Education, politics, and anything else that catches my attention.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Isn't it interesting at all that I know these men's names? That in itself should say something about their stories.
Senator Durbin's recent comments have quite rightly been condemned on both sides of the political aisle in Washington, but not by the American left. Perhaps Senator Durbin and others of his ilk should read this piece, which begins
As a Marine Corps officer, I spent five years and five months in a prisoner of war camp in North Vietnam. I believe this gives me a benchmark against which to measure the treatment which Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, complained of at the Camp of Detention for Islamo-fascists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Follow Your Instructor's Instructions
Who did what wrong, and how should this issue be resolved?
Click here to find out what happens when this is no longer a hypothetical situation.
Zeroes And Grades
In this post, Kimberly talks about a periodically recurring idea of not giving zeroes when students fail to turn in assignments. The idea, no doubt created by someone who buys into the self-esteem movement, is that a zero has such a disproportionately large impact on a grade that it shouldn't be given. An average of a zero and a 100% is 50%, a failing grade, while the average of an F and an A is a C, quite the difference. So the "logic" goes. One idea is to give a 50% (F) instead of a 0% (F), thereby not penalizing students as much when final grades come out.
But what is our goal? Is our goal to ensure students get good grades, or to teach them as much as they can learn and have their grade reflect what they earned? Obviously, I agree with Plan B. Here's Kimberly's take on it:
What's more, if a struggling student knows that the difference between (a) ignoring an assignment and (b) struggling with the assignment and failing at it is a mere 10 points or so, why do the assignment at all?
The Drunk Teacher
I had a high school teacher I'm convinced was a drunk. I was convinced then, and I'm convinced now. One teacher overheard me telling another student about it and before too long I was in the principal's office getting chewed out for making such accusations against a teacher. My insistence that he check the bottom right drawer of her desk, in her purse, fell on deaf ears. It didn't matter much to me by that time, though, because I'd already transfered out of her class by the time the principal called me in.
I had, and still have, tremendous respect for that principal, who, it turns out, is a former math teacher. But I thought he made the wrong call that day.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
To The Victor Go The Spoils
Judges should be immune from the political implications of their rulings, but not the practical implications.
Quotes From Kimberly
"The notion that, somehow, children can be very educated and advanced and free-thinking and logical, yet unable to handle a test of basic reading, science, and math skills is so pervasive these days. Where did this meme come from? When did we decide that it was more important for fifth-graders to have these 'critical thinking' skills than to understand how many days there are in a year, or be able to summarize the main point of a three-page story?"
"And while we're at it, I'd like to offer $100 to the first person who can produce solid evidence (research in peer-reviewed journals, that sort of thing) showing either (a) that independent thought and curiosity are skills that cannot be taught in conjunction with the basic skills that tests measure, or (b) that measures of independent thought/curiosity are more predictive of adult success than are standardized test scores."
"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 relived of the responsibilities of having to work in the same structiure as everyone else?"
Logic, my readers, is a wonderful thing.
Monday, June 27, 2005
An Ill-Bred Professor....
The story I'm about to relate took place on my visit to the Honolulu campus of the University of Hawaii last week. It is entirely indicative of the unprofessional, ungracious, and unacceptable behavior of many professors on our college campuses, in this case the chairman of the Political Science Department at this school, a man named Jonathan Goldberg Hiller. The student who invited me to the University on behalf of the College Republicans -- I will call him Jamie -- is a political science major.
Read the whole depressing thing.
(Note: I've had this in my Inbox since April, I just never got around to posting it. Now seems as good a time as any....)
Permission To Spend Union Dues Money On Politics
Today's major Sacramento newspaper has an article about other states that have passed so-called "paycheck protection" laws. Apparently, Utah is the only state in which the law hasn't been bypassed.
Support Our Troops--With A Shredder!
And it's completely legal and perfectly fun!
Stop Government From Giving My Money To The Union
Union issues aside, the government really has no business getting directly involved in politics by helping certain private groups raise money to spend on campaigns.
Guess it's one more thing to like about Utah :) (You have to read his entry to learn what I mean by that.)
How Much Math Should A College Graduate (Teacher) Know?
In his aforementioned 1988 book Innumeracy, Paulos had this to say in the introduction:
Innumeracy, an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance, plagues far too many otherwise knowledgeable citizens. The same people who cringe when words such as "imply" and "infer" are confused react without a trace of embarrassment to even the most egregious of numerical solecisms. I remember once listening to someone at a party drone on about the difference between "continually" and "continuously." Later that evening we were watching the news, and the TV weather caster announced that there was a 50 percent chance of rain for Saturday and a 50 percent chance for Sunday, and concluded that there was therefore a 100 percent chance of rain that weekend. The remark went right by the self-styled grammarian, and even after I explained the mistake to him, he wasn't nearly as indignant as he would have been had the weathercaster left a dangling participle. In fact, unlike other failings which are hidden, mathematical illiteracy is often flaunted: "I can't even balance my checkbook." "I'm a people person, not a numbers person." Or "I always hated math."
Yet no one would ever proudly say, "I can't read."
So this takes us back to my original point: how much math should a college graduate know? And then, how much math should a teacher know?
I won't rely on the following argument: I was a math/science/engineering major and I had to take several English, philosophy, history, and other humanities courses, why shouldn't the liberal arts majors have to take some math? It's an interesting question but not really an argument. Rather, I want to discuss what a college graduate should know, and how much math even an elementary school teacher should know.
If you want to dance, go to Juilliard. If you want to be an artist, go to the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. If you want to get a college degree, you should have a well-rounded education. In fact, the liberal arts originally included math courses, but what did those Renaissance people know, anyway? I assert that high school Algebra II is not sufficient for a college graduate. But that's just an opinion.
Teachers, however, are another story. Teachers need to know more than what they teach. A third grade teacher who cannot do fourth grade math--and that includes fractions, folks--cannot adequately prepare students for the next grade. If they could, why not just have smart high school students teach elementary level math? They know plenty more than the third-graders.
