Monday, July 31, 2006

Get Out the Atlas

We left Colorado Springs this morning and went to Denver. We were only there a couple hours, then I dropped my son off in Evans, a small town about an hour north of Denver. Ten minutes or so later I was at a Starbucks, meeting an old West Point friend I hadn't seen in 21 years.

Then I took off up I-25 towards Cheyenne. Then I remembered that my dad told me of a road that went from Fort Collins directly to Laramie, which would cut off about an hour of driving. I found it--US 287--and drove it.

Breathtaking. I have no words to describe the isolated beauty of that stretch of highway. In fact, it was so amazing that I got a hotel room in Laramie so that I can see more during daylight hours tomorrow. Honestly, I didn't want to drive at night through this land.

Tomorrow I get on I-80 West. I'll stay with a friend in Salt Lake City tomorrow night, and then it's a mad dash from Salt Lake to Sacramento.

So far, excellent trip.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cripple Creek

I love that town. So much has changed since the state allowed "limited gambling" in 4 former gold mining towns, including this one. The shape of the town is pretty much the same, with the exception of some new houses and other buildings on the outskirts. Victor, where gambling isn't allowed, hasn't changed much at all.

We took a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine. They give tours in the summer and mine in the winter. We took the miners' elevator down 1,000 feet and had an informative, educational, fun tour. Everyone leaves with an ore sample from the mine. Yes, it looks like a rock, but it came from an ore cart 1,000 under the ground--I doubt they'd bring rocks down there since they have an entire mountain to empty out!

There's a new hiking trail near some of the old mines on Battle Mountain, and we walked that for awhile. Then I tried to get us back to Colorado Springs via the Gold Camp Road, but apparently made a wrong turn somewhere along the 16 mile dirt road. We ended up getting back to the city on the Old Stage Road, which was (I think) about 7 miles longer. At about 25 miles per hour, my son was not amused!

Tomorrow we head to Denver for awhile, and then I drop him off with his mother's relatives--and I start the long drive back to California. I'll be staying a night with a friend in Salt Lake City, and hope to make it home the following day.

Pictures will be posted as soon as I can :-)

I Want the Least Education For the Money dot com

In the past on this blog, I've supported the web site, even though my ratings there aren't the best. What I cannot support is a school's being *required* to provide grade distributions, by class, to a for-profit (or non-profit, for that matter) web site.

The for-profit company prevailed recently in a public-records lawsuit
against the University of California, Davis, that was seen as a test case in
California. (The school initially refused to hand over the letter-grade
information, then backed down and paid Pick-A-Prof $15,000 in legal fees.)

Now the company is seeking the distribution of grades at other University of California schools, the California State University system and the state's community colleges -- to the ire of faculty members who say students will shop for easy classes...

Los Rios Chancellor Brice Harris agrees, but said in a letter to faculty
and staff that it wasn't worth losing a legal fight after UC lawyers determined that the aggregate letter-grade data amount to a public record that can be given to anyone who asks for it.

This isn't a positive development.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Day of Nature

Immediately after breakfast we drove up Pikes Peak. Many interesting sights on the drive up, our stay on top, and the drive back--marmots, a herd/flock/group of over a dozen Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, and a two-ship of F-16s who flew by at eye level less than 100 meters from the Summit House! Had I been up top and seen then coming, rather than on some rocks below the summit, I'd have set the camera to video and filmed them.

From there we went to Cave of the Winds. That was muy interesant.

After the cave we drove through Manitou Springs on our way to the Garden of the Gods. We wandered the park and took dozens of pictures. By the time we were done it was dinner time--Olive Garden!

For those who knew Colorado Springs when I knew Colorado Springs, Old Chicago, Fargo's Pizza, and Meadow Muffins are still here; the Candlelight and P&B's are not!

Oh, pictures will be posted when I get back to Sacramento. Gawd I love it here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm Home

No, not Sacramento. Colorado Springs. I love it here, it feels like home.

Yes, much has changed in the 16 years since I lived here. Heck, much has changed in the 5 years since I last visited here. Some things remain the same, some have changed. But it's still Colorado Springs.

Our hotel is just around the corner from the ANA museum, so we walked there after this morning's light rain (eat your heart out, Sacramentans!) to see the coins. After that we spent a couple hours at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo--if you want to see a top-notch zoo, this is it! Built up the side of a mountain, you get a good workout! And it's not supported by taxpayer money, either :-) Then we went to the Air Force Academy and picked up a former student of mine--who coincidentally has the same name as my son--and we drove by Garden of the Gods on our way to Seven Falls. Dinner at TGI Friday's, then an attempt to get to the top of Austin Bluffs, and that was the entire day. If the weather looks good in the morning, we're driving up Pikes Peak.

Here's hoping for good weather.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Folk Marxism

A member of a maillist to which I subscribe posted these thoughts on "folk Marxism", which I've received permission to repost here. Much is explained and is now clear.

The problem is that there are a lot of people in this country who are devotees of Folk Marxism. What is Folk Marxism? It's a mindset that sees all human interaction (whether economic, political, academic, or even social) as a conflict between oppressed and oppressor. The oppressors are the ones with the power (or, I should say *perceived* power), and the oppressed are the ones regarded as less powerful. Therefore, in interactions between blacks and whites, the whites are the oppressors, the blacks the oppressed. Israel, being more powerful, is the oppressor, Hezbollah the oppressed; large corporations the oppressor, consumers the oppressed; and so on. It doesn't matter if any actual coercion or oppression takes place, to the folk marxist, the perceived power imbalance is evidence of oppression and prevents any truly voluntary actions on the part of the oppressed. Hence the idea advanced by some radical feminists that all sex is rape, since the oppressed woman cannot give any meaningful consent. Now I'm not saying that all folk marxists take the ideas to that extreme, but they do look at things through oppressor/oppressed glasses.

In the spirit of America's love for the Underdog, folk marxists make moral judgements based on the oppressor/oppressed category. Oppressors are morally wrong, and anything the oppressed do to an oppressor is morally justified. Hence support for Palestinian suicide bombing of Israeli restaurants and weddings. But realize that the most powerful country in the world is the US. Therefore, to folk marxists, we are also the ultimate oppressor. In any conflict with another country, we must be morally wrong, and the other side is right. Why? Because we have power.

So the knee-jerk reaction probably doesn't spring from a hatred of the US, but rather a simplistic world view that shows why we must always be wrong. Heck, the folk marxists may indeed love the US, but the very prosperity, standard of living, and degree of liberty that makes this country so great also makes it (in the FM view) morally corrupt. I'm sure there are some amongst the folk marxist who get a great deal of self-righteous satisfaction that they are so morally pure that they would condemn even the country they love so well. However, I suspect most are disturbed that they live in a country that (to them) always seems lost in a moral swamp. Probably explains a lot of bitterness on the left.

Columnist Comes Close Attacking the NEA

Today's major Sacramento newspaper has an opinion piece by San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarette regarding the National Education Association, ostensibly the national teachers union. He chides the union for trying to gut the No Child Left Behind Act because that law shines a light on educational problems.

