Saturday, March 31, 2007

Where's the "Separation of Church and State" Crowd?

Colorado’s House Education Committee chairman wrote in an e-mail that there must be a “special place in hell” for charter school supporters...

Merrifield called two Colorado Springs school board members “evil twins” for backing a plan to let a high-scoring K-8 charter school, Cesar Chavez, turn a so-so district-run elementary, Hunt, into a charter...

When newspapers picked up the story, Merrifield said his anti-charter views are well-known. But today, he apologized for his language and resigned as chair of the committee.

He's a Democrat, so they don't mind.

Via Joanne Jacobs (see blogroll at left).

Disappointing News From the US Coast Guard Academy

NEW LONDON, Conn. - The U.S. Coast Guard Academy has lost its way and is struggling with a climate of distrust and cynicism in which nearly one in four cadets say they would not report classmates who commit sexual assault, a task force reported Friday.

The task force, created last year after the first student court-martial in the academy's 130-year history, said the academy must restore its focus on leadership and character development to create the best officers to safeguard the nation's coast.

Otherwise, the report warned, the academy is in danger of losing the distinct identity that separates it from other colleges.

Of course I'm a biased observer here, so keep that in mind when you read the following.

Our service academies are an important and necessary component for training our future officers. They're necessary, but not sufficient, for providing the nation with trained officers of the highest caliber.

Yes, individual cadets and midshipmen can make mistakes that, while possibly bringing discredit on their academy as a whole, do not point to systemic problems at the school. But if the above report is true, that a fourth of Coast Guard Academy cadets would not report those who commit sexual assaults, then there is a systemic problem there--and part of that problem lies with the officer leadership at the Academy. It's their responsibility to train the cadets, to instill in them the highest values of the uniformed services. Fail at that task, and you've let the entire country down.

Hopefully the cadets themselves can begin to address this shameful problem. If they can't take care of each other--and shielding a possible criminal does not satisfy that description--how can they be trusted to take care of the Coast Guardsmen who will be placed under their so-called leadership?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Visitor Made My Day

One of my former students, an Eagle Scout, dropped by to visit me today. I did a double-take when I saw him--he's really grown up and filled out. Anyway, he came by to tell me something.

He's been in junior college for awhile, but he realized that he was only there for his parents because it's what they wanted. He hated it because it wasn't what he wanted. He wasn't happy there. School isn't for him right now.

So he enlisted in the army. He'll report to basic training in the next couple months.

He said his entire outlook has improved. He's looking forward to being a part of something bigger than himself, something he's genuinely interested in. He'll be doing basic, then airborne (parachute) school, and then Ranger School. He wants to be assigned to the 75th Rangers, and is looking at special operations. This is what he wants to do. I could see it in the smile he wore, in the pride he now carries.

And he wanted me to know.

I wonder if he has any idea how good he made me feel by telling me his story, how proud I am of the relationship we established, how proud I am of him, how happy I am that he's found what he's been looking for.

Guess Who Linked To Me

They obviously didn't read any post other than the one they linked to.

How did they find my blog? Who sent them the link to this post?

Many questions, no answers.

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken

From RightWingNation:

Every teacher's private hell is when he can't comprehend why the student doesn't understand.

There's no worse feeling, professionally-speaking.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Carnival of Education

There must be something in the springtime air, as I have many more posts than usual on my "must read" list from this week's Carnival of Education.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Could Have Been A Big Day For Me

While my resignation from active duty wasn't effective until September 15, 1990, I started burning up my accrued vacation time--"terminal leave", in Army parlance--when I signed out on August 1, 1990. What interesting timing, as the next day Iraq launched its surprise invasion of Kuwait.

That's how long I've been out of the Army. Imagine how jolting it was to receive the following email today:

USMA '87 60 day terminal leave retirees:

As your scribe / historian, I am responsible for keeping track of "history". Well, today is a historical day for the Class of 1987!
Today I think we ought to take a minute to recognize and thank those of you who have honorably served 20 years in whatever capacity and who are beginning your 60-days terminal leave (yes, May 27th is fast approaching). We've received several notes today about classmates that celebrated their retirement ceremonies and started "terminal leave" so I know you are out there. Congratulations and Good luck!

Odd, I don't feel old enough to be retiring. I guess that's a good thing, because I have 20 more years to go before I can retire!

Saturday Drive Along The River

Sacramento County has a funky shape. For the most part it's rectangular, but it has a long, thin "tail" on its southwestern corner. A look at a map will show that the county has a sliver, several miles long, hugging the Sacramento River. I'm ignorant of the historical reason behind this odd shape, but that lack of knowledge doesn't at all take away from enjoying a trip through this "tail", this "sliver", along State Highway 160, which I (and probably the locals, too) call the River Road.

On Saturday a friend and I left after noon, and our first stop was picturesque Courtland. What got our attention what this building, just down from the levee...
...which turns out to be a courthouse. Why is there a courthouse here? This isn't a county seat. Hmmm. Something else for me to learn some day.

Here are two pictures of a camellia bush in bloom:

Before I show more pictures, let's talk about the drive. We here in Northern California like to build walls around our rivers. We call them levees, but they're walls. You see, the Central Valley has some of the most fertile farmland to be found on the planet, and it attracted enough folks here to build cities (such as my hometown of Sacramento). And we don't take too kindly to our cities flooding. So we have these very tall levees along the rivers, and the River Road is a two-lane road atop the levee. As I headed south, the river was on my right and towns/farmland was on my left.

As far as I can tell, there are only three sources of income in this part of the valley: walnuts, vineyards/wineries, and the river (houseboats, fishing, boating, etc). There's nothing else.

After Courtland we stopped in Locke, which was our original destination. You can see how high the levees are; I'm standing on the levee road, and behind me is the river. The towns front the levee road--probably a holdover from the old days--and businesses were built to be seen from that road.
See the sidewalk at about 7:00 in the picture above? It leads to this stairway down from the level of the levee... the main street of Locke. This small town was originally settled by Chinese immigrants, and the town is today much as it has been for decades.
If the levee (behind the buildings on the left) breaks, you'd best be on the second floor!