It's no secret that our math and science education in this country is subpar, especially in elementary schools. Perhaps it will take another Sputnik to wake us up. They'll stay asleep in Virginia.
Number 2 Pencil reports that Virginia is eliminating the requirement for the Praxis I exam for prospective teachers because the math was too hard. Instead, they'll take a test that "will require teachers to analyze readings, write an essay, interpret tables and graphs, and demonstrate knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, all 'on a college level,' said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education." And Kimberly asks the $64,000 question: Why is no one asking why so many teachers - who are, after all, college graduates - are having so much trouble with basic math skills?
Update, 6/28/05 9:02 am: Showing that it's not just Kimberly who demonstrates logic and common sense on Number 2 Pencil, here's one of the comments from her post on this same topic:
At the risk of sounding horribly naive, it bothers me that a teacher of any subject would express antipathy towards another subject. I frankly don't want my son being taught by someone who can't pass a high school freshman math test by the time they are a college senior. If they have so little dedication to a fundamental area of learning, why should I believe they will be any better at English?
Update #2, 6/28/05 9:45 am: The best work on this subject is Liping Ma's 1999 book Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, which should be on the reading list in every teacher education school in the country. Ma posits that our elementary teachers do not possess PUFM, "profound understanding of fundamental mathematics", which involves both expertise in mathematics and an understanding of how to communicate that subject matter to students. PUFM includes the ability to not only solve a math problem, but to understand why your solution is mathematically sound (that is, to understand why the algorithm you used works) and perhaps to create a word problem which can be modeled by your algorithm and computation. She gives the example of dividing 1 3/4 by 1/2 as an example of the type of problem that stymied US elementary teachers in her studies, but that didn't trouble Chinese teachers (who often have less formal training and significantly less college than their American counterparts).
Never Dare Worse
That's like saying Xerox can be sued because people photocopy books.
It's been a long time since I got this fired up about Supreme Court decisions. This term seems to be especially bad, though; let's hope it's just an aberration. Over at Tech Central Station is an article called Can A People Have Too Much Respect For The Law? It's an interesting article.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Over the years I've gone back and forth on this issue. I think I've decided where I, as a political conservative, stand.
Update 6/27/05, 5:55 pm: Let's look at this issue from a liberal vs. conservative point of view.
If it's ok to desecrate the American flag, is it ok to desecrate a Koran?
Is there anything wrong with desecrating a Koran if desecration of the American flag is not outlawed?
Is there anything wrong with desecrating a Koran if desecration of the American flag is outlawed?
Which makes you more upset, watching people burn an American flag or hearing that American interrogators might have treated the Koran with disrespect at Guantanamo Bay?
Does your opinion change when you learn that investigations show that the Guantanamo prisoners themselves did far worse things to their Korans than has been proven against any interrogator or guard?
Consider the word "desecrate". Is it right to desecrate any object?
Karl Rove's Comments About Liberals (*NOT* Democrats)
I'll grant that Rove's parting shot about the "motives of liberals" was over the top. Still, for about five years now liberals (by which I mean most Democrats) have been running around the country with a big, broad brush calling conservatives (by which they mean most Republicans) evil, extremists, crooks, liars, thieves, theocrats, bigots, homophobes, racists, sexists, etc. and impugning their motives in any number of other ways on virtually a daily basis. Karl Rove calls liberals a bunch of sissies a single time and Democrats and the media have a collective seizure of apoplexy.
As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit would say: Heh.
A Man's Home Is His Castle
It boggles the mind.
A commenter left information about the Castle Coalition, an organization that seems focused on fighting eminent domain abuses. I've yet found no reason to believe they're a front group for Communists or any other bad guys so I joined up.
Update, 6/27/05 6:52pm: Here's the original post I wrote on the subject.
It's MIT, So It Must Be For Real
Saturday, June 25, 2005
What Age Do I Act?
You Are 28 Years Old
Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.
13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.
20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.
30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!
40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.
Did I Turn Out OK On This One?
Your Deadly Sins
Chance You'll Go to Hell: 20%
You will die at the hands of a jealous lover. How ironic.
This Isn't Me!
|Slow and Steady|
They see you as very cautious, extremely careful, a slow and steady plodder.
It'd really surprise them if you ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment.
They expect you to examine everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.
I'm Sure You've Wondered About This
Part Expert Kisser
You're a kissing pro, but it's all about quality and not quantity
You've perfected your kissing technique and can knock anyone's socks off
And you're adaptable, giving each partner what they crave
When it comes down to it, your kisses are truly unforgettable
Part Playful Kisser
Kissing is a huge game for you, a way to flirt and play
You're the first one to suggest playing spin the bottle at a party
Or you'll go for the wild kiss during a game of truth or dare
And you're up for kissing any sexy stranger if the mood is right!
Should A Company Be Allowed To Fire Someone For Expressing A Personal Viewpoint On Personal Time?
Not too long ago I read about a company that didn't want to pay such high premiums for employees' health insurance, so it required employees to stop smoking. Not just on the job, mind you, but stop smoking! Is that right? Should it be legal? Those are two very different questions.
Usually in such cases I come down on the side of the employer. The case in this article, though, is intriguing. I'm still inclined to agree that the employer can and should be able to make this decision, but that it's a stupid decision to make that may (hopefully) cost them.
Too Many Choices For Freshmen?
It isn't that these once high-performing students can't do the work. I think that for some, the discovery that they have to work harder than in grammar school surprises -- and sometimes discourages -- them. They're used to knowing everything with very little effort, so when they're faced with a tough class in high school, it throws them. Some lose their confidence; others figure -- in that screwy teenage way -- that if they never really try, they aren't really failing.
The premise of the article is to give high school students fewer, not more, freedoms and choices. Give them fewer opportunities to fail. I'm not sure I agree with the premise since it's unsupported by anything other than opinion. Still, it's worth a read.