His attacks on the union come close but slightly miss their mark, and I explained why in the comments attached to the end of the link above. For those who aren't interested in going there or in free registration to read web material, I wrote that Navarette doesn't understand the depth of the malignancy of the NEA. Yes, his comments on the racial component of the anti-NCLB folks are dead on:

If these people get their way, the practical effect would be a lower bar for students of different racial, ethnic or economic backgrounds -- and by extension, those who teach them. And they would do all this not for the good of students but for the professional welfare of those who are supposed to be teaching them and who have, for too long, been coming up short.

He completely misses the mark, though, with this statement:

I always assumed that the NEA was focused primarily on what any union tends to focus on: the interests of its members.

As I (and many others) have pointed out before, the NEA is a gravy train of money for left-wing political causes that often have nothing to do with NEA members or even with education. Members are nothing more than cash cows whose sole purpose is to bankroll the political agenda of the union bosses. Mooo-o-o-o-o-o.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yet Another Post On Illegal Fees

I've written before about the illegal fees charged at my school. Today I saw our Student Government budget for the coming year--and 75% of it is devoted to funding athletics and cheerleading. There are two things wrong with this:

1. By ed code, student body monies are not supposed to be spent on curriculum items.
2. California's courts have ruled that athletics and cheerleading are part of the school curriculum.

I've had enough of pussy-footing around with this issue. I emailed our district's legal counsel.

Open Letter In Support of California's State Standards

Open Letter (not written by me--Darren)

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger and Members of the California Legislature;

In an open letter dated July 7, 2006, former governors Gray Davis and Pete Wilson expressed unambiguous support for California's K-12 academic content standards, curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, and tests aligned to the standards. They warned that dismantling California's system for K-12 education would be "a disastrous step backward." The excerpts below express key points from the governors' letter:

Standards provide a measure of excellence regardless of one’s skin color, family income, or zip code. We took a standards-based approach in California because we believe that if we set expectations high, students will respond. Not every child will fully meet the challenge, but all will benefit from the effort.

A standards-and-assessments approach means that no matter which neighborhood or region of the state a child is from, that child should be held to the same high expectations. It means that we will not give up on some children by building a less rigorous program for them. To do so would mean holding them back and limiting their future.

To provide those children a lesser academic challenge would be to insult them and might well cheat them out of realizing their full potential. Instead, when children begin school, we should address whatever deficits in academic readiness they may bring to the classroom through early and effective remedial attention -- not by creating an educational apartheid of lesser standards.

Standards also provide a way to measure progress and base decisions on objective evidence, not education fads. And they provide a measurable way to show how California’s public schools are improving over time.

...The essential ingredients -- the core content standards, curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, and tests aligned to the standards -- are now all in place and provide solid cornerstones for the work that must take place in schools across our great state. For a number of years now, students, parents, educators, and governors have known what is expected, what progress has been made, and what shortcomings still exist. These cornerstones provide much needed stability -- more stability than California schools have known in decades...

Having rigorous academic standards does not by itself guarantee that the teaching, textbooks, and student effort needed to meet those standards will be there. But the absence of such standards would undoubtedly guarantee that far too many of our schools and our children would fail to fulfill their potential.

Further steps need to be taken to make sure that each student who enrolls in a California public school receives a high quality education which prepares that student for success in a rapidly changing world. But through California’s rigorous academic standards and accountability system, the foundation is solidly in place.

Undoing California’s present high academic standards would be a disastrous step backward. It would leave far too many children woefully unprepared for the challenges and demands they will face in today’s ever more fiercely competitive global marketplace.

We agree with these views of Governor Davis and Governor Wilson. College preparedness depends in large measure on the integrity of K-12 academic standards and assessment. As faculty members of California's colleges and universities, we strongly urge you to support the continuation of California's K-12 education policies, including the academic content standards, curriculum frameworks, instructional materials, and tests aligned to the standards.

Sincerely (Signers are listed alphabetically),

Read the details and the identities of the signatories here.

Why Vouchers Are Needed

Vol. 36 No. 7
The Political Economy of Educational Vouchers
By Dwight R. Lee

Dr. Lee is a professor of economics at the University of Georgia, where he holds the Ramsey Chair of Private Enterprise.

Public financing of education means political control.

The crisis in public education is real. As judged by any reasonable measure, the quality of public education is declining as the cost of public education is increasing. The desire for reform in public education is genuine. Parents want a good education for their children, and taxpayers want an honest return for their dollars. Unfortunately, a realistic appraisal of why meaningful reform in public education is so badly needed also points to why meaningful reform is so unlikely to occur.

The underlying problem with public education is, quite simply, that it is public. As long as education is provided publicly, it will be controlled by, and for the benefit of, public education professionals. The reason for this is straightforward....

I Used To Think I Was Well-Traveled

Until I saw this map of countries I've been to. I need to get out more.

create your own visited country map

Here's my map of US states visited. I've only included states I've actually visited, not ones I've merely driven through or only passed through an airport. There would be several more if I included those, but it wouldn't be very honest.

create your own personalized map of the USA

I could also put up a map of Canadian provinces, but since I've only been to the southwest corner of British Columbia, there's no reason to put an entire map up for that.

I Am Against Public Funding of a New Arena For The Sacramento Kings

Today's major Sacramento newspaper has announced that the City and County of Sacramento governments have come to an agreement with Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof on a plan that builds a new downtown arena for the Kings, who will sign a 30-year lease for the arena.

I could not be more against this proposal.

It's not that I'm against keeping the Kings in Sacramento. Actually, I couldn't care less. I don't follow basketball at all, so their presence or absence doesn't affect me at all. Until I have to pay for their presence.

Most of the money would come from a new quarter-cent sales tax that would have to be approved by a majority of voters in November.

I don't understand this. When I was a child, the state sales tax in California was 6%. It is now 7.25%, and will never decrease. Sacramento did not have a county sales tax; currently it has a .5% sales tax, which would increase to .75% under this proposal. This means that any sale in Sacramento County would have an 8% sales tax on it. That's disgusting. Maybe I'll do all my shopping in neighboring Placer County, which has no county sales tax at all.

The arguments for public funding seem silly to me.

"We'd be a 2nd rate city without the Kings." If a sports team is the only thing keeping you from being a 2nd rate city, then you're a 2nd rate city with or without that team.

"The Kings bring so much civic pride!" At what cost? According to the news article, the cost is about $1.2 billion, which is how much money the sales tax increase is supposed to generate in tax revenue.

"This Kings, in a new downtown arena, will generate more money in tax revenues than they will cost." I'm sympathetic to this argument, and hope it's true. But that doesn't do me any good since I'll still be paying higher taxes! I could support this argument, and the tax increase, if the following were done: currently this .25% sales tax increase is designed to last 15 years. If the Kings are going to fill the city and county coffers with money, the taxpayers should get some of that money back. I could support all this if, at the end of the 15 years, not only is the .25% sales tax increase allowed to sunset, but the taxpayers get an additional .25% sales tax break. In other words, for the 15 years following, the county sales tax would be .25% instead of the current .5% and proposed .75%. Essentially, I want my money back! If the Kings are going to bring that much money in to government, then government doesn't need so much of mine. Pay me back my "loan".

