Friday, February 29, 2008

A Movie About Education

I don't know if the prescriptions in this movie will do much if our society doesn't change as well, but watch the trailer anyway and see what you think.

Still Believe The CO2/Global Warming Drivel?

When you've lived through as many apocalypses (apocalypsi?) as I have--the population bomb, global cooling, peak oil, nuclear winter, SARS, bird flu, and probably several others if I spent a few more minutes either remembering or searching the archives here on my blog--you probably won't panic every time someone presents another doomsday scenario, either. Well, you won't unless they also want to destroy our capitalist system and have us all return to an agrarian lifestyle, in which case a little panic and a lot of mockery would be merited on your part.

From this old post we get a list of why we shouldn't take those fanatics seriously:

What do they all (the apocalypses) have in common? Several things.

1. They all required immense, immediate governmental action,
2. action favored by leftists,
3. action that would have a seriously adverse effect on the global economy and prosperity,
4. to forestall apocalyptic consequences.
5. None of them happened.

Here's some more information to consider, go take a read.

What's Wrong With Teacher Education, You Ask?

I'm glad you did.

I received a newsletter today from the College of Education at CSU, Sacramento. The message from the Dean, prominently displayed on the front page of the newsletter, had a few points that merit some negative attention. I now quote from the Dean's message:

There are four main goals that we have and will continue to focus on in the College, which are expressed in the acronym TEACH:

Transformative Leadership
Equity and Social Justice
Human Differences and Diversity

1. Which four are the main goals?
2. I've posted enough on this blog about so-called equity and social justice, and the lack of logic from which those code words spring, that I probably shouldn't repeat myself.
3. Somehow, I'm more inclined to believe that the Dean's view of "human differences and diversity" is more in line with "disabled lesbians of color" than with anyone or anything that might be considered "conservative". I'd like to be proven wrong on that, but I doubt I will be.

Honestly, I despise most teacher education programs. What you read above encapsulates why.

I Promise My Students...

...that they will never have to worry about whether or not I will email them topless pictures of myself.

I will not. And this teacher shouldn't have done so, either.

Men In The Classroom

I won't recount my own experience in this arena--it sets my blood boiling. I think Dr. Helen's hit the nail on the head.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Math and Elections

Another intriguing use of mathematics.

Now Philip Stark, a statistician at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a recount method that guarantees a 99 percent chance that the result is the same as it would be with a full hand count. Several counties in California plan to try out the method on ballot measures during the presidential primaries this year. If this trial and others go smoothly, California could adopt the method statewide.

American Student Starved By Egyptian Host Family?

Jonathan McCullum was in perfect health at 155 pounds when he left last summer to spend the school year as an exchange student in Egypt.

But when he returned home to Maine just four months later, the 5-foot-9 teenager weighed a mere 97 pounds and was so weak that he struggled to carry his baggage or climb a flight of stairs. Doctors said he was at risk for a heart attack.

McCullum says he was denied sufficient food while staying with a family of Coptic Christians, who fast for more than 200 days a year, a regimen unmatched by other Christians.

But he does not view the experience as a culture clash. Rather, he said, it reflected mean and stingy treatment by his host family....


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pass The Popcorn, We're Watching The Democrats

(updated and moved to the top--for the last time)

It's hard to imagine that 2008 will be a good year for Republicans, so I may as well get what little political enjoyment out of it that I can while the gittin's good--and boy, is it good right now.

In this first article, from Byron York at National Review Online, we wonder where the Democratic outrage about Obama undercounts in New York is.

The New York Times reported finding 80 election districts in the city, some in Harlem, in which "Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district." Recounts revealed that Obama had, in fact, received lots of votes.

So where are the cries of disenfranchisement, or at least attempted disenfranchisement? Where are the conspiracy theories? The outrage? And for that matter, where are the cries of outrage that many Democratic party officials appear determined to deny the states of Florida and Michigan representation at the Democratic National Convention?
Rand Simberg points out that the Bill Clinton you're seeing during this election cycle, the one playing the race card against a fellow Democrat, is the same Bill Clinton Republicans were telling you about in 1992.

Sorry, he's exactly the same person you used to (foolishly and myopically) respect and admire. He's the same person he's been his entire political career, going all the way back to the seventies in Arkansas. Anyone who has followed his career, or read non-hagiographic biographies of him knows this. The only thing that's changed is that you've found a new empty vessel (Barack Obama) into which to pour your emotional political longings, and he's attacked it, so now you see the Bill Clinton that the rest of us have seen all along...

Denver may make Chicago in 1968 look like a Sunday-school picnic....

When it comes to the Clintons, it's always about them, and they always come first, and the national Democrats are finally starting to realize it, sixteen years later.

I think I'll continually update this post, and move it up to the top of the blog each time I do. As I said, I may as well get some enjoyment out of this year's election.

Update #1, 2/18/08: This didn't take long, as this update occurs on the same day as the original post.

Sen. Barack Obama said Monday that he doesn't think it's a big deal that he borrowed lines from his friend Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, although he probably should have given him credit...

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson accused Obama of plagiarizing Patrick, and that's particularly troubling since Obama's appeal is based in large part on his rhetorical skills.
On the radio this morning I heard a clip from Patrick's speech, and then the clip from Obama's speech. Obama doesn't deny the obvious, he just says it's no big deal.

I think we need more butter.

Update #2, 2/19/08: Got any red licorice? Clinton isn't congratulating Obama.
Three times may make a trend: for the third primary/caucus night in a row, Hillary Clinton has taken the stage at a post-election rally and failed to mention her losses, or congratulate her winning opponent, Barack Obama.
Update #3, 2/23/08: To paraphrase Monty Python, "She's not dead yet."

