Saturday, May 31, 2008

Solving the World's Problems

Earlier this week I wrote about the Copenhagen Consensus Conference, and its attempt to determine the most effective way to expend limited resources (money) to solve the world's biggest problems. The results are in.

Where in the world can we do the most good? Supplying the micronutrients vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the 140 million children who lack them in developing countries is ranked as the highest priority by the expert panel at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Conference. The cost is $60 million per year, yielding benefits in health and cognitive development of over $1 billion.

Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an "extra" $75 billion among the solutions over four years.

Number 2 on the list of Copenhagen Consensus 2008 priorities is to widen free trade by means of the Doha Development Agenda. The benefits from trade are enormous. Success at Doha trade negotiations could boost global income by $3 trillion per year, of which $2.5 trillion would go to the developing countries.
Where did global warming come in?

The remaining top ten priorities addressed problems of malnutrition, disease control, and the education of women...

At number 30, the lowest priority is a proposal to mitigate man-made global warming by cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases. This ranking caused some consternation among the European journalists at the press conference. Nobelist and University of Maryland economist Thomas Schelling noted that part of the reason for the low ranking is that spending $75 billion on cutting greenhouses gases would achieve almost nothing. In fact, the climate change analysis presented to the panel found that spending $800 billion until 2100 would yield just $685 billion in climate change benefits.

This is part of the reason why I don't support the Kyoto Protocols and why I'm against such bureaucratic "solutions".

Freeloaders and Cooperation

Classical Values (see blogroll) has yet another fascinating post, this one on the psychology of earning, cooperating, greed, and envy. I kid you not, go read it--well written, full to the brim with great information.

Here are some exceptional snippets from it.

Cooperation always breaks down if people can't punish.

In a kindergarten setting, such lessons in altruism are much easier to impart, and easier to justify, because after all, whatever possessions or money children have is generally given to them by adult authority figures, and is thus "free."

The bottom line is that it's not only a lot easier to share free money, it's a lot easier to become morally indignant with those who don't. But those who didn't earn their fair share are much more likely to be "generous" with what they didn't earn, and less tolerant of the reluctance of those who earned their money to share it.

Carried to an extreme, this leads the freeloading classes to paradoxically accuse those on whose hard work they depend -- their benefactors -- of being greedy. Of being "freeloaders" for not wanting to pay "their fair share."

Which makes about as much sense as parasites accusing their host of parasitism.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm thinking that there may be a direct relationship between resentment and greed. Think about it this way: if the more productive classes are resented for having more, and if they are also resented even if they pay more, it begs the question of whether the resentment of them stems from a poorly understood aspect of human nature which touches on the Twain distinction between man and dog. Suppose for the sake of argument that there is some natural, biologically based resentment of the "helping" classes by the classes who are "helped." (Hence the quotes.) The result is that the productive are in a no-win situation; they are resented for having earned more, and also resented for helping the non-productive classes. OK, it being a given that humans dislike being resented, if they're going to be resented either way, what's in it for them by being helpers? Other than not wanting to go to prison, I don't know.

But I strongly suspect that the more the productive classes are resented for being "greedy," the greedier they'll actually become.

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Former Students

Two former students came to visit today. They're both Obamaniacs, but I think the world of them anyway.

This is one of the fun parts of the year, since most colleges and universities let out before we do and our alumni will come and let us know how well they're doing.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Government and the Market

I saw this post today and the following two paragraphs jumped out at me:

That we instinctively work to improve our own lot first is why progress for all happens so much faster in free, open marketplaces under the rule of law. There, everyone can trade to make themselves better off: specialization and comparative advantage means that trade benefits both sides. Trade is not zero-sum; we grow the whole pie by specializing and trading the results of our work. You go off and work to make the medicine I want, and many people like myself give some our our resources to purchase the end result. Both sides benefit, exchanging - what is for them - lesser value to receive greater value.

There is no open marketplace for medical technology in the developed world, however. Instead, we see a very different set of incentives dominating the state of research and development. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have every incentive to stop the release of new medicine: the government employees involved suffer far more from bad press for an approved medical technology than they do from the largely unexamined consequences of heavy regulation. These consequences go far beyond the obvious and announced disapproval of specific medical technologies: the far greater cost lies in all the research, innovation and development that was never undertaken because regulatory burdens ensure there would be no profit for the developer. Personal gain for the regulator is thus to destroy the gains of people they will never meet, the exact opposite of what occurs in an open marketplace.

I support markets.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Search, Seizure, and Seniors

Where students/children are involved, rights are a little murky; do students have lesser rights than adults, and if so, to what degree? Do the rights of students in high school change when they turn 18 before graduation?

Due to a recent incident at my school, a few students asked me some questions today. I told them I don't know the answers, but walked them through what I know for sure and told them what I surmised about the gray areas.

Q: Can the vice principal require you to open the trunk of your car?

A: I don't think so. If a law enforcement officer stops you for speeding, he cannot require you to open the trunk of your car unless he has reasonable suspicion that something illegal is there. Otherwise, he's on a fishing expedition, and all our courts (except maybe the 9th Circuit in San Francisco) know that won't fly. (Fly, fishing--get it? Sometimes I slay myself.) So I'd be surprised if a vice principal could require you to do what a law enforcement officer cannot. The 4th Amendment protects you here.

A vice principal cannot search your backpack--whether that's a 4th Amendment issue, state law, or district policy, I'm not sure. If he/she suspects something illegal, though (say, drugs), and the student refuses permission, the VP can summon law enforcement and they can search the backpack if the VP's evidence warrants a search (without a warrant--I'm cracking myself up here). Does this change when the student turns 18?

How much of this changes when you cross into a different state?

The field of law can be most interesting, especially where students are concerned.

Now, don't you want to know why the VP asked the student to open his/her trunk?

Elementary School Time Capsule

No one knew about it until it was unearthed during some renovations. Muy coolissimo!

CTA Propaganda: A Flood of Layoffs

EIA (see blogroll) calls it perfectly.


Call it collectivism, socialism, or tyranny, I don't like it. I believe in individual freedoms, to the maximum extent possible.

Collectivist Presidential Candidates:

The Cato Institute's David Boaz thinks Barrack Obama is a collectivist. But Republicans should take note: He thinks John McCain is a collectivist too. In their campaign speeches, Boaz notes, both candidates discourage the individual pursuit of happiness, particularly if it has anything to do with money. They disparage success in business or economic pursuits, implicitly denigrating those who have done the most to ensure this nation's prosperity and wealth.

No poor man ever offered me a job.

Carnival of Education

This week's is hosted by Mrs. Bluebird and includes my post about the proposed law that will let communists teach in public schools.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Cost of Diversity

Tonight I was at a gathering that included a former student of mine, currently an Air Force Academy cadet.

He told me that he had applied for, and had earned, a position as Squadron Commander for next year. It's a very responsible, prestigious, honored assignment at the Academy, as there are only 40 squadrons. He was chosen, his name put on next year's list of commanders, and the list "sent up".

He also told me that the list of squadron commanders for next year contained 35 or 36 white males, and that to make the list more "diverse" he had been removed from the list and replaced by a woman--who hadn't even applied for the position. He'll take his position as Squadron Operations Officer, a 2nd in command.

He wasn't denied this position because of anything he did. He was denied it solely based on his sex. He was denied it not based on what he's done, but on who he is.