But I know that won't happen. What's going to happen if this tax increase goes through is that the city and county may in fact get more money, and so will the owners of the Kings. The only people who won't get more money are the taxpayers! This business with the Kings seems like an inefficient way to generate tax revenue to me. If the local governments want more money, why raise taxes to build a new arena? Why not just raise taxes directly and cut out the middleman, which is the Kings owners?

Arco Arena would be demolished. The Maloofs would sell the 85-acre parcel surrounding it, a gold mine in fast-growing North Natomas that could fetch as much as $650,000 an acre, according to a recent appraisal. They could use that money to help pay off their city loan (currently $71 million--Darren). The city would sell its adjoining 100 acres and use the proceeds to buy land and build infrastructure in the railyard to serve the project.

Honestly, I don't see why I should have to pay to enrich the Maloofs. If the Kings are such a great deal, they should be self-sufficient. If we have to front the money to pay for their arena, they should pay it back--or we should at least get the tax decrease I mentioned above.

Why should I pay for an arena that will enrich two brothers but not do anything for me?

The team owners would operate the arena and receive all revenues from events, parking and concessions. They also would get to keep the lucrative naming rights, likely worth millions...

The arena would be owned by a new public joint powers authority, which would control the building's construction and design.

So I pay for it, they get the money. Great.

Fortunately I'm not the only one who's against this proposal.

"They are talking about half a billion dollars to fund an arena, and the Maloofs would reap the revenues -- that's a massive subsidy," said Dave Tamayo, president of People United for a Better Sacramento, a grass-roots organization opposing the plan...

Previous arena efforts have been led by the city of Sacramento alone. But this time, the county acted as an equal partner, and suburban cities gave input and have been offered millions of dollars in the deal.

But they won't see that money for a while. For about seven years, the joint powers authority will use the sales tax to pay off the arena construction loan, said Paul Hahn, county economic development director.

Only after that will cities get their payday.

Good information here with which to fight this money transfer. Sacramento is such a socialist place--I thought socialists wanted wealth transfers from the rich to the poor, not vice versa.

Polls show that most Sacramento County residents oppose public funding for an Arco replacement.

And I hope it stays that way.

Update, 7/23/06: If this increase succeeds, Sacramento County would have among the highest tax rates in the state:

If voters agree to the quarter-cent sales tax to fund the arena and other community amenities, Sacramento County will have a sales tax rate of 8 percent. Only seven of the 58 counties in California have a sales tax of 8 percent or higher (certain cities within some counties have a higher rate than the county rate):

County: Alameda Sales tax: 8.75%
County: San Francisco Sales tax: 8.50%
County: Contra Costa Sales tax: 8.25%
County: Los Angeles Sales tax: 8.25%
County: San Mateo Sales tax: 8.25%
County: Santa Clara Sales tax: 8.25%
County: Santa Cruz Sales tax: 8.00%

Note: The sales tax in El Dorado, Placer, Yolo, Sutter and Yuba counties is 7.25%.

Source: California State Board of Equalization

Not what I'd consider a selling point.

The Difference Between NEA and AFT

From the Education Intelligence Agency:

People often ask me about the differences between NEA and AFT. There are significant differences in structure and focus, but not much difference in philosophy or ideology. What shines through immediately as the major difference between the two organizations is their sense of themselves. I've written about this before, but AFT is comfortable as a labor union, while NEA is not. Nowhere is this more evident than in an examination of the keynote speeches given by the two presidents.

If Only More Of This Happened

If more of this happened, I'd get a masters degree so I could teach at college.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

AFT's Anti-NCLB Cartoon

Back in February, I received a request to advertise an anti-NCLB cartoon created by the American Federation of Teachers. Since I support the No Child Left Behind Act, I wasn't inclined to do that. Still, I went and looked at the cartoon and found it wrong if not outright deceptive.

It's been long enough. I thought it would be fun to post my email exchange here now.


Dear Darren,

You and your readers might be interested in this new flash cartoon about the No Child Left Behind Act just released by the American Federation of Teachers.

Check it out here:

The American Federation of Teachers believes strongly in NCLB's goals, but as education professionals, we know that the law needs some important reforms in order to meet those goals.

The cartoon also links to a micro-web site and blog about NCLB. We invite you to link to it as well.

We're hoping this cartoon will spark some much needed debate about NCLB. Please let us know what you think. And I am happy to provide you with more information about the campaign and the flash movie, if you'd like.


~On behalf of the American Federation of Teachers


I'm unimpressed.

NCLB doesn't mandate dropping history, school plays, and the like. (The cartoon implied it did--Darren) Those decisions are made at the local level.

What changes do *you* want to see made to the law?



Hi Darren,

Thanks for writing back. You can find out more about the AFT’s position on NCLB on their website

I’m referring your email to someone at AFT who can give you a more substantive answer to your question.



Hi Darren,
Your message was forwarded on to me. I am one of the bloggers at the AFTs NCLBlog. Thanks for your comments, we appreciate the feedback.
While you are correct in saying that NCLB does not madate dropping history or cancelling a school play, the point of the cartoon ad was to show--in a light-hearted way--that NCLB is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum in some places, which is of great concern to us and our members.
I encourage you to visit our NCLB Web site and blog to learn more about our position on the law.
Michele at AFT


I know what your point was. It's just mistaken.

What you're complaining about is local implementation of the law. That sounds like a local issue to me, not something that needs to be addressed in the law.

I appreciate your taking the time to communicate with me--and in a civil manner!



It's always good to get feedback. We need to know if the message is not coming through clearly.


End of email conversation.

As I read what I wrote, I sure do come across as harsh. It wasn't my intent; my intent was to come across as direct. That's entirely different. I can see that I have room to grow in this medium of communication.

Delaying Sex After Sex-Ed Course

CNN reports:

After participating in a two-week sexual education program designed and implemented by an academic medical center, more middle-school students said they would hold off on having sex for the first time, Texas researchers report...

Before the sex education program, 84 percent of students said they would delay having sex until after high school. This figure rose to nearly 87 percent after the program.

So let me see if I have this straight. The number of middle schoolers who say they'll postpone having sex goes up from 84 to 87% after a particular program, and CNN finds that newsworthy? How many things are wrong with this picture?

First, they're middle schoolers. That puts them in the 12-14 year old range. That group doesn't have much credibility when it comes to what they say they're going to do, especially about the big things in life. I'll bet a hefty percentage also say they'll never try drugs and will always drive safely because they don't want to risk killing their friends. Stats don't bear these angels out. Does anyone think that even 84% of those kids will delay sex until after high school? Come on, raise your hands if you do.

I didn't think so.

Next, the increase is from 84 to 87 per cent. That's three percentage points, a 3.6% increase. Is that really something to shout about? And again, that isn't an increase in the number of kids who actually did postpone sex, however you'd measure that. It's only an increase in the number who say they will.