The quote above? Couldn't be more true.
Retention vs. Recruiting
It's interesting that retention seems to be going much better than recruitment. Perhaps the view of what's going on that the troops get in the field is more positive than the view that potential recruits get from the media.
Gee, Glenn, you think?
More on NCLB And Its Military Recruiter Provision
Hagopian said parents are just becoming aware of the policy, which gives recruiters the same access to high school campuses and students' phone numbers and addresses as colleges and businesses have (emphasis mine). Districts that don't comply could risk annual federal funding.
Would it be fair for parents who want to opt out to have to opt out of all recruiter contact, military and otherwise? Or should there be boxes to check, who the information can be given to and who it cannot?
I don't disagree with the law now, but wouldn't mind at all if it were changed to give parents a choice of who could contact their minor children and who could not. As I've said in a previous post, though, I don't think recruiters should be forbidden to appear at high school campuses, and neither should they be required to turn away interested students who don't have some permission slip filled out.
My local union voted to accept a pay freeze this next year.
Friday, June 24, 2005
I wrote here about teaching anti-military "values", here about race and the Civil Rights Act among others, here about the Vagina Monologues and addressing that play at school, and here about the First Amendment. Again I ask, whose idea of social justice should be taught? My ideas about equal opportunity, personal responsibility, race relations, the proper role of government, and/or power relationships in society are much more conservative that those of many teachers--but so what? How can I use those ideas, or other teachers use their opposites, to teach logarithms and trig functions?
Enter ethnomathematics. The idea's been around for awhile, but just this week Diane Ravitch addressed it in the Wall Street Journal. Let's discuss the key points in her article.
Now mathematics is being nudged into a specifically political direction by educators who call themselves "critical theorists." They advocate using mathematics as a tool to advance social justice. Social justice math relies on political and cultural relevance to guide math instruction. One of its precepts is "ethnomathematics," that is, the belief that different cultures have evolved different ways of using mathematics, and that students will learn best if taught in the ways that relate to their ancestral culture. From this perspective, traditional mathematics -- the mathematics taught in universities around the world -- is the property of Western Civilization and is inexorably linked with the values of the oppressors and conquerors. The culturally attuned teacher will learn about the counting system of the ancient Mayans, ancient Africans, Papua New Guineans, and other "non-mainstream" cultures.
Isn't 2+2=4 in every culture? And if it's not, shouldn't we be teaching children what's going to help them succeed in our culture? Give them, as Lisa Delpit called it, cultural capital? Mathematically (not sociologically) speaking, does it matter that the Mayans invented the zero before Europeans? I think not. And the only reason we even learn Roman numerals is so we can read the copyright dates on movies, know what page of the the prologue of a book we're on, and know what Pope number we're on.
Partisans of social justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, "Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers," shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: "Sweatshop Accounting," with units on poverty, globalization, and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is "Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood." Others include "The Transnational Capital Auction," "Multicultural Math," and "Home Buying While Brown or Black." Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media, and environmental racism. The theory behind the book is that "teaching math in a neutral manner is not possible." Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students' race, gender, ethnicity, and community.
This isn't math, it's indoctrination. Ravitch is very clear here; there are those who truly believe that math cannot be taught in a neutral manner.
Ravitch brought up a comparison of some math textbooks to show how close we are to this kind of idiocy.
In a comparison of a 1973 algebra textbook and a 1998 "contemporary mathematics" textbook, Williamson Evers and Paul Clopton found a dramatic change in topics. In the 1973 book, for example, the index for the letter "F" included "factors, factoring, fallacies, finite decimal, finite set, formulas, fractions, and functions." In the 1998 book, the index listed "families (in poverty data), fast food nutrition data, fat in fast food, feasibility study, feeding tours, ferris wheel, fish, fishing, flags, flight, floor plan, flower beds, food, football, Ford Mustang, franchises, and fund-raising carnival."
While the latter book might appear more interesting, if it's not discussing factoring, it's not algebra.
How does the rest of the world teach math?
It seems terribly old-fashioned to point out that the countries that regularly beat our students in international tests of mathematics do not use the subject to steer students into political action. They teach them instead that mathematics is a universal language that is as relevant and meaningful in Tokyo as it is in Paris, Nairobi and Chicago. The students who learn this universal language well will be the builders and shapers of technology in the 21st century. The students in American classes who fall prey to the political designs of their teachers and professors will not.
I've often said that if you look at an algebra class in the best schools in any country on the planet, my guess is they're all going to look alike. They will be teaching integers, not indoctrination; math, not manipulation; solution sets, not social engineering.
Just today I took an online survey about how I conduct my classes. It asked questions like, "Do you use ethnic names and culturally relavent situations in your word problems?" Honestly, how paternalistic must one be to think that a Hispanic kid needs to see "Juan" instead of "John" in a word problem, or that he/she can't calculate the area of a circle unless it's the area of a tortilla! As Ravitch said above, math is a universal language. Word problems exist to help students translate from real-world issue to mathematical equations, solve the mathematical equation, and then see what that mathematical answer means in the real world. The exercise is mathematical, not social. Everyone hates Train A and Train B problems, but they serve their function well. Don't most cultures now have access to trains?
Some would argue, why not make those word problems socially meaningful? To which I answer with the question, whose definition of socially meaningful do you use? Should we discuss the War in Iraq with a pro-military stance, and come up with some content-rich math problems to support my political stance? My guess is that if I did that, the lefties would squeal that I should stick to math! And so I shall.