A visibly angry Sen. Hillary Clinton lashed out Saturday at Sen. Barack Obama over campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false."

It's kind of hard to feel sorry for her, considering how many "blatantly false" things she's said about President Bush.

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said...

With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director who is reviled by Democrats.

Oh, that's rich!!! I'm gonna need a refill on that popcorn--or should I upgrade to kettle corn? Salty and sweet at the same time....

Update #4, 2/23/08: The snack bar's gonna like me today.

It seems that Obama is not going to attend a State of the Black Union forum, and organizer Tavis Smiley isn't pleased with that. Others aren't pleased at Smiley for voicing his dissatisfaction.

"I think it's a missed opportunity on Mr. Obama's part," Smiley told CNN. "Now, I am not interested in demonizing him for his choice, but I do disagree with it."

But Smiley's criticism has also prompted many people to come to Obama's defense. The talk show host told The Washington Post he has been inundated with angry e-mails and even death threats.

"I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It's getting to be crazy," Smiley told the newspaper.

At least Mrs. Rodham Clinton will be there.

Update #5, 2/24/08: Mrs. Rodham Clinton just can't pass up an opportunity to attack the President, can she? In this instance she gets a two-fer--one on the President, one on a fellow liberal.

Ralph Nader is entering the presidential race as an independent, he announced Sunday, saying it is time for a "Jeffersonian revolution..."

Calling Nader's move "very unfortunate," Sen. Hillary Clinton told reporters, "I remember when he ran before. It didn't turn out very well for anybody -- especially our country."

"This time I hope it doesn't hurt anyone. I can't think of anybody that would vote for Sen. McCain who would vote for Ralph Nader," she said...

"Obviously, it is not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is. But, you know, it is a free country."

That's right, Mrs. Rodham Clinton, it is a free country. And people like me despise and work against people like you precisely because we want to keep it that way.

Update #6, 2/25/08: "Shame on you, Barack Obama." Several commentators have noted how Mrs. Rodham Clinton went from smooching Obama's butt at the last debate (I'm so proud to be on this stage with Barack Obama) just a few days ago to attacking and mocking him:

“Now, I could stand up here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified,'" Clinton said to laughter of the crowd.

"The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect,” she said dryly as the crowd erupted.

“Maybe I’ve just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be," Clinton continued. "You are not going to wave a magic wand to make special interests disappear."

She's also accused Obama of sending out campaign literature that distorts her views--while at the same time, Drudge reports that Clinton's campaign is the source of the "Obama in al-Qaeda/Muslim attire" picture.

This almost isn't any fun anymore. Either someone needs to restock my red licorice, or someone has to report on what Obama the Radical Socialist is really saying. Everyone's piling on Mrs. Rodham Clinton now, and it's not so entertaining. I crave some diversity.

Update #7, 2/26/08: Ask and I shall receive, sorta.

Reporters covering Obama can no longer move freely among the thousands of zealous supporters at his events — unless the reporter receives a staff escort through the security gates. (In one city, that meant using a port-o-potty outside because the route to the indoor plumbing ran through the crowd.)

And the traveling press corps has been shut out of monitoring Obama's satellite interviews with local media outlets, which is a normal practice on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign.

On top of that, the traveling media has been tussling with Obama aides to keep conversations with the candidate on his campaign plane on the record.

Wow, Obama's campaign is secretive, disciplined, and scripted. Where have we heard such "accusations" before? More evidence of a "Rovian influence", perhaps?

I need a root beer.

Update the last, 2/27/08: This has been fun, but I need more than snack bar food if I'm going to survive. Besides, man cannot live on Junior Mints alone....

Anyway, here's a leftie call for a little more scrutiny of Saint Barack.

After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama's promises of a pure, soul-cleansing "new" politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign.
This was certainly more enjoyable than I Am Legend, but this post is done.

What's NEA Up To In This Election Cycle?

Go here to find out.

Think you're going to be surprised? No, I didn't think so either.

Social Justice High

Joanne (see blogroll) has an excellent column about high schools centered around the topic of social justice. In case you didn't notice, I've addressed the idea of social justice more than a couple times on this blog--so if Joanne's column inspires you to read more, click on the social justice label at the bottom of this post for more commentary.

RIP, Bill Buckley

As I heard on the radio on the way home today, there aren't many people who can say that they essentially founded a political movement in this country. One who could, died today.

We're a better people because of Buckley, and his loss diminishes us all.

Stupid Kid, Stupid Crime, Do Some Time

Were these kids too stupid to know that there were security cameras at the school?

I hope you enjoyed the Chinese food and video games, idiots.

Some Things, A Kid Cannot Get Away With

Lighting your teacher's hair on fire, for example.

There's not much more the school can do beyond expulsion, but I like the fact that criminal charges have been filed as well.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Congratulations To Two Former Students Of Mine

They've received their appointments to the Naval Academy.

Here's a link from the Sea Cadets (no idea how long this homage will last, so view soon). I'm very proud of both of them, very happy for both of them.

They have no idea what awaits them :-)

I'm still waiting for word from our school's two other students who received congressional nominations to service academies.

Get Out Your Overcoats

Here's the headline:

Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming

Solar activity, folks. Solar activity.

Welfare? No. Philanthropy? Yes.

Rightwingprof nails it so well that I'll just link to his post and let the anti-Wal*Mart crowd spin out of control.

Another Rocket Scientist Working With Kids

A real genius, this one.

A teacher's aide quit her job on Monday after police discovered teenage students in her hotel room with alcohol and drugs...

