Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Treasure Trove

My father's parents met in England during WWII--my grandfather, an aircraft mechanic for the 8th Air Force, and my grandmother, a sergeant in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (women's branch of the army). Whenever nana told me about her WWII service she always mentioned that as a sergeant, she even drilled the men (apparently being in charge of training men was quite an accomplishment for a woman in those days). I have the v-mail that grandpa sent home to Pennsylvania telling them that he'd met a new girl--grandpa was quite the player back in the day! He and nana were married a few months later, in early 1943. Shortly thereafter, nana left the service because she became pregnant with my dad.

It was over 18 years later, in 1961, after grandpa retired from the Air Force, that they bought the first and only house they ever owned. They bought it new. Grandpa died nine years ago, and about a year ago we put nana in an assisted care facility because of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. I bought their house last August.

Tonight my father told me that in an effort to secure some government benefits for nana, he needed grandpa's Air Force discharge papers and a copy of nana and grandpa's marriage certificate or license. He was sure they were in grandpa's footlockers out in the garage. I looked.

I found no records of any kind. What I did find was pictures. Hundreds, probably thousands of pictures. I must get this trait from my grandparents--a large percentage of them are labeled on the back. I knew there were pictures in there, but I never dreamed how many.

I found pictures of grandpa as a child of dirt poor farmers in Pennsylvania--no wonder he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. I found pictures of my nana as a sergeant, complete with the other NCOs in her unit, even though she once told me that the English told her the records of her service must have been destroyed in the war because they can no longer be found. I found pictures of my dad and uncle as children. There was a family Christmas card picture from the late 50s, and pictures of my parents' wedding (they married and divorced so young that I don't even remember their being together).

I found pictures of me. Lots and lots of pictures of me. I'm the oldest of five grandchildren, but that alone doesn't account for the overwhelming percentage of pictures of me in there.

And I found several pictures of the house. The living room, the family room, the kitchen and dining room--I remember the flooring, the furniture, the decorations on the wall. A chronicle of 60s and 70s interior design. There are views down the street--and there's not a tree to be seen in some pictures, but today there are huge trees in front of the houses. The disgusting gray-blue exterior color of this house, probably 4 color schemes ago. The back yard, which dwarfs my tiny body in the pictures but doesn't look so big today.

I'm sure there are other boxes with other records out there. I'll keep looking. Who knows what I'll find.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Graduating From High School

I was going to write about this LA Times article, but Joanne (see blogroll at left) has already taken care of it. Then again, that's never stopped me before, so here's my take.

California requires the passing of Algebra I (an 8th grade course, according to our state standards) as a requirement for graduation, in addition to getting 220 credits, passing 4 years of English and 2 years of math, the passing of the exit exam (Class of 2006 is the first, finally!), etc. The LA Times has written about how horrible it is that diplomas are being denied students whose only problem is the fact that they can't pass Algebra I by the time they're 17 or 18 years old. Joanne offers some more details and commentary, including what's done at Downtown College Prep in San Jose, which, not so coincidentally, is the subject of her book Our School. One of Joanne's commenters hits the nail on the head:

The header for this article reads in part, "Because they can't pass algebra, thousands of students are denied diplomas." It seems to me that the students who do not receive diplomas are not being "denied" said diplomas, but they in fact have failed to earn them. Failure to learn this lesson at an early age only reinforces an entitlement ethic and sets these young people up for failure and bitterness as they progress from high school to the working world. A diploma that means nothing is worth exactly the same, nothing.

The real problem isn't that the students can't pass algebra, it's that in some cases they haven't been prepared to pass algebra. Granted, some don't help themselves (like the girl who missed 62 out of 93 days in the semester), but a healthy share of the problem seems, to me, to be this observation:

At Cal State Northridge, the largest supplier of new teachers to Los Angeles Unified, 35% of future elementary school instructors earned Ds or Fs in their first college-level math class last year.

Some of these students had already taken remedial classes that reviewed high school algebra and geometry.

Don't be so surprised. And the NEA and CTA want to keep American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence from providing alternative teacher credentialing here in California while keeping our state university programs in tact, focused on fuzzy, and patently irrelevant. Way to go, unions.

I'm a math teacher and I can write reasonably well, my spelling is rather exceptional, and my reading abilities are at a level at which I can comprehend college texts. A college graduate in any subject who cannot pass underclass high school math is unworthy of teaching our nation's children--and you can quote me on that.

Update: click here to see my latest post, and how it relates to this one. Appropriately enough, it's called When Are We Ever Gonna Have To Use This? And I answer the question. Kind of =)

Intellectual Diversity on University Campuses

Some legislators in South Dakota are considering having the six state universities in that state to report periodically on their efforts towards achieving "intellectual diversity" on their campuses. Full article here.

What a great way to throw the lefties' own mantra back in their faces! Diversity is so all-emcompassing, so important that it's a "compelling state interest" that justifies affirmative action, that it's about time someone added intellectual diversity to skin color diversity. Put simply, the idea is to see if the English and Social Science Departments are 90% liberal and if there's any effort at all to have professors across the political spectrum.

Some would say that instructors' political views have no place in the classroom. Perhaps, but that's not reality anymore (if it ever was). And with tenure protections of university professors being even stronger than those of public school teachers, good luck getting rid of professors who politicize their classes, or even having them turn down their polemics.

Rep. Mike Buckingham, R-Rapid City, said the measure is not aimed at any political viewpoint.

“It’s not about liberal or conservative, and it is not an attack on the education system,” Buckingham said. “It is just an affirmation of what education could consist of.”

Hear hear!

"But wait!" you say. "You wrote previously that you talk politics with high school students all the time! You're being hypocritical!" No, silly goose, I'm not, and thank you for linking to another of my posts in your rant. =) I discuss politics sometimes, but I don't politicize my class. Students are not required to agree with me, nor are their grades at all affected by their beliefs. And based on many of these conversations, I doubt I have students afraid to share their ideas because they differ with mine!

But back to the South Dakota proposal. Here's more on it from the first link above:

HB1222 would require each institution under control of the Board of Regents to report annually to the Legislature “on steps the institution is taking to ensure intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.” It defines intellectual diversity as “the foundation of a learning environment that exposes students to a variety of political, ideological and other perspectives.”

HB1222 says the reports may include steps taken by each institution to:

* Conduct a study to assess the current state of intellectual diversity on its campus.

* Incorporate intellectual diversity into institutional statements, grievance procedures and activities on diversity.

* Encourage a balanced variety of campus-wide panels and speakers and annually publish the names of panelists and speakers.

* Establish clear campus policies that ensure that hecklers or threats of violence do not prevent speakers from speaking.

* Include intellectual diversity concerns in the institution’s guidelines on teaching.

* Include intellectual diversity issues in student course evaluations.

* Develop hiring, tenure and promotion policies that protect individuals against political viewpoint discrimination and track any reported grievances.

* Establish clear campus policies to ensure freedom of the press for students and report any incidents of student newspaper thefts or destruction.

* Establish clear campus policies to prohibit political bias in student-funded organizations.

* Eliminate speech codes that restrict the freedom of speech.

* Create an institutional ombudsman on intellectual diversity.

Where did they get the ideas for these multiple suggestions? Why, these problems have all occurred at campuses across the country, usually with conservatives on the short end of the stick. Check out the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for stories that'll sicken you, or watch Brainwashing 101 (link here). Liberal bias in academia is not a problem I'm making up.

Perhaps, if California had such a system in place as South Dakota is contemplating, UCLA wouldn't be having the problem of having conservative alumni resorting to "outing" ultra-liberal professors.

The British Are Just Losing It

I've always thought of the British as a logical people, stoic and with a dry sense of humor. The Monty Python and the Holy Grail quote, "It's only a flesh wound", exemplifies that belief.

Then political correctness invaded Britain. Baa Baa Black Sheep was changed to Baa Baa Green Sheep. Can't say anything bad about anyone or the Metropolitan Police will investigate you for hate speech. A minority officer sues because he was promoted via affirmative action but wasn't competent enough to guard a royal and had to be reassigned.

I never thought I'd see British education go down the tubes, though. Here's what's happened at one school. Yes, it's only one school, but that's where it starts. Here in the US, the push to use purple pens instead of red pens for grading didn't spontaneously spring up across the country.