If you like historical plaques, here's one for you.
Extremely good lunch at the Chinese restaurant at the end of the street.

Shortly beyond Locke is Walnut Grove, where stand the antennas used by most of the Sacramento television stations. You can see that there are real houses in Walnut Grove, just beyond this small dock. Also notice how high the levee is--and it's spring runoff season, too.

We crossed the river at Walnut Grove and headed north up the west side of the river. We passed this old mansion and had to stop for a few pictures. It strikes me as something out of Hitchcock, or perhaps the deep South.

Note how even this mansion is raised almost to the level of the levee, like the frontage streets of the towns were.

OK, one more picture of the old house:
That was about it for travel. To see some of the pictures my friend took, check out his blog and drive up traffic there a bit!!!

Anyway, having more time left in the day, I headed to "the home" to visit my grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. Her face lit up as soon as she saw me; she told me she knew my face, but not who I was. I'm ok with that. She's going to turn 89 this year, and I'm lucky to have had her all these years.

It was a good day.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Propagandizing In The Classroom

Several weeks ago a friend emailed me a URL and offered a suggestion. I took his advice, and can now write this post. I've wanted to write about it before now (see opening paragraph), but thought that word of my treachery would get out and my plans foiled. Today I learned that that didn't happen.

What's with the movie shown above? Well, that's the topic of this post.

The URL my friend sent directed me to a web site from which educators could get a free copy of An Inconvenient Truth. They're giving away 50,000 copies, for free, just to teachers. Why would they do this?

Of course we all know the answer. Wasn't it Hitler who said, "If you have the children, you have the future"? They're giving these dvd's away to teachers so that we can propagandize in the classroom. The Great Global Warming Swindle can be downloaded at no cost and/or watched on YouTube--will any of the 50,000 teachers that show An Inconvenient Truth also show the BBC show? Probably not, and Gore and the boys know it. I posted recently about a teacher who said he'd distribute some alternate viewpoints to his students; I've checked, and students say he gave them a handout with no discussion at all. Most didn't read it. This was after they had watched the entire An Inconvenient Truth movie, of course.

What's missing here? Debate. Inquiry. Critical thinking. All those things we say we want to develop in our students, until our students start believing things we don't want them to believe--then we need to serve up the propaganda and brainwash, and question the intelligence and morality of anyone whe dares to disagree with the party line.

So I ordered my copy, and received it today. Thoughtfully noted on the envelope was this statement: "This donation was made possible by Participant Productions, and private donors." How nice.

I'm not one for stifling debate. I truly believe that the antidote to free speech you don't like is more free speech, not eliminating the opinion you don't like. If your views have merit, they'll get traction. When you try to stifle others--"the debate on global warming is closed", "the science is conclusive", "everyone agrees"--it's entirely possible you're admitting to the weakness of your own position.

However, these people are cynically trying to use teachers to spread their global warming Gospel, hoping we'll proselytize in our classrooms. They want us to scare our students into believing their message, knowing that alternate views will not be presented. They want to close off debate. So I'll join them.

But with a twist.

I'll be cynical, too. I ordered my copy of their movie, and it sits here on my desk as I type this post. I'm going to put this dvd, still in its plastic wrap, in my safe here at home, where it will remain for 20 years. Twenty years from now (I'll be on the verge of retirement) I'll pull this movie out and see who was right--Al Gore, or me. Maybe then I'll show it in class, and we'll talk about hysteria, about certainty in science, about doom and gloom scenarios, about honesty and cynicism. Maybe then we'll be able to have the debate, inquiry, and critical thinking that are apparently lacking where this subject is concerned. Until then, that's one teacher and hundreds upon hundreds of students (per year) who will not sit through this particular message from the one they call the Goracle.

Be sure to check in with me again on March 26, 2027. That's the day I'll take the plastic off the dvd, search for an antique dvd player, and watch the movie. Not a day before.

Update, 3/28/07: Here's a related story, via Tim Blair's blog:

TEN NETWORK's programmers are baffled. With so much attention on climate change and consumer research indicating viewers were keenly interested in a 2½ hour feast of practical advice on how they might save the planet, Ten's ratings for the Cool Aid blockbuster on Sunday night were still a disaster...

"We had study guides in schools, we had the full support of the print media, both editorially and with advertising, and an extensive [Ten Network] on-air campaign with a number of different creative treatments and different stances." (emphasis mine--Darren)

If you have the children, you have the future. Cynical, but true.

Update #2, 3/28/07: Here's another "science was in, there was widespread consensus and the conclusion was no longer debatable" story, via NewsAlert. How do we know the leftie was wrong? He was nuts in the 60's and was predicting catastrophe by the 80's. I lived through the 80's. The only catastrophe then was day-glo colors.

Oh, and mullets.

Update #3, 3/29/07: There's nothing in this commentary with which I disagree. Example:

Isn’t it interesting how the same people who think “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” when it comes to the war think that dissent when it comes to global warming is evil and troglodytic?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

They Love Him, They Love Him Not, They Love Him

First, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was recommended for an honorary degree from the University of Florida.

Then, the Faculty Senate voted it down 38-28.

University officials said they could not recall any precedent for the Senate rejecting the nominees put forth by the Faculty Senate's Honorary Degrees, Distinguished Alumnus Awards and Memorials Committee. The committee determines whether nominees deserve consideration according to standards that include "eminent distinction in scholarship or high distinction in public service."

"The committee endorsed him," Machen said. "It is unheard of that a faculty committee would look at candidates, make recommendations and then (those candidates) be overturned by the Senate."

So the alumni organization stepped in to prevent any further loss of esteem for the university.