Police found condom wrappers, crack-cocaine, empty beer cans and alcohol in Swogger's hotel room last week. Swogger did not show up to work on Thursday or Friday.

The room smelled of marijuana when officers broke up the party early Friday, said Detective Dennis Marsili. Some parents of the missing teens reported their disappearance to police.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Teacher Sends Sexual IM's To Students

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there's very little that's appealing, and nothing that's sexually appealing, about junior high students. So this just makes me go "ew".

Authorities say a middle school math teacher in Forest Hills, Queens, is accused of sending sexually explicit instant messages to eight boys.


Political Correctness at Teachers College

It's hard to fault this conclusion:

When academic standards are sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, a university loses all respect. In Columbia's case, that happened a long time ago.

Go read the whole thing.

Crucifixes Are Gang Symbols Now?

They are, according to this story:

ALBANY, Ore. — A pair of Albany teenagers suspended for "gang-related behavior" because they were wearing crucifixes say they were only wearing gifts from their mothers.

Jaime Salazar, 14, his friend Marco Castro, 16, were suspended from South Albany High School recently after they refused to put away the crucifixes they were wearing around their necks.

Salazar said Principal Chris Equinoa saw his necklace and told him to put it away. "I was like, why?" Salazar said. "He says it's related to gangs."

It's odd that the reporter didn't call the mothers and ask them if they did, in fact, give the boys the crucifixes.

Equinoa said religious items are not banned. But, as principal, he reserves the right to ask a student to remove, or cover up, any item he feels could indicate gang affiliation, even a crucifix.

Interesting. What happens when gangs start adopting school mascots or school uniforms as symbols? What will the kids be allowed to wear to school at that point?

Is banning the only tool in this arsenal?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Global Warming (Put On Your Coat)

Australian blogger Kerplunk (see blogroll) is among the most rational and thoughtful of the "deniers" of global warming. Whereas I usually just poke my finger in the eye of the Church adherents, and perhaps mock a bit, he does yeoman's work gathering information and interpreting data.

Today he has a lengthy post, much of the information coming from the UK's Daily Mail paper.

If the cognitive dissonance gap between global warming rhetoric and real world observation is not the greatest in living memory then I want to know what is.

A negative annual temperature trend per year since 1998 seems to have gone unnoticed by the Climate Faithful for whom the term 'inconvenient truth' has already been co-opted by their side.

He goes on to mention the record snowfall in disparate places around the world.

Worst for 50 years? Yes. Did the climate models predict this? No. No matter, though. As long as the Climate Faithful can impose more government into our lives then reality can be blissfully ignored.

More to chew on.

What Makes A Red/Blue State? Cost Of Raising A Family

I don't know how true this article is, but it certainly sounds plausible.

Not surprisingly, the San Francisco area is popular with people who don’t need a big backyard for their kids, such as homosexuals and childless couples, while North Texas attracts families from across America. San Francisco is very Democratic, while the Metroplex is quite Republican.

Why? The simplest explanation is that GOP “family values” resound more in states where people can more afford to have families. In parts of the country where “Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life.” And where it is economical to buy a house with a yard in a neighborhood with a decent public school, you will generally find more conservatives. It’s a stereotype that marriage, mortgage, and kids make people more conservative, but, like most stereotypes, it’s reasonably true. You’ll find fewer Republicans in places where family formation is expensive. Where fewer people can form families, Republican candidates making speeches about family values just sound irrelevant or irritating.

The arrow of causality points in both directions. Some family-oriented people move to more affordable states in order to marry and have children, while people uninterested in marriage and children move in the opposite direction to enjoy adult lifestyles. This population swapping just makes the electorate more divided by geography rather than tipping the national balance toward one party.

Interesting sociological question.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Teenage Cussing

I started cussing in junior high school. My foul language reached its zenith, unsurprisingly, when I was in the army, and has dropped off dramatically since then; being a father certainly has played a role in that drop-off. As a kid, though, I'd have been mortified if adults ever heard me cuss. Apparently, that behavioral control isn't as strong today.

Adolescents and preteens are swearing more publicly than ever – especially at school, experts say.

It's conversational swearing – in the hallways and in the classroom – that is on the rise, says Timothy Jay, one of the leading scholars on cursing in the United States.

Teens are more likely to drop casual expletives, or "fillers," than the generation before them and have more trouble adjusting their conversation to fit their audience. That means adults – especially strangers who cannot sanction the teens – hear more of the same language that the teens' friends hear, says Jay, author of "Why We Curse" (John Benjamins, $35, 328 pages) and "Cursing in America" (John Benjamins, $66, 272 pages).

He estimates that the average adolescent uses roughly 80 to 90 swear words a day.

So he's saying that kids aren't smart enough to know when they should and shouldn't cuss? I'm not so sure. I'm more inclined to believe that they have less impulse control--because too many haven't had to demonstrate any impulse control. I doubt it's asking too much for students to know that they shouldn't be dropping f-bombs at school.

I strongly agreed with one statement from the article:

"One of the consequences of excessive swearing is the inability to articulate," Forni says. "The profanities are the fillers. They take the place of a more sophisticated way of speaking."

As with all things, there's a right way and a wrong way, and an appropriate time and place.

Cat Fight on the Big Yellow Bus

Charges may be forthcoming after a fight involving a Higley Unified School District bus driver and three teenagers that was captured on a security video, authorities said.

This FoxNews story has a link to the video and audio from the school bus security camera. All I can say is wow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What A Way To Spend A Week Off

I've been sick all week. This sucks.