CNN wasted some server space with that report.

Aircraft Videos

Go to this site. I needed to cut/paste the URLs of the links into my media player, but the exercise was well worth it. If you enjoy watching aircraft as much as I do, some of these will blow you away. Unfortunately, several of the clips are of spectacular crashes.

Liberals and Limitations On Government In The Constitution

I saw this quote at Right Wing Nation and just had to include it here:

Liberals cannot deal with the Constitution because it limits the powers of the Federal government — and liberalism is all about extending the powers of the Federal government.

Go read the entire post for edification.

Indictment of Schools, of Society, or Both?

From FrontPage Magazine:

What does it say about America that the killed and wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to hail from Prattville, Alabama, Lincoln, Nebraska, Mansfield, Ohio, or Klamath Falls, Oregon, than New York City, Beverly Hills or Cambridge, Massachusetts? (cut to the stats--Darren)

  • Of the Princeton University Class of 1956, more than half of the graduates went on to serve in the military (400 of 750); in 2004, that number was less than one percent (9 graduates). Sadly, among Ivy League schools, Princeton is in the lead for ROTC participation.
  • During the 1956 school year, Stanford University had 1,100 students enrolled in ROTC; today, there are only 29.
  • In 1969, seventy percent of the members of Congress were veterans; in 2004, only twenty-five percent were, with that representation falling rapidly.
  • The percentage of members of Congress with children serving in the military is only slightly above one percent.
  • While the old political clans of the Kennedys, Roosevelts and the Bushes have had many family members previously serving in combat, none of these privileged families (Democrat and Republican alike) has any relative in the military today.

I have statistics from the Army that show that the middle class carries the largest share of military service in our country, not the (commonly cited and probably hoped-for by liberals) lower classes. But that is beside the point, which is this--why is military service no longer something which the upper classes value? Why and how have our schools turned into such anti-military fortresses that the Solomon Amendment was needed?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Southern California Hasn't Been So Good To Me

The last time I flew to Southern California, SkyWest canceled my flight from LAX to Orange County because there weren't enough people on the plane. Instead, they put us on a bus. There's so much more to that story, and it doesn't get any better, but that story isn't the point here.

On Monday of this week I flew Aloha Airlines direct to Orange County/John Wayne Airport--yeah, that'll show 'em! I was supposed to fly back Tuesday night--but some driver ran into a pole in Palmdale and knocked out air traffic control for most of Southern California. There were no flights in or out of LAX, Burbank, John Wayne, San Diego, and probably others, for a couple hours. I wonder if al-Qaeda knew it was so easy to affect air travel without even getting on board the aircraft. Fortunately I was able to bunk over with some people the extra night, and my son and his mother ensured Boomer had food and water. I was able to fly back home this morning--and still get everything done for my son's birthday party this evening (not his real birthday, but that's life sometimes).

I'm thinking that the Fates don't want me in Southern California. I'm 0-2 there now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Writing Good Multiple Choice Tests

Right Wing Prof has excellent, practical suggestions.

Special Ed in College

It's not that I necessarily disagree with this, but I've never seen it put so bluntly before:

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, disabled students from kindergarten through high school are entitled to an individualized education plan created by a pit crew of teachers and specialists.

It all stops in college, a surprise to students who may think administrators will know their needs, said Jane Warner, assistant director of services for disabled students at Virginia Tech University and co-organizer of College Bound, a collaboration of the Blacksburg school, Radford University and New River Community College. (emphasis mine--Darren) has the story about a program designed to give special ed students some knowledge and skills they'll need to succeed in college.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Cheap Homes For Teachers?

Now they tell me!

Homes are first offered to approved non-profit organizations, mostly in inner-city neighborhoods, at a 50 percent discount to their appraised values. The non-profits then rehabilitate and resell them.

Any properties not picked up by the non-profits are then offered to police officers and teachers at a 10 percent discount. HUD also recently began giving first shot at homes coming into the system to people made homeless by Hurricane Katrina at the same 10 percent discount. (emphasis mine--Darren)

If, after five days, no teacher, officer or Katrina victim makes an offer, HUD puts the properties on auction for the general public. At that point only buyers who intend to live in the house may bid.

Individuals can look at homes at HUD's Web site and

So there you go.

Governor Schwarzenegger Talks The Talk

Now will he walk the walk?

From today's San Jose Mercury News:

Recently, our State Board of Education and Legislature have engaged in intense discussions over how to best teach English language arts to our students, including which books to use and what is the appropriate curriculum.

The board's decision to maintain high standards for all our students and not push for separate books, curriculum and classes for students of different backgrounds is the right path.

California has made tremendous strides toward achieving world-class standards for our students. We must have only one standard for all our children and one way to test whether students are meeting that standard. We shouldn't segregate and isolate kids in separate classes simply because English is not their native language. We don't advance this course of action out of any false sense of pride or ego. We do so because it is best for our English-learning kids and for California's future.

It will be easier to believe his sincerity once the state Board of Education has its funding restored.

Simulation/Video of Flt. 77 Hitting the Pentagon

Yes, the moonbats say that a missile hit the Pentagon. Of course it did--the US government ran out of hijacked plans to fly into buildings and had to use a missile so enough people could die in order to start Chimpy McBushitler's war on the peace-loving peoples of the Middle East. Look what Israel's doing right now--it's all a Zionist know, this conspiracy theory crap is entirely too easy to fake. I'll stop here before people think I'm being serious about that crap.

Anyway, here's a video simulation recreating the last moments of Flight 77 before it crashed into the Pentagon almost 5 years ago. The animation is spectacular--and haunting. It includes a cut-in to the security camera footage that was released not too long ago.

California's Gold Country

Someone I know remarked recently that I haven't had any travel-type posts lately. Since it's been more than a month since this post, I guess I'll take the implicit suggestion and describe today's day trip.

A friend of mine is rather into photography, so we drove an hour up into the Sierra foothills to go to Grass Valley and Nevada City, two towns in California's Gold Country. Both towns are former mining towns, and both have historical markers on several of the buildings on their main streets. Grass Valley seemed closed today--only the restaurants and bars were open--so we took a picture or two and then headed to Nevada City.

Nevada City was open for business. It sits in the foothills at over 2000 feet in elevation, but the heat that stifled the Sacramento Valley was still very much in evidence there. Just about every shop was open, though, which made wandering the streets nice. When we got too hot, we'd just pop into a store for a few minutes!

I don't know when it's heyday was, but I'd guess it reached a peak around a century ago and slowly slid into the small town that exists today. It's growing again, but the historic downtown hopefully won't change much. The residential neighborhoods nearby were quite the treat, and that's where I focused most of my picture-taking.


Can you see the squirrel running along the roof?

Even though it looks like a church, this is actually part of the front of someone's house. It looks much nicer in black and white than in color, which is why I posted it this way.

I liked this weather vane on top of someone's carport. It looked dignified, somehow, when printed in sepia tones, and I hope you enjoy this picture.

Here's the creek that runs just a couple blocks from the main street of the historic downtown.