And no, this isn't the only sign of a downhill slide in British schools.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I love Craigslist. Sold my camper van via a free ad there. It's a great site.

And yes, it's hurting the classified ads money of several newspapers. But why must this reporter take every opportunity to make fun of Craig's physical appearance or social interactions? That's just freakin' rude.

Dealing With The Characteristics of Gen X and Millenial Employees

Via Photon Courier (see blogroll at left) comes this story about how employers are dealing with Gen X employees and their--how shall I say this delicately?--interesting attributes. Here's a sample:

A 22-year-old pharmaceutical employee learned that he was not getting the promotion he had been eyeing. His boss told him he needed to work on his weaknesses first. The Harvard grad had excelled at everything he had ever done, so he was crushed by the news. He told his parents about the performance review, and they were convinced there was some misunderstanding, some way they could fix it, as they'd been able to fix everything before. His mother called the human-resources department the next day. Seventeen times. She left increasingly frustrated messages: "You're purposely ignoring us"; "you fudged the evaluation"; "you have it in for my son." She demanded a mediation session with her, her son, his boss, and HR--and got it. At one point, the 22-year-old reprimanded the HR rep for being "rude to my mom."

It's one thing to have a parent tell me that I have it in for their kid, but for a parent to say that to a human resources director about their adult child? At work? Amazing!

An Apparent Win For The Good Guy (Who Has An Apparently Bad Disposition For Teaching)

Previously I've discussed the concept of "disposition", and how ed schools now seem to take prospective teachers' political beliefs into account before, or sometimes after, admitting them. Here's the story of the long legal battle waged by a student who was kicked out of college for expressing support for corporal punishment.

McConnell’s ordeal began with a November 2004 assignment in which he advocated, as part of an ideal classroom, an environment “based upon strong discipline and hard work” and that could include “corporal punishment.” McConnell earned an “A-” for the paper. But in January 2005, Education Department Chair Cathy Leogrande summarily dismissed McConnell, citing a “mismatch between [his] personal beliefs regarding teaching and learning and the Le Moyne College program goals.” At the time he was dismissed, McConnell had achieved a grade-point average of 3.78 and had received an “excellent” evaluation for his work in an actual classroom.

I guess the school was saying, "He's not like us. He's not our kind."

It's All About The Kids--In Florida and Wisconsin

From the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Page:

What the Milwaukee and Florida examples show is that unions and their allies are unwilling to let even successful voucher experiments continue to exist. If they lose one court case, they will sue again--and then again, as long as it takes. And they'll shop their campaign cash around for years until they find a politician like Jim Doyle willing to sell out Wisconsin's poorest kids in return for their endorsement. Is there a more destructive force in American public life?

Jews On The Left

I've often wondered why Jews in the United States are a reliably Democratic constituency when so much about them screams Republican--support for Israel, for starters. How many times do we hear anti-Semitic comments from lefties versus those of us on the right?

Finally, it seems I'm not the only one wondering.

The long-entrenched Leftist loyalties of most Jews are badly letting them down now that the Left and the Islamic extremists are cosying up to one-another.
How's anti-Semitic Cindy Sheehan, the darling of the left, doing today? Or perhaps I should say Senator Sheehan? Gawd.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

As A Company, Google Sucks

Last spring the news hit the blogsphere that Google News wouldn't list the blog Little Green Footballs as a "legitimate news source" but had listed several radical web sites, including neo-Nazi ones. Now comes word that Google, like Microsoft before it, is going to help the Communist Chinese government keep Chinese citizens out of certain sites.

Google cooperates more with the Chicoms than it does with the US government (see previous link). Sad.

PS I wonder if they'll shut this blog down? After all, Google owns Blogspot.

Update: Here's more.

Making A Fool Of Yourself On The Internet

James Lileks is as much a pleasure to read and listen to as is Mark Steyn--I see why Hugh Hewitt has both of them on his radio show weekly. Here's a little sojourn into James' writing. Some of my former readers/commenters (I guess they've given up trying to change my little corner of the internet) might recognize themselves in this piece.


Rob Reiner wants universal pre-school in California. Maybe he should read this article from Joanne's site (see blogroll at left).

Well, maybe he shouldn't. Facts never seem to trouble lefties.

Teaching, or Indoctrinating?

Some who know me would question how I could have such a post title given that my students know my political bent. Granted, some probably think I'm a far-right-wing fanatic when I really a center-right small-l libertarian, but at least they know that John Kerry and I don't share many political beliefs. Anyway...given that they know my political leanings, could it be said that I'm indoctrinating them? To paraphrase John Kerry, "would that it were true." Damn, I can't come up with that line he said that made him sound oh-so-elite and oh-so-snobbish and oh-so-pathetic. If anyone knows what quote I mean and can come up with a citation I would be oh-so-grateful.

No, I don't indoctrinate. I use my views as part of my shtick, part of my rapport with students. Several have told me they've never had a "Republican" teacher before and like knowing that they finally do. Others like to sharpen their liberal fangs on me. Some actually start to question their own beliefs, one way or another, and some comment on this blog. And this all happens in "down" time--it's no excuse not to learn the day's math! So I teach math, discuss politics (often individually with students) and things seem to move along nicely. And lest anyone think that perhaps I subconsciously discriminate against my leftie students, past or present, I'll let their grades speak for themselves. I grade on demonstrated math skills and nothing else.

Does this teacher cross the line into indoctrination? There's a good "yes" argument to be made.

What is the context? Is it merely to educate? How does making people lie down on the floor do that in any way? Slaves were whipped, sold at auction, and even castrated. Should these things also be reenacted? Why? To "teach" students that slavery was wrong?

There's something about making a kid do stuff like that which crosses a certain line, and I'm not sure why. It just strikes me as invasive of the students' personal dignity and going beyond education. It's as if they're deliberately playing with children's emotions...

I agree that slavery and the Holocaust were profound atrocities, but is it really fair to call them Western culture? And if they are moral equivalents, why shouldn't the Holocaust be reenacted too? There's no reason why the dimensions of gas chambers or killing pits couldn't also be taped on the gym floor, with students made to pretend to die like Hitler's victims, but I suspect that the school wouldn't have allowed that. Again, I'm not sure why.
I love the book Eyewitness To History (ISBN 0-380-70895-7). You can read first-hand accounts of all sorts of historical events, including atrocities and tragedies, without being made to feel guilty for them.

The Danes--Still Tough After All These Years

Socialism, among other ills, had made the Europeans into milquetoasts--but here, at least, the Danes are showing some backbone, and GOOD FOR THEM!

Are they truly the people who will face down the ignorance and intolerance of the Muslim world? And is our government really not going to stand with them?

This was last September and the Muslims aren’t letting this issue go away. They’ve already lodged a somewhat florid protest at the UN, where they got the sympathy of a tranzi ear or two. But their aim is an abject apology from Denmark for breaking an Islamic taboo - or else. They grow more threatening and the courageous Anders Rasmussen calmly declines to change his mind, saying publishing cartoons is not against Danish law, which is the law that applies in Denmark.

Why are our cowardly leaders letting the steadfast Mr Rasmussen and the newspaper’s editors take the heat alone? Why has not one American Congressman raised the issue in Congress? No one would expect an unequivocal response from the British prime minister, but is there not one British MP brave enough to support Mr Rasmussen and the Danish people who are, after all, defending the liberty of all of us? Is there not one newspaper editor – even a tabloid – with the strength of conviction to support the Danes? Now Danish livelihoods are being threatened for failing to condemn this infraction against Islamic law, with boycotts of their products.

Makes me wish I used butter, cheese, and whatever else the Danes export. For the nothing it's worth, Right On The Left Coast stand with the Danes. The cartoons can be seen here.

And ladies, here is some advice from the people offended by those silly cartoons. I especially like the section on intercourse.

Remembering Challenger

Has it really been 20 years already?

There are a few events that get seared, seared into your mind in life. This generation, and of course every generation before it, will remember September 11, 2001. It was amazing, awe-inspiring, sickening, frightening, surreal.

The first such event for my generation was probably Challenger.

I remember it so clearly....