It also explains why blogging's been light.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Frustration Of A Conservative

There are always going to be people who want to be told what to do. They need someone more powerful in charge and are fine with giving up whatever personal liberties they possess for a sense of security. How do the rest of us, who are perfectly frippin’ capable of providing our own sense of security, fight against that? There’s more sheep than there are wolves, that’s for damned sure, so how do we win? Do we all pack up and move to Montana? Buy up all the property we can get our hands on and secede? Limit immigration to those capable of demonstrating self-reliance and an IQ over 150?

How do we win?

I was with him until the 150 IQ part--but I certainly understand the sentiment.

Liberals In General, Academics In Particular

All across the country, there are professors who push for keeping military recruiters off campus and for banning ROTC. Apparently if they don't like the military, then other people -- such as students -- should not be allowed to make up their own minds whether they want to join or not.

Liberals in general, and academics in particular, like to boast of their open-mindedness and acceptance of non-conformity. But they mean not conforming to the norms of society at large.

They have little or no tolerance to those who do not conform to the norms of academic political correctness. Nowhere else in America is free speech so restricted as on academic campuses with speech codes.

Thomas Sowell.

I Need A Masters Degree If I Ever Want To Get A Pay Raise Again

Perhaps I should look into this school.

Lamar's new program sets itself apart in convenience and cost: Students take one five-week course at a time and finish a dozen required courses in 18 months, shorter than many traditional master's programs designed for working teachers.

They take all their courses on a computer – watching videos of lectures and doing assignments – and pay just $4,950, less than half the price of most education master's degrees in Texas.

I don't care if it's a diploma mill. Degrees in education are next to useless anyway. The only reason to get one is to "move over" on the salary scale.

Banning Internet Gossip At College

I've never heard of, but if this story is even remotely accurate, I can see why people might be up in arms.

In campus debates over Internet freedom, students normally take the side of openness and access. This time, however, student leaders, newspaper editorials and posters on the site are fighting back - with some even asking administrators to ban JuicyCampus. It's a kind of plea to save the students, or at least their reputations, from themselves.

Is there a better way than banning? I would think that an organized campaign to convince JuicyCampus to institute a privacy policy, one that would allow individuals to have information about themselves removed, would be more likely to achieve success.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Che and JFK

A Boston columnist's thoughts....

Global Warming Update

So that was my calendar page from last Friday--and before anyone squeals, I use these pages for notes after I tear them off, so I'm not being wasteful.

So I got to wondering, why is that one particular glacier growing, and why is Arctic Sea ice expanding?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Excellent Teachers

Here's a Time Magazine article that touches on excellent teachers and merit pay.

Fighting Back Against Stanford Closed-Mindedness

From an op-ed in The Stanford Daily:

I do very well realize where this reaction is coming from. Stanford is a liberal university, and I very much hope that the good word “liberalism” is not degraded in your institution as it has been degraded by the likes of Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Ward Churchill, Noam Chomsky and many others. I hope the word “liberal” in the mind of Stanford students still means “progressive” and “broad-minded.” The left symbolizes progress. At least, it has done so in the past. It has always stood for women’s rights, for gay rights, for the rights of African-Americans. The reaction which I see today at Stanford demonstrates to me that there are changes in the left and that these changes are for the worst. What I read today in The Stanford Daily is nothing more than intellectual terrorism. A dogmatism that I can only compare to one of religion. (If-you-don’t-think-what-I-think,-you-are-an-idiot-and-a-delinquent.) It’s difficult for me to understand how the progressive left can defend the most backwards and reactionary ideology on earth, the ideology of Islam. (boldface mine--Darren)

Well, Democrats haven't always stood for the rights of African-Americans, but I understand his point. There was a time when our two major political parties disagreed on policy; now we disagree on right and wrong, to the detriment of the nation.

Presidents Kennedy and Truman were before my time, but I cannot accept that they would be happy with their ideological successors on the left.

Oh, and the linked op-ed I quoted from above? It was written by a gay porn actor and owner of an adult film company--not exactly someone you'd be able to paint as "right wing". Here's the article which sparked his op-ed.

Sadly, a large number of the comments on his op-ed (80 as I type this) are of such low intellectual quality that I'd venture to guess that most of my high school students could demonstrate more coherent thought processes. This does not speak well of Stanford as a community or an institution.

Mandating Global Warming Instruction In California's Classrooms

As the evidence continues to mount that solar activity is the driver of "climate change" here on earth, and not man's activity, a dim bulb in the California legislature wants to mandate that climate change "be among the science topics that all California public school students are taught."

"You can't have a science curriculum that is relevant and current if it doesn't deal with the science behind climate change," (State Senator) Simitian said. "This is a phenomenon of global importance and our kids ought to understand the science behind that phenomenon."

Others disagree.

Some say the science on global warming isn't clear, while others worry the bill would inject environmental propaganda into classrooms.

"I find it disturbing that this mandate to teach this theory is not accompanied by a requirement that the discussion be science-based and include a critical analysis of all sides of the subject," said Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, during the Senate debate.

Mandating propaganda is a bad idea. A science teacher at my school once showed Gore's movie in class and then said, "Now you have the facts. You can choose to believe them, or not." I can't see any good coming from this bill.

Ladies' Engineering

I've said many times that some people want to pollute K-12 math and science classes with politically-correct tripe because there's no immediate harm, plus there's the benefit of having an indoctrinated student. I've long asserted that no one would do such a thing in university engineering courses, though, because no one wants the airplace to fall out of the sky or the bridge to fall down.

Sadly, I was wrong.

The update to that linked post gives some possible explanations about how "fuzzy engineering" might be a net positive, and I'm sure that'll be some comfort to people as they tumble off the bridge into the water.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

America--Land of Opportunity

Here's another uplifting story describing in part why I love America.