The university's Alumni Association's Board of Directors passed a resolution Saturday to make Bush an honorary alumnus. The move came on the heels of a 38-28 Faculty Senate vote on Thursday to deny Bush an honorary degree.

The main difference between the awards is that the degree is given by the university and the alumni association decides who receives honorary alumni status, said Steve Orlando, a University of Florida spokesman. The association extends the honor to a handful of people each year.

It's not an honorary degree, but the official nature of the award spares the university any more embarrassment caused by the faculty senate's injecting partisan politics into what should be a ceremonial nicety.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Most Hilarious eBay Auction *Ever*

For as long as it stays online (pictures are shown at the link)...

Description (revised)

This is simple, show your concern for global warming and your love of nature by paying to keep a tree alive. If a tree does not sell it dies, I will cut it down and burn it releasing all the carbon it has stored. So save a tree or help heat the world, your choice.
This auction is for healthy happy tree number 2. You ransom the tree and it gets to stay right where it is in its natural home. Otherwise it dies. Nothing to ship so no shipping charges.
Or, if you hate the world and hate trees, if you win you can ask me to cut and burn it so you don't have to be a tree hugger to enjoy this auction.

Trees number 1 and 3 are dead. The Auctions ended and nobody cared enough to save a tree so now they are dead. When they dry out and their poor little leaves turn brown and start to fall off I will burn them adding all the carbon they had locked up in their brief lives to the atmosphere. I hope you are happy.
Also, as it costs money to list these trees if nobody bids on this tree I will kill it and trees 4 and 5. 5 is just a baby but I will kill it anyway, I will rip it up by the roots and let it die slowly in the sun. If somebody bids to save tree number 2 then I will list 4 and 5 so they will have a chance. It is up to you now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reporter Talks To CTA, With Predictable Results

With recent reports suggesting improvements (or at least changes) in the way California delivers public education, Dan Weintraub, reporter and blogger extraordinaire for the major Sacramento newspaper, editorializes about the impact the California Teachers Association will have on any changes. You can go read Dan's article if you choose--and I recommend you do--but I'll just cut/paste some of the interesting quotes from it:

[T]he California Teachers Association...will play a major role in deciding how far those changes will go, if they go anywhere at all.

And based on a conversation with the union's leaders this week, it sounds as if the CTA is going to be very skeptical, to put it mildly, about major changes in the way the schools do business.

CTA President Barbara Kerr said her 335,000-member union will fight any attempt to overhaul the schools...

The CTA isn't likely to entertain such changes any time soon.

...would have to be bargained separately in each of the state's thousand-plus districts as part of their union agreements...

"We are putting our money where our heart is," Kerr said. (Notice she didn't say anything about using a brain. --Darren)

[T]hey do support increased flexibility -- as long as it does not endanger job security for teachers.

For starters, they would like to start by getting rid of the requirements of No Child Left Behind...

So, the CTA. Partners in your child's education, or selfish obstructionists? You decide.

Update, 3/26/07: If you're a California teacher and don't like what you're reading, perhaps you should consider joining CTEN.

Marxist Math Teachers and So-called Social Justice

It's bad enough when my fellow teachers are Marxists, but when a fellow math teacher is a Marxist, I'm truly disconsolate. How can they be so wrong? Where has Marxism ever helped anyone?

One place where this movement thrives is El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Brooklyn, the city’s first “social justice” high school. The school’s lead math teacher, Jonathan Osler, is using El Puente as a base for a three-day conference in April on “Math Education and Social Justice.” Osler offers this compelling rationale for the conference: “The systemic and structural oppression of low income [people] and people of color continues to worsen. The number of people in prison continues to grow, as does our unemployment rate. . . . These problems and many others are being addressed by community organizations and activists, and often find their way into Social Studies and English classes. However, in math classes around the country, perhaps the best places to study many of these issues, we continue to use curricula and models that lack any real-world—let alone socially relevant—contexts.”

I've written at length about the social justice movement--not just why it's wrong-headed, but also why it's harmful. To get a feel for what this movement truly represents, click on the social justice label below or at left and read the posts. To find out how harmful (and academic-content-free) social justice in a math class is, read this post in particular. In that post I dissembled the information put out by the Rethinking Schools people (there's a label below and at left for them, too) regarding how to inject this insidious liberalism and Marxism into a math class. That post, while long, is worth your time if you are interested in keeping math a "pure" science and not allowing it to become another social science.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Carnival of Education

The EdWonks have a great thing going. Check out this week's best posts from the edusphere.

Bjorn Lomborg on Global Warming

I've written a few times about Bjorn Lomborg; here's an opinion piece he recently wrote.

Man-made climate change is, of course, real, and constitutes a serious problem. Yet the current cut-emissions-now-before-it-is-too-late mindset neglects the fact that the world has no sensible short-term solutions.

Bjorn and I are going to have to agree to disagree on the first statement above, but the rest of the article still has some interesting information. Global warming adherents, Lomborg apparently agrees with you! But look what else he says:

This seems to be why we focus on feel-good approaches like the Kyoto Protocol...

Some countries, like the United States and Australia, chose to opt out of its stringent demands; others, like Canada, Japan, and a raft of European states, pay lip service to its requirements, but will essentially miss its targets. Yet, even if everyone had participated and continued to stick to Kyoto's ever more stringent commitments, it would have had virtually no environmental effect: The treaty's effect on temperature would not have been measurable by mid-century and would only have postponed warming by five years in the 21st century. Nonetheless, the cost would have been anything but trivial - an estimated $180 billion per year...

But nobody sees fit to reveal the agreement's dirty little secret: It will do next to no good - and again at very high cost. According to one well-established and peer-reviewed model, the effect of the EU cutting emissions by 20 percent will postpone warming in the 21st century by just two years, yet the cost will be about $90 billion annually. It will be costly, because Europe is a costly place to cut carbon-dioxide, and it will be inconsequential, because the EU will account for only about 6 percent of all emissions in the 21st century. So the new treaty will be an even less efficient use of our resources than the old Kyoto Protocol.