He was told all of this by a racial/gender-minority lieutenant colonel, who also told him that one of the air force high mucky-mucks had said that diversity is good for leadership. You know what else is good for leadership? Having leaders who demonstrate leadership.

There is a cost to these equal opportunity/affirmative action programs--and sadly, this young man seems to be bearing much more than his share of that cost.

School Board Fights Back Against Teachers Union

If things are going to get ugly, I'd rather they get ugly on both sides. This is an excellent story--great fun!

Grand Rapids School Board Fights Fire with Fire.
I have often wondered why school boards unilaterally disarm in the face of various job actions, like work-to-rule, slowdowns and no confidence votes. These things have little practical value, but they are very effective as stunts to get attention. The school board in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has apparently decided to grab hold of the fight-fire-with-fire-turnabout-is-fair-play-sauce-for-the-goose-goes-around-comes-around clich├ęs in its latest contract battle with the teachers' union. The board took a no confidence vote in Grand Rapids Education Association president Paul Helder.

"It's just disrespectful, not to me, I don't care about that," Helder said. "It's not my job to make them happy; they're not supposed to have confidence in me one way or the other. But it's disrespectful to the confidence the members put in me when they elected me. It's disrespectful to the work they do."

The board also decided to stop deducting and transferring member dues to the union. Until the dispute is settled, the union will have to collect its dues from the members individually.

Note to local Grand Rapids news: Send TV crews along with the union reps as they perform this task. I promise excellent footage.

The boldface two paragraphs up is mine. Isn't that a great move? I'm all for giving teachers what they're due, but I can't stand the blue collar tactics so many unions espouse. I'm happy to see the district stand up to the union on this one--especially the part about collecting the dues money. Personally, I think it's criminal that a governmental agency (school district) collects money from government employees (teachers) and gives that money to a non-governmental agency (the union).

(This is from the 5/27/08 Communique. If you click on the link after this week, you may instead need to go to the Communique archives by clicking that link in the left column.)

Lowering Standards Doesn't Do Anybody Any Good

How well do SAT scores track college performance? Until I see some data I can't tell if this is a smart move or not--but I'm inclined to believe it's probably not:

Wake Forest University will no longer require applicants to take the SAT and ACT exams, boosting a movement to lessen the importance of standardized tests in college admissions.

The Winston-Salem school, which admitted just 38 percent of its 9,000 applicants for this fall, is the latest in a string of colleges that no longer require standardized tests. Officials there say the scores are not the best predictor of academic potential.

Most other colleges that have dropped standardized testing have not been highly selective and accept most, if not all, qualified applicants. The most prominent and selective schools have generally continued to use the tests as one of several admissions criteria.

If the SAT isn't the best predictor of college performance, what is? I wonder if it's zip code, family income, or parent education level--all of which probably correlate to some high degree.

Pay Our Teachers More...

...but don't pay them for excellent performance!

Via NewsAlert comes this WSJ story:

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) was started by Bill Gates, Michael Dell and other technology titans concerned about the declining performance of American students in math and science. The public-private partnership funds efforts to increase the number of students taking advanced placement courses in those subjects. But thanks to the Washington Education Association, a teachers union, the initiative's recent efforts in Washington state have been torpedoed.

Earlier this month NMSI announced that a $13.2 million grant slated for Washington state was being scrapped. Why? The contract ran afoul of the union's collective bargaining agreement. NMSI wanted to compensate teachers directly and include extra pay based on how well students performed on AP exams. But under the teacher contracts, the union is the exclusive agent for negotiating teacher pay and union officials refused to compromise. They were willing to turn away free money for their teacher members rather than abide this kind of merit pay.

Are you one of those who still thinks unions are in the business of taking care of their members (despite all evidence to the contrary), or can you accept that unions, like all other special interest groups, are just about power?

Still Not Sure Whom To Ask To The Prom

The NEA has conditionally endorsed Barack Obama for President.

Should I mention the lack of leadership the NEA is showing by waiting for the Democrats to choose a nominee before they rubber stamp that nominee? Nah, you get the idea.

Taking The Nanny State To The Extreme

Some people think that only our betters in government know what's best for us, and that we should leave all of life's decisions in their capable hands.

Ask the citizens of the former Soviet Union how that turned out.

Anyway, here's a proposal that's sickening and scary at the same time:

Every adult should be forced to use a 'carbon ration card' when they pay for petrol, airline tickets or household energy, MPs say.

The influential Environmental Audit Committee says a personal carbon trading scheme is the best and fairest way of cutting Britain's CO2 emissions without penalising the poor.

Under the scheme, everyone would be given an annual carbon allowance to use when buying oil, gas, electricity and flights.

Somehow I just don't see Richard Branson living with, or abiding by, the same allotment that my relatives in Kent or Rugby will have. As Instapundit said on the topic, "not until rich celebrities and government officials fly commercial".

Update: What happens when our government, in an attempt to "do something", chooses the wrong "solution" to the so-called problem? Here's a state-by-state breakdown of potential costs of the proposed Lieberman-Warner Climate Change legislation. It's not pretty.

Going Green--With Nuclear Energy

I support this completely. So does Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace (type his name into the search engine at the top of this blog page to see other posts mentioning him).

ITALY, which last week decided to embrace nuclear power two decades after a public referendum banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors, could be just the first of several European countries to reverse its stance on nuclear power, a leading industry group has said.

With Finite Resources, Which Problems Should Government Tackle?

So asks the Copenhagen Consensus Conference. I was attracted to this article because the conference is the brainchild of Right On The Left Coast hero Bjorn Lomborg (type "lomborg" into the search engine at the top of this blog page to learn more about him).

The experts are considering detailed reports by prominent international researchers regarding ten challenges, including air pollution, armed conflicts, diseases, education, global warming, malnutrition and hunger, sanitation and access to clean water, subsidies and trade barriers, terrorism, and women and development. In each area, the researchers define the problem, suggest options for solving the problem[*], and assign a benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) to each solution. The higher the BCR, the more cost-effective the solution is.

Prime Minister Rasmussen concretized the value of the CC08 exercise by referring to the earlier version in 2004. He noted that in 2004, CC04 participants put controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in developing countries at the top of the list. Consequently, the Danish government began to devote a higher proportion of its overseas development aid to combating that disease, doubling the aid from $100 to $200 million per year by 2010.

Rasmussen got ahead of the 2008 deliberations a bit when he turned to the subject of climate change. He argued that the case for action is strong, and that the world needed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions. To address the problem, Rasmussen called for "a new Green industrial revolution and a new Green world economy." Interestingly, the 2004 Copenhagen Consensus report ranked measures to address climate change at the very bottom, finding that proposals for carbon taxes and implementing the Kyoto Protocol would have costs that "were likely to exceed the benefits."
Go read more.

Math Video

I Will Derive.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Generous That Government Is

Want government to run more of your life? Tell you which doctor to go to, which lightbulbs to put in your house, and how much water your toilet can flush? Is that really what you think the role of government should be?

When government becomes the granter of privileges and not the guarantor of rights, tyranny exists. Tyranny like this:

China announced Monday it's making exceptions to its one-child policy for some families affected by the devastating earthquake two weeks ago.