But Shepard's descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents' home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty. (emphasis mine--Darren)

You can read a book like Ms. Ehrenreich's, or Howard Zinn's (A People's History of the United States) and conclude that America is a miserable place where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the oppressors oppress. Or, you can read Shepard's story and see that America presents opportunities to those who will take them.

National Pity-Party In The Schools

From Australia, where the government has officially apologized to the Aborigines for past policies and treatment:

Today, across Australia, state Labor governments and teacher's unions encouraged public schools to feature Prime Minister Rudd's apology to the "stolen generation" and to "educate" its pupils of the historical importance of this largely symbolic gesture. The kind of impetus and vigor with which this was pursued has not been seen in Australian life for well over a decade. Not even the "Public Schools: A National Priority" campaign was so shamelessly promoted...

Almost from swearing in of the new government, the leeching and corrupting the youth has recommenced.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Not A Big Glitch, But A Bad One

PALM BAY — An accidental push of a button Friday had students at Palm Bay High questioning what they'd done wrong and parents plotting punishments.

Parents of all 2,550 students in the school received an automated call Friday reminding them that their student had to report for Saturday morning detention. Problem was, the message only should have gone to 16 homes.


Friend Gets Linked By Instapundit

My friend Mr. Chanman of the blog Buckhorn Road (see blogroll) has been quoted in the major Sacramento newspaper several times, but today is his first Instalanche!

Read through the couple dozen comments on Mr. Chanman's post and you might come across one from someone you know and love :-)

Monday, February 11, 2008

This Story Will Make Your Heart Soar

I had a conversation with a peer today. It was one of those conversations that made you feel dirty, and I told her so, because her view was so foul. Then I came home and watched ABC World News, and one story caused my faith to be restored.

My colleague asked if I lived in a certain area because she thought she saw me walking yesterday. In fact I do, and I told her I was walking to Wal*Mart to get a few needed groceries. She, of course, said she doesn't go to Wal*Mart. It's too dirty (I don't see it, but OK), the people who go there are "eww" (nice way not to be judgemental), and the people who work there....

She threw in some comment about my being politically conservative, and I fired back.

She and I live a little over a mile from each other, so the customers she sees at Wal*Mart are our neighbors. So what is she saying about our community?

And I acknowledged that Wal*Mart hires some people who we might consider "slow". They also hire some people with apparent physical or mental disabilities. Personally, I consider that a plus for Wal*Mart and for the community--these are people Target and Safeway might not hire, but Wal*Mart provides them with an opportunity to earn a real wage doing a real job. They could easily be on welfare, but instead they're making something of themselves and contributing to the greater good. I find denigrating these people, and the company that hires them, to be beneath contempt.

Then I came home and turned on ABC World News with Charles Gibson. One of the last reports was about Walgreens, which runs an interesting facility:
At first glance, the Walgreens distribution center in Anderson, S.C., seems ordinary enough. But upon closer inspection, it's anything but. More than 40 percent of the 700 workers here are disabled.

Here's the story. But if you really want to feel tears well up in your eyes, watch the video. The only way I've been able to see it so far is to go to and scroll through the big pictures on the left side of the screen; when you see the picture labeled How One Super-Store is Saving the Disabled, click on the "watch" link below. I don't know how long it'll be there, so go soon. There's some video at the story (text) link above, but it doesn't appear to be the entire broadcast video.

It's stories like this, and companies like Wal*Mart and Walgreens, that make me proud to be an American. In so many other societies, people with disabilities are institutionalized, or just paid (welfare) by the state on the assumption, apparently shared by my colleague, that they're worthless. Out of sight, out of mind. If we don't see them, they don't really exist.

I, however, have a brighter view of humanity. ABC's story gave flight to my view, and made my heart soar.

A Positive Article About ROTC

And in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, of all places. Hugh Hewitt, who'd'a thunk it?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gizmo High

I would like the natural light, and at my school we're making plans for installing LCD projectors near the ceiling, but I wouldn't want to teach at this school.

So you'd think T.C. teachers would be ecstatic. But it's just the opposite -- faculty morale is the lowest and cynicism the highest I've seen in years. The problem? What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls "technolust" -- a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as "Gizmo High."

Here's the worst of it.

Science and math teachers, for instance, have been told that they can't use traditional overhead projectors to present material to classes....

Oh, hay-ell no.

Of course, the big question isn't whether teachers like spending their time learning one new gizmo after another, but whether a parade of new technologies will help kids learn. From what I can see, that's not the case. Says one math teacher: "Math grows out of the end of a pencil. You don't want the quick answer; you want students to be able to develop the answer, to discover the why of it. The administration seems to think that computers will make math easy, but it has to be a painful, step-by-step process."

I don't know about painful, but as the ancient saying goes, there is no royal road to geometry.

Global Warming Could Be The Death Knell For Quality Violin Music

In this video clip we have a professor and a "climate expert" claiming that Stradivarius violins owe their unique sound to the Little Ice Age, which caused trees to grow more slowly and tree rings to be deposited more densely.

Why Do These People Even Go To College?

They're so far removed from the real world. Honestly, tree sitting? The only reason they continue their stupid protest is because they're allowed to. It wouldn't be too hard to get them to come down immediately.

Santa Cruz again.

I enjoyed this comment:

Anyone want to bet that if you surveyed the smelly, pennyless hippies up there that 90 to 100% of them are in favor of "Free Universal Health Care", while not being in favor of a a building dedicated to Biomedical Sciences?

That's right. They're not trying to protect the trees from an expanded athletic complex as in Berkeley, they're protesting the building of a new Biomedical Sciences building. Wonderful people, these hippies.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I Tire of the Attire

It's pretty obvious--teachers and professors don't always dress appropriately. We want to be treated (and paid) as professionals but show up to school wearing shorts and flip-flops. Should there be a dress code?