We will not be able to solve global warming over the next decades, but only over the next half or full century. We need to find a viable, long-term strategy that is smart, equitable, and doesn't require inordinate sacrifice for trivial benefits. Fortunately, there is such a strategy: research and development. Investing in the research and development of non-carbon-emitting energy technologies would leave future generations able to make serious and yet economically feasible and advantageous cuts. A new global warming treaty should mandate spending 0.05 percent of GDP on research and development in the future. It would be much cheaper, yet do much more good in the long run.

He makes sense.

Update, 3/22/07: Lomborg spoke to the same Senate hearing that was previously drooling all over Al Gore. Ker-Plunk updates us:

Bjorn Lomborg is a rare creature, a leftie and environmentalist that seems to be able to deal with reality and prioritise issues with some semblance of common sense...In Lomborg's testimony he agrees that man is the cause of recent global warming and then indicates that it's no big deal. I encourage you to spend 20 minutes of your life reading his submission.

I encourage you to do so as well. Seriously. Just click on Ker-plunk's link.

Basic Facts About US Education

Do you agree or disagree with the 25 basic facts about education identified in this post?

Let's establish some of the basics which seem obvious to me:

1) The American educational system sucks.

2) It particularly sucks for poor and minority kids

3) It has sucked in approximately the same way for at least forty years.

4) The institutional barriers to not sucking are apparently insurmountable with the current interest groups in place.

5) It is extremely segregated by class, race, and income

6) It is extremely hard to recruit and keep good teachers

7) As a result, the schools with the most attractively upper middle class parents and children get almost all of the good teachers

8) The main reason that it is hard to get good teachers (outside of rural areas where it is hard to get good anyone to move there) is that their pay, unlike that of other union workers, is at the bottom of the distribution for their education level.

9) Given that the pay is at the bottom of the distribution for educated professionals, one of the primary attractions of the job is its short workyear and near-ironclad job security. Short of molesting the students or screaming racial epithets at them, it's awfully hard to get fired from a teaching position.

10) Jobs whose primary attraction is short hours and the difficulty of getting fired rarely attract the cream of the crop. The best teachers are either those few gifted passionate souls who want to teach, or women who are trying to match their schedule to that of their children. The latter group is shrinking; the former group has always been small.

11) Any meaningful reform of the school system that actually improves them will need to pay teachers much more.

12) Paying the current group of teachers much more will improve their standard of living immeasurably, but will do absolutely nothing for the students.

13) Therefore, coupled with higher teacher pay must come the ability to get rid of substandard teachers

14) This is not remotely feasible within the existing system

15) The programmes which have been shown to work best with disadvantaged kids are the ones that are heavily scripted, involve lots of repetition and rote learning, and otherwise make life no fun for the teacher.

16) These programmes are rarely implemented, implying that teaching disadvantaged kids to read and do math are somewhere well down the priority list of your average school district.

17) Monopolies are rarely responsive to their customers.

18) School board elections are not a particularly good way to gather feedback on school performance, but other than lawsuits, it is the single mechanism currently available to school districts. School board elections are a particularly bad way to gather feedback in very large, dysfunctional polities like cities.

19) A school where parents may pull their children at any moment is a school that worries about pleasing parents and children.

20) The government cannot hand out money without making sure schools meet basic requirements, like having a building, teachers, and some students. Any voucher programme will also have to periodically test kids to ensure that they are making progress.

21) This is not the same thing as imposing the same set of elaborate regulations on everything from teacher hours to eraser purchasing that currently hamstring public schools, and then complaining that voucher schools don't do any better.

22) Current teacher certification standards are lunatic protectionism promulgated by education schools collecting fat rents for slapping a laminate veneer of professionalism on educators. Any one I have ever met who has done a real degree, and then sat through education classes, has attested to their utter lack of useful content. We have math teachers who are very good at making posters about race, and very bad at math. The way to teach someone to teach is to give them some elementary child psychology, and then have them practice on actual children, who will illustrate the folly of listening to professors of child psychology. "Teacher standards" are the absolute last thing we should be imposing on voucher programmes. Principals are pretty good at figuring out if a teacher can teach.

23) Any voucher programme will have to offer bonuses for educating difficult kids: poor kids, kids with emotional problems, kids with learning disabilities, and so forth. Otherwise, those kids will end up stuck in a ghetto. On the other hand, if you get the pricing right, you don't need to worry about lotteries and so forth.

24) To hell with rich people: if you're in, say, the top 5-10% of the income distribution, you ought to get the same help educating your kids as my parents got, which is to say none.

25) Some people will be worse off under this system. There is no change ever that leaves every single person better off. This is not a reason to avoid change.

Let's see if we can narrow the focus a bit. Are there three which you absolutely think are egregiously false? If so, why do you think they're false?

School Sued Over Dress Code

Move over Teddy, now it's time for Tigger!

NAPA, Calif. — A seventh-grader might end up in court for wearing Winnie the Pooh socks to school.

Toni Kay Scott, 14, was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems last year for violating a dress code, according to a lawsuit against the Napa Valley Unified School District and Redwood Middle School.

By the way, I just love the name for their in-house suspension program! But back to the story:

She had donned socks with the Tigger character from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons on them, along with a denim skirt and a brown shirt with a pink border.

But the school's policy requires students to wear clothes with solid colors in blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. Permitted fabrics are cotton twill, corduroy and chino. No denim is allowed.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Napa County Superior Court by The American Civil Liberties Union and a law firm on the girl's behalf, alleges that the dress code is unconstitutionally vague and too restrictive.

I don't see how it's vague at all. I see it as clearly identifying appropriate dress.

The lawsuit said the policy goes too far and forces aesthetic conformity in the name of safety. The rules violate the California Education Code, said plaintiffs' attorney Sharon O'Grady.

I do wish they'd identified exactly which sections of ed code were violated. That would make my life so much more enjoyable.