The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee in the capital of hard-hit Sichuan province announced that families whose child was killed, severely injured or disabled in the quake could get a certificate allowing them to have another child.

How generous the Chinese government is.

Hooking Up At College

You mean, they're not all sex-crazed demons?

Perhaps counterintuitively, what Freitas finds is that a majority of students–irrespective of their attending public, private, secular or non-secular schools–are actually dismayed over the across the board highly sexually charged atmosphere on most college campuses.


Oil Prices To Come Down?

Lew Rockwell thinks so, but here's what I found most interesting in his piece:

Public policy can encourage this bursting bubble scenario. The Democrats want to tax the oil companies or use the antitrust laws against them. Big mistake. More taxes get you LESS oil and "concentration" in the oil industry is not really the problem. The on-going Congressional hearings "investigating" oil prices and profits is a charade and is purely political theater. The very same federal and state governments that complain about high oil prices continue to tax gasoline at a rate (40 cents per gallon) far higher than the profit rate for the oil companies. So much for government concern about consumers.

What was it that Ronald Reagan said were the scariest words you could hear? "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Freeman Dyson on Global Warming

In this article, Dyson looks at two books on global warming and adds his own genius to the mix. I found these paragraphs interesting, though--an economist's view of what to do about global warming:

Here are the net values of the various policies as calculated by the DICE model. The values are calculated as differences from the business-as-usual model, without any emission controls. A plus value means that the policy is better than business-as-usual, with the reduction of damage due to climate change exceeding the cost of controls. A minus value means that the policy is worse than business-as-usual, with costs exceeding the reduction of damage. The unit of value is $1 trillion, and the values are specified to the nearest trillion. The net value of the optimal program, a global carbon tax increasing gradually with time, is plus three—that is, a benefit of some $3 trillion. The Kyoto Protocol has a value of plus one with US participation, zero without US participation. The "Stern" policy has a value of minus fifteen, the "Gore" policy minus twenty-one, and "low-cost backstop" plus seventeen...

The main conclusion of the Nordhaus analysis is that the ambitious proposals, "Stern" and "Gore," are disastrously expensive, the "low-cost backstop" is enormously advantageous if it can be achieved, and the other policies including business-as-usual and Kyoto are only moderately worse than the optimal policy. The practical consequence for global-warming policy is that we should pursue the following objectives in order of priority. (1) Avoid the ambitious proposals. (2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop. (3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails. (4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent. These objectives are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.

Gore isn't an economist or a scientist. Is it any wonder his proposals fare the worst of all?

This Punishment Doesn't Seem To Fit The Crime

A student rode a horse to school on the last day of class, parked it in a nearby pasture, and now won't be allowed to graduate. You'd almost have to think there's more to the story than that, wouldn't you? If not, then the first comment is undeniably true:

Just watching the videos, this Principal seems small-minded, prickly and vain; certainly his actions seem severe, and there was a pallor of malice to his on-air manner...He admits the boy presented no memorable issues prior to innocently riding his horse to school whereupon he somehow offended the center of the universe.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones

I saw the new movie today. It was fine--I'd give it a B--but it certainly wasn't the best of the series.

After reading this story, though, maybe I'll reconsider =)

Members of Russia's Communist Party are calling for a nationwide boycott of the new Indiana Jones movie, saying it aims to undermine communist ideology and distort history.

Who's Afraid Of The Teachers Union Wolf?

Apparently, some of the biggest names in Las Vegas casinos are.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Nevada teachers union is negotiating with casinos regarding initiatives to be placed on the ballot.

The Nevada State Education Association reached a last-minute deal Monday night with several major gaming properties in Las Vegas that will keep the association's petition to raise the casino tax off the ballot.

Teachers instead will seek a 3 percent increase in the hotel room tax rate, to a maximum of 13 percent...

Under the deal, reached with the help of key legislative leaders, proceeds from the room tax hike would offset a looming budget shortfall for the 2009-2011 biennium. After that, the proceeds would be used for teacher salaries and student achievement.

Well, isn't that nice of Nevada's teachers.

The paper had a follow-up story:

Voters may be asked in November whether they want the 2009 Legislature to increase hotel room taxes to ease the state’s budget woes and help schools, but major casino companies remain divided about the proposal.

The state teachers union agreed not to push a ballot initiative seeking voter approval to raise taxes of big casinos from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent in exchange for three major casino companies’ support for raising the room tax.

Wynn Resorts, Harrah’s Entertainment and Station Casinos supported the deal, brokered with the help of Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, but chief executives of MGM Mirage and Boyd Gaming Corp. don’t like the idea. Las Vegas Sands Corp. previously came out against raising the room tax.

There are a couple interesting points here. The first is that the NSEA has not responded to my request for further information: how were these negotiations conducted? Who initiated the contact, the casinos or the NSEA? Were individual corporations contacted, or was a consortium representing casinos contacted? Additionally, I note that two of the three casinos mentioned, Station and Harrah's, are private corporations, and went private within the last year. (I know this because I had stock in both, and was bought out by majority vote of the shareholders.) Is that significant, does it point to a reason why they'd negotiate with the teachers union when MGM and Boyd would not?

One thing's for sure--I wouldn't be very comfortable if the teachers union were so blatantly meddling in the most successful industry in my state.

You Text In Class? Teachers Can Look

Hopefully this will motivate you to put your freakin' phone away when you're not supposed to be touching it.

School administrators in one Florida county have given teachers permission to read student's text messages if they think their students are up to no good, reports...

Teachers can check the cell phone for what was written, as well as photos taken if they think inappropriate pictures were snapped of unsuspecting students or that test questions were photographed, according to
I don't know or care why students seem not to be able to function without touching their phones. I just take them, in accordance with school/district policy, and give them to the appropriate vice principal.

One Of The Biggest Problems In California Government

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

In California, state lawmakers rarely face contested re-elections, especially from a fellow Democrat or Republican. Not since 1996 has a member of the Legislature seeking re-election been defeated in a primary...

The last time a sitting lawmaker was defeated by a fellow party member, former Assemblyman Brian Setencich of Fresno lost the Republican primary because his association with Democratic Assembly Speaker Willie Brown angered party faithful.

I Attended This School...

...for a few months, at the end of 6th grade.

Across the street from Buckeye Elementary is a house that's been there as long as I can remember, on a plot of a couple acres. There are a couple 1800's-era graves in the yard.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When Free Speech Is Truly Under Assault

If we aren't vigilant about protecting the 1st Amendment, we'll end up like Canada.

If you need some background information about what's going on up there, I think it was back in the 1970's when Human Rights Commissions were created--and their purpose was to root out discrimination in areas like housing. Today they're being used as politically-correct drumhead trials, rooting out so-called hate speech--and they have a 100% conviction rate.

Currently the HRC's are being used by Islamists to go after anyone who says anything negative about Islam and its followers. Fortunately, some are fighting back, but a 0% success rate is quite a bit of inertia to overcome.

I'm not an absolutist about too many things, but I am about the American Bill of Rights. The Canadians have their Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it seems to lack the vigor of our 1st Amendment. I'm rooting for the underdogs in this fight.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nancy Pelosi: "It's Not Been About The Popular Vote"

In a statement harkening back to Democratic complaints about President Bush's victory in 2000, Nancy Pelosi had this to say on The New Hour With Jim Lehrer (a PBS show) today:

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Senator Clinton said she's very much still in the fight. She's emphasizing the fact that she -- if you count those disputed votes in Michigan and Florida, she says she's ahead in the popular vote.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: How delegates are selected is by a process, and the person who has the most delegates becomes the nominee of the party. It's not been about the popular vote.