Yet we have this so-called ethnomathematics. That survey I took today asked if I teach that the Chinese discovered the Pythagorean Theorem long before Pythagoras and the boys did. Why should I? What is the point? (Granted, I bring up all sorts of facts about the Pythagorean Theroem. But I do it as an exercise in its universality, not to make Asian students feel good.) Just today on her site, Joanne had a story about a soon-to-be-required class in African and African-American history for all students in Philadelphia. One of the points that came up in the comments was, if it's history that's taught, more power to them. If it's nothing more than an attempt at making black students feel good about themselves, it'll be a useless class. One person questions "the idea that 21st century people should feel proud of what people who looked sort of like them did centuries ago, maybe." One commenter wrote:
Amen. That's not to say that history isn't important--it is. But while I'm proud to be an American, with all that entails, and I'm the beneficiary of the work the Founding Fathers did, I can't say I'm proud of that work. I had nothing to do with it. I'm just darned glad they did it.My family came from Germany originally.I take no blame for Hitler
I take no credit Einstein, Handel, Mozart, etc.That they and my great grandparents were born in the same part of the world does not automatically bring me disgrace in the case of one or pride in the case of the others. Their work to the detriment or betterment of mankind stands on its own as does my work. While I may not ever be as famous as those I have mentioned, I can take pride in the work I do whether it was as an engineer or now as a teacher.Young people need to be shown that they need to accomplish something in their own lives and be proud of that, not to be proud by dubious association with a group hundreds of years and thousands of miles removed from them.
When I can bring up something applicable, like the Arabic origin of the word "algebra", I do. But I don't make that the center of the class. Ethnomathematics. What tripe.
Nifty Quotes Relating To The Kelo Decision
"The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes." -- Thomas Paine
"I have a right to nothing which another has a right to take away." -- Thomas Jefferson to Uriah Forrest, 1787. Papers, 12:477.
"Now what liberty can there be where property is taken without consent??" -- Samuel Adams, founding father and leader of the Boston Tea Party
"Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist." -- John Adams
The Supreme Court Gets It Wrong
That sound you hear is that of the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves.
As usual, Glenn has the best roundup of opinions on the topic here, here, and here.
And John has a unique take on the potential repercussions of this decision here, where he writes in part:
Just think of the Kelo-created possibilities:
- Not enough "diversity" in the city? Piece of post-Kelo cake: just condemn a sufficient number of the Mom and Pop shops or bodegas owned by resident minorities and hand them over to owners from different ethnic groups who can provide much needed "diversity" to the sadly uniform neighborhoods.
- No diversity in the management of Ford? General Motors? Detroit and Michigan should be able to fix that in a Kelo minute.
- Residential "segregation" a problem in the suburbs? If it's legitimate to take someone's home in order to help a city's tax base or create the possibility for future jobs, surely it is legitimate to take a suburbanites home -- indeed, to take many suburbanites' homes -- in order to produce the "diversity" that has already been found to be "compelling" elsewhere.
Update, 6/24/05 1:29 pm: Here's a link to a site listing several attempts by local governments to take land away from landowners. Such theft is now openly legal in this country. You socialists who believe that business is the cause of all problems and that government is the solution--who do you think they'll give this taken land to? Hint: developers and big-box stores that will generate more tax revenue. So much for looking out for the individual, huh?
Update #2, 6/27/05 6:50 pm: Is this what it's come to now? The Congress has to pass new laws to protect rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights that the Supreme Court has now seen fit to ignore?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
My Favorite Religious Joke
"First tell me the good news."
"Your Holiness, Jesus Christ has returned to Earth--and he's on the phone and wants to talk to you!"
"That's great news!" exclaims the Pope. "What could possibly be the bad news?"
"He's calling from Salt Lake City."
Apropos of my recently completed trip....
Salt Lake City Vacation Is Almost Over
It's not crowded. The streets are wide. I'd hate driving here because the lights last forever, but that's good for pedestrians because there's plenty of time to cross the streets. It's the cleanest, quietest American city that I've ever been to. I still don't think I've seen a piece of trash on the ground. I don't recall hearing one siren or one horn.
The Mormon Temple isn't as big as I thought it would be. It's not small by any stretch, but I was expecting monstrous. It's beautiful, though; there's no denying that. I'm sure that for a long time it was the tallest building in the city, but now it's not even the tallest building in Temple Square. That honor appears to belong to the "church" (everyone here knows what church you mean) administration building, a tall office building that towers over the temple and everything else in the immediate vicinity.
It seems apparent to me that political power in this city and state doesn't rest in the state Capitol, just a few blocks up the (steep) hill from Temple Square, or in the Temple itself, but in that towering administration building in the northeast corner of Temple Square.
The closer you get to Temple Square, the geographic, cultural, political, and religious heart of this city, the more Mormons you see. They're easy to identify, what with their name tags and ID cards and all. I truly feel like an outsider, in my shorts and polo shirt, among these devoted adherents to a religion to which I cannot subscribe.
I'm struck, though, by the number of beggars and homeless here in the downtown area. For an organization as fraternal as the Mormon Church, I'm surprised there are this many needy on the streets of Zion.
I don't use that word Zion lightly. It's a big word around here. Apparently the Salt Lake Valley is the new Promised Land. I've noticed there are a few Old Testament words that are very common here, Zion and tabernacle being two of them. I can go a year or more at home in California without hearing either one (unless I'm reading another anti-Semitic attack referring to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) but you hear and see these words every day here. There's even a Zion Bank.
Reminders of the 2002 Olympics are everywhere. Even some of the manhole covers in the streets have the Olympic logo! The University of Utah served as the Olympic Village, so I'm told, and the locals are quite proud of that. It's a beautiful campus.
I went to Park City to the Olympic Park there. It's about a half hour drive from downtown Salt Lake, but a world away. It's nestled in an alpine valley, the stereotypical Rocky Mountain setting. Park City itself is very exclusive, too--big money there, especially in the winter. I can imagine what the streets must be like in January during the Sundance Film Festival, covered with snow and people in parkas crowded shoulder-to-shoulder, hoping for a glimpse of a movie star, perhaps on their way to or from skiing, latte in mittened hands. Serene, surreal.