Probably not. But societal norms, even today's very loose norms about clothing, should have more influence on what some people wear. I enjoyed reading the part in the linked article about how men used to attend baseball games in coats, ties, and hats (not baseball caps). I despise ties, hate wearing them, and I'm sure others despise wearing long pants, collared shirts, or even shoes. But is there really no minimum standard?

The end of the article is well done.

Any well-dressed freshman should question Posner’s premise that, just because we can’t draw a bright line, no distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable are possible.

At a minimum, I hope we can agree on one thing: Teaching is a thongless task.

University Boots Students From Dorms For Low Grades

Reasonable people can argue over whether or not this policy is a good idea, but I'm a firm believer that if you have a rule that you don't enforce you must either enforce it or get rid of it--having rules that are not enforced breeds contempt for all rules.

SUNY Old Westbury has removed 87 residential students from their dormitories for having grade point averages below 2.0, enforcing a policy that appears to be the only one of its kind on Long Island...

"Our goal is to have students with us who are serious about their studies," said Michael Kinane, assistant to the president...

The policy has been in effect since at least 1994, Kinane said, but had not previously been enforced. University president Calvin O. Butts III had sought to do so two years ago, Kinane said, but didn't feel the school had communicated it well enough to students.

As the fall semester began, students received letters and each dorm had a meeting about the policy, Kinane said.

I'll be interested to learn if this policy lasts.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Statcounter Hits 100K

Sometime in the last 15 minutes or so, my stat counter, which was installed just under a year ago, hit 100,000. That means that in one year I still got only a small fraction of the number of hits Instapundit gets in a single day!

Welcome to my visitor from Sequin, TX, or Everett, WA--whichever of you rolled the count over.

Teacher Killed

Israeli forces Thursday killed seven Palestinians, including a schoolteacher, in its campaign to stop daily rocket barrages from the Gaza Strip, and added a new economic pressure — cutting electricity by a symbolic 1 percent...

In one incident, an Israeli missile hit a field school, killing the teacher. An Associated Press Television News cameraman saw a rocket launcher near the school.

Will this teacher's students hold Hamas at fault, or the Israelis? What will their other teachers say?

Via Yahoo News and the AP.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

NEA, Reaching Out To Republicans


The Myriad Differences Between Republicans and Democrats

John at Discriminations (see blogroll) has a post that's so spot on that I'm compelled to quote it here in its entirety--but don't let that stop you from visiting his site and reading his other work, many posts from which I've quoted and linked to previously.

Watching all the talking heads and pundits and pollsters and analysts and campaign operatives discuss the returns Tuesday night, I was struck by the fact that the most glaring difference between the political parties was never mentioned.

Practically all the discussion of Democratic returns focused exclusively on demographics: how did blacks, whites, old people, young people, Latino people, male people, female people, etc., etc., vote? I suppose that’s because the Democrats are ideologically homogeneous, with virtually no internal disagreement among themselves on major issues.

In stark contrast, most of the discussion of Republican votes noted the differences among conservatives, moderates, religious voters, voters primarily concerned with the economy or terrorism or Iraq.

A viewer who knew nothing of American politics but what he or she saw on TV analyzing these votes would think that the only things that matter to Democrats are one’s race, ethnicity, sex, age, etc., and that Republicans are concerned only with how conservative or moderate or concerned about terrorists or gay marriage one is.

Now that I think about it, that uninformed view is pretty close to the the truth.

Republicans are the party of real diversity and inclusion. Democrats are the party of balkanization.

Update, 2/12/08: This post helps explain why Republicans in general are happier than Democrats.

I’ll propose another explanation: I think it’s likely that happy people are more likely to be Republicans, while unhappy people are more likely to be Democrats, for unhappiness gives one an incentive to seek change, and happiness an incentive to resist it. But the causal link goes in the other direction as well, for Republicans stress freedom and individual responsibility, which lead people to feel in control and take action that changes their lives for the better, while Democrats assign blame to institutions, which makes people feel powerless and discourages them from undertaking ameliorative courses of action.

Pi Is What We Say It Is

On February 5, 1897, the Indiana legislature almost declared the value of pi to be 3.2. Officially.

Carnival of Education

This week's is at The Colossus of Rhodey, and includes not one but two of my recent posts! The first is my post about feeling inadequate when I can't help my students understand a math concept, and the second was my post about running into a former student who told me how I made an impact on him.

Only A Leftie Could Think This Way

A couple members of the Berkeley city council are trying to backpedal from last week's vote, however slightly, due to overwhelming negative national response.

(Councilmembers) Capitelli and Olds have introduced a new resolution that will modify those passed last Tuesday, Capitelli said.

The new resolution will rescind the recommendation in the original item that asks the city manager to send letters to the recruiters saying they're unwelcome, Capitelli said.

This item comes after nationwide response against the city's original resolutions. This includes United States Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., saying he will introduce legislation to strip $2.3 million in earmarked spending for at least six Berkeley projects from a Senate appropriations bill.

In response, Mayor Tom Bates issued a statement Friday saying that the city's opposition to the center did not mean the city failed to support servicemen.

So how exactly, Mr. Mayor, does the city support servicemembers? How do the city's recent actions support servicemembers?

That mayor is an ass. Not a very logical thinker, either.

What's The Purpose Of An Endowment...

...if the university doesn't spend it?

The idea of requiring colleges to spend a minimum proportion of their endowments has gained some political currency of late, promoted mostly by Sen. Charles Grassley, and higher education officials have suspected that the alluring notion might make it into legislative form some time in the not-too-distant future. Little did they know it would be tomorrow...