So we can have an elementary discussion, if you wish, but at the end of the day, someone will have the winning number of delegates. The delegate vote is the currency of the realm at the Democratic National Convention.

Just as the electoral vote is the currency of the realm in presidential elections, not the popular vote. It's good that Madame Speaker recognizes that the rules of the democratic process matter, even if she's a bit late to the party.

It Must Be Springtime

A few days ago I reported on middle school students' having sex on a school field trip, and later updated that post with a story about students' having oral sex in class. Yesterday I wrote about the complaints when chaperones tried to ensure students stayed in their own rooms during an overnight field trip.

Now comes the latest in what's becoming all too common amongst teenagers--self-created kiddie porn that's passed around to all your friends, and then to their friends, and to their friends, and so on, and so on... This particular school is confiscating cell phones with a fury and the district will punish some of the students involved. I ask, why? Unless this was being done at school, it's a parent and a law enforcement issue. Get back to readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmetic.

Carnival of Education

This week's is over at Teacher in a Strange Land and includes my post about Free Speech and Rudeness, which I followed up last night with Injecting Politics Into Graduation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Today our school's PTSA had a lunch catered for us in honor of California's Teacher Appreciation Day.

As good as it was, it's not just the food. Or the raffle prizes (I won a Subway gift card). Or the gifts (truffles!).

What truly makes it special is the generosity of spirit that would even contemplate such a lunch. It's the parents who decorated the tables, who organized and served the food, who went to so many places to buy the gifts and raffle prizes, who offered their words of thanks, who cleaned up afterward--they're who make the lunch so special.

And let's not forget our school administrators, who lengthened lunch for us by several minutes so we wouldn't have to rush ourselves so much.

Thank you.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

It's a stupid rule, and the man was protecting a woman he worked with. I hope some decent person hires this decent man. Soon.

An act of bravery to defend a co-worker has cost a Minnesota gas-station attendant his job.

Mark Beverly, an overnight shift supervisor at a SuperAmerica in Roseville, Minn., was fired in March after he jumped on a masked robber who he believed was attacking a fellow employee.

In my book, this guy's a hero.

Injecting Politics Into Graduation

Common sense and common courtesy should dictate when are appropriate times to protest something political. For example, Ted Kennedy is a political figure I despise, but as a man I wish him no harm; I certainly wouldn't advocate protesting him, his votes, or his views outside of his hospital or home right now. That's just not appropriate. He and his family are suffering--a decent person wouldn't compound that. We should be able to disagree politically and still maintain our humanity.

I wrote recently about another time when it's inappropriate to undertake more than the most minimal of protests--at a graduation. Armbands are one thing, turning your back on an invited speaker is another. Do we really want to turn every single event into a political protest?

The president of Harvard might answer yes.

And (former Harvard president) Mr. Summers backed up his words by attending the commissioning ceremonies for Harvard's ROTC graduates.

Unfortunately, his successor, Drew Faust, did not attend last year's ceremony. Recently, she announced she will attend this year's ceremony. And in an email, a Harvard spokesman confirms that while President Faust has the "greatest admiration" for Harvard's ROTC students, she has clearly stated that the opportunity to serve should be open to all Harvard students – and any reference she makes that day will be "respectfully and appropriately conveyed." In other words, she reserves the right to use the event to voice disagreement with "don't ask, don't tell."

What would this mean? Well, for the Harvard seniors who will be receiving the gold bars of a second lieutenant, it would mean a political note injected into what should be a day of pride and celebration. It would mean that they will be called to account for a political policy that they do not set. And it would mean that in their first moments as new officers, they will be told by the leader of their university that they serve an institution that isn't, well, quite worthy of Harvard.

How sad this is. We are constantly told by critics that it is the war and the administration's policy they oppose, not the troops. University commissioning ceremonies would be a good time to prove it.

I agree. People where were "brought up right" understand this. Those who want to selfishly score their political points by raining on someone else's parade are not brave, are not to be celebrated. They, in the words of John Stuart Mill, are miserable creatures who have no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of men (and women) better than themselves--men and women like those President Faust seems to hold in such contempt.

You Know What? Just Get Rid Of Field Trips

There's no way to win. If kids have sex while on the field trip, the parents raise a stink at the punishment. If chaperones try to keep the kids honest, you get idiocy like this:

MILLBURY, Ohio - Parents have complained to a northwest Ohio school board that a chaperone sealed students in their hotel rooms with duct tape during a high school choir field trip.

At a heated meeting Monday, Michelle Mata told the Lake Local school board in Millbury that the tactic panicked her son during a recent weekend trip to Chicago.

Sylvia Keeler said she may file charges. Her son, Mark Hummel, said he worried he could be trapped during a fire...

Schools Superintendent Jim Witt said the tape would show if students violated curfew but wouldn't have kept them from escaping in an emergency.

Sneak out, break the tape "barrier", and you can't put the tape back in place when you try to sneak back in. I'd say it's pretty ingenious. Maybe a bit overboard, but not dangerous or out-of-bounds.

And the high school student who worried about his safety in such a situation? He's a wussie.

You know what? If kids can't behave themselves on field trips, just don't take them anymore. Let all learning take place in a classroom, from a book. The hassle of field trips is more than I want to put up with.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Reagan Library, In Pictures

Perhaps another time I'll add commentary about why President Reagan was so important, why we need another like him today.

But for now, I'll let these pictures from his Presidential Library do most of the talking. (Flash photography was not allowed inside, so you don't get to see the Oval Office replica, etc. here.) Remember to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

I chose this shirt to wear specifically because I think President Reagan would have liked it. He certainly agreed with the sentiment. It appears, though, that the camera has added several pounds.

Air Force One. President Reagan had this 707; current presidents have a 747.

That's longtime friend and RotLC commenter MikeAT, his friend Jim, and your trusty blogger.

While this piece of the Berlin Wall is much larger than mine, the sentiment remains the same.

The Berlin Wall section is reflected in a piece of polished stone.

Good-bye, Mr. President. And thank you.

Welfare State Is Unsustainable

This from USA Today:

The federal government's long-term financial obligations grew by $2.5 trillion last year, a reflection of the mushrooming cost of Medicare and Social Security benefits as more baby boomers reach retirement.

That's double the red ink of a year earlier.

Taxpayers are on the hook for a record $57.3 trillion in federal liabilities to cover the lifetime benefits of everyone eligible for Medicare, Social Security and other government programs, a USA TODAY analysis found. That's nearly $500,000 per household.

Adding (more) socialized medicine to that debt doesn't strike me a good idea.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

I was there today. To say it was amazing, fantastic, or awe-inspiring would be to minimize its impact to the point of triviality. Yet it was humbling and elevating, at the same time.

I'll post pictures when I get home tomorrow.

One thought kept running through my head the whole time I was there--we could sure use a man like him now, in this election.

Good Morning, Comrade!

That greeting may soon take place in California's schools if a bill winding its way through the state legislature becomes law:

The California Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would delete membership in the Communist Party as a reason for firing a public employee, a Cold War-era prohibition intended to root out communists.