It was my junior year. I was walking back to the barracks after class, and everyone I passed had his head hanging low. This is highly unusual at West Point because we're taught to walk with chins up, eyes ahead, and to greet everyone we pass. After I passed a few such people, who returned my greeting with the most unimpressive and dispirited "hey", I asked someone what had happened. "The space shuttle blew up."

I ran into the dayroom in the barracks and watched the launch over and over again. When there was almost no time left until lunch formation, those of us there darted out. Lunch that day was almost silent--everyone, even the plebes, had already heard. I didn't have a class after lunch so I ran to an empty classroom and turned on a television and watch the news reports. Again and again I saw that y-shaped cloud. It wasn't real, it couldn't happen.

My next class was an elective, Physics of Modern Weapon Systems. The instructor had worked at more than one of our national laboratories and assured us that the crew had died instantaneously--the explosive power of that much of that type of fuel would have been in the kiloton range, and the shock wave would have been so powerful and fast that the end was quick and merciful for the seven astronauts. That knowledge gave me some solace.

Over the course of the next several months and years, though, information came out and contradicted that so-called fact. When I heard that the handles for the manual oxygen had been found in the "full on" position, and the only way that could have occurred was if they had been manually turned, my heart sank. I was glad when that transcript of voice recordings, which made its way onto the internet in the early 90s, was found to be a total hoax. Still, knowing that something like that could have been true wasn't pleasant. How could my instructor have been so wrong?

A few years ago I found out how.

I bought a dvd that included, among other things, the findings of the Challenger Commission. On this video are closeups of the "explosion"--in one part you can actually see one of Challenger's braking parachutes sailing through the cloud. The video shows the launch and flight close up from several different angles, and also shows where additional cameras would be mounted on later flights to give a better view of critical components. There were also detailed explanations--including how the crew survived the initial damage and probably were alive until they hit the ocean.

See, Challenger didn't explode. What you think you saw in that day, and all the times since, isn't exactly what you saw. We all remember the freezing temperatures that caused the O-rings to fail. The NASA video explains that the O-ring failure caused flames to shoot out of the side of one of the solid rocket boosters, weaking at least one of the bolts that connected one of the SRBs to the external tank (the big thing on which the shuttle sits). Eventually, that SRB started rocking back and forth since it was no longer securely held to the tank. That movement, and the stream of flame emanating from the SRB, weakend the tank. Given the aerodynamic stresses it was experiencing, the tank essentially ripped apart. The shuttle did as well. All of the fuel in the tank, much of it liquid oxygen, became a huge vapor cloud when released into the atmosphere. That, and the smoke trails from the two solid rocket boosters, is what we saw that day.

There was no explosion, no shock wave, no instantaneous death. All evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that the crew members knew that the orbiter had been destroyed and were aware of their fate--during the entire time of the fall, until the crew compartment crashed into the Atlantic.

I'll never forget the words from Shuttle Launch Control, spoken as live spectators and the whole world were seeing that sickening cloud: "Obviously a major malfunction--we have no downlink. We have a report from the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded. The flight director confirms this." Over and over again we saw that video, and over and over again we heard those same words. No one could believe it.

This post is in honor of those seven astronauts, whose names I haven't forgotten: Commander Scobee, pilot Mike Smith, Judy Resnick (who can be seen on the IMAX video To Fly on earlier missions), Ron McNair, Greg Jarvis, El Onizuka (for whom Onizuka Air Force Base, the Blue Cube, in Sunnyvale, California was named), and teacher Christa McAuliffe. Touch the face of God for me.

Update: Commenter Kevin has created a musical tribute to the Challenger and Columbia crews here. Understated, and well done. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

Update #2: From this site we get more details about how Challenger was destroyed. This explanation is clearer than what I described above:

Myth #2: Challenger exploded
The shuttle did not explode in the common definition of that word. There was no shock wave, no detonation, no "bang" — viewers on the ground just heard the roar of the (shuttle's) engines (not the solid rocket boosters) stop as the shuttle’s fuel tank tore apart, spilling liquid oxygen and hydrogen which formed a huge fireball at an altitude of 46,000 ft. (Some television documentaries later added the sound of an explosion to these images.) But both solid-fuel strap-on boosters climbed up out of the cloud, still firing and unharmed by any explosion. Challenger itself was torn apart as it was flung free of the other rocket components and turned broadside into the Mach 2 airstream. Individual propellant tanks were seen exploding — but by then, the spacecraft was already in pieces.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This Week's Carnival of Education

It's here.

Pro-Gay Posters In The Classroom

Joanne (see blogroll at left) has an interesting story: certain teachers in San Leandro don't want to hang pro-gay posters in their classrooms because they say doing so would be against their religious beliefs. Education Intelligence Agency (see blogroll at left) has interesting comments as well: will the union back the teachers or the leftie pro-gay crowd? Seems like the union's in a bit of a pickle here!

I'm conflicted on this one. One one hand, the school board created a policy that says the poster must be displayed in the classroom. I'm all about following the rules. I always say that the schools are governed by the voters through their elected school board and teachers are public employees--as such, we have to follow the rules, like them or not.

However, is there merit to the teachers' claims that this policy forces upon them a violation of their religious beliefs and is therefore a violation of the 1st Amendment? I'm sympathetic to that argument.

This is truly a conundrum. Gay tolerance posters? While there are few more gay-tolerant than I, this seems a bit excessive to me--even in the SF Bay area! Why should we single out gays for tolerance? Are there no other groups that might merit tolerance but gay students--and in the SF Bay Area, no less??!! This Board policy strikes me as promoting a specific agenda that is so narrowly tailored that it's designed to cause problems. No one can argue with "tolerance" and "anti-bullying", but the devil is certainly in the details. "Tolerance" means to "tolerate", not welcome or condone or celebrate. I tolerate liberals :-)

Why the Board didn't commission a poster with the symbols of several different (harrassed) groups, with a message of tolerance? Why couldn't there be a pink triangle, a Star of David, a picture of a punker or goth, etc on a poster of tolerance? Focusing on a controversial 1.5%-6% (reasonable studies, not Kinsey's 10%) of the population just seems to me to be a Board that's either listening to a loud minority or is trying to show its liberal bona fides--and neither is fitting for an elected body in this country.

Ok, I'm getting off the fence here. If the policy were merely stupid, but not in conflict with the 1st Amendment, I'd say tough noogies. But since the policy itself is illegal, it must be challenged.

Update: The more I think about it, the more I think that the policy might not be illegal. Sure, we could find a court that might declare it illegal--and that court would be far, far away from San Leandro and the Bay Area!--but it's not so obviously illegal that a court challenge is mandatory.

Teachers, tough noogies on having to post them. Might I suggest posting some other tolerance posters nearby--ones like those linked to in the comments on this post?

Adolescent Suicides

Not uncommon is an article from a non-leftie point of view at SFGate.com, the web page for the SF Chronicle and Examiner. Here's an interesting column that I linked to via Newsalert. It's doubly interesting because UC Davis is about 30 minutes from my house and until I read this article hadn't heard of the UCD freshman mentioned. The first several sentences:

In a recent column about a UC Davis freshman who shot himself, I included a statistic from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Boys commit 86 percent of all adolescent suicides.

Eighty-six percent.

The number floored me, particularly as the mother of a son. Yet not a single e-mail, phone call or letter about the column mentioned the striking statistic.

It occurred to me that if 86 percent of adolescent suicides were girls, there would be a national commission to find out why. There'd be front-page stories and Oprah shows and nonprofit foundations throwing money at sociologists and psychologists to study female self-destruction. My feminist sisters and I would be asking, rightly, "What's wrong with a culture that drives girls, much more than boys, to take their own lives?"

So why aren't we asking what's wrong with a culture that drives boys, much more than girls, to take their own lives?

She's right. Couple that with all the stories lately about how boys aren't doing as well in school as girls, and how women make up over 50% of all bachelor degrees awarded in the US, and you have to wonder why this seeming crisis is all but being ignored. We know it's happening, but nothing is being done.

What's the right answer here?

Update: Here's someone who's identified part of the problem, but I'm not sure his solution is the best one. Unfortunately, his solution (lawsuit) may be what's needed to jumpstart a serious discussion--at least in Massachusetts.