I took my son out for a root beer float after I got back, and as we passed our City Hall the temperature read 107 degrees at just after 5 pm. It was definitely well into the upper 90s in Nevada City, but with scenery like that above, it's tolerable.


Last November I wrote about the foolishness of those who have "Free Tibet" bumper stickers on their cars but other than that, won't lift a finger to actually free Tibet. I'd recommend reading that short post before continuing on.

Given that background, how can this AP story from Yahoo do anything but discourage you?

Time, Tibetan exiles fear, is running out.

As the Dalai Lama ages, their dreams of returning to a free Tibet are slowly being crushed by a realization that they face a long bleak period without an international icon to plead their case before the world and keep them united...

This month, China realized its decades-old ambition of linking Tibet to Beijing by train, heightening Tibetan concerns that Beijing is trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping it with Han, the majority Chinese ethnic group.

Another worry is that the Dalai Lama's nonviolent philosophy, which won him the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, may die with him, possibly triggering a return to arms that most agree would be doomed to fail.

You read my November post, so you know what the Dalai Lama would think of this. And then there's the bad faith in which the Chinese deal with Tibet:

This month, Tibet's Chinese-appointed leader, Champa Phuntsok, described the Dalai Lama as a threat to China's security and unity. While the Tibetan leadership described its envoys' talks with Beijing as "fruitful," Phuntsok said they made "no substantial progress."

Ah yes, the Dalai Lama is a threat to Chinese security. Of course he is.

How might the Chinese deal with Tibet's monks? Might they steer clear of meddling in religion?

In 1995 the Dalai Lama chose a 6-year-old boy as the new Panchen Lama, the No. 2 figure in Tibetan Buddhism, who traditionally guides whoever becomes the next Dalai Lama. China promptly put the boy under house arrest and he has not been seen since.

Six months later, it appointed its own Panchen Lama, then 5, and pressured Buddhists to accept him.

Guess we've answered that question.

So again I ask those of you with the "Free Tibet" bumper stickers on your cars--exactly how do you expect to make that happen? What do you think should be done, materially, to free Tibet?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cold On Global Warming

I like Ryan Sager's writing style, and this opinion piece on Democrats and global warming shows why.

Some of it is pure PC. Democrats know they're "supposed to" care about global warming and feel guilty about driving their SUVs back and forth to soccer practice and going through warehouses full of fast-food containers on family trips. But so long as the politicians play their prescribed roles (Democrats: furrowed-brow, ineffective concern; Republicans: utterly insincere, ineffective concern), it's just not a voting issue.

And he scores points with me here:

That was the premise of a recent exercise conducted by political scientist Bjorn Lomborg (author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist") with a number of U.N. diplomats (including U.S. Ambassador John Bolton). Lomborg gave each functionary a fictional $50 billion to spend on world problems - obliging them to chose which problems need to be solved first.

Anyone who mentions Bjorn Lomborg is OK in my book! But go read the article to find out how the UN diplomats spent their $50B. You'll find that your Kyoto-loving bureaucrats aren't even interested in addressing global warming fictitiously, much less in reality!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Can't Say I Blame 'Em


BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- Prominent donors have delayed multimillion-dollar gifts to Harvard University since Lawrence Summers resigned as the school's president and a search began for his replacement, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

I wouldn't support an anti-US, anti-military, anti-scientific university, either.

Gay "Propaganda" In The Classroom?

I agree with major Sacramento newspaper columnist Dan Walters:

The motives for the very unusual procedure are unclear, but it means that the full Assembly will vote in August on something that should trouble even those who support full equality for gays, including marriage rights. California law already mandates such see-no-evil history instruction for a wide array of ethnic groups, substituting feel-good propaganda for what should be scholarly study. Adding more groups to this exercise in academic affirmative action just makes it that much worse and sends an absolutely wrong message to young minds about the truthfulness of their textbooks. Kids should be getting their history straight -- warts and all -- not sanitized by politicians who are pursuing other agendas...

Treating all people, regardless of sexual orientation, with absolute equality is one thing. In seeking such equality in marriages and other fields, gay rights advocates, it could be said, are occupying the moral high ground. There's nothing moral about legally mandating propaganda of any kind in the classroom.

Actually, I'm all for getting rid of "academic affirmative action" in our textbooks anyway. I said as much last year when I wrote about so-called ethnomathematics:

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..."

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.

As it is for race and ethnicity, so it is for sexual orientation.

Anti-Business Insanity Will Run Chicago Into The Ground

Reading NewsAlert (see blogroll at left) I get to follow the travails of cities that are not only losing population but also adding fuel to the fire. Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and I think San Francisco are shooting themselves in the feet, refusing to accept reality whilst trying to maintain their socialist utopias. Actually, I think we're past that, and are now in the realm of socialist Potemkin villages.

This story out of Chicago, though, is complete and total insanity. Quoting from the Chicago Sun-Times:

Target is putting on hold plans to build three South Side stores — and making veiled threats to close existing Chicago stores — if the City Council mandates wage and benefit standards for such “big-box” retailers, aldermen warned Thursday... (The ordinance being considered is being "championed by organized labor" and applies only to very large businesses--Darren)

Wal-Mart has threatened to cancel plans to build as many as 20 new Chicago stores over the next five years if retailers are required to pay employees at least $10 an hour by July 1, 2010...

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said a Target pull-out would be devastating to the 32-acre shopping mall at 119th and Marshfield that developers had hoped to build, with help from a $23 million city subsidy. Home Depot would likely follow Target out the door. As many as 1,000 jobs would be lost, Austin said.

Referring to the anti-Wal-Mart movement that gave birth to the big-box ordinance, Austin said, “If you want to bully up on Wal-Mart, you’ve got to bring in the other ones and, damned if you do on them. If they suffer from it, too bad. If you want to control Wal-Mart, you should go about that a different way...”

Hairston called it little more than a scare tactic. And even if the threat turns out to be real, she’s standing firm in support of organized labor.

“Wal-Mart and Target could pay their people a living wage. Then, we wouldn’t have this problem and people could actually live on the money they made,” Hairston said.

“My position is my position. They’ll do what they have to do. I’ll do what I have to do. If they want to lose the more than $3 billion that is not being captured in my ward, that’s a bad business decision for them.”

Brookins said Wal-Mart executives have told him they may take the lead of the many riverboat casinos that ring Chicago and run free shuttle buses to their suburban stores if the big box ordinance passes.

Why would a city want to run big businesses out of its borders? Wal*Mart is already building in Chicago's suburbs because of the unfriendly climate in Chicago proper, and now that climate will attack other big box stores.

Why doesn't Chicago's government just admit that they don't want successful businesses, along with the tax revenue and jobs they provide, in their city? Why not just admit that these companies are a necessary evil that should be taxed and regulated to pay for more political patronage?

Update, 7/21/06: It seems that not everyone in Chicago is against Wal*Mart.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Student Free Speech

I've struggled with this topic, but I think I've finally formulated a rational, supportable opinion: The Supreme Court screwed up the Tinker case.