I can offer provisional support for this bill because it contains a provision I've long argued:

The bill, he said, would "still allow employees to be fired for any activity to overthrow the state or federal government."

I would go further and include advocating for the overthrow of the state and federal government as a firing offense, but this is a good start.

Loyalty oaths would still be required because that requirement is included in the state constitution, which cannot be amended by simply passing a law. Additionally, the linked article does not address Education Code Section 51530 that prohibits teaching (in public schools) that seeks to advocate for, or instill in the mind of the student a preference for, communism. I would like that law to remain in force.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama's An Ordinary Politician...

...with extraordinary oratory.

But what do you get (besides the heavy socialism) when you listen to what he says?

Here are the Obama rules in detail: He can’t be called a “liberal” (“the same names and labels they pin on everyone,” as Obama puts it); his toughness on the war on terror can’t be questioned (“attempts to play on our fears”); his extreme positions on social issues can’t be exposed (“the same efforts to distract us from the issues that affect our lives” and “turn us against each other”); and his Chicago background too is off-limits (“pouncing on every gaffe and association and fake controversy”). Besides that, it should be a freewheeling and spirited campaign...

We could take Obama’s rules in good faith if he never calls John McCain a “conservative” or labels him in any other way. If he never criticizes him for his association with George Bush. If he doesn’t jump on his gaffes (like McCain’s 100-years-in-Iraq comment that Obama distorted and harped on for weeks). And if he never says anything that would tend to make Americans fearful about the future or divide them (i.e., say things that some people agree with and others don’t).
And let's not forget that no one is allowed to say his middle name--no one but he himself, that is.

The man is nothing special. He's just an ordinary politician, and not even a very smart one.

Single Sex School

From the major Sacramento newspaper:

When Katie Smith-Induni starts kindergarten in the fall, she'll be in a classroom designed especially for girls: The walls will be painted yellow. The thermostat will be set a tad on the warm side. And her teacher will be trained to present information in a nonconfrontational style.

"These sound like stereotypes, but they are statistically true," said Kim Oliva, who heads Girls' School Sacramento, a nonreligious private school opening this fall in West Sacramento.

"Girls like quieter environments, more dimly lit environments ... . Girls like groups, so at our school we have round tables to encourage collaboration, rather than desks."

They can be stereotypes and true. I'm curious how we'll be able to identify whether or not these statistically true stereotypes will help these girls learn more than a "traditional" school would, in order to determine if all schools should adopt such a program.

Is there any scientific (as opposed to emotional or anecdotal) evidence that this is better for students?

The comments indicate that a boys' school will open at some time in the future, but that the company couldn't afford to start both schools at the same time.

Free Speech And Rudeness

Of course it's legal, but is it good behavior? Can the people who did this really be proud of themselves in anything more than a juvenile way?

I can see armbands, but standing and turning your back on someone receiving a degree? And to have an assistant dean participate in this?

Contrast this to the time Jimmy Carter spoke to us at the Air Force Academy in 1985. He was a former president, and not a very popular one in military circles. When he was introduced we jumped to attention, and at the end of his talk we cheered loudly. And when President Clinton, no rock star to most military personnel, attended an Army-Navy Game in the 90s, he was given at least polite applause by those in the stands as he crossed from one side of the field to the other at halftime. I know--I was there.

The students in the linked article have shamed themselves, and they're probably too stupid even to know it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blogging Will Be Light The Next Couple Of Days

I'm leaving for Southern California tomorrow morning. On Sunday, I'll meet up with an old army friend of mine and we're going to make our long-postponed pilgrimage to the Reagan Library.

It's conceivable that posting will be light to non-existent the next couple days, and since comments are moderated, they might not be posted until I return on Monday--I have no guarantees of internet access during this trip. I've opted to schedule a couple of new posts to appear on Saturday and Sunday rather than just shut down completely, so keep on coming back for a visit :-)

I'll post pictures and commentary on the Library when I return.

Expelling Students For Having Sex On A Field Trip

These kids were middle school students. Wow.

So what do you think? If they had been caught having sex at school, would expulsion be an appropriate punishment? Is it appropriate for doing so in a hotel room on a field trip?

Update: Via Newsalert we learn about these middle schoolers participating in oral sex in class. Again, wow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No Prom For Stags?

It's a private girls school, but still.

I admit, I can't understand why a student would want to attend junior prom without a date, but I see no reason to prohibit them from doing so.

What's worse, seniors can attend their prom without dates.

What kind of idiot is this principal?

Every Boy's Dream

You could deny it, but you'd probably be lying.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Too Many College Students Need Remedial Math

I struggled over this story, which has been picked up and bandied about this week in the edu-blogosphere. To summarize, the number and percentage of students at California colleges and universities who require remedial math is increasing; this despite the fact that everyone must now pass Algebra 1 to get a high school diploma and must have passed Algebra 2 to get into a university.

How do we explain this? Are teachers watering down course standards? Are students not taking the college math placement test seriously? Are we teaching material that's different from what's being tested? Is grade inflation so rampant that A students really don't know anything?

As with so many other problems in education, I was prepared to excuse my school. Overall we do very well, both in standardized test scores and in numbers of students who attend colleges and universities. Our school has a very strong, well-earned academic reputation.

But in my pre-calculus classes the last couple of days I've seen the problem firsthand. It's not pretty.

Here's what I've come up with so far. This week we've worked on inductive proofs, which often allow us to prove so many of the formulas that up until now we've taken for granted. I teach them to SHOW the formula you’re proving works for n=1, ASSUME it works for n=k, and PROVE it works for n=k+1. When students get down to the proving part, there can be plenty of algebra to work through. Here I have this class of very bright pre-calculus (trig and math analysis) students, and I can’t tell you how many were asking questions about what to do next. They didn’t see the algebra right in front of them. I could tell them and *then* they’d see and know how to do it, but they couldn’t see what to do without my initial nudge.

It’s almost like they’ve compartmentalized their knowledge. They might be thinking, “Oh, we’re not working on getting a common denominator, so I didn’t think to get a common denominator when adding these two rational expressions.” As soon as I said “common denominator”, though, they knew right what to do. Or they were unwilling to try something and see where it led them; if they could do the algebra, they wanted me to tell them what to do, step by step, so that they only had to do the computation instead of the thinking.

Remember, these are the good students at a good school. If the college/university entry level math test is no harder than the sample problems shown in the linked article, then students who fail that test deserve to be in remedial math. But if the test includes problems requiring a synthesis of a variety of math skills, then even the students at my own school have shown that they might be in for a challenge.

Who's At Fault When Students Fail?

Is it the instructor, or the student? Could it be both? Is there some objective way to identify who owns what percentage of blame? I ask because this professor lost his job because he had too many F's.

The problem at Norfolk State, he (the professor) said, isn’t his low grades, but the way the university lowers expectations. He noted that in the dean’s negative review of his tenure bid, nowhere did she cite specific students who should have received higher grades, or subject matter that shouldn’t have been in his courses or on his tests. The emphasis is simply on passing students, he said.

You'll want to read the whole thing, including the comments afterward.

Carnival of Education

This week's is at Instructify and includes my post about the Tennessee teacher who dated an 18-year-old student.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interview Don'ts

Some of these job interview mistakes are so sad, they're funny--or so funny, they're sad. I can't decide which.