Update #2: I just couldn't believe that 86% figure quoted above so I emailed the author for a citation. Here it is; just scroll down to Youth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What Kind of Sports Car Am I?

I'm a Honda S2000!

You live on the edge, and you live for the adrenaline rush. You don't need luxuries, snob appeal, or superfluous gadgets. You put your top down, get your motor revving, and take all the curves that life throws at you at full speed. So what if you spin out occasionally?

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quiet Dignity For A Solemn Purpose

This past weekend held yet another anniversary for Roe vs. Wade, the still-controversial Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. I don't agree with that ruling because it's poor Constitutional interpretation that will hopefully be overturned some day. That doesn't mean abortion will go away, but at least our law will be somewhat cleaned up.

And I'm anti-abortion, for reasons I've stated before.

So many people talk about "freedom of speech". It's easy to stand on a street corner and hold your signs and badmouth your fellow citizens, your country, or God--and then go home and have a burger and fries, eating more in that one meal than some people in the world will eat in two days.

Want to see bravery exhibited practicing freedom of speech? See this photo essay about the March For Life, a pro-life/anti-abortion march, in San Francisco. When you get to the end of the page, be sure to click on Part 2 and then Part 3. Those of you on the right will be proud of the quiet dignity the pro-lifers demonstrated. Rabid lefties and abortion supporters will probably like what they see of the lefties in this essay. They should, however, be embarrassed.

Here's a classic caption to one of several dozen photos in the essay:

When one young anarachist expressed infuriated incomprehension that the Christians could be allowed to display their messages, a friendly but stern policeman patiently explained to him the definition of "free speech." The anarchist retorted, "But who the hell do they think they are, saying that shit here?"

Again, "here" is San Francisco. My regular readers will understand my meaning. If you're new here, try this post. This isn't my first time writing about Baghdad By The Bay.

The Impact of Teachers

I'm lifting this from a Jenny D. post (see blogroll at left):

I'm disturbed because, although I sympathize with unemployed parents, I think he (NEA President Reg Weaver) disempowers teachers and underestimates the power of schools to teach kids--all kids. I think we can do a better job, even if Dad is unemployed, even if the family is poor, even if the kid has lots of challenges. I think we can. I don't like to hear a union official saying his members have no agency, no self-efficacy, no power to make change.

This jibes nicely with something I wrote years ago for my local union newsletter:

Additionally, I worry that we seem to feel that we’re not at all responsible for student learning. If we have no impact at all, then perhaps we truly do deserve the slings and arrows that have come our way of late.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's Always A School Worker, A Cop, or A Church Leader

One commenter from a couple posts ago ask where I get some of these stories I comment on. Well, this one I got from News10.net, the web site for a local tv news station. I was looking for information on a story they broadcast tonight and saw this one on the web site--so here it is.

I'll forego the comments. I think you can figure out where I stand on the topic.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Race and American Politics

A great achievement of modern liberalism--and a primary reason for its surviving decades past the credibility of its ideas--is that it captured black resentment as an exclusive source of power. It even gave this resentment a Democratic Party affiliation. (Antiwar sentiment is the other great source of liberal power, but it is not the steady provider that black and minority resentment has been.) Republicans have often envied this power, but have never competed well for it because it can be accessed only by pandering to the socialistic longings of minority leaders--vast government spending, social programs, higher taxes and so on. Republicans and conservatives have simply never had an easy or glib mechanism for addressing profound social grievances.

But this Republican "weakness" has now begun to emerge as a great--if still largely potential--Republican advantage. Precisely because Republicans cannot easily pander to black grievance, they have no need to value blacks only for their sense of grievance. Unlike Democrats, they can celebrate what is positive and constructive in minority life without losing power. The dilemma for Democrats, liberals and the civil rights establishment is that they become redundant and lose power the instant blacks move beyond grievance and begin to succeed by dint of their own hard work. So they persecute such blacks, attack their credibility as blacks, just as they pander to blacks who define their political relationship to America through grievance. Republicans are generally freer of the political bigotry by which the left either panders to or persecutes black Americans.

No one on the current political scene better embodies this Republican advantage than the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The archetype that Ms. Rice represents is "overcoming" rather than grievance. Despite a childhood in the segregated South that might entitle her to a grievance identity, she has clearly chosen that older black American tradition in which blacks neither deny injustice nor allow themselves to be defined by it.

From an essay by Hoover Institute research fellow Shelby Steele.

How To Vote: The Perspective of a Canadian Conservative

Actually, I didn't know there were any conservative Canadians left. It's good to find one, and he wrote an exceptional article. Things are so bad up in Canada that he ended the essay this way:

I’ve heard from so many of these people, who will not vote for the Conservatives tomorrow, because they are disappointed, even disgusted, by the Conservatives’ attempts to distance themselves, or by a local candidate’s “progressive” posturing. Most often, it is the Conservative commitment to the status quo on abortion that is costing them a crucial swing vote.

But the best is often the enemy of the good. Real policy options are not on the table in this election, and we must therefore choose among the modest goods that are available. That is in fact sound Christian doctrine. And once it is understood, I consider it our moral duty to assist in removing the Liberals from power, and replacing them with something a little better. That is the primary thing, tomorrow, and it means, unambiguously, voting Conservative.

I would vote for my local Conservative if he had two heads and five elbows and was married to a same-sex yeti in Tibet. And I would vote for him with a clean conscience.

Read the whole thing. Seriously.

Update, 1/23/06 10:21 pm: Happy news!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Another "Woman Teacher Does A Boy Student" Story

Either these are happening with more frequency lately, or they're just being reported more, or I'm just noticing them more.

Every time I hear one, I have these questions:

1. Is she hot?
2. Would I have been all up on that as a teenager?

The answer to the second question is probably "no" since all my teachers were old :-) But here we have a 26 year old teacher who knew the kid since he was 12, befriended his family, and started doing him when he turned 15? Ewwwwwwww.

Students Say Exit Exam Is Needed

I wonder what the anti-testing crowd would say to these students, some of whom haven't even passed the exit exam yet.

Here's some information about the test from the article:

English-language arts goes through grade 10 standards. The mathematics portion is a little bit of grade six standards and a lot of grade seven standards, and there are 12 Algebra I questions out of 80 total questions that students are scored on in math....

Students have to get 55 percent correct on the math part of the test and 60 percent correct on the English-language arts part of the test to pass each of those portions.

I don't understand the argument that a diploma should be given for 12 or 13 years of seat time. Why should one be given if students cannot pass a test to these minimal standards?

Friday, January 20, 2006

My New Favorite Movie

The coupons from Hollywood Video expire tomorrow, so instead of watching Back To The Future Part II tonight, the son and I dined on pork loin on the couch while watching Sky High.

It's my new favorite movie.

I know, you're thinking that the geeks-save-the-school plot has been overdone. You're thinking that the underdogs-win-in-the-end plot has been overdone. You're thinking that the coming-of-age plot has been overdone. You're thinking that you wish I'd quit giving away the story.

It's Disney. You already know the outcome is going to be sugary. What you don't know is how well they've melded these overdone plots into a hilarious whole, how there's just enough that's unique in this movie to keep your interest. I was howling with laughter at some spots, riveted in others. Oh, and the soundtrack--80's music! Freakin' 80's music! Does it get any better than that? No, I say, it does not.

It's a definite "buy now".

What Kind Of Food Am I?

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Racist Crap

If Hillary Clinton's "plantation" comment--before a black crowd in Harlem on Dr. King Day--wasn't race-baiting enough for you, try this dose of US Grade A Choice Racism:

Catastrophes Bad For Blacks

Oh, what a shock. The original story comes from BET.

Were they bad at math in their past life, too?

Indigo Kids. Sounds like that singing group from several years ago. Only this time, it's a new age thing. Reading this article, I can't tell if Indigo Kids have past-life memories, vast artistic creativity, or pain-in-the-butt-ness. Maybe it's a combination of all three, and then some.

Administrator Porn?

From Texas:

Midway Independent School Disitrict officials are deciding how to punish as many as seven students for a senior prank taken too far.

The prank involves a very graphic, cut and paste style picture, depicting school officials in a compromising and pronographic situation.