School Pays Up For Teddy Bear Movie Suspensions

I've written previously about the stupid expulsions of students involved in making a "threatening" movie about teddy bears attacking a teacher. The second link shows that a federal judge made the right 1st Amendment call and had the students reinstated in school, but apparently that wasn't satisfactory.

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — Three students expelled for making a movie in which evil teddy bears attack a teacher will share $69,000 in a settlement of their civil rights lawsuit...

In the movie, the "teddy bear master" orders stuffed animals to kill a teacher who had embarrassed him, but students battle the toy beasts, according to documents filed in court...

School officials last year expelled the four students who made the film, arguing that it was disruptive and they saw it as a threat to Knightstown Intermediate School teacher Dan Clevenger.

Two of the students sued, claiming their free-speech rights were violated. A federal judge in December ordered that school officials allow them back into class, saying that although the students should apologize for the "humiliating" and "obscene" movie, district officials had not proven that the work disrupted school.

Here's the text of the apology letter I'd write.

"I'm sorry I hurt your feelings and made you feel threatened because of my teddy bear movie. I will endeavor to be more sensitive to your feelings in the future.

In fact, I'll start being sensitive on my way to the bank! Thank you for showing yourself to be such a wuss. Because of you, I now have money for college!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

SFSU Backs Down After Trouncing On The Rights of Its Students

From the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education (see blogroll at left):

SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 2007—In a crucial victory for free expression, San Francisco State University (SFSU) announced yesterday that its College Republicans will face no punishment for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. SFSU’s decision comes after months of pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), national and local media, and the public—all of which called on the school to uphold the students’ constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression.

“We are relieved that SFSU has come to its senses and recognized that it cannot punish students for constitutionally protected expression,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “But the fact remains that the university should never have investigated or tried them in the first place. This was a protected act of political protest and it is impossible to believe the university did not know that from the start.”

Of course they knew it from the start. They just wanted to "send a message" to students that if you're right-leaning, you'd better watch yourself at San Francisco State or you will be harassed by the administration.

“SFSU has finally done what it should have done months ago,” FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Samantha Harris said. “The College Republicans should never have been dragged through an investigation and hearing for their protected political expression, and it is an outrage that SFSU carried on with this for so long when it had the power to dismiss the charges informally. We hope that SFSU will make whatever policy changes are necessary to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Previous posts I've written about this particular situation are here and here.

What Kind of Person Am I?

I'm the kind of person who has to wipe away a tear when reading this story.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Princeton Screws Up, May Have To Pay Hundreds of Millions

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit (see blogroll at left) has described this situation as an academic Enron. In about as dry a response as you can get, Princeton responds. Let me know if you can stay awake through the whole thing and if, after reading both, the suit seems to you like it has merit.

Hate Speech Isn't Free Speech?

If you're anti-illegal immigration, your views constitute so-called hate speech in the eyes of lefties. Also according to them, hate speech isn't free speech, so they're entirely justified in shutting that speech down.

Which they tried to do at UCLA. And UCLA almost assisted them in doing so, until someone with a little smarts decided that intelligence and the law prevent them from doing so.

So the question is: Should the university let the thugs drive debate on important and controversial issues off the university campus? I think the answer is that it should not.

The issue is important because lefties vowed, on their own forums, to shut down the debate. Protests, hecklers, etc. were to be used, and UCLA originally wanted an apparently right-leaning student group to shoulder the cost of security; the university has since backed down from that requirement.

You can't give in to terrorism, even this kind. It only encourages them.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


It's hard to say.

Abstract: University classes involve students sitting. This unremarkable activity gains importance through how students incorporate discussions of sitting into their representations of their classes. Examining discourses of sitting provides insight into how students represent issues of agency and belonging in the classroom, and in so doing, an understanding of how the institution’s efforts to impose its own image of students’ agency and belonging are discursively and physically manifested. This study is based on students’ discourse of sitting at Queens College, where the institution’s ideas of self and agency in relationship to education meet multiple ideas brought to college by an extremely diverse student population.

Spring in California's Central Valley

This winter has been particularly vicious back east, but here in the Sacramento Valley, it was short and mild. For those of you who've never been to California this time of year, usually April has beautiful weather. We're only in mid-March now, though--not even Spring yet--and yet it seems like winter was forever ago. I thought it would be nice to post some pictures from around my yard and neighborhood.

Sacramento is the Camellia Capital of the World. Here's a pink one at my neighbor's:

These red camellias are in my yard.

This magnolia tree is just starting to bloom:

This tree is down the street from my house. It must be evergreen, as it's never lost its leaves. I just love the shape of the canopy, as well as the dark shade...

and its gnarled trunk.

This view down my street was taken towards the sun, hence the dark colors--but notice that the trees are starting to come back to life already.

Three days ago, when I first envisioned taking a picture of this blossoming cherry tree, most of the leaves were pink. Now they're mostly red.

This fruitless mulberry is in my backyard, and before I had it (severely) trimmed a couple weeks ago, was way too big, heavy, and bushy. You might think I've killed it...

but already it's showing tiny signs of life.

I don't know what this bush is in my backyard, but it, too, is starting to bloom.

And all the while, Boomer guards the hot tub.

I've added a new label at left: pictures. Click on it to see the pictures I've posted on this blog. Many of them are also associated with the travel label.

*I* Am Not "Feasting" On Students

"These teachers are feasting on our children in school and something has to be done."

The fact that your 18-year-old son (who should know better, by the way) was doing his high school counselor doesn't mean that many of us teachers are 'feasting' on our students.

This was an interesting comment, though:

Erin McLean (the apparent married feaster--Darren) has moved in with relatives in Nashville with the couple's two young sons, ages 11 and 7. She has not been charged with any wrongdoing. Police say she has hired a lawyer but could not provide a name.

Police are apparently more concerned about the fact that her husband shot and killed the 18-year-old boytoy than they are with the fact that she was 'feasting' on said boytoy. Eventually they may get to her crime.