And buried among the 61 amendments to the Higher Ed Act bill that lawmakers said they would seek to offer on the House floor Thursday was one, offered by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), that would require colleges, regardless of wealth, to spend at least 5 percent of their endowments each year in ways that would reduce what students pay to attend college.

There's certainly a populist appeal here, but why is it the federal government's business to tell state, local, and private universities how they must spend their money? Well, part of the answer is that all private non-profit foundations must spend 5% of their endowments each year--all except universities. So in some regards, this proposal just extends the yoke of federal control over some who previously had been exempt, but does not create a new federal control--as if that's supposed to be some consolation.

Here's something I can get behind, though:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) proposes significant new reporting on the admissions processes and decisions at colleges, aimed at exposing potentially illegal affirmative action. King’s amendment asks “whether federally funded institutions of higher education are treating student applications differently depending on the student’s race, color or national origin, and if so, the way in which these factors are weighted and the consequences to students and prospective students of these decisions.”

I'm sure a Democratic president would ensure the Department of Education gets right on that one.

ACLU Jumps Into The Brandeis Brouhaha

The Massachusetts Chapter of the ACLU has joined FIRE in condemning Brandeis University for punishing a professor for what seems to be constitutionally-protected speech. Brandeis neither provided the professor with a hearing at which he could defend himself, nor told him in writing the substance of the accusations against him.

Yet he was punished.

The tone of the comments at the ACLU link above is telling--and explains why FIRE exists.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Voting With 'Invisible Ink' In Chicago

Voters were given a plastic stylus and told it would mark their ballot with "invisible ink"--obviously their blank votes wouldn't count.

A representative from the Chicago Board of Elections told the reporter, with a straight face, that there was not malicious intent, but rather, "we are convinced that it was just utter stupidity."

Of course it was. What we're not told, though, is the political party or race of the voters and precinct workers. Given that this occurred in Chicago, and working on my assumption that the "utter stupidity" rationale is, itself, utter stupidity, wouldn't those few tidbits of information seem to be rather important?

Update, 2/6/08: In case the video link goes away, here's a Chicago Tribune link (free registration required, hat tip to NewsAlert).

It's A Fart-y Party!

"Strange, but true, thanks to a bunch of 8th grade boys, intentional farting has been banned from CRMS," the newsletter said. "It started out as a funny joke and eventually turned into a game. This is the first rule at CRMS that prevents the use of natural bodily functions. The penalty for intentional farting is a detention, so keep it to yourself!"

Junior high boys. I have nothing else to say :-)

High School Exit Exam

Throughout California today and tomorrow, sophomores will be taking the exit exam. This one-size-fits-all, high-stakes test (any other buzz words I need?) tests at most 8th grade math, and the test can be passed without getting any of the 8th grade questions correct, and at most 10th grade English skills.

Some people claim that since the standard is so low, we shouldn't give the test at all. I disagree. Passing this test means that students have passed one low hurdle to graduation. Getting the required number of units in the required courses (4 years of English, 2 years of math to include 8th grade Algebra 1, 2 years of PE, etc) is another hurdle. Yes, the hurdles are relatively low (a D- is passing in those courses) but ensuring at least a minimum standard is met doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

There was a big lawsuit about this test when it first became a graduation requirement, and our state Superintendent of Public Instruction fought for the test. I was so impressed with his fight, against his own political party and some powerful entrenched interests, that it formed the basis for my voting for him in the last election. His recent support for "we'll close the achievement gap by getting all those racist teachers to attend diversity training" has caused me buyer's remorse.

Three hours of testing today, and three hours tomorrow. Boring for a teacher. Important for California.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Have The Brits Truly Lost It?

I'm proud of my British heritage. Mine's a little more recent than most Americans', as my dad was born in England to a British subject during World War II. At the time, nana was helping fight the Nazis as a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service; grandpa was an American serviceman.

Nana told me the stories as I grew up--how her father died, young, in a mining accident. How her mother survived on a widow's pension during the Great Depression, supplementing her income as a seamstress. What nana's job was like in a mixed-gender anti-aircraft battery. What it was like the night Coventry got bombed.

Nana made sure I knew that the history of England was long and proud. She made sure I understood the importance.

She called every baby "His Majesty" or "Her Majesty", and I think she actually meant it.

I've often said that my heart is American, but my soul is British. When I've been in England, I've felt home.

The more I hear about England today, though, with its accommodationist multicultural death wish and stories like this, maybe I wouldn't recognize it at all.

Britons are losing their grip on reality, according to a poll which shows nearly a quarter think Winston Churchill was a myth, while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes was real.

I truly want to believe it's a bad joke.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The first real concert I ever went to was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. September of '81, at Cal Expo (home of California's State Fair). It was festival seating, so my friend Fredzo and I stayed out in the 100+ degree heat all day so we could be near the front when the gates opened. Bottled water hadn't been invented yet, and the crowd got so big that we eventually couldn't even individually go get a drink because we wouldn't be able to get back through the crowd to whichever of us was holding our spot in line.

So we gutted it out. All day. In the California sun.

It was all worth it once the concert started. They'd thrown a tarp over the race track and erected a stage in the middle, and we were about 25' from center stage. As he did today, Tom opened up then with American Girl. We yelled. We cheered. Stevie Nicks came out to do 2 duets with Petty--Stop Draggin' My Heart Around and Insider. I still have the pictures I took with my 110 camera.

I'd lost my voice by the end of that concert. Then the sore throats started, and then the doctor said my tonsils had to come out. To this day I wonder if there's any link.