The picture was mailed to every senior at Midway High School.

District officials won't tell us how the students will be punished because of thier policy.

We contacted the postal inspector's office, but so far there is no word on whether or not charges will be pressed. Mailing pornography is a third degree felony with serious punishments including jail time.

If they had emailed the pictures I doubt there'd be anything anyone could (legally) do. And personally, I find this somewhat humorous. While I'm sure I'd be less than thrilled if it were my face photoshopped into some pornographic picture (unless my "new" body looked really good), to me this seems mostly harmless. And if it's not harmless, I would hope that it doesn't rise to the level of a "third degree felony".

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Funny Final Exam Answers

My trig final is universally regarded as a beast. In an effort to add a little levity to it, I interspersed three "gimme" questions into it:

What is your favorite color?
What is the capital of California?
Who is your favorite pre-calculus teacher? (we call it pre-calc instead of trig)

I'm getting some great answers for the first question.

"Green. What's yours?"
"Pink, or whatever color yours is."
"Navy blue." Considering how bad Navy beat my team in the Army-Navy Game this season....
"Whatever color will get me the most points."
"The color of your eyes."


"Orange. I mean blue. Ahhhhhhh!"
"Grey." Must be British.
"Air Force Blue." Maybe it's a tribute to Major Phelps.

A "Major Phelps" Moment

The first semester of my junior year I was an exchange cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. There were 6 of us from West Point, 6 from Navy, 3 from Coast Guard, and (I think) 6 from the French Air Force Academy who were exchange cadets in the fall of 1985. I had applied to Air Force while a senior in high school but had never received an official letter of declination, so I viewed my goal as an exchange cadet to "see what I missed and show them what they missed."

One of my courses that semester was electrical engineering, taught by Major Phelps. "Phelpsie", as he was sarcastically-affectionately known (like calling a huge guy 'Tiny'), was an extremely competent instructor. He wasn't so personable, but he was a good man. Going in his favor was the fact that he seemed--well, if not biasedtoward, then he at least enjoyed having in his class two West Point exchange cadets.

Major Phelps was tough. He taught a rigorous subject to rigorous standards. His tests could be brutal.

There weren't more than 15 or so of us in the class, and after several attempts at whining and persuasion we won a huge concession from Phelpsie--on the next test, he'd allow us to use a "cheat sheet", a note card with whatever we wanted written on it. We were limited in size to one 5"x8" notecard. This was big--no memorizing formulas this time!

The night before the test I was going through the chapter, making my notecard. I subscribed to the views of the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun-Tzu: know your enemy, and know yourself. Rather than just copying formulas I actually was copying example problems from the book--complete with the explanations for each step. No way would Phelpsie be able to slip one by me now!

I came across one example problem in particular. It was similar to others we had done, but there was a curve ball in it. Phelpsie had mentioned it briefly in class when we had covered that section but that was it. We'd had no homework problems like it, no quiz problems. I knew my enemy, I knew Major Phelps would take that problem and just change the numbers. I copied the example word for word.

After the tests were handed out, you could tell when everyone got to whatever problem it was. There were audible moans. No one could figure out how to do it. No one, that is, except for the one person in class clever and/or lucky enough to have copied a certain example problem from the chapter. You see, Phelpsie didn't even change the numbers :-)

I got the high score in the class on that test--90%. The next highest score was 70%. They went downhill from there. By the next class period Major Phelps had already heard through the grapevine that I had that exact problem on my notecard, and he seemed rather to enjoy letting me know that he knew. He also seemed to enjoy holding it over the heads of the other cadets--If you want to use a notecard, you need to be prepared for harder tests....

Why do I tell this story now? Because during my 6th period trig final today I was wandering the class, offering reassurance to students and answering questions. One girl said with glee, "I have this exact problem on my notecard!" I wonder if she had the other one, too. You see, I lifted two example problems from the text for use on the final exam.

Know your enemy :-)

No, The NEA's Not Liberal!

Of course they say that *anyone* can rent their facilities (were the facilities rented or donated?), or meet in their cafeteria, but I don't see any right-of-center groups meeting at the NEA headquarters.

I'm thinking that the NEA is a left-leaning organization. No?

And you NEA members, those of you whose dues money supports this kind of tripe--are you ok with this?

Finals Victory

This week is final exam week at school. The tension is palpable.

My Algebra I classes are mostly freshmen, and yesterday my last Algebra I class took its final exam. One student in that class has been a B/C student all semester--capable, but makes bonehead mistakes (negative signs, things like that). He definitely wants to do well and didn't quit when he experienced setbacks. He had a pretty strong C going into the final.

After class yesterday he asked if I'd grade his final so I did. A-! I put that grade into my grade program and out came his semester percentage--80.1%, a B- by the skin of his teeth! I'm not sure which of us was happier.

I let him call his mother from the phone in the classroom. She gave a--how shall I say it?--interesting response. So when he got off the phone I gave him the congratulatory hug he deserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So began Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, and so describes the night I had.

My son and I were enjoying a rainy night in the hot tub after dining on the couch watching Back To The Future (the trilogy was on sale at Target for under $23). I thought to myself, does life get any better than this? I know it does, but not much.

After the pump shut off twice (40 minutes) it was time to get out. "Dad, where's my shoes?" Sure enough, both our pairs of flip flops were gone.


While we were lounging in the tub, he had come into the tub enclosure and taken all 4 of our shoes. How many trips did he make to do this? I found all four of them in a corner of the lawn he likes--chewed to pieces.

I can replace my son's for a dollar or two at Walgreen's. Mine cannot be replaced. They were my brother's. It's been a few years now, but still I think of him whenever I put on those leather sandals. Same when I put on my jacket--his jacket.

I don't need reminders. I can remember him any time I want to. But it's not the memory, it's the touch, you know? He loved those shoes, wore them everywhere. He loved that jacket--looked good in it, too. When I put them on now there's more than just a mental memory. There's something to the touch.

I lost part of that tonight. And I ache.

Good Law, Bad Idea

I'm conflicted about physician-assisted suicide. The moral part of me says it's wrong, whereas the libertarian Republican in me says it's none of the federal government's business.

The Supreme Court made the right legal decision today. It's now up to the state of Oregon to make the right moral decision.

Update, 1/19/06 9:46 pm: Hey, how good am I? Check out the title and substance of this E. J. Dionne piece. And look at the date of my piece and the date of his :-)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Injuns, Part III

Joanne (see blogroll at left) has found a school where they're doing it right--educating American Indian students, that is....

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Day

From Instapundit:

HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY: "This holiday is as good a time as any to remember how one of our greatest Americans was bugged and harassed by a paranoid, power-mad J. Edgar Hoover, in the name of National Security."

I blame John Ashcroft. And the Patriot Act.


17 of the last 22 "comments" have been spam, which I've deleted. I've deleted no comments from real humans since the first week of "moderating comments", when my dear friend Anonymous clearly hadn't learned my lessons about foul language and ad hominem attacks--and I think I've only deleted one such comment in all the months since instituting moderating.

Such is the effort I go through to provide you, my readers, with valuable material. Please send cash offerings of thanks to.... =)

School Choice

From this article I like the "standing in the schoolhouse door" statement, an obvious reference to the civil rights era. I also like this quote from the Milwaukee superintendent:

The irony is that public educators in Milwaukee believe choice has helped improve all the city's schools. "No longer is MPS a monopoly," says Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos. "That competitive nature has raised the bar for educators in Milwaukee to provide a good product or they know that parents will walk." The city's public schools have made dramatic changes that educators elsewhere can only dream of.

Go figure.

And they're going to screw it all up. Go figure.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Blogging Might Be Light For Awhile

My new spa became fully operational today =)

Thoughts On The Press

Comments on this post show why conservatives have such issues with the mainstream (leftie) media.

The Press have assumed that taking up station on a crag of omniscience, from which they can hurl thunderbolts of denunciation onto whomever they like, is equivalent to Olympian detachment from the situation. In the hypothetical quoted, their ideal is that they should be able to "report" the activity of the terrorist cell, thereby titillating their audience and selling lots of soap, without repercussions from either side.

But Olympian detachment didn't work for the original Olympians, and it sure as Hell isn't going to work for human beings with delusions of grandeur. If they don't choose a side and stick to it, they'll either be assigned one or assumed to be the enemy by all other contenders.