The weather's been beautiful--brief rain in the afternoons, but plenty warm.
I like it here. I may have to return.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Here's another one from Senator Durbin, late of comparing our armed forces to Hitler's, Stalin's, and Pol Pot's henchmen--all at the same time!
By the by, what is our exit strategy for Bosnia? You remember Bosnia, the place where then-President Clinton said we'd have our troops home by Christmas? (and yes, he gave a year!) And what's our exit strategy for Europe, 60 years later?
Where did this stupid idea of an exit strategy come from, anyway? We should leave when the job is done, not a day before--and hopefully not a day after.
School Will Start Earlier Next Year
Get plenty of sleep, *and* eat a good breakfast.
Salt Lake City Is A Beautiful City
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Little To No Blogging For The Next Few Days
More On The CTA (Morons)
Anyway, Polski has a great post over at his site. He and I seem to share a similar love for the California Teachers Association. Anyway, read the post as well as the comments (17 to date)--yours truly has left a couple.
Update, 6/23/05 12:26 pm MDT: It's up to 24 comments now. If you want to read a defense of unions, read Joe Thomas' comments. I don't think his defenses stack up against the argument against mandatory union "contributions", but go see what you think.
I Wonder If They'll Learn This "History"
The Los Angeles Daily News says black activists there are demanding that a bust of Tutankhamun be removed from an exhibition of artifacts from his tomb because the statue portrays him as white.
The face of the pharaoh was reconstructed earlier this year through images collected through cat scans of his mummy. But Legrand Clegg, a historian and prosecutor from Compton speaking on behalf of the Committee for the Elimination of Media Offensive to African People, calls the reconstruction a "distortion of reality."
"They have depicted King Tut as white, but the ancient Egyptians were black people," he told the agency. He called the exhibit a conspiracy to suppress black history.********************
I'm curious how Mr. Clegg know this. Is there *any* archeological evidence that the ancient Egyptians were black? Certainly not in any of their art I've ever seen.
Why We Fight
Radical Islam is our enemy. Let us never forget what its adherents, supported by the two countries mentioned above, did less than 4 years ago. Do you remember the shock? Do you remember the horror? Do you remember how surreal it was? Do you remember that for days, there wasn't a non-military aircraft in the skies over our entire nation? How many times did you watch the video of those towers collapsing, and feel your heart sink with them?
Let us not forget that the enemy brought the battle to us and we have taken it back to him. Let us not grow weary of the sacrifices, but stay with the battle to ensure those sacrifices are not in vain. As George Patton said, let us not mourn the losses of our heroes but thank God that such men (and women) lived.
God Bless America.
I Wish My Local Union Would Split From CTA/NEA
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Test Tube Sex In A Biology Class?
Pacific Justice Institute
For Immediate Release June 15, 2005
Contact: Attorney Brad Dacus (916) 857-6900
High School Biology Class Requires “Test Tube Sex”
Claremont, CA – A standard high school biology lab on pathogens and infection became shockingly offensive when the teacher chose to present the lab in terms of promiscuous sex. The teacher’s sexualized presentation unnecessarily interjected blatant sexual role-playing into an otherwise valuable laboratory experiment.
A biology lab on pathogens and infection began with the instructor's handout which stated, "the class will engage in test tube sex and the spread of the pathogen will be measure afterward." (Sic, emphasis in original). The teacher dimmed the lights and played Barry White's Let's Get It On. "Find a student (of either sex) to exchange body fluids with," the instructions explained. The written assignment included directions to exchange body fluids and then said, “Have test tube sex with two more people (easy tiger!)…” Male students began soliciting female students to "suck my tube," which was an obvious euphemism to engage in oral copulation. One young freshman girl reported this sexual harassment to her instructor and refused to participate. Regrettably, the teacher took no action. Humiliated and outraged, the girl left the classroom and went to the principal's office.
At the request of a parent, Elizabeth Jimenez, Pacific Justice Institute filed a complaint for sexual harassment on behalf of her daughter. School officials investigated the matter and found that the allegations were correct and had occurred in several classes. They then pledged that this type of presentation will not be repeated. However, PJI is continuing to represent the family regarding possible retaliatory measures taken against the student whistleblower by school employees.
“I am outraged that the district would admit to these salacious activities but still refuse to inform parents,” said Jimenez, mother of three Claremont High School girls, including the student whistleblower. “These teachers caused students immeasurable pain as they were subjected to ugly name calling and were turned down for ‘sex’ by more popular students. Others were forced to ask students of the same gender to have test tube sex, resulting in taunting and hate speech.”
“When considering the maturity level of students at this age, it should have been foreseeable that an environment would be created which would result in traumatizing students,” remarked Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel for the Pacific Justice Institute. “The use of this type of curriculum is simply irresponsible,” continued Snider.
Many parents are unaware of their rights to prior review of their child’s curriculum and to have input into what instructional materials are used. Additionally, parents can completely opt their children out of comprehensive sex education and HIV/AIDS instruction.
If you are a student who has been placed in a hostile environment as a result of your moral or religious beliefs, please contact the Pacific Justice Institute. We will provide you with legal assistance without charge.
The Pacific Justice Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties.
P.O. Box 276600 Sacramento, CA 95827-6600
Phone: (916) 857-6900 Fax (916) 857-6902 Internet: www.pacificjustice.org
Becoming A Teacher
I myself am a product of such an alternative certification program, Project Pipeline. Rather than going to school for a "5th year", complete with classes and student teaching, that California's state universities would require, I went through Pipeline and was an intern teacher. I had an intern credential (halfway between emergency and full credentials) and went to classes at nights and on weekend while holding down my teaching job and being a single father. I did that for two years. Additionally, because I did not get my math degree at a UC or CSU school, I had to take some rather difficult subject matter competency tests to show that I know the math I was to be credentialed to teach. My first credential expires this October, after 5 years.