I was just reading this post about two different reactions to student free speech. The Independent Gay Forum is by and about gays but is not the typical leftist gay tripe; in other words, I've found interesting and intellectually challenging posts there, and the linked post is one of them.

That post started off with the Tinker case, decided by the US Supreme Court in 1969, which ruled that wearing a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War was "symbolic speech" and hence could not be prohibited under the 1st Amendment. How does one identify the dividing line between symbolic speech and outright action? How can real speech be limited in certain situations (reasonable time/place/manner restrictions, yelling "fire!" in a croweded theater), but so-called symbolic speech cannot have the same reasonable time/place/manner restrictions? I'm left to wonder if the Supremes weren't smoking some of that good Nevada County sins when they crafted that debacle of a decision.

The linked article then shows two very different responses to free speech at school:

This bit of history is relevant because the Ninth Circuit now must decide whether a California sophomore named Tyler Chase Harper was unfairly sent home from his high school for wearing a t-shirt saying "Homosexuality is shameful." The overt sloganeering is certain uncivil, but is it also political speech protected by liberal jurisprudence? If so, then opponents of the t-shirt must prove it is a form of harassment that keeps gay students from learning in order to have it banned.


Meanwhile, here's another public school culture-war skirmish. At Howell High School in Michigan, when the Diversity Club hung a rainbow flag in a hallway, it was allowed to remain despite a petition by Christian conservatives. That prompted these students to create a Traditional Values Club and produce their own flag. Now, faculty members have voted that both flags should be displayed only in classrooms during club meetings.

It's unfortunate that the comments are not as stimulating as the post itself.

So, given that students can protest a war at school, thereby showing their political beliefs, why can students not show off their religious beliefs? Is it because, in the first place above, it makes others feel bad? I don't get cheery when I see students (or teachers) wearing Che Guevara shirts--should they be banned? Apparently they can't be, according to Tinker. So where does a school draw the line, given Tinker's muddy terrain? Students in my own district, many who were religious Eastern European immigrants, were punished this year for wearing not-gay-friendly shirts to school and protesting outside the school.

The whole field of law is a mess, and it started in 1969.

I'm not very religious. I'm definitely a believer, but no one will ever be able to use my behavior to justify calling me a devoutist (unfortunately). Still, the anti-Christian occurrences in our schools are frequent enough to raise my ire several degrees. The second story is one in a long list of such events, and reflects poorly on the so-called open-mindedness of the staff at that school.

What if students wanted to start a KKK chapter? Obviously a school would not allow such a club. Yet MEChA chapters exist in many schools, and they're a vile, racist organization. Where is the line drawn? Legal/illegal, positive/negative? Under what circumstances might a Traditional Values Club be banned? And is there a freedom of association/freedom of religion argument for such a club? It gets muddy very fast, doesn't it?

This story from New York state is also pretty interesting. A student, as a way of protesting what he saw as overly-strict rules at his school, had a very interesting yearbook quote: "Ein Folk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuerher." Using Hitler's patriotic quote was this student's way of saying that his school administration was running a police state.

17-year-old Galen Barbour submitted Hitler's quote at the start of the school year. It originated as a Nazi era slogan. But that was not Barbour's inspiration, instead he says he was merely protesting against the school's strict policies.

"The school is just this playground for discipline now. They'll bust you for going to the bathroom without a hall pass. They'll bust you for having a coffee mug... I used the quote because to me Hitler in ways represents a historical police state," said Barbour.

Instead of punishing young Galen, the powers that be gave him sensitivity training.

Barbour sat down with three teachers from the high school who had personal ties to the holocaust.

"I'm sure it was an impulsive decision by the student and I'm sure that student probably regrets it by now," said (Superintendent) Keith.

Maybe he could just have worn an armband with a swastika. What would the Tinker supporters have to say about that?

The final crushing of dissent, though, comes at the end of the story:

Superintendent Keith says more faculty advisors will be added to the yearbook staff to make sure controversial quotes will not be overlooked again.

I'm sure they won't be. And then the 1st Amendment arguments will start all over again.

$22,000 Per Student and the Schools Still Suck

In Marin County, liberal stronghold and home of American Taliban John Walker, sits little Sausalito. Joanne (see blogroll at left) reports that in upscale Sausalito they spend over $22,000 per student per year in the local schools and the performance of students still sucks.

You can go read Joanne's post; I'm going to quote one of her commenters here:

But the point is that bags of money, contrary to the never ending complaints by supporters of the status quo, won't do the job. Not that we need this further datapoint but it's nice to have the observation confirmed, again.

Also, it's my opinion that elevation-by-osmosis is a crock as well. Just dragging kids twenty or thirty miles so they can rub up against all those suburban kids, with their disciplined and purposeful life (yeah, right), is both patronizing and unsupported by any evidence.

The problem isn't that there are struggling urban schools. The problem is that there are urban school districts. A couple of cities may be trembling on the edge of addressing that problem. Bloomberg wants to do an end-around the state legislature which won't officially raise the charter cap by creating defact charters and the mayor of Indianapolis has gone to the state legislature to get the city district rolled into the municipal government.

It'd be nice to have a reason for the continued existance of school districts other then inertia and political will but I don't think there is one.

I'm sure the NEA and CTA can concoct reasons why even more money should be spent on these kids. And I'll only mention in passing that direct instruction with standards-based curricula might help here....

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Interesting Comment From a Leftie

Every once in awhile, if I'm in a coffee shop or someplace like that, I like to pick up the Sacramento News and Review, the local "alternative weekly" paper. Such papers are overwhelmingly liberal papers, at least as far as the editorials and readership go, but there's always something interesting in them. Even some of the viciously anti-Conservative comics can get a chuckle out of me; This Modern World, by Tom Tomorrow, is hilarious, even though he and I would never agree on politics.

The paper comes out every Thursday, and I picked up the July 6th issue because the cover mentioned an essay about Rush Limbaugh and the Viagra situation. Gotta see if the lib was going to be funny about that; unfortunately, the essay wasn't as funny as the quotes I'd heard from Limbaugh on the topic. But there was still the rest of the paper to go.

One letter to the editor caught my eye. Apparently in a prior issue, someone wrote an article that portrayed pit bulls in a negative light. Here's the final paragraph of a letter in response to that article:

I would caution SN&R, a paper that proposes to be progressive in its thinking, from allowing further unfair slights such as Mr. Reany's to be printed amongst its pages. In all fairness, a dog of any classification should be judged on its individual deeds, not according to its mythical, and many times inaccurate, legend.

My regular readers can already see where I'm going to go with this.

No conservative would use the word "progressive" as the writer did above; we'd say "liberal". The writer is clearly a lib. In geometry terms, that's a "given".

So this lib thinks dogs should be judged on individual deeds and not as members of a breed (group). How many times must I say it? One of the many differences between the American Left and Right is that the right sees people as individuals while the Left sees people only as groups--hence, the identity politics of the left. And here we have a leftie who is willing to treat a dog as an individual. I wonder if he'd give the same consideration to a human.