True. Then there's this one:

Would it be so hard to simply grant journalists all the freedoms they desire, after they renounce all ties to their nominal countries of citizenship and apply for green cards as stateless persons? I would have a lot less difficulty with the American Mainstream Media if everyone knew that there was no pretense on anyone's part that they are American citizens and/or serving our nation in any regard.

This would go along way towards cleaning up reportage.

Do you hear that, Walter Cronkite?

Rubik's Cubes Are Still Around

The Rubik's Cube craze hit when I was in high school--and I remained completely unaffected by it. Never interested me, not my thing. Apparently, though, it still has a huge worldwide following, as evidenced by this story. Solving it in 11.13 seconds? Dude!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

This Is Why I Don't Get An Advanced Degree

You thought I was kidding back in April when I posted about my adventures getting my Cross-Cultural, Language, and Academic Development (CLAD) certificate at Sac State. You thought that I must be exaggerating, that my experiences were abnormal, that everything's fine in the world of post-bachelor degrees for educators. You were wrong.

Here are the April posts.

Intro to Bilingual Education
Bilingual Education, Part I
Bilingual Education Part II--The Teacher/Students
Bilingual Education Part III--Progressive Education
Bilingual Education Part IV--Horrible Is Great
Bilingual Education Part V--Not Politically Correct
Bilingual/Multicultural Education Part VI--The Last Class Begins

Now here's something new, from Right Wing Nation.

As they said in the movie, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Perfect SAT and Perfect ACT Scores


Abortion and the Alito Hearings

Nothing deep here, nothing intellectually rigorous.

I just wonder why the only thing the Democrats seem to care about is Roe v. Wade. Is there truly nothing more important than that one case? I don't hear Republicans walking around saying "Gotta overturn Roe!" but with each of the President's 3 Supreme Court nominees the first thing the Democrats bring up is that one case.

It's not like overturning Roe would end abortion in this country. All it would do is reaffirm that the US Constitution has nothing to say on the issue and that it's one rightly decided in the states. Even the screechy Eleanor Clift of Newsweek (and the McLaughlin Group) acknowledges as much:

Then the battle moves back to state legislatures, and some places—like Utah, Louisiana, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Dakota—would outlaw abortions while other states, like New York and California, would be decried by the Right as "abortion mills."

In fact, that quote is among the only correct, honest things she said in her entire article. But here at Right On The Left Coast I believe in acknowledging people when they're correct, even if they're only right on accident!

So what we have here is a Democrat Party that lives in perpetual fear that one Supreme Court case might be overturned. Were they as worried about Dred Scott, do you think? or Plessy v. Ferguson? or Bowers v. Hardwick? Hmm, I say.

Ann Coulter said it--perhaps not best, but in a humorous way here:

According to Dianne Feinstein, Roe vs. Wade is critically important because "women all over America have come to depend on it." At its most majestic, this precious right that women "have come to depend on" is the right to have sex with men they don't want to have children with.

There's a stirring principle! Leave aside the part of this precious constitutional right that involves (1) not allowing Americans to vote on the matter, and (2) suctioning brains out of half-born babies. The right to have sex with men you don't want to have children with is not exactly "Give me liberty, or give me death."

Having won that one (ending slavery), today's Republican Party stands for life, limited government and national defense. And today's Democratic Party stands for ... the right of women to have unprotected sex with men they don't especially like. We're the Blacks-Aren't-Property/Don't-Kill-Babies party. They're the Hook-Up party.

one more snip, and

I'll go out on a limb and bet that, after the Democrats' expert cross-examination, Judge Alito has lost the support of every single member of NARAL.

The problem for the Democrats is: NARAL members aren't like most people. "Give me liberty or give me the right to have unprotected sex with men I don't want to have a child with" just isn't that attractive a principle in the light of day.

The problem is that the Democrats truly do sound as stupid as Coulter paints them here.

Update: See Skymuse's link in the comments.

Conversation At The End Of Class

I'd weep for the future if I thought this was anything more than a pathetic attempt to deprive me of my sweets. Which I don't need anyway. Because all my pants are shrinking. Really fast.

"Mr. M, can I have a Starburst?"
"But I've given you Starburst before."
"I'm giving you an education."
"I'll trade my education for a Starburst."

Please Don't Feed The Federalists

Slate, that mouthpiece for the Republican Party (cough cough), has an excellent article here subtitled A Democrats' guide to the conservative jurist. Entertainingly written, mostly true.

Update: John over at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) discusses the article here.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Teens With Firearms At Schools

Two similar stories, two different outcomes.

The first story comes from my own school district, where almost 4 years ago a middle school student took a loaded .22 caliber pistol to school and was going to shoot his science teacher. Law enforcement was called. A sheriff showed more restraint than I would have when the boy raised the firearm at him--I'd have shot the kid on the spot. Here's what eventually happened to the boy.

Apparently they think like I do in Longwood, Florida. And unfortunately, that kid only had a pellet gun that looked like a 9mm pistol. I used to have one of those b-b pistol/pellet guns when I was a teenager.

We didn't take sidearms to school when I was that age.

San Francisco

Does trouble come in threes?

In the last 15 minutes of reading I came across three separate articles referring to San Francisco. For those of you who have never been to Baghdad By The Bay you truly have no idea how leftie that city is. I would tell you things and you would say, "There's no way any city could be that crazy!" And you'd be wrong. They truly are in a different world over there on that peninsula.

So here are the three stories I found about San Francisco. In the first we learn about a school board meeting in which local parents try to keep certain schools from being closed. In the second we learn about the value San Francisco lefties place on free speech. The third is a photo/written essay about a day trip to the City.

If you're still not convinced that San Francisco is leftier than you ever imagined, here are a few past posts from yours truly to help bring you to reality:

San Francisco votes to keep all military out of all schools.
Can't say bad things about "protected groups" of people at city council meetings.
San Francisco city government helps convince US government that "dyke" isn't a derogatory term.
And since I should say one thing nice about that city so that you can't say I'm completely biased against it:
San Franciscans can rent live Christmas trees instead of chopping others down.

They're nuts. Every last one of them.

Update, 1/15/06 1:30 pm: Still don't believe me? Here are some anti-war protesters heckling Nancy Freakin' Pelosi! She's apparently not left enough for San Francisco!

New Links

I've added a new links category in the left column: California Edubloggers. Some of my older links have been moved there. Additionally, a couple of new links have been added.

Keeping up with the times....

Carnival of Education

It's on the road this week, guest-hosted over at Jenny D's.

A Little Inconsistency At The NYT Over Intelligence Gathering

I'm shocked--shocked!--that the New York Times would be less than consistent in its treatment of Presidents. Democrat=defend, Republican=attack. Well, I guess they're consistent in that regard.

In all the brouhaha about the National Security Agency "wiretaps" without a court order, the story of Echelon has been largely ignored by anyone outside the blogosphere. Here's my part to spread the word:

The controversy following revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies have monitored suspected terrorist related communications since 9/11 reflects a severe case of selective amnesia by the New York Times and other media opponents of President Bush. They certainly didn’t show the same outrage when a much more invasive and indiscriminate domestic surveillance program came to light during the Clinton administration in the 1990’s. At that time, the Times called the surveillance “a necessity.”

Read it all here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Injuns, Part II

When it rains, it pours.

Having just written about Native Americans (or American Indians, or First Nations people, or whatever the politically correct term is this week) I saw on a table in our staff lounge today a packet from our district's Indian Education Program. I didn't even know we had an Indian Education Program.

Page one was an introductory letter seeking teachers to serve as tutors for Native American students. Page three was a generic, informational flier from our Indian Eduaction Program, from which I learned the program is funded by Title VII funds--and that our district of 45,000 students has 600 Indians, of which 450 are entitled to services. Anyway, page two gave some specific information about what this tutoring program is about:

Tutoring is conducted at the school site of the student.
  • After school
  • One-in-one
  • Monday-Friday
  • 1-2 hours per week
  • Maximum of 12 hours of tutoring within a ten-week period of time
  • Scheduled with the tutor, student, and parent/guardian

Skip down a bit and you get
The goal: One grade level improvement in one subject area
(i.e., math, reading, language arts)

Ok, I'm obviously not understanding here. Are we saying that this 12 hrs of one-on-one tutoring in 10 weeks (perhaps up to 45 hours in a school year?) will allow the students to improve one grade level in a subject? Or are we saying that this additional tutoring time merely augments normal classroom time, during which we expect a year of growth anyway? The first sounds unrealistic, the second sounds rather expensive--not just expensive, in fact, but egregiously expensive for a race-based program that shouldn't exist anyway.