Or is it not a crime since he was 18? Here in liberal California, I'm quite convinced we teachers can't do even our 18-year-old students without violating some ethical rule and probably losing our teaching credential (at a minimum).

What a mess.

Bad Accounting At Wisconsin School

From and the Associated Press:

Man Pays 30-Year-Old Fine for Lost Algebra Book

Sunday, March 18, 2007

SUPERIOR, Wis. — High school grad Jeff Rolson has been docked 13 dollars for a lost algebra book and unpaid gym fees.

With interest, it could have been a lot worse: Rolson graduated from Superior Senior High in Wisconsin in 1977.

He stopped by last week to get a copy of his transcript and was surprised when a secretary also handed him a bill for 13 dollars from 30 years ago.

Rolson still lives in Superior and his daughter is now a student at school and he says he can't understand why they didn't contact him sooner.

He also notes the school forgot to charge him the two-dollar fee for the transcript.
I don't know where to start.

Global Warming Cures Might Be Worse Than The Disease

There's even a reference to Mt. Pinatubo in this article, but not to the fact that it spewed more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in one eruption that mankind has in his entire history as a species. While I don't agree entirely with the following quote, it does point out a little of the inconsistency of those who want to try to "fix" what we've "broken":

Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said mankind already has harmed Earth's climate inadvertently, so it's foolish to think that people can now fix it with a few drastic measures.

Update: I've updated this global warming post a few times in the last few days. Go take a look-see.

Update #2, 3/19/07: Here's a nifty post about the Scientific Method as it applies to global warming hysteria.

100 MPG? How About 300 MPG?

There are plenty of good reasons to want to cut down on pollution--and no, so-called global warming isn't one of them. I've long believed that in places like the Central Valley of California, and the eastern slope of the Rockies--places that get over 300 days of sunlight a year--we're passing up on essentially free electricity every day we don't have solar cells on the roof. I'm not against cutting down on emissions, I'm against the scare tactics and fake science that are part and parcel of the Church of Global Warming.

Cars. Cars burn a lot of gas in this country (and every other country, for that matter). What can we do about that? Hydrogen? Bio-diesel? I don't like either of those solutions. They might be part of an overall solution, but neither one is going to carry the entire burden of reducing oil consumption. I still like electric cars, charged at night with electricity produced from clean, efficient nuclear power. But there are still technology improvements in batteries needed to make that a reality. So what can we do today?

How about these ideas?

Teacher Biases

Ms. Cornelius has an excellent post about teacher biases entering the classroom. While I don't agree with her 100% on this case, I'm sure we're above 80% here. I clarified my position in a comment to her post.

When we discuss current events and the like in my class, I give students my opinion--and they know it's mine. They know I'm not sugar-coating it for their delicate ears. They also don't have to worry about their grade dropping if they don't share my opinion (I teach math)--I'm not so sure they're as safe in an English or social science class.

Modern Marxism

Most Americans today would have to admit, however grudgingly (lefties), that, given reasonable evidence, that Marxism doesn't work. Can they name one, one, workers' paradise? Can they name one, one, with even a slightly good record on the environment? Can they name one, one, that wasn't a police state?

I say most, because there is a segment of America that still longs for Marx, and for Stalin, and for Mao. That segment exists in the field of education.

This Washington Times commentary struck many chords, but this one jumped out at me:

Here is a parallel statement from the Kansas State University catalogue: "To qualify for a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Women's Studies at Kansas State University, students will have demonstrated their familiarity with key Women's Studies concepts such as the social construction of gender, oppression of and violence against women, heterosexism, racism, classism, and global inequality."

In other words, a student cannot graduate from the Kansas State Women's Studies program unless that student believes in the ideology that makes up its core, and demonstrate that belief. Yet the ideological premise is scientifically challenged -- a fact the program does not acknowledge. In the catalogue descriptions of more than 100 Women's Studies courses I have personally examined, these are common themes.


I've blogged about such courses before (click on the higher education label) and the author of the linked piece has other examples. That author is David Horowitz, so lefties and Jew-haters (repetitious?) can automatically discount that commentary and this blog post. The rest of us, though, will keep in mind that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance--often against the 5th columnists among us.

Update: Quite coincidentally, I came upon this article about Marxism, et. al., by someone who grew up in the Soviet Union. I highly recommend reading it. It weaves the Beatles, anti-American peace rallies, and communist apparatchiks into one amazing tapestry. Be sure to focus on the Gospel of John and Yoko.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Climate Change Deniers v. Climate Change Fascists

Ker-plunk has a great post about a debate between the two groups, a debate for which the science is supposed to be settled, remember?

Here are the participants, as well as some commentary:

The Deniers were:

- Michael Crichton
- Richard Lindzen
- Philip Stott

The Fascists were:

- Brenda Ekwurzel
- Gavin Schmidt
- Richard Somerville

Before the debate started the audience's position on Global warming is not a crisis was as follows:

30% Agree
57% Disagree
13% Undecided

After the debate the audience was polled again, with the following outcome:

46% Agree
42% Disagree
12% Undecided

How can it be that such a massive swing took place in the space of a couple of hours? If the 'science is settled' then why were the Climate Fascists not only not able to hold their position but actually increase it? And why would Gavin 'the debate is over' Schmidt even agree to a debate in the first place?

I forgot to mention that this debate has not been widely reported in the mainstream media. If the Fascists had won then do you think it wouldn't have been splattered all over the media?


Cal-Berkeley To Get A New Vice Chancellor

Via Instapundit (see blogroll at left):

The University of California at Berkeley is looking to hire its first Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, and I think it's about darn time. I'm heartened to know that with this renewed focus on recruiting students and faculty from underrepresented groups, Berkeley's agents will soon be scouring Iowa for devout homeschooled virgin boys. Young men returning from service in Iraq, likewise, may find a warmer reception than they would have received in years past. And no doubt many young parents, as well as retired executives, will soon be submitting their applications to the more equitable and inclusive Cal-Berkeley. Observant pro-war Jews, aspiring Christian filmmakers, chaste young pro-life activists — all are welcome under Berkeley's big tent, right?