NEA Has Secretly Paid Millions to Discredit NCLB

Joanne Jacobs and EIA (see blogroll at left for both) have posts today which discuss the NEA's secret war against the No Child Left Behind Act. USA Today has what is to me the most obvious point about NEA hypocrisy:

The law's critics cried foul in 2005, when documents revealed that the Bush administration paid TV and radio commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote it on his syndicated programs. The revelations led to a government-wide inquiry.

NEA wasn't too fond of the Williams deal. How, then, do they explain this?

The nation's largest teachers union has spent more than $8 million in a stealth campaign against President Bush's education reform law, paying for research and political opposition in an effort to derail it, according to a Washington think tank that supports the law.

NEA President Massa Reg doesn't quite come off sounding like a genius:

Weaver says that the NEA supports the law's goals but that it "is fundamentally flawed and changes need to be made. And nobody is more qualified to lead that effort than the people who are in the education front lines every day."

He says 86 groups have joined him to call for changes; though the union "might identify specific research questions we would like to see answered," there is "absolutely no quid pro quo" in the work it finances, he says.

Whom does this law help the most? Clearly, it's inner city kids--the law shines the spotlight on the failure of these kids, their schools, and in all probability the culture of poverty that encourages continued failure. Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at a partial list of the organizations to whom the NEA is giving money to fight this law:

Joe Williams examined U.S. Labor Department LM-2 forms, which unions had to begin filing last year, and found that the NEA spent about $7.65 million supporting a start-up lobbying group called Communities for Quality Education, which has been critical of the law. The NEA also has funded, to a much lesser extent, other groups critical of the law, including the National Conference of Black Mayors, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Harvard Civil Rights Project.

The mind boggles.

Air Force Academy Grad Runs For Congress...

...and his television ad will certainly have some people talking!

My opinion--it's not the best ad, and it's a bit heavy-handed, but you have to admire his integrity.

Unionizing Substitute Teachers

My local union, which won't allow me to be a member because I refuse to be a member of the state and national unions as well, has what can only be described as among the stupidest ideas on the planet--the leadership is considering unionizing our district's substitute teachers. There's so much wrong with this proposal that I almost don't know where to start.

1. If subs become union members, they'll also have to be CTA/NEA members. Those fees are fixed, and I don't think there's a lower fee for subs. That means that subs, who make a whopping $100/day when they work, will pay a disproportionate amount of their salaries to a union.

2. Substitutes often register with several local districts, thereby increasing their chances of getting a job on any particular day. Making it more expensive to work in our district, which already is not the highest-paying in the area, will have the practical result of reducing the number of substitutes available to us.

3. The union says that by unionizing the substitutes, we can have a more "professional" sub cadre--because then we'd be able to provide more/better training for them. What training does the union need to provide? The quality, training, and qualifications of teachers is the responsibility of the school district, not the union. Even still, if the union thinks subs could be better, why not just provide training now? How would their membership in the union make them more trainable? Shouldn't the union's position be that the district should bring subs up to standard, if they are in fact substandard? ("Sub"standard--get it! Sometimes I slay myself.)

4. Is the union saying there's something wrong with the subs we currently have? "You suck--join our union" doesn't sound like the greatest rallying cry.

5. Here's a selfish reason. There's only so much money for salaries--it truly is a zero-sum game. Bargain for the subs and get more for them, that means I don't get as much.

If you can identify other reasons why this is a bad idea, please list them in the comments.

It's obvious that this isn't really an issue about sub competence, although oddly that's how it's being sold. It's clearly nothing more than an entrenched bureaucracy, the union, trying to grow itself. CTA did it by recently voting to allow non-teacher school workers to join CTA, no doubt ticking off the classified employees' California State Education Association.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--a union that gets my money against my will should at least focus on my pay, benefits, and working conditions. Taking that money and trying to unionize others--so it can be entitled to their money as well--doesn't sit well with me. And it shouldn't sit well with my fellow teachers, either.

Foreign College Students Complain of Exchange Program Conditions on Gulf Coast

Reading this story just tied my stomach in knots. I'll just state here that you shouldn't crap on someone just because you have the opportunity to do so.

Milton Friedman on Unions (and Education In General)

The traitorous Los Angeles Times has an interesting little story about a reporter's (and blogger's, I think) meeting with economist Milton Friedman.

"The fundamental thing that's wrong with our present setup of elementary and secondary schooling is that it's a case in which the government is subsidizing a product," he says. "If you subsidize the producers, as we do in schooling, they have every incentive to have a status quo, and a non-progressive system, because they are a monopoly."

Some won't like this:

"It's very clear that the people who suffer most in our present system are people in the slums — blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the underclass."

When I ask him about the "achievement gap" separating low-scoring black and Latino students from better-scoring whites and Asians, he blames my "friends in the union."

"They are running a system that maximizes the gap in performance…. Tell me, where is the gap between the poor and rich wider than it is in schooling?"

Go read the whole thing.

More Press Arrogance

Robert Novak discusses his obviously-starring role in Plamegate, and in the process reveals (yet again) how journalists view themselves as some sort of specially-protected class of high priests.

I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves.

My attorneys advised me that I had no certain constitutional basis to refuse cooperation if subpoenaed by a grand jury. To do so would make me subject to imprisonment and inevitably result in court decisions that would diminish press freedom, all at heavy personal legal costs...I had not identified my sources to my attorneys, and I told them I would not reveal them to the FBI. (emphasis mine--Darren)

The problem facing me was that the special prosecutor had obtained signed waivers from every official who might have given me information about Wilson's wife.

That created a dilemma. I did not believe blanket waivers in any way relieved me of my journalistic responsibility to protect a source. Hamilton told me that I was sure to lose a case in the courts at great expense. Nevertheless, I still felt I could not reveal their names.

When I testified before the grand jury, I was permitted to read a statement that I had written expressing my discomfort at disclosing confidential conversations with news sources. (So-called shield laws are a travesty of justice--Darren.)

How did Novak get Plame's name and why did he publish it?

Joe Wilson's wife's role in instituting her husband's mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official who I have previously said was not a political gunslinger. After the federal investigation was announced, he told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part. (emphasis mine--Darren)

Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official and the CIA spokesman for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in "Who's Who in America."

I considered his wife's role in initiating Wilson's mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.

Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of the press. That doesn't mean that anything that might somehow possibly inhibit the press must be forbidden; if it did, then how could we tax news organizations? Don't OSHA regulations cost the press some money, and hence abridge their freedom? I don't think anyone is ready to go there, but journalists will ignore that inconvenient fact and still assert that they're somehow immune to grand juries and to the very judiciary whose activism they so love.

These high priests need to be brought back to earth.

And now, the political commentary. Lefties, I'm sure you'll be disappointed by this statement by Mr. Novak:

I have revealed Rove's name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection. I have revealed Harlow's name because he has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection. My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.

Did you get that? Karl Rove was not the primary source. His role is explained in the article.

Also, Novak states that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald knew the identity of the leaker(s) of Plame's identity.

In other words, the special prosecutor knew the names of my sources.