Yes, I'm familiar with our past treatment of Native Americans. No, it's not one to be proud of. As is my way, I'm hard pressed to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children and take personal responsibility for what occurred in the past. I don't stomach race-based programs, no matter which race we're discussing. Educational programs should be based on student need, not student ancestry.

But enough of the politics. Let's talk political correctness, shall we? What decorates each of these three papers? Why, symbology we might associate with Native Americans! Here's a decorated tamborine-like drum with feathers hanging on it, here's a set of feathers, here's a "Southwest" design with feathers, there's another "Southwest" design, and there's a decorated clay pot. Are these symbols from the Maidu, the Apaches, the Cherokees, the Iroquois--who, exactly? Why is it not offensive to put these symbols all over paperwork related to American Indians, but it would be to put pictures of tacos all over something related to Mexicans? Am I right, and the people who staff our district's Indian Education Program are just highly insensitive?

And why can I not have a stylized Native American as a school mascot, but I can have a stylized Viking (obviously a white guy, and Vikings didn't wear horns!) or a Demon Deacon (a slur on Christianity?) or a Leprechaun (and he's Fighting Irish, too, those angry drunks!) without complaint?

Do you lefties ever get tired of your double standards and blatant hypocrisy?

Update: How expensive is this program? My chintzy school district will pay $22.33 an hour to tutor. Multiply that by 12 hours and 450 eligible students and you get $120,582 that the district is willing to spend--every 10 weeks! School year is 36 weeks, so let's just multiply that number by 3 (instead of 3.6 or 4) and we get over $361,000 dollars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mixed Messages About Wal*Mart

I got this credit-card-sized SuperSaver card in my box at school today. It looks kinda nifty, having, as it does, "coupons" for all sorts of things I don't really need :-)

Then I looked at the front--look who's mentioned right on the front of the card.

The Evil Wal*Mart!

If I were a loyal CTA/NEA member I'd question why my school mailbox was polluted with this product of a company I'm supposed to despise. But since I'm not, I won't.


Today I received what will probably be my last issue of California Educator magazine, the mouthpiece rag of the California Teachers Associaton. This December 2005 issue deals with Native Americans.

There's nothing wrong with devoting an issue to Native Americans. There is something wrong with the paternalistic tone of the issue; here we go again with another oppressed group that needs protection from the evil white man.

There was much stupidity in this issue, including the usual crapola about school mascots. Note to lefties: not everyone wants to be represented by the Banana Slug (UC Santa Cruz). Stop getting your panties in a bunch about perceived slights that really don't exist. Have you seen the San Francisco 49ers 'mascot' at a game? Are you complaining that he looks like a fat, red-haired guy with a too-big mustache--and that's demeaning to red-haired guys with too-big mustaches? Nope, you're not. And if you are, you have other issues. Fighting Irish, anyone?

People choose mascots based on something they respect and/or like. Teams and schools call themselves the Eagles, the Bears, the Lions, the Mustangs, the Dragons, the Warriors--things that inspire respect and motivate their fans. I'll never understand how people take offense at that. Here's what California Educator says:

Imagine you are at a high school football game. The mascot, a Catholic priest, runs out onto the field to great applause. When he sprinles holy water on the field, spectators in the bleachers chant and make the sign of the cross.

Sound offensive? Of course it does. But to many Native Americans, having an Indian mascot for a school is equally insensitive.

Actually, it doesn't sound offensive. It sounds lame--and that is why no school calls itself The Fighting Priests. The article also identifies offensive-to-Native-American mascots here in California: Apaches, Redskins, Chiefs, Braves, Indians, and Warriors. I didn't know that only American Indians could be Warriors. Don't tell that to Colonel Seger back at West Point--"The man loves the word warrior more than he loves his own soul." Does San Diego still have the Padres?

Darn it! I swore I wasn't going to go off on the mascot tangent.

I gave up reading the articles. It's the usual paternalistic prattle that characterizes lefty publications. But some points did catch my eye. In a page 12 article which blames the No Child Left Behind Act for the cancellation of a Native American history course at Bishop High School, we get this sentence/paragraph: "The course began with looking at archaeological evidence from the years prior to the colonial period and worked through the conquest period, the formation of the United States, westward expansion and the effect on different groups of people throughout the country." On page 16, in Tips For Teaching Native Americans, we get this tidbit, amongst others: "Teach Native American history as a regular part of American history and avoid using loaded terms like 'massacre' and 'conquest', which may distort the facts or present a one-sided view." Gotta love consistency.

Should we teach Native American history with the same show-all-warts fanaticism with which lefties want to teach American history? Would we identify every human foible, would we blow out of proportion every act or utterance that doesn't comport to today's politically correct dogma? Or are Native Americans, as an "oppressed people", exempt from such scrutiny?

Based on all the page 16 "tips", I'm pretty sure I know the answer. Again, paternalistic. We're not to call them the "noble savages" but we sure treat them as if they are.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Grammar Goes Mainstream

I don't know all the specific rules of grammar and punctuation but I can make myself understood, hopefully well, in written and verbal communication. The whole point of communication is to allow someone to understand you. If you're misunderstood, or not understood at all, the most logical place to start would be with your own communication. Sometimes the recipient is at fault, but often it's the communicator who fails to adequately communicate.

Today the major Sacramento newspaper ran an article entitled It's Hip To Be Grammatically Correct, and my heart soared. Two books about grammar were mentioned in the article--and I've read them both. Recently. Personally, I thought Eats, Shoots and Leaves was, how shall I put it nicely, not so good, but Woe Is I was extremely well-written.

I don't follow all the punctuation rules we're taught in school but I am consistent with what I do. From one of the books mentioned above I learned that some of what I do is actually considered English punctuation as opposed to American punctuation. Just as an example, if I put something in quotation marks and a punctuation mark goes at the end, I only put the punctuation mark inside the quotes if it ends the statement within the quotes--otherwise, outside it goes. Here's what I mean:

God sent a message to Pharoah, "Let my people go." The period ends the statement in the quotation marks, so that's where I put it. The period serves double duty, ending both the statement in the quotation marks as well as the entire sentence. Then there's this sentence:

The President referred to three countries as an "Axis of Evil". What's inside the quotation marks doesn't need a punctuation mark, so I place it outside to end the sentence. Apparently this is an English way of doing things.

One change in punctuation that I've never understood is the serial comma. I was taught to put a comma after each item in a list, including the item before the "and". Example: The colors on the American flag are red, white, and blue. Some new usage drops the last comma, giving: The colors on the American flag are red, white and blue. That doesn't look or sound right to me--it seems like the white and blue are grouped together, somehow, like peanut butter and jelly. I'll now give two examples of the same sentence, punctuated the old-fashioned way (which I prefer) and the more modern way.

My favorite sandwiches are roast beef, turkey, peanut butter and jelly, and bologna. (old style)
My favorite sandwiches are roast beef, turkey, peanut butter and jelly and bologna. (new style, omitting the comma before and)

It's very clear when using the old rule that I have four favorite sandwiches. It's also crystal clear what those sandwiches are. The new method makes it look like I have only three favorite sandwiches, and the last one is pretty yucky.

I also know how to use a semicolon effectively; unfortunately, so few do. =)

I've also noticed, perhaps in the last decade or so, people who speak in a way that they think makes them sound educated but actually makes them come across as pretentious idiots. "We should conversate about this before making a decision." The word is converse, dude. "Bring the report to myself when you're done with it." When did substituting myself for me even sound good, much less intelligent?

There's also street language that's made its way into common usage. Use of the prefix dis- to mean disrespect--what's up with that? When did disrespect become a verb instead of a noun? Why doesn't the new word dis mean disconnect, disagreement, disembarkation, dishonorable, dissatisfaction, or distinguished? We all know the answer, it just wouldn't be politically correct for me to state it here.