A Reason Not To Have Porn On Your School Computer

You might accidentally project it up on a screen for the entire class to see.

I'm sure this teacher's job is in some jeopardy, but he might not be in any legal trouble:

Fairfield police say they're unaware of the incident, but that it likely wouldn't be a criminal violation if there was no intent to show a pornographic image to minors, according to Sgt. Joel Orr. It is not illegal for adults to possess adult pornography.

THIS Man Is A Stud

From the BBC:

An Army officer from the Highlands survived an attack in Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) bounced off his chest before exploding.

Lt David Robertson, 30, of 4 SCOTS Royal Regiment of Scotland, escaped with minor injuries.

The missile ricocheted off his body armour and detonated against his Warrior armoured vehicle.

Like I said, stud.

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Get A Grip On Reality"

So says the Ottawa (Canada) Citizen to the local teachers union.

Let's close with this amusing quote from the elementary teachers' website: "Your local collective agreement is a treasure chest full of rights, entitlements and protection against arbitrary treatment." A treasure chest indeed, and one that's quite full already.
What are these teachers asking for?

- a five-per-cent salary increase in each year of a two-year deal;

- higher starting pay for teachers and one year less to get to top salary;

- class-size reductions and caps in all grades;

- 10 days a year for report cards and assessment;

- a near-doubling of preparation time;

- actual teaching and supervision time to decline to 1,125 minutes a week from 1,500;

- full benefit costs to be covered by school boards; and

- principals and vice-principals to be prevented from teaching.

The salary and benefit enhancements are separate from what provincial union president David Clegg describes as the teachers' top goal. In an interview, Clegg says the teachers want the province to eliminate a $700-per-student funding gap between elementary and high schools. That would cost something in the neighbourhood of $800 million.

If what they already have is treasure, what would you call these additions?

Any Lefties Going To Complain About This Corruption?

We'll see, but I doubt it.

Everything is for sale, and this summer's Democratic National Convention in Denver is no exception.

More than four dozen national corporations have signed up as sponsors of the convention - everyone from Allstate to Xerox. And almost all of them have the same thing in common: They either have business with the federal government or they lobby on pending issues.

And that prompts a myriad of questions.

Are the big companies simply being good corporate citizens? ...

To date, the Democratic National Convention Host Committee has lined up 56 corporate sponsors.

I thought it was the Republicans who were the party of big business. My bad.

Yes, I'm sure the Republicans will have many (evil) corporate sponsors--the article mentions several companies that are sponsoring both parties' conventions!--but if the lefties are going to cry about large corporations, they need to clean up their own houses.

Update, 5/15/08: I don't usually link to HuffPo articles, but this one relates to the topic at hand.

Don't Support Homosexuality? Lose Your Job

I could understand that policy if your job was working for the local gay club or youth center, but not if your job is working for a public university.

Crystal Dixon just received verbal notification from UT that she has been fired for speaking her opinion in a copy of the Toledo Free Press...

University president Lloyd Jacobs expressed his views in an article in the Toledo Free Press. His column followed one written by the University's associate vice president of human resources, Crystal Dixon. Dixon ignited a debate about whether discrimination against gays is different from other forms of discrimination, including race.

In her April 18th column Dixon wrote: "as a black woman... I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual life style are 'civil rights victims'. Here's why i cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a black woman."

I have a hard time believing she'd lose a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Leftie Academics

If this isn't hate speech, I don't know what is.

Her point about conservatism and liberalism not being moral equivalents is absolutely true, though--but I think she and I would disagree about which of those canons contributes more to freedom, social justice, and human rights.

Telecommuting District Superintendent

Via NewsAlert we get to this Newsday story:

As the part-time superintendent of the tiny New Suffolk school district in Southold Town, Feger carries out much of his administrative task from his winter home in Arizona, 2,500 miles away. This he does by phone, fax, mail and e-mail, communicating several times each week with the district's secretary, lead teacher and board president.

"I love it," said Feger, 65, a former Hampton Bays school principal who retired in 1997 and has another home in Greenport. "It really is a good life."

I'm sure it is.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not On The Test

While I certainly don't agree with the theme of this song, and many of the points made in it aren't necessarily accurate, it's got a catchy tune and it's kinda cute.

Free Agent Teachers

NewsAlert (see blogroll) turns us on to the LA Times (blech!) story about California teachers' being recruited to work in other states.

Drawn by pink slips issued to thousands of teachers, recruiters from school districts nationwide are wooing California teachers with greater fervor than usual.

Districts in Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Kansas, Virginia and Texas have been buying newspaper ads and renting billboard space, calling teachers unions and sending recruiters to regions facing the biggest school budget crunches.

You know, if one of the school districts in Colorado Springs offered me a high school teaching job, it wouldn't take too much to get me to consider it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Yet Another Reason Not To Want Socialized Medicine

The first paragraph describes what TriCare is. The rest of the article explains why this particular doctor stopped treating TriCare patients--in short, because the system sucked so bad that even Medicare and Medicaid were easier to work with, and that's saying a lot.

Go read his (short) story, and see the face of government-run health care.

Standing During The Pledge of Allegiance

No, you can't punish students for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, and bravo to this principal for correcting the situation immediately when she learned she was in the wrong. I grant, though, that she should have known better in the first place.

Invading Myanmar

Lefties never like using the military--unless there's no vital US interest at all. And then, the military is the Left's plaything.

Should we have invaded Iraq? Left says NO!
Should we invade Iran? Left says NO!
Should we invade North Korea? Left says NO!

So if there is a country we should invade, which is it? Why, Myanmar, of course!

The disaster in Burma presents the world with perhaps its most serious humanitarian crisis since the 2004 Asian tsunami. By most reliable estimates, close to 100,000 people are dead. Delays in delivering relief to the victims, the inaccessibility of the stricken areas and the poor state of Burma's infrastructure and health systems mean that number is sure to rise. With as many as 1 million people still at risk, it is conceivable that the death toll will, within days, approach that of the entire number of civilians killed in the genocide in Darfur.

So what is the world doing about it? Not much. The military regime that runs Burma initially signaled it would accept outside relief, but has imposed so many conditions on those who would actually deliver it that barely a trickle has made it through. Aid workers have been held at airports. UN food shipments have been seized. US naval ships packed with food and medicine idle in the Gulf of Thailand, waiting for an all-clear that may never come...

That's why it's time to consider a more serious option: invading Burma...

As the response to the 2004 tsunami proved, the world's capacity for mercy is limitless. But we still haven't figured out when to give war a chance.

The argument is not without merit. In philosophy class at West Point, one of the books we read was Just And Unjust Wars by leftie Michael Walzer. Walzer posited six conditions under which going to war could be considered "just", and preventing a humanitarian catastrophe was one of the conditions (as examples, being attacked or being under threat of imminent attack were two others). So I'm not arguing here about whether invading Myanmar would be just or not, as there exists a legitimate theory that it would be.

No, I'm questioning the thought processes of those on the Left--and TIME Magazine is certainly on the Left--who think that invading sovereign Myanmar is somehow more important or worthy than invading sovereign North Korea or sovereign Iran. Since Myanmar's rulers never threaten the US, you'd almost think our friends on the Left have an agenda or something.