When I testified before the grand jury, I was permitted to read a statement that I had written expressing my discomfort at disclosing confidential conversations with news sources. It should be remembered that the special prosecutor knew their identities and did not learn them from me.

Why, then, did Fitzgerald drag out his interviews and allow speculations regarding the President and Karl Rove? Might it have been, dare I say it, political?

So, let's close here. "Outing" Plame was not, according to Novak, done to embarrass Joe Wilson. It was not done intentionally. All your leftie machinations seem to be nothing more than projection--reading your own fears and other psychoses onto members of the Bush Administration. Even if the original/primary source was President Bush himself, it's clear that there was no harmful intent (althought it would still be a mistake). And the person who first identified Plame by name was--Robert Novak himself.

OK, lefties. Where do you go from here? Do you keep digging that hole you're in? Or do you admit you were wrong? I'm dying to find out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Numeracy of College Students

It's entirely too easy for teachers to read about the academic gaps individual students might have, and in both amazement and frustration throw up our hands and in despair cry out, "Kids these days!"

I try to avoid that course of action, but then sometimes I read something and I have to wonder, "How could he not know this?"

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Politics = High School

When I saw an article with that as the the theme, I just had to read it.

The closing was pretty good.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Can You Say, "Disingenuous"? I Knew You Could!

California Educator Magazine. I threw out the May issue because I had too much other stuff to write about. Summer usually brings with it a dearth of education-related material, so the June issue becomes the target of my typing fingers. And what a good target it is!

My previous two posts provide ample fodder to those clear-thinking individuals who try to understand the union's contortions of reality. How, though, can such a person understand the article that appears on page 29?

A bill that blames teacher transfer rights for problems schools of greatest need have in attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers has survived the Senate despite CTA's opposition...SB1655 by Senate Education Chair Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) would remove a chapter's right to bargain transfer policies from the collective bargaining law.

Ok, I think I understand that. Scott--a "friend of education" in CTA parlance because of that "D" after his name--has proposed a bill that would take teacher transfer rights out of district collective bargaining agreements and codify them in state law. CTA opposes this, but why?

Under the bill's provisions, principals in Decile 1-3 schools would not have to accept any transfer applicant, even if the teacher is fully credentialed and "highly qualified" as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Why might a principal not want to accept a specific applicant for a job?

A principal would be allowed to bar a teacher who is outspoken about curriculum and other needed changes or who is a union activist.

So who's in charge of a school, the principal or the teachers? It's the principal whose job's on the line if a school underperforms; I say let the principal choose his/her staff and see what happens. Worried about a union activist? I'd think a principal in such circumstances would be far more worried about having to accept someone who already knows better than anyone else what needs to be done and hence wouldn't go along with needed reforms. CTA's concerns ring hollow to me.

What's one of the perennial whines about underperforming schools? That good teachers transfer out of bad schools once they get a little seniority. How does CTA couch more opposition to this bill?

The bill could have the effect of keeping highly qualified teachers from transferring into the schools that need them the most.

I'm sorry if I just don't believe them. I'll tell you right here and now the only reason CTA is concerned about this bill. If it can't be negotiated, there's that much less for negotiators and the CTA to work on. That means that CTA is that much less useful. Their opposition to this bill is nothing more than self-protection.

But what's the real problem with underperforming schools? Apparently it's not great teachers, whom CTA thinks are applying to such schools in droves.

The bill does nothing to make schools of greatest need more attractvie places to teach--like giving them an infusion of money, lowering class size, improving safety conditions, or requiring high-quality principals. (emphasis mine--Darren)

You knew that was going to be the answer, didn't you? Like a broken record. Note how the problems are money and bad principals? Isn't is always thus?

Fairfield-Suisun, A Perpetual Hellhole

Page 26 of California Educator, mouthpiece rag of the CTA, has an article about yet another protest in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, located about an hour away from the capital. These protests are nothing new; in fact, they're rather common. Apparently Fairfield-Suisun is a cesspit.

If the CTA truly wanted what is best for its members, it would put a lot of money into that district. It would attract attention, discuss school board elections, ensure it's members don't roll over and accept yet another contract that amounts to eating dung--in short, it would work for results. However, that's not what CTA is all about. In fact, I dare say that CTA likes having that cesspit; the status quo, through convoluted reasoning that only a union hack could understand, actually serves CTA's interests in a couple areas:

  • the 1200 teachers in that district still have a need for CTA, despite the fact that nothing changes; and
  • CTA gets a beautiful demon-enemy in the form of the district administration, a demon-enemy they can point out to other districts and say "You need us to protect you from people like them".

I grow tired of reading about those people. To paraphrase the vernacular, either crap or get off the pot.

CTA's Muddled Positions

I'm not a union member but they still send me their union rag. I don't have a birdcage to line so I guess I should read it. But oh, it's a good thing I don't have ulcers to be irritated.

The June issue is all about social promotion and retention of students. At first glance that would be good, especially when the cover story seems to lean against social promotion. The first couple of articles might well give the right-thinking among us goosebumps--could CTA finally be coming around?

Sadly, no. Apparently, social promotion is only bad when a school district (read: administration) doesn't impose rigorous standards for students to meet. Yes, the valiant teachers fight an uphill battle against a weak administration (see pp. 6-7) that only wants to keep parents placated by moving their children along.... If only the school district had rigorous standards for students to meet, everything would be fine.

Sure, and what's CTA's position when the state wants to impose rigorous standards for students to meet? One size doesn't fit all! Standardized tests don't tell you anything! My creativity is being stifled! My guess is that teachers, and teachers alone, should decide who passes and who doesn't. We can decide that for our classes, but we cannot be the creators and arbiters of district policy.

Then I turn to p. 18 and read the article entitled "CAHSEE: The threat that gets their attention". Again, you have to wonder--given CTA's open hostility to the exit exam, how could this article appear?

In high school, where social promotion is not a possibility under normal circumstances, the exit exam may well be the first time students are held truly accountable for their academic performance.

Even students who consider the exam unfair admit that it made them put out effort like never before.
And a few paragraphs later, there's this:

"They hold teachers accountable and schools accountable, so why not kids?" he (a teacher) asks. "Sometimes by the time they get to high school, it can be too late." p. 19

That sounds like a ringing endorsement of the exit exam to me. Has CTA gone schizophrenic?

Apparently, the answer is yes. Keeping in mind what we just read about the exit exam, let's take a gander at what we find on p. 32.

The state is entertaining the idea of eliminating the CCTC (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing) and moving its duties to the State Board of Education or the California Department of Education. While CTA would like to see a majority of teachers on the licensure board, chosen in a manner similar to that of the State Teachers' Retirement System board, Council decided it does not want the body that deals with the high school exit exam, academic standards, STAR testing and No Child Left Behind to deal with teacher credentials.

So, where exactly does CTA stand again? Is the exit exam a good thing, or not? Are high standards a good thing, or not? And if we like high standards, is testing to ensure we meet those standards a good thing, or not?

I'm not really surprised. It's not like this is the first time that CTA's been inconsistent within the same issue of the rag.