the left column. I think that with this proposal, Governor Schwarzenegger has missed his target--he aimed for the union, but got the teachers instead. Making enemies of teachers not only isn't smart politically, it's just plain not smart. Teachers aren't necessarily the problem. Teachers don't determine if they themselves are competent, teachers often don't get input on curriculum, teachers often lack the authority to truly deal with students who disrupt the learning of an entire class. A teacher will try to teach, however, if the state credentials them and a school administration doesn't tell them they're doing anything wrong. Fix the kinks in the licensing program and actually expect administrators to evaluate their newest teachers, and not within 5 years. Give substandard teachers the opportunity to improve their craft. There will of course have to be some due process in place, but let's not make it so difficult to identify a truly substandard teacher (as opposed to a competent teacher who isn't Superteacher) and remove that substandard teacher.

Remember, as nice as it would be for every teacher to be Superteacher, that's just not realistic. Nor is it reasonable. But it's entirely realistic and reasonable to expect every teacher to be competent.

I don't see how the governor's tenure proposal accomplishes that goal.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Holidays In The Anglosphere

Happy Early May Bank Holiday to my (silent) multitudes of Irish and UK readers :-)

And while I'm at it, Happy Labour Day to my Queensland, Australia readers!