"My School" Appreciation Day

I teach at a very passive, upscale, suburban school. The students are, for the most part, great people to work with; they're also very malleable and relatively sheltered. Many think they know what it's like "on the other side", but I'm sure many of those have absolutely no clue. Honestly, I don't think our students have any idea how good they have it. The few fights that took place on campus this year attract large crowds because they're so darned rare.

We have very few fights on our campus. The vast majority of our students feel physically safe on campus. We don't have uniformed security or police on our campus. We have kids dress in gang fashion (and the administration addresses it rapidly), but they wouldn't last 10 seconds if confronted by genuine gang members; neither would I, but I don't dress like a wannabe, either. Being upscale there's a lot of money on campus, which means a lot of drugs--but it's not problem that makes itself known with any frequency. A large percentage of our students go on to college or university, and a goodly number attend top tier schools.

In other words, our students have no experience that events like this can happen at schools.

So they're relatively naive, but that's a good thing in this case. Students shouldn't have to worry about their physical safety at school.

Math and Mother's Day

What one word describes your mother? Check out what the Asian guy says :-)

Friday, May 09, 2008

Evaluating Teachers Based On Student Performance

Suppose a swimming instructor told his 10-year-old students to swim the length of the pool to demonstrate what he'd taught them, and half of them nearly drowned? Would it be reasonable to make a judgment about his teaching ability?

Or suppose nearly all the 10-year-old students in a particular clarinet class learned to play five or six pieces well in a semester? Would it be reasonable to consider their achievement when deciding whether to rehire the music teacher?

These questions answer themselves. Only an idiot would overlook student performance, be it dismal or outstanding.

However, suppose test results indicated that most students in a particular class don't have a clue about how to multiply with fractions, or master other material in the curriculum? Should that be considered when the math teacher comes up for tenure?

Whoops, the obvious answer is wrong. That's because public education lives in an upside-down universe where student outcomes are not allowed to be connected to teaching.

And so we have the battle lines drawn in the battle to assess teacher performance. As EIA pointed out, the author's credentials cannot be easily dismissed:

Mr. Merrow, a former teacher in high school, college and federal prison, is education correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" and president of Learning Matters, Inc.

So, how do we address his points? Hidden in his essay is the answer:

Of course, not every kid comes to class equally able to complete the day's assignment. Some are new immigrants, others are gifted, and still others might have a learning disability. These factors affect test scores as much as or more than who is teaching.

Still, students at whatever level of performance can also be evaluated on how much they've improved over a given period of time.

Tennessee pioneered "value-added assessment", which allows schools to determine how much value an individual teacher or school adds to student performance over time. A good explanation of how such an assessment is done can be found here.

I certainly don't think it's fair to place the power over a person's employment into the hands of students. However, if we can determine through scientific analysis that a particular teacher consistently underperforms, that their students do not grow a year's worth during a school year, then targeting additional effort to help that teacher improve his or her pedagogy would be a wise use of resources.

I understand the arguments against many of the methods proposed to evaluate teachers using student test scores. However, I don't see good arguments against a value-added system.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lies of Omission: CTA Sugarcoats Taking Your Money

More good information from California Educator magazine. Here's what we learn on page 31:

State Council took a first look at a proposal that would allow members to contribute $20 a year toward the CTA Foundation and CTA's advocacy efforts on behalf of public education.

If approved by Council, the voluntary contribution would be flexible. CTA members would be able to opt out of the entire $20 contribution; choose to opt out of a portion of the $20 contribution; or choose to allocate the entire $20 contribution to support either advocacy efforts or the CTA Foundation...

Here's what they're not telling you. Three years ago, in an effort to raise a warchest to challenge some initiatives in a special election, CTA temporarily raised dues $6/month, $60/year, for three years. That three years ends this June.

CTA wants to continue getting some of that money, so they're going to keep $20/year of that increase and let the remaining $40/year expire. That additional $20/year will continue to go to their political efforts--unless teachers opt out of it. Notice: they're not going to spend a lot of effort telling you about opting out, and they're not going to get your permission to take that money and spend it on politics. No, they're going to require you to tell them you want to keep your own money, counting on either teachers' lack of knowledge or higher priorities to ensure that most teachers don't opt out.

Is that how professionals act? Or is that how cynical politicians act?

Focus On The Good, Or The Bad?

Here we go again, it's that time of the month--receipt of California Educator magazine, the monthly birdcage liner of the California Teachers Association.

So what does this issue bring to my happy little home? Hypocrisy, of course.

On page 26 we read the story about schools that are identified as failing for so long that they develop a "culture of failure". I'll skip that obvious fish in a barrel and proceed to the story we're told:

The study describes a 1982 experiment at the University of Wisconsin where researchers videotaped two bowling teams during several games. Afterward, one team watched a video showing only when team members made mistakes; another watched a video that showed only participants performing well. Both teams improved their games after watching the video. But the team that studied its successes improved its score twice as much as the one that studied its mistakes. The conclusion that can be drawn, said Daly, is that when people study problems and conflicts, the number and severity of the problems they identify actually increase.

Daly believes that the same occurs when it comes to public education.

Oh, I agree completely with Mr. Daly on that one. CTA should heed the words of the speaker they paid.

CTA, can a Republican president do anything right? CTA, how are we doing with race relations in this country? CTA, do we have anything to be proud of as Americans? CTA, what do you think of our nation's Founders? CTA, has the country improved since the days of Jim Crow? CTA, what's going right in our country? CTA, have you ever met a race pimp you didn't like?

Far too many of CTA's members, the footsoldiers of the public education of which Mr. Daly spoke, don't treat American history--or American present, for that matter--with a "warts and all" outlook, but with a "warts only" outlook. CTA, which gives over 95% of its political donations to Democrats, fractures us with identity politics instead of highlighting what unites us as Americans. CTA, which is in bed with International A.N.S.W.E.R. CTA, a partisan, divisive organization, wants to lecture us about focusing too much on the negative.

CTA should, in this case, practice what it preaches.

5 Greatest Movie Teachers

Here's one person's list, see if you agree.

Welcome To My World, Lady Liberal

This woman, complaining about her Obama-supporting sister when she herself is a Clinton-supporter, experiences firsthand what we conservatives do whenever we try to discuss our views with a liberal.

The comments afterward are just as entertaining as was the article itself. I've said it before and I'll say it again:

I think I'm right. Liberals think they're righteous.
I think they're wrong. Liberals think I'm evil.

There's no logic to them.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

ABC News To Open New Bureaus

In a move that does not sound like one that will cause ABC News to be taken any more seriously, the network will open news bureaus at five universities.

While offering on-the-job training to aspiring journalists, ABC News said it would gain greater insights into the lives of the 33 million U.S. 18-to-25-year-olds -- a demographic every major network news division is striving hard to reach.

Good luck with that.

Victor Davis Hanson Gets It

From National Review Online:

In short, low taxes, secure borders, moral governance, sober government spending, ethical leadership, exploration and conservation of petroleum, and strong defense is what the American public wants — but those core principles have to be articulated hourly and can't be compromised. In an honest debate, Obama's alternatives to the above would be to turn toward more government, higher taxes, more bureacracies, more dependence of the individual upon the state, etc. And I can't believe the public wants a prescription that historically simply doesn't work.