Pipeline was nominally affiliated with Sac State, I think, but in a way I don't truly understand. Perhaps they just needed some legal "sponsor". There are school districts that have their own intern programs (Elk Grove here in Sacramento Country, and LA Unified come to mind). Then there's the ABCTE, which is trying to create a national certification but so far has been accepted in only a few states. Teach For America was big several years ago but they've certainly dropped off the radar screen.
I support these alternative programs. Speaking only of California's university programs here, teacher credentialing programs are old, clunky, out-of-date, outmoded, and extremely biased to a certain style of teaching and belief. They have not adapted to the times. I'm not convinced they prepare their teachers for anything other than the spouting of buzzwords. My fear is that it's not only California's schools that are like this, as I wrote about here.
There are too many calls for America's ed schools to be revamped to just ignore the problem.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Canadian Health Care/Socialism
I Used To Teach Junior High (But Fortunately Not In Japan)
Kancho? Hell no!
Thursday, June 16, 2005
No misses: The Sacramento City Unified School District is celebrating Burbank High's Dylan Glover. He graduated with a 3.89 grade-point average and is going to UC Berkeley. Best of all, Dylan never missed a day in 13 years of schooling. Dylan, 17, says he didn't want to fall behind. ...
Hat tip: Miller's Time.
Don't believe me? Fine. Here's the headline:
Cheerleaders disciplined for putting feces on pizza
By the by, those anti-military brochures are no longer in our counseling office. They probably got thrown out after sitting on the table for so long. On the last day of school, though, I saw a new West Point poster in there. Yeah, beat 'em! (West Pointers will understand that last bit!)
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Stories Like This Warm My Heart
A stick-up man tried to rob a Louisiana beauty school — and ended up getting an extremely nasty makeover.
Cops say Jared Gipson, 24, entered Blalock's Beauty College in Shreveport at noon Tuesday and announced a robbery.
"I thought it was someone just playing, but then I saw that big old gun," manager Dianne Mitchell told The Times of Shreveport. "He said, 'Get down, big mama.'"
The masked robber ordered the people in the room — 18 to 20 students and teachers — to lie on the floor, leading some to think they were going to be killed.
"You'll be the first to go," he allegedly growled to one crying woman.
After collecting everyone's money, the gunman pushed the school's sole male employee, Abram Bishop, toward the back of the room — but then turned and began to run out the door.
That's when Mitchell stuck out her leg. The robber tripped over it, dropped the gun and slammed into a wall.
Bishop immediately jumped on his back, forcing the stick-up man down to the floor.
"Get that sucker!" yelled Mitchell, and the dozen and a half women present grabbed whatever they could get their hands on — curling irons, chairs, a table leg — and piled on.
"They just whooped the hell out of him," said school owner Sharon Blalock.
Crying in pain, bleeding and having soiled his pants (emphasis mine), the gunman tried to crawl away, but the angry women held on to his legs and kept hitting him until police arrived.
Gipson was charged with armed robbery and taken to LSU Hospital in a neck brace, having suffered multiple lacerations. No one else was seriously hurt.
"He got what he deserved," said student Renae Collier.
Gipson's gun turned out to be unloaded.
"He walked into the wrong place at the wrong time," one police officer told KTBS-TV of Shreveport.
"You can tell any prospective students: Blalock's Beauty College has got your back," said Mitchell.
— Thanks to Out There readers Denise B., Kori G., Ellen W. and Allen P.
A Stupid Principal With No Principles
Lots of things wrong with this story. Let's go after them one by one.
1. This principal said that the school needed 95% of its seniors to graduate in order to meet federal requirements, but in fact needed only 82% to graduate. Did she not know the correct number, or did she lie? Neither answer is very comforting.
2. This principal is obviously not aware of California Ed Code Section 49066, one of my favorite sections of Ed Code. I'll quote it here:
49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.
3. This story is a wonderful cautionary tale showing why I disapprove of Governor Schwarzenegger's initiative relating to teacher tenure. This principal could easily have threatened any teacher with 5 or fewer years of service in the district with dismissal--49066 be damned, because there's very little due process for untenured teachers. If the governor wants to dismiss bad teachers, streamline the due process requirements (which I've previously called 'undue' process) but do not get rid of them, as this initiative will. I don't trust administrators or anyone else to have that much power over others. The principal in this story doesn't have that kind of power but tried to exercise it anyway! Imagine what could be done when she's given that kind of power.
It's good that the superintendent realized that the principal was wrong in this situation and didn't try to tiptoe around that point or shrug it off. Kudos to him.
And then there was The Muppet Show, another one I didn't watch with any interest, but that merged in my memory with Sesame Street. If you asked me to recall everything I could from those two shows there would be very little. But this song, for some reason, is one I've always remembered. And as an added bonus, you get some sort of Scandinavian subtitles!
Boo-birds At The Governor's Commencement Address
As Kimberly said here, "What bothers me is that public manners have devolved to the point where young men and women attending a rite of passage as momentous as a college graduation can act like children." And what were they booing? As Captain Ed said, "...what are they protesting? The fact that Arnold has called a special election for a direct democratic vote on issues that the legislature has refused to address...."
In fact, Captain Ed's post couldn't be shorter or more to the point. Go read the whole thing.
Book About Education Myths
(Here's hoping that reverse psychology works....)
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
We Should Only Rent School Facilities To "Our" Kind Of People
A teachers' union in Seattle wants the school district to stop renting its facilities to a local pastor because his views on homosexuality create an "environment of discrimination," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Some 3,500 people regularly attend services by the Rev. Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church at Lake Washington High School in Kirkland.
The district rents facilities to about 10 local churches, and makes $140,000 a year from the arrangement with Antioch.
But the teachers union wants the deal to end, saying the district shouldn't associate with Hutcherson because he opposed a gay rights bill in the state Legislature.
The union says Hutcherson's presence at the school implies that his beliefs are condoned by the district, goes against the district's human dignity policy, brings unwanted attention to the school and promotes intolerance.