I mean, surely this isn't a guise to continue the insular practice of recruiting from a narrow slice of the American political, geographic, religious, and social strata, is it?

Mr. Woodlief obviously gets it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Too Good To Be True?

One of the science teachers at my school showed Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to his science class and afterwards, according to several students who couldn't wait to tell me, said something like, "Now you've seen the future. You can either do something about it, or keep your head in the sand."

Keep your head in the sand? At least he could have used the word struthious.

That same day I was directed, on one of the many blogs I read, to a NY Times piece that mentioned only a few of the criticisms that have been directed at that film and at the notion of man-caused global warming--some of which I've identified in other posts here at Right on the Left Coast. I thought it would be interesting to send the NYT piece to this teacher to see what he thought.

He replied that he'd give a copy of it to each of the students who saw the movie, and allow them to come to their own conclusions.

Granted, the article was weak indeed. It didn't address some of the obvious criticisms or bring up some of the science that discounts the theory. But for the NYT, it was pretty good.

And I was impressed that this teacher responded the way he did. Since the science isn't settled, we should be giving both sides of the issue. Only more inquiry will lead us to the truth, whatever that is; stifling inquiry by declaring the debate "closed" would be heading in the wrong direction.

I haven't heard yet if he's handed the article out or not.

Teaching and Accountability

Right on the tails of recent posts about teacher accountability and NCLB, I read a post today (via Joanne--see blogroll at left) that was full of wisdom.

As teachers, you cannot simultaneously negotiate evaluation-proof work conditions on the one hand, and instructional autonomy on the other. If evaluations continue to focus on teacher actions -- objectives posted, adherence to 5-step lesson plan, etc. -- rather than student outcomes, if there continues to be no accepted tool to measure teacher effectiveness, if we reject the very notion that certain educators may be superior instructors because of what they do and not what the kids bring relative to their demographics, than you don't get autonomy. You can't.

Put simply, there has to be some check on our behavior and performance. We can't "negotiate evaluation-proof work conditions" and also expect to be able to teach whatever and however we want. Someone, somewhere, has to have some influence over what we do in the classroom. They either have to be able to evaluate our effectiveness, or at least insist on the curriculum we teach.

I really liked the next paragraph:

Dig it: As a teacher I should get to teach whatever I want because I know best and no one is allowed to determine if what I taught or how I taught it was important, valid, or successful because I earned tenure in the name of academic freedom.

That's the argument our profession makes. It's weak sauce.

So how do we fix this? I prefer a little accountability, myself. I'm not afraid of it at all.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Teaching About Burqas

Let's say, for instance, that a school has its female students wear burqas as part of a lesson. What would that lesson be, do you think? Would it be about how women are devalued in some cultures? Would it be how oppressed women are in some cultures?

No, of course not. It would be about how intolerant American high school students are towards people dressed like the people with whom we're in a war.

As Charles at LGF (see blogroll at left) says:

They’re so focused on teaching these kids “tolerance,” they don’t even see the blatant misogyny of the burqa.

There are people who want us to lose this war, and many of them are American.

More Studies. What Will Be Done For California Education?

Sometimes it seems like you can't swing a cat by the tail without hitting some new study about what's needed in education. Now is no exception.

The suggestions are part of a package of more than 20 academic studies commissioned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other political leaders. The first was released Wednesday and will be given to a bipartisan committee examining the state's public education system that will make recommendations later this year.

Schwarzenegger said that spending more money without substantial changes to the way California distributes funding won't do much to help students or fix schools. The governor said extensive reforms could save the state billions of dollars that can be reinvested in classrooms.

So what do we learn several paragraphs later?

Many of the conclusions in the report stem from familiar criticisms. The research does not suggest specific policy changes but does offer general fixes. They include simplifying state regulations so schools have greater control over their budgets, revising teacher evaluation and salary schedules, and lengthening the school day for schools with many poor and minority students.

The studies also said California needs to revamp its teacher assessments, including one report in which principals stressed their desire for an easier way to fire teachers without bureaucratic hurdles.

Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, the state's largest lobbying group, noted that California voters rejected a 2005 Schwarzenegger initiative that would have extended teachers' probationary period from two years to five. Teachers can be fired without cause during that period.

Leave it to Boss Kerr.

I'm curious about one thing, however. What, exactly, is a bad teacher? We all know who they are, but how do we objectively identify them? How many do we have to fire before all the children learn? The devil's in them details, boy, and Boss Kerr ain't gonna help you git to that devil.

While I Don't Agree With The Politics...

...I find this Iraq War parody to be wildly entertaining.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Witch, and Something That Rhymes With It

And she didn't even turn me into a newt. (If she did, I got bet'ah.)

CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (AP) -- A teacher who alleged that she was fired from her job because administrators thought she was a witch lost her $2 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

The jury deliberated for an hour before deciding that Lauren Berrios, 37, wasn't entitled to any money from the Hampton Bays school district, her ex-employer. The trial began March 7.

Maybe she could have peered into her crystal ball and foreseen the future. Or read some goat entrails. Or something.

I'm sure some will view those comments as insensitive towards Wiccans. They aren't meant to be. They're meant to be jokes with a foundation in the historical Western presentation of witch. The fact that I feel I have to say that to stave off whining says much about how I view our culture today.

Carnival of Education

There's quite the selection of articles and topics at this week's Carnival of Education, hosted at home at the Education Wonks (see blogroll at left).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Global Warming Post

I guess I'm in a big linking mood tonight. Not to worry, though--I'm working on a good self-written post, I'm just waiting for the big event to happen so I can blog about it.

Until then, though, let's go to a great Australian blog, and one of the newest on the blogroll at left, Ker-plunk. Why Ker-plunk for a title?