So I watched the game today to ensure I wouldn't miss a second of Petty's halftime show, and I'm glad I saw it. Wow! Tom's showing some years, but he still plays like a wild man--still has his signature "hunch" when he plays, too!

Good to see Mike Campbell at his side--but when did Mike start with the 12-string? I remember Tom playing that, not Mike.

I think that was Ron Blair on bass today, too. Couldn't tell if Benmont Tench was the keyboardist or not. The drummer was most definitely not Stan Lynch!

Today's show was only a 4-song set. As I said, he started with American Girl, which many may remember from the opening scenes of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

The second song was I Won't Back Down. Unfortunately, it sounded a little weak today, especially in bass and lead guitar. Could have been more powerful.

The third song was Free Fallin', which sounded even better than the studio version. It's a soulful song, and it will probably always sound better live. They did a great job. I love it when the lights go down for a song and everyone breaks out their cell phones instead of their lighters.

The final song was Runnin' Down A Dream, which sounded fine.

I knew the songs, I knew the words, I had the surround sound blasting. Awesome half-time show!

Can we get Fleetwood Mac for next year?

Update: as commenter Dan pointed out, I merged my comments for two songs into one, completely leaving out a song. That's now corrected.

I Like This Dumb Blonde

Check out the video. (warning: adult language infrequently used)

Let Freedom Ring

Some people might be too dumb to agree with Comrade Hillary or to do what she thinks is right for them.

WASHINGTON - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The coercive power of the state will continue to grow.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Your "Feel Good" Story For The Weekend

I was just at Blockbuster, acquiring some quality cinema, when the kid behind the counter asked if I used to teach math at such-and-such middle school. I did.

I didn't remember his face or name--in my defense, I haven't taught at that school in 5 years--but he remembered me. And he told me two things that really felt good to hear.

"You were one of my favorite teachers." What teacher doesn't want to hear that? Unfortunately, he followed that with, "I still failed your class, but...."

He also said, "One time I was in trouble in the office, and you talked to me. You told me that when you're at the bottom, the only way to go is up. I always remember that. When times are tough I remember that and I feel better."

Having an impact, one kid at a time. Feels good.

The Content of Their Character

I enjoyed reading this, on whether or not Mitt Romney's being a Mormon is a bigger hurdle that Obama's being black or Clinton's being a woman.

A6: In the past year or so, several polls have been conducted suggesting that as many as 37% of Americans might not consider a member of the Mormon Church to be fit for the office of President. What is your view of the possibility of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being elected to the presidency?

Reverend Murray: To me this seems an antiquated question. Would a Mormon be fit to serve as President? It was really antiquated when we asked the question about John Kennedy and whether a Catholic would be fit to serve as president. About Barack Obama and whether a Black would be fit to serve as president. About Hilary Clinton, whether a woman would be fit to serve as president.

If you want to, you can categorize anyone who is running. You could ask whether a White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, male is fit to run for president when that’s all we’ve ever had. It’s time to change. There can be arguments if you go by labels, but if you see that this is a country in pursuit of liberty and justice for all, if you perceive that in a democracy as opposed to a fascist form of government we must have liberty and equity in the process. If you can see that we are in the 21st Century, where people will soon be crossing the country in 30 minutes, where we will be vacationing on Mars, if you can see the new world then you accommodate yourself to it and stop living in the past.

People’s labels, as long as they are not labeled as a criminal mentality, or defined as someone not FOR the people, then you can judge the merits of that platform and what they stand for, not where they are standing...

A6: In 2008 whose candidacy will face the most opposition, Barack Obama ? Who do you think will face the most opposition or the most prejudice today?

Reverend Murray: The Mormon. Because America is still growing. The question, “Do we want a Mormon?” The ultra conservatives will start reaching into history and try to paint them as a radical sect, try to show that their belief system is alien to what perhaps a majority of Americans believe. Because that’s where we are now. Prayerfully, that’s not where we’ll be in 20, 30 or 40 years. We don’t know. I would say Barack would have the advantage. And anytime you say a black candidate would have an advantage running for President of the United States of America, great day in the morning!


Friday, February 01, 2008

The Circle of Inadequacy

When I got to school this morning there was an email waiting for me from a parent. She had something to tell me but preferred to speak rather than type about it, and asked me to call at my earliest convenience.

What did I screw up this time?

Well, I called during my prep period, and she was pleased that I responded so quickly. Then she told me the problem, and it's a biggie: her kid senses that I get frustrated whenever he/she asks a question in class.

The bad part is, I know what mom's talking about. It relates to my deepest, darkest fear about teaching--that I'm not doing it well enough.

Yes, I know there are times that everyone in class won't understand something. Yes, I know that I have a sign on my wall that says "I can teach it to you, but I can't understand it for you." Yes, I know that students have the lion's share of the responsibility for their learning.

But when one of them--especially a very bright one--doesn't understand something, can I honestly say, every time, that I'm 100% sure that I've done the absolute best possible job teaching? Have I lived up to 100% of my responsibility?

I know the answer isn't always "yes". There are times when I know there must be some better way of explaining a topic, but I don't know what that better way is. I admit to being a knowledgeable, competent teacher, but not a Superteacher (like these). My fear is that it's my fault a student doesn't understand the material, that if only I were a better teacher, everything would be fine.

And that's what frustrates me. And that frustration is what the student in question is picking up on. My frustration isn't directed at the student, though. Far from it, I'm frustrated at myself. Why am I not explaining this well? Why can't I get this point across?

Why can't I teach this better?

I explained this to the student today, and apologized for giving the impression that I'm frustrated with the student. The student graciously accepted my explanation--but still doesn't understand the recent material.

So I'm right back where I started. What can I do better?