Why would a teachers' union even get involved in a situation like this. Could it be they're just on the other side of the "homosexuality issue" and want to do whatever they can to stifle this minister?
Good gawd, the man probably supports vouchers, too. Heathen!
What's In A Name
For a group so grimly determined to be outraged, one wonders why they chose to live in a city named Berkeley. The city was named after the philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), who purchased and worked slaves on his Rhode Island plantation.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Done Until August
Still, I'm done. On a professional level it wasn't the greatest of years, what with all our labor turmoil and all. On a personal level it was an "annis horibilis", one I'm glad is over.
Here's to new beginnings :-)
Michael Jackson Verdict
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Shameless Attempt To Get Hits
BRAD PITT ANGELINA JOLIE
Why do I do this? I don't even have a hit counter! Still, someone may get here because of a search for those terms above, and who knows? Maybe that person will turn into a loyal reader!
Yes, this is a joke post. Feel free to use the comment section to add other (clean) terms that might score lots of search hits.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
First Amendment Doesn't Apply To America's Universities
They obviously have their work cut out for them. Is there any other organization out there that does what FIRE does? If you know of any, please tell me about them in a comment.
Then read this book review about how often, and how blatantly, our universities and colleges ignore the 1st Amendment.
We Didn't Flush The Koran, But....
Why isn't this in this press? Are Americans supposed to be "bigger" than this? If so, and if we expect others to be offended by (false) stories of Koran desecration, isn't that a very paternalistic view of non-Americans in general and Muslims in particular?
The hypocrisy of the mainstream media continues to surprise me, although it shouldn't.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Diverse Points Of View (As Long As They Agree With Me)
Here's an interesting twist on that story. This guy doesn't believe in bilingual education so he was "uninvited" to speak at the former CSU Hayward (now CSU East Bay) graduation. No one knows what he was going to speak about--no, it's enough that, as a Hispanic, he doesn't support affirmative action or bilingual education, so he won't be speaking.
Here's some wisdom from the article:
"I'm a bilingual educator," said student Leah Perez, 32, who is graduating with a master's degree in urban teacher leadership and protested Rodriguez's presence at the graduation. "He believes in assimilation and rejection of one's cultural identity, and we don't feel that is what we stand for in our program, and we don't want him representing us."
Who says he's representing you? You don't even know what he's going to say. Apparently he's an accomplished author, not a propagandist, who doesn't just shoot his mouth off about his politics, but writes about it. But because he thinks differently that some of the students, that's enough to threaten a boycott of the ceremony. Brilliant. And these same "educators" no doubt believe that education should be for "social justice" and that students should develop "critical thinking" by experiencing "other points of view".
Campus spokesman Kim Huggett said Rodriguez was slated to receive an honorary doctorate degree and then speak briefly. But those plans were scuttled by Rodriguez after campus President Norma Rees received several e- mails in the past week threatening a protest boycott. It was unclear Wednesday how many students had threatened to boycott the ceremony.
I would like to think that this man is decent enough that he would have accepted his honorary degree graciously, given a pithy and worthy address, and then sat down. But we'll never know, will we?
Fortunately, there is a bit of good news. The university didn't ask Rodriguez to bow out, he did so on his own. And the campus President supports him as speaker, but respects his decision.
"It is a sad situation. You hear about this at other universities," Huggett (campus President spokesperson) said. "We are a university that has always prided itself on the expression of free ideas. The sad part is people doing this based on a book they haven't read."
Go read the whole thing and lament the fact that the whiners involved will be teaching children.
Update, 6/11/05 9:07 am: Debra Saunders has a great article about this situation. Here's a paragraph that spoke to me:
I take what happened to Rodriguez personally, because while he is getting flak from the left, I experience the same nasty censoriousness from the far right. If you stray from a certain set of opinions, the posse of extremism goes a-hunting. You see, no pundit is allowed to think that, just maybe sometimes, folks from another political persuasion have a point.
Update, 6/24/05 1:42 pm: Joanne has more commentary here.
Where do I start? I've wanted to say this for a long time. It is unbelievable that America gets badmouthed all the time. America has helped the cause of freedom more than anyone else. First of all I'd like to thank America for saving Australia's butt at the Battle of the Coral Sea in WWII. This prevented the Japanese from landing here, and bringing with them the concept of "comfort women". I think Australia's nature is such that we would have sacrificed 90% of our population rather than hand over any woman. America's intervention meant that we were never required to make that terrible choice. Thanks America!
And then there's the fact that you give money to others in the event of a natural disaster, such as the Tsuanami, regardless of race or religion, yet no-one ever gives you a dime when you have a natural disaster. Both the government and the people individually have unmatched generosity. And even rich people in America tend to give their money to charities instead of passing it on to their kids, like people in most other countries. Thanks America!
And then there's the fact that after 9/11, instead of nuking the entire Middle East in response, you instead freed 52 million people from state-slavery/holocaust/institutionalized rape, and then poured BILLIONS into those countries, on top of the BILLIONS that the war cost itself, plus the sacrifice of your countrymen. All while everyone is accusing you of stealing oil. I don't know why these ingrates don't thank you for all you have done. Maybe it's because they're ingrates? Maybe with education their children will thank you. Just like European children thank you. Hmmmm. Hmmmm. Nevermind about that. Let me thank you instead. Thanks America!
As they say, read the whole thing.
Why I Dislike Socialism
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End
Actually, our late ending date comes from having an entire week off at Thanksgiving, two weeks off at Christmas, an entire week ("Presidents Week") in February, and a week off for Spring Break. Not quite the academic rigor you were expecting, is it? But those breaks sure are nice, especially the February one, coming as it does during ski season.
I gave my last final yesterday. I posted grades today, and already I'm dealing with the student tears and parent demands for justification. Ah, the perks of teaching in a well-to-do area. And having taught in a not-so-well-to-do area, I'm well aware that I'd rather have these types of issues than the ones there. Still, I'm thankful for Ed Code Section 49066.