One day Chicken Little was walking in the woods when - KERPLUNK! - an acorn fell on her head. "Oh my goodness!" said Chicken Little. "The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king."

And so the blog begins.

Today we can read Ker-plunk's "10 Questions For Climate Fascists".

1. When did the debate end?
2. How is the science settled?
3. How do you explain this? (see picture at link)
4. What the heck has happened to the Hockey stick?
5. Why believe climate models?
6. Why is symbolism more important than effectiveness?
7. Why the IPCC censorship?
8. Why are all the predictions of only doom and gloom?
9. What caused the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age?
10. Why the hooey about sinking islands?

I'll add an 11th question: Why must you physically threaten and harass scientists who don't agree with you?

Press Bias In Education Media!

Discriminations (see blogroll at left) is on a roll tonight!

On one level what seemed to be the theme and purpose of this panel — helping diversity officers figure out how to pitch their pet programs to the press — would have struck many professional journalists as inherently problematical, or at least it would have in the old days. Even today I suspect eyebrows would be raised in some circles if reporters covering politics for the mainstream press appeared on a panel at a meeting of partisan political consultants to one party designed to help them hone their message...

He (
Scott Jaschik of InsideHigher Ed) went way, way beyond telling his audience to “tell me what I should write,” an invitation that he attempted to cover with the pro-forma declaration that he might not always accede to their wishes. Mentioning several times that the “critics of affirmative action” were much better at dealing with the press, he “volunteered some help” at press relations, help that he offered to keep “completely off the record,” that suggests an unusual (or at least I hope it is unusual) view of the role of the press.

He offered, for example, to hold off the record coaching sessions where he would “pretend that I’m Fox News” and ask the sort of questions Fox News would ask. “It’s not my job as a journalist to tell you what to say,” he said with what sounded like a wink, “but I can tell you how it sounds.”

I'd be more OK with this is members of the press admitted their biases up front, like I do here at Right On The Left Coast. At least then you're better able to judge their veracity instead of buying into the lie of objectivity.

Do We Really Need This Organization? Really?

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE)

Hat tip to Discriminations (see blogroll at left)

Dress Code at University Restaurant Is Racist?

John at Discriminations (see blogroll at left) links to a story about a restaurant across the street from the University of Virginia, a restaurant that has instituted a dress and behavior code so that the dining experience will be better for all patrons.

The dress code, established last semester, prohibits hats without brims, baggy clothing, sweatpants, plain white t-shirts and camouflage unless worn by a member of the Armed Forces.

The dress code, established last semester, prohibits hats without brims, baggy clothing, sweatpants, plain white t-shirts and camouflage unless worn by a member of the Armed Forces.

Whether or not you agree with the dress code, I can't see that it targets any race(s) in particular. But you know that's not what the whiners are saying. John says it best:

Add good manners and presentable dress to the list of things that it is racist to expect of minority students.

Update, 3/15/07: I've corrected the location of the restaurant. John at Discriminations answered my question:

No, not on the UVa grounds (campus). "The Corner" is a couple of blocks of restaurants, funky shops, etc., right across the street from the main grouns at UVa. Sort of a student hang-out area, but all the shops, restaurants, etc. are private.

Good for the owner for establishing what should be societally-accepted norms.

I May Have To Reconsider Getting a Prius...

...if this is true.

Monday, March 12, 2007

New View of Emigrant Gap

A couple weeks ago I posted a panoramic picture of the Emigrant Gap region, off Interstate 80 on the way to Reno. There was no snow.

I went skiing this weekend, and a tiny bit of snow had fallen in the interim.

Old picture:

New picture:

It's a little bit of difference, but not much.

Union Goings-On

This week's EIA (see blogroll at left) Communique gives us some interesting union stories from around the country:

NEA to Revive Booster Club Proposal. NEA's attempt to create a category of associate membership fell short at last year's convention, but the union will try again this July in Philadelphia. This would open NEA membership to people not employed in public education. Why? Well, as EIA revealed last year, NEA can only collect PAC money from members, so associate membership would help the union deal with its collection problem. Only seven percent of NEA members currently donate to the national PAC.

There will also be a proposal to immediately increase contributions to the union's ballot initiative and legislative crisis fund to $10 per member per year. The money is disseminated to state affiliates to support or defeat ballot measures or legislation the union deems important. This proposal simply accelerates a previously approved gradual increase to the fund.

During the 2006 campaign, NEA divided its staff into two groups and placed a virtual wall between them, in order to allow one group to operate in support of candidates and subject to federal election regulations, and the other to distance itself from candidates, but operate under the rules of union political activity. This must have worked well because NEA will make the set-up permanent. The union's Government Relations department will now have a Public Policy section to handled traditional lobbying activities, while the Campaigns and Elections section will work to recruit and support candidates for federal office.

Sault Tribe Charter Teachers Eject Union. It dragged on for a long time, and was a mishmash of conflicting national and state labor laws, charter school authorization policies, tribal sovereignty and internal tribe politics, but teachers at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe charter school voted 19-13 to decertify the Michigan Education Association as its bargaining representative.

The school is associated with the Sault Tribe of Chippewas, whose leadership was very much opposed to the union presence. The intensity of feelings about the school on both sides was illustrated by the hundreds of comments posted by tribe members on Intercepts when EIA reported the story in October 2005.

Off the Reservation in San Diego. There have been fewer and fewer fireworks at the annual NEA convention as the years have gone by, but we may see some this year over NEA's "fix and fund" policy for the No Child Left Behind Act. The board of directors of the San Diego Education Association passed a resolution that states, in part, that NCLB "cannot be overhauled, fixed or properly funded," and instructs SDEA delegates to the NEA convention to introduce a new business item that would support scrapping NCLB entirely.

We can expect opposition to this at national NEA similar to that demonstrated against the petition championed by Susan Ohanian last December (see Item #2 here).