I find the topic exceedingly interesting but I'm not going to write any books about it. This post will be about as far as I go. Still, people who make the most basic mistakes on a regular basis come across to me as uneducated. And since all of us adults (not we adults) had the opportunity to get at least 12 years of education, I'd like to think we could write and speak at least passably well.

Mama Moonbat Was In My Town And I Didn't Even Get A T-Shirt

Cindy Sheehan spoke in a "union hall" (those things still exist?) here in the River City last night and I didn't even know about it.

Here's the link.

Then I Choose To Be Depressed


Liberte Cherie (without the accent marks)

From an Australian who's lived in France for awhile:

France has been going down the tubes for years. Finding out why is easy – the French Statist, centralised system simply doesn’t work in the modern, globalised world. Finding out how French people actually feel about this is somewhat more difficult. After all, if one couldn’t believe three contradictory things simultaneously, one wouldn’t be French.


Liberté Chérie (liberty most-cherished) is a liberal think tank comprising of 2000 members in cities throughout France. It’s far from the only libertarian organisation in France, but it is perhaps the most prominent. Neither is it a political party – rather it functions like an information and PR centre for the promotion of the concept and philosophy of libertarianism. The organisation’s President is Aurélien Véron, a handsome 36-year-old who works for the bank BNP Paribas, runs his own small business, and somehow manages to find two hours more each day for Liberté Chérie. At least two hours, he concedes with a wry smile, when we meet at a cafe for a chat.

Liberté Chérie’s first brush with fame came two years ago, during one of Paris’s predictable general strikes that paralysed the city. Liberté Chérie called for a counter-demonstration, against the strikers. A little publicity was expected to draw perhaps a few thousand people – instead, 80,000 exasperated Parisiens arrived. ‘We didn’t keep very many,’ Aurélien admits sheepishly, in excellent English. ‘We weren’t very well organised, we only managed to take a few people’s details. The rest went away after a short while.’ But the newspapers noticed, and journalists have been asking Aurélien’s opinion on various political matters ever since.

Read the whole thing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Students *Must* Pass the High School Exit Exam

California has two--count 'em, two-- officials who look out for public education. One is the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the other is the appointed Secretary of Education. The latter merely advises the governor while the former has actual duties to perform.

In this article from the major Sacramento newspaper, Superintendent Jack O'Connell was pretty clear about whether or not students will have to pass the California High School Exit Exam this year, after years of delays:

Seniors who do not pass the California High School Exit Exam this year should be allowed to continue their education, but diplomas will be awarded only to students who pass the test, Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, announced at a Sacramento news conference Friday morning. (emphasis mine--Darren)
Then of course, comes the very next paragraph:

Within hours, lawyers who oppose the exam said they will sue the state in the coming weeks to try to lift the exit exam as a requirement for this year's graduating class.

Color me surprised. Not.

I hear lots of squealing from the anti-testing crowd. "High stakes test" this, "doesn't test what they really know" that. Poor dumplings shouldn't have to show they learned something in order to get a diploma?

Let's be clear here. The California High School Exit Exam isn't a college entrance exam. It has two portions, math and English. The math portion tests only junior high math. It does include some Algebra I on it, but students could conceivably fail every Algebra I question and still pass the math section. Let's remember that Algebra I is a junior high math class and is the highest math course specifically required to graduate from high school.

In math, at least, the state is testing the absolute minimum. While I haven't concerned myself with the language section of the test, I'll assume it's equally targeted to the bottom rungs of learning.

Also, students have multiple opportunities to pass the test. Students take the test as sophomores; if they don't pass one or both of the sections, they retake the failed sections as juniors. Ditto for seniors. Three opportunities they get, three shots at showing the absolute minimum competence to justify the money spent on them by the taxpayers for 12 or 13 years.

I'm sympathetic to those parents who want their children to graduate, get a diploma, and move on. But if a diploma is to be anything other than a certificate of 12 years of seat time, if it's supposed to mean something educational, then passing the exit exam is the least it could mean. I'd support giving a "Certificate of Completion" to students who get their required units in school but fail the exit exam (how could that happen? but you know it does) and let those students walk across the stage at the graduation ceremony--I'm willing to be that much of a softie. But giving them an official document when they can't pass a junior high test? No, my touchy-feely side stops short of that.

There are some interesting arguments against the test. One is that it's so easy as to be useless. That's the one I'm most sympathetic to but I'll still lean towards having an easy test to having none at all. Another is that tests don't show everything students have learned. That's true, but I'm not interested in whether or not they've mastered Halo, learned the latest in text-messaging shorthand, or can dance like there's no tomorrow. I want to know if, after at least 12 years of education, they can string words together into coherent sentences and can solve arithmetic problems of the most basic kind. That doesn't seem too much to ask.

Of course, if they cannot do these things, it's not their fault. It's the fault of the schools, of the teachers, of our racist society (if the failures happen to be non-white), etc. Read the latter half of the article linked above--you get every argument you can think of, and then some. Fortunately, though, there is some sanity:

"Do we believe students can learn up to a middle school level education? And will we do what it takes to get them there? If not, let's not pretend we're doing them a favor" by granting diplomas to those who can't pass the test, she (an advocate for academic achievement in low income students) said.

And it's not like the Superintendent isn't offering options. Here are some, quoted from the article:

* Enrolling in an additional year of high school or independent study, subject to school board approval.
* Enrolling in an adult school program run by a K-12 school district.
* Enrolling in a charter school.
* Attending a community college that has a diploma completion program.

It doesn't look to me like we're just throwing people to the wolves here. In fact, if we bent over any further backwards we'd be freakin' gymnasts.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Really Like My Students

Part of the reason I'm enjoying my job so much this year is because I have such neat kids. Unlike in all my previous years, I don't have a single class that I dread coming through the door. Sure, there are a few individuals that I wouldn't mind experiencing a slight change in behavior, but on the whole my classes are great. Each one has a very distinct group personality and they're different enough to keep me interested all day long.

Now that I got that out, now I'll go read a book.

State of the State Address

I should watch it. It would probably give me oodles to blog about, especially the "rumor" that the governor is going to throw a few billion more at education in a (shameless yet failing) attempt to court favor with the education lobby.

But for some reason, that speech doesn't appeal to me at all right now. I think I'll go read a book. *sigh*

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Additions To The Blogroll

As discussed at Mini Blogger-Con 1, I need to modify this canned blog template a bit and add a few more categories and blogs. Certainly I must add Polski3 and Coach Brown to a California Edubloggers category, and move Joanne Jacobs into that category as well. And a lengthy perusal of Going to the Mat would indicate a general link there is warranted as well.

I'll make it happen as pronto as possible.

An Honor

Last week I was asked to participate in an email interview with another blogger. He set a goal of interviewing one fellow blogger a week by emailing 9 questions to that blogger, and posting the responses to those questions on his blog; in my case, the responses were entirely unedited.

I am humbled by Matt's introduction to me and this blog. As if my head isn't big enough already! But should you be so inclined, go here to read his entire post. And go back and visit Matt's site periodically--he obviously has great taste!

(Darn it, and I was doing so well with the humility thing there.)

NEA Members, Want To Know How "Your Union" Is Spending Your Money?

Go to this post at NewsAlert, which quotes from and links to the Wall Street Journal. The expenditures might sicken you--well, unless you're a leftie who believes that this is how union money is supposed to be spent.

US Army--The Year In Photos 2005

Pictures from around the world, set to Bob Seger's Like A Rock. I got choked up.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Pictures From the Conference

I'm sure that sign came in handy at some time in the last few months!
Notice the Christmas decorations hanging from the streetlights.
A view of my hotel, the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort, from the pier.
So, Shell owns this place? Or what does the shell own? Does the incorrect use of apostrophes annoy you as much as it annoys me?
The Outback Bowl was to be in a few days. Here's a sand sculpture showing a Florida Gator and an Iowa Hawkeye.
An evening view of the pier from the beach in front of the Hilton.
Here's a closer view of the Outback Bowl sand sculpture.
Here's the view from my balcony around 9am on December 28th. Note the weather.