As this year winds down, we received the tentative master schedule for next year. Instead of teaching three different courses, as I've done for the last two years, I'll only be teaching two--two Algebra 1's and three Pre-calcs. I'm kind of sad that I won't be teaching Algebra 2, my all-time favorite, but that sadness will be more than offset by having to prepare for only two courses.
I haven't started clearing out my room yet. It'll be used for summer school, so I have to have all my stuff off the walls and my personal effects secured. With all our contract strife earlier in the school year we teachers will have to work one more day after school's out, and I'll go in next Monday and take care of things like that. Then I have the lengthy process of checking out; we have a very long checklist that requires many signatures. Starting school in August isn't near as difficult as ending in June.
I'd like to talk about some of my students, their struggles and successes, but I'm wary of privacy concerns. Most of the struggles turned out ok, and for that I was heartened. To my seniors I wish the best of luck--you're embarking on a most amazing journey, come back once in awhile and tell me how much you're enjoying it. To my underclasses--come by and say hi next year, and not just in August and September.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Initiative Calling For Universal Preschool
Here's an interesting paragraph:
We don't need this. Preschool is already more "universal" in California than you might think. Somewhere within that patchwork are an estimated 70% of all the 4-year-olds in the state — about 63% in preschool centers, and a handful in family child care. The universal-preschool crowd hopes to raise that to 80%. So to get an additional 10% enrolled, taxes would pick up the bill for the other 70% as well. California's nonuniversal system already covers a bigger percentage of its 4-year-old population than Georgia's universal pre-kindergarten system, now in its 12th year.
And since I'm no fan of Rob Reiner (I usually agreed with Archie when they argued--Reiner *is* a Meathead), I'll link here to this article called, appropriately enough, Fisking Meathead.
Politics and Education In The Same Post
And Chimpy McBushitler (did I get all the bashing right, you lefties?) was the dummy and Horseface (or the other end, as it turns out) was the nuanced intellectual? Well, that's not what the transcripts bear out :-)
And ladies, of the two pictures shown, which one would you want to date?
Monday, June 06, 2005
Supreme Court Rules Against Marijuana Use
As a political conservative, I'm usually all over the "states' rights" and "enumerated powers" arguments. However, since the New Deal we've effectively thrown those beliefs out, and I refuse to accept them on a piecemeal basis only when they support the position of someone who normally doesn't believe them.
I also support the legalization of marijuana. As someone who's been known to consume an adult beverage every once in awhile, and more often than that in my younger days, I don't see how pot is any worse than rum in its effects, addictiveness, etc.
But I do believe in the primacy of federal law. States cannot make laws that conflict with federal law.
And do we support the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or not? If they say a medicine is not approved for use in the United States, then no doctor in the country can prescribe it. There are plenty of medicines available in other countries, both over-the-counter and under-the-counter, that are not legal in this country. No doctor in any US state can prescribe them.
But for some reason, people think it should be different with marijuana.
It's only grown and distributed in California, say the plaintiffs in this case, and hence it doesn't come under Congress' power to regulate under the interstate commerce clause. But if that's the case, then what is the point of the FDA? Or should people be allowed to have meth labs in their houses?
The states cannot go vigilante and write laws in violation of federal law just because they want to. The correct approach is to sue the federal government over a perceived unconstitutional law or to work to have Congress change the federal law. Anything else makes a mockery of our federal system.
I'd support the medical marijuana law if marijuana weren't a banned substance. What a mess.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
I'll Take Buzzwords For 1000, Alex
Maybe we could make a game out of finding as many as we can! One biggie I haven't found is "stakeholder".
Dr. T. Roger Taylor
A Five-Day Curriculum Writing Institute
Differentiating the Curriculum:
Using an Integrated, Interdisciplinary, Thematic,
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Friday, June 03, 2005
Could I Agree Any More With Kimberly?
Kimberly has it right when she says
Note that the school board members are not quoted as having serious reservations about the quality of education that minority students were receiving at Davis schools, nor about the quality of home life or culture that could be affecting those students negatively, or about anything else that might be the cause of the racial disparities on the GATE admissions assessments. The school board members are not stopping to ask themselves if they really understand why Asian students are six times as likely to be identified as ready to enter a gifted program as Latino students.
Nay, it's all about the admissions assessment and the resulting racial balance, and what the board members are saying here it is more important to admit certain minority students under lower standards than it is to inspire all students to meet higher standards.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The War On Morons
Hey Anonymous, see yourself in that essay anywhere? No? Look again.
Not Beating Around The Bush
I teach at a school in a well-to-do neighborhood. Yes, my Kia really is the most inexpensive car in the parking lot. I'm glad that district in the story mentioned above isn't mine.
Today I was reminded (in a very thoughtful way) that I have students who read this blog. Good! Pay close attention to the following 3 words:
It's not like I'm asking every student for such a car. I have over 150 students--each of them could kick in a few bucks and we'd have it taken care of. Heck, some of these kids wouldn't even miss that money, based on the Acuras and Avalanches they're driving to school.
I used to drop subtle hints that I've never been to the Bahamas (hint hint). One student even decorated a paint can for me to use as a Send Mr. Miller To The Bahamas Fund. Perhaps I should put the can out more often, considering that I have only about $8 or so in it. And maybe my hints were too subtle in the past. They apparently didn't work, since I've still not been to the Bahamas.
I won't make that mistake now.
The "check engine" light is on in the Kia. That probably means one of the squirrels on the treadmill is sick. This is a bad thing. Don't you want a math teacher who has a cool car? Don't you think your math teacher deserves a cool car? Aren't you yet sick of hearing me talk about the Kia?
Get me a freakin' Mercedes hardtop convertible. And no, I won't trade you an A for the car; that would be unethical.