I think in their depression, the Republicans fail to see that their problems were not in their principles, but rather in the sometimes sleezy and sloppy way they advanced them — and even more often in the manner that they abandoned them — and as a result, they are apparently eager to compromise on them.

To the degree McCain can articulate the above, he will win; to the degree that he either cannot or believes the latest gurus that he must abandon them, he will lose. Moving toward a lite version of the Obamian/European "bipartisan"and socialist view of government and calling it a new conservatism is a prescription for utter disaster.

Will the Republican Party take his advice? Probably not. It seems to be in a drag race with the Democratic Party to see which can commit suicide first.

Links O'Plenty

1. A high school student says he may file a lawsuit against a physical education teacher who took a Mexican flag he had brought for Cinco de Mayo and put it in the garbage.

2. An Iowa teen is graduating from college just one week after graduating from high school. Mattias Gassman, 18, will graduate summa cum laude with two bachelors' degrees from Iowa State University on Saturday. He majored in biophysics, German and classical studies.

3. A principal banned a gay (actually, lesbian) student from a prom, claiming fears of violence, and raised the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union.

4. Ten Tulane University fraternity members faced felony charges Wednesday and the school suspended Pi Kappa Alpha following accusations that the group burned pledges with hot water and pepper spray during a "hell night" initiation.

5. Grant school district administrators haven't been paid roughly $2 million in buyouts their school board approved in March because the county superintendent thinks the payments are illegal and won't issue the checks. In an effort to compel county Superintendent David Gordon to cut checks for the 12 administrators participating in the buyout plan, the Grant Joint Union High School District and four top managers have sued Gordon and the Sacramento County Office of Education.

Carnival of Education

This week's is here, and includes my post about attending the upcoming CEAFU conference.

At Least It's Not Criminal

And it's not in Florida this time, either. It occurred in Tennessee.

A teacher in Lenoir City has resigned amid allegations she had an inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old male student...

Lenoir City High School is the latest to see a teacher depart in a scandal. 25-year-old Rachael Burkhart resigned after being confronted with allegations she had an affair with the 18-year-old student...

Because the student is 18, Police Chief Don White says there are no criminal charges and no investigation.

I can understand the professionalism, or lack thereof, of dating your own student, or even a student at your own school--even though it's not technically illegal, I can see someone's losing a credential over it. Dating your own student is clearly beyond the pale, and dating a student at your own school undercuts the authority of all teachers at a school. But, can a teacher date an 18-year-old at a different school? What about in a different district?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lefties and Patriotism


(Don't question their patriotism.)

Talk About Ratty

San Juan High School, in suburban Sacramento, opened in 1913. Prior to then, there was no high school in the agricultural area that now encompasses Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks, and Orangevale. I've read, but cannot find the source now, that prior to San Juan High, anyone living "out in the sticks" and wanting to go to school past 8th grade had to go to a boarding school in Sacramento proper.

San Juan High has certainly changed in appearance and demographic since 1913. Look at the pictures from this article from the major Sacramento newspaper.

San Juan High in 1924. Note the Spanish style. How proud those farmkids must have been to attend such a beautiful campus!
San Juan High today. Who the heck thought they were making the school look better, or even more modern? It doesn't even look like the same school. In fact, could it look much worse?
Proposed San Juan High remod. Clearly getting back to its Spanish style roots.

According to the linked article it's going to cost somewhere between $23 million and $46 million dollars to overhaul what is described as the school district's "flagship campus". It remains to be seen whether or not the structural and academic redesign being discussed will contribute to a better educated student body. If nothing else, though, it will alleviate a true eyesore.

Hornets Get Stung

Sacramento State is #1! Sadly, it's not for a good reason.

California State University, Sacramento has seven athletic programs subject to NCAA penalties, the most of any Division I school in the country, based on Academic Progress Rate data released Tuesday...

Sacramento State's baseball, men's basketball, football, men's golf, men's indoor track, men's outdoor track and women's tennis programs are scheduled to receive penalties ranging from public notice to scholarship reduction.


Where Was This, Salem?

No, Florida.

Teacher Jim Piculas does a magic trick where a toothpick disappears and then reappears.

Piculas recently did the 30-second trick in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes.

Piculas said he then got a call from the supervisor of teachers, saying he'd been accused of wizardry.

You've got to be kidding me.

Update, 5/18/08: A couple weeks later, the school district responds.

Talk About (Poetic) Justice

Go figure.

About 100 people, including students majoring in homeland security and criminal justice, were arrested Tuesday in an undercover drug sting at San Diego State University, officials said.
Drugs? At a university, especially one so close to the international border? Who knew?

In theory, at least they know what's about to happen to them.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Jaime Escalante In Sacramento Today

Had I known about this in advance, instead of reading it in the local paper in the staff lounge, I might have taken the day off to go watch. After all, Escalante is a rock star to us math teachers.

Jaime Escalante, whose success in teaching advanced mathematics to inner-city Los Angeles teenagers was immortalized in the movie "Stand and Deliver," will be honored today at the Capitol.

Escalante, 78, is one of 14 trailblazers receiving Latino Spirit Awards from the California Latino Legislative Caucus.

Escalante, now living and teaching college classes part time in Bolivia, taught for 17 years at Los Angeles' Garfield High School and for seven years at Sacramento's Hiram Johnson High School, retiring in 1998.

Here's what he had to say Friday in an interview....

He supports monolingual English instruction (the AP test comes in only one language, he'd say), he supports the High School Exit Exam, he says we spend plenty of money on education but waste too much of it, and he thinks schools need the help and support of parents if they're to do right by students.

I agree with him.

Sun Devils Showing Too Much Horn and Tail

Last week I told you about the Arizona State University cheerleaders who were suspended for having pictures of themselves, scantily-clad, posted on l'internet. What's ASU going to do with these students?

Arizona State University students proudly run around in their underwear, throwing clothes into the air before finals.
The link is a video....

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Global Warming

From the UK's Telegraph.

Go on, read it.

Teachers As Targets

This from the paradise that is Zimbabwe:

Educators have become targets in Zimbabwe's postelection violence, a teachers union said Sunday, threatening a nationwide strike unless the government stops the attacks...

Teachers have traditionally assisted in running elections. The Progressive Teachers Union said Sunday the violent campaign against them — respected figures in local communities — was meant to instill fear and prevent them from participating as polling officers in the runoff...

The union said more than 1,700 teachers have fled violence. It said its members were under attack across the country and urged teachers to withdraw from "politically volatile zones." It also said disruptions in schools threatened examinations scheduled in June in rural schools.

There's much more in the story.

Random Pictures

A few weeks ago a friend and I trekked to Midtown and North Sacramento for no real good reason. It was just a nice day.

Remember to click on the pictures to enlarge them.
I go nuts over misused apostrophes, but at least these folks are patriotic. And polite.

My sister collects English teacups, so I looked for some in an antique store. This set, though not English, struck me as most interesting.

Make sure you click on the image to enlarge it to see what I found most interesting.

North Sacramento isn't known, shall we say, as an affluent area. People are trying to revitalize it, though. At one point we passed an old school building and I remarked that its style appeared to be that of the 1940s. Then I looked down at the curb I was standing on and saw this:
It was embedded into most of the driveways and curbs on the street.

In the picture above and below you can see the WPA imprint on both the curb and the driveway.

Like I said